Web Sites for Craftsfolk:

HTML Basics, Frames, Search Engines


Web Sites:
I've been intending to write an article on websites for craftspeople for a long time and haven't done it. This will be just some of the basics dos and don'ts. First let me tell you that I review and look at all the web sites on our link lists and our web-rings and I am also the Blacksmithing Editor for the DMOZ directory. I see a LOT of web sites! Most are pretty bad. AND I also know what it is like to start at the amature level of web development and now do professional web development for other people.
Web sites do not advertise themselves. Search engines are only part of a web strategy. Links on major sites help. You also need to advertise your URL in print, direct mail, put it on your business card, stationary, brochuers. . . You have to advertise in the right magazines$$$$ (be sure your URL is in your ad). Having a web-site is not a cure-all to doing business and you may starve if you depend on it no matter how good your work is. It is one of many tools to help sell your work. Today there are thousands of blacksmiths sites and hundreds of millions of web-sites. Yours will be a needle in a haystack.

There are also tens of thousands of rip-off artists in the web business. They will promise you cheap web hosting or a low cost web-site and in the end you get nothing for your money. An amature web-mill generates a web page using a form and then hosts it on a virtual hosting system with no indexable URL where nobody in the world will ever find it. . . Meanwhile your name and address have been sold to SPAMMERs, telephone solicitors and junk mailers. . .

If you hear about IT (anything) via SPAM then it is bad, it is a rip off, the people behind the offer are theives. Not sometimes, ALL the time. Because of the anonymity of the web it has attracted every pedephile, thief, con artist and scammer on the planet. Many are in the business of crooked URL registration and web development including on-line shopping and credit cards.

Good web development is not cheap. It starts with drop dead gorgeous professional photos of your work. If you don't already have these for your portfolio and other advertisement then you don't have any business getting a web site. The quality starts with the photos and no matter how good your web developer is they can't make gold out of cow dung. I've built several web-sites for folks that spent a LOT of money and what I usually get is cow dung for photos. It is very difficult to build a site with bad source material.

You also need to write your own sales or advertising copy OR hire a copy writer. Your web developer should not have to read your mind. Writing copy for the web is different than for other media. Not only do you need to get your message across to the customer but the copy must be search engine friendly. It must have the key words in it that you want OR that your possible customer base will use to find you. Often these are NOT the words you want to use in your copy. SO, a talented word smith is needed. People like graphics and photos and a pretty web site. But search engines do not see images they only see text and the words you feed them. So, copy for the web is different, as it is different for print and different for audio. . . .

These words must also be in the right place on your web site. IF the first thing on your site is an image and the ALT tag says "Logo copyright Joes Studio", you will be indexed under logo, copyright, joe, studio. If the first thing on your frames NOFRAMEs code is "Whoops! Sorry this website requires frames." then you will be indexed under "whoops, sorry, website". And THAT is what you have, a sorry web-site. Whoops. . . There are many $10,000 and up commercial sites out there that have these mistakes. But they can afford these screw-ups when they are going to flood radio, TV and print with their advertising AND their URL. . . But if you can't afford that, then the pages MUST be right and you must be willing to wait. . .

I think every artist and craftsperson should have a web site. But remember that it is a portfolio that people used to seeing nothing but the best are going to compare it to. There are some wonderful, drop dead gorgeous web sites out there. But the majority are road kill on the information highway.

- guru - Friday, 06/28/02 02:30:01 GMT
Doing it Yourself (Web dev):

Yep, I KNOW you are going to ignore my advice above no matter how dearly it cost me to learn it. You are a blacksmith and you are hard headed and DO EVERYTHING yourself. So. . . a little help. That is a start. . . You will need several pieces of hardware and software as well as learning to use them ALL. And THAT is the important part. After doing this full time 12 hours a day for 5 years I am still learning a LOT about the simple tools I use. . .
- guru - Friday, 06/28/02 04:00:19 GMT

Search Engine basics

An HTML page has a basic minimum format:

<HTML>
<HEAD>
<TITLE>Title displayed by browser goes here</TITLE>
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="Similar to the title but may contain up to 25 words.">
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="Words, or phrases, found, in the document, to be, indexed">
<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="INDEX,FOLLOW">
</HEAD>
<BODY BGCOLOR="#FFFFFF">
.
.
The information displayed in the browser window goes here.
.
.
</BODY>
</HTML>
Amature, do-it-yourself and inexperienced web authors such as yourself often make the mistake of not learning HTML or studying about how search engines work. The result is web pages that may never get indexed in the search engines or worse, indexed wrong.

The first three items in the between the opening and closing HEAD tags above are the absolute minimum and are critical.

The first thing you must understand is that "search engines" search for NOTHING on the web. They search their databases or index. The search index is composed of items found on your web page (after submission) and notably in the TITLE and description and keywords META tags. How these items are written and their contents are very important.
TITLE
Often used as the key description of your page. It should be short and contain the most important keywords that you want to be found under. Search engines start here when your page is submitted and before it is searched and indexed. Pages without titles may not be listed as soon as those without. The difference may be months or never. Some important search engines will not list your page at all if the TITLE is missing or broken.

Really BAD titles are your URL, or "Home page" or "Welcome". These say nothing about your site or its contents.

META NAME description
This is similar to your title but can be much longer. Most search indexes truncate it to 25 words so more is a waste of time. The description you write will often be what the user sees when looking for your page on a search engine. It should be clear, concise and contain your primary keywords. Note that the better indexes will manually edit your description and title. This takes time and effort and may delay your getting indexed. Most indexing is done by machine. If the information is there and in good format (no too long, not ALL CAPS) then a human may never look at it. But if the information is missing then a person may have to create it. This is a huge delay and may keep you off the index for a long time.

META NAME keywords
This is a comma delimited list of words or phrases found in your document that you would like it to be indexed under. The words listed must be used in the document or your search engine ranking may be reduced. It is best if the more important keywords are used 3 to 5 times but not more. More may be considered SPAMing the index and get your page reduced in rank or removed from the index. The keyword word count may include ALT tags for images. So it is very important to use those ALT tags.

NOTE: In the past year (2004) there have been some huge changes in the search engine industry. The keyword META TAG is still used by some but it is now largely ignored by Google. You can be better off to have NO keywords than bad keywords.

META NAME robots
This tells the search engines to index your page or not and to follow the links on your page or not. Generaly absence or a robots tag is considered a YES to both. Look it up and use it.

NOTE: An important place to use NOINDEX and NOFOLLOW is on contact form pages. Having these indexed on searech engines makes it dead simple for Form Spammers to put your form on their list. You may also want to leave the TITLE and Description blank other than site name.
Not using these three items properly are the biggest mistakes that web developers make. Often very highly paid "professional" web page designers omit these critical tags. They produce beautiful web pages with no substance as far as the search engines or indexes are concerned. To make it worse most web editors do not help create META tags. As I mentioned earlier, writing the copy and creating the keyword lists is a specialty as well as an art.

One common mistake is not including these tags on the frameset page of a frames page. Frames pages present some special web indexing problems that are not covered in any book or manual that I know of.

Frameset definition pages need the TITLE and META tags as well as a robots META tag (just to be sure the frame links are followed). The NOFRAMES area is VERY important. It needs to contain the text for your keywords and is usually a duplication of the main page content. Since it is most often seen by search engines you may want to target it as such and not worry about it being pretty. To reduce page overhead it is best to keep it sparse.

EXAMPLE:

<HTML>
<HEAD>
<TITLE>Title displayed by browser goes here</TITLE>
<!-- Viewer sees this title NOT frame content titles -->

<META NAME="robots" CONTENT="INDEX, FOLLOW">
<META NAME="description" CONTENT="Similar to the title but may contain up to 25 words.">
<META NAME="keywords" CONTENT="Words, or, phrases, found, in the, NOFRAMES, document">
</HEAD>

<FRAMESET ROWS="70,*" BORDER=1 FRAMESPACING=2 FRAMEBORDER=1>
     <FRAME SRC="header.htm" NAME="HeaderFrame">
     <FRAME SRC="content.htm" NAME="ContentFrame">

  <NOFRAMES>
<BODY BGCOLOR="#FFFFFF">
.
The information displayed in a non-frames browser window goes here.
.
This is also seen by all search engines.
The words used here are important as they are the first found.
.
</BODY>
  </NOFRAMES>
</FRAMESET>
</HTML>
When I first launched anvilfire our NOFRAMES area of the index file had the following text:

"Whoops you need Netscape 3.0 or later to view this page"

That was the first text the search engines found and that was how were were listed on Yahoo and Lycos and others . . under "Whoops. . " It was a major setback that cost us four months to recover from. Yep, I did that. . . please take advantage of my mistakes.

USE ALT TAGS:

A What? An "Alternate Text" IMAGE tag. A properly formated image tag looks like this.
<IMG SRC="images/nospam.gif" BORDER=0 HEIGHT=20 WIDTH=524 ALT="STOP SPAM Join CAUCE Coalition . . .">

STOP SPAM Join CAUCE Coalition Against Usolicited Email
ALT tags were designed for the visualy impaired so that they could tell what an image was about even if they could not not see it. They also display as images load and when your mouse moves over an image. Good HTML editors automaticaly generate ALT tags and good HTML validators flag their absence as an error.

Using ALT tags is not just the Politicaly Correct thing to do. They add TEXT to your page that would otherwise not be there. They are also a good place to add a photo credit and copyright. The search engines cannot see images but they see and USE ALT tags like other text. On image rich pages the ALT text may equal captions doubling the amount of text. So, its not just being "PC" its good search engine optimization.

WARNING! Do not overload ALT tags with keywords. For a while this was a good trick but like any trick for fooling the search engines they eventualy catch on and penalize tricks.

Also note the image SIZE tags. Always use then but NEVER, EVER, EVER use these to make an image smaller. Resize the image in an editor and use the actual image size in the tag. Using oversize images makes your page load slower than it needs. I've been to sites that took FOREVER to load when they appeared to have reasonably sized images, that in fact were larger than screen size. Sites like these often get bumped from search engine directories and link lists. Doint these things RIGHT is part of learning HTML.

Tricks to SPAM the indexes may get you black-balled. Invisible word lists using font color the same as the background were used in the early days of the net, particularly by porn sites. Almost all legitimate search engine spiders recognize this trick and will flag your site as using "dirty tricks". This may get you booted from the search engines, particularly the important ones like Yahoo, Lycos and DMOZ.

Sites called "Affiliate Farms" where the content is mostly links to outside sales sites like Amazon.com may be rejected by the legitimate indexes. DMOZ instructs their editors to not list Affiliate Farms. This is sometimes a judgement call as you may also have real content on your page. Besides, affiliate links WILL NOT make you any money unless you have an extreamly high traffic page so it is best to avoid the temptation.

Banner Farms and Link Farms are treated the same. If your page has more banners than content then your page may get rejected from the index. Outside "link exchange" banners WILL NOT earn you any money, do not bring traffic to your site and only take away from it. They are exploitation of newbies and suckers.
--------------------------------------------
Note that with the explosion of Google ads the rules have changed. While google used to ban link farms and affiliate pages they are now in that business. . . However, google arbitrage pages are constantly being banned by google as fast as they can.


Old URL's and PORN:


I recently received a note about a website on the Blacksmith's Ring that was a porn site. . . When URL's (web names) are abandoned it is common practice for porn sites to register the URL and point it at their site. This is the fourth time it has happened with sites we linked to and the second time in six months.

Usually a user points out the problem and I remove the link ASAP. Today's link was on the Blacksmiths Ring, one of the iForge demos and in the DMOZ.org listing under smithys.

If you find something unexpected on one of our links please let me know. Most of the time they are just dead. But the redirecting to porn sites is a serious problem. I have been rewarding those that find these pirated URL's with an anvilfire cap.

This problem is also one you should think about if you have a web URL and decide to drop your web-site. Abandoning the web-site is one thing but if you abandon the URL there is a good chance it will be used in an unscrupulous manner. If you hold the URL for a year or two without a website then it will disappear from the the search engines and most link lists. After that it is fairly safe to abandon but it depends on the popularity your site has developed. The people that use abandoned URL's generally do not waste their time if the URL is no longer on the search engines or link lists. But if the URL is a good general purpose name that someone else may be interested in then it will be bought to resell AND directed to some other site. . .

Today it only costs $10 to $15/year to maintain the registration so it is not a significant cost to keep a porn site from using YOUR name.

IF you have a blacksmith related web-site with interesting original content and you are thinking about abandoning it PLEASE let us know. We may be interested in hosting the content AND the URL.


Name and address:
From a search engine categorization discussion:

One of my pet peeves is the lack of a location, address or phone number on so called "professional" sites. If someone is actually IN BUSINESS this is important information that should be on their web site. It is amazing to me how many large corporate sites do not have this information. I blame the web-developer for not asking but in the end it is the owners responsibility (it is also often left out by individuals).

If you want to be ruthless in your categorization I would create a "professional" and an "amature" sub-catagory. Any site that doesn't have physical contact information where it is easy to find put it in "amature". This would probably split pretty evenly.

Another possible categorazation, legal, non-legal entity, and individual. If a company name is used and the business is not incorporated then it is a non-legal entity. If it is incorporated it is a legal entity. If under the individual's name it is obvoius.

Of course an individual can operate under a corporate guise but it is rare.

So you have: Six logical subdivisions that all business listings could be divided along.

An amature corporation sounds like an oxymoron but on the web there are a LOT of amature corporations that should be categorized as such. Simple rule, no location or place of business, its amature no matter how big.

What kind of business are you?

Jock Dempsey
unincorporated professional

Email Etiquette

If you are reading this you probably have email. But like many people you may not understand some of the basics. Cheif among these is that your e-mail address may be VERY valuable to you AND it is very valuable to spammers who will do anything to get good active email addresses.

My original email address, guru@anvilfire.com has been made worthless by the amount of spam it was recieving. I had to abandon it. The problem was much my fault as I had put my address in plain site on many pages of anvilfire. I now use a contact form and I have removed my old address from many pages but it is still on many pages that have yet to be edited.

If you have an address such as mine or yourname@yourname.com it may be valuable to you. Spam can make it worthless. Then you have to change your email address. While many folks do this like changing hats others may have their email address tied to their bank and credit card accounts, software registrations, and many other things. Changing your address(es) may be a sizable task. How you use email can make a difference in much spam you get and how long you can use any given address.

CC, BCC and FORWARDS

Many people do not know how to use their email clients. The most common problem is not knowing how to send mail to lists of people.

CC
Carbon Copy. In email parlance this means everyone on a list gets the mail. It is the same as putting multiple addresses in the TO field. Everyone also gets the entire list of addressees.

BCC
BLIND Carbon Copy. This means that everyone gets the mail but they DO NOT get the entire list of addressees.
When you get an email, particularly those "Forwards" with a long list of others at the top of the mail the sender either pasted their email list into the TO field OR the CC field. Everyone on that list got YOUR address along with the others. If any ONE of those people have an e-mail harvesting virus OR that "funny" cartoon or joke your friend shared with you was originated by a spammer you have just been added to their list. AND in any group of people that do not know how to properly send to a list there will be MORE and they will forward your address to others and there is NO CHANCE that a spammer will not pick up your address. You should tell these people to take you OFF their list.

If you wish to send to a group always BCC (some mail clients may call it "hide list from others" or some such - LEARN to use your mail client). The ONLY time you want to CC or use multiple recipients in the TO field is if the other people on the list NEED to know you have sent the message to others such as people in a work group, your lawyer or others.

Viruses used to be just malicious nuisances. But today the majority are profit driven and written by well paid professionals. They collect email addresses or worse, private information such as social security numbers, logins and passwords. Missuse of email lists by the ignorant keep these spammers and phishers in business.

The other faux pas is to request for a return acknowledgement (return recipt). These are rude to the extreme unless there is a very important reason (such as national emergency or life threatening situation) to demand a response. These trigger pop-up messages in mailers that are important reminders OR very rude annoyances if not justified. If I want to respond to your mail I will. If you demand a response I probably WILL NOT just on


References and Links


Copyright © 2002 - 2011 Jock Dempsey,
www.anvilfire.com

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