Getting Started

What you need to know!

Domain Name Image

Find and register a domain name. This will be, in effect, your address on the Internet. Your address is actually a numeric number of the form 999.999.999.999. To make it easier on us humans, a domain name server provides a table lookup function that allows your alphanumeric domain name to be equated to the numeric address that is used by the Internet for routing. Thus, we have to remember only a name rather than a string of digits. This string of characters is called a URL (Uniformed Resource Locator) .

Basic URL Structure

Why use dashes rather than underscores in a URL

An example of a domain name is the 'jlhwebdesigns' in A URL of would represent a sub-domain of Generally, web-hosting companies allow multiple sub-domains to be hosted under one hosting account.

To find a domain name, brainstorm suitable names and make a list. You may want to consider keywords while brainstorming. Then, use a domain name lookup service to see if any of them are available.

To check the availability of a domain name, simply enter the domain name into the search window and then click "GO".

If the domain name entered has already been taken, suggestions will be provided. However, be very careful about choosing any domain name that does not end with ".com". You ought to check with an experienced web developer before choosing anything other than ".com".

Consider using words separated with dashes in a domain name. For example, would match on the search terms "Brevard", "NC' and "Clinic". The domain name would match only on "brevard_nc_clinic" -- without regard to case. But, be careful about selecting a domain name that could easily be confused with someone else; perhaps someone you clearly do not want to be associated with -- or someone that might find their Internet traffic enhanced by your lack of forethought -- while your website plays second fiddle.

Once a domain name is found that is not already registered or 'taken', you can register the name with a registrar. The fee for registration varies from around $10.00 per year to $35.00 per year.

Domain names are bought and sold like other commodities. If you find a domain name that is perceived to be desirable, someone may already have it registered -- even if they are not using it. They hope that someone will come along and give them a wad of cash to use the name that they thought of, and registered, before you.

Domain names can sell for a few dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes, the registrars register many domain names in bulk at ridiculously cheap prices and then sit on them until someone needs one. As an example of a domain name for sale, the domain name was available 25 August, 2011, for about $3,000.00.

The lowest rate for registering a domain name is often provided by a web hosting company at the time you obtain a web hosting account. So, you can do both at the same time, with the same company, and save a few bucks in the process. But, don't delay for long. Domain names are going about as fast as hot cakes. We will get to web hosting next.

Once you have registered a domain name, it is yours as long as you don't let it expire. In other words, keep your registration and your payments current. Otherwise, you might find someone grabbing your domain name as soon as it expires and then offering to sell it to you at a big profit for them and a big cost to you. I had such an experience with It wasn't another company that grabbed the domain name. It was the registrar! And, it was apparently a common practice with

Others can be in a queue waiting to grab your domain name if it ever becomes available. So, if you like it, and if you want to keep it, protect it by keeping your registration current. One way to prevent accidental forfeiture is to register your domain name for multiple years and always renew whenever the expiration date is less than 365 days in the future.

Read more about Domain Names

Read about the Domain Name System

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Hosting Image

Once you have a domain name, the next step is to find a place to put your website. For this, you will need a hosting company. Hosting companies provide the hardware to store your website and make it accessible via the Internet. For a small website you will want shared web hosting. This is like renting a seat on a airplane. You will be sharing the airplane with others. Large companies use dedicated web hosting. This is like renting the entire airplane. A third option is co-location where you provide the hardware and a hosting company provides the space along with the air-conditioning, electricity, Internet connection and perhaps monitoring.

The option that you will want to start with is shared web hosting; either directly with a hosting company or, even better, through your webmaster that can take care of all the details of interfacing with the hosting company and address all the technical issues like uploading, PHP, MySQL, FTP, ASP, database backups, etc.

Agreements with hosting companies can be from month-by-month or can span several years -- with a discount available for the longer periods. A three-year agreement will generally provide much better rates than a three-month agreement.

Shared web hosting usually runs a few dollars a month to around $65.00 a month. JLH Web Designs currently charges $25.00 a month (as of August, 2011) and that includes 30 minutes a month of routine updates to the website. We are currently using for our hosting needs.

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Picture of websites

You can choose to try to develop your own web site. However, that would be a little like trying to make your own clothes or trying to rebuild the engine in your car. Website development is a complex task that requires extensive knowledge and is best left to someone that has experience. Unless you are familiar with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and SEO, then you are not going to have a professional website. Developing a website is not an easy task for the expert -- and much less so for the novice.

The first thing to consider in developing a website, ironically, is not HTML, CSS, style sheets, menus, nor JavaScript. The first thing to consider is "key words" and "key phrases". Define the keywords and key phrases that will help define your website. You will want to embed the keywords, and key phrases, in a natural (the industry slang is organic), relevant, and appropriate manner into the content of your website.

Decide what pages you will have, what information or content will be on each page, and then draw a rough outline or sketch of each page. Decide what graphics and photos you want on each page.

Then develop a basic page for the index, or home page, and upload it to the server. This will give you a basic one page website containing contact information, and perhaps a logo and banner, while you develop the other pages.

Next, develop the menus and other pages. When they are proofed, functional, and tested with at least Firefox and Internet Explorer, upload them to the server. You now have an operational website. But, like most everything else in life, maintenance will be required for changes, updates, and enhancements. There may be changes in your staff or you may acquire new equipment that directly effects the services that you can offer. You may add new procedures or new services to your offerings. It ought to be noted that what you get out of a website will depend, to a large degree, on what you put into a website and that includes keeping it current, relevant, and up-to-date.

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SEO with Magnifier

In the recent past, the primary focus of a website was a source of information and a point of distribution of information about a company and its products or services. While websites still serve such a function in a very capable and cost effective manner, the primary focus of websites today, thanks to Google, is marketing. Websites are no longer about educating existing customers, providing online catalogs or brochures -- it is about finding new customers. It is about search engines.

Everyone that develops a website today wants to be on the first page of the Google search results. The industry acronym is SERP (Search Engine Results Pages). Well, there is room on the first page for only ten companies or organizations. And, not surprising, there are sometimes hundreds or thousands of companies or organizations that want one of those ten slots. If you have a unique key phrase, like "Daniel Boone Raccoon Hats" and others know to enter "Daniel Boone Raccoon Hats" into the Google Search Window, you might not have too much trouble and it might not cost you much to get on the first page of the SERP's. However, if your key phrase is "Atlanta Dentists", it is going to be a different story. You have lots of competition. What do you do?

Unfortunately, there are only a few limited options -- for it is becoming increasing difficult to fool the search engines. They know that your website has been online for only 4 weeks and your competitors have been online for four years. They know that your competitors have inbound links from dozens of respected websites and you have none. So, what do you do?

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SEO Image

I intend to cover some of the more arcane aspects of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in a separate page. But, for now, here are some steps that you can do that will help your SERP placement:

  1. Try to find key words, and key phrases, that are used by those searching but are not commonly found in your competitors' websites. This is a little like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. And, it is always a moving target because your competitors are always changing -- and you are always seeing new competitors online. Embed such keywords and key phrases into your website in a natural manner. This would be one form of organic SEO. There are online tools to assist with this task.
  2. Have a well developed and organized website that serves up the basic structure that search engines like to find. A website created using CSS Layout is generally better than a website created using Table Layout.
  3. Have a website that contains valid HTML and CSS code -- and also contains the appropriate DOCTYPE.
  4. Have relevant, current, useful, and interesting content. Have the content relate to the title and the headings -- or vice versa.
  5. Get links to your website from other websites that are creditable, long standing, and relevant.
  6. Generate a site map for the search engines. Google currently uses an XML file while Yahoo! is currently using a text file. Other search engines might use a CSV file or some other format.
  7. Publish your URL at every opportunity; business cards, email, brochures, seminars, invoices, appointment reminders, notices, bulletins, etc. Encourage others to use your website.
  8. Avoid poor grammar and spelling errors. But, a website should not read like a novel. So, some leeway can be taken with grammar.

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SEO No Image

And now, what you do not do is just as important, if not more so, than what you do. If you try to 'fool' or 'game' the search engines, you could cause yourself to lose all creditability with the search engines. It can be difficult and very time consuming to regain your credibility. Play by the rules -- or risk suffering the consequences.

  1. Don't stuff more than 10 keywords into the keywords meta tag.
  2. Don't have duplicate content. Don't have multiple websites or domain names with essentially the same content. Don't plagiarize from others -- it could hurt them and you.
  3. Don't employ coding practices in an attempt to cause the search engines to view the website differently than humans. Putting text in the same color as the background is one example. Humans will not see the text, but search engines will -- and they will also detect that you are trying to 'game' them.
  4. Don't do business with link farms.

Search Engine Optimization is a complex topic within itself and many companies pay anywhere from hundreds of dollars a month to ten's of thousands of dollars a month for search engine specialists in an effort to maintain a top ten placement. Mostly it is successful, but no guarantees can be made. Such companies as J. C. Penney and Forbes have been penalized for their efforts to "fool" the Google Search Engine. BMW managed to get themselves delisted from Google:

BMW and Ricoh Germany delisted from Google

Google delists BMW Germany for foul play

No guarantees can be made because SEO is an attempt to hit a moving target. A website may be optimized for search engines today, but not be "optimized" next month. The environment is dynamic.

No guarantees can be made because you cannot control what others do. During the Bush administration, one could type something like "dismal failure" into a search engine and watch the White House appear on the first page of the SERP's.

So, your SE placement may be going down simply because your competitors are doing things that have caused their SE placement to go up; whether it be adding new content, adding new inbound links, improving their Title tags and Description tags or something else that has had a positive effect. Outside the general rules and techniques it is not possible to know exactly what impact certain changes will have on SE placement. It can take weeks or months for any changes to have an impact.

Unethical practices will sometimes produce improvements in SE placement; sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months and sometimes for years. But, often these improvements are short lived -- followed by penalties for the company engaging in unethical practices.

Penalties consist generally of a lowering of placement in the SERP's, often by several pages, but serious abuses can result in being delisted. Neither Google, nor any other search engine, has an obligation to index or list any website. So, it is prudent to stay off the "black lists".

No guarantees can be made because the search engine companies do not publish their formulas. Google discontinued using the keywords meta tag, for the purposes intended, in 1993. But, Google did not make such a fact known until 1999. During that interim 6 year period, a lot of effort went into stuffing the keywords meta tag with keywords that would have been even remotely related -- and sometimes not related at all -- to the content of the website. The current rumor is that Google uses the keywords meta tag to help identify spam sites. And, the current wisdom is that it is considered ill advised to place more than ten keywords in the keywords meta tag.

SEO techniques are classified into two categories, White Hat and Black Hat . There is also a third category that the industry does not recognize. It is perhaps the largest category; the Gray Hat. Any SEO company operating in the gray area will likely claim that all their techniques are natural and organic. But, ask yourself:

"If a company pays a SEO company to write articles and publish them on the Internet for the sole purpose of creating links back to the company's website, is it natural and organic? Is it White Hat, Black Hat, or Gray Hat? "

It is against the rules to buy links. But, indirectly, the company is buying links. However, it will not be easy, if at all possible, for the search engines to detect such practices. And, that is why the SEO companies can claim that such a technique is natural and organic. What they are really saying is, "You are not likely to get caught and penalized".

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   SEO -- In Summary (which is better):

  1. A well designed and structured website is better than one with poor structure. Search engines like to see both good structure and easy navigation. Keep the most important content near the top. Use headers appropriately. Embed key words and key phrases in a natural manner.
  2. A website that makes good use of key words and key phrases is better than a website that does not give any consideration to search engines.
  3. CSS Layout is better than Table Layout.
  4. A web page that will pass the W3C Validation is better than one that will not pass W3C validation. You can check the validation of any page at JLH Web Designs by clicking the W3C-XHTML icon on the left side of the page right under the menu. You can check any other web page by going to W3C Validation and entering the URL.
  5. A website with inbound links is better than one without inbound links. But, not all links are made alike. Links from highly visible websites, with established creditability, are a lot better than links from a website that is nearly invisible on the web; including websites that are relatively new.
  6. Have cross-browser capability. A web page that renders well in Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome and Opera is better than a web page that looks broken in any of the popular browsers. Sometimes, there are significant difference in different versions of the same browser. For example, IE 6 is not the same animal as IE 9 and Firefox 3.6 is not the same animal as Firefox 6. It is all too common to see a web page that renders well in one browser and misbehaves in another browser. In the near future, a website will also need to render well in mobile devices. The number of people that are using mobile devices for connecting to the Internet is expanding rapidly.
  7. An older website, that has been maintained and kept current, is better than a new website.
  8. A website that is used is better than one that is dormant.

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SEO Penalized Image

  1. Getting penalized by Google
  2. Overstock gets penalized by Google:

"Overstock, on the other hand, was reprimanded for promoting their site by allowing universities and colleges to link to their pages and in return, faculties and students can [sic] get as much as 10% off on a number of merchandise. And these aren't just links pointing to Overstock's pages. Links from these universities and colleges are inserted with keywords such as "gift baskets", "bunk beds", and other keywords. After being on the top three results of the search results on popular keywords, Overstock dropped to the 40th and 70th ranking.

Google is really serious in reprimanding black hat practices in online marketing. Forbes and Overstock are probably just among the many popular websites who practice shady online marketing tricks."

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   Essential Elements:

In an article at Free Lance Folder, Ms. Selene Bowlby provides a list of 15 elements that first class websites should have:

  1. Good Visual Design
  2. Thoughtful User Interface
  3. Primary Navigation Above The Fold
  4. Repeat Navigation In The Footer
  5. Meaningful Content
  6. A Solid About Page
  7. Contact Information
  8. Search
  9. Sign-Up / Subscribe
  10. Sitemap
  11. Content that is separated from Design
  12. Valid XHTML / CSS
  13. Cross Browser Compatibility
  14. Web Optimized Images
  15. Statistics, Tracking and Analytic

Items 8 and 9 are not needed by some websites. The rest are needed by any professional website.

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   SEO Review:

An on-page (local) SEO review consists of one or more of the following tasks:

  1. Review all the pages in a website determine what is right -- and what needs improvement.
  2. Perform keyword research to find the words and phrases that are being typed, by the public, into Google Search. Look for ones that are not being heavily used by your competitors. SEO companies call these "keyword gems" -- and they are getting to be harder and harder to find. But, there are online tools to assist with this task.
  3. Construct Title tags beneficial to good search engine placement.
  4. Construct Description tags beneficial to good search engine placement.
  5. Copy writing or editing of the content to enhance search engine visibility and placement.

These tasks are considered by JLH Web Designs when developing a website for a new client. Thereafter, a periodic review can be scheduled for a nominal fee.

Web developers offer SEO Packages that can easily exceed hundreds of dollars a month. For one example, you can get a small business SEO Package from High Rankings for $749.00 per month (as of August, 2011):

Or, you can get a basic SEO Consultation by phone for $900.00 (as of August, 2011): High Rankings SEO Phone Consultation.

You can arrange for six SEO experts to review your website and have six sets of findings and recommendations. However, the basic process is known to anyone with SEO experience:

  1. Find, and make judicious use of keywords and keyword phrases.
  2. Have Search Engine friendly Title tags, Description tags, and headers.
  3. Have good content that is especially written, and constructed, for web use.
  4. Have a well structured website that follows a design and structure that is Search Engine friendly. Use CSS layout rather than table layout.
  5. Ensure that your website contains valid HTML and CSS code.
  6. Have inbound links, a.k.a. back links, from highly visible, quality websites that have good reputations and credentials.
  7. Get your website online sooner rather than later. Age is an important criteria and it generally takes about a year for a website to reach its potential.
  8. Ensure that the robots.txt file and the .htacess files are properly configured.
  9. Ensure that 301 (this page has moved) re-directs are used when needed.

Other small details that can help:

  1. Register your domain name for multiple years rather than a few months or one year.
  2. Ensure that your website is indexed by the three main search engines; Google, Yahoo! and Bing.
  3. Add your website to Google Places.
  4. Add your website to every relevant and creditable directory; especially those that do not charge for a listing. But, stay away from link farms.
  5. And lastly, click on the link immediately below the horizontal line for help with a new website design.

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Disclaimer: The above article was written by Jim Holloman and reflects the opinions of Jim Holloman. No claim to essential or absolute truth is made. Jim Holloman alone is responsible for the content.
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