Q: Just wondering what you both thought of Site Build It? Do you think it would work well with your SEO strategies in your book? Or would it interfere in some way?
A: We get a lot of questions about do-it-yourself site-creation software such as Site Build It. For the newbie who wants to create a website, there is a lot of information – and misinformation – out there that can make it very hard to choose website creation software.
Some of these products make grand claims that your site will automatically be optimized for search engines by their software. This is flat-out impossible, because, as you know if you read our seo book, what you need for success is to know your audience inside and out, and provide well-written, interesting and unique content for them. No software has been invented yet that can do that for you!
For SEO, there are actually only a very few criteria you need to apply to your choice of website builder. Contact the software provider, or read their documentation, until you have cut through the hype and are 100% convinced that the following are included:
- the ability to create unique HTML page titles and meta description tags on every page (especially on individual store product pages)
- the ability to generate user-friendly, readable URLs like yourdomain.com/furniture/office-desks.html
- the ability to perform ongoing page edits (text, HTML Titles, and meta descriptions), and create new pages
- a website on your own domain
Before you purchase any website building product, ask to see at least three examples of sites built with these products. Then do your own search engine status review by searching Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft Live Search Bing for pages on these sites (see our handy search shortcuts for some searching tips). If they look great, you’ve got some evidence that the website-building products are good.
The bullet points listed above will provide you with solid, basic, building blocks for your ongoing SEO efforts. However, there will always be limitations inherent in building a site without having hands-on control over its design and content. Depending on your budget and level of interest, we think the following are better paths for small businesses:
- Hiring a quality independent web developer to build your site, along with a modest ongoing maintenance plan. Naturally these folks are hard to find, and much in demand. Word of mouth recommendations are the only way to find the best ones, so ask around.
- Taking an HTML or Dreamweaver class at a local city college or technical school. The cost of a class will likely match the cost of the site-building software, and you’ll no longer be dependent on these products.
- Look into a blog authoring software for your site. These are so easy to use and customizable that we think they are the future of DIY website building. You can use blog tools to build a “static” site just as easily as a blog. And sites built with blog authoring tools are usually a good foundation for SEO.
Wondering what software we use for website creation? We use Dreamweaver for our own website and a few personal side-projects, and we have been very happy with it. [ed. note: we have updated to WordPress as of 2010] Dreamweaver offers total control over all of the important factors listed above, however, it requires at least a modest level of comfort with HTML and coding. Microsoft Expression is another option that has similar capabilities as Dreamweaver, but is perhaps just slightly better suited to a newbie. Good luck building your new site!