Website Informational Pages

Now that I’ve covered long term content and short term content I’m left with the parts of a website that is either the most difficult, most tedious or most boring to work on, the basic information pages. Some of these pages aren’t neccesasry, but they will go a long way towards making your site look more professional and trustworthy.

Home Page

When I build a website a home page is the last page I actually write. I’ve found it’s much easier to write the homepage once the content for the site has been clearly defined (ie the content is already written). One thing that I find to be extremely helpful is to think of your home page as sitemap with pretty pictures and fluffy copy. Your homesite should always have links directly to the most important areas on your website (see putting a content based website together coming soon).

Contact Page

Are you still listing your email address on the bottom of your website? ACK, your inbox must be full of spam by now! Use a contact form, it will save you time and energy down the road. A properly constructed contact form will give the user the ability to enter their own title or choose one from a drop down option box( Tip this allows you to route/sort incoming email very effectively). Confirm that the email was sent, and try to let them know when they should expect a response.

Privacy Policy

If you gather email address or any other information on your website, having a privacy policy is a good thing. It gives you a way to let your sites visitors know what information you are collecting and what you are doing with it. If you have no idea of what to put in a privacy policy here is a sample privacy policy for you to check out. Don’t copy it word for word, and check with the proper legal professionals, to make sure you haven’t exposed yourself to any unnecessary liabilities.

Terms of Use

A terms of use or terms of service page acts as a contract between you and your websites visitors. This may include a disclaimer or you may choose to make a separate disclaimer page. Here is a link to a sample Terms of Use page. While I’m not a lawyer, nor do I don’t play one on TV, but if you are giving out advice (ie writing how to articles) you should have the lawyer review your terms of use or disclaimer pages. If you tell someone how to do something and weren’t clear or made a mistake, and if they damage their collection of rare porcelain llama figurines, you may be liable, so be careful here.

Site Map

This is essential to keeping your website well spidered and indexed by the search engines. There should be no fluff on this page. It should have links to all of your informational pages, home page, main category pages and sub category pages. Google says you should keep it to 100 links or less. I have seen sitemaps with hundreds of links be fully spidered, so use your own judgment here, based on the frequency and depth that search engine spiders visit. Just be absolutely certain you link to the major sections.

Error Pages

These aren’t a requirement but are a definite plus to have. IMHO you should always have a 404 page for missing files. Give a brief message telling the user they were looking for a page that couldn’t be found. You should also display a site map or give a site search function. Anything less is just bad form. Here are some examples of some funny 404 pages if you can get away with it. Here’s a tutorial of how to create custom error pages with htaccess. Tip: know what you are doing before you play with htaccess, it’s really easy to make a mistake and bring your website to it’s knees.

Robots.txt

I have to admit I’m amazed that everyone doesn’t have a robots.txt file on their website. They are so simple and give you some control over over the polite search engine spiders. Now I know lots of spiders that say they are polite ignore the robots.txt file anyway, but I still think you should have it there, if for no other reason than to keep false 404 entries from showing in your log analyzer programs. Here’s a link to a robots.txt tutorial and a robots.txt validator.

Favicon

This is another one that isn’t a requirement, but it is a great way to show that extra little bit of love and effort on your website. You know those ever so cute little pictures you get when you bookmark a site in IE or on the tab in firefox? They come from the favicon file. I’ve been using a favicon online generator to make mine lately, and I really like it. You specify an image file from your desktop, and it makes the favicon and sends it back to you in a zip file, easy peezy.

tags: (search engine optimization | | | search engine marketing )

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