Where’s Your Website-O?

The Dos and Don’ts for Standing Out Online

Websites can pop up over night. All you need is a topic, some images, a bit of code, one domain name and you’re up and running. The big question is: what separates a valuable site from the rest of the overcrowding noise?

1. Don’t just throw on the same outfit because everyone else does

While the characteristic giveaway of Waldo in all our favorite childhood books is his bright striped shirt and hat, the first sign of an amateur site is overuse of a similar type of segments – tables. I guarantee that any simple coding course you take will introduce you to the useful concept of tables in html. It’s true that a table is fantastic for organization and presentation of data. However, if a table is the only thing keeping your format and layout in line, then you’re setting search engines up for failure on your site. Search engines don’t see or read an html table the same way web searchers do; instead the data will often get lost behind the excessive layers of coding causing the bots to assume that the data is not that important. Organize your information and create a unique layout for your site using a CSS style sheet.

2. Don’t overdo it

In your next programming class, it’s likely you’ll discover the joys of Flash and all the neat things you can do on your site. Moving objects, little videos, who even needs words anymore?! Instead of stuffing your site full of fancy Flash, make sure you include content that can be read by users and crawled by search engine bots. Robots cannot easily crawl graphics and they certainly cannot read Flash. External Javascript files can provide advanced functionality and usage of image title tags will keep your pictures useful to human and bot searchers alike.

3. Do utilize correct titles and summaries

Even though the saying goes “don’t judge a book by its cover,” you know we all do it. Same goes for websites. Before a user even makes it to your cover – your homepage – that user is judging your site by the title tag you choose and the meta description summary you write. If you have a strong, recognizable brand (like Mr. Waldo), include this in your title. If your brand isn’t as strong, use it in your title tag along with some identifying keywords that overview your most important topics. Then use your meta description as the quick summary similar to what you’d find on the back cover of a book. This summary should persuade the reader to invest in your business instead of the competition. Highlight what’s important, entice them to want to know more and present a non-spam description they can trust.

4. Don’t neglect your body copy

A website with no body is just half the story and will quickly be spotted for spam. Sneaking keywords into the background of your site, using the meta keyword tag at all, or getting too heavy handed with keyword usage in your copy does no benefit to human searchers. Create a site that provides true benefit to visitors. Getting to the top of ranking results requires more than quick and easy repeats of the same word on the same page. Just like Waldo, you have to bring something new to the table that users will love and want to share.

5. Do go viral

I dare you to find one person who grew up in America that doesn’t recognize the famous Where’s Waldo red and white striped getup. The simple books are a phenomenon loved by many and shared between family, friends and generations. The colorful character has even taken the hint and jumped off the hardcopy page to the living, online world of social media. Use your site to create a brand that interacts with those that love it and want to share it. Provide content that can be shared and engage with your online community to grow beyond a faceless business into a relatable character.

6. Above all else – do be unique!

The most fundamental lesson we can take from the mysterious disappearing and reappearing fiction character is to be unique. Offer your users something that not everyone else is able to do. Even when it’s tempting, refrain from duplicate content – aka don’t copy! Claim your unique content with the rel= “author” tag so others cannot re-use your copy without you getting the original credit. On top of this unique content generation, producing useful content that’s recent and fresh will bring your rankings above the rest.

In half a dozen do’s and don’ts you can help traffic find your site within the online crowd. The average internet user isn’t as patient as a joyful kid enjoying a classic hunt for Waldo, so do everything you can to make your website easy to find.