Tips on How to Create a Successful Website
March 24, 2002

After looking around this website, I noticed that most of the information here is geared towards running a webserver and there is not much info (if any) on how to run a website.  What good is a webserver if you have no content right?  So in this article, Iím going to give some tips and tricks on how to make a successful website.  Iím not sure what you would consider a successful website, but in general, success on the web is measured by how many visitors you get on a regular basis.  By no means do I consider this website successful, but I have learned a few things that might make for some interesting reading.  Or not.  Mind you, I am guilty for not following all of my own advice, but in an ideal world, this is what I would follow.  As the saying goes: do as I say, not as I do!

Here we go:

  1. Keep your content fresh.  If you have a cool website, thatís great.  However, after your visitors look at all your material once, you need to give them a reason to come back.  Nobody is going to come back and read your material again if it hasnít changed at all.  I read somewhere that 97% of the websites out there donít get updated more than once every 6 months.  Thatís a lot of stagnant material laying out there.  This is why youíll visit random webpages that were last updated in 1997.  Actually, my personal web page hasnít been updated since 1996.  Hehe.
  2. Get your site listed in the search engines.  You have no idea how important this is.  If you can get your site top listed on Google or Yahoo, youíll see thousands of visitors to your website every day.  How do you get your site listed on the big search engines?  In my experience there are two ways.  The first way is to go to the search engineís website and submit the URL of your webpage.  I donít know how effective this is, but itís worth a shot.  The second more effective way (in my opinion) is to somehow get your website listed on a webpage that is already listed by the search engines.  For example, if your website and URL are listed on a website that is hit by the major search engines, the search engines will pick up your website when it spiders their site.  Many search engines also gauge  the popularity of your website by measuring how many different websites link to your website.  The more people that link to your website, the more likely youíll get picked up by a search engine.  This website (DSL/Cable Webserver) is indexed by Google and Yahoo.  That is where a lot of our visitors come from.  This is also part of the reason why we have a  ďMember SitesĒ section.  By having your website listed on our Member Sites page, each time the search engines spiders our site, your site will be looked at as well.  No guarantees though.  I donít want hate mail coming to me about not getting picked up by Google. You people!  No matter which way your website gets hit by a search engine, you must have META tags on each page of your website that tell the search engine what the page is about and what are the keywords.
  3. Get other websites of similar interests to link to your website.  This tip is directly related to the previous tip.  You can do this by emailing other websites with similar content and ask them if they would consider a link exchange.  Most people are glad to do this.  Donít bother exchanging links with websites that are completely unrelated because itíll do you little good.  You want to exchange links for several reasons.  First, if you can get your link on a website that is already fairly popular, then people will come to your site through the link.  Second, the more places that link to you, the more likely youíll get picked up by the search engines.  Third, itís good to start talking to other webmasters who have similar interests.  I guess this is how webrings start.  I donít know much about webrings, but itís simply a more organized way of linking together sites of common interest.  Webrings are common for fan sites like those for Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera.  Donít ask me how I know.
  4. Make your site easy to look at.  Donít have funky eye-shocking colors and bizarre fonts unless itís in line with your website.  Make your site look clean and professional.  No need for big graphics and fancy doodads.  Keep the layout simple and clean.  Nice and elegant. 
  5. Make your site fast loading.  Again, this relates to the previous tip.  One of the biggest turn offs (in cyber space =) is a slow loading website.  As people who run their webservers from home on broadband, we are already limited in the amount of bandwidth we have.  This means we must design the site to work within the limitations of our connection speed.  Instead of making graphic links, try using regular text links.  Try different compression levels with JPG.  Donít put too many pictures on a single page. Instead, try scattering the pictures across several pages.  Donít have huge Flash introductions that must be loaded and viewed every time somebody comes to your site.  Come to think of it, those are annoying on sites with a lot of bandwidth as well.
  6. Make your site easy to navigate.  There should be a clear logic of how your site is laid out.  Popular links go up high, less popular links go lower down.  Nobody wants to spend time searching for the control buttons.  Make it intuitive.
  7. Keep your subject matter focused.  This is important for several reasons.  First of all, if your content is focused, the search engines will know how to place you.  Second, people tend to visit websites based upon subject.  People rarely go to a website that has a little bit of everything. There are very few successful ďjack-of-all-tradesĒ websites out there, if any.  Third, if you plan on soliciting advertisers for your website, youíll have a much easier time if you can prove to your advertiser that you have a targeted audience for their ads.  A computer maker will want to show their ads on a computer site.  A dog washing company will want to advertise on a dirty dog site.  You get the picture. 
  8. Work hard.  As long as working on your website is fun, keep doing it.  You may not be successful right away, but if youíre determined to keep working on it, the fruits of your labor will eventually come.  This could take a long time.  Maybe this should be tip 1.
Well, these are all the tips that I have so far.  Iím sure there are millions more that could be listed here, but I feel these are the big ones.  Each tip I list above requires a lot of work.  How you tackle the problems is up to you.  You can try serially by doing one at a time, or you can attack in parallel and try all the tips at the same time.  Youíll probably end up with a bit of both methods.  Remember this stuff is supposed to be fun and when it isnít fun anymore, find something else fun to do.   Good luck!