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Questions: Frequently Asked Questions


Pitfalls to avoid

Questions

Answers

Someone is offering to submit my site to thousands of search engines...

As you may have read in What are the most popular search engines?, 98% of search requests are done in a few major search engines, it is therefore rather useless to submit your site to tertiary sites that won't bring you any traffic, worse, will sell your contact email address to spammers. My opinion on those offering those services is they are crooks. Most web sites don't need to register to more than about 10 search engines and directories, after that, it's a waste of time. Also, using automated softwares to submit your site is not appreciated by search engines and may get it banned.

Google Information for Webmasters
Google does not recommend the use of products such as WebPosition Gold™ that send automatic or programmatic queries to Google.

To promote my site, I want to participate in link exchanges programs and "free for all" web sites...

Those sites aren't read by anyone et won't bring you any traffic. Worse, after having tried it myself out of curiosity with a throw away email address, you will receive a ton of spam. Moreover, if you try to get links out of shady web sites to improve your Google PageRank value, those sites may actually penalize you (especially if you set up a link to them), or they simply have too many links and yours won't stay long enough to have any beneficial value. Those "Free for All" sites are a waste of time, and most of the time a sneaky way to get email addresses and sell them to spammers.

This company wants to promote my site to millions of people by email...

You shouldn't deal with anyone, related in one way or another, to the spam business. You could lose your reputation, you could make enemies and you will surely lose your hosting account (it is against the Terms of Use of all hosting companies), with a long down period for your site and a stressful moving to another host. Furthermore, it is now illegal in the US, Europe, Australia, and hopefully Canada pretty soon. Many people dug themselves into a hole by dealing with spammers insisting their mailing-list was "opt-in", which is hard to know for sure, and ended up with a lot trouble. If you are still seriously studying the idea of promoting your site through an email campaign, with a mailing list or a newsletter, you must be doubly prudent. If possible, avoid it at all cost.

To learn more about the rules governing Mailing lists use, consult this guideline at MAPS.

For a list of the most infamous spammers (if someone approaches you offering their services), consult Spamhaus.org and take a good shower afterwards.

This company is offering me unlimited bandwith for my web site...

Many smaller, and somewhat dishonest, companies that are just starting out in the hosting business will offer this kind of deal for marketing purposes. The reality of this situation is you will end up paying: if bandwith use really is unlimited, a rare thing indeed, many users will abuse it and the performance of the hosting server will degrade overtime for all. But in most cases, like in this news about Comcast services, bandwith is only unlimited... if you do not exceed a certain limit, which is contradictory. For a dependable hosting company, without too many downtimes and a diligent technical support, you need to spend at least 10$ or more per month to get 10-20 gigabytes of bandwith, which should be sufficient for most businesses without specific needs. If you are a canadian company, don't forget to read How can I appear in the results of Google Canada (or any other country)?

What about those dynamic navigation menus in Javascript / Java / Flash / Image Maps / ActiveX...

All these ways to create dynamic navigation menus have a common problem, in addition to being somewhat unstable (especially Java), heavy to load, slow for older computers and not very compatible between all types of browsers: they aren't read by search engines and you risk having a serious portion of your site not indexed by them, which can reduce your traffic and popularity on the web. For navigation menus, less is more. Focus on creating interesting content, and not a monstruous interface that will aleniate a percentage of users and that will lose overtime its cool factor anyway.

I want my site to be optimized for this font, this browser, this resolution...

For popularity statistics about screen resolutions, browsers, operating systems, you can read W3Schools.

Fonts: Unless you use images to show text, like in a title (which is still not a good idea because search engines do not give the same importance to images alternative text to real titles), it is generally not advised to use fonts that are not part of the default installation with Windows, and the Macintosh equivalent, like Arial and Helvetica, for example. If someone do not possess a particular font on his computer, they will not be able to display it like intended. A web site shouldn't indicate fonts that aren't part of these broad categories: Serif, Sans-serif, Fantasy, Monospace and Cursive. Any other fonts depends on the user's computer, and cannot not be controlled reliably.

Browser: Unless you have serious technical reasons to restrict access to only one type of popular browser, or add features exclusive to one, it is not advised to do so because it goes against the web's spirit of freedom where no single company has complete power on the medium. Please consult the W3C Consortium for your choice in technology.

Screen resolution: As you may have read in the mentionned link above, a web site shouldn't ideally exceed the current standard resolution of 800X600 pixels, or you risk frustrating users with a horizontal scroll bar, known to be unpleasant and rather ugly. An ideal site should look good in resolutions 800X600 and above.

I want some music on my site...

The problem with this well-meaning idea is that many people surfs in the office, or listen to their own music. They could very well have their speakers on a certain comfortable volume with what they are using , but too high for your music, which could stratle them, or worse. This multimedia feature had its moment of glory in amateurish pages back many years ago, but was soon abandonned because of its intrusive nature. Many didn't know how to stop it, forced to turn off their speakers. If you absolutly need to have some soundtrack, make sure that it starts only when the user activates a play button. We cannot expect, however, that everyone would share our musical tastes. Those audio issues come up also with sounds on navigation menus. In this case, subtlety is the keyword.

This search engine optimizer (SEO) insists that...

Here are a few prohibited practices that black hat SEO would impose while using their services that may get your site banned by Google:

  • An abusive amount of links in *your* pages toward other sites that employ their optimisation services
  • Repetitive textual content or hidden links in your pages that are not visible for normal visitors
  • Pages created specifically to find certain keywords with the only function of redirecting to your homepage (doorway pages).
  • Any kind of automatic redirections in order to feed different content between engines and normal visitors (cloaking).

Google Information for Webmasters
Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.

Why aren't HTML emails a good idea?

For an extensive list of reasons on that topic, you can read that page on HTML email, but I will quote a few here:

  • HTML emails have privacy issues because some of them can send statistics to spammers, confirming your address, and could potentially contain dangerous code like viruses or force unwanted internet connections. These emails can also contain some additional information about you and your computer, like Word documents. For these reasons, many will also filter HTML emails directly in their junk folder, and you risk not reaching them.
  • HTML emails make archiving and searching terms a lot more difficult, because they are mixed with HTML code and often have duplicate content for those who do not support HTML. They are also refused in Mailing lists, newsgroups postings and many technical support systems.
  • Many people do not support this non-standard format and may have a lot of problems reading your message in all the obfuscated HTML code. If they try to forward it or quote a few ligns, their messages will be unreadable. HTML emails cannot be read by other more alternative devices, like cell phones, plam pilots or simple terminals.

The only time when HTMl emails make sense are in one way communications, such as promotions, pamphlets, newsletters, postcards, etc. A nice professional layout with images can give it a pleasant look and the content isn't usually important enough for users to archive it or reply to it.

To configure your email client to send plain text messages, please read Configuring Mail Clients to Send Plain ASCII Text.

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