Friday, 18 September 2009

Tips for Family Tree Webpages 3

The one aspect of attracting visitors to our site which we have not yet considered is that of promotion. The main point being that what we need to do is to sell the site, I can already hear the shouts of "Sell? But this is a hobby!", so I will repeat myself, yes, sell! In the first part of this trilogy we looked at why we create websites, and to achieve any of the objects described we have the need to attract visitors, so how can we do this, free and from our armchairs?

A little knowledge of HTML is helpful, but not essential in considering this section. The code of any web page can be viewed in your browser by using View>Source, or something very similar. At the start we have the head which lies between two tags: <head> and </head>. Within this lies the title and some meta tags, the latter we will come to later.

For many, the first page visited will be the index page, so the title for this page should describe succinctly the whole of the sites contents, mine has the title "Fergys Website of Genealogy, Software and Social", which is what the site is about. If it was only about my family tree then I could have called it "The Ferguson Family Tree", the quotes are not required. If at all possible the title should be at the top of the head. Below is a screen shot of part of my index page head.

From this we can see the two meta tags which are important for our purposes viz. "Description" and "Keywords". The former should contain a general description of the site and the latter the keywords which you believe will attract people to your site, in particular the aspects which you wish to emphasize and which you feel will best attract visitors. I have seen genealogy sites where every surname has been included in the Keywords of the index page. This is not necessary as search engines will get them from the index, or individual pages.

That's it for your website, now for the selling! As a minimum, we should to tell Google and Yahoo, these URLs will take you to the pages to register your site with them, but do not expect an instant inclusion in the lists, it may take over a month. Nor should I worry about page rankings as it is very unlikely that a genealogy site will generate enough traffic to warrant inclusion - I think I have only one page which has the lowest ranking of 1 and that is not a genealogy page! This does not mean, however, that your site is consigned to number 1,245,000 on the lists, mine are consistently near the top, especially in the UK list.

Try and get others to include your URL on their site, I try and make it a condition that anyone publishing my data also includes my URL, not easily enforced but does produce results. Include the URL in your signature to public mailing groups, the more a search engine sees your URL the higher up the list it goes. Include it in your Blogs, on Facebook and Twitter etc. and if you can get it in your local press or elsewhere then so much the better. Create a demand, but do not expect instant results, my site has been active for a number of years.

Which brings me to my final point, regularly update, because search engines take more interest in sites which are clearly active; I update mine every month, sometimes the changes may be small, but nevertheless it shows the site is not dormant.

More information can be found on Fergys Website in the Tutorials section - still selling :-) - where I look into the creation of websites, often using Legacy Software which automatically adds a basic title to each individual page.

Good luck

© Ronald Ferguson 2009

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Tips for Family Tree Webpages 2

In my last blog we looked at measuring and analysing the number who visit your web pages. I now wish to turn to attracting people to your websites. After all, if we didn't wish for visitors we wouldn't have the site in the first place!

For my genealogy pages I use Legacy to generate the Pedigree Pages, in my Fergys Website and the Family Group pages for my north west England Fergusons. On their own these pages are not particularly attractive, so I wrap them in headers and footers to make them more appealing, and add pictures where possible. This is my first point, visitors need to like the site which they visit. I also consider the index page, for many their first impression of the site, should be a visually attractive page. Unfortunately I am not good on design, so I try to make them a little different to the norm (or use a template).

Another essential is the ease of navigation. There is nothing worse than going to a site and not being able to find the area within which wishes to look. If javascript is used then do ensure that there is a noscript option for those who do not have javascript enabled, otherwise your site could fail at the first page. Talking of javascript reminds me that not all search engines read it, so the noscript option is needed for them also. It goes without saying that the links must work on your server, and not just on your PC, and similarly that your pictures must be displayed; not the empty box with a red cross!

Finally we have the content. The names pages in genealogy sites will attract only those who are looking for John Smith so try adding other pages. I have a relative who was murdered and his story attracts quite a few visits, but for some reason the most popular page on my site is a biopic of all the British Prime Ministers. It is also very worthwhile to ensure that the title of each page emphases the content of that page.

In the next blog I will look at search engines and promoting the site.

© Ronald Ferguson 2009