Sometimes, it’s the little things that help most. With that in mind, I’ve decided to come up with a list of the top ten website improvements a site owner can make… These are focused on the jack of all trades / do it yourself webmaster and site owner…
10.) HTML Validity
You’ve probably thought of it, and even tried to make it happen. The truth is that it’s tedious work on static sites, but can pay large dividends. Every major search engine has made claims that they support and recommend it. That alone is reason enough to make it happen.
Quick Tip – Once your basic site templates are covered, just check the little revisions you make. The Markup Validation Service quickly allows you to copy and paste your code to see if it’s valid. Bookmark that, and use it often!
09.) Regular Data Backups
More tedious work, right? Easy to say until your hosting provider has an issue, your site goes down, your business comes to a screeching halt and you’re starving and forced to live off of Ramen Noodles like you had in college.
Quick Tip – Make it a daily habit (Outlook reminders are handy!), or have your hosting provider do it for you. It’s pretty easy to set up cron-jobs or just ask the right people to actively zip up file, database and log files for a quick restore. Many hosting systems, like the popular CPanel almost do all of the work for you!
08.) Parse Your Log Files
There’s no excuse not to. Don’t trust your Webalizer or basic, free reports all the time. There’s important data in there for you to analyze. From people stealing your images and CSS files to legitimate problems like 404 and 500 errors that your visitors encounter — there are too many potential problems not to review the available data.
Quick Tip – If large systems like WebTrends are too costly, set up a home-grown, low cost or freeware solution to do this for you. My recommendation is to get FTP Racer (which will schedule and execute daily log file downloads) and Web Log Expert. Combined, you’ll spend less than $100 and you can set up just about any report and have them all waiting for your review when you wake up in the morning. It’ll only take a couple of minutes from your normal routine, but allows you to catch things very quickly.
07.) Use Multiple Browsers Regularly
I never did this until recently. I use FireFox all the time, and Opera in the event that I need to log into accounts for testing and refreshing purposes. Using all of the common browsers though including both versions 6 and 7 of Internet Explorer is very important. Formatting differences on your site can change from one to the next, especially once floating CSS elements come into play. While it can be a pain, creating effective workarounds are something you should consider if your designs are set in stone.
Quick Tip – A lot of people (myself included) were really bummed out when the MSIE 7 update completely got rid of IE6. Thankfully, Microsoft has released an update and solution allowing you to use both on the same machine. A little complicated, but it seems to work. ADDED: You can also download a stand-alone copy of IE6 if you’ve already upgraded from evolt.org.
06.) Use Those Toolbars
What am I crazy!?!? No, I’m just sensible. The vast majority of Internet insiders are also conspiracy theorists who swear that any tool bar will actively track your every click and bring down your Internet empire. It’s a bogus fear. Not because I know that they won’t track you… But because there are more important things to be concerned with. Seriously, what difference does it make if Google knows that you’re using your own site? Play it safe, wear a white hat — and reap the rewards.
Quick Tip – Have Firefox? Be sure to check out this plugin… Very small, quick and it carries the benefits of an Alexa and Google tool bar in one…
05.) Make Use of Down Time
Have spare time and at a loss for what you can do? Remember, idle hands are the devil’s playthings. Keep busy, or you’re bound to get into some trouble! Even when it appears as though there’s nothing left to do, there’s countless things you could be doing…
Quick Tip – Become an active member on related discussion boards. Add a blog to your site and provide commentary and opinion on somewhat relevant news. Start up an email newsletter. Heck, just browse competitors sites to make sure you know their weaknesses and have filled those same voids on your own site!
04.) Provide a “Link to Us”: In this day of age of back link monitoring, page rank calculations and perhaps more importantly — Alexa rankings — getting back links is a must. Don’t be shy — ask for them!
Quick Tip – Add in a quick text-field on all of your pages (a nav is a good place…) that says something along the lines of “Link to Us” and has code ready for others to copy and past. Simple links, without filling them with keywords to your root domain are probably best… Easier to keep it simple.
03.) Limit Your SEO Efforts: Back in the day over-optimizing was acceptable. But today’s world of PR0’s, sandboxes and canonical URLs is far too complicated and risky to do more than you should. When all else fails, rely on the K-I-S-S method.
Quick Tip – Don’t go overboard. Clean code and unique content wins out. Know the limits that work for you (like 5% for keyword density, descriptions of 80 characters or fewer, etc.) and make it a point to stick to them. With SEO efforts, less is often more.
02.) Splurge on a Test: I hate frivolous spending — but I love high conversions and increased profits more. As a site owner you never really know what the majority of your users are doing because you will always see your site through a different set of eyes. Big time players can afford mass usability studies — but even Mom & Pop’s can cash in on a goldmine of information through simple, handy tools that focus on usability.
Quick Tip – Can’t afford the big time? Cut costs, not the amount you can learn. Check out ClickStream from ClickTracks… It’s incredible.
01.) Enjoy it: Twenty years ago there was no Internet… No working from home… No pretending to be a million dollar corporation through a $20/month web site. Today’s advancements, both for Internet as well as the social acceptance of being a ‘Net geek, are unprecedented. It may seem too simple — but taking a step back to appreciate the simple things is sometimes the key to truly being happy. Once you get that, it’s also incredibly easy to be successful.
Quick Tip – Money, relationships, responsibilities… all of those things can and will weigh heavily on your mind at times. Don’t be a slave to yourself though or you’ll lose your point of view. Take a deep breath and be thankful that you can live the life you do and spend most of your time online, in a safe environment, working and learning all day.