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There are two types of "free" domain names. The first is one that places ads on your site. The second locks you into a hosting plan. You don't want either one.

But it says I get a free domain with hosting.

You need to read the fine print. In the Terms and Conditions it may say "you will receive a free domain of your choice for one year" or something similar. What happens if you think the hosting is lousy and you want to change to a different company? You can do that, but you can not continue to use the domain because you never owned it. The hosting company did.

So, you have two choices. First, you can register a new (different) domain name, which cancels everything you have done to promote it during the time you used it. You will be starting from scratch.

Your old domain name eventually becomes available for sale, usually at inflated price. Anybody can then buy it, including any competitors you may have. Now, all the work you did to boost your original domain name goes to benefit your competitors.

Another choice is continue to continue to pay for the old hosting as well as the new hosting. You won't be using the old hosting any more, but because the "free" domain name was a part of a package, you have to keep paying because they owned the domain name, not you.

Do it the right way

Register the domain name you want with an Internet Registrar yourself. The domain name is then owned by you and you can do anything you want with it. DO NOT buy hosting from the same company. It is always good practice to keep the companies that provide hosting and registration completely separate.

Registering Extra Domain Names Has Zero SEO Value

Suppose you have invented a new product. It is an Atomic Lint Remover. Naturally, you will want to register the domain name AtomicLintRemover.com as soon as possible.

You register a domain name by going to an Internet Domain Name Registrar. After you type in the name you want, you will be greeted by a blizzard of variations on the domain name as shown in the above image. It must be a good thing to register more names, right? Wrong.

There are several things you can do with extra domain names:

  1. Build an separate stand-alone website for each extra domain name
  2. Build a link-wheel of websites that link to the .com website
  3. Alias the additional domain names to the .com website
  4. Cloak the additional domain names using your .com website
  5. Forward the additional domain names to the .com website

    Let’s look at each of these…

1 Build a website for each domain name:

With this approach you have several domain names each with their own website hawking the Atomic Lint Remover. Google imposes a penalty for websites that have duplicate content. So, this approach is bad for SEO.

2 Build a link wheel:

This is a collection of websites all of which link to your main website. This kind of scheme violates Google Webmaster Guidelines. It will cause your main website and all of the others to be penalized in search results. So, we can check this off our list.

3 Alias the additional domain names:

This lets all of the domain names look like they are separate, but they all show the same website. All of the domain names will separately appear in Google search results, for a while.

Then, the axe will fall and all of them will disappear from search results. Why?

Duplicate content.

4 Cloak the additional domain names:

This is the most absurd of all possible approaches. A few hosting services offer it. It takes your .com website and cloaks it in a frame. When you type in one of the other URLs, you see the .com website but the URL remains the one you typed in, because the website is displayed in a frame. Search engines will list only the Home page and nothing else with such an arrangement. Also, the URL of every cloaked page will be the URL of the Home page, creating a bad visitor experience.

5 Forward the additional domains:

This is what most people do, but it has no SEO value. Zero. If people type in one of the extra URLs you have registered, it will immediately change to the .com version. Search engines will never index any of the extra domain names you have registered.


Buy Them Anyway?

If you are paranoid about someone else registering similar sounding domain names, go ahead and register them. Forward them all to your main domain. It will have no SEO value at all, but it will make the Registrars rich.

High quality pictures make a good impression, so you should pay particular attention to taking them. Here are some tips.

Composition

Compose your pictures carefully. The beam of light is the focal point of this picture.

The people add to the picture’s composition, not distract from it.

The important concept here is that you want to draw people's attention to an object in the picture. Because the people are looking at the light, your attention is drawn to it. The picture would be very different if the people were facing the camera.

Perspective

If you are taking pictures of people, lower your camera (bend down) so that your camera is at chest height, not at the height you would be at if you were standing up.

This is the trick that wedding photographers use to take attractive people pictures.

Resolution

Take low resolution pictures. That’s right, low resolution. Taking pictures for websites is different from taking pictures used to make prints. Website pictures are generally limited to 72dpi (dots per inch). This means that even a 640 x 480 picture is fairly large.

The object is to take pictures at the size they will be used on your website. If you take larger pictures, the image will be scaled after it is delivered to the browser. This means that you are slowing down your website by sending larger pictures than are necessary.

In most cases, you can probably set your camera for as low as 1280 x 960 pixels or equivalent. As a guide, the pictures on this page are only 300 x 225.

You can also edit your pictures so they are the exact size needed on your web page, and then upload them. Consider compressing them as well if they are JPEG (.jpg) images. If you need a free and very capable photo editor, try https://www.getpaint.net/

Lighting

Make sure the pictures are well-lit. Generally, avoid the use of flash unless it is used as fill-in flash. The main source of lighting should not be behind the subject (e.g. a bright window behind the subject). You do not want dark pictures with low contrast.

For product pictures, You should use fairly intense lighting on your subject. This forces the camera to use a small aperture so that all portions of the product are in focus. For a simple setup, you can buy two identical halogen or LED desk lamps with 50 watt bulbs or equivalent. Place the light sources on the left and right sides of your product at about 60 degrees from the front.

A diffuse light source gives better results, as it eliminates harsh shadows. If you would like a professional setup, consider purchasing a light tent. You may find these at B&H Photo and other suppliers.

Focus and Composition

All digital cameras take pictures that are in focus, but is the focus on what you want? If you are taking a photo of a person, you may want the background to be out of focus so that it is not distracting. Avoid taking long-distance shots of groups of people. Nobody is going to look at their feet. Take close-ups.

For example, let's say you have a store. A picture of the storefront or an interior isle might be nice, but also take close-ups of individual counters, wall displays, and racks so that visitors can clearly see the kinds of merchandise you offer.

Camera Color Temperature Setting

Regardless of what kind of pictures you take, the camera should be set to match the color temperature of the light source.

Do not depend on your camera to select this automatically.

You should manually set your camera to the color temperature of the light source you are using so that colors are accurate. i.e. Sunlight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, etc. All good cameras have such settings. If you are using LED bulbs, the color temperature is stated on the box. You may find more information on color temperature at this website.

Background Mats

If you are building your own setup, go to an office supply store and buy two 20 x 30 inch foam display boards, commonly used in sales booths and office presentations. Choose a medium grey (works for all) or perhaps dark blue (unless your product is blue). White may not be a good choice because then the brightest part of your picture will likely be the background.

Prop up one board vertically against the other which should be horizontal. Now you have a grey bottom surface to place your product on, and you also have a grey background.

Product Positioning – Use a Tripod

You should use a tripod. The lens should be at the same height as middle of the object. If you hold the camera in your hand, one picture may be focused on the top, one far away, one too close, one to the side, etc. You want product pictures to be consistent.

Mark the exact spot on the bottom mat where each product should be placed, then take your pictures. This way, pictures of three products that may come in different colors come out exactly the same except for just the color.

Watch Your Shutter Speed

Even if you are using a tripod, do not let your shutter speed get too low. If the shutter speed drops below 1/60th of a second, there is a possibility the image will come out blurry. A low shutter speed indicates that your lights are not bright enough, or, that you are shooting with a camera that does not have a big enough aperture.

Cropping

Do NOT tightly crop the picture. The product should be in the center of the frame with some background color visible on all sides.

1. Write Text To Attract Search Engines

Your web pages should be written to attract search engines, not people. Why? Because if search engines do not rank your page well, the only visitors you will receive are those you give your link to directly, or from websites that link back to yours. To accomplish this objective, identify keyword phrases of 2-3 words the keywords that relate to your business and use them in the text you write.

2. Never Use Acronyms & Text Messaging Shorthand

Text used in business web pages should use correct, grammatical English and not shorthand of any kind, including emoticons. Also avoid the use of acronyms.

3. Avoid Overuse of Punctuation

Do not add gratuitous punctuation as in:

  • We’re the Best!!!
  • We’re Exciting!!!
  • Buy from Us!!!”

The same goes for commas and semicolons. They make sentences harder to read and may turn people away.

4. DON’T USE ALL CAPS

THIS IS CALLED “SHOUTING” AND IT IS GENERALLY INAPPROPRIATE IN BODY TEXT. USE NORMAL SENTENCE CAPITALIZATION IN PARAGRAPHS.

If You Are Writing a Headline Then Capitalize All Major Words Like This.

5. Use Short Sentences

Long sentences are harder to read. Break them up into shorter ones. Also, break up large paragraphs into smaller ones to make them easier to read. Avoid one sentence paragraphs.

6. Spell Check Everything

Spelling mistakes make it seem that you are not educated, or that you do not pay attention to detail. Both of these turn people away from your business.

Iff peeople dink you arre illiterate, den dey will click away from yur website.

7. First Person or Second?

Do not switch styles or tense when you write a page of text. If you say “We offer services…” do not then say “I also offer …” Likewise, if you switch often between past, present and future tense, it gets confusing.

8. Write for an 8th Grade Readability Level

More than 50% of the people who visit your website will have trouble if it is written beyond the 8th grade level. Test your prose against the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test by using this online tool.

Also, see our page on Making Text Readable

Invisible text is hard to read.

The image above is an example of using invisible text on your website. Some website owners think this is stylish, but it is actually very bad practice. You want people to read the text on your site, so why make it hard to read? Indoors, on a large screen, it is possible to read text like this. But outdoors in bright sunlight on a mobile phone, it is impossible!

The World Wide Web Consortium publishes guidelines on Minimum Website Contrast to enable people to read your content. It considers things like:

  • elderly users with bad vision (quite common)
  • low quality monitors
  • bad lighting and glare
  • reading on tiny screens, especially outdoors

Do not center or justify text

Studies have shown that centered text is hard to read. The eye has to search for a new starting point to read each new line and after a few lines most people give up reading this sort of text.

Justified text works fine for newspapers because the columns are very narrow. Each line typically consists of only a few words. However, on a web page, lines are often quite long and studies show the eye has difficulty jumping from word to word. For best readability, the text should be left aligned.

More information may be found in this study from Harvard University

Also, see our page on Writing Effective Website Text

What is wrong with the above website?

Everything. It is nothing but a pretty picture with not even a single complete sentence. There is nothing for a visitor to read to convince them they have reached the "right" site, and there is nothing for Google to read so it will rank the page well. Many cheap websites use this approach because their designers and their customers do not know it is bad practice to have nothing but a gigantic image on your home page.

What is "The Fold?"

The fold is the bottom of the web page before you start to scroll it, or the bottom of the above picture. It is a mistake to put important content below that point (below "the fold") because visitors must scroll the page in order to see it.

They might not.

If all they see above the fold is a pretty picture, they may decide that your website is just there to show them stock photography and move on to the next search result.

Put Your Important Content First

Resist the urge to entertain your visitors by using slide shows, videos, and so forth. Such things only serve the ego of the site owner. Visitors want to know that they have reached the right site to meet their needs. Studies show you have about 5 seconds to convince them to stay.

Both Google and your visitors want something to read when they visit your page. Lead with statements to convince the visitor to stay and learn more. Offer a compelling value proposition. Then, show them pictures.

Many so-called SEO companies and bogus SEO “experts” offer packages of backlinks. The assumption is that these links will improve SEO, and place your website higher in search engine results.

Google’s policy is very clear. It is against Google Webmaster Guidelines to buy links


Google’s Policy

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a website’s ranking in search results.

What this means is that Google knows about the websites that your links will appear in. Many of them are called Link Farms, which are worthless websites that exist for no other reason than to provide meaningless links to your website and thousands of others.

If your website is listed on these worthless websites, you are guilty by association of engaging in a scheme intended to artificially boost your search engine ranking. Google monitors these websites, and if it finds links to your website on them, then your website will be down-ranked or removed entirely from Google listings.

Although you may temporarily experience an increase in traffic from using paid links, the axe will eventually fall. Permanent damage to your website will have been done. It is virtually impossible to get harmful backlinks removed.

Many website owners find that so much damage results from buying links that they have to abandon their domain name entirely and start over.

Use social media to drive visitors towards your website, not away from it.

The #1 mistake people make is to send people away from their business website to social media. It’s the wrong direction. You want visitors to stay on your website so you can make the desired conversion.

Once visitors have arrived at your website through your hard won SEO efforts, do not send them away by prominently displaying social media buttons and encouraging visitors to leave by clicking on them. They may never come back, and in that case you may have lost a sale.

The right direction

If you have a Facebook page, put prominent links on Facebook to your business website. On other social media sites, make sure your website URL is included in your profile. If you are active, people will look up your profile and click to visit your business website.

The first thing visitors should see is an attractive, interesting home page that draws them in and makes them want to know more about your products and services. The first thing they should NOT see is a prominent invitation to go away to read something like meaningless tweets or see pictures of you at a family BBQ. This will NOT convince people to do business with you.

Where should social media icons go?

If you display social media icons, do not display them at the top of your business home page. The page footer is a good place for social media icons. Or, you could just put them on your “About Us” page or your “Contact Us” page. If people want to see your social activity, they can easily find the icons there and click on them.

What is it?

An SSL Certificate changes the protocol used to access your site from http:// to https:// As shown in the picture, if your site has a properly configured certificate, it will either show a padlock icon, the word Secure, or something similar. Or, if you do not have one, it may show Not Secure or display some other warning.

A Certificate is purchased from a Certificate Authority and it is applied to your site in what are actually a complicated and tedious set of steps. It must be renewed, typically on a 1-6 year basis.

Why do I need one?

Because Google says you do. Unfortunately, the vast majority of sites do not actually need one, nor do they benefit in any way from having one. The idea is to encrypt the communication between the visitor and the web server in case the visitor is sending sensitive data (like their credit card information), or in case they are receiving sensitive information (financial reports and the like).

However, Google does not care if your website does not do this. It wants all sites to use SSL just in case. If you do not use SSL, then your site may receive a small penalty in search engine listings. Therefore it is a good idea to go along with Google.

Can I get a free certificate?

Yes, but you will have to renew it every 30 to 90 days. It is not worth the hassle. The price of purchasing a certificate that is good for 6 years works out to only $13/year.

What kinds of certificates are there?

There are quite a few, and they can be very expensive if you make the wrong choice. Typically, your website will only require what is called a single domain certificate. It is the most inexpensive certificate available, and it is all that your website needs in order to get the padlock icon that will satisfy Google.

Does SSL make my site more secure?

No. This is a common mis-conception. SSL only encrypts the data sent to and from your browser. It does nothing to protect the site itself. Hackers and botnets could care less if they use https:// to attack your site instead of http://

Although your website is still vulnerable to attacks, it can be protected using other methods.

Autoplay is a leading cause of visitors bouncing from your website.

It's 2:00 AM in the morning and you are lying in bed with your significant other browsing the Internet. You discover a website, and it immediately begins playing music. In panic, you try to find the almost invisible volume icon or button on your device to turn the volume off. You leave the website as soon as possible (this is called a bounce), and never come back.

Is this what you want?

Autoplay is blocked by default by most browsers.

Most browsers block autoplay unless you meet specific requirements. For example, one requirement is that you must have interacted with the website first. This means a click or a tap on something. The Chrome browser has published their policies in this link. The Firefox browser and others have similar policies.

Autoplay may be allowed if:

  • The audio is muted or its volume is set to 0
  • The user has interacted with the site (by clicking, tapping, pressing keys, etc.)
  • If the site has been allowlisted; this may happen either automatically if the browser determines that the user engages with media frequently, or manually through preferences or other user interface features
  • If the autoplay feature policy is used to grant autoplay support to an iFrame.

Play audio using a player, not behind people's back.

The best approach, if you want to play audio on your website, is to give your visitors a player they can interact with. Allow them to start and stop the audio, and give them an interface they can use to control the sound.

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