CogniText web development and online marketing

Specialists in Internet Web Sites Since 1995

Step 1, Page Preparation

© 2001 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

Clarifying the Goal of the Site

Each Web site requires one main focus, and that focus must be clearly defined so that each visitor understands what he can expect there. If the site owner isn't sure about what he wants a visitor to do, the visitor will be thoroughly confused. This means that when your focus is unclear to you, you must first spend time plotting out your goal. Then you can plan the site and write the site text.

Writing the Site Text

The old standbys of who, what, where, why, and how are just as important online as offline. Visitors need information on where they are, who you are, and why you should be trusted. They need to know exactly what you are selling, why the book is worthwhile, and how to purchase the book securely.

Planning the Site Navigation

Visitors also need guidance in progressing through a site. A site must ask for the sale and tell the visitor how to order. The site designer must guard against any roadblocks on the path to the completed order.

Rewriting the Site Text With Search Engines in Mind

Remember that several of the most important search engines send out software robots to index every word on a site. This index of words is used to determine the importance of the site with respect to keywords used in searches. One keyword used not at all or only once on a page denotes the page as unimportant for that keyword. In contrast, if the keyword appears as a heading on the page, then appears four or five times in sentences within that page, then the page is categorized as important for that keyword. Such a page will rise in the search engine listings for that keyword. Starting with the site text in pretty good shape, you should rewrite that text with the search engines in mind. Pull the most salient keyword for the page into the page heading, and be sure to use that keyword several times in sentences on the page. And no, you can't place the keyword in white text against a white background, because that trick will get your site banned from search engines.

Adding Alt Tags and Meta Tags for the Search Engines

Since the robots are indexing every word on the site, we can add a few more instances of our keywords by using tags invisible to the ordinary browser, yet readable by robots. We start by adding an alt tag for every graphic. Then we create the most important two meta tags, the keywords meta and the description meta. The meta tags go within the head tags for the page, and they summarize the content of the page, adding to the search engine importance of the page for emphasized keywords. Since most people reading this column won't be creating their own tags, I won't go into greater technical detail here.

If you have someone designing your site for you, please start with your own main focus for the site. Do take the time to develop your text and help to plot out the site navigation. Finally, be sure that your page designer works with you on the tags for your pages. If people can find your site in the search engines, then find their way around the site, your persuasive copy and simple ordering may convince the visitor to buy.

Next you should read about registering with the search engines.

~ Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is an Information Architect who publishes both in print and online. Contact her at

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