The most complete resource to learn about building websites and web development for new webmasters
How To Build Websites.com is a resource site that was started to provide information for the beginning webmaster as well as the more advanced web designers. How To Build Websites.com has information and tutorials on everything from the most basic HTML codes to the more advanced hosting and affiliate programs to help you build a quality website and profit from it.
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December 5, 2011 at 7:37 pm
Learn how to build a website for free:
So you want to build a website but you don’t have any money to spare, can you learn how to build a website for free? It is possible to build a website for free but you probably will sacrifice control, power or useability but if you are on a shoe string budget and have no other choice a free website is better than no website and you can always upgrade to paid products and services as your website becomes profitable. There is also the option of using a free service such as a FaceBook Page to put your business or idea online without its own stand alone website however again you sacrifice control when you rely on another company to completely provide your web presence.
It is very unlikely you will be able to get your own top level domain name for free unless it is tied to some other paid service or product such as hosting and even then you may not actually have ownership of the domain if it is being paid for by a third party. Domains in general are one of the cheapest things you need to build a website however considering they can cost as little as seven dollars for a full year of registration you should be able to afford them, just skip that value meal at mcdonalds! However if you insist on doing everything for free there are url redirection and shortening options that are free that will allow you to get a short url that you can then redirect to your real domain if in the future you upgrade and buy one. A common URL shortening service is TinyUrl. Another option is CJB.net which allows you to create a url like www.yourname.cjb.net this redirect url lets you change where it points without losing your traffic however you either need to point it to your ip address or some other url that you control.
Finding free hosting was much easier in the early days of the internet when venture capital was pumping money into any internet company, there were even companies like TerraShare that paid YOU to build a website on their hosting, splitting the advertising revenue with you. Obviously this was not a sustainable business practice and many free hosts went out of business or changed their models to pay for service. You can still find hosts offering free services to build your website on their servers however they usually require you to display ads on your website or limit your bandwidth and server resources so severly that you are forced to upgrade to paid services once your website gets popular. The best option is to find a host that will be able to scale up your services as your website grows, many shared virtual hosting accounts cost only a few dollars a month which eliminates the possibility of your hosting being shut down and losing all your hard work. Angelfire still offers free website hosting and many free building tools too however I would suggest that there are other hosting providers that are more focused on paid services and are willing to work with you to scale up your websites as needed without worrying about becoming too big and popular for the host.
Once you have a free domain and hosting you need the tools to actually build your website and there are many free options for CMS and designing tools. Many of the popular web design software companies offer either free limited trials or very basic versions that are free or cheap. For instance the graphic design software Photoshop is expensive for its premium products however they offer Photoshop Elements for a lower price with less options which is perfect for a newbie trying to build their first website and Adobe even offers free limited time trials to see if you even need their software. While web design software can be found cheap or free you might not even need it if you only want to work online you could use a free CMS to build your website. WordPress.com offers a free hosted version on their script that would make building a website for free very easy as it combines a domain, hosting, and the CMS in one package. Then using WordPress designing and updating a free website becomes as easy as drag and drop or finding a free theme to create the layout and style you want.
So is it possible to build a website for free? As you can see combining the various free options online today you can indeed setup and complete a website without spending any money. While I suggest spending the small registration fee for a domain and a cheap virtual hosting account to get full control and ability to scale up quickly if you are really trying to save money you can find free products and services to get your online presence up and running today.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a language used to control the format and look of a document generally written in HTML or one of its variants. Basically CSS controls the layout, fonts, colors, location of content on a website. CSS is used because if offers more flexibility and control over how the content is present using HTML and can simplify the coding process as you build your website. For instance while HTML designs are generally restricted to using tables for layout in a websites design using CSS you can create an entire website without tables eliminating lines of code and creating a more uniform browsing experience for all your users regardless of their screen resolution or device they use to access your website. This is becoming increasingly important as the amount of various devices offering a wide range of screen resolutions balloons and the need to design your website for cross browser use becomes ever important. CSS can allow you to create a more fluid design that can increase and decrease in size depending on the size of the browsers rather than the static table designs required with basic HTML websites which means that the ads you have on the sidebar will always be visible without scrolling even on smaller screens!
CSS offers many benefits over basic HTML built websites one of which is that you have the ability to utilize style sheets consisting of rules to govern your entire page or website from one central location which reduces code and allows for easier modifications. For instance you can create a rule that governs the link style of every link on your page if you use an inline style sheet or across your entire website if you use an external style sheet. Imagine how easy that makes altering your link if you only have to change the attribute at one place in your code rather then at every individual link! Another benefit that is related is the fact that as you reduce the amount of code on your website and simplify your designs you can reduce the amount of bandwidth the website burns as it is served. For instance if you build you website using one style sheet to dictate the entire layout then you have reduced the lines of code needed considerably compared to serving code for each individual attribute as you would have to with basic HTML.
While CSS offers many benefits there are a few draw backs that you shoud be aware of when building your website. Although CSS seems to be built to be simple it has changed over the years and has variations that supposedly fix problems and increases features which might sound good but can create conflicts and confusion for coders. Also partly because of the variations and also because of the internets free wheeling attitude there has been less than uniform adoption of CSS across the various browsers which means certain browsers may render your website differently even though your CSS coding is the same. This can lead to the need to create browser specific attributes and commands so that the website you build displays uniformly no matter how the surfer views your site. Finally while CSS is supposed to offer greater control and flexibility for design it can be difficult to understand how the code affects the layout and some of the capabilities are limited with CSS especially if you use a WYSIWYG editor.
Basic CSS coding information:
Inline style: inside your HTML document, info about a single element using ‘style’ attribute
Embedded style: CSS inside the HTML in a specific block
External style sheets: a seperate CSS file containing all the CSS code referenced from the HTML document
Once you have built your website you need to learn how to make money from it and one way is by displaying advertisements that are relevant to your content and visitors interests. Google offers a program called Adsense that is very simple to use and can be very profitable for your website while also providing your traffic additional links to investigate. Adsense is a pay per click or pay per impression program that serves text, images, videos, and rich media ads so that you can be sure to have the best advertisements displayed at all times. One great perk of using Adsense is that Google is both reputable and has one of the best targetting systems online to determine the best ads to display on your website at any given time, eliminating the need for you to spend time and resources searching for advertisers and determining what ads have the highest click through ratio on your website, Adsense handles all of that work for you!
Because Google Adsense is so popular and powerful you do have to read and follow their rules and terms but in reality they set those rules to provide the best relationship between the advertisers and your website so it is a good thing. For instance they only allow a certain number of ads to be displayed on each page, this prevents designers from just building a page full of ads that do not provide any real value to the surfers or the advertisers. They also have rules about what type of content can be displayed with the ads, this protects the advertisers and lets you know what type of material you should be focusing on when you build your websites.
While the automation of Adsense does a great job of determing the best ads to display it is up to you to determine the best locations for the ads on your webpages. Depending on the type and size of ads you ask Google to show you might consider placing large graphic ads at the top, bottom, and sides of your websites pages while targetted contextual ads might be better to place inside your articles and at the end of your main body of content to provide your traffic with a place to contine to investigate more of the type of content you have just presented to them.
Once you have a website and have traffic you want to make money from it. If you have a product or service you are selling directly then that should be easy, but if you are simply providing information or some other service then you might want to put advertising on your site to make money and offset costs.
Affiliate programs are an easy way to find advertisers that you can promote on your website. Most big companies have some sort of internal affiliate program such as Ebay which offers you a chance to refer people to their site and you make a percentage of the sales you refer.
There are also third party companies that manage affiliate programs for many other websites so you only have to signup once and can promote any number of products and services and recieve one paycheck from the affiliate program, such as Click Bank or Commision Junction.
Affiliate Programs Terms and Definitions:
PPC – Pay Per Click is similar to how Google’s Adwords works where you get paid a certain amount for every click on designated links you display. While it can be very profitable there is problems with fraud so most affiliate programs no longer offer this option.
PPS – Pay Per Sale is more widespread and means that you get paid a certain amount for every sale you refer to the program.
Revshare – This payment option means you get paid a certain percentage of every sale you refer, this is very popular because it aligns both the advertiser and companies goals.
Blogs are not exactly new but they have become much more popular recently with the widespread use of open source scripts that automate and simplify the work of creating and maintaining a blog so that anyone with an internet connection can have a space on the net to post about anything they want. The term “blog” is a contraction of the term “web log” or it can mean the act of maintaining a blog. In the past blogs were mostly used as a type of online journal or diary where a person could write entries, post images, and add regular updates. More recently blogs have become a popular method to build most any type of site and the backend scripts can be used to run any site.
There are many types of blog scripts both free and paid, one of the most popular is WordPress which offers both a hosted and downloadable script. Blog scripts generally come with a basic layout and backend where you can make ‘posts’, add ‘pages’, create a ‘blogroll’ and offer other options. The benefit of a script such as wordpress is there are thousands of ‘plugins’ that can increase the functionality of the script and provide a more unique and robust website.
One of the big appeals of running a blog is that they generally can generate a good deal of search engine traffic due to the fact that they can be updated regularly with keyword rich text and can be added to a number of blog directories which increase your backlinks without much effort.
Blogging terms and definitions:
Posts – Posts are usually the main content of a blog consisting of many short reports or descriptions that the author wants to display. Generally shorter in length and updated frequently.
Pages – Pages as they sound are usually longer and more permenant parts of a blog.
Blogroll – is usually the area on a blog with external links to related blogs or other websites.
Blogging, Learn Tags:
While WordPress is a widely popular and powerful website building cms it can be daunting to install and learn how to use especially for a first time user that has little web design experience so here is a short tutorial to provide installation and setup help for WordPress.
WordPress is a CMS (Content management system) generally used for blogging but robust enough to manage most any type of website so you would expect installation to be complicated however it is really very simple. The WP website offers a handy five minute installation tutorial that explains the initial setup steps so I won’t spend anytime explaining that process. I would however suggest that if you don’t understand the first few lines of the install process you should just submit a ticket to your host and ask them to install it for you as most hosts will take care of it quickly and easily for you.
Once the initial WordPress script is installed you are faced with a dashboard, menu sidebar and tons of options which is where it might become confusing for a first time user. My first steps tweak some settings and setup the script to make it work best for a seo website. One quick thing to setup is the ‘permalinks’ option located under the ‘settings’ menu. The default setting creates your website links using numeric values that do not provide any search engine benefits so I suggest you use the ‘custom structure’ option with some tags such as /%postname%/%post_id%/%categories%/ which the script will replace with text that might help search engines to determine your pages/posts content and provide better rankings. To alter this setting you may need to set your .htaccess file permission to 777 so that the script can write to it, or you can do it manually and upload the file via ftp.
Another setting to change is under ‘General’ which is the ‘tagline’ option that appears under your site title on all the pages, you really want to use that prime spot at the top of your website to create some search engine friendly text.
The ‘Discussion’ menu option contains a number of options you might want to alter depending on if you want to recieve emails when users comment or register though you should be aware many spammers use blog comments so you will get a great deal of spam if you aren’t careful and monitor them.
The other big menu options to explore are the ‘Appearance’ menu and the ‘Plugins’ menu. The appearance menu contains your ‘theme’ opitions which you can use to change the layout and structure of the WordPress website with no real coding on your part. I would suggest using only paid premium theme’s or ones that have been approved and vetted by wordpress as people have been known to offer free themes that contain hidden link codes and spam that you might not notice but could negatively affect your website or visitors. Also the ‘Plugin’ menu lets you install a huge variety of plugins that can expand the utility of your WordPress script, again be careful that the plugins you install are legitimate and preferrably updated regularly. Generally the most popular plugins are safe and obviously useful since thousands of people have been using them.
Finally your initial Word Press install created a basic post, page, and comment as well as links in the blog roll. You can use these as examples to learn from but I would suggest altering or deleting them as soon as possible because they provide no other use. Lastly WordPress creates a ‘Powered by WordPress’ link at the bottom of your website which you can remove by editing the footer.php file you can find under ‘Appearance’ > ‘Editor’ menu though if you use a custome theme the link may already be removed. Either way leaving that link creates the possibility hackers or others can scan the internet and find all the wordpress blogs easily which could lead to problems for you, besides nobody needs to know what CMS you are using as long as your website works and looks good!
Article submitting is an interesting way to utilize the content you already have on your website to generate more traffic and increase your search engine optimization. Most websites have some sort of textual content on them and many have actual articles either explaining their topic, reviewing their products, or showing their skills. While most websites use visual ads to sell it is a well known fact that well targeted text sells best and adds content to a website. You don’t just use text to sell though, to truly target your traffic you can create text articles that explain and educate to ensure that your visitors know what you are selling and why they might be interested in buying. So whether you create your own original articles or outsource it to experts you end up with textual content on your website that the search engines crawl and then use to rank your website for whatever terms you have discussed in the articles. But that is only the first step in increasing your traffic and fully utilizing your articles.
Unique original articles are a search engines best friend and if you want to make the most of your content you want to get as many people reading your articles as possible. To get more traffic reading your articles you can submit them to other peoples websites for them to post. There are thousands of websites that will post your articles in relevant sections and even provide you a backlink from your article that way not only do the visitors to the website read your article but they can follow the link back. As an added bonus all those websites then have a backlink that the search engines like Google can follow which can increase your websites relevance and convince the search engines that you are providing useful information and they should list your website higher in the rankings. So not only are you educating and gaining new visitors by submitting your articles to other websites but you are potentially increasing your own search engine rankings all by providing unique text content that you would have created anyways to use on your own website. Now submitting articles to thousands of websites could take you years but luckily there are automated programs that can streamline the process.
Article submitting tips:
You should always create unique and original articles, copying someone elses work won’t help you much and you should always respect copyrights!
An article should be at least 500 words so that the search engines have enough content to crawl and understand what it is you are talking about, plus that gives you more room to really explain and sell to your visitors.
Do not forget to include backlinks to your website before you submit, and try to make sure that you link to your main page as well as the sub-page where you actually are hosting the original article but do not spam your link all over, you want to be useful but not annoying.
If you outsource your article writing be sure to proofread and review your articles before you post them as some people use automated software to create the content and that usually results in gibberish and unreadable articles which might be ok for search engines but what visitor is going to buy from a site that doesn’t make sense?
Finally if you do use an automated article submitter you can use a ‘spinner’ program to alter your original article substituting words and phrases so that it looks different and that might be good to prevent the search engines from considering it duplicate content and lowering its value.
WordPress is blogging software that allows a person to quickly and easily setup a website using a simple script that provides a framework to input and publish content on the internet. WordPress became popular because of its ease of use and search engine optimization right out of the box plus it is regularly updated and now there are thousands of developers continually releasing new themes and plugins to make the basic wordpress blog into a robust fully functional website. WordPress can be used from everything from basic blogging to ecommerce and entertainment websites. The functionality and options available to a person using wordpress as their websites backend is very nearly limitless and always expanding. Another big reason wordpress became popular is that the basic blog script is free and there is the option of either having a blog hosted on WordPress.com or downloading and self hosting the script on your own server allowing for a great deal of freedom.
While you can use the hosted WordPress and not worry about the technical aspects you do lose a bit of control so many people download and install the script on their own hosting. To do that WordPress requires PHP and MySQL though once you have the script installed you do not need to have any php or mysql knowledge to design and build your website making web design much simplier and eliminating many of the problems people in the past had with building websites. Now you can simply drag and drop ‘widgets’ into your design or download pre-made ‘themes’ or templates so creating a website becomes very simple and quick. While you can use the built in editor to alter the websites code directly if you do know php or other web languages it is not necessary. Another reason WordPress is so popular is that you can give other users limited or unlimited access to create content for your website eliminating another problem many websites run into which is running out of content, now your users or friends can be editors too! Beyond that WordPress allows basics visitors to leave comments and that can create even more content as well as provide more web 2.0 benefits.
One problem with using blogging scripts including WordPress is that they can pose a security risk to your server. Especially WordPress because of its popularity it can be a focus of hackers that can cause problems for your website if they gain access. Even if you don’t get hacked the comment option on wordpress can lead your site to being filled with spam if you don’t utilize the built in protections and monitor your website. So while building your website with a WordPress script is both quick and easy providing a great deal of benefits there are potential problems that you need to monitor and address though with the rapid development and upgrades of the script most problems can be managed without much more work. Still it is important to realize that there are limits to all scripts like WordPress and keep regular backup copies of your website in case of problems.
The Basics of Topsites:
Topsites are a great way to get more traffic without a lot of work. Generally you can find large topsites that relate to your specific sites content and then simply signup and put a link to the topsite. The key of course is finding quality topsites that you can get listed on and that will send you traffic.
Most topsites are run by scripts that automate the process and rerank the list of links at a preset time or amount so it can pay to analyze how the scripts work and possibly try and send more traffic before the rerank. Topsites do not necessarily have to use any scripts however so don’t be afraid to try and get listed at many topsites and see what ones return the best results.
Topsites – Terms & Definitions:
Topsite List – A very basic type of website that generally appears to simply list a large number of links to other websites. The benefit is that the higher you get listed on the topsite the more traffic you will probably get and more sales. To get higher however you have to send more of your own traffic.
Rerank – Many topsites don’t rank in real time but will ‘rerank’ or sort the list according to hits in or productivity at a certain time each day.
The Basics Link Exchanges:
Once you have a website setup and running and hopefully listed on search engines and getting some traffic you might want to try and get even more traffic, or provide your surfers with links to other sites with relevant information. This is where “link exchanges” come into play. Simply you put up a link to another website and hopefully they reciprocate.
Benefits of exchanging links are that you can get traffic from other sites and most search engines take into account who is linking you to help rank you in the Search engine list so a site with more links coming into it from relevant sites will theoretically rank higher than one that does not get many other sites linking to it.
To start out you might just manually add links and hardcode them into your website. However depending on the type of site you have and the number of links you list you might want to consider investing a in a script that helps to manage the links. Scripts vary in complexity from the simplest that will list links in different orders and check to be sure the sites are returning a link to your site to more complex scripts that can automatically add new links, check validity, rank by any number of criteria, and more. However when using scripts to list links it may not be ‘search engine friendly’ so that needs to be considered.
Link Exchange – Terms & Definitions:
Link Exchange – Concept that you will place a link on your site to someone else’s site and they will reciprocate and link back to your own creating a back and forth flow of traffic and possible search engine benefits.
Hard links – Term describes a link that is hard coded (or appears static to search engines), mostly used in relation to building search engine popularity.
LE scripts- Scripts help to automate link exchanges by allowing people to submit their own links, check to ensure they are linking your site and rank the list of links.
A-B-C – Link exchange in which you link site A to site B and site C links back to you thereby making it appear to search engines that you have incoming links that are not reciprocated which in current theory might help your SE rankings.