Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Don't Litter in Cyberspace

There is an awful lot of clutter on the web. There ought to be a fine for littering in cyberspace. You've seen the kind of junk I'm talking about here and there: content that is there for the sole benefit of search engines, such as white keyword text on a white background, people who spam in blog comments, and even the harmless pages of nonsense that grows like weeds on each of our websites.

In June I tightened ship on my own website. I've implemented some new security on the blog software, notably reCAPTCHA, a captcha project by Carnegie Mellon University. Captchas use images containing distorted text that you have to re-type into a form field. The reCAPTCHA project uses portions of scanned/OCR'd books that failed to be recognized easily by computers to test users. Once the text is verified to be read by a human, it helps add books to electronic libraries. So using this method not only foils spammers, but helps with online literature projects.

I'm also working on editing down my website. I am guilty of using my ability to create web pages so easily as an opportunity to be too wordy. Some websites don't have enough information, and you leave disappointed that you couldn't find what you needed to know. Others are too wordy: "Welcome to (this website). We're so glad you came... have a seat. Would you like some tea while you're waiting for real content? The bathroom is down the hall." I'm guilty as charged, in a court of my own self-examination.

I altered the navigation on the site, so it should hopefully make more sense to someone at least passingly familiar with websites. I started out with really obscure labels for the links, now I'm back down to the basics. Practice what I preach: I'm always telling my clients what should be on their homepage, how their navigation should be labeled. I have finally followed my own advice.

As a new service, I'm helping clients with their website "talk" -- a website needs to be the executive summary of a longer proposition. The longer proposition can be there, behind the scenes, and you can bring on the content in layers that are carefully crafted to build detail into the subject. However, people don't need to be hit over the head with a heavy sales pitch, proposal, or autobiography from the get-go.

Tightening up the wording, reducing babble, using bullet lists for main points, taking advantage of proper linking, and proper keyword integration.

People don't have time to sit through a long reading: they came with something in mind, even if it was just to learn more about you, and then they're going to go on to the next thing in their life. I'm working on other ways to increase website traffic to my client's site other than the stinking, lying, cheating ways that some search engine optimization businesses have taken up. It's a definite art, and it's easier to do on content that you didn't write yourself, so for me it's slow going between projects, and for clients, hopefully it won't be as slow and inconsistent.

Some of my new philosophies about optimization of websites were covered in my second workshop at the QED Business Edge conference yesterday: "Who's your website for?" It went over well. More about it later.

Because I'm expanding my business into content development and website planning, I'm starting to subcontract some design work out so I can make room for adding new services to my business. To see what this looks like, see the Rhthym and Rhyme Childcare and Simply FlawlessFaces websites.

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