Frequently Asked Questions: Website Basics

How much does a website cost per year?

You could pay less than $100. Once it's created, a website has only two required expenses, domain registration fees and hosting fees. Domain registration gives your website a name, such as yoursite.com, while hosting gives it an address. People type in the name and they are taken to the address. As long as you pay those two fees. You usually pay domain registration fees for a year at a time. You usually pay hosting fees every month, though you can often save by paying annually.

How important is it to get other websites to link to mine?

Google and other major search engines give higher rankings to websites with more inbound links. They assume that if other knowledgeable webmasters think your site is a good resource for your topic, it must be a good resource. Google values inbound links more than any other aspect of a website.

How do I get links from other websites?

First, make sure your site is worth linking to. Does it have anything to say? Is it relevant to the people visiting the site that you want to be linked from? If not, don't bother asking them for links.

First, you might search Google for the words you expect your customers to search for. For example, if you are a "Dallas plumber," you would search for "Dallas plumber". You would make a list of the top search results -- the most popular websites in your category.

Take a good look at these websites. If they aren't competing directly with you, you could ask them to link to your website, If they are competing with you, you could find out who links to them. That may tell you what makes them so popular.

Then you could write to the sites that link to the most popular sites in your category, and ask them if they would link to your site too. You could hire someone to do that for you, but Eric Ward, who invented link marketing, prefers giving the leads to his clients and letting them send the email themselves.

What meta-keywords should I create to get the best search engine rankings?

Meta-keywords are one of the two most misunderstood aspects of search engine optimization. The fact is, they have been so abused that most of the top search engines ignore them now. Well, Yahoo notices them but doesn't give them any extra weight. Some search engines may even penalize websites for including a lot of meta-keywords that don't actually appear on the web page ("plumbing, britney spears, water leaks, paris hilton") The important keywords are the ones that appear naturally in the text of your webpages, especially in the titles and headings. For each of your most important keywords, you should create a page with basically the same title. For example, if you are a Dallas plumber named Manuel Mendoza, you should have a page titled "Dallas Plumber Manuel Mendoza." Face it: if a highly competitive keyword isn't in the title, it's not in serious contention for top ranking for that keyword.

What's the best way to submit my website to all 1,500 search engines?

Sorry to say it, but there aren't 1,500 search engines. Sure, there are thousands of disreputable link farms and spam magnets, but nobody actually uses them to find anything. Only five search engines have more than a two-percent market share. Another half dozen are smaller but still have international significance, while other reputable search engines have a regional emphasis. But the only way to come up with 1,500 search engines is to submit your site to a lot of linkfarms and free-for-all link sites that can actually get you banned by Google.

You don't have to submit your website to the major search engines at all. Find a blog or forum or an existing website that will mention your website. The major search engines will follow the link and find you on their own.

What's the secret to top rankings on Google?

Don't break your head trying to figure out how Google works. Google says they want to reward well-designed sites with good content, and they're constantly trying to filter out any gimmicks. So don't look for gimmicks. The theory is that Google uses different ranking criteria for real estate and other highly-competitive business markets, than it does for furniture and gifts. When Google changed its algorithms and many rankings dropped (one of the many times this happened), many of the sites that were hurt the most were the ones who were the most "highly optimized." Professionals even called it the "overoptimization penalty." That's the problem with constantly changing your strategy. For example, we know that keywords are important, of course. Spammy web pages sometimes do well on search engines, at least for a time. But search engine professionals agree that it's bad to mention keywords too often on a web page.

When you point to a hyperlink, some hidden words pop up. Are these hidden meta tags? Should I get rid of them, so Google won't think I'm spamming them?

You're right to be concerned about hidden meta tags, but that's something different than what you're describing. Sometimes people put hidden meta tags in the head of their web page, stuffed with keywords that don't even appear in the text of their page. That's bad. What you are talking about are the "alt" or "title" elements of your links or images. According to the World Wide Web Consortium standards, they are actually required for properly-designed web pages, so that visually-handicapped and other people can navigate them more easily. The problem comes when these pop-up words don't accurately describe the link or image, but are simply stuffed with irrelevant keywords.

I sometimes get spam for "proprietary software" to optimizes websites for higher search engine rankings. Is it worth the money?

Usually if someone has to market a product through spam, it's not worth considering. Look at it this way. If somebody wrote proprietary software that claimed to predict what you will order in a restaurant this week, you would first doubt its accuracy, and next you'd want to know where they got this proprietary information. When it comes to search engine optimization, nobody has any deep, dark secrets -- except for Google or Yahoo or Bing, and they keep their secrets very carefully. The real answers are more obvious. Look at other high-ranking websites to try to figure out why they rank so high. Who is linking to them? Maybe one is a poorly-constructed website that's doing well only because many other sites link to it. The real key to a high-ranking website is having good content that other sites want to link to - which can't be created with automatic software. The best search engine optimization involves editing and writing - adding keywords in natural places - which can't be done with automatic software either.