Here's an extract from an email I received last week....
> I need some advice about how to create a website successfully! at the moment
> I can't afford to get one up and running by a professional - and I don't
> think it's something you should skrimp on - as a website can be very
> profitable to a business if done correctly.
> currently i've created a WordPress blog - which is a mixture of industry
> info and my information about the
> company i.e 'about us' 'services' 'fees' etc etc - I'm not sure if its ok to
> use a blog site like this - but I've tried to use it to the best of my
> I'd really appreciate it if you could explain to me terms like 'meta tag',
> CSS, RSS feeds etc etc - as its completely over my head!
Some good questions here, but I'll start by answering a question that wasn't really posed... Does a blog make a good business website?
Like many questions about doing business online, there's not really a definitive answer. What is right is what works for you. But, here's some considerations:
Using a blog in this way does make it difficult to optimise the site and it's pages for search engines, as the pages are built using templates provided by the blog provider (blogger.com, wordpress.com, etc).
Blog templates are designed for use by people of all levels of technical ability, and as such have a lot of bulky code built in to keep your web pages looking nice, and to allow you to apply your own house style. Now I mentioned "bulky code".
Simply put, "code" is the technical bit that holds the site together. The more efficient your use of code, the easier it is for search engines (and people with disabilities) to navigate your website and enjoy your content. Blogs can't use code as efficiently as a custom built site, as they have to cater for a colossal variety of styles, layouts, etc. This bulky code is just the sort of thing that makes it difficult for search engines to read and appreciate the value of your content.
It stands to reason that if your site is difficult for a search engine to read, and your competitor has a site with similar content that is easier for a search engine to read, your competitor's site will appear higher in the page rankings.
In addition to all the competitors in business you have to outperform, consider how many indirect competitors there are for your potential customer's attention.... news sites reporting on your industry, forums discussing products and services you sell, hobbyists who just love giving away your trade secrets.... It's easy for your site to be lost underneath this heap of 'competitive' sites.
There are however a number of blogs that perform fantastically in the search results of many search engines. How do they do this? Well, it will have a lot to do with their link popularity (see my explanations of link popularity) and, crucially, the amount of relevant content on their pages. So as getting hundreds of links to a brand new website is difficult, what you need if you're using a blog as the main website for your business is lots of content. Content is king!
When you see how much content is on the top performing blogs you'll see just how much content you need to compete with these chaps. It is likely to be at least 10 times as much as you're comfortable with, so to keep it easy to read, start with a compelling headline, and then a 5-15 word introduction to the information and give more and more detail as you get into your subject. Just like a newspaper article.
If you are using WordPress (I'm not, but I know many people do), make sure you click the button that shows the Advanced Toolbar (it's the button on the far right hand side of the menu that appears above the box where you type your content). Now you must use the format drop down menu to make the headline of your page 'Heading 1', the 5-15 word intro 'heading 2' and any subsequent headings 'heading 3', 'heading 4' and so on. This will show the Search Engines what the most important bits of your content are.
So it's worth having a section on your site that is a real blog, with compelling content to which people will want to place links on their sites, blogs and forum posts. Which will help your link popularity too!
Now, I know haven't answered the questions about Meta Tags, CSS & RSS yet, but I will this week, so watch this space kids!
Oh, and if I've been too confusing (people are increasingly referring to me as 'geeky') or you would like more info you can get in touch with me at Noisy Little Monkey or simply add a comment to this post using the link below.