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Archive for April, 2007

RSS

How many sites do you check everyday for news?  With so many news sites, blogs and the like it’s impossible to stay up with everything.  That’s where RSS steps in.  It’s a great way for you to “subscribe” to the sites you want and then they push the news to you rather than you checking to see what’s new. We publish an RSS feed for the Minnesota Section PGA and there are many other golf related RSS feeds (PGA for example).

For a great beginner’s explanation, watch this video
To find RSS feeds check out Feedster

Once you start using  RSS you will be amazed at how much you can stay up with. I personally use Google Reader but there are many other sites that let you organize your RSS feeds including Internet Explorer 7.

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I’m working with a new golf client right now and we got to talking about the initial design elements for his site. I’m a firm believer that navigation is critical, so we began with that.  But I started thinking about if there was a “most important thing” for a good golf site.  And I think there is and that would be “quality photos”.  Photo galleries are almost always one of the most viewed pages and professionally taken photos can make silk out of pig’s ear.  Bad photos, and you’re better off with none.  Here’s a couple of sites that I think figured it out. 

I’m sure you’ll agree that the first thing you notice on these sites is the terrific photos.  So my advice is make sure your site has lots of great photos.  It will definitely have an impact.

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No question, video is the next big thing for golf websites.  But just like adding photos to your site, it has to be done right.  I think Seven Canyons is doing a great job.  My only suggestion is the video should not start automatically.  The photos and video definitely make me want to visit this place!

If you’re going to add video, make sure it streams so users don’t have to wait for the entire video to download.  Flash is the most popular method and is easy to add to your site.  You can also embed YouTube videos, though they won’t look as professional.

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We’ve gone over a few pointers on how to increase your ranking and therefore traffic from search engines.  Now I would like to talk about keywords.

When someone types into Google “St. Paul Golf”, those sites that include those keywords will come to the top.  And when search engines rank the keywords in your site, they place the most value:
1)  On the home page
2)  The higher up in the page they appear
3)  Whether they are bold or in a larger font
4)  If they are included in the title of your page
5)  If they are part of your domain name (www.stpaulgolf.com for example)

So it’s important to include your keywords on your home page and try to include them as high on the page as possible. Many sites like to include just a photo with little or no text on their home page.  They feel this gives a sense of professionalism or class to the club.  But this dramatically hurts your ranking. You’ve lost your best chance to gain viewers through search. Here is an example of a site with NO text on the home page.

So when creating the most important page of your site, the home page, remember to keep both your viewers and search engines in mind.  No other page can bring you more viewers or keep them away then a poorly thought out home page.  And you should carefully think about the keywords you want to rank highly. For a tool that shows you the popularity of search words, check out this site.

There is another tag, unseen by viewers, called a keywords meta tag.  This would normally include words you want to be searched for.  Because of abuse by some websites, this meta tag is no longer used by most major search engines.  I no longer even include the tag.

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Golf Course Blogs

I’ve wondered if any club has been using blogs successfully as a way to communicate with their members.  Now I think I have the answer as Northland CC has a great blog. Some items just don’t seem like they fit in an email or on your website. One unique and positive aspect of blogs as that people can post comments that everyone can see.  You can’t do that with email or your website as easily.

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Attracting Visitors

There are many ways to attract visitors to your site but none may be more important than using good SEO (search engine optimization) techniques.  Search engines, and Google specifically, will always be your main source of getting new viewers.

We already touched on why you should not use graphics as a way of displaying text.  Search engines cannot ready graphics.  There are many others and here are a couple:
   Content:  Nothing is more important than well written, current, changing and lots of  content. If you are trying to improve your outside outings business, make sure you have a separate page for outings AND talk about that on your home page.  SE’s (search engines) give more priority to what is on your home page so don’t just put a link to your outings page; discuss it on your home page.
  Outbound links:  Make sure you have lots of links within your site linking to other pages within your site. If you think another page within your site is important, then SE’s will too.  And it’s not a bad thing to have links to other sites.  Though this will improve your SEO there is also the downside of sending users to another site.
  Inbound links: This is one of the most important and what made Google what it is today.  If other sites link to you then you must be a site that is of value.  Google calls it “page rank” and the higher your page rank the higher your SERP (search engine ranking position) .  You can find out your page rank by going to this site: http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools/pagerank-lookup/  A page rank of 3 is  good.  4 is very good and 5 is terrific.

In a later post we’ll talk about some other ways to improve your site for search engines.

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