BOOTLOG 008 25/10/05


Publishing and maintaining your site


The concluding part of this short series looks at the final stages of getting your web page on the web, and how to get it recognised by the major search engines.


Publishing involves copying all of the files that make up your website from your computer to the server computer that is hosting your site. This relies on a process known as File Transfer Protocol or ‘FTP’ but don’t let that worry you, the mechanics of how it is done is much less important these days and in most web authoring programs it is simply a matter of clicking a button or two.


Once your site has been published it will then be necessary to maintain the site, adding new material and making changes, and this is going to happen a lot as even the best web authoring programs do not always show exactly how a web page will actually look when it goes ‘live’.


Sometimes pages or page components become dislocated and do not end up in the position you want them to be but more often than not you will want to change something simply because it doesn’t look right. Different browsers to the one you are using can also shift things around or simply refuse to display parts of your page.


There are a few things to do before you publish your site and one of the most important is to thoroughly check that all of the buttons and links are working, so spend a few minutes clicking around the site in Preview mode.


You’ve probably spent several hours looking at your site and inevitably you will miss or overlook things so it is a good idea to have someone else check it as well. They are more likely to spot simple errors and spelling mistakes that your spellchecker missed. If your web authoring program has a spellchecker get into the habit of using it, and not just on body text, you would be surprised how many sites have miss spelt buttons and links. It’s usually much easier to put things right before the site is published.


When you are ready to publish it is wise to shut down all other programs that use your Internet connection. Publishing a large site may involve moving several tens of megabytes of data and anything that interrupts the flow could result in a failed or corrupt upload.


In order to use the FTP utility in your web-authoring program you will need the username and passwords issued to you by your web host, so make sure you have these to hand. There may also be additional instructions about the naming of files and folders so familiarise yourself with these beforehand.


Whilst the site is uploading leave the PC alone and let it get on with the job, don’t be surprised if it takes a while, it could be up to half an hour for a large site with a lot of images.


When the upload has completed and the site is live check everything again, this time using your browser and not just with Internet Explorer. If you haven’t already done do download and install a copy of Firefox as many visitors to your site will be using it.


Making alterations to published pages and adding new ones is a lot easier and quicker since only the changes or additions will need to be uploaded but be careful if your site is based on templates. Components like buttons may need to be added separately if they are not contained within the folders of the new pages you are adding. The same goes for photographs, and if you view a page on your browser and the picture is missing then it will need to be uploaded into the appropriate file.


Now that your site is live you will want to let the world know all about it. One of the best ways to do that is to tell the major search engines that your site exists. Some of them like Google use ‘bots’ that roam the web seeking out new sites and it may eventually stumble across yours but you can speed the process by registering your site.


Google and MSN Search do not charge for this service but others are not so generous and you may not think it worthwhile to pay to have you site listed by lesser search engines, unless they are relevant to your site’s contents. Watch out too for companies that offer to do this for you for a fee. Being listed by Google and MSN Search costs nothing and gives you the best chance of being found.


The Google submission site and the MSN Search equivalent both ask you to enter the full URL of your site, along with some simple keywords that will help people to find your site. Be careful in your choice of words, the more specialised and relevant to your site they are the better. You will need to be patient, though, and it can take a week or two for your site to be listed. Ultimately, however, the key to being recognised on the web and by search engines is publicity and to have as many links as possible to your site from other websites. Ask other relevant sites to include links and of course you should reciprocate with a link to theirs.

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