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Building Your Own Electronic Commerce Web Site
Table of Contents:
Investigating the Opportunity
The Business Plan
Building or Acquiring a Website
Steps to Building a Website
Step 1: Selection of a Web Host
Web Hosting Option 1: Store Builder Service
Web Hosting Option 2: ISP Hosting
Web Hosting Option 3: A Pure Hosting Service
Evaluating Web Hosts
Step 2: Registering a Domain Name
Step 3: Preparing for Online Financial Transactions
Security Considerations
Step 4: Creating and Managing Content
Content Type and Criteria
Creating or Purchasing Content
Managing Content
Step 5: Designing the Web Site
Colors and Graphics
Step 6: Constructing, Testing and Monitoring the Web Site
Customer Relationship Management
Web Analytics
Step 7: Marketing and Promoting the Web Site
Search Engine Optimization
Internal Web Site Promotion
Electronic commerce (EC) offers many benefits. You increase your reach beyond a
physical location. With your Web site, you can reach customers who cannot visit a physical
location because of distance or time. Further, your Web site gives you a global presence.
You also increase your hours of operation because your Web site is open 24/7/365. Further,
you facilitate your marketing activities. Once you establish your Web site, visitors can come to
your site to learn about your business and its products. Search engines can link prospects to your
site. Depending on your site’s design, visitors can find information as well as communicate with
If you are considering launching an e-commerce Web site, you will find these resources
 eCommerce Times (
 (
 The eCommerce Guidebook (
 E-commerce tutorials, reports, and guides
You must first evaluate your business and the market. Initially you should consider the
plausibility of your new business. First, identify a consumer or business need in the marketplace.
When you have an idea, you should see if there is a gap between what people need and what is
Second, investigate the opportunity. Here you will determine if a perceived opportunity
actually exists. Is the idea feasible and will it be profitable? For example, online grocery
shopping would seem to be a great opportunity – relieving busy professionals of the timeconsuming task of visiting a grocery store. Many online grocery ventures have been tried (for
example: NetGrocer, HomeGrocer, Webvan), but most have failed because they misjudged the
logistical problems associated with grocery warehousing and delivery.
Third, determine your ability to establish your business and make it a success. Is this
something you would love doing? Is your proposed business in an industry that you already
know well? You must also be sure that you have the financial, time, managerial, and technical
resources to start and continue your business. Also, do not allow the scope of your business to
grow too large or “creep”, as you may lose sight of your original goals.
Another point that you must consider is the nature of your proposed product and/or
service. Products that can be digitized (e.g., information, music, and software) sell well and can
be delivered easily. Similarly, services (e.g., stock brokering and ticket sales) and commodities
(e.g., books and CDs) have also been successful. In contrast, some products, such as expensive
clothes, do not sell well. However, one of the greatest opportunities the Web offers is in niche
marketing. Quirky sales ideas, such as antique Coke bottles (, gadgets
for left-handed people (, and gift ideas from Belize
( would rarely succeed in a physical storefront, but the Web offers you the
opportunity to pursue such ideas and be successful.
There is another point that you should consider while contemplating an online business.
You must understand the Web culture. Activities such as spam, extensive use of graphics, forced
visitor registration, and intrusive pop-up browser windows are counter to the accepted norms of
behavior on the Web and will turn visitors away.
Your new online business needs at least an informal business plan. A business plan is a
written document that identifies a company’s goals and outlines how the company intends to
achieve those goals and at what cost. A business plan includes both strategic elements (e.g.,
mission statement, value proposition, and competitive positioning statement) and operational
elements (e.g., operations plan, financial statements) of how your new business intends to
Specifically, with e-business planning, you must recognize that the Web is unlike any
other sales channel. The Web allows you to interact with consumers with both reach and
richness and to distribute information extremely quickly and at very low cost. The Web also
creates more bargaining power for customers and less bargaining power for suppliers (that is,
you). Further, the Web creates greater opportunities for focusing on the customer through
personalization of content, one-to-one marketing, and customer self-service. Therefore, the Web
raises customer expectations. You must make the characteristics of the Web as a distribution
channel part of your thinking and your business plan.
Every online business needs a Web site, which is the primary way any firm doing
business on the Web advertises its products or services and attracts customers. For your
purposes, you will typically build or outsource (have it built for you) a transactional Web site.
Transactional Web sites sell products and services. They typically include information and
interactivity features but also have features such as a shopping cart, a product catalog, a shipping
calculator, and the ability to accept credit cards to complete the sale.
Building a Web site yourself can be a complicated process. Although it is fairly straight
forward to put together a simple Web site using HTML, design software, or online templates,
electronic commerce sites often require complex designs and security features that are beyond
the skill level of a novice designer.
This Appendix presents the steps necessary to establish a Web site. After reading
through the information, you will decide whether or not to construct your Web site or employ the
services of a professional site designer. Your decision will be based upon your own personal
abilities, resources, and the sophistication and level at which you would like your site to operate.
Step 1: Selection of a Web host
One of the first decisions that an online business will face is where and how the Web site will be
located on the Web. A site may be self-hosted (owned) or rented. Possible options for hosting
include store builder services, ISP’s, or self hosting. Although many small businesses will build
a stand-alone Web site, the site may also be included in a virtual shopping mall, such as or, or hosted in a collection of independent
storefronts, as at Yahoo (
An online mall or Web mall is a single Web company that owns a Web site that hosts an
assortment of retailers. Online businesses affiliate with the mall and pay a monthly fee or
commission on each sale. Some malls specialize in a certain area, such as weddings or vacation
packages, while others host a large variety of stores. If you do online credit card transactions,
you could pay $100 per month or more, plus transaction fees.
You should pay attention to the mall’s store-building tool. Some tools limit you to a
specific layout and color scheme, which results in all the mall’s stores looking alike.
Questions you should ask before affiliating with an online mall:
 Does the mall charge a membership or setup fee?
 How much is the commission on each sale?
 Who handles credit card processing?
 If the mall processes orders, does it charge an extra fee per order?
 Will the mall allow you to connect your existing Web site to the mall?
 Does the mall charge extra for its store-building service?
 What are the mall’s policies regarding order fulfillment and returns?
 How will the mall help you promote your business?
Web Hosting Option 1: Store Builder Service. A store builder service (also called a designand-host service) provides Web hosting as well as storage, templates, and other services to help
you build a Web site quickly and cheaply. An example of a company that offers comprehensive
store building hosting services and software is Yahoo! Web Hosting. Yahoo’s base service
offers Web hosting as well as customized templates and other support for $11.95 per month.
Other plans, which offer additional services and support, cost $19.95 and $39.95 per month. All
three plans include customizable templates which can be used to build a storefront quickly and
easily. Free templates are also available at,, and Google’s Page Creator
Yahoo’s Web Hosting package also provides marketing tools, domain name selection
assistance, a payment gateway (for online payments), storage, and shipment services. The
package usually offers a Web site address for your Web site (e.g., a URL such as, management tools, security features, and Internet
connection maintenance. Yahoo combines Web hosting and store building, but other vendors
may separate the two functions.
Yahoo offers three levels of merchant solutions: starter, standard, and professional. The
capabilities and fees or each plan are available on Yahoo’s Web site. Yahoo offers an 11-step
guide that explains how Yahoo Merchant Solutions works and how it can be used to build,
manage, and market an online business.
Get started by reading the online Getting Started Overview or download the full step-bystep Getting Started Guide (380 pages). A summary of the 11-step guide is provided at
To see all of the features that come with Yahoo Merchant Solutions, take a tour (click
“Tour”). Once welcomed, you will be shown a slide show that lists all of its capabilities.
Notable features include: web hosting and domain name registration; e-mail; electronic
commerce tools (shopping cart, payment processing, inventory management); business tools and
services (Web site design, marketing, site management); order processing tools; Web site
development tools (site editor, templates, uploading content, for example with Yahoo
SiteBuilder); finding and keeping customers; payment acceptance tools; tax calculators; order
notification and confirmations; and performance-tracking tools (statistics, drill-downs, measuring
the effectiveness of marketing campaigns).
You can build your store in several ways. Your primary tool is an easy-to-use online
Store Editor. You can create a front page, and you can set up various store sections and add to
them. You can upload content developed in Microsoft FrontPage, Macromedia Dreamweaver, or
Yahoo SiteBuilder.
Amazon also offers its Web Store ( For a full explanation
of the features of Amazon’s Web Store and a tour, see
The advantage of a store builder service is that it is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to
build a Web site. The major disadvantages are the lack or a strong online identity and some lack
of differentiation (your Web site tends to look like other sites because everyone is using the same
set of templates).
Other vendors, in addition to Yahoo and Amazon, include:
 Bigstep (
 StoreFront (
 1and1 (
 (
 Network Solutions (
Web Hosting Option 2: ISP Hosting. An ISP hosting service provides an independent, standalone Web site for small and medium-sized businesses. The ISP is likely to provide additional
hosting services (e.g., more storage space, simple site statistics, credit card gateway software) at
the same or slightly higher cost then store builder services.
The major difference between a store builder and an ISP hosting service is that with the
ISP service, the time-consuming task of designing and constructing the Web site becomes your
responsibility. Usually with the help of a contracted Web designer, you will use a Web site
construction tool to create the Web site (for example, or a Web page editor (for
example, Dreamweaver at or FrontPage at
Compared with a store builder template, the combination of an ISP hosting service and a Web
designer or builder offers you increased flexibility as to what you can do with your site, so that it
can be distinctive and stand out from the competition.
One disadvantage of using an ISP is that most providers have limited functionality (e.g.,
an ISP may be unwilling to host a back-end database). Keep in mind that the main business of
an ISP is providing Internet access, not hosting Web sites. If you would like to use ISP hosting,
lists of ISPs and providers of commercial Internet access can be found at The List of ISPs
Web Hosting Option 3: A Pure Hosting Service. A Web hosting service is a dedicated Web
site hosting company that offers a wide range of hosting services and functionality to businesses
of all sizes. Companies such as Hostway ( and Dellhost
( offer more and better services than an ISP because Web
site hosting is their core business. Almost all Web hosting companies provide functionality such
as database integration, shipping and tax calculators, sufficient bandwidth to support multimedia
files, shopping carts, site search engines, and comprehensive Web site statistics.
Evaluating Web Hosts. Your first contact with the prospective host is a good opportunity to
evaluate how responsive they are to problems and questions. Call and see how long you are on
hold. E-mail a list of questions. Look elsewhere if you do not get a personal response within 24
Prospective Web hosts should be able to answer the questions below. You can probably
get most of this information from their Web site’s service description and FAQs (frequently
asked questions), but do not use online research as a substitute for personal contact.
 What types of technical support are available and when? E-mail-only tech support can be
extremely frustrating for you if the host does not respond promptly. Telephone support
means that you can talk with a person, but long distance charges can add up without a
toll-free number to call. If the host promises 24/7 support, test it! Place a late-night call
or send an e-mail on a holiday weekend and see if anyone responds.
 What is the total cost per month? Besides the basic monthly fee, you can incur additional
charges for account activation, multiple e-mail addresses, extra site traffic, database
support, etc. Make sure that the host quotes you the cost for all the services that you will
need. Good hosts offer a 30-day money back guarantee, but most do not refund set-up
charges. In general, it is best to pay as little as possible up front with a new host at first.
Wait to see if the service is good before you lock yourself into a long-term contract.
 What security protocols do you have in place? Request a detailed description of the
host’s security protocols and make sure that they are adequate. Be sure that the service
that you are buying includes Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption. (Note that
Transport Layer Security is the successor to Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL). You must
have a secure, encrypted connection to transmit credit card data safely.
Are there download limits? What if you exceed them? You naturally want to attract
many visitors to your Web site, but success could cost extra if the traffic exceeds what
your Web host allows for your account. Some hosts advertise unlimited downloads,
while others limit your monthly allowance to a certain amount and charge you extra if
you exceed it.
What other services does my account include? You should have access to multiple email accounts, your server log files, an auto responder to automatically reply to e-mails
and orders, and an online account management system.
Step 2: Registering a Domain Name
Concurrent with the selection of a Web host will be your domain name decision. In a mall or
Web storefront, the business’s name may be an extension of the host’s name (e.g., A stand-alone Web site will have a stand-alone
domain name (for example,, and you will have to make decisions about
which top-level domain name to use and whether the domain name includes the business name
or some aspect of branding. Selecting a domain name is an important marketing and branding
consideration for any business. The domain name will be your online address, and it provides an
opportunity to create an identity for your business. Thus, the name should represent your
business and the products that you will sell.
Here are some tips in selecting a good domain name:
 It should be as short as possible.
 It should be as generic as possible, but directly related to what you are doing.
 It should have no numbers or misspellings.
 It should have no dashes or underscores.
 It should have no abbreviations.
 Its first letter should be as close to “A” as possible.
 It should be easy to remember (e.g., would you remember it accurately if you heard it
on the radio).
 It should contain your Web site’s keyword(s). Try to select a domain name that
contains your most relevant keyword phrase because some search engines place
relevancy on them.
 It should be easy to spell (especially for international customers).
 It should have no doubling up of letters.
 Remember that .com is universally recognized and remembered. The new extensions
such as .biz may take some time to be widely accepted. You probably want to buy
your domain name with .com, .biz, and .org top-level domains.
Actual registration of domain names is carried out by hundreds of ICANN-accredited
registrars. Domain name assignment is under the authority of the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, A domain name registrar is a
business that assists prospective Web site owners with finding and registering a domain name of
their choice. A list of these registrars is available at A useful resource for learning more about domain names and the registration process
is About Domains (, which offers guides and resources for a successful
Internet presence, including a domain name glossary, a registration FAQ file, and “horror
stories” from domain name owners who have had bad experiences with registrars.
The first step for you is to visit a domain name registrar such as AllDomains
(, GoDaddy (, or directNIC (
You will use the domain name lookup service at the registrar’s Web site to determine if your
desired domain name is available. If it is, you are invited to register it through the registrar for a
small fee. The registrar submits the domain name and the owner’s details to the appropriate
domain name database, and the name becomes unavailable to anyone else. If your desired
domain name is not available, most registrars automatically offer a list of available alternatives.
If your desired domain name is already taken, you can sometimes purchase it from the
current owner. The Better Whois database of registered domain names (
contains the name, postal address, e-mail address, and the telephone number of the domain name
Once you have registered your domain name with a registrar, it can be held by the
registrar until the hosting service is in place. Then management of the domain name can be
transferred from the registrar or previous owner to the host for establishment of your Web site.
If you know what your domain name will be, it is a good idea to register it early in your
Web page building process. It is much easier to register a new address than trying to purchase it
from another party or trying to decide on an alternate name. Once purchased, you will have to
keep track of when ownership has to be renewed. If you let your ownership lapse, another party
could possibly obtain your address. If you use a Web design company to build your site, it
usually assumes the responsibility of renewing the ownership of your domain name.
Step 3: Preparing for Online Financial Transactions
Deciding what product or service to sell on your e-commerce Web site is the easy part. Deciding
how to sell it is much more complicated. This process involves selecting a shopping cart system,
database, payment system, and Web host for your business.
You will need to have a shopping cart system to take orders and process payments
online. The result of an online payment system with a database, payment option and Web host is
called a shopping cart. Customers browse through your products and select the ones they want
to buy. These items go into a “virtual shopping cart” that customers can view and add or delete
items before completing their transaction.
Shopping carts come in two formats: hand-coded and off-the-shelf. Hand-coded
shopping carts give you maximum flexibility and control, but typically require special software
and advanced coding skills. An off-the-shelf system requires very little coding, if any. Packaged
systems range in price from free to several thousand dollars. Here is just a sample for price
comparison only:
Product Name
Smart Shop (
ASP Cart (
1ShoppingCart (
PDG Shopping Cart (
License Cost
Off-the shelf systems should have online demos that show you how to set up the system
and navigate through the online storefront. Questions you should ask:
 Is it easy to use? Customers have to be able to use your system easily. Some surveys
have shown that up to half of all online shoppers abandon their shopping carts before
completing their purchase. If your shopping cart confuses customers, they will leave.
 Can it calculate shipping costs and sales taxes? Customers need to know shipping
costs up front. You may also be required to pay state and/or local sales taxes when
you ship to customers in your own state.
 Does it handle online credit card authentication and processing?
 Can you update your store online?
 Does the system offer much design flexibility?
 Can you integrate the system into your existing Web site?
Your electronic commerce Web site must be able to accept online payments for
purchases. The dominant form of B2C payment is accepting credit cards over the Web. In the
online process, the credit card reader in the store is replaced with credit card processing software
(a credit card gateway) that is capable of accepting input from a Web page and submitting it into
the credit card system (the merchant’s bank, the customer’s bank, and the credit card
interchange, such as Visa or MasterCard).
Also in online transactions, a signature and verification of the signature by the merchant
is not required, resulting in what is known as a card-not-present (CNP) transaction. This
situation removes a considerable amount of certainty and security from the process. In response
to this increased risk, banks are more selective about who gets an online merchant account, and
they require that the entire process be as secure as possible (e.g., checking that the shipping
address provided by the customer matches the billing address on file at the customer’s bank). In
addition, banks charge higher transaction fees for CNP transactions to offset the increased risks.
If you plan to accept credit cards for payment, you will generally have to follow the
criteria listed below:
 Open a merchant account. Opening a merchant account means acquiring bank
approval, making an application, signing a contract with one or more credit card
companies, and paying the bank and card companies a set-up fee. Ongoing costs for a
merchant account include a percentage-based transaction fee and additional charges for
other services, such as when a customer credit is issued.
 Purchase credit card processing software. Credit card gateway companies such as
PayPal ( and CyberSource ( provide credit card
processing software and services that accept credit card numbers and manage their
transfer into and back from the credit card system. Factors to consider in deciding which
gateway company to use include companies that the site developer has worked with
before and what software the organization hosting your Web site will accept. A business
typically pays the credit card gateway a set-up fee and a per-transaction fee.
 Integrate the credit card processing software into the transaction system. To work
effectively, the software must be able to manage the flow of data between the transaction
and customer databases and the credit card systems.
Now that you have decided on your Web host and your shopping cart system, you must
find a merchant account provider. Every business that accepts credit cards has some kind of
merchant account. The fees can represent a significant expense for small retailers. Online
retailers may be charged even higher fees – if they can get a merchant account at all. This is
because many Merchant Account Providers view online transactions as inherently more risky
because you do not have the actual credit card to scan. That increases the probability of credit
card fraud and chargebacks. With more risk come higher fees.
If you have a good relationship with a local bank, talk to them first about an online
merchant account. If that does not work, do some research to locate reputable providers. For
example, check MerchantSeek ( to find Merchant Account Providers.
Expect to pay some sort of fee for every service your Merchant Account Provider offers,
 Monthly account fee: This is a charge you pay to keep your account open. You pay it
whether you sell anything or not.
 Transaction fee: A fixed charge for each online transaction – usually less than 50 cents.
 Discount rate: A percentage of the total sale. Fees can range from 2 to 3 percent of the
total sale to 10 percent or more, depending on what product or service you sell.
 Chargeback rate: A percentage of your total sales that the Merchant Account Provider
holds in reserve to cover returns or fraud claims.
 Chargeback fee: Some Merchant Account Providers charge an additional fee for each
chargeback transaction. You lose twice here: the amount of the sale and a $20 to $50
chargeback fee paid to your Merchant Account Provider.
 Application fee: The cost to process your application and tell you whether or not you are
approved. This fee is not usually refundable.
 Gateway fee: Gateway providers link your shopping cart system to your bank account.
Many shopping cart systems only work with select gateway providers. Make sure that
you know which providers your system supports. Check with your Merchant Account
Provider too, because they may require a certain gateway.
If you cannot afford a merchant account or cannot qualify for one, consider opening an
account with PayPal. You can set up a business account for free and use it to accept and send
money online. A credit card is not even necessary. PayPal can also deduct money from a
checking account.
PayPal’s fees are quite small. You pay a small transaction fee, but no monthly minimum
charges, set up fees, gateway fees, or application fees. However, your customers must have a
PayPal account before they can buy from you. Although setting up an account is easy, the extra
steps required may drive away some customers. Online shoppers have a bad habit of abandoning
their shopping carts. Each additional step in the transaction only gives them more opportunity to
leave. Despite that, PayPal is a good payment alternative for small retailers.
Security Considerations. Remember that online customers will be concerned about security
throughout your entire site and especially when carrying out a financial transaction. You want to
be very careful in keeping security high. Three practices are essential for security: encryption,
authentication, and security socket layer (SSL) certificate. (SSL is now called Transport Layer
Encryption is a means of scrambling information sent to a site so that only a
predetermined computer can unscramble the information. Authentication occurs when a third
party verifies the authenticity of your site to users. The SSL certification is a digital certificate
which combines both encryption and authentication. SSL is generally considered the most
preferable means of securing transactions. A good practice is to make sure you obtain a SSL
certificate from a reputable provider and display that seal on your site.
For example, VeriSign ( is one company that sells security packages
for e-merchants with different options and varying levels of protection. As SSL Certificate is the
most basic protection you will need to secure transaction information on your site. At VeriSign,
128-bit encryption costs $399 for one year and $995 for three years. There are other companies
that sell security packages; for example, Thawte ( and Comodo
Generally, it is easiest to employ the services of a professional ecommerce consultant to
help you navigate your way through the myriad of options, requirements, laws and risks involved
with taking online payments.
Step 4: Creating and Managing Content
Content Type and Criteria. Your Web site will need content – the text, images, sound, and
video that deliver the information that visitors to your site need and expect. Your site should
include not just product information, but also value-added content from which visitors can
receive valuable information and services.
This content can come from a variety of sources, but getting the right content in place,
making it easy for viewers to find, delivering it effectively, and managing content so that it
remains accurate and up-to-date are crucial to your success. The primary criteria that Web site
visitors use to evaluate your site’s content are as follows:
 Relevance: applicable, related, clear
 Timeliness: current, continuously updated
 Reliability: believable, accurate, consistent
 Scope: sufficient, complete, covers a wide range, detailed
 Perceived usefulness: informative, valuable, instrumental in purchasing decision
Effective content creation begins with examining your business and marketing goals.
The primary purpose of content is to contribute to your Web site’s goals. Content is one of the
most effective ways for your Web site to differentiate itself from its competitors.
Media-rich content, such as video clips, music, or Flash media, may be included in an
effort to reach your target audience with an appealing message. You should, however, be
concerned about the download time from the user’s perspective. Impatient or fickle Web surfers
may click “Stop” before the multimedia has had a chance to fully download. Several technical
solutions are available from vendors who are referred to as content maximizers or streaming
services (e.g., Akamai,
Content pages should contain more than information about the product or service (the
primary content). A Web site should also include secondary content that offers marketing
opportunities, such as the following:
 Cross-selling. Using content for cross-selling means offering similar or related products
and services to increase sales. For example, Amazon offers book buyers options such as
“customers who bought this book also bought….” Other cross-selling opportunities
include accessories, add-on products, extended warranties, and gift-wrapping.
 Up-selling. Creating content for up-selling means offering an upgraded version of the
product in order to boost sales and profit. Again, Amazon offers “great buy” book
combinations (buy two complementary books for slightly more than the price of one).
Amazon also practices down-selling by offering visitors cheaper, used copes of a book
directly under the new book price.
 Promotion. A coupon, rebate, discount, or special service is secondary content that can
increase sales or improve customer service. Amazon frequently offers reduced or free
shipping charges, and this offer is promoted on each product page.
 Comment. Reviews, testimonials, expert advice, or further explanation about the
product can be offered after introducing the product. Amazon book pages always have
editorial and customer reviews of the book, and sometimes book contents can be
previewed with the “look inside this book” feature.
Creating or Purchasing Content. Content on most Web sites is created by the site’s owners
and developers. Content can also be generated by customers – through product reviews,
testimonials, and discussion forums. Still another way to acquire content is by purchasing or
licensing. Content syndicators such as Content Finder
( serve as intermediaries that link content creators
with businesses interested in acquiring content. Some individuals and businesses, such as Mike
Valentine’s WebSite 101 (, provide free content and ask
only for proper attribution in return.
Syndication involves the sale of the same good to many customers, who then integrate it
with other offerings and resell it or give it away for free. The digitization of products and
services, and the resulting ease with which information can flow, makes syndication a popular
business mode (for example, see YellowBrix,
Managing Content. Content management is the process of collecting, publishing, revising, and
removing content from a Web site to keep content fresh, accurate, compelling, and credible.
Almost all Web sites begin with a high level of relevant content, but over time material becomes
dated, irrelevant, or incorrect. Web site content management helps to ensure that you eliminate
clutter on your Web site so that it does not waste visitors’ time. You will have to test your Web
site thoroughly and often to check for accuracy, clarity, typos, poor punctuation, misspelled
words, and inconsistencies.
Another important aspect of content management is relevance to individuals who speak
different languages. The language barrier between countries and regions presents an interesting
and complicated challenge (see The primary problems with language
customization are cost and speed. WorldPoint ( presents a creative
solution to translation issues with its WorldPoint Passport multilingual software tool. The
WorldPoint Passport solution allows Web developers to create a Web site in one language and to
deploy it in several other languages. However, automatic translation may be inaccurate,
although it is improving.
Step 5: Designing the Web Site
Structure. Now you must arrange your content in a useable, consistent structure. A Web site’s
structure determines how the Web site and its pages are organized, labeled, and navigated to
support browsing and searching. A Web site typically includes the following:
 A homepage that welcomes a visitor and introduces the site
 Help pages that assist the visitor to use or navigate through the site
 Company pages that inform the visitor about the online business
 Transaction pages that lead the customer through the purchase process
 Content pages that deliver information about products and service at all stages of the
purchase process, from information search to post-purchase service and evaluation and
feedback from customers.
Getting the homepage right is especially critical because it is the first page that visitors
see when they enter your URL into a Web browser. The purpose of your homepage is not to sell
products, but to sell your Web site. It does so by establishing a look and feel – your site’s
The most common site structure is hierarchical. Most hierarchical Web sites are built
wide and shallow, putting 3 to 10 sections in the second level and limiting most sections to two
or three levels. If the hierarchy is narrow (few second-level sections) and deep (many levels),
visitors become frustrated by being forced to click through numerous levels to find the
information they need.
Visitors to your Web site evaluate its design on these factors:
 Access: responsive; loads quickly; available at all times
 Usability: simple, organized layout; easy and fun to use; visually attractive, clear design
 Navigation: easy-to-follow links to needed information
 Interactivity: customized product; search engine; ability to create, change, and find item
Navigation. The purpose of site navigation is to help visitors quickly and easily find the
information they need on a Web site. Navigation must be easy, predictable, consistent, and
intuitive enough so that visitors do not have to even think about it.
Web designers execute successful site navigation through consistency (described later)
and through navigation aids such as navigation bars, navigation columns, a site map, and search
tools. Among the questions to be considered in site navigation are:
 How will visitors enter a site?
 How will visitors use the site?
 How will they find what is available at the site?
 How will they get from one page to another and from one section to another?
 How will visitors find what they are looking for?
The simplest navigation aid is a navigation bar, which provides the visitor an opportunity
to link to likely destinations (e.g., homepage, “About Us”, etc.) and major sections of the Web
site (e.g., product catalog, customer support). Generally, the items in the bar should decrease in
importance from left to right, beginning with the homepage at the far left. A navigation bar can
use text, clickable buttons, or menu tabs. A navigation bar almost always appears at the top of
the page where it will load first in the browser window and be visible “above the fold.” A
second navigation bar should appear at the bottom of every page. Therefore, visitors who have
read the page and have not found what they are looking for can easily be guided to where they
need to go next. An effective navigation scheme is to offer a simple, attractive graphical
navigation bar at the top of the page and a longer, text navigation bar at the bottom of each page.
If the site’s contents need more options than what can fit on a navigation bar, subsections
can be placed in each section of the navigation bar (e.g., customer support might include
subsections such as customer service FAQ, product information, order status). The subsections
can appear on the navigation bar via a pull-down menu or a mouse-over (when a visitor passes a
mouse cursor over a button, a submenu will pop up).
Large and medium-size Web sites should consider a navigation column on the left side of
the browser window. The navigation column has the look of a Web site’s “Table of Contents”
with which visitors are already familiar. More importantly, these sites should include a site map
page and a “search the site option.” This will allow visitors who are unsure of where to go,
optional views of all of a site’s contents or the means to search for specific content. Site maps
should be easily accessible, reflect the information structure of the Web site, and be simply
presented with easy-to-understand text links. A “Search This Site” box should appear near the
top of the homepage and on navigation-oriented pages such as the site map.
Finally, you must provide a way for visitors to easily find contact information, typically
by a “Contact Us” link on the homepage or an “About Us” page. In addition, all pages within
your site should link back to your homepage. Search engines or external links may bring visitors
into your Web site’s interior pages – an action known as deep linking – but you will want the
new visitor to be able to easily find your homepage.
Consistency. Consistency in a Web site’s design means that there is a common look and feel to
the Web site’s pages. A site’s look and feel consists of the elements, such as layout, typeface,
colors, graphics, and navigation aids, that visually distinguish the site from others. Visitors will
become confused if different layouts, colors, and navigation bars are used on different pages.
Every page should have navigation aids, and the aids should be of the same format, style, and in
approximately the same location on each page.
Your company’s logo should appear on every Web page. Contact information should be
included on every page, both a “contact us” link in the navigation bar or column and a contact email address on most pages. Write out your e-mail addresses because that helps visitors who
might print a page. Similarly, your Web site’s homepage URL should appear on every page in
case the page is printed and distributed. Readers should always be able to find your Web site
from a printout of the page.
A short, descriptive title should appear on every page. Titles are important because they
tell the visitor the page content when viewed in the browser window, in printed copy, in a search
engine’s results page, and in a favorites or bookmark list. Avoid using words such as “the” or
“welcome” as the first word in a title because in an alphabetized favorites list these all are
bunched together.
Another aspect of consistency is whether the Web site appears the same on all visitors’
screens. The visitor’s view of your Web site depends on the Web browser being used. Even
though Internet Explorer dominates the market, millions of users also use Opera, Safari, Mozilla,
and many others. You should use a liquid layout that automatically adapts your page’s content
to fill the browser window. If you use a frozen layout, you risk having text cut off or a large
amount of white space on the right side of the screen.
The solution is not to try to design a Web site for all browsers, but to use designated
World Wide Web Consortium standards, currently HTML 4.01 (for more information, see The visitor’s browsing experience should not be dependent on
HTML features that cannot be seen with older and different browsers. It is counterproductive to
use leading-edge technology that may not work on a large portion of the world’s browsers.
Performance. Speed ranks at or near the top of every list of essential design considerations.
Visitors who have to wait more than a very few seconds for a Web page to load are likely to hit
the “stop” or “back” button and go somewhere else.
The critical performance factor is the content and design of the Web page. The most
widely recognized cause of long download times is a large graphic or a large number of small
graphics on a single page. Graphics should be created at the lowest possible resolution so that
the visitor can clearly see the picture, art, or icon but so that the graphic file is only a few
kilobytes in size. If a large, high-resolution graphic image is important, thumbnail images can be
put on the page and linked to full-size, higher-resolution images available at the visitor’s
Other design traps that affect a page’s loading time are page personalization features that
require information from a database for dynamic page creation, Java applets, sound files,
animated banner ads, and complex table structures, especially the page-in-a-table that requires
the entire table/page to load before any of it displays. To decrease page download time, these
features should be avoided or used sparingly.
Suggested guidelines regarding Web site performance are as follows:
 Obey the three-click rule. Visitors should be able to find what they are looking for
within three clicks from your homepage. The exception to the three-click rule is getting
to your homepage. Here the one-click rule applies – every page on your Web site should
have a link that takes the user back to your homepage.
 Place the most important content at the top of the page, or “above the fold.” Visitors
should be able to find the information they are looking for in the first screen, preferably
without scrolling. Put product pictures, prices, navigation aids, mission statements, and a
list of frequently asked questions at the top of their respective pages. Less significant
information such as product specifications, shipping details, and external links can be
placed “below the fold.”
 Keep your pages short. Most pages should be two, or at most three, computer screens
in length. Long pages are confusing to the reader. If necessary, break long pages into
several pages and at the bottom of each page provide links that lead the visitor forward to
the next page and back to the previous page. On long pages, you can also outline the
material at the top of the page and use internal page links to move the visitor to the
material quickly and easily.
 You must have a link to your company’s privacy policy.
 Keep page layouts simple. Consider dividing the page into columns or a grid pattern to
deliver different types of information consistently (e.g., a site table of contents on the left,
promotion and advertising material on the right, page content in the center). Use
different sizes of graphics (but rarely large) and short blocks of text to draw the eye to the
main offerings of the page. Keep in mind that top Web sites use few or no graphics.
 If you have ads on your homepage, you should have three or less.
Do not force visitors to register in order to tour the site or browse the product
selections. However, you may offer visitors a sign-in box on the homepage to access
special features, personalized information, or user-supplied content.
Do not use a splash page. Splash pages are an introductory page to a Web site, that
typically provide a logo, Flash animation, choice of how to enter the site (Flash/no
Flash), etc.
o Splash pages are not a good idea as many visitors dislike them. In some studies,
25% of visitors left a Web site immediately on seeing a splash page.
o Also, splash pages break search engines. Because splash pages consist only of
Flash animations, there isn’t much for search engines to optimize on.
Do not offer music automatically when your Web page(s) open.
Follow commonsense publishing styles. Most of the same design principles that work
well in printed text also work well on Web pages. Use a sans-serif font such as Helvetica
or Arial. These contemporary fonts look good on computer screens. Also, use text
effects such as bold, italics, all caps, and underline sparingly in order to increase their
impact and use white space to increase readability.
Make the primary content easy to find. Links to the primary content of the Web site –
a product catalog, list of services, directory of information – should appear in the
navigation bar on each page and in appropriately placed links in the page content.
Show your products in many ways. Make it easy to search for and display items based
on price, size, model, alphabetically, etc.
Use small lists and menus. In designing navigation aids such as a navigation column or
a site map, group items together in groups of five or less. Visitors handle multiple small
lists better than one long list.
Do not rely entirely on graphics for navigation. Using graphics for navigation can
take time to load, will not appear on browsers with graphics turned off, and are highmaintenance items to alter as the Web site changes and grows. If you use a graphical
navigation aid, make sure you supply an alternative text-only aid.
Make your homepage easy to find. Include a link to your homepage in the most
prominent position in a navigation bar or navigation column. This is helpful for visitors
who are lost in your site and critical for visitors who land in subpages on your Web site
from search engines or external links.
Integrate navigation into your content. In addition to standard navigation aids, do not
miss opportunities to put navigation suggestions in the context itself. For example, in
addition to “contact us” in the navigation bar, include “contact our staff in the USA,
Canada, or UK” in product information and similar pages.
Avoid frames. Frames can be useful for navigating large sites, but they create numerous
usability problems. Pages created with frames are difficult to bookmark and print, search
engines cannot identify them, and they are difficult for the browser back button to handle
Follow accessibility guidelines. Design your Web site to be accessible to all users,
regardless of physical ability or the way they use the Internet. The World Wide Web
Consortium ( has created a series of guidelines for making sites accessible
for individuals with visual, audio, neurological, and physical disabilities. For example,
you should provide graphics with the ALT text tag that benefits visually impaired users
and those users who browse with graphics turned off. The primary purpose of the ALT
text tag for graphics is to identify the purpose of the graphics for users who cannot see it,
rather than to describe the image itself.
Colors and Graphics. The World Wide Web is a colorful and graphic world, and colors,
pictures, artwork, and video can be used to good effect if they are used correctly. The key to
effective use of color and graphics is to design your site to match the expectations of your target
audience. Financial services sites tend to use formal colors (e.g., green and blue) with simple
charts to illustrate the text, but not many pictures. Web sites directed at a female audience tend
to feature lighter colors, usually pastels, with many pictures and an open design featuring lots of
white space. Game sites are one type of site that can get away with in-your-face colors, Flash
effects, and highly animated graphics.
Keep in mind that colors can affect people in subliminal ways. People have reactions to
colors even if they are not aware this reaction. If visitors to your site are affected negatively by
the colors they see, they may leave your site before even reading your information. Researchers
have noted that people experience the following feelings as they see certain colors.
 Red: Danger, love, leadership, power, excitement, energy, strength
 Orange: Courage, playfulness, confidence, cheerfulness, friendliness, comfort,
 Yellow: Amusement, intelligence, caution, organization, joy, curiosity, brightness
 Green: Health, healing, money, nature, food, harmony, life
 Blue: Peace, love, stability, acceptance, trustworthiness, patience, tranquility
 Purple: Wisdom, dignity, royalty, nobility, luxury, independence, ambition
 Brown: Tribal, earthiness, comfort, durability, reliability, nature, primitive
 Black: Sophistication, formality, power, elegance, wealth, dramatic, style
 White: Simplicity, goodness, innocence, cleanliness, fresh, easy, purity
Suggested guidelines for the use of color:
 Use standard colors. All colors should be one of the 216 Web-safe colors that can be
specified by hexadecimal notation.
 Follow color standards. Most visitors expect dark text and blue, red, or purple links
because these tend to be the browser standards. If you change this color scheme, do not
pick a color scheme that will confuse your visitors.
Use complementary colors. Never mix the primary colors of red, green, and blue in text
and background. Generally, dark text (not necessarily black) on a light background (but
not stark white) is the easiest to read.
Specify the background color. If the background color is left to the browser’s default
color, it will not distinguish your Web site. The BGCOLOR tag allows a designer to
control the color in most browsers, except when the visitor has specified a preferred
background color. When selecting a background color, the operative word is
“background.” The color should be unobtrusive and complementary to the colors in the
logo, text, and graphics on your Web site.
Use bandwidth-intensive features selectively. Animation, video, and audio clips are
useful for demonstrations, but because they require much bandwidth to download and
processor speed to display, they should be used sparingly, at the visitor’s discretion, in
low resolution, and with streaming technology if possible.
Design for visually or hearing-impaired visitors. Make a text version of any visual or
audio content available from your Web site for visitors with visual or hearing difficulties.
Use the ALT tag. To speed up Web access, 20 to 30 percent of Web users surf with
graphics turned off. This means the browser downloads the text, but not the graphic
images unless specifically requested, so information embedded in graphics is lost. The
ALT tag overcomes this problem by telling the visitor what the image is (e.g., logo,
product picture) or what it represents (e.g., site search, navigation bar). With this
information the no-graphics visitor can use your site without frustration. The ALT tag
also helps visually impaired visitors because the graphic label can be picked up and read
through the computer’s soundboard.
Avoid distracting features. Wild colors, overactive animation, blinking text, and other
similar features can irritate visitors or distract their attention away from your content.
Similarly, avoid excessive use of different fonts and colors on the page, because these
will make the page unattractive and difficult to read.
Step 6: Constructing, Testing and Monitoring the Web Site
When you are satisfied with the Web site, it is transferred to the Web site host. At this
point, your Web site is open for business, but final testing is required to ensure that all of the
links work and that all processes function as expected.
Customer Relationship Management. It is very important that you give customers what they
desire from your online business. This involves listening to what customers want and what they
think. This practice is called Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Listening to
customers is accomplished through a variety of methods:
 Mine e-mail for information. E-mail messages should not be deleted until they have
been mined for valuable information about product performance, frequently asked
questions, and necessary improvements in the business’s processes and operations.
Survey customers quickly and frequently. Customer surveys are an easy feedback tool
for an online business. A survey form can easily be created online and results can be
imported into a spreadsheet or database for analysis. All surveys must be short, taking no
longer than 5 minutes to complete. Surveys should include easy-to-answer and easy-toanalyze multiple choice and Likert scale questions. Likert scale questions consist of
five-point scales on each question with possible responses ranging from very unsatisfied
(#1) to very satisfied (#5) questions. Surveys should include only a few open-ended
questions, but offer numerous opportunities for respondents to make comments. The
most important questions must be asked first, in case the survey is returned incomplete.
The amount of personal information that is asked should be kept to a bare minimum.
You should offer incentives for your customers to answer any surveys.
Create an e-mail list. Visitors sign up for an e-mail list sponsored by your Web site.
The list should be moderated by an individual who reads and approves all messages
before they are sent to the group. The moderator should not censor communications, but
inappropriate or off-topic messages should be intercepted and discarded before being
forwarded to the e-mail list.
Create a discussion forum. A discussion forum is a portion of your Web site where
visitors can post questions, comments, and answers. Most discussion forums are
moderated. The main disadvantage of a forum is that the participants must make an
effort to visit your site and read the messages, where messages from an e-mail discussion
group are delivered directly to the recipient’s mailbox.
Create a chat group. A chat group is a portion of your Web site where visitors can
communicate synchronously.
Web Analytics. How do you know if the content on your Web site is meeting its e-commerce
goals? How do you know if your Web site is delivering what your customers need? Web
analytics is the process of tracking and evaluating traffic to a Web site. Not only are the number
of visits to your site tracked, but details about each visit are recorded. For example, which words
on your site are visitors searching for and what Web site advertisements referred them to your
Web site (Click-Through Rate). This information will allow you to determine which words on
your site and which advertising sites are the most effective for your page. Understanding which
words attract customers will allow you to produce more effective marketing strategies, especially
through search engine optimization (discussed below). By the same logic, if you are paying for
advertising on several sites and one of them is showing little or no generation of traffic to your
site, then that advertisement should be cancelled or bid down in price.
Hosted Web analytics are installed on a service provider’s server and provides a great
deal of information to you. As a result, hosted Web analytics are the most popular source of data
tracking and evaluation for Web sites.
Popular hosted and free sources for Web Analytics are VisiStat ( and
Google Analytics ( In addition to providing site hit and reference
numbers, Google Analytics will rank advertisement pages on a scale of 1 to 10 based on an
algorithmic assessment, provide a “cost per click” (CPC) for each of your ads, and a return on
investment (ROI) for each of your ads and keywords (as well as other online initiatives). ROI,
CPC, and site rankings are essential tool for making decisions on how much should be paid for
advertisements in varying online locations.
These free services are indeed a powerful resource. However, if you want additional
options, there are analytical companies that offer more tools for a fee. Lower priced companies
include ClickTracks ( and NetInsight from Unica
( High end companies such as Omniture ( and
Visual Sciences ( offer more advanced analytical
tools. However, these resources are generally used by large companies.
Step 7: Marketing and Promoting the Web Site
Once your Web site is active you will want to ensure a steady stream of visitors. At least
in the beginning this will require active marketing and promotion. You can promote the URL of
your Web site on products, business cards, letters, packages, and e-mail messages that leave your
business. A signature file is a simple text message that an e-mail program adds automatically to
outgoing messages. A typical signature file includes your name, title, contact details, and name
and URL of your business. A promotional signature file also includes something that encourages
the reader to visit your Web site. For example, a diet center might include this teaser on all
outgoing messages: “Are you the right weight for your shape? The answer might surprise you.
Take our body shape quiz and find out for yourself.”
Search Engine Optimization. Another key strategy for attracting customers is increased
visibility via search engine optimization. Search engine optimization works with Web Analytics.
Ask yourself: How is a Web site found in the vast WWW? How does a new online business get
noticed ahead of its more well-established competitors? In addition to promotional and
advertising strategies, perhaps the most important and cost-effective way to attract new
customers is search engine optimization. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the application
of strategies intended to position a Web site at the top of Web search engines such as Google,
Yahoo, and Ask.
How does SEO work? At the heart of any search engine is a database of Web pages that
have been indexed on criteria such as keyword occurrence and link popularity. These Web pages
have been collected by software called spiders that “crawl” the Web, finding new Web pages and
sending them back to the search engine for placement in the database. When a search engine
user “searches the Web,” the results actually come from the archived database.
Search engines differ according to the behavior of the spiders: for example, how many
levels of a Web site are visited, how much information is collected, how many pages are in the
database, the amount and type of information the searcher receives, whether pay-for-placement
links are included or not, and, critically for SEO, the search engine algorithm used to rank pages.
For more information about search engines, see and
In general, you maximize you Web site’s rankings through keyword placement and link
building. Several SEO services (e.g.,, are
available that will supervise the entire SEO process for a Web site. However SEO requires
constant monitoring to be effective.
The key to understanding SEO lies in understanding the algorithms that the search
engines use to determine the ranking of the results returned to the searcher. All search engines
rely on keyword occurrence in some way. Early search engines used keywords as the principal
or sole criteria for ranking search results. In a simplified example, if a keyword entered into a
search engine appeared in the page’s title, meta tags, headings, and numerous times on the page,
then that page would rank high in the results returned to the searcher. This process led to search
engine spamming strategies; for example, including a long list of keywords in text the same color
as the background color so that the site visitor would see only blank space but the spider would
find numerous keywords.
In 1998, Google initiated a fundamental change in search engine ranking strategies when
the company introduced link popularity into its algorithm. In addition to keyword analysis,
Google counts the number of Web sites that link to a target site. Presumably, the most relevant
or credible sites will have a greater number of incoming links, and those sites merit higher
placement in the Google results. Today, link popularity figures prominently in the resultsplacement algorithms used by most search engines.
Because every Web search begins with one or more keywords that a user submits to a
search engine, choosing the right keywords and putting them in the right locations are critical to
SEO. Each strategy that we discuss below is based on the understanding that search engines are
programmed to look through Web sites, search for specific words and content, and deliver the
highest quality results to users. Your goal is to use a search engine’s methods as a basis for
finding the most promising ways to attract the attention of those search engines. The following
are some strategies for keyword creation and placement:
 Determine which key words best describe what your site offers and who you want to
attract as customers. Using these words instead of your company name or product titles
may provide greater numbers of more appropriate search engine hits.
o If you are having trouble determining the best key words for your site, you can
use free online services, such as Yahoo’s keyword search.
o You may obtain better results by using a paid service, such as those offered by
Hitwise (, Wordtracker (, or Trellian’s
Keyword Discovery (
o Another option is to purchase key words from services like Google Adwords.
Google’s analytical reports show return on investment for each of the chosen
keywords. You can have continuous tracking of your keywords by Google if you
link your keywords account to a Google analytics account.
Create keywords that the target audience is most likely to use. Focus groups of
prospective customers should be asked what keywords they would use if looking for your
Web site. Also, because you are seeking a higher ranking against your competitors,
investigate what keywords that competitors include in their titles and meta tags.
Use specific phrases, not general keywords. For example, general keywords such as
vacation and computer occur so frequently that they will not contribute much toward a
high ranking in a search engine. Instead, use phrases such as African safari and Pentium
laptop computer. That is, be as specific as possible without going overboard.
Incorporate these key words into the body of your Web site. Search engines search
through Web page content in search of relevant sources of information for users’ queries.
Just be sure that you do not repeat these words excessively in your page content. If you
do, search engines may filter your site out as spam.
Use keywords early and often in your page content. Obviously, the content of the
page must be readable to your visitors, but keyword-loaded content helps increase search
engine rankings. Use keywords in headings and in hyperlinks. Some search engine
algorithms give higher weight to these keywords, assuming that they are more important
in describing page content than normal txt. Keywords should be placed high on the page,
because spiders from search engines such as Google crawl only the first part of a page.
Other spiders ignore pages with very little content. A recommended page length for
maximizing SEO is 300 to 750 words. Finally, spiders sometimes visit only pages in the
first and second level of a Web site, another reason to use a wide and shallow site
Include keywords in ALT tags. An ALT tag should describe the image, but with
keywords if possible. So, instead of “tiger.gif” use “a tiger on a Vacationtime African
safari” in an ALT tag.
Optimize your title. The page’s title is the single most important place to improve
keyword SEO. Not only do search engine algorithms place a higher value on keywords
in a title, but the title also is the dominant item in most search results.
Use meta tags. A meta tag is an HTML element that describes the contents of a Web
page. A description meta tag provides a brief description of the Web site that some
search engines include in their results, so be sure that the site’s premier keywords are
used in the description. A keyword meta tag tells spiders what keywords the site owner
thinks best describe the page’s content. Keyword meta tags also are useful places to put
common misspellings or alternative spellings of a keyword (e.g., potatoe, colour,
Place header and/or emphasis tags next to key words or important information.
These tags are cues that search engines home in on when evaluating sites. Examples of a
header tags are <h1> and <h2>. Examples of emphasis tags are <b> for bold and <i> for
When placing pictures on your site, be sure to include a short description of the
picture. This will allow search engines to pick up relevant page content.
Be cautious about using too many Flash applications or too much JavaScript. Flash
is seen as a picture by search engines, even if it appears as words to human viewers.
Similarly, search engines cannot read or follow links in JavaScript.
Avoid spider-hostile features. Search engine spiders and algorithms have a difficult
time with frames, dynamic URLs, flash images, image maps, and JavaScript. Use these
features only if a compelling design or content consideration requires them.
Do not spam search engines. Search engine designers know most of the tactics used to
spam search engines, so be honest and do not try to trick them. Spamming strategies
such as duplicate pages, excessive repetition of a keyword in a meta tag, tiny text, and
same-color text can be detected by a search engine, and your site will be blacklisted from
inclusion in the search engine.
You may also want to visit Google’s Conversion University
( which provides free advice
on generating traffic to a Web site.
Consider using Google Sitemaps which allows you to submit all of your Web site’s
pages for Google to search through instead of just your home page.
o Submit all of your pages to the Google index for free. Google Sitemaps is a
service that allows you to submit all of your pages to the Google index. It is
particularly useful for making sure that dynamically generated URLs or pages that
are not adequately linked to on your site get indexed. By submitting your URLs
in a Sitemap, you help Google’s Web spider do a more complete and efficient job
of crawling your Web site. A Sitemap is a file with a list of all the URLs you
want crawled in your site. You can create it manually or use Google’s Sitemap
Generator at:
o It is important to note that submitting a Sitemap will not guarantee inclusion or
influence your Google PageRank. And, submitting a Sitemap is not a
replacement for creating compelling and useful content. Using Sitemaps should
complement, not replace, your SEO activities.
o To create and submit a Sitemap, go to and sign in with your Google
account (the same account and password you use for Google Analytics, Gmail,
and other Google services). Add your Web site URL where it says “Add Site,”
and then follow the instructions at the “Add a Sitemap” link.
o Find out how you rank on the top search queries. You can use CPC versus
Organic Conversion report in Google Analytics to find out your total visits, pages
viewed per visit, conversion rates, and other metrics for each of your organic
keywords. But, what you cannot see is how you ranked for those keywords. This
is where Sitemaps reporting can help.
o When you sign in to Sitemaps, from the My Sites overview page, click on your
Web site URL, then click on the Statistics tab. The right hand column of the
report shows how you rank organically for the top searches to your site. You can
put this ranking information together with clickthrough information from Google
Analytics to understand how visibility for specific keywords has translated into
o Find out how Google sees your Web site. See common anchor words – the
common words used to link to your pages, and see the common words that
Google sees on your site. Click “Page analysis” in the Statistics tab. This helps
you see trends in your Web site’s content and the keywords that others are using
in external links to your site.
o Get re-included. If your Web site has disappeared from the search results, you
may have been penalized for violating the Google quality guidelines
Once you have corrected the problems on your Web site, you can request reinclusion from your Sitemaps account. Sign in, click “Submit a reinclusion
request,” and fill out the form.
o Google Sitemaps is an evolving product with more features frequently added.
Stay up to date on the newest features with the Sitemaps blog
( and get your questions answered on the
Google Sitemaps Group (
After your Web site and pages are optimized for keyword occurrence and placement, the
second major step in SEO is to increase your Web site’s link popularity. Getting other sites to
link to your Web site promotes your site in two ways. First, surfers will find the link at other
Web sites, click through to visit, and hopefully become customers. Second, increasing the
number of incoming links increases your site’s ranking in search engines. Some strategies for
maximizing link popularity are:
 Create content that promotes linking. A Web site that simply sells products and
promotes itself is unlikely to be a site that others want to link to. Instead, create linkable
content, such as product reviews, tips and hints for using the products, free downloads,
and informative articles. This content will not only promote your site to visitors, but also
encourage other sites to link to it.
 Seek reciprocal links. In the mutual quest for link popularity, it is likely that business
partners, suppliers, business associations, and major customers will be happy to provide
reciprocal links. At a more general level, Web sites such as list
Web sites interested in reciprocal links. However, be careful to select and place these
links cautiously so as not to devalue the key business and customer links on the site.
Determine what sites already link to your Web site. As existing site may already have
incoming links that are unknown to the owner. Software such as MarketLeap’s
Popularity Analysis Tool ( can reveal incoming links.
The reverse link search feature of the search engines themselves (enter link:URL in the
search box) will show similar results. Once incoming links are known, seek links from
similar sites as appropriate. Yahoo’s Site Explorer (
will also show you a site’s incoming links,
 Visit competitors. Linking to competitors is not advised, but a visit to a competitor’s
site may reveal outgoing links that will work equally well on your site. Search for
incoming links on a competitor’s site, too, using the software mentioned above. When
you know the link partners with competitors, seek links from similar sites as appropriate.
 Seek highly placed links. When asking for reciprocal links, encourage link partners to
place the link in the first and second levels of the site so spiders will find it.
 Seek links from well-known sites. Not all links are created equal; a link from Yahoo or
CNN will be much more valuable than a link from a friend’s homepage.
 Do not use free-for-all (FFA) or link farms. These Web sites sell or give away links,
but search engines ignore them because they represent a form of spamming.
 Get links from big companies, trade groups, and .edu domains. The reason here is
that Google tends to give weight to links from major companies, trade groups,
government organizations, and especially sites built on .edu domains reserved for
educational institutions.
Online libraries of articles about enhancing a Web site’s link popularity can be found at,, and
When you have executed all keyword and link popularity strategies, you should register
your Web site with Web search engines (e.g., Google, AllTheWeb, and
with Web directories (e.g., Yahoo!, Virtual Library, Open Directory Project). Registering your
Web site invites spiders to visit your site, rather than waiting for your site to be found. Search
engine registration services such as Wpromote (, Addme
(, and SiteAnnounce ( will do this for little or no cost.
Also keep in mind that all search engines have a “submit URL” box.
Web Design Resources
The Web Wiz Guide ( provides a variety of Web design and
development resources.
Websitetips ( provides Web site articles, tutorials, and tips.
Yahoo Small Business (
Yahoo offers three levels of merchant solutions: starter, standard, and professional. The
capabilities and fees or each plan are available on Yahoo’s Web site. Yahoo offers an 11-step
guide that explains how Yahoo Merchant Solutions works and how it can be used to build,
manage, and market an online business.
Getting Started. Read the online Getting Started Overview or download the full step-by-step
Getting Started Guide (380 pages). A summary of the 11-step guide is provided at
Take a Tour. To see all of the features that come with Yahoo Merchant Solutions, take a tour
(click “Tour”). Once welcomed, you will be shown a slide show that lists all of its capabilities.
Notable features include: web hosting and domain name registration; e-mail; electronic
commerce tools (shopping cart, payment processing, inventory management); business tools and
services (Web site design, marketing, site management); order processing tools; Web site
development tools (site editor, templates, uploading content, for example with Yahoo
SiteBuilder); finding and keeping customers; payment acceptance tools; tax calculators; order
notification and confirmations; and performance-tracking tools (statistics, drill-downs, measuring
the effectiveness of marketing campaigns).
Using the Templates. You can build your store in several ways. Your primary tool is an easy-touse online Store Editor. You can create a front page, and you can set up various store sections
and add to them. You can upload content developed in Microsoft FrontPage, Macromedia
Dreamweaver, or Yahoo SiteBuilder.