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Many first time webmasters automatically assume that once their website has launched with a bit of content on it, they will get some hits and regular readers. This is quite untrue. You won’t get any traffic if no one knows about your website. In this article I hope to tackle these problems and discuss some of the common ways webmasters drive more traffic to their site by understanding the user and utilizing various web services. All of the tactics discussed can be applied to blogs or websites.
Before I get into getting your website’s name out there, your site has to have some style. Most web users are instantly turned off by tacky site designs or extreme colors. I know I won’t stay at a website too long if the layout or navigation annoys me. The goal is to have a unique site, different than all the other websites on the net. The one thing I really stress to others is making it easy for your readers to contact you. It shouldn’t take a reader more than a click, if any, to find your email address or a contact form. This makes the reader feel like someone actually runs and cares about the website. An about page is also a great asset to have on a website. The more a reader knows about you or your company, the more they trust your content.
Decide on one main form of navigation and stick with it. Users often find it disconcerting when there are masses of links on the top of the website as well as the sides. If need be, create a sitemap page to help users find their way around and make that one of the primary links.
I highly recommend taking a look at usability guru Jakob Nielsen’s Usability 101, Top Ten Design Mistakes in Blogs and Top Ten Design Mistakes articles. Another thing to consider is how wide to make your website. Think about your readers on laptops that can only handle 1024×768 resolution or those readers that use 800×600 resolution due to bad eyesight. Try to accomodate them as much as possible. If you cannot make your website that thin, consider including buttons for increasing font sizes or width, as seen on Anandtech.
After you have sorted these matters out, take a look at the background framework. Ideally, you want your website to comply with W3C’s web standards, even if it only complies at the Transitional level and not Strict. I’m talking about things like using alt tags for images. Roger Johansson has a great article discussing reasons to use web standards. His website is a fine example of website following all usability and standards
Your site’s usability goes hand in hand with its content. You can specialize in a niche subject as long as you have an idea of how many people might be interested in that subject. If you do well with your niche subject matter, you could get some crazy traffic for being the only decent blog or website online with that type of content. On the other hand you could have widely used content, such as some aspect of technology, but add your own twist with your opinion or comparing/contrasting from other tech analysts. People won’t go to your site to read something they could have read on CNet or Tom’s Hardware, they want a unique take on it. If you learn anything from this article, I hope its that reblogging is a very bad thing. The one thing to kill your traffic is having identical content to another several hundred blogs. I suggest taking a glance at Mr. Veloso’s Evils of Constant Reblogging to get a better idea. Finding out what your content should be is a key element of your blog’s identity and the type of image your blog will ultimately emit.
Along with the notion of unique content comes keeping the reader at your site for as long as possible. Most of your users at first will be drifters, or users that find your site through Google, glance around and then leave. They generally don’t land on your homepage, but a specific page, so all of your efforts on the homepage will be bypassed. In this case you want to have something on each individual page that can keep users tuned in. This might be a block of related articles or recent entries in the sidebar or a list of your top articles that would be viable for first timers. A more extreme approach but still very realistic, would be including a primary link named something like “First Time Here?” and link it to a page with some general info on how to navigate, what the site is about, etcetera. However, this is generally the same concept as an about page.
Technorati for Bloggers
Technorati is one of the best traffic providers for bloggers. It makes your blog much easier to find when people search by technorati tags. Technorati is also a large blog ranking engine. Based on the number of links to your blog from various websites, your blog is given a rank. The higher your rank the easier your blog is to find when people search for things. A higher rank gives your blog greater credibility in technorati. If you don’t already have a technorati account, get one. After you have setup the main settings, such as your profile, you need to claim your blog. Go to Account and then down the page to Your Blogs. Enter the URL of your blog in the URL field and then hit “Claim this weblog.” Once you’ve done that go to “Configure this Blog” and fill in what you can. Click the checkbox to select “Include this blog in Technorati’s Blog Finder” and fill out as many tags or keywords that accurately represent the content in your blog. When you’ve done that, click “Save Changes” and then grab your claim code. There are two types of codes that you may put somewhere in your blog for technorati to verify that your blog exists and keep track of it.
If you have a blog that is Blogger powered or some other blog host that does not give you direct control of your blog files you will want to use the “Link Code” and post it somewhere on your blog. If you are using a more versatile blog publishing system, such as a custom WordPress or Movable Type installation you should copy the “Embed Code.” You can edit your sidebar, header, or footer file and put it wherever you like. You also have the option of posting a Technorati search box or various links on your blog without altering the code you just pasted. Select the options you like and click “Save Changes.” Everything is done by automatically by Technorati.
You will also want to search for a plugin for your publishing platform that supports Technorati tags. For WordPress users, I recommend Ultimate Tag Warrior. Installation can get a bit complex, so moving to a WordPress theme that has support for UTW, such as K2, is a good idea. Basically, when you post an entry you can supply it with Technorati tags.