301 Redirects: What You Need to Know

As you learn more and more about search engine optimization there are all these terms and things you need to learn. Today we are going to learn about 301 redirects, what you use them for and why you need to use them. First of all you need to know what a 301 permanent redirect is.

What is a 301 Permanent Redirect?

A 301 permanent redirect is an instruction at the web server level indicating that something has moved/changed location. The instruction indicates the old location, the new location and that this move or change is permanent. The change can be a change in domain name, web page name, path to a web page on the site or to another site.

On a Linux server using Apache this instruction is in a file called the .htaccess file. The .htaccess file is placed in the root of the website or blog. The root would the folder that contains all your website/blog files, the one where the home page is. If you want to use the .htaccess file to record your 301 redirects your Apache installation also needs to have the mod_rewrite module enabled on your account.

When a page is requested by a browser or the search engine bot your web server will check the .htaccess file for any instructions regarding this page. If there are none, the request is processed as requested. When there is an 301 redirect instruction a message is sent back to the requesting party letting them know there is a change and the request is then processed as instructed.

Here is an example of the headers (message) sent back the visitor’s browser when they request a page that has moved to a new name:

HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently =>
Date => Sat, 22 Jan 2011 07:28:23 GMT
Server => Apache
Location => http://www.htmlbasictutor.ca/clean-compliant-html-code.htm
Connection => close
Content-Type => text/html; charset=iso-8859-1

The search engine bots get this message also. They know to update their index (records).

Why Do I Need to Use 301 Redirects?

When things change on a website or blog and you do not have a 301 redirect instruction covering the change an few things can happen:

  • If someone clicked a link on another site that points to a page that has now moved or is gone the visitor will get a 404 error page, indicating the web server cannot find the page. When you have done your own custom 404 error page complete with full navigation and a message about this page must have moved the person is still lost as to where they should go on your site for the information they wanted. With a 301 redirect instruction in place you can send them to the correct page or an alternative page if the page was deleted.
  • A search engine bot is just like a visitor who has been directed to a page from a link within your site, from another site or from their records in their index. They need to know also that the page has removed or moved to a new location.
  • Your page is listed in a search engine or a directory somewhere and that link you worked so hard for is now useless if you moved it without a 301 redirect. You need to keep that incoming link by including a 301 redirect instruction so you don’t loose the link. A directory editor might not take the time to find where you moved the page to and just delete the link.

When you redesign a website or blog with any changes to page names and/or location it is imperative that you do 301 permanent redirects so you do not have to start all over from scratch getting your new pages (possibly the whole site) reindexed in the search engines.

When to Use a 301 Permanent Redirect

The 301 redirect is a very useful tool to use.

Have Only One Version of Your Site Available

Have you ever noticed that for some sites you can access it typing www.domainname.com and domainname.com? This is the way the web hosting has been set up. You need to fix this so only one version of the website is available. Pick either the with www or without www version and redirect the other one to the one you chose. Make sure you always link to the version you chose also.

You may have heard of a canonical redirect. This is what they are talking about. Fixing 2 versions of the same thing.

Duplicate Content

Whether you believe that there is a duplicate content penalty from the search engines, the duplicate is just not shown in the search results or it is not something to worry about, think of it this way: Every link to a page is a vote for the page as in this is a good page. If half your votes are to www.domainname.com/mypage.htm and the other half are for domainname.com/mypage.htm for example you are diluting (spreading out) your links. Why do that? The more votes for a page the better so why not fix the problem with a 301 redirect so the one version of the domain (or page) gets all the votes? Makes senses to me.

Domain Change

You should really thing long and hard before changing your domain name. All that work you did to develop the original domain, the site and the associated branding with be for not unless you do extensive rebuilding of your presence on the web.

Should you decide that all that reworking is worth it, you should use a permenant redirect from the old domain name to the new one to keep your existing traffic and links following. It will also let the search engines know about the change.

Multiple Domain Names

Some people buy multiple versions of their domain name to protect their branding. i.e. stop someone buying another version of your domain name and stealing your thunder by mistaken identity possibly. You can either leave the extra domain names parked (just sitting there) at your domain registrar or you may decide to 301 permanently redirect one or all to the main domain name you intend to build up.

Website Redesign

Whether it is an overhaul of your existing site using the same technology as it had originally or if you have decided to change the technology used to run your site you need to keep track of all changes and use 301 permanent redirects to point to the new format or new web page file names. Examples:

  • Website Overhaul

    You have come to realize that the set up of your site or blog is not too user friendly or it needed an overhaul for better search engine optimization. All the changes need to be covered with 301 redirects so you don’t loose what pages you have indexed in the search engines and those incoming links you don’t know about.

  • Moving from One Technology to Another

    You have a regular HTML site (static site) and you decided that having a content management system like WordPress would make it easier to maintain. That’s fine. WordPress uses a different url system than a static website. On a static website the web page names end with .htm or .html. When using WordPress the pages can be the same name but they end with a slash. Look at the url for this page. 301 redirects are needed to redirect the search bots and incoming links to the new format or you will be starting all over again.

    A third example would an ecommerce site that has gotten too big to manually update so you have decided to go with an ecommerce software. Again that’s fine but ecommerce software generally uses PHP (or other) technology to communicate with the database that has your store information. The pages end with .php for one thing and sometimes if the programmig isn’t done to be search engine friendly after the .php there is coding to tell the database what info to import into the page. All your existing pages had .htm or .html. 301 permanent redirects need to be put in place to transfer the old naming convention to the new one.

Can’t I Use rel=”canonical”?

No. Below Bing’s Webmaster Central Blog explains:

This past week at a conference someone had a question and asked if they could use a rel=canonical in place of a 301. They argued that since the rel=canonical passes value similarly to a 301, it should do the trick.

The answer to the queston is…no. You should not use a rel=canonical in place of a 301 redirect. The rel=canonical is designed to help manage duplicate URL issues. It is not a true 301 signal to the engines, though it can pass value similar to the way a 301 does. Implementing a 301 redirect is tough to mess up. It either works or it does not, and when it does, it passes value. We recently enountered a website that had so botched implementing its rel=canonicals that it essentilly would lead to all of their pages, save one, being stripped of value and de-indexed over time.

Bing Moving content? Think 301, not rel=canonical – Webmaster Center blog – Site Blogs – Bing Community

PageRank and Redirects

Matt Cutts, Head of Google Spam Department and Eric Enge sat down for an interview. They discussed PageRank and redirects:

Eric Enge: Let’s talk a little bit about the impact on PageRank, crawling and indexing of some of the basic tools out there. Let’s start with our favorite 301 Redirects.

Matt Cutts: Typically, the 301 Redirect would pass PageRank. It can be a very useful tool to migrate between pages on a site, or even migrate between sites. Lots of people use it, and it seems to work relatively well, as its effects go into place pretty quickly. I used it myself when I tried going from mattcutts.com to dullest.com, and that transition went perfectly well. My own testing has shown that it’s been pretty successful. In fact, if you do site:dullest.com right now, I don’t get any pages. All the pages have migrated from dullest.com over to mattcutts.com. At least for me, the 301 does work the way that I would expect it to. All the pages of interest make it over to the new site if you are doing a page by page migration, so it can be a powerful tool in your arsenal.

Eric Enge: Let’s say you move from one domain to another and you write yourself a nice little statement that basically instructs the search engine and, any user agent on how to remap from one domain to the other. In a scenario like this, is there some loss in PageRank that can take place simply because the user who originally implemented a link to the site didn’t link to it on the new domain?

Matt Cutts: That’s a good question, and I am not 100 percent sure about the answer. I can certainly see how there could be some loss of PageRank. I am not 100 percent sure whether the crawling and indexing team has implemented that sort of natural PageRank decay, so I will have to go and check on that specific case. (Note: in a follow on email, Matt confirmed that this is in fact the case. There is some loss of PR through a 301).

Matt Cutts Interviewed by Eric Enge Published: March 14, 2010

Note that Mr. Cutts is quoted saying some PR is lost when using 301 redirects.

When you redirect something and are viewing the Google Toolbar (which is outdated as soon as it is published because your PR is constantly changing in the background) you may notice that the PR for the changed pages disappears. Don’t panic, it will come back visually in the next toolbar update but it’s still there in the background. Now whether the changes you made were a good choice or not as far as PR is concerned is not known until the public PR information is updated again.

301 Redirects Are a Useful Tool

301 permanent redirects can benefit your site or blog in a search engine optimization way and in a visitor way when used and used properly . They keep the information about your site up to date with the search engines and avoid you loosing incoming links and annoyed visitors. Use 301 redirects anytime you make a change to your website or blog.

Is there a limit to how many 301 (Permanent) redirects I can do on a site?

Matt Cutts answers the question on how many 301 permanent redirects is too many in the video below:

301 Redirects More Information

4 SEO Steps To Follow When Changing URLs


This article was created as part of the V7N 30 Day Blogging Challenge. Click the image below to see who else is participating.

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Are You Linking Out? You Should Be

A lot of people are afraid to incorporate linking out into their websites and blogs. This is caused by a fear of loosing the visitor to the site you linked to so people do things like open a new tab or window to supposedly avoid loosing the visitor. Today we are going to show you why you should be linking out as part of your link building strategy.

Opening Links in a New Window or Tab

Out of fear of loosing their visitor, people use the target=”_blank” attribute in their links to make the external links on their site open a new window or tab. This doesn’t work too good.

But Using New Windows Keeps Users on my Site!

Not on its own, it doesn’t! Web users will stay on a site because it has the information they’re looking for, or because it helps them achieve their goals — not because the browser window is still open.

If users want to return to a Website, they’ll use the back button. If a new window is used, the back button in this window is reset, so users won’t be able to do return to your site using this common method (cue frustrated users).

Beware of Opening Links in a New Window – Sitepoint

Next, it causes your site have poor accessibility. Those who use assistive technology to read web pages to them get confused which window they have active. Try it yourself if you don’t believe me. Open a couple of browser windows or tabs, turn on Windows Narrator, close your eyes and try and figure out which tab you are on. Difficult, isn’t it.

Until user agents allow users to turn off spawned windows, do not cause pop-ups or other windows to appear and do not change the current window without informing the user.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Point 10.1

Opening a link in a new window or tab also creates a usability problem. The visitor can get confused which window/tab to close. Even a seasoned web surfer can do this. Admit it, you have closed the wrong tab or window yourself.

Why not open links in a new window?

Here are my top five usability reasons why you should beware of opening links in a new window:

  1. Unless you warn them, web users are likely to expect the new page to load in the current window. Unexpected surprises can be fun, but not when you’re browsing the web.
  2. Using a new browser window resets the back button in that window. The back button is the second most used navigation function (after following hyperlinks) (source: useit.com2) so resetting it is a big no no.
  3. Opening a new browser window can be disorientating for very novice web users and for those who are visually impaired. They might not realise that a new window has opened and might struggle switching between windows.
  4. Using a new browser window is a little disrespectful to web users. If they want a new window, they’ll ask for one. Don’t force a new window upon users unless there’s a very good reason to do so.
  5. Using new browser windows can make an already cluttered taskbar, even more cluttered and difficult to use. We’ve all spent ages hunting through the taskbar, looking for the window we want. Don’t make this even harder by increasing the number of windows to look through.

Beware of opening links in a new window – Webcedible

Just leave the external links you have alone. No special attributes or scripting when the link is clicked. If you want to notify the user they will be leaving the site you can include a little icon indicating external link via CSS to add some usability.

Now that we have what not to do out of the way, let’s get to the benefits of linking out.

Benefits of Linking Out – External Linking

We all want our sites to be popular, the hub of your chosen niche. You do this by providing valuable information that people want to link to.

Providing Relevant Outbound Links is Good

Why is linking out good? Because as you write your article and make statements you should provide links to related and respected sources to backup your statements. This can be done by quoting a source and providing the link to the original article you quoted from (besides being good manners on the net).

Another way to provide relevant outgoing links is to provide a further reading or resources section at the end of your article.

Links Are the Currency of the Internet

…As for your side, you’ll want to actively post links that help other people look good (the people you link to) and help your readers find interesting material. Your personal goal may be to get noticed — this is not a bad thing — but you’ll accomplish the goal by helping people and reaching out as much as possible without too many expectations…

Chris Guillebeau
Page 69 279 Days to Overnight Success

If you have a look around Web Page Mistakes you will see we use both of these methods to provide you with information within our articles. You’ll also notice, we don’t use the target=”_blank” attribute in our links either.

Citations (Quotes) from Relevant Sites

Citations (or quotes) from relevant sites back up your statements. It shows you have researched the topic you have written about. These citations can either backup what you said or create conversation with your readers if you allow comments on your articles.

The proper way to quote a piece from another site is to use the blockquote set of tags surrounding the text quotes and provide the link where you quoted the material from.

<blockquote cite="link where you quoted from">
<p>Text you quoted</p>
<p>Link to the location where you got the quote</p>
</blockquote>

You can learn more about the blockquote tags and it’s cite attribute at W3Schools.

#1: Attribution

“Links are the currency of the web,” writes Jonathan Bailey. “If you use someone else’s content, whether licensed directly or through fair use, it’s important to be sure to provide a clickable link to the original site if at all possible. This not only helps visitors to your site find the original work, but it also provides SEO benefits for the creator of the content and guards against your site being mistaken by the search engines as the original work.

26 Ways to Enhance Your Blog Content | Social Media Examiner

Become a Useful Site by Linking Out

People who surf the web are impatient. If they visit a site looking for something and they can’t find it easily they leave. Some spend hours surfing looking for the information they want. You want to be the one stop source for all the information they will need. To do this you need to provide all the resources they need and stay on your site absorbing the information you provide instead.

There is an added benefit to being the resource hub for your topic, you can earn free incoming links from visitors bookmarking your site on StumbleUpon or other social bookmarking sites, tweeting that they found this fabulous site, mentioning on Facebook that their like minded friends should visit your site and then there are the not so public referrals like spreading the word in emails, newsletters and general conversation.

Earn Incoming Links

Beyond the ways of getting incoming links mentioned in the last section, there are those that just happen upon your site in the search results. Here is where the snowball effect of incoming links to your site starts. Getting discovered in the search results and in turn the visitors start spreading the word about your site on their own.

Get Noticed by Those Who You Link Out To

By linking out to respected resources you could get noticed by someone influential in your niche. They could stop by to see why they got an incoming link from your site, leave a comment in your comments section, join the conversation in the comments section or even check out your site and then write about you.

9.Link out to other blogs. Pointing to other relevant information and sources is integral to blogging. It also helps you get noticed by relevant content creators.

31 Ways to Make Your Blog Stand Out – Heidi Cohen

Link Out to Those Who Reference Your Site

Did you get noticed in the paper? Mentioned on someone else’s blog or site? Linking out to the site that referenced you is a way to provide social proof that you are gaining respect from your peers. It also provides a little opportunity to brag (smiles).

Use Related Keywords in Your External Links

You will notice that as you read this article we used related keywords or the respected source’s name when linking out to their site. This adds to your overall on-page search engine optimization.

What Others are Saying About Linking Out

By its nature, a search engine looks for sites that are helpful to its end users. If the engine is ranking sites that aren’t useful to people, its user base will shrink. It’s in a search engine’s best interest to find and rank the most useful sites first.

With that in mind, when a search engine discovers a page pointing users in the direction of more useful information, that page will be given more credit.

Afraid to Link Out? Think Again – Search Engine Watch

Creating outbound links on your site, or “linking out”, is our topic for Day 3 of Links Week. Linking out happens naturally, and for most webmasters, it’s not something you have to worry about. Nonetheless, in case you’re interested about an otherwise simple topic that’s fundamental to the web, here’s the good, the bad, and answers to more advanced questions asked by our fellow webmasters.

Linking out: Often it’s just applying common sense -Official Google Webmaster Central Blog

As for costing PageRank – yes, it’s true. Technically, the original PR formula (described in great detail here by my grandfather, Si) dictates that any link equity spent on external pages is lost opportunity that could have been spent on internal pages. HOWEVER, I (and many other notable SEOs) have seen very compelling evidence to suggest that not only does linking out NOT harm a site’s rankings, it appears to carry some positive correlations with ranking, trust, etc. on both a page and domain-wide level. I’ll cover this more in my reasons to link out below.

5 Reasons You Should Link Out to Others From Your Website – SEOmoz

I hope you will look around your online world today and figure out a way to give something back – whether it’s a link, a ReTweet or sharing some information. I do believe what goes around comes around. And I know that linking out is useful for SEO as well as Karma. You’re saying to Google and other search engines: this is my neighborhood and I am sticking/linking to it.

Link Building: Christmas Gifts and Gratitude – Social SEO

Many of the poorly ranking websites that I am asked to fix share a common problem – they do not link out to any websites. Apparently, some people still think this is a terrible idea and go to extremes to never link out to anyone. Taking any idea to an extreme is generally never a good plan. By changing the outbound link policy, I have been able to help many sites boost their rankings. Let’s be clear – I am not talking about blindly linking to random sites. I am talking about linking out to quality websites that are relevant to the specific web page content.

Outbound Linking Can Boost Rankings – Michael Gray Graywolf’s SEO Blog

Linking Out is Not Bad

Linking out is not bad for your site. It provides complete information for your readers and entices them to come back to see what new information you have. Linking out builds your incoming links (what you need and want) without going out and looking for them or paying for them.

Links are how the web works. Get in the loop by linking out and becoming the go to site in your niche.

This article was created as part of the V7N 30 Day Blogging Challenge. Click the image below to see who else is participating.

More on Linking Out

Why Small Businesses Should Link Out

A New Linking Strategy: Out is the New In


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Internal Link Building Strategy

Continuing with our link building strategies topic, today we are going to look at some basic internal linking techniques you can apply to your website or blog. Internal link building is one of the easiest ways to create incoming links to the pages of your website or blog. You have total control, unlike when someone links to a page on their own. Combine great content, internal linking and that will eventually lead to natural incoming links. There are 2 main sections of work your internal link building strategy can be broken down into:

We will start with how website construction can be done for improved internal link building.

Website Construction for Internal Link Building

How your site is constructed from the start will affect your internal link building.

Site Navigation

Site Navigation can be broken down into the main page navigation and a sub navigation. The main page navigation generally links to the main pages on the site. e.g. Home Page, About Us, Site Map, Contact Us

A sub navigation menu could include categories (for services, an ecommerce site or blog).

Whether you decide to have all your site navigation together in a dynamic menu or split up into a main navigation bar and sub menu there are some things you need to do to improve your internal link building and on-site search engine optimization.

  • Use text links instead of image links.

    Search engines do not read images (yet) and neither does assistive technology people use to read web pages to them. Your visitors that use a non graphical browser won’t see the image either. And what if you make the link names too small in the images and people can’t read them?

    Text navigation links will add a search engine optimization element to your pages, add accessibility and add usability.

  • Use a CSS dynamic menu instead of a Javascript driven menu.

    Although Google says it’s getting better at reading Javascript, that doesn’t mean the other search engines are.

    A CSS dynamic menu uses lists in the creatation of them. All the coding and links within the menu is within the actual web page, unlike some Javascript driven dynamic menus.

    With a CSS dynamic menu, you add search engine optimization, accessibility and usability by having the coding right in the page for screen readers and non graphical browser users plus the search bots will see the links
    too!

  • Provide breadcrumb navigation.

    Breadcrumb navigation contains links to the sections within the site the page is. It shows the path of how the user got there.

    The search engine bots will also see your breadcrumb navigation and that will lead them to the pages within the path to the page. e.g. An ecommerce site can add great usability and on-page search engine optimization by including a breadcrumb navigation. The visitor can trace the path back to related previous pages if they landed on a product page plus they can trace their steps back as to how they got to the page. The search engine bot will do
    this too.

  • Include a site map link.

    A traditional site map (one where you list all your pages on the site on a web page) is an important link. It adds usability to the site, especially if you have a large site, in that should a visitor get lost they can go to the site map and find where to start over. A site map is also great for those who don’t want to go through all the navigation to find what they want, the people who want to cut to the chase and get to where they want to get to now. The search engine bots will also visit that page, which will lead them to the other pages on the site.

  • Have your categories well organized and use keywords to describe them.

    Well organized categories will group like topic pages together. This in turn will interlink with pages of the same topic, which is good from a search engine optimization point of view and also makes them more useable.

    Any time linked text contains a keyword or phrase related to the page it links to it is a plus.

  • Have your home page link link to your domain name.

    Some people link their home link/button to the index page (home page) of their site. e.g. index.htm Yes, a visitor will reach the home page, so will the search engine bots. The both of them will also reach your home page if they type www.yourdomainname.com. Why this works is a web server will look for the index page (your home page in this discussion) when someone types just your domain name. Web servers have a hierarchy of which pages are presented first when someone types your domain name. Whether you are to use index, default or another name is up to your web hosting, check their documentation and use the correct file name for your home page.

    Typing www.yourdomainname.com or www.yourdomainname.com/index.htm present the same page, this is a problem because you are linking to your home page one way and all the incoming links that people are placing on their sites/blogs/social networking sites will use www.yourdomainname. The search bots will see these links as 2 different links. The more links that look exactly the same pointing to a page the more votes for the page. If you use the one with index.htm for your internal link building then the votes get reduced for the home page so link to the home page just like everyone outside your site does so all the votes go to the same version of the url.

  • Make a conscience choice about the file names of your pages.

    Search engine optimization is all about creating a theme of a topic. You select your web page file names, web page title tags and anchored text with that theme in mind.

    Instead of just having a services page, if it is a specific service, say dog walking, then a better choice of web page file name would be dog-walking-service.htm Put this together with proper use of the title tag, meta data, headings in the pages and related content and you are one more step to an overall well optimized site.

General Site Construction Internal Linking Tips

  • Use the same extension at the end of your links for all links.

    This is mainly applicable to static websites or maybe an ecommerce site that produces static HTML pages for you but you should check any type of site for this.

    services.htm and services.html are both the same page and yes, linking to either will work. But, as with absolute links they look different to the search engines. Pick one way to do the extension of your pages and be consistant throughout the site. It makes it easier to remember how to link to your pages.

  • Make your internal links absolute links.

    Absolute links are the exact path to the page on the web server. e.g.http://www.yourdomainname.com/services.htm is the absolute link to your services page. If you are using a WYSWYG or online editor when creating your internal links, it will just put the relative path in the hyperlink. e.g. <a href="services.htm">Services</a> This is a carry over from developing your site offline and testing your internal links offline. Good for offline testing but bad for search engine optimization.

    Just like described above for your home page, the more links that look exactly the same pointing to the page, the better. When someone links to one of your individual pages or articles, they are going to link with the absolute link. You should too!

  • Include the title attribute in your links.

    This goes for all your links on your pages. The title attribute describes the page the visitor will be taken to. If your web page titles are done well, the link title attribute can be the title of the page they will be
    visiting.

    Once again, this technique adds to the on-page search engine optimization, usability and accessibility of your pages.

  • Include related pages/article links at the end of the page.

    This really good for ecommerce sites and blogs. If you provide a list of related pages or posts at the bottom page content,

    1. You entice your visitors to look at other pages on your site. On an eccomerce site they usually call this section You Might Also Like. On a blog, these are previous posts on the same subject.
    2. This will get the search bots to go visit those other pages.
    3. It will add to your internal link building for the page.
  • Use keywords/phrase for your linked text.

    These keywords or phrases must relate to the topic of the page you are linking from and the topic of the page you are linking to.

    You are trying to create a theme here. The themed anchored text has a title attribute with a similar theme, the file name is a related theme, the linked to page is a related theme, they all go together on the same theme.

    You Keep Mentioning Votes for the Page..

    Votes was the easiest way to explain the very complex topic of Google’s PageRank and how it is determined.

    As Larry said long ago, we want to give you back “exactly what you want.” When Google was founded, one key innovation was PageRank, a technology that determined the “importance” of a webpage by looking at what other pages link to it, as well as other data. Today we use more than 200 signals, including PageRank, to order websites, and we update these algorithms on a weekly basis.

    Technology overview – Google

    In the most simpliest terms related to this article, each internal link you have and how many times a page on your site links to it affects the “vote” for the page.

    The topic of PageRank is for another post but if you really want to know right now about it read Wikipedia’s PageRank article.


Internal Link Building within Content

You can build your internal link building by linking your page content to related pages on the site or blog.

Smart internal linking tightens content structure and tells the search engines which keyword phrases are related to your pages.

Internal linking also gives some of your lesser-known pages an ‘endorsement’ from your more successful pages.

Read more: Two Simple and Effective SEO Plays that Increased My Rankings [SEO Starters]

Notice the first paragraph in this article. It has what is called an in-content anchored text link which links to another post on this site. Not only does this introduce why this article was written it has the same benefits as the related articles/posts/ You Might Like list at the end of your page:

  1. You entice your visitors to look at other pages on your site. On an eccomerce site they usually call this section You Might Also Like. On a blog, these are previous posts on the same subject.
  2. This will get the search bots to go visit those other pages.
  3. It will add to your internal link building for the page.

The principles of in-content internal link building are the same as previously discussed for your site construction:

  • Use text links, not linked images.
  • Link to your domain name when you want to link to your home page.
  • Use absolute links, not relative links.
  • Include the title attribute in your links.
  • Use keywords/phrase for your linked text.

Proper Internal Link Building Has Many Facetts

Generally when people think of link building they think of getting other people to link to them and placing links places. With internal link building you have a head start on getting those visitors and the search bots to your other pages. A person or the search bots can arrive at your site or blog on any of your pages, they don’t always arrive on your home page. Anything that you do to make your site more search engine friendly, accessible and usable is good. They all feed off each other. Hope you got that reading this article.

Internal link building and incoming links are only part of the equation when working on the search engine optimization of your site. You still have to work on the content of your site so once you get the people there, they stay and check out the rest of your site. All that is for more posts in the future.

Just remember internal link building is just as important as external link building. Be careful to not go overboard by linking every keyword of your content. This makes it really hard for people to read and makes your content look spammy.

Further Reading on Internal Linking

Anatomy of an Internal Link

Internal Linking: The Benefits Of Great Information Architecture For SEO

URL Structure for Usability and SEO

Why In-Page Navigation Links Matter More Than Menus

The Power of Internal Links

WordPress SEO: How to Maximize Your Internal Link Strategy

12 Timeless Link Building Tips for Business Blogs

Everything You Need To Know About SEO Web Structure & Internal Links

How to Use Internal Linking to Improve Your Website’s SEO


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How to Maintain a Website

Owning a website or blog has it’s responsibilities. You can’t just upload it and forget it. Regular website maintenance is a must if you want your site to be successful.

Why is Website Maintenance Important?

With regular website maintenance your site will run smoothly. No disgruntled visitors because something on the site didn’t work or a link you provided is broken.

Regular visitors are looking for what is new, so provide them with new and exciting information, products or features.

Website are subject to being hacked. Using a proper website maintenance program you can try and avoid being hacked by keeping everything up to date.

There are all kinds of things that need to be done when maintaining a website. Whether you decide to do these yourself or hire out the work, it still needs to be done.

Website Updates

Think about it, if you visit a website that is not updated regularly will you continue to visit it? Why should your own website or blog be like that then?

Website Content

Website content can include written text, images, free downloads, anything that is going to draw new visitors in and keep your existing visitors coming back. Here are some ideas:

  • Product Updates

    Product updates are really important if your site has an ecommerce element to it.

    1. New products added announced.

      Don’t forget to update your navigation, to add a page for the new product and add it to your site map.

      If you have a design that has a side navigation (called a sidebar in a blog) the updates can be added to it so no matter what page a visitor arrives on, they see the new product announcement.

    2. Discontinuation of a product. Like the announcement of new products, if you are discontinuing a product, including an announcement in the side navigation will make the information available on all your pages.
    3. Upcoming price changes would be another thing to announce. It might even spur some rush purchases too.
  • Company News

    Did you get a mention in the newpaper? Someone did a review of your site or product? This is all what is called social proof and you need to show visitors what others are saying about you.

    Growing so much you need new staff? Announce and introduce your new staff members.

  • Giveaways

    Having a giveaway or a contest periodically is a good way to create some buzz about your site.

Updating old content should be on your website maintenance list also. Information becomes out dated so keep your content up to date to show your visitors you are on top of the subject.

Feature Addition

If at the time you created the website there was something that got left out because of budget constraints, maybe the budget can afford it now?

Take a look at your website/blog every once in a while and see if there is some kind of improvement that can be made. Something that you didn’t think of previously.

Maybe you have some feed back from visitors that needs to be implemented?

  • Fix a usability issue that has been mentioned.
  • Time to add a blog if you have a regular website and do not have one already?
  • Did you join a social networking site or two? Add the appropriate button(s) and links to your social profiles.
  • Add a frequently asked question section to cut down on emails and phone calls aske these regular questions.

Regular Website Maintenance Tasks

There are some regular website maintenance tasks you should perform on a scheduled basis. Scheduling at least monthly would be the timeline to start with.

Backing Up Your Website

Backing up your website is something you should do all the time, especially if you are the type that uses the online interface of your store or blog to make changes. Things happen. Even though the web hosting company says they backup the sites on their servers, their last backup could have been before your last edit. If the server crashes for some reason or your site gets hacked, your edits will be gone if the web hosting company restores what they had backed up. Image loosing a whole day’s work, just because you didn’t take a few minutes to backup the site.

Monitor Website Outages

If your site goes down, you want to be the first to know and not receive an email from someone else they can not access your site.

SiteUp is a small program that runs on your computer in the background checking your site on a regular basis. It will notify you when the site is down with a popup. Obviously though, your computer has to be on for it work.

Check Domain Registration Information

Look up in the WHOIS records what information is recorded for your domain name. Make sure it is correct. Sometimes when you initially sign up for your domain you would have used an email address that is no longer vaild. This needs to be updated as when there is a problem with your domain or an expiry notice is sent out you won’t get the emails. They are sent to the email address on record.

Test Website Speed

Testing the download speed of your site regularly is important. Especially if you have added a new feature. Web surfer have a very short attention span. If your site is slow to load, they are not going to wait. You need to do everything you can to improve the download speed of your site or blog so visitors stay to read your content and hopefully provide you with organic incoming links by spreading the word for you what a wonderful site you have.

Link Check

Links become broken over time. With changes within the site and if you referenced someone in one of your articles or somewhere else within the site links could have changed or are broken.

The task to find broken links isn’t too hard. Just use a link checker to test your external links and internal links at least once a month.

Software Updates

Third party software, like your ecommerce software, WordPress and Joomla for example, are always updating their software. You need to keep on top these updates and install them as soon as they come out. The updates won’t just be new features, they will include security updates too.

Analyze Your Stats

Analyze not just your sales stats but your website stats too.

Traffic Stats

Look at your web server stats to determine your website traffic. If your web hosting account doesn’t have website stats then get one installed. Something like Awstats that provides:

  • Pages entered on and left on
  • Time spent on the site
  • Bounce rate
  • Referring sites
  • Countries your visitors are from
  • Keywords/phrase that were used to find you

Google Analytics will provide some of this information. It may not be as complete as a website stats program that is run from your actual server.

One thing a website stats program installed on your server will do that Google Analytics doesn’t is show you who is hotlinking (linking directly to your images on your site) . e.g. your images, PDFs, reports, etc.. These people are stealing your content and your bandwidth if they do not have your permission to do so. With this information your can stop the hotlink.

Search Engine Results

Are you showing up on the first page for the keywords/phrase you want to? If you have given it some time, e.g. a few months, to get onto the first page of the search results naturally then maybe it is time to look at your content and revise it.

Reputation Management

Using Google Alerts, you can monitor your website name, your name, your brand and your content on the web.

You will know who is talking about you. This gives you an opportunity to jump into the conversation. Thank those who are praising you. Fix a problem that is being discussed related to your business.

Tracking your website address with Google Alerts is 2 fold.

  1. You see who is linking to you and can pop over there and say thanks.
  2. You can catch the use of your content without your permission.

You can learn a lot from your website maintenance program. Take the time to set one up.

This article was created as part of the V7N 30 Day Blogging Challenge. Click the image below to see who else is participating.

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Test Web Page Download Speed

The speed at which your web page(s) load has always played a part in the success of a website or blog. If your website or blog loads slowly, the visitor will just leave. Web surfing people are very impatient. It doesn’t matter how they are accessing your site, if it’s slow you are not going to make that sale, have a reader added to your blog, have the visitor spread the word for you by word of mouth or get bookmarked on any of the social networking sites.

Now, because Google announced that web page download speed plays a part in your positioning in the search results everyone is on the band wagon to improve the download speed of websites and blogs. Don’t figure. It takes Google to watch something for people to pay attention they should have been doing in the first place.

You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.

Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.

Using site speed in web search ranking – Official Google Webmaster Central Blog Friday, April 09, 2010

How to Test Web Page Download Speed?

There are various ways to test the download speed of your pages. Here are a few:

Web Page Analyzer

This site has been around since 2002. That just shows you that web page download speed was important before Google decided to make it part of the factors they use.

You can enter your url in the box provided or copy and paste your (X)HTML coding in the larger box. Click Submit Query and the program begins analysis of the page. It might take a while, depending on how much code it has to process and of course, how slow your page loads.

This site was created to accompany the author’s book he wrote years ago. He has a new one, Website Optimization: Speed, Search Engine & Conversion Rate Secrets, that you should consider adding to your library.

Google’s Page Speed

If you have a Webmaster Tools account with Google, down at the bottom of the left menu (Labs > Site Performance) is the Site Performance link. It will show you an approximation of the download speed your site has and also notes which pages it found slow with suggested solutions. For a more detailed analysis, even Google suggests you use their Page Speed for Firefox.

Google also has Page Speed available for download. You need Firefox and Firebug addon to use it. You have Firefox installed already, right? (You should for cross-browser compatibility testing.)

With Page Speed installed, open Firefox, start Firebug then run Page Speed. The results are pretty quick.

Like the online version, you get a list of what needs fixing but this time it is more detailed.

The Page Speed official documentation is available if you really want to study how this works and see explanations of the details.

YSlow

Yahoo! has YSlow for web page download testing. It also requires Firefox and Firebug to run.

Like Page Speed, once you install YSlow, go to the page you want to test and run the test you get results complete with what needs to be fixed.

Out of the three download speed testing programs mentioned above, Web Page Analysis is probably the easiest to understand for a non web designer.

Web Page Download Improvement Tips

Before you even run the tests above, there are somethings you can look at before actually running the tests:

  • Web Page File Size

    A good web page file size is 30k. A litte more would be ok but if your web page file size is over 40k you really need to have a look at what can be removed and/or improved upon.

  • Nested Tables

    Tables in general slow down the download speed of a page because the browser has to stop and process all the coding for the table. And in nested tables (tables within tables) and that process is slowed down even more.

    If your web page coding is using nested tables for manipulate the placement of the page elements, then remove these and use CSS (Cascading Stylesheets) instead. You could save a bunch of file size.

  • Image File Size

    Quite often people use images as they received them or straight out of the camera. You need to resize the images before uploading the website. If you use the oversized image and force it to the right size using coding, the browser still downloads the original image.

  • Combine CSS and Javascript Files

    If you see links in the head of your web page coding to a number of CSS files and/or Javascript files you can reduce the download speed of the page by combining all the CSS together and then all the Javascript together in another file.

    Internal CSS and Javascript coding in the head section of the web page or in the body of the page should be moved to the external CSS and Javascript files also. This also makes things easier to maintain.

  • Third Party Content

    These days there are lots of third party stats, features and ad networks that can be added to your site, particularly blogs. Unless the background coding is done in such a way that these are loaded at the end of the web page coding being processed, they slow down or even hang your web page if not working.

Some Things to Understand About Web Page Download Speed

Even if you have improved on all the above, run the tests and tweaked the heck out of your site there are still a couple of things to understand.

Your web server plays a part in how fast your web page downloads. If the web server is crowded with lots of sites and they are all really active, this slows down the web server’s performance. Paying a higher price for better web hosting is something to consider if this is a problem.

Dynamic websites (sites that include programming and databases, like ecommerce sites and blogs) are affected by the quality of the programming and database optimization used. A poorly programmed page or poorly optimized databse takes time to process the information requested before sending it back to the browser.

Your visitor’s location is really not a valid excuse for slow download speed. If your site is optimized properly it shouldn’t matter if they are in Timbuktu or next door to you. Optimize the site for the slowest internet connection your visitors have.

One other thing, if you have not set up your browser to clear it’s cache (history) when closed things like images and external CSS files are stored on your computer. The next time you visit the web page, the browser fetches these from the copy on your computer, not the website. This of course makes it appear that the site is loading fast when it’s not. Learn to clear your browser cache so you see the site like a new visitor.

Web page download speed will be important whether a ranking factor for your site or not. People don’t have the patience to wait for your site to load. With mobile devices becoming more common than the traditional desktop computer or laptop download speed is crucial as these people are paying for data plans based on how much data they download.

Test your web page download speed now and improve your overall search engine optimization program.

Further Reading on Web Page Download Speed


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30 Day Blogging Challenge at V7N

Web Page Mistakes will be participating in the V7N’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge.

Each person participating is required to create a blog post each day for 30 days starting January 3, 2011. You can post to a single blog or multiple blogs you own.

We will be spreading our entries over 3 blogs.

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Good luck to all those participating! V7N Administrator Cricket is working on some random prizes.

Create a Link Building Strategy

Once you get your website or blog all setup with it’s layout, quality content and the right keywords/phrases implimented in the structure of the site and in it’s content you most likely will start looking at what is needed to create a link building strategy.

link building strategy

If you have done your market research and studied your target audience properly you will already know where they “hang out” and what sites they visit regularly.

Before sitting down to create a link builidng strategy there is some background information you need so you end up building links efficiently. We’ll start with the basics.

What is a Link?

A link, also called a hyperlink, uses the anchor set of tags to make the text they surround clickable. Once clicked you are taken to another page or document on the net.

The Anchor tag is used to link the current web document to others available on the internet e.g. another spot in the same document, to specific spot in another document, to a different page or file, to client’s email program or to break out of a frame. The default is to open the linked item in the same window.

HTML 4.01 Basics Simplified – Basic HTML 4.01 Tags – Anchor Tag Chapter

For example, to link to another website you would use:

<a href="http://www.thesitedomainname.com">Name of site you are linking to</a>

This is the same coding you would give someone else if they want to link to your site (with your website address in it instead of thesitedomainname.com).

What is Link Building?

Link building is when you work on the number of places on the net where there is a link leading to a page on your site. These links can be from other websites or blogs, directories, forums, ads you place, newsletters, articles you have submitted and anywhere else you can think of on the net including within your own site.

The way people find things on the net is through links therefore if you have links spread around the net you have more opportunities for people to find your site.

Link building is more than just leaving your link anywhere on the net. Where you are linked to from is also important. The search engines look at the site where the link is originating from and the text surrounding it. The sites that are of the same theme/niche that you are or a related niche are much more valuable than a link from a totally different topic. e.g. If you sell things for women then a link on a car site isn’t as good as a link from say a purse or shoe site if they sell things that complement what you sell. Think of it this way also, not too many who would interested in your things for women site are going to be hanging out at a car site, click the link and turn into a buyer. You would have better success getting targeted traffic from another women’s related site.

For example, Google says:

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.

Ranking at Google Webmaster Central

Google also says the following about their PageRank system:

PageRank Technology: PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results.

PageRank also considers the importance of each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value. We have always taken a pragmatic approach to help improve search quality and create useful products, and our technology uses the collective intelligence of the web to determine a page’s importance.

Hypertext-Matching Analysis: Our search engine also analyzes page content. However, instead of simply scanning for page-based text (which can be manipulated by site publishers through meta-tags), our technology analyzes the full content of a page and factors in fonts, subdivisions and the precise location of each word. We also analyze the content of neighboring web pages to ensure the results returned are the most relevant to a user’s query.

Technology Overview- Google Corporate Information

Types of Links for Link Building

There are 4 basic types of links for your link building strategy:

  • Internal – linking to different pages on your own site.
  • Organic – you showed up in the search results and someone clicked the link
  • Incoming – a link from somewhere on the net that points to your site. These show up in your website stats as referrals if someone clicked the link and arrived at your site.
  • Outbound – you have a link on your site that links to another site.

All of these types of links are looked at by the search engines and count as part of their scoring system when determining how your indexed page fits the search term someone typed in the search box.

Why Create a Link Building Strategy?

If you don’t have a link building strategy in place then you will be wasting your time and effort (and money if you pay for links) by creating incoming links willy nilly all over the place.

The purpose of creating a link building strategy is to build high quality targeted incoming traffic. Placing or getting incoming links creates a visibility for your site and adds credibility to it also. Each of these high quality targeted links counts as a vote for your site.

Take all the information you gathered in your market research and when determining the traits of your target audience and start to create a link building strategy. Don’t get off track by worrying about the numbers at first. A well planned link building strategy will turn into hundreds of links from people you don’t know or have not thought about.

Link Building Strategy Further Reading

Tips for Developing a Link Building Strategy

SEO – A Link Is A Link?

The Dangers of a One-Dimensional Link Building Plan

Everything You Need to Know About Linking

How to Build Links [Infographic] – Hua Marketing

Brainstorming Your Link-Building Strategy

9 New Year’s Resolutions For Link Building In 2012

Pros & Cons Of Link Building To Pages Linking To You

SiteUp Website Monitoring

As part of your website maintenance plan monitoring whether your site is up (working) should be an ongoing task. One way to conduct website monitoring is to use a piece of software on your own computer (opposed to using a service).

Website Monitoring with SiteUp

SiteUp is a freeware website availability monitoring program. Just install the program, allow it to be added to the list of programs which load when your computer is started and you are set.

SiteUp monitors your web sites and warns you when any become unreachable (e.g. when a server crashes). Because it checks page content it can even detect when the server is OK, but a site or page is unavailable.

There is no limit to the number of sites that can be monitored, including secure sites, and the checking frequency can be anywhere between once a minute and once a day. When a site goes down the system tray icon will change to an animated alarm and optionally you are displayed a warning message. When a site becomes available again you can view a log to determine how long the site has been down. Free!

Xequte Software site

Setting Up SiteUp to Monitor Your Site(s)

Setting up SiteUp is pretty easy. When you open the program, a monitoring of Google.com is already there by default. This program monitors your site based on being able to read certain text on the site. If your site is not accessible, the text cannot be read therefore SiteUp logs the outage and notifies you in the System tray (those icons over on the right of your taskbar). Keep in mind, your computer has to be on if you want to monitor your sites. i.e. If you turn the computer off when not in use, then there is no access to the internet for the program to do it’s job.

On to setting up SiteUp:

  1. Start the program (if not started already) by double clicking the icon it installed on your desktop.

    Activates it in your System tray.

  2. Double left click the SiteUp icon in your System tray to open the program.

    Opens showing you a list of sites you have set up already.

  3. Left click the Add Site button on the right.

    Opens the Edit Site screen.

  4. Enter the site information
    1. The name of the site you are going to monitor.
    2. The url (website address) of the site.
    3. The text to monitor.

      Pick a piece of text that is not going to change. e.g. If you have a blog, a phrase in a post would not be a good choice because the post isn’t always going to be on the home page if that is the url you chose to monitor.

      Left click the Check site for text button on the right. If the site is reachable and you typed the text properly you will get a message confirming the site was reachable.

  5. Left click the Ok button at the bottom of the screen and you are done!

Setting the Monitoring in SiteUp

Once you have setup the site(s) you wish to monitor you are taken back to the first screen. Here is where you can adjust the default settings.

  1. Check site status is the first item in the Monitoring Options section. The default is to check the sites every 10 mins.

    Use the up and down arrows to the right of the box to adjust the frequencey with which to check the sites.

  2. Check unavailable sites is set to 3 times by default.

    Adjust how many times to check a down site using the up and down arrows on the right of the box.

  3. When a site is down you get a warning message by default.

    Left clicking the arrow on the right of the default message choice gives you the options of seeing a balloon message or have the SiteUp icon flash in the System tray.

  4. Under the above 3 monitoring options are checkboxes with futher monitoring options:
    • Display a message when an unreachable site becomes available.
    • Display the log file when an unreachable site becomes available.
    • Automatically start SiteUp with Windows – should be checked
    • Always check for an active internet connection.

    Check or uncheck the items you wish to use (or not use)

Completing the SiteUp Setup

When you initially setup SiteUp it needs to check the sites in your list. Left click the Check Sites Now button down at the bottom of the screen. All your sites should have a green check mark in front of their names now (if they are up).

The last thing to do is to click the Close and Start Monitoring button in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Monitor Websites

Now that you have SiteUp setup it will run in the background checking your sites. The only time you are going to be reminded you have it running is when there is a problem connecting to the site(s).

There is a log kept so you have a record of downtime. If you notice that the site is down a lot or for extended periods of time then you have a record to present to your web hosting when asking why.

SiteUp is one way to monitor your website’s availability. If your site is down (not working) then your visitors and the search bots can’t see your site. This is a problem. You loose money, visitors and an opportunity for the search bots to index your pages.

Get SiteUp setup today. It’s free!

Website Testing

Whether you author a blog, own a website, are a web designer or are a web developer website testing is a must. This testing goes beyond initial testing when the blog or website is launched, it needs to be an on going maintenance task.

The website or blog does not have to be live to test it.

Static HTML Website Testing

A static HTML website can be tested from your computer by double clicking the web page file on your computer which will open the web page in your default browser.

Blog and Dynamic Website Testing

For a blog or dynamic website, you can download and install WampServer locally to run an Apache server with PHP and MySQL on a Windows machine. If your application requires a Windows server then you can install Microsoft’s IIS server locally. Note: If you are running XP Pro, the ISS server comes with this operating system, you just have to install it.

Web Space Website Testing

A third way to test the web pages is to set up a test area in your web space. You have to add instructions to your robots.txt file asking the search engine bots to stay out of this folder, so your test version is not indexed. The other alternative to robots.txt instructions is to password protect the folder.

So there you have 3 ways to conduct your website testing without launching first.

Website Testing As the Website/Blog is Built

As the website or blog is built there are various things to perfom website testing in the initial development stage:

  1. HTML Code Validation

    Code validation is the task of checking the background coding of the design against the (X)HTML standard the web page is using.

    For a standard HTML website this can be done from your computer without the web page being uploaded to the web server. Just go to the W3C Validation Service and upload the page from your computer to the service, click the Check button and the validator will give you feed back complete with line number of any coding errors contained in the page.

    A blog or dynamic website can also be checked before launch by building the template as an HTML file first, validating the coding then converting this template into the programming required for the website or blog.

    Cleaning up coding errors so the web page uses standard compliant coding will make it easier for the search engine bots and those using assistive technology to surf the web to access the web page and eliminate coding issues as the cause of a cross-browser compatibility issue.

  2. CSS Code Validation

    CSS (Cascading Stylesheets) are files or coding which format the look of the web page. CSS code validation is where the CSS (Cascading Stylesheets) coding is checked for errors.

    This can be done from your computer without uploading to the web.

    Go to the W3C CSS Validation Service, upload the file to the service, click Check and you will get a report back on the screen with any errors or warnings noted.

  3. Screen Resolution

    What some designers forget is that not everyone has the same screen resolution. Each design needs to be tested in various screen resolutions to make sure that the web pages work in the different screen resolutions the target audience uses, not what the web designer or you use.

  4. Alt Attribute

    Ensure that each image has an alt attribute. This is required if you are using XHTML coding. The alt attribute also adds to the search engine optimization of the web page, is shown when your images are taking too long to load, is shown in place of the image if the website visitor has images turned off and adds to the accessibility of the web page.

  5. Correct Colour Contrast

    Using the correct colour contrast between the elements of the web page can make the difference between the website visitor staying for 2 seconds or staying and actually reading your web page. For example, if there is not enough colour contrast between the background oolour and text colour, it will be difficult to read the web page.

  6. Font Size

    Selection of the correct font size for the targetted audience can be a bit challenging. Using a flexible font size will overcome this problem as the user can adjust the font size to suit their needs.

  7. Uncommon Font(s)

    If you are into graphics or have an Office suite installed you may have font families that are not on every computer. There is also a difference between what fonts are installed on a Windows machine and a Mac. Limiting your font family choice to a selection that is available on most machines stops the user’s machine subsituting a differnt font when your chosen one is not available.

  8. Text Alignment

    Text alignment on the web is different than in print. You have no control over how your web page will look in each browser, on each monitor nor in each operating system.

  9. Heading Hierarchy

    Heading hierarchy is just as important on the web as it is in print. Proper heading structure helps your visitors scan the page, adds to the search engine optimization of the page and adds accessibility to the page.

  10. Browser Specific Design

    Browser specific design is where the web page layout only works for certain browsers. Limiting your visitors to only those who use a specific browser cuts out a whole group of visitors that could spend money or improve your website’s popularity.

  11. Custom Error Pages

    What happens when custom error pages are not included is that the web hosting company serves up their stock error pages. This is confusing to your site visitors because they don’t understand what happened. The 404 error page is the most used error page but you should create a custom error page for each error that might happen on your website.

  12. Website Navigation

    Take a moment or two to review your website navigation system. A consistant and user friendly website navigation system will add to the usability and search engine optimization of your webiste.

  13. Search Engine Friendly Design

    Does the website template use a search engine friendly design? Are the search engine bots going to see the important content on the web page first? or a bunch of links?

So we have ended up with quite a list of things to check when performing your website testing. If your site includes any programming (e.g. an ecommerce site) this should also be tested extensively

Website Speed Testing

Website loading speed has always been an important factor. If your site loads slowly the visitor isn’t going to wait, they will just move on.

Your website load speed is even more important as of April 9, 2010:

You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Using site speed in web search ranking April 9, 2010

Although this announcement is regarding general search, site speed has been a factor for AdWords clients for some time. Google has had this on their Web Performance Best Practices page for some time also.

As the website or blog is built testing the download speed during it’s construction is important to avoid having to rethink the features included and having to work through how to improve the download speed overall.

Maintenance Website Testing

Once the website is up and running you need to do website testing as part of your maintenance program.

  1. Link Checking

    Over time some of the links you have included in your web page content may change or become what are called dead links.

    Link checking consists of checking all the links within your website/blog. This includes the links within your website as well as any external links you have. Each broken link needs to be corrected.

As you can see from reading this article, website testing is an on going task. It is not just limited to the development and launch stage, you have to continually perform website testing to keep your website/blog in tip top shape.

Keywords Meta Tag

If you have done any research/studing of search engine optimization you will have heard of keywords and the keywords meta tag. There’s lots of information and opinions on how to use this meta tag. Some of this is hear say some is backed up by facts. Here we’ll present the facts.

What is the Keywords Meta Tag?

Before getting into the facts, for the benefit of those of you who are new to SEO (search engine optimization), the keywords tag is a meta tag located in the head of your web page/blog post.

When examining your web page source code, you will see a line similar to this:


<meta name="Keywords" content="Your set of keywords for the page">

Where it says “Your set of keywords of the page” above is where you are to put keywords/phrases your target audience would type in the search box when looking for the subject of your web page. Putting keywords not included in the page is considered keyword stuffing (see next section).

Keywords Meta Tag Abuse

In the beginning the keywords meta tag was abused by marketers. They would do what is called “keyword stuffing” to try and manipulate the search engine results. Keyword stuffing is when the list of keywords/key phrases are not related to the actual content within the web page. The major search engines and directories figured this out and adjusted their indexing methods to compensate for this trickery.

Google Doesn’t Use the Keywords Meta Tag in Web Search

On September 22, 2009 Google officially stated on their Official Google Webmaster Central Blog that Google does not use the meta keywords data in your web pages for their web search analysis.

“…we received some questions about how Google uses (or more accurately, doesn’t use) the “keywords” meta tag in ranking web search results….

…At least for Google’s web search results currently (September 2009), the answer is no. Google doesn’t use the “keywords” meta tag in our web search ranking….”

Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking

Note the reference web search ranking. They don’t say they don’t use the keyword meta tag for everything.

Why doesn’t Google use the keywords meta tag?

“About a decade ago, search engines judged pages only on the content of web pages, not any so-called “off-page” factors such as the links pointing to a web page. In those days, keyword meta tags quickly became an area where someone could stuff often-irrelevant keywords without typical visitors ever seeing those keywords. Because the keywords meta tag was so often abused, many years ago Google began disregarding the keywords meta tag.”

Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking under the questions section

Does this mean that Google will always ignore the keywords meta tag?

“It’s possible that Google could use this information in the future, but it’s unlikely. Google has ignored the keywords meta tag for years and currently we see no need to change that policy.”

Google does not use the keywords meta tag in web ranking under the questions section

Note the phrase above It’s possible that Google could use this information in the future. They are leaving the door open to change their mind.

Why Did Google Officially Make this Statement?

Matt Cutts, Search Quality Team clears this up:

“…To this day, you still see courts mistakenly believe that meta tags occupy a pivotal role in search rankings. We wanted to debunk that misconception, at least as it regards to Google….

Google doesn’t use the keywords meta tag in web search – on Matt Cutt’s blog.

How Does the Keyword Meta Tag Affect Other Seach Engines and Directories?

There are other search engines and directories that use the keyword meta tag. For example, Yahoo! uses it:

“Use a “keyword” meta-tag to list key words for the document. Use a distinct list of keywords that relate to the specific page on your site instead of using one broad set of keywords for every page.”

How do I improve the ranking of my web site in the search results? at Yahoo!

There are software applications that also use the keywords meta tag. e.g. Site search software

Should I use the Keyword Meta Tag or Not?

Just because Google has made a statement that the keywords meta tag is not considered in their search analysis for web search results doesn’t mean you should ignore this meta tag.

It may not affect your search results in the Google search engine results but it can affect your results in the “other” search engine and directory results.

Even though Google has stated the Keywords tag is not a consideration in ranking, we always include it as a best practice.

SEO 101: The 23-Point SEO Checklist – Bruce Clay Inc. June 21, 2012

Free Web Hosting VS Paid Web Hosting

With the economy the way it is right now, new entrenpenurs are looking for ways to save money in their startup costs. Every one seems to be looking for free web hosting but they really don’t understand the cost to their business by doing this. If you are reading this after the recession of 2008-2009, the following information is still relevant as it relates to building a reputable online presence for your business. Let’s look at the cost to your business if you go with free web hosting.

Professional Appearance of Business

When you use free web hosting, your URL (the web link for you website) will look something like this:

http://website-checklist.blogspot.com/

In the example above blogspot.com is the company providing the free hosting.

If this is a business blog or website, it doesn’t give the appearance that you are serious about your business.

For a more professional image of your business, it would be prudent of you to invest in a domain name and some professional hosting.

Outgrowing Your Free Web Hosting

At some point your website/blog will outgrow the features offered by free web hosting providers.

If you move from free web hosting to your own domain with paid web hosting you don’t have the capability to upload a .htaccess file to redirect the search engines and visitors to your new web hosting space. To let the search engines know you have moved you use instructions in the .htaccess file to 301 permanently redirect them to your new location.

Also, you cannot use a .htaccess instruction to permanently redirect your visitors and search engines when you delete a page within your site.

After years of building your website/blog on free web hosting, your efforts will be lost and you will have to start over, from scratch.

Some will say you can include coding in the existing pages to redirect the visitors and search engines to the new location. But these methods do not provide a 301 permanant redirect instruction, which the search engines need.

…Use a 301 Redirect to permanently redirect all pages on your old site to your new site. This tells search engines and users that your site has permanently moved. ….

…Don’t do a single redirect directing all traffic from your old site to your new home page….

…To prevent confusion, it’s best to retain control of your old site domain for at least 180 days…

Moving your site – Webmasters/Site Owners Help at Google

Custom Error Pages

Another problem with free web hosting is that you will not be able to use custom error pages. Error pages are used by the web server to show the visitor there has been an error. For example, a 404 error is shown when a page is not found within the webspace. On a free web hosting space the visitor will be shown the web hosting company’s stock error page and give no direction as to how to find what it was they were looking for. A confused visitor will just leave.

With the right paid web hosting account, you can provide a custom error page for each type of error. This gives the visitor comfort that they are not lost (especially if they are a novice web surfer) when the error page is formatted to match your site and provides help on how what happened and how to find what it is they are looking for.

Free Isn’t Free

How do you suppose a company that offers free web hosting makes any money to run their operation? Answer: Through advertising.

Free web hosting companies need to make money somehow. They do this by inserting advertising into your page. You have no control over what advertising is shown. What if a competitor’s ad is shown or an ad inappropriate for your target audience is shown?

E.g.

Advertising

To support the service we may occasionally show Google text ads on your blog, however we do this very rarely. You can remove ads from your blog for a low yearly fee. In the future you’ll be able to show your own ads and make money from your blog.

WordPress.com Features (way down at the bottom of the page.

Using paid web hosting you don’t have this problem.

Free Web Hosting Doesn’t Last Forever

When using a free web hosting service there is no guarantee that they will stick around. A some point, even large providers of free hosting decide to pack it in.

Case in point: Yahoo! has decided to close their 360 service on July 13, 2009. They have also decided to close GeoCities free web hosting service.

Ok, paid web hosting companies don’t last forever either but, if you have a web hosting account where you are able to download your whole site, then you are covered. You have a backup of your site that you can upload to a new hosting company and get back up and running quickly. You should backup your website each time you make a change anyways.

ISP Web Hosting

Usually when you signup for internet access with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) your package includes a small, free web hosting space. When using this type of web hosting your URL will be similar to those provided with free web hosting accounts.

Web hosting at your ISP has the same problems as described above for free web hosting.

Something else people don’t realize is that when you cancel your internet service with your ISP you loose the web hosting space (and your email address, which is a whole other problem if you have used mybusiness@yourisp.com as your business email address).

Limited Features with Free Web Hosting

Free web hosting accounts have limits on what you can and cannot do. You are limited to the features provided by the service.

Some paid web hosting accounts have limits too. If you create a checklist before signing up for the account then you will be aware of the limits of the plan. These limitations are generally less confining that those at free web hosting service providers.

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Recommendations for webmaster friendly freehosts has some points you should ask your free hosting company before signing up.

From the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog March 6, 2012

…If a free hosting service begins to show patterns of spam, we make a strong effort to be granular and tackle only spammy pages or sites. However, in some cases, when the spammers have pretty much taken over the free web hosting service or a large fraction of the service, we may be forced to take more decisive steps to protect our users and remove the entire free web hosting service from our search results….

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Keeping your free hosting service valuable for searchers

You Can’t Take Your Website Template With You

Free web hosting accounts are attractive to new business owners because they generally include free website templates and other website related features.

Some paid web hosting providers also provide free website templates and features.

The problem with the free website templates, graphics, ecommerce software, etc. is that you can’t take it with you. Read the terms of service from the hosting providers. Somewhere in there it will say you cannot use their materials elsewhere.

You are better off paying for either a website template you own or hiring a professional web designer to design your website. Both of which can be tweaked to provide a search engine friendly design, improved website navigation, and personalized feel for your busines or blog.

Free Web Hosting Is a Misconception of Economizing

Those that consider free web hosting is a good way to economize for their business/blog are not seeing the bigger picture.

Yes, initially we all have to save our pennies when starting a business but to economize on web hosting, domain name registration and web design at the start of your business is going to cost you money in the long run:

  • Not a way to give a professional appearance to your business
  • Problems moving the site/blog when you get bigger
  • Lost incoming links from those who have added your site to theirs
  • Having to redesign the site if you move to paid hosting.

Give your new business/blog a good start by investing in a domain name, paid web hosting and purchased web design. In the long run it will be worth it.

Web Hosting Further Reading

Browser Specific Design

Creating a browser specific design which uses browser specific tags, scripts and stylesheet selectors will create problems for your visitors who are not using the “right” browser.

Today we have Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and the new kid on the block, Google Chrome all fighting to be the most popular browser used by Internet users. This “Browser War” is similar to the early years of the Internet when Internet Explorer and Netscape were battling to do the same thing. The current battle of the browsers requires understanding how each browser interprets the HTML elements of a web page. In the past, it was a battle over using browser specific tags (elements) to create a more exciting browser.

These browser specific design techniques still are present on the Net. Whether it is a web page that uses browser specific tags, scripts or stylesheets or the web designer favours one browser over the other.

Where Did Browser Specific Tags Come From?

In the early days of the Internet there were two main browsers battling it out, Internet Explorer and Netscape. You may still see on older sites images saying:

Best viewed with Internet Explorer

or

Best viewed with Netscape

During this particular “Battle of the Browsers” each browser decided to create HTML tags (elements) that only work in their browser. This was an attempt to sway browser users over to their browser because of the special features it had. At that particular time, web designers either used a browser specific design or they had to do everything twice (Internet Explorer version and Netscape version) and use a script to determine which browser the visitor was using.

Even today you can find HTML tutorials, HTML editors and online HTML editors that still use these browser specific design techniques.

Today you can still find “Best Viewed With …” notes on web pages but now it is Firefox verses Internet Explorer.

What are Browser Specific Tags?

Browser specific tags (elements) are HTML elements that only work in a specific browser. For example, the marque set of HTML tags is specific to Internet Explorer. If a web page uses this set of tags, the marque text will not show when the visitor is using Netscape, Firefox or any other browser other than Internet Explorer.

Likewise, the Netscape blink set of tags only work in Netscape.

Netscape is gone now so if your web page design uses Netscape specific tags, those elements won’t work.

Here’s some lists of browser specific design elements:

An even better way to determine if the HTML elements you are using are cross-browser compatible is to check the list of HTML elements in the HTML specification. Note: If you are coding for XHTML you can still use these references as HTML 4.01 forms part of the XHTML specification.

Browser Specific Scripts

Browser specific scripts have the same problem as browser specific tags, they don’t work in the “other” browsers.

You can tell if the script you selected to use is browser specific by testing the web page in different browsers. If it does not work in all browsers, then it was written for a specific browser.

There is something called the Document Object Model (DOM) in play here. It’s a complicated subject to cover in this article but surfice it to say, Internet Explorer has it’s own DOM that the other browsers do not understand. If the script you choose uses the objects not listed in the Document Object Model (DOM) Specifications then it’s probably written using Internet Explorer specific DOM.

Browser Specific CSS (Cascading Stylesheet)

Just like browser specific tags and scripts, using browser specific CSS will cause problems in other browsers.

Over the years, there have been various Internet Explorer CSS workarounds (a.k.a. IE hacks) used.

These workarounds came about because Internet Explorer hasn’t always followed the W3C specifications. Now, Internet Explorer is coming closer to following these specifications so over time, these workaround hopefully won’t be required.

You do need to be careful when using these workarounds. As Internet Explorer works closer to being standards compliant, those workarounds you are using just might not work in the future. Example: There were a lot of workarounds used while IE6 was around. When IE 7 came out, there were a lot of web pages broken because of the hacks included to manipulate IE6.

Browser Specific Design Problems

If the web designer chooses to use a browser specific design:

  1. It just might not work in the other browsers
  2. You stand the chance of annoying potential customers if they can not use your website.
  3. There is a higher maintenance cost involved as the browsers change.

To combat browser specific design problems, test your website in a many browsers as possible, old and new. Running each web page through the W3C’s HTML validator and CSS validator will help find browser specific elements and CSS techniques. While you are testing the web pages, and if they have scripts on them, you can also test for scripting errors.

Best Font Size for Web Design

The font size set for a web page can make it readable, usable and accessible, or not.

“A certain trend among designers, believing that small text gives a Web page a sleek appearance and provides more space per “page” for actual content, sometimes results in the use of unreasonably small font sizes.

Unfortunately, this does not go well with the diversity of platforms used to access Web pages, from portable devices with tiny screens to projection devices hooked to computers. And even within a specific platform, text settings may vary.

The problem here is a basic usability and accessibility issue: a good design should look good without requiring the user to enlarge or reduce the text size.”

Care With Font Size – W3C Quality Assurance Tips for Webmasters

Setting Font Size

Older HTML editors set font size using the font pair of tags. These tags have been deprecated. The correct way now is to set the font size for your web pages in the stylesheet.

To set the general font size for your web pages you set the size in the body selector of the stylesheet. e.g.:


body {
  font-size: 100%
}

Size: respect the users’ preferences, avoid small size for content

As a base font size for a document, 1em (or 100%) is equivalent to setting the font size to the user’s preference. Use this as a basis for your font sizes, and avoid setting a smaller base font size
Avoid sizes in em smaller than 1em for text body, except maybe for copyright statements or other kinds of “fine print.”

Care With Font Size – W3C Quality Assurance Tips for Webmasters

This same article goes on to explain that setting the font size to a fixed size is not advisable for screen display (the browser). With a fixed sized font:

  • The user cannot adjust the size of the font within the browser to suit their needs.
  • A fixed font size can make the web page content inaccessbile and/or unusable to the visitor.

Once you have set the base font size in the body selector, other HTML element font sizes can be adjusted using:

  • a percentage. This will take (or increase) the font size for the new element setting based on the original size set in the body selector.
  • Using absolute sizes as defined by the CSS specification. These include xx-small, x-small, small, medium, large, x-large, and xx-large.
  • Using relative sizes, larger and smaller.

Don’t Set the Font Size Too Small!

Even if you follow the guidelines set out above, don’t set the base font size of your web documents too small. Website visitors are impatient. If they can’t read your web page on arrival, they will just move on to another website.

This point isn’t just about making your website accessible, people with perfectly good vision will leave the website also.

With so many different sized monitors around and different resolution settings available, there’s just no way you can guarantee that a visitor will have the same set up as you (or your web designer). Making the font size adjustable based on the visitor’s settings is one way to keep the visitor.

Adjusting Font Size

In your browser, you can adjust the font size of a web page if the font size is set as an adjustable size.

In Internet Explorer, left click View, Text Size in the menu bar to see the choices you have for increasing or decreasing the font size on a page.

With other browsers (e.g. Firefox) the user can do the same thing only in smaller increments.

If your font size is adjustable, those visitors who find your web page text a bit too small have to opportunity to use these tools to adjust the text size.

Also with adjustable font size, the size is relative to the user’s settings, meaning if they have a vision problem, they have already adjusted their screen resolution and/or browser settings to suit thier needs. Problem solved, they can read the page when they arrive.

Now you are going to say, but Internet Explorer now has the zoom tool down in the bottom right of the browser window. My reply: What about those who do not have IE7 or newer? What about those who don’t use Internet Explorer? What about those who use mobile devices to surf the web? What about those who have to use assistive technology to read your website?

Don’t you want everyone to be able to view your website?

Further Reading on Font Size

5 Simple Ways to Improve Web Typography

Font Resizing Guidance

Text Alignment on the Web

Which text alignment do you use on your website? Left, right, center or justified? Did you know that text alignment can affect how easy it is to read a web page?

Text Alignment

Text alignment refers to how the lines of text on the page line up. There are four basic ways to align text on the web:

  1. Left
    • Default setting when text alignment or the direction of text is not set on a web page.
    • Default setting for languages read top to bottom, and left to right.
    • Each line of text is even with the left margin.
    • The right edges of left aligned text are jagged.
  2. Right
    • Default setting if the direction of the language used on the web page is right to left.
    • Each line of text is aligned with the right margin.
    • The left edge of right aligned text is jagged.
  3. Center
    • As the name implies, the text is centered on the web page.
  4. Justified
    • Both the left and right edges of text in a line are even against the left and right margins.
    • The words are spaced out to fill the line of text.
    • Most commonly used in newspapers and other printed media.

One more note about text alignment on a web page:

The text-align property is inherited. All block-level elements inside a div container, for example, will inherit the alignment set for the block-level element. e.g.


<div class="centered">
<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diem nonummy
nibh euismod tincidunt ut lacreet dolore magna aliguam erat volutpat. Ut wisis
enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tution ullam corper suscipit lobortis
nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis te feugi facilisi. Duis autem dolor
in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat
nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent
luptatum zzril delenit au gue duis dolore te feugat nulla facilisi.</p>
<p><img src="images/picture.jpg" width="100" height="100" alt="My picture alt text" /></p>
</div>

Will all be centered in the div container.

Alignment on the Web vs Other Mediums

Text alignment and spacing on the web is not as precise as it can be in other mediums, e.g. print

Unlike print and other mediums, having absolute control over how a web page looks in every browser and on every computer is not possible. You can make a web page not break and look acceptable in the different browsers but you can’t be as precise as you can with print and other mediums.

On the web, you have no control over what browser or computer a visitor will be using.

Setting Text Alignment

The most familiar way to align text is the old way of including align=your setting in an HTML element tag. This old method has 2 problems:

  1. If you try to validate your HTML coding using a Strict DOCTYPE declaration or Transitional DOCTYPE declaration when using XHTML, you will not pass. The align=your setting attribute was eliminated in HTML 4.01.

    “align = left|center|right|justify [CI]
    Deprecated. This attribute specifies the horizontal alignment of its element with respect to the surrounding context.”

    Alignment, font styles, and horizontal rules in HTML documents – 15.1.2 Alignment of the HTML 4.01 Specification

  2. Using this method will not let you format the text in other ways without adding a bunch of additional coding.

To set text alignment for an HTML element, you use a style in your stylesheet.


.centered {
  text-align: center;
}

In your HTML element you specify the style:


<p class="centered">Text in paragraph</p>

Which Text Alignment to Use?

Text which is centered is hard to read. Your eye has to find the beginning of the next line. A whole page or section of a web page with centered text is considered not a professional looking layout.

Some will use left aligned text with centered headings. This is also hard to read as it forces the reader to look for where the heading(s) start.

Justified text is not implemented on the web in the same way software for printed material adjusts the text. On the web, additional spaces are added between the words to force the line to fill to the left and right margins. Web pages do not add hyphens like other software will to break up the text more evenly.

The best text alignment for the web is left aligned. This makes the web page easy to scan (which people do on the web), is easier to read and the words are spaced evenly.

More Reading on Text Alignment

Alignment at Web Style Guide.

Text/Typographical Layout at WebAIM

Find Broken Links

How often have you gone to a website, clicked a link and it is broken?

There various tools available to find broken links on your own website. Some are free, some are browser plugins and some are part of a paid software package.

What are Broken Links?

Broken links are hyperlinks in a web page that lead to a non existant page or website. If the website still exists, you will end up at a 404 error page. If the website does not have custom error pages, then you will see a web server error page. When the website does not exist any more, you will see a browser error page.

Why is it Important to Find Broken Links?

It is important to find broken links on your website to:

  • Stop loosing visitors or sales because they cannot get to other pages on your website.
  • Become a reliable resource for additional information on your product or subject.
  • Get all your pages listed in the search engines.

How Do I Find Broken Links?

To find broken links on your website you need to use a link checker. There are various ones available, but we’ll explain the free W3C Link Checker.

To use the W3C Link Checker your website needs to be on a web server.

Once you enter the URL (web address) of your website, you have the choice to just check one page or a number of pages. To check a number of pages, put a check in the box in front of “Check linked documents recursively” and then enter the depth of the website to check.

It may take a while to see the complete results, but when finished there will be a list of links checked and which ones are broken. The W3C Link Checker shows you which page the broken link is on, make a note of it.

The list of broken links could be links to pages that do not exist anymore, websites that do not exist anymore or links you have coded incorrectly.

Fix Broken Links

Once you have a list of broken links, you need to fix these. How you fix the broken links will depend on how your website was built. A regular static web page can be fixed using a plain text editor or the HTML editor that was used to create the page. A dynamic website (one that uses a database) might be a little harder to fix, depending where the link is stored.

How Often Should I Find Broken Links?

As a regular website maintenance task, this should be done once a month. It doesn’t take long to do if you keep it up. You should also test a new page you have just added to the website for errors.

Taking the time to find broken links will improve your website visitor’s experience and improve your results in the search engines.

Further Reading on Find Broken Links

Google Webmaster Tools has added a feature where it shows you broken incoming links. You can use this information to correct your own mistakes and see incorrect links others are using to link to your website.

Using the information provided by the Google Webmaster Tools feature, instead of the visitors arriving to a 404 error page served up by your web server, you can use your custom error pages to avoid loosing the visitor or a 301 permanent redirect and get free links to your site.

8 Ways to Find Old URLs After a Failed Site Migration