FAQs

Site Development

What is Responsive Design?

Responsive web design is way to build websites that allows the site to adapt the layout of the content to accommodate the user device. This is accomplished using CSS media queries and a fluid grid concept. To learn more about why this is an important consideration in developing a new site, please see our article “What is Responsive Design?

What does mobile-friendly mean?

With Google’s upcoming algorithm change (April 21, 2015), there is a lot of discussion about what it means to have a mobile-friendly site.  In the most basic terms, mobile-friendly means that a website detects the screen size of the user and delivers the site’s content in an optimized way for that screen size. In website development and SEO circles, it was a running joke for years.  Each year (starting WAY back) as the experts made their predictions for the upcoming year, they would call the next year, “The Year of Mobile.”  They predicted its stronghold on internet traffic a little early, several times.  Well, it is finally here.  With internet traffic moving increasingly onto mobile devices, having a mobile plan and a mobile-friendly site is no longer a “nice to have.”  To test your site’s mobile usability, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

For more information on Google’s upcoming change, check out our recent post, Time to Commit to Mobile Usability.

Do I need a separate mobile website?

While it used to be standard practice to have separate sites for desktop and mobile users, that is no longer the case.  We recommend using responsive web design in building your company’s site so that it adjusts automatically to accommodate the user’s device.  This eliminates the need for a separate mobile site.  Click here to learn more about responsive web design.

What are the steps of the development process?

The basic steps in the site development or renovation process are:

  1. Establish password-protected project work space (the necessary login information will be sent to you and a link to your project’s start page will be added to the Client Login page of this site).
  2. Evaluate and define design and site goals to dictate direction of the subsequent design work.
  3. Post design drafts and revisions along with any development updates to this project work area until site design is established.
  4. Sign Design Sign-Off Agreement.
  5. Build working version of new site within the protected project space.
  6. Integrate content into new site and review for quality and completeness.
  7. Transfer site files to domain name when complete.

Client will be notified via email whenever changes have been made to the project work space that require review and feedback.

Where do I start in thinking about creating a web site?

The first and most important step is to assess your Internet objectives. By knowing where you want to go and what you want to accomplish, you will get the most out your Internet marketing dollars. The best place to start is with a little research. Search on Yahoo! or Google for web sites within your industry and for your competitor’s sites. By doing so, you can get great ideas and develop a better understanding of the market and your competition within it. For a detailed description of the process, see our Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Business on the Internet.

How long will the development process take?

As with the cost, there is no one answer to this question. The development time depends on the complexity of the site that you need. For a basic small business web site, the timeframe is usually around 8 weeks. This timeframe includes the custom graphic design phase, assembly of needed content, and the construction of the site. After an initial consultation regarding the specific needs of a client, we give a more specific estimate of timing.

How much will it cost?

Well, that depends. Isn’t that a helpful answer? Really, there are both fixed costs and variable costs associated with getting your business on the web.

Fixed costs include:

  • Registration and license fee for your domain name: Prices range from $10.99 per year from GoDaddy to $39.99 per year from Network Solutions. However, registrars now offer multiple year discounts so that those fees can be significantly reduced by signing on for a longer initial term.
  • Web Site Hosting: We are happy to recommend a hosting company that fits your needs. The cost for site hosting is generally between $2.00 and $25.00 per month, depending on the vendor and services required. We work regularly with www.dataperk.com, a local Birmingham web host that provides excellent service. However, if you have an existing hosting relationship in place, we are happy to work with the host of your choice as long as they provide the necessary services and server configuration.

Variable costs include:

  • The design and development of the web site is variable depending on the size, technological complexity, and level of custom graphics involved.

Please contact us for a free consultation and quote for the development of your web site.

What are your payment policies?

Unless otherwise agreed to, our payment structure includes a 50% up front deposit required in order to begin work on the site with the balance due prior to posting the new site files to the client’s domain name.

In the event that the site development process extends past 120 days due to lack of content delivery or feedback regarding the site design by the client, the balance of the development fee is due at that point unless we both agree to different terms. > see also, development timing

What is web hosting?

Web hosting is essentially the rental of Internet server space on which to house your web site. The hosting company will place your site on their server so that it is accessible to all those on the Internet.  See above for cost information.

What is a domain name? How do I get one?

A domain name is the address of a web site, e.g. www.yourcompany.com. One company that administers the licensing of domain names is Network Solutions. You can check the availability a name by clicking here. There are many extensions (*.com, *.net, *.org, etc.) to choose from, but for most companies, you will want to stay with the *.com extension. The costs related to this process are discussed above.

How do I deliver content for the web site?

All content for your web site, unless otherwise agreed to in writing, must be delivered to denning e-solutions in an electronic format.

Specifically:

  • Copy/text to be included in the content areas of your site can be sent as either Word *.doc files or simple text files *.txt (created using a text editor like Notepad in Windows).
  • Graphics files can be sent as GIF, JPEG, TIFF, or BMP files. If your graphics are in another file type, please email us for direction. We may be able to use what you have or walk you through converting the file to another type.
  • Send files via email to: alli@denningesolutions.complease see note below.

NOTE: Please do not send any email attachments that total (all files together, not individual files) more than 3 MB per message. If your graphics files are larger than that, you can send them online in one of two ways: 1) use a service like www.hightail.com, or 2) create a folder with your files in www.dropbox.com and share the folder with us using these email addresses: kate@denningesolutions.com and alli@denningesolutions.com.

Why is there extra space on the right or on both the right and left of my site? Can I use that extra space for additional content?

If you see extra space to the right or on both the right and left of your site design, then your monitor settings are larger than the site width. Some users will see no extra space; it is entirely determined by the monitor resolution settings of the user. We design most sites at a fixed width to accommodate resolution settings of 1024×768 and higher; this is the accepted standard and will present your site in the best way for the vast majority of Internet users (see data below).

As of January 2013, the display resolution usage statistics are as follows:

1. Higher than 1024
90%

2. 1024 x 768
9%

3. 800 x 600
0.5%

4. 640 x 480
0%

5. Other
0.5%

Statistics provided by W3Schools

The other alternative is to build the site with tables set at 100%. In doing so, the width of the design would fill the user’s screen width, regardless of their settings. However, the downside to this method is that you lose precise control over the placement of the page’s design and content elements. They are stretched or condensed depending on the user. This can render an otherwise well-designed site strange-looking. The applicability of this method depends entirely on the site itself and whether the design, content and layout lend themselves to this treatment.

If you need to scroll left and right to view your site, your monitor settings are likely still set to the 800 pixel width. On a Windows computer, simply go to Control Panel > Appearance and Themes > Change the Screen Resolution. From there, change your setting from 800 to 1024.

Search Engine Optimization & Internet Marketing

What is black hat SEO?

As the name implies, black hat SEO tactics are those that are meant to trick the search engines or site users in an effort to create a shortcut to higher search rankings.  Those tricks can include: using duplicate or low quality content, paid link schemes, cloaking (delivering different content to the search engines and the user), keyword stuffing, and trying to hide keywords on the page (like using text the same color as the background). All of these tactics violate the guidelines set forth by the major search engines. They are a bad idea and a waste of time. The time spent on trying to game the system is better employed in creating a better site (with quality content and a good user experience). With the release of Google’s Penguin algorithm update in April of 2012, these tactics became even less effective than they had been.  If you are talking with a company about doing SEO work for your website, you need to ensure that they will not be using any of these tactics on your behalf.

SEO is like a different language, what do all these terms mean?

If you are new to SEO, all the terminology can be a little overwhelming.  Here is a link to a great online glossary of search engine marketing terms done by SEMPO (nonprofit trade organization serving the search and digital marketing industry).

What are META tags?

META tags are included in the <head> section of the html code that makes up a web page. They include both a description and a keywords variety. In the past, it was, in part, these tags that told the search engine spiders what a website is about, helping them to categorize properly the website within their databases.  Because of rampant abuse of these tags by spammy sites, the major search engines do not place the importance they once did on these tags in determining the placement of sites.

To view your html code and determine if you have META tags in place, simply right click on your web page and choose “View Source.” This will open a separate window with the source code of that web page. The tags, if they are there, will be up at the top between the <head> and </head> tags.

In terms of SEO, meta tags are much less important than they once were in determining your site’s place in the SERPs. The description tag is still good idea for a number of reasons; mainly that Google uses, at times, the META description tag as its description of the website within the SERPs. If no description tag exists for a site, Google defaults to the first text it finds on the page or to a snippet of text that contains the search query. The first text on your page may or may not be the message you’d like to send to searchers as they evaluate which of the results links to choose.

What is an ALT tag?

“ALT” stands for alternative representation and originated as a way for users to read what an image is supposed to be in the event that the image is not viewable. These are the words that appear as you mouse over an image. Search engines have historically included ALT tags as relevant data when cataloging web sites in their databases although their importance in rankings has diminished in recent years.

What is a KPI?

An acronym for Key Performance Indicators. This term refers to the metrics used to measure progress towards defined organizational goals. After a company has defined its mission and subsequent goals, the KPIs are metrics that measure the business’ progress towards those goals. While this term is a broad business-level term, it is included here because often the goals that are being measured in today’s business climate deal with web site performance. For example, a targeted number of site users over a period of time may be a KPI. Or, a user conversion percentage may be the KPI that ties in with an overall sales objective.

One of the factors that separates the Internet from traditional marketing and sales channels is its ability to be quantified. We can track rankings, site users, sales, and the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns in a way that simply isn’t possible in offline advertising. We encourage you to include KPIs in your business planning for your online property. It requires that you set goals and measure your progress towards those goals.  In that way KPIs can help maintain a marketing campaign’s focus and momentum.

What is PPC?

Pay Per Click (PPC) is a type of Internet advertising that lists your site in a designated “sponsored sites” area within the search results in response to a query using your pre-determined keywords. You then only pay when someone clicks on your link, taking them to your site. The most popular program offering this type of online marketing is Google AdWords. The benefit of this type of program is that you only pay for traffic that ends up at your site. Other SEM programs charge you if your ad is viewed whether or not you receive any traffic. Also, the cost and time to set up a program like this is quite minimal compared with other Internet marketing options.

A PPC campaign can be a great compliment to a natural optimization campaign, bridging the gap between the SEO work and its results. It can also be a great way to boost visibility during seasonal sales periods. The key to any SEM campaign, but particularly a PPC campaign, is establishing goals and parameters before hand. For example, what is a click to your site worth? Establishing a targeted ROI and making PPC decisions based on those guidelines will ensure that you get the most out of this potentially effective advertising outlet.

What does SERPs mean?

An acronym for Search Engine Results Pages. This term is used to describe the list of web sites that are returned by the search engines in response to a query by a user. For example, you type “birmingham web design” into Google and hit Enter. The list of sites that you get back from Google is the set of SERPs. In the SEO process, a site owner seeks to be at the top or as near to the top as possible in the SERPs.

How will people find my site?

A web site that is launched onto the Internet with no attention to the marketing side of things will likely fall short of its owner expectations. Users must be able to easily find your site either by searching for your company name or by searching for keywords related to your business. The search engines “crawl” or “spider” web sites and store information about them in their databases. Therefore, you must ensure that the information they gather from your site is the most relevant to your business. This is done, in part, by developing targeted titles and descriptions within the code of the web site. In addition, your site needs to be loaded with high-quality, original content related to your business. You can further get the word out about your site through various social outlets. We are happy to discuss all aspects of marketing your new site and help you develop a plan that will the word out and the traffic coming in.

Do the Search Engines Cost Money?

Yes and no. If you are fortunate enough to have great organic placement of your site within the search engines, there is no cost for that listing (aside from the time and money you committed to marketing to help make that organic placement happen). If you need to supplement the traffic you receive from organic placement, you can pay for inclusion on the search results pages with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. In Google, this is called AdWords, and these are the listings you see at the top and down the right hand side of the results pages. The cost of these ads is determined by the competitiveness of your industry’s keywords and your desired placement on the page.

Can you guarantee my placement?

No. And, anyone that tells you they can is misleading you. There are ways to ensure that you will appear on pages for certain keywords, but these are paid advertising options. There is no way to guarantee a particular placement within the organic search results of any search engine. What you can do is create a site that is as appealing as possible to the search engines (read: easily spiderable), load it with unique content on a regular basis, build a social following, constantly analyze and refine your site – and cross your fingers.

How will I know if my site is placing well?

The best way to gauge your search progress is through your site’s analytics data. Are you receiving non-branded search traffic? You can do some sample searches for your lead phrases within Google and Yahoo as well to see how you are ranking. However, you must keep in mind that not everyone sees the same results (particularly if you are logged into the search engine) so doing this type of checking is of limited value.

What affects my rankings?

Not an easy question to answer as each search engine has its own ranking criteria. However, there are some general strategies and best practices that will optimize your site for most search engines. While the below tactics are not all inclusive in terms of developing the most effective SEO program, they are a very good starting point in terms of evaluating your site:

  • Avoid Flash.
  • Know what your competitors are doing.
  • Use your page titles to your advantage.
  • Use page names with keywords in them, e.g. /internet-marketing.html – separate the keywords with hyphens so the search engines can read them.
  • Write good meta descriptions (these are often used in the results pages).
  • Use ALT tags.
  • Obtain as many quality links to your site from other sites as possible – ones of questionable quality (such as from Free For All sites) are worse than nothing.
  • Make sure that your pages are FULL of good, quality content related to your product, business, service etc. The search engines love copy and it will naturally contain relevant keywords.
  • Add to your site’s content on a regular basis. Do not take a set it and forget it approach.
  • Have your name, address, and telephone number on the bottom of  every page of your site.
  • If you are a local business, include a clickable phone number in your header.
  • Include text links (not just links within images) on every page – without these the search engines won’t grab your sub-pages as they won’t follow links within images.
  • Use social media to widen your reach.
  • Keep it white hat.

You can obtain more information on our SEO services by clicking here.

How often should the site be submitted to the search engines?

Because the search engines regularly spider the sites in their databases and the Internet generally, there is no real reason to submit and re-submit your site at a determined regular interval. If your site is built to be easily accessed by the search engines, this is not something you need to worry about.

What’s the difference between a directory and a search engine?

What is the difference? While they are all commonly referred to as search engines, they are not all the same. Knowing the difference is important because it dictates the way in which you approach each in getting your site properly listed.

Directories like the Open Directory Project are human-edited lists of links broken down into a . . . well . . . directory. They present main categories on their home pages and then organize all the data under those headings, allowing the user to drill down further and further to the specific category that is relevant to their search. When you submit to directories, you begin by finding the appropriate category for your site and then suggest the site from that page. It is then reviewed by a real person (as opposed to being crawled by an electronic spider) and added or not.

What are natural or organic listings?

Also called “natural” search results, this is the term given to the search results that are returned from a search engine’s database and are uninfluenced by whether or not the company paid to be there (as with “sponsored” results.) Having good organic search results for your company’s name and its targeted keywords is important because searchers perceive the organic listings as more legitimate.

What are Google Sitelinks?

Some times when you do a search on Google for a phrase, you will occasionally see among the results a collection of links which will appear below the result of a website. These are Google Site Links.

For example: if you search for the phrase “birmingham web design” on Google, you will see in the SERPs:

Title/Link
Birmingham web design and search engine optimization (SEO) by …

Snippet/Description
Birmingham-based web site design, search engine optimization, and creative e-solutions for small to mid-sized businesses. www.denningesolutions.com/ – 22k

NOTE: this is snippet is taken from the meta description tag if one exists. If there is no meta description tag in the site’s code, this snippet comes from Google-selected text on the page.

Following the snippet and link to the web site comes Site Links. Using the sample search above as an example, you will see the following Google site links below the snippet description.

client login                             Site Development
Site Design                            about des
Portfolio                                 Search Engine Optimization & Internet Marketing
Contact Us                             Newsletters

More results from denningesolutions.com »

To which sites does Google assign Site Links and where do the links come from? Happily, site owners now have more control than ever over this aspect of their listing. If your site has been awarded SiteLinks by Google, you can manage those within Webmaster Tools.

Site Maintenance

How will I update my web site once completed?

You have two options when it comes to updating your site’s content. First, you can have us do it either on a case-by-case, per hour basis or with pre-paid (read discounted) blocks of time. You would simply email the updates you’d like to make to the site, and we will take of it.

Or, second, you can update your site yourself if your site is built with a content management system (CMS) like WordPress.  We provide detailed instructions for using WordPress as a part of any new WordPress site launch.  Although, you will find that you likely only refer to the instructions the first time you make an update.  WordPress is that user-friendly!  Click here for more information on our maintenance programs.

How much do updates cost?

Content updates are done on a per hour basis. Our hourly rate is $100.00. For reference sake, small text changes to an existing page take only a fraction of an hour. These types of updates can be without a contract and on an as needed basis. If your site is in need of more extensive updates, it more efficient (and economical) to work on a cost per project basis. You detail the scope of changes you need to make to the site, and we will give you a flat rate for those changes.