Sunday, May 13, 2007

CSS fix for IE6 Double Margin Bug

When most web developers have nightmares, they usually consist of some scenario or other involving Internet Explorer. Even with the release of IE7, Microsoft still hasn't produced a standards compliant browser, but hey, it's a step in the right direction and for that we are truly grateful Mr Gates.

One of the more common bugs found in Internet Explorer is the dreaded 'double-margin', which IE6 (and earlier) would apply to a floated element. The problem will only occur when the margin and float are in the same direction. That is, a left margin is applied to a left floated element or a right margin is applied to a right floated element.

If for example a 10px left margin is applied to a left floated element, IE6 will double it to . . . yes you've guessed it, 20px.

Luckily, there is a simple solution to this problem (well it's simple when you know how to do it). To ensure that IE6 displays the correct margin value just add - display: inline; to the CSS style of the floated element. Doing so will not change anything other than fix the IE6 bug because floated elements are always block level elements, and changing the display property to inline won't change that.

Even though this won't adversely affect other browsers it would be good practice to keep any IE specific fixes in a separate style sheet or put it in an IE only style using the handy * html hack which would appear like so:

* html #sidebar { display: inline; }

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Friday, May 11, 2007

How Web Design Can Affect Search Engine Rankings

Uniquely built web sites can create unique issues when being promoted on the search engines. From a basic 3 page brochure site to a corporate site with hundreds of dynamically generated pages, every web site needs to have certain design aspects in order to achieve the full effects of an SEO campaign. Below are a few points to take into consideration when building or updating your web site.

1. Size Matters.
The size of a web site can have a huge impact on search engine rankings. Search engines love content, so if you have only a few pages to your site and your competitors have dozens, it's difficult to see a top page ranking for your site. In some cases it may be difficult to present several pages of information about your business or products, so you may need to think about adding free resources for visitors. It will help in broadening the scope of your web site (which search engines like) as well as keep visitors on your site longer, possibly resulting in more sales.

2. Graphics-Based Web Sites.
While web sites that offer the visitor a more esthetically-pleasing experience may seem like the best choice for someone searching for your product, they are the most difficult to optimize. Since search engine robots cannot read text within graphics or animation, what they see may be just a small amount of text. And if we learned anything from point #1, small amounts of content will not result in top rankings. If you really must offer the visitor a graphics-heavy or Flash web site, consider creating an html-based side of your site that is also available to visitors. This site will be much easier to promote on the search engines and your new found visitors will also have the option to jump over to the nicer looking part of your site.

3. Dynamic Web Pages.
If most of your web site is generated by a large database (such as a large book dealer with stock that is changing by the minute) you may find that some of your pages do not get indexed by major search engines. If you look at the URL of these pages they can be extremely long and have characters such as ?, #, &, %, or = along with huge amounts of seemingly random numbers or letters. Since these pages are automatically generated by the database as needed, the search engines have a tough time keeping them up to date and relevant for search engine users.

One way to combat this problem is to offer a search engine friendly site map listing all your static pages just to let them know that you do have permanent content on your site. If search engines see links going to and from these dynamic pages within a good internal linking system, this may also lead to the pages getting indexed. The link popularity of your site may carry more weight in this case as well, so if you can't offer as much static content as your competition, make sure you have an aggressive link campaign on the go.

4. Proper Use of HTML.
There is quite a bit of sub-par web design software out there. Word processors usually have a way to create HTML documents which can be easily uploaded to a site via ftp. However, in many cases the code that the search engine robots see is mostly lines and lines of font and position formatting, not relevant content. The more efficiently written web sites usually achieve higher rankings. Our choice for web design software is Macromedia Dreamweaver, as it is an industry standard. It also makes using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) a breeze, which can drastically cut down on the amount of text formatting in HTML code. Hand-coding HTML to design sites is also a good method if you are proficient enough.

There are some no brainers too: Web sites with abnormal amounts of hyperlinks, bold or italicized text, improper use of heading, alt, or comment tags can also expect to see low rankings.

5. Choosing a Domain Name.
The golden rule to web development of any kind is to keep your visitors in mind above all else - even search engine optimization. When choosing a domain name, one should pick either your business name (if you have a high-profile business name such as Chapters or Coca-Cola) or a brief description of your products. Domain names can always help with search engine optimization, as it is another area of your web site that important keywords can appear. Forget about long-winded domains such as as no one will ever remember it and it will be hard to print on business cards or in ads.

If you need to change your domain name for any reason you obviously don't want to lose existing rankings. An easy way to do this, and one that is currently supported by most search engines, is the 301 redirect. It allows you to keep your existing rankings for your old domain name, while forwarding visitors to your new web site instantly.

6. Using Frames.
Don't use frames. Frames are a thing of the 90's (and in the Internet world that is eons ago) and are not even supported by some search engines. The search engines that are able to index your site through frames will most likely frown upon them. Whatever you are trying to accomplish by using frames can usually be done with the help of PHP includes or CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Some browsers are not frames-compatible, so there is the danger of some visitors not being able to see your site at all. Bookmarking of individual pages within a frame becomes difficult without lengthy scripts being written.

7. Update Your Information.
Not only does information printed two or three years ago look badly on your organization when it is read by a visitor, it is also looked down upon by search engines. Web sites that continuously update and grow their web sites usually experience higher rankings than stagnant sites. When the trick to SEO is offering visitors the most relevant information, you can bet that the age of web pages is taken into consideration by search engines. Consider creating a section of your site devoted to news within your organization, or have a constantly updated resources area.

Many shortfalls of web sites can easily be attributed to designers who just don't keep the user or search engines in mind. Search engine algorithms are quickly improving to try and list the most user-friendly sites higher, given that the content and link popularity are there to back it up. So first and foremost, know your target market and make your web site work for them before focusing on search engine optimization. If you build it (properly), they will come.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Off Page SEO

Off page SEO accounts for probably 90% of all the search engine optimization you might do online. On page optimization accounts for the balance. Now, do not think that because off page accounts for maybe 90% that you can skip the on page SEO. Very much the opposite. You see, on page SEO is like the foundation of your house. It is only 10%, but you cannot have a house without it.

So how do you do off page SEO?

Well, the better question would be, what is off page SEO, right? Well, off page SEO is all the search engine optimization you do that is not on the web page itself, hence…off page.

The most important part of off page SEO is that of generating back links to your web site.

Why? Search engines generally tend to believe that the number and quantity of back links to your web site proxies for the importance of your web site. So if you have more back links (inbound links) to your web site and they are of a higher quality, then your web site should rank higher in the search engines.

So what is quality? A back link has more quality if it comes from a web page that is related to the keyword which is associated with your link and your web page. It has more quality if it comes from a web page that itself is recognized as having importance, or higher page ranking.

So the bottom line is that you need to get quality back links to your web pages.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

On Page SEO

On page SEO probably counts for about 10% of the necessary optimization and SEO that you need to do for each web page you create. But do not think that just because it is 10% that means you can do everything else and get 90% results – you won’t. You see, on page SEO is important because it tells the search engines what your web site is about, so they can index it properly. It is the foundation. It is like the foundation – it is only 10% - but without it you have nothing.

So what are the important things about on page SEO? Let me say this first. I think that people spend a lot of time doing a lot of things that don’t really matter in the area of on page SEO. So I am just going to give you the things I think are really necessary.

1) Identify the one keyword phrase for which you want your web site to rank in the top ten search results. By the way, better to have one page in the top ten results than 20 in the next ten.

2) Put your keyword phrase in the title of your web page – preferably make it your title, with no additional words.

3) Put your keyword phrase in the description of your web site – start it with your keyword phrase, and use as few other words as possible.

4) Put your keyword phrase in your keywords with no more than 2 other keyword phrases.

5) Put your keyword phrase in bold, italics, and underlined once each on your web page.

6) Use your keyword phrase once in every paragraph in your web page, and use it at least once near the end of your web page.

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Sunday, May 6, 2007

How Effective Is Your Web Site?

How effective is your web site? Does it really help bring in business? How can you tell if it's time for a web site clean-up, tune-up, or makeover?

Well, you can start by doing a little do-it-yourself web site analysis. First, take an honest look at your web site. Is the information outdated? Have you added anything new to give visitors a reason to come back? Are all the links still working?

Your web site is the face of your business, and the impression it gives to your visitors matters very much. You may have already lost customers due to poor usability, awkward design, unclear navigaiton, or outdated information.

When analyzing your web site, consider questions such as:

- Is your web site purpose-built? At Five Sparrows, we talk a lot about purpose-built sites, and that's where we start when developing new web projects for our clients. You really must know and understand the purpose of your web site before you create it. Make sure you are clear about your ultimate goals.

- Is the information useful to a visitor? One of the mistakes small businesses often make is to put every piece of company information they have up on their web site. Do your visitors really need to know your staff vacation schedule? If it doesn't contribute to the site's purpose, don't publish it.

- What is the message you're communicating? Broken links, old information, non-functioning web forms, or missing images communicate the wrong message to your visitors. Make sure your site is a positive reflection on your business, and that it communicates competence and professionalism.

- Does your web site look good? Studies show that visitors take less than seven seconds to decide if they are interested in your site, and much of that decision is based on the site's visual appeal. Of course your site should provide functional page layout and navigation, but the design elements should also be appealing and purposeful. The site design should match your existing corporate branding, yet enhance your distinctive "look" and business personality.

If you have been honest with yourself in analyzing your web site, you should have a pretty good idea about whether you have a successful web site, or one that isn't performing as well as it should. An effective web site is an invaluable business tool, so make sure your site is ready to work for you.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

How to Design a Website for Maximum Profit

Designing a website is a skill in itself, without the added requirement of search engine optimization that is not the subject here. There are many references to SEO on the internet, but not so many about what salient features should appear on a website. Beginners to internet marketing can find the features required in a website confusing and frequently require some help.

Your website will presumably be based on a theme that may or may not be intended to make you money. Not all internet sites are for making money, and in fact it is only recently that the information sites have been overtaken by the explosion of websites used by people hoping to make their fortune through internet marketing. Unfortunately, over 95% will fail and part of this is due to not being aware of the elements that make a good website.

You must have a graphic near the top of your site that can be either your logo, or some other graphic suggestive of the theme of your site. It can be obvious, such as a dog if your site is about dogs. Many people make the mistake of using altruistic graphics that seem to have no connection to the theme, and that only confuses and annoys visitors.

Try to keep clear of flash graphics: that is those that have a lot of movement and take an age to load. Many people will lose patience and leave. Flash graphics have their place, but it is on the corporate site of a well known company, not on the website of somebody trying to make a few bucks from the visitors that they get. Keep the graphics static, but relevant.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Web Design

A website is a set of information about a finicky topic. Conniving a website is defined as the pact and conception of web pages that in twirl make up a website. There are some decisive web design development fundamentals that small business owners must keep away when creating their website. The world we breathe in today is governed by technology. The drift of outsourcing web design, software development and Internet marketing projects gained an intense esteem in the e-commerce domain.

Web development is a colossal province with manifold technologies concerned; barely a miniature development company is capable to include everything. Conversely, without experienced designers and developers ensuring infested proficiency, it will be not quite unfeasible for small firms to win contracts due to a lack of vital proficiency. The hitch to facilitate has arisen in the last few years is such that it would materialize to be very effortless to be converted into a web designer.

Web design is an intricate procedure that requires an ample range of ingenious, business and technical skills. It is a multifarious restraint that involves a wide range of skills and it is that your web site be supposed to be easy to read and it is not about for embellishment, it is with reference to how the web is working. There are some decisive conventions and ethics to scrutinize for stunning and effectual web design.

1. Avoid Using Splash Pages

2. Avoid Excessive Banner Advertisements

3. Use Clear and Simple Navigation

Web design is really simple and if you maintain to the details you can have a great web page with very little effort and stress. It is an unending process. For some it comes easier than to others. Most of the websites be predisposed to be basic, so they do not take hundreds of hours to create. The decisive peak of scheduling your site is optimizing it for manifold streams of returns if you crave to get any wages from the site.

Web design is a persistently sprouting aspect of marketing and it is a turf that is swarming and bloodthirsty. Last but not least that the site ought to be user-friendly, with the interface and navigation simple and reliable.

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