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Cheap Web Tricks! Build and Promote a Successful Web Site Without Spending a Dime will help you access "the tools needed to design, construct, publish, and promote your own Web site".
Notice that I didn't include "Internet connection" in the requirements list. That's because I'm going to tell you how to get one for free a little later in the book. The omission of a Web hosting service (a place to put your pages) wasn't an oversight either. I'll point you to some freebie alternatives for that as well.
Before moving ahead, let's clarify one more thing: what is the difference between the Internet and the Web (also called the World Wide Web or WWW)? Although many people use these terms interchangeably, they aren't really the same. The Internet was around first, for one thing. The Internet is like an electronic roadway system connecting diverse destinations. It's a global network that connects millions of computers and millions of users, allowing them to exchange information. The information pathway consists of millions of miles of copper wire, fiber-optic cable, and satellites connected to hubs around the world. No one owns the Internet, or controls it. E Each Internet computer, or host, is independent. Whoever owns the host decides which Internet services it will provide and which it will use, as well as if, when, and for how long it will be part of the Internet.
The World Wide Web is a subset of the Internet. If the Internet was a roadway system, the World Wide Web would be its collection of scenic overlooks. It's a system of Internet servers that support specially formatted documents, basically bringing a graphical interface to the Internet. WWW servers and the software (aka browsers) that are used to access them make it possible not only to jump from place to place by clicking on highlighted text, but also to view pictures, listen to sound, and even watch videos stored on the opposite side of the planet. This is the part of the Internet that allows us to create nifty and useful Web sites. Before the advent of the World Wide Web, the Internet was not nearly as pretty to look at.
Since we're going to be on such familiar terms with it very soon, we'll drop that long, formal World Wide Web stuff and from here on just refer to it as the Web. You'll know what we're talking about.
As we go along, you are going to be surprised by just how much is feasible: there are many free tools and resources that will allow you to add apparently advanced features to your site with minimal effort. For example, you can add self-updating news headlines of specific interest to your visitors to any page of your site. And did I mention this service is free? Need a discussion forum? No problem. Heck, if you want to, you can even set up an entire online store without spending a dime.
As you read through this book, you'll get a better idea of what's possible and what tools are available to transform your vision to reality. You'll also be better able to choose a design that's within your (rapidly expanding) technical abilities, attractive to the people you want to draw to your Web site, and manageable to maintain over time.
When a word processor user highlights a word and assigns it the characteristic "bold," the word processing program embeds invisible codes into the document that cause the word to appear in the designated format. The reader viewing the document never sees those special codes because even though they are present, they are not displayed. HTML works the same way. To make text appear in bold in an HTML document, the document author simply does this:
When the document is displayed in a Web site visitor's browser, the formatting information is hidden, just like it is in a word processing document. The visitor only sees this:
This is important!
Easy, huh? Of course bolding is only one of many features the HTML document author can use. Using the same basic structure, you'll be able to cause particular words (or pictures) to appear larger or smaller; display a different document or jump to a different place in the same document; play a sound; align right, left, or center; use a different color or font; and so on. It gets a little more complicated when you start formatting your page into columns and sections, but the process is largely the same. Some day you might want to buy a book that describes absolutely everything you can do with HTML, but the crash course in Chapter 7 will be enough for most people's needs.
There are lots of handy-dandy tools to help you with the HTML part (step 4). You can actually write HTML with any plain text editor, but there are also quite a few programs (free and for purchase) that mimic a word processor, but are specifically geared to produce HTML (for example, you can select some text, click a "bold" button, and the formatting is inserted automatically for you). These are covered in detail in Chapter 5.
Step 5, publish your pages, consists of transmitting your documents and any associated images or other files to the Web server that will host them. Techies call this step living (pronounced "lye-ving"). This is most often accomplished through a software technology called FTP(File Transfer Protocol). The nitty-gritty of how it works doesn't matter to us; we only care that we tell an FTP program what files to transfer and where to transfer them to. Although there are other methods of living your pages, this is the most common. I will discuss using FTP in further detail in Chapter 9.
You can see from these steps that you're going to need a couple of pieces of software to produce your Web site: an HTML editor and an FTP program. Some programs combine both of these functions into one application. There's another type of software you're probably going to want as well, although it isn't absolutely necessary: a graphics program. Graphics programs allow you to create and manipulate the images that will appear on your Web site. This includes banners, buttons, logos, photos, and other artwork. You can actually do quite a bit of image creation and manipulation using tools freely available online, and I'll tell you how when we get to the point where you need to do so. Although such freebies offer limited functions, ver few people know how to (or need to) take advantage of the full powers of a commercial graphics software package, so the free stuff will probably serve you just fine.
In Webmaster parlance, another word for visitors is traffic. The bad news is, despite what you may have heard about the Web being an instant gold mine for anyone who slaps up a couple of dashed-off Web pages, it isn't. Traffic won't come to your Web site if people don't know it exists, and they won't know it exists unless you make a concerted effort to tell them about it. So the second half of building a successful Web site is promotion, or building traffic.
To start with, your site may effectively be invisible, but there are lots of things you can do, without spending a dime, to bring it to the attention of the Web-surfing masses. For starters, you've got to get your site included in the search portals that Web surfers use on a regular basis. You probably already know about the bigger, all-encompassing search portals, such as Yahoo!, Excite, Alta Vista, and the like, but did you know there are lots of smaller search portals that can also funnel surfers in your direction? There are even search portals that hone in on a particular industry sector, or vertical market. These are call vortals.
You obviously must get your site included in as many of these portals and vortals as possible, but getting listed is only half the trick; you have to get your site to come up on the results page when portal users enter search terms relevant to your site, and come up as close to the beginning of the returned results as possible.
There are lots of tips, tricks, and techniques to increase your Web site's presence and positioning in search portals. You could pay someone to apply them for you; there are quite a few companies that specialize strictly in search engine placement and positioning. But that's really not necessary and certainly isn't free. By the time you finish reading Chapter 10, you'll know as much as many of those who bill themselves as search engine experts. Plus, no one knows your site and your audience as well as you do, or has as great a desire to see it succeed, so this is a task that you should seriously consider undertaking yourself. Besides, there are lots of free tools that will make the job easier, tools I'll point you to and explain how to use in Chapter 10....
|Pt. I||Building Your Web Site|
|1||Your Mission: A Dirt Cheap, Fabulously Successful Web Site||3|
|2||Defining Your Mission Plan||13|
|4||Finding a Home for Your Web Site||41|
|5||Choosing Site Creation Tools||65|
|6||Effective Web Site Design||83|
|7||Creating Your Web Pages||103|
|8||Housekeeping for Webmasters||127|
|9||Publishing Your Site||143|
|Pt. II||Promoting Your Web Site|
|10||Building Traffic with Search Engines and Directories||155|
|11||No-Cost Promotion Tips, Tricks, and Techniques||185|
|12||Evaluating Your Progress||217|
|Pt. III||Making a Profit|
|13||Making Money with Affiliate Programs||241|
|14||Selling Products or Services Through Your Web Site||259|
|15||Selling Advertising on Your Web Site||285|
|Pt. IV||Building on Your Success|
|17||Goodies You Can Add||309|
|18||Starting and Running an E-Mail Newsletter||327|
|19||Staying on Top||337|
|App||HTML Quick Reference||347|