Frequently Asked Web Site Questions (part 1)

Can I integrate a specialized search tool on my site (e.g. a specialized MLS search)?

There are a few options for integrating an external search tool on your site.

  • Send them off site to the tool. There’s no control in that, and visitors are leaving your site. They might get confused and not make it back.
  • Frame the tool in either a regular frame (shows your header, their page) or iframe (shows your header, sidebar, and footer, their page). That keeps visitors on your site, but the frames can be feel a bit awkward. Also, results might take them off site – and there’s not much you can do about that – if the tool is programmed that way.
  • Integration of the tool into your site. This requires the tool provider to provide you with embeddable code, and requires your site platform to provide that. Alternately, some site platforms have add-ons that permit integration of popular tools. It will depend on your platform. This is the best for a truly integrated feel and for keeping visitors on your site, but obviously the provider of the tool may impose fees or limitations on use. You’d want to check w. them, before starting the process of integration.
A tag cloud with terms related to Web 2.
Image via Wikipedia

Should I rearrange my navigation or links/buttons in a specific way?

I don’t think any single button or link’s placement is critical, other than core content like HOME, CONTACT, and the BLOG – those are pretty critical. If you sell a product or service involving online ordering, the ORDER page is also critical. However, overall, a rationally ordered navigation that meets visitor expectations is a good idea. Navigation organization is crucial to making your site accessible and attractive to visitors, satisfying their need for well-arranged information and, more importantly these days, for making interaction with you straightforward.

Should I put my specializations and niche info on the site?

Yes, any particular area or activity that you specialize in should be on your site. If there are just a few, each one could be a page. The page should be linked to the front via a text link, indicated in a blurb about your specializations – for maximum SEO, page rank, and accessibility. Also consider a niche site. Niche sites are inexpensive secondary web sites that exist to maximize traffic in one particular area. They’re usually 1-3 pages, and focus on one particular demographic, locale, or service, and are designed to funnel traffic back to your site. The most effective kinds of niche sites are dynamic sites – i.e. blogs. There are other marketing options for niches, too, utilizing social media. But content is king. Any opportunity for you to put content on your site that’s 100% original, highly relevant, and frequently added to, is one you should take.

Should I update my existing core content pages?

If you have more or updated material, sure. The focus however, should be mainly on keeping the dynamic content portions of your site updated. Updating the core content pages all the time isn’t really necessary. Maybe occasionally take another stab at them or tweak them. But look, the focus on core content pages is old-fashioned. Web 2.0 doesn’t work that way. Instead of wasting energy on your lowest value pages (the static core pages that never change) – spend it on your high value pages (your blog – the part of the site that has the potential – if you do it right – to drive the most traffic and retain and create the most interest – and your home page). You either have the web 1.0 type of site in which case, it’s kind of a sleeper: you update it once in a while, but basically it doesn’t change much, and you accept the limited marketing potential of that. Or you have a web 2.0 site – which lives – it’s being continuously updated – and those updates also are being carried over to social media like Facebook and Twitter. In that situation, your core secondary pages should be solid, adequate to contact you, and provide all the information needed for a business decision, and your home page should offer your core marketing presentation, but it’s actually not your main ongoing focus. The focus is the part of the site that’s alive, dynamic, and growing – the ‘blog’ portion. It’s a hard mentality to change, and not everyone is willing or interested in doing that. But it’s the right answer for maximum success in a web 2.0 world. The short answer any time someone says “should I add something to or update (one of my core static pages)” is always “sure, why not? If you have something to say, say it”.

Should my blog be my home page, or should I have a static home page?

There’s not one right answer – it depends on your goals. Besides the old fashioned web 1.0 site format, which just doesn’t have a lot of sustainable SEO value or generate a lot of sustained traffice, you see three main formats for web 2.0 business sites:

  • The dynamic front end, with core pages secondary. Primary marketing content is in the header and sidebar, and continues on an “ABOUT” page. Maximum SEO and highest potential for visitors and marketing.
  • The static front end, with dynamic content secondary. Blog content falls on it’s own secondary page, with core marketing material on the home page. Seemingly the older web 1.0 style site, but with a blog added on. Maximum input to the buyer’s decision.
  • The hybrid front end, with both static and dynamic areas of the home page – e.g. core content and blog excerpts in different sections of the home page. This is a mix – you’re getting some increased SEO value and some increased marketing input, but not the maximum of either.

When I started my business, I emphasized the purely dynamic front end. I wanted maximum throughput to get it off the ground. Besides, as you’re growing, your business will take on more definition than it usually has at the beginning. I think it’s more important to talk to your prospects than anything – no matter where you are in your business cycle – but especially at the beginning or when you’re launching a new marketing direction. As time went by, I realized I had three core directions I wanted to emphasize to my prospects and clients. However, I wanted the intense marketing benefits of a dynamic front end, and I didn’t want to overwhelm that with too much static content like a lot of the hybrid front ends I see. So I made a hybrid, but really kept the static content minimal. It positions my services prominently at the sacrifice of some SEO value – but then not all my internet marketing efforts are in the web site basket, either. I actually utilized a ‘trick’ though, making the static home page content capable of dynamic updates. In other words – it’s just a set of “sticky” blog posts in specific categories, rather than “hard-coded” content. This lets me freshen and update even my static content instantly. The rest of the front end is the blog itself.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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