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What's Wrong With My Website?

By Michael Southon
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2004

I ask myself that question about once a month. My website looks fine to me, but what are other people seeing? And what are the Search Engines seeing? Here's a checklist of 10 ways to optimize your website for peak performance:

1. Browser Compatibility

The first thing is to look at your website through other people's browsers. I do this regularly and I've sometimes been shocked at what I saw!

ANYBROWSER (http://www.anybrowser.com)

2. Broken Links

About 5% of all links on the Internet are broken. A site that contains broken links gives a bad impression to visitors and is a frequent cause of lost sales. Also, the major Search Engines and Directories will not list your page if it contains any broken links or missing images.

Here are some free link validators:

LINK SCAN (http://www.elsop.com/linkscan/quickcheck.html)

NET MECHANIC (http://www.netmechanic.com/maintain.htm)

WEBSITE GARAGE DEADLINK CHECK (http://websitegarage.netscape.com/O=wsg/tuneup_plus/index.html)

3. Web Safe Colors

Are the colors on your web site displaying properly on other people's browsers? You may have a beautiful shade of lilac on your index page but it could look very strange on someone else's computer.

There are only 216 colors that you can safely use on the Web. These colors display solid and consistent on any computer monitor or web browser that is able to display at least 8-bit color.

The Web Safe Palette contains six groups of colors with 36 colors per group. These 216 web safe colors can have any combination of the following RGB (Red Green Blue) values: 0, 51, 102, 153, 204, 255 (each RGB value must be divisible by 51).

Here's a good palette of web safe colors:

WEB-SOURCE SAFE COLORS (http://www.web-source.net/216_color_chart.htm)

4. ALT Tags

ALT Tags allow you to give an alternative to people who have the 'view images' function turned off in their browser. Let's say the navigation system on your website is a series of buttons that link to other pages on your site. If you don't have ALT Tags, people who have the 'view images' function turned off will be unable to navigate through your site - in place of your button they will just see an empty space.

But an ALT Tag allows you to tell those people what that button does. For example, if the button is a link to your 'Site Map' you could insert the following ALT Tag:

ALT Tags also allow you to raise your keyword density. For every image that is not hyperlinked you could insert your main keywords. For example:

5. Meta Tags

Meta Tags are so important they deserve a whole article on their own. The most important Meta Tags are the Title Tag, the Keywords Tag and the Description Tag.

The Title Tag should be no more than 64 characters (longer than that and it will be cut off in some Search Engines).

The Keyword Tag should contain about 5 to 10 keywords that appear on your page. Never include words that do not appear on that page - in some Search Engines your website will be penalized for this. Do not repeat the same keyword - this is called 'keyword stuffing' and is also frowned upon by the Search Engines.

Separate your keywords with spaces (not commas). This allows the Search Engines to combine your keywords into phrases, for people who do 'phrase searching'.

The Description Tag should be no more than 200 characters. Include as many of your keywords as you can. Remember also that your Description Tag must be enticing - it must make people want to visit your site.

Here are some programs that will generate your Meta Tags for you:

WEBSITE GARAGE (http://websitegarage.netscape.com/turbocharge/metatag/)

META MEDIC (http://www.northernwebs.com/set/setsimjr.html)

MULTI-META-MAKER (http://www.multimeta.com/tools/multimetamaker.html)

6. Load Time

A slow-loading index page is one of the main reasons for lost sales. The generally accepted maximum time for a page to load is around 15 seconds. Here is a free service that tells you how long your web page takes to load:

NETMECHANIC (http://www.netmechanic.com/cobrands/FutureQuest/load_check.htm)

Your pages should be no more than about 30Kb in size. To calculate the size of your web page, highlight the HTML document and then click on 'File' and 'Properties' and note down the file size. Then do the same for any graphics you have on that page. Then add those figures together to get your page size.

If your page is less than 30Kb and takes more than 15 seconds to load, the problem is most likely with your web host. The solution is to change web host. Here are 2 services that will check the speed of your web host's server and compare it with other web hosts:

HOST COMPARE (http://www.hostcompare.com/testtools.htm)

CNET WEBSERVICES (http://webservices.cnet.com/ping/)

7. GIF (or JPEG) Cruncher

Shrinking the size of your images is one of the best ways to get a faster-loading web page. You can usually reduce a GIF or JPEG image by 40% to 50% without losing any significant definition or sharpness.

SPINWAVE (http://www.spinwave.com/crunchers.html)

8. HTML Optimizer

Another way to make your page load faster is to compress (or optimize) your HTML code. An HTML Optimizer removes all blank spaces in your HTML code and also removes certain unnecessary tags.

On average, an HTML optimizer will reduce the size of your page by 15% to 20%. That percentage may not seem much, but the saving in load time is much higher, as your visitor's browser will parse your page much more efficiently.

A word of caution: in most HTML Optimizers you will find an 'Options' menu that tells the program to ignore certain parts of your code. Make sure your Optimizer does not compress embedded script tags - if they get compressed, the script will usually not work.

ADVANCED HTML OPTIMIZER (http://www.pcbit.com/htmlopt/)

9. WIDTH, HEIGHT and BORDER Tags

The WIDTH, HEIGHT and BORDER attributes are essential for each image that you have on your website. When you hyperlink an image, always make sure that the BORDER attribute is set to zero (BORDER=0). If you don't do this, your hyperlinked image will have an ugly blue border around it.

The WIDTH and HEIGHT attributes allow your page to load faster, as the browser knows in advance how much space the image requires. To find out the width and height of any image, just double click on the image file. This will automatically open 'Microsoft Photo Editor' - your image will appear, with the width and height of your image (in pixels) displayed on the tool bar.

10. HTML Validator

Always check the validity of your HTML. Some Search Engines give lower rankings to pages that have poor quality HTML (such as incorrect nesting of elements).

Here are some free online validators:

HTML HELP (http://www.htmlhelp.org/tools/validator/)

BOBBY (http://www.cast.org/bobby/)

WATSON (http://watson.addy.com/)

(c) 2000 by Michael Southon

About The Author
Michael Southon has been writing for the Internet for over 3 years. He has shown hundreds of webmasters how to use this simple technique to get massive free publicity and dramatically increase traffic and sales. Click here to find out more: (http://www.ezine-writer.com)