Category Archives: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Do I need a Content Management System (CMS)?

The short answer is YES.

A Content Management System or CMS is a piece of software running on a hosting account on a web server that allows the administrator of a site to log in to and edit the site through a web browser interface, without having to delve into the mystifying depths of HTML and CSS code trying to work out how to FTP the files over to the hosting account etc.

Generally a CMS is made up of standard HTML and CSS elements, a MySQL database (or other database technology), a Javascript word processor/text editor and some server side scripts (PHP, ASP, JSP etc.) to execute database operations such as saving and retrieving content and to allow upload and management of files on the server.

Most design companies will give a customer the choice of installing a third party CMS such as WordPress or their own bespoke CMS. However, design companies generally prefer to offer bespoke CMS to their customers because they can be tied into a specific design more easily, and the user interface can be made exceptionally foolproof. With third party CMS applications design can often be very restricted unless the company specialises specifically in that technology.

You should expect to pay a bit less for a WordPress or Joomla website as there is practically no coding involved in the set up of these sites, rather developers will find a suitable template on the web and will then customise it to suit a particular customers needs. If a company has to develop a theme from scratch, Joomla and WordPress sites can become even more expensive then their own bespoke CMS sometimes prohibitively so.

Regardless of the technology chosen, the major advantage of a CMS is that you will no longer need to call your web design company every time you need to make a small change to your website, with a CMS you can update the site whenever you have a bit of news, want to add a new link, need to upload a new picture, press release etc. etc. You just simply log in through to the CMS via a specific URL or Web Address and edit your website pages on the fly.

However, with this power there are also caveats. Often designers have a keen eye regarding making content on a site look professional. By transferring this power to administrators, the design of the site can often suffer over time from a design perspective as a result, so if you do go for a CMS try and keep the content true to the design of the site and avoid using your own colour schemes, font sizes etc.

Search Engine Optimisation is also generally supported by good CMS systems. They allow the user to modify the title of the page, the content of the page (encouraging the use of h1 tags) and they also allow the admin to add meta description information. Often with static web sites, design companies do not change the title and description on the various pages on the site which can lead to devastating penalties from Search Engines.

So, if you have an existing site without a CMS, don’t worry, all is not lost. If your site is standard HTML / CSS it should be relatively easy to add a CMS to.

UTD Web Design Ireland can add a lightweight, bespoke SEO optimised CMS to your existing site for as little as €400 depending on your specific requirements, so what are you waiting for, get in to the 21st century and manage your own website content today!

Website technologies explained and terminology decoded.

Ever since I’ve started putting websites together I’ve had the same basic questions posed to me from clients, here is an overview of the basics put in plain English.

Hosting: The very first thing you need to put a site live on the internet is hosting.  In Ireland there are a good number of reputable hosting companies but blacknight and hosting365 are probably the most popular of these.  Hosting is basically disk space on a server that is shared by many customers (though you can purchase a dedicated server if necessary). A reasonably decent hosting package can be purchased for around 50 euro, which will include several gigabytes of data transfer a month, several gigabytes of disk space. Most hosting packages include PHP, MySql and Email, which I will explain below.

Domain Name: Hosting is not much good if you do not have a domain name that directs users to your site.  Generally Irish businesses should purchase a .ie domain if their target market is Irish, however .com versions of domains are generally the most sought after.  Irish domain names are more expensive than others because there is a body called the IEDR (IE domain registrar), which administers domain names on an application process.  For most .ie domains the domain must be approved before a hosting company can put it live.  Once a domain is purchased it must then be configured to point at your hosting.  This is generally done by changing the name servers that the domain points to.

HTML + CSS: HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are internet software languages that describe how a web page looks.  HTML deals with individual elements on a web page such as headings, paragraphs, images etc. whereas CSS specifically detail how these elements look. For example, a heading’s font size, colour, typeface etc. can be set via CSS.

HTTP: This is the means by which pages are requested over the web and delivered to browsers.  HTTP stands for Hypertext Transport Protocol and whenever you type in http://www.whatever… and click go you are starting a HTTP request, which finishes when the entire page is downloaded and displayed by your browser.

PHP: PHP is a common programming language used to process web requests. Every time you type a HTTP web address (URL) into a browser and sometimes when you click a button on a web site, a web request is made to a web server.  Sometimes this web request does more than just return a web page. Sometimes the request activates a program on the server to perform some activity. For example, we’ve all signed up to newsletters on websites. When you click a button to sign up, the web server will activate a program on the server to process the email address and sign them up to a newsletter database, it may then send out an email to the user to confirm that they have been subscribed.  All this can be done via a programming language called PHP. There are many software languages that can be used besides PHP such as C# and ASP.Net, Java and JSP etc.

MySQL: This is a common database technology available on ALL decent server hosting packages. Often databases full of content and users are stored on the server.  PHP and MySql often work together as PHP performs the processing functionality and MySQL provides the storage facility.

CMS: A CMS or Content Management System is a web based software application that you can log into to edit the content on your website, be it simply the text on the site, images or other media files. WordPress and Joomla are two very popular open source CMSs

Blogs: A blog is short for a web log.  Many people out there have decided to write and talk about whatever subject tickles their fancy on the web via blog services such as blogger and wordpress. Blogs are simply content management systems that focus on managing posts by time and date.  So effectively blogs are online diaries, where the diary entries are web pages managed by the blogging software.

RSS: RSS is a technology used to transfer snippets of a page to subscribed users so that they might come back to a website. RSS is often used with blogs to let people and other websites know that an update has been made. RSS is also used with pod-casts.

Podcasts: Pod-casts are snippets of audio, video that are sent out to subscribers via RSS.  Users subscribed receive a short note on the content and can then download the content via link supplied.

SEO: Search Engine Optimisation is the process by which a websites Search Engine Results Page performance is monitored and improved over time. This is generally a two step process of ensuring the content on a site is readable by the search engine and that the content best matches what potential customers are searching for, followed by a link strategy whereby inward links to the site are actively sought out. Google utilises a ranking system which gives a site a measure of importance between 0 and 10 which is called Page Rank. In general if two sites match a search query exactly, then page rank will decide which page comes back first on the search results page.

SEM: Search Engine Marketing is a combination of SEO and Internet Advertising. To back up an SEO strategy a company may also purchase ads from companies such as Google. With Google users can set up Adwords campaigns, which allow the customer to bid on key words and phrases that they think people might used to find their products or services. Once a Adwords campaign is set up and running, ads will appear on the google search pages and on other websites that have chosen to show ads via the AdSense programme.  Ads are paid for whenever a potential customer clicks on an ad and is brought to the web page.

So that’s the major bread and butter technologies tackled, please let me know via comments if I have omitted something major.

Web Design Dos and Don’ts

This article presents an overview of the most important things to consider in order to implement the best possible website for your needs.

Professional Design

  • Your website is how the world will view you so you MUST have it professionally designed, just as you would a brochure or booklet.
  • Never get a techie to design your site, they will choose function over form.
  • Use a designer template if you are on a tight budget.
  • If using animations, such as flash, keep them to a minimum

Note: Some websites use Flash extensively; however, it is a bad idea to have too much flash on a site as search engines will always have problems reading the text from such sites and as a result do not yield as much search engine traffic.

Note Also: You should know what sections/features you want before discussing your requirements with a web design agency as often the main sections influence how the site will function and this may affect the design of the site.

Content Management System: Most businesses need to be able to change website content on a regular basis. A content management system therefore is a must for any business website. There are several off the shelf content management systems such as WordPress and Joomla which are comprehensive and well established systems however they can restrict design and can be cumbersome to use from an end users point of view. Most good web design companies will have their own very simple and intuitive CMS that can be tailored for a specific client’s needs and does not hinder the design of the site in any way, if a bespoke system is used make sure you try before you buy to ensure you feel comfortable using it. You should also ask is this system or can this system be Search Engine Optimised.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Contrary to popular belief, SEO is a not rocket science. Your site must be search engine ready to give it the best chance possible of being matched for a particular search term. The name of the site, the title of the page, headings and page content are all factors in this, but none of this work matters unless your site is well indexed by search engines, and that means getting as many inward links to your site as possible.

The responsibility for getting inward links should be taken on by the customer and targets should be set to achieve good results. Some common ways of getting links might include:

  • Direct Link exchanges with customers, suppliers, partners etc.
  • Placing links on free and paid for directories (DMOZ, Yahoo etc.)
  • Placing links on social media such as boards, blogs, youtube, linkedin etc.

Once the site is optimised there are 2 more factors which determine how many hits your site will get:

  1. How many visitors are searching for the search terms in questions.
  2. How seriously your competitors have taken their SEO

Social Networks / Media Websites

Depending on the industry there are various social media sites that should be utilised:

LinkedIn: For creating and expanding your business contacts network

Facebook: For interacting with customers, get feedback, have fun, run promotions. Do not create a Facebook account or group if you are not going to have the time to get involved with it.

YouTube: Promotional, Instructional videos, can apply to most industries

Twitter: Great to offer discounts and give short messages to customers

Bebo: More of a teens social network than Facebook, so depending on your market…

Blogs: Very worthwhile commenting on blogs articles dealing with the particular industry. This should not be spam but a legitimate comment. Most comments allow you to specify your website. It is also worthwhile to creating your own blog on sites such as wordpress, blogger etc.

Boards: Get involved on relevant boards but never post a link to your site, rather have it in your signature, people and more importantly google will use this link.

ISSUU: Great site for presenting booklets etc.

N.B. All sites allow you to link back to your own site so they all increase your SEO which is hugely important.

SEO Simplified

How well your site does on a search results page depends on three simple things…

  • How easy it is for a search engine to parse or scan your website
  • How well the content of your site matches a search term
  • How many inbound links your site has from other websites

In order to make your site friendly to search engines you need to ensure that your web site utilises the following html elements:

  • Domain, folder and page names – It’s a good idea to use standard English phrases in the domain, folders and web pages on the site e.g. mybabystuff.com/girls/bibs.htm might be a good web address if someone is searching for baby
  • Title – You must ensure that your website’s title is well formatted, generally it should include the most common search term used to find the site, followed by the web site name.
  • Description – This is not visible to the end user directly when accessing the page, however Google uses the description meta tag in its search matching algorithm, and it also displays it in the search results page so that users can make an informed choice before clicking a link on the search results page.
  • Headings – Putting your key search terms in the standard headings Heading 1, 2, 3 etc. is critical
  • Content – Placing key words and phrases throughout the body is very important, but don’t overdo it. To keep it reading naturally is a good rule of thumb. Sparing use of bold text for key phrases can also help.

In order to ensure that you are using the most suitable keywords and phrases on your site, you simply must use the Google keyword tool. This tool will show you what people are searching for in a particular country or region based on key phrases entered into the tool, or a supplied web address.  The search terms returned are shown for the current month for the selected region and world wide.  This tool is an invaluable resource to everyone, not just SEO experts.  It should be used by anyone serious about their online business. Once your keywords and phrases are identified correctly you can place them on your site strategically using title, heading, description and other standard html elements mentioned above.

Getting content formatted correctly and selecting the best keywords is only the beginning of your SEO journey. After you have done this 90% of the SEO work must still be carried out. Google uses a system of ranking websites based on how many good quality inward links a site has.  Therefore it is critical for you to get as many inward links as possible to your site. You can find out more about this by doing a search for the Google Page Rank system.

Good quality inward links come from sites that are considered important and relevant by Google.  A good quality link will come from a page that is reasonably well ranked itself and is relevant to the search terms sought after for your site e.g. a link from a shoes blog to a shoes ecommerce store would be considered a good link because both sites contain the keyword shoes. If the shoes blog page has very few other links on it, Google may increase the value placed on that link also.

So that’s it really, remember to keep it simple stupid (KISS), make sure your site is well formatted with relevant keywords and get out there and get your site linked to from as many blogs, social networking sites, boards, YouTube, Flickr, partner sites, client sites etc. etc. and watch your site jump up the search results pages within a matter of weeks. Set yourself a target of acquiring 5 links a day and within a month you will have improved your sites rank significantly.

Happy SEOing.