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FAQ`S

What domain name should I choose?
This depends on how you are going to use it. If you are going to be telling people over the phone, choose one that is easy to say and spell out loud. Above all, I would choose one that is memorable and not confusing.
 
What are my options for e-commerce or online donations?
You can take payments online in a number of ways. The first is PayPal - this an inexpensive way to start taking payments quickly, especially if you don't have a merchant account. With PayPal, your visitors can pay you with a credit card or by sending a payment from their checking account (echeck). PayPal provides a shopping cart and many other free services that are helpful to sites that are starting out. They charge 2.9% +$.30 per transaction and have no start-up fees. The downsides are that PayPal is not a very customizable solution, and it can have a “start-up” feel. However, this is changing and many mainstream sites are now accepting PayPal as more and more people have PayPal accounts. PayPal is inexpensive both because there are no merchant account of payment gateway fees, but also because PayPal provides a very easy way to integrate their shopping cart into your site, which reduces development time.

A similar solution just for non-profits is Network for Good, which allows you to accept credit card donations on your site. They charge 3% of each transaction.

Another inexpensive option is a free solution called Mal's e-commerce. Mal's is a shopping cart system that is remotely hosted. With the free version, you can accept PayPal, offline payments like checks, and credit cards if you have your own way to charge them already. It will store the numbers for you to run offline. For $6 a month you can upgrade your cart so it can integrate with a number of popular payment gateways like Authorize.net. There are other fees associated with payment gateways and merchant accounts that you would also be responsible for. Here is a comparison of PayPal vs. Mal's.

Finally, there is the option of creating a full e-commerce solution. This involves many different components - a merchant account from a bank, a payment gateway service that allows you to accept payments into your merchant account from your website (this is often bundled with the merchant account), a shopping cart or payment script that integrates with your payment gateway, and certain elements of the server environment like having an SSL certificate and a static IP. There are some shopping carts that are available as pre-packaged scripts such as Magento that can be customized for your situation, or a custom payment script can be developed that exactly matches your needs. Full e-commerce is much more expensive and time-consuming to develop than PayPal or Mal's, but it can be integrated into your site for a truly seamless payment experience. It can also save you money in the long run if you are doing a high volume of sales.

 
What is the difference between a “static” and a “dynamic” site?
A static site is one that is written in HTML only. Each page is a separate document and there is no database that it draws on. What this means functionally is that the only way to edit the site is to go into each page and edit the HTML - so you'd either have to do it yourself using a webpage editor like FrontPage or pay me to go in and edit the site each time you wanted something changed.

A dynamic site is written using more complex code and can do a lot more. For instance, I can make an area where you can log in and change various parts of the site, such as adding information or products. This is because each page is constructed based on the information in a database, and the information in that database can be changed via another interface.

Dynamic sites can reduce ongoing maintenance costs if you don't want to change things yourself with a webpage editor or with the HTML. They usually cost more to develop, as they require more complex coding and a content management utility needs to be developed to help you manage your website information.

Another benefit of dynamic sites is that they allow you to change only the content of the site and not the design, so you will not be able to accidentally break the visual style of the site. They have other benefits when sites start to get very large, as they make data management much more efficient and your site more expandable.

Many clients do a combination, having some dynamic areas such as a product catalog where they have to change information or pictures regularly, and leave other pages such as contact information as static pages.
 
How do I get my website listed on search engines, especially Google?
Modern search engines like to find your site naturally, through links to your site from other sites. Google especially relies on your incoming links to determine your popularity and relevance. For more information on submitting your site and how to promote your site through search engines, read my guide to Promoting Your Website For Free.
 
How do I get more traffic from search engines?
Search engine positioning is a long-term strategy, and there are no quick-fix solutions in this area. To be really effective with search engine marketing, your site needs to be focused around the right keywords and keyword phrases. If you want to boost your traffic quickly, I would suggest checking out Google AdWords or other paid advertisement options. That said, these are the steps that would need to happen to really make it work:
  1. Research and decide on the best keywords to aim for, ones that people use to search for what you are offering. The site that is best for this is the Pixelfast Overture Tool. You can see how many people search for a phrase on the right and what people bid for a term on the left. Ideally you find a term that is searched for a good amount, but is not bid on overly much, or the market will be oversaturated. You can try a number of different keywords to get an idea of the market. You will also want to search for the phrase on Google to see what your competition is for optimizing for that keyword. If you search for blue widgets and the first 10 results have that exact phrase in the title, that the phrase is over-optimized. If most of the results just have those keywords in the content somewhere, then you've got a winner (as long as people do search for that phrase). Don't despair if you can't find a phrase for your site that is both searched for and not over-optimized. Just choose a few good ones and start optimizing - you can still use them, you'll just have to work a bit harder.
  2. Create pages that are focused on each particular keyword phrase. For instance if your keyword phrase was blue widgets, you would want to create a page that is called "Blue Widgets". The page would be about blue widgets and include the keyword phrase a few times in the copy (but don't overdo it). You would create a page like this for each of the keyword phrases you were targeting, and add these pages to the site. Within your page, make sure your keyword phrase is in the title tag in the header, and in an H1 header tag as well.
  3. Get incoming links using the keyword text. A great way to do this is to exchange links with other sites in related fields and request that they link to you with the keywords in the link text. For instance you could ask them to link to your "Blue Widgets" page by creating the link with the text "Blue Widgets" as the linked text (the clickable, underlined text). In exchange you would have a page on your site called Partners or Resources and you would link to their site. You should also pursue "widget" directories where you can submit your link (these often require link-backs too) and/or paid directories where they link to your site for a fee. Each link to your page counts as a "vote" for your page. Links with text that matches your keyword phrase for that page count more. These "votes" add up to PageRank, which Google uses predominantly to establish the rank of your page on the search engine results. Along the same lines, be sure to use text links within your site to link to the various pages you've created.
  4. Wait and refine. Search engine positioning takes time. And do some research to learn more about what you can do to optimize your site - Webmaster World is a good start.
For more in-depth information I also have a few articles under Promoting Your Website For Free.

Search engine positioning is a complex process and it does take time, but it can yield very good results over the long term, without spending a dime. I get most of my traffic from search engines and I have a very high ranking with my chosen keyword phrases, but it took me time and effort to get there. It's up to you how you choose to invest your marketing budget, be it money or time.

 
 
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