www.rivertrailcountryvacations.com - site review please.
Posted 04 May 2005 - 03:43 PM
I had my site reviewed a short while ago and we implimented a good deal of the advice received but our Google rank dropped to 3 from 4. What went wrong?? :oops:
I didn't do the changes myself so I don't know exactly what was done but if someone could look at our site again and tell us where we went wrong I would sure appreciate it. :|
I haven't been too happy with the text and I was wondering what I could do to improve it. :?
Thank you for any help that can be offered.
River Trail Country Vacations
Posted 04 May 2005 - 04:36 PM
One of your main problems could be the use of frames. Search engines do not like frames as you end up with a whole load of orphan pages that the spiders can't index because there is no way home.
And many moons ago I was advised not to take much notice of PR since it is not all that reliable. If you still have the same number of visitors and you are still listed in the same place you always were then don't worry too much.
But I would go back to your site designer and ask them to get rid of the frames. And while you are there, ask them why they can't build you a page that validates!
Posted 04 May 2005 - 06:07 PM
I have to agree with fisicx in that the frames are hurting you tremendously. It is very difficult to optimize a site using frames.
Some other quick thoughts that I hope may help you from a useability and navigation standpoint.
I find the site terribly confusing. At first glance, I realize what you offer but have no Idea where. I am also confused by you having two similar (main and home pages) in your nav bar.
Surely you could (and should) condense these two,- into one home page.
Perhaps others know where "River country" is but being nestled down here on the East coast of NJ. - I had no clue.
I haven't been too happy with the text and I was wondering what I could do to improve it.
You have a really cool getaway retreat to offer, but the page is set up a little poorly and the info isn't presented in a clear and exciting way. You need to have someone proof read the text and spice it up with a more professional and consice (more to the point) version
Perhaps a logo and another Tagline (in addition to) "River Trail Country Vacations" would be beneficial. What I'm tring to say is maybe a little more exact information in your header. So I know exactly what you offer. Use your strongest keywords that you want to optimize in your Title and Use Headings with important keywords that people may search too
River Trail Country Vacations
Custom Canadian River Trail getaways
Adventure Getaways in Northern Saskatchewan
Break up the info with headings that catch attention so people won't have to read a long paragrapgh to see what you have to offer. Try to use keywords too in your headings, and try to entice people to click through for more info with links. Also Try to make it really exciting!
Example of a revised home page with headings
Custom vacation getaways!
Design your own snowmobile, Canoeing or hiking adventure along the beautiful Trans Canada Trail.
Canadian fishing at its best!
Spend your days fishing on lakes full of Pickerel or Northern Pike on Tobin Lake or Codette Lake. Fish the days away on lakes rich with pickerel or Canoe down the Torch River
Enjoy the serenity of Northern Saskatchewan
You can relax in the comfort of your own cozy cabin far from the pollution and traffic.
Let us plan your vacation for you!
We can provide you with a vacation tailored to your requirements. ect ect
I think you get the general idea.
Hope I made you think about ways to help improve the site.
Posted 04 May 2005 - 07:26 PM
You may find that the person at number 4 has been working on their site and they worked a little bit harder to get up into position number 3.
As for the implementation of previous advice, the page still does not validate
You need to get that sorted out first.
Posted 04 May 2005 - 07:51 PM
You may find that the person at number 4 has been working on their site and they worked a little bit harder to get up into position number 3.
I think you miss-read. He is talking about Page rank - not dropping a position in the serps for a targeted keyword phrase.
Thats what I thought too initially when I read the post, so thats why I'm just pointing it out to you now
Posted 04 May 2005 - 08:04 PM
What does validate mean. My webmaster says he can't (or doesn't know how to) validate the page that Travis reccomended and he has gone to the site and checked it out.
Thanks very much for the assistance.
Oh yes, I did mean page rank.
Posted 04 May 2005 - 08:12 PM
Firstly, I would want all of my info above the fold line(everything that fits within the browser without scrolling). Phone number and address and email should be promenentely displayed near the top.
It is easier for visitors if you use categories that are placed on the left side of the site and have seperate pages for each:
Home (page) should have your best photo and somewhere you might want to put a pic of the view from your place. It looks like it could have a good view.
Cabin (inside shots here)
Availability (calendar that you can fill out and update all the time to keep unnecessary phone calls to a minimum)
Rates & Details (details being - no pets, no credit cards, whatever your policies are)
Restaurants (they might want to eat out)
("your town") Attractions
("your town") Events Calendar
Guest Comments (this will give your guests an objective opinion of your place)
Awards and Accolades (if you have some. This inspires confidence For future guests too)
Visitors like going straight to the info they are looking for. They do not want to read too much text. They like to see photos in this type of biz.
Your tag line should definitely say your location along with putting it under your title.
I used to be in this business and I can refer you to some of the vacation rentals/cottage/inns sites of friends of mine. You can take a look and see how these are layed out for clarity, ease of navigation. You may pick up some ideas. The first one is the simplest and clearest layout.
Above The Clouds
Cottage Inn & Spa
Thistle Dew Inn
Hidden Oak Inn
Here are some of the principles I adopted while designing my old site:
The creation and use of sharp, high quality images, well designed web pages, and legible, easy to read typography that is comfortable to the eye.
The innovative presentation of concepts and ideas, and the use of compelling, attention-grabbing design to attract and hold an audience.
The development of clear, meaningful and concise copy which is informative, well written, pleasant to read and used with precision.
The movement through a web site. This must be easy, logical, clear, comfortable and intuitive for the viewer.
SPEED OF TRANSMISSION
The use and implementation of cutting-edge file compression techniques to insure the fastest possible download of web sites to the viewer via the Internet.
Hope this helps.
Posted 04 May 2005 - 08:22 PM
I think you need to go back to basics.
We have a basic definition of HTML. Use some lists. Make sure you use plenty of headings and paragraphs for your text. Get your images as links to pages rather than just jpegs. Here is a sample on a very basic page written by a guy at w3c, who was kind enough to let us put it on our site.
Simple, straight down the line. Get rid of your frames (perhaps) and just use a very basic page. Get rid of the background, and use your photos more on a white background.
The issue of PageRank has very little to do with you or your website design. It has more to do with the pages who are linking to you and the pages you are linking to.
I think PageRank is important, because on a scientific level, our best ranking customers have higher PageRank. Our newest customers who have 0-3 PageRank dont rank all that well.
Just dont get too hung up on any one particular technique or attribute, PageRank included.
SEO is not a linear science. There are about 300 different variables of a website, server config, location, domain, keywords,, backlinks, navigation, headings, scripting, validation, etc..... and Google can use some very basic analysis to determine the sie of your site, its popularity in your industry and the keywords you will rank for.
Search Engine Ranking is a bit like Goran Ivanisevic's serve.
Even he doesn't know where it is going to go, but overall, its a pretty sure bet he will get an ace now and again if he trains hard enough.
Posted 04 May 2005 - 08:39 PM
Here is my explanation paraphrased from the W3C markup site. Hope it helps.
A Markup Validator checks the syntax of (X)HTML documents.
Which means in laymans terms......Sort of a spelling checker that makes sure that your Html markup is following the rules and so that the many different browsers out there can interpret your site and display it correctly.
Browsers read Web pages from your HTML and try to display them even if they're not legal or correct HTML. Usually this means that the browser will try to make educated guesses about what you probably meant.
The problem is that different browsers - will make different guesses about the same illegal construct; worse, if your HTML is really bad, the browser could get confused and produce a mangled mess, or even crash.
We write web pages in a computer language (HTML). that allows us to structure text, add multimedia content, and specify what appearance, or style, the result should have.
As for every language, HTML has sort of its own grammar, vocabulary and syntax, and every document written with these computer languages are supposed to follow certain rules
However, just as texts in a natural language can include spelling or grammar errors, documents using Markup languages may (for various reasons) not be following these certain rules and in effect your site may not display correctly in certain browsers.
Validation does not mean that your site is perfect
The fact that the W3C Markup Validator says that one page passes validation does not mean that W3C assesses that it is a good page. It only means that a tool (not necessarily without flaws) has found the page to comply with a specific set of rules. No more, no less. This is also why the "valid ..." icons should never be considered as a "W3C seal of quality".
So in reality ,you just want to try to follow along and try to make sure your pages are legal HTML. The best way to do that is by running your documents through one or more HTML validator.
Here is a link to a site that i use that is pretty good.
It is a tool for checking and cleaning up HTML source files. It is especially useful for finding and correcting errors in deeply nested HTML, or for making grotesque code legible once more. It finds all kinds of errors and may help in validating on W3C
After you enter your URL of your page-Click on Tidy and it will tell you how many errors you have - Then click on
VIEW TIDIED HTML ON THE TOP OF THE PAGE
and copy and paste the clean html into your page
Hope this helps
Posted 05 May 2005 - 01:01 AM
Great post. I really like the principles that you developed. Marvin would be well served by paying close attention.
I also think that Charlie's suggestions about headings and creating excitement work well within those principles.
Welcome to the forums.
This page on Writing for the Web emphasizes writing text so that it is both easy to read, and easy to scan through. Adding headings (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc.) can help make it easier for people to read your pages. Large blocks of text can be difficult to read on a monitor. If I can help it, I try to break up text into four or five lines at the most, and use headings, bulleted lists, and infrequently bold and colors for emphasis (don't use too much colored text or bold - when you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing).
For the images that can be clicked upon to see more, rather than a link to the image, how about putting those on html pages, with text that describes what we are seeing there? Sure, images are worth a thousand words. But images and words together can be even better.
The html tidy program that Charlie pointed out can be helpful. It looks like you used Word to create your pages, and saved them as html. While that is definitely one way to do it, it can create pages that have a lot more html in them than they need to have.
Pagerank is pretty much an indication of the quantity and quality of links to your pages, and not necessarily a measure of how well optimized your pages are to be indexed in the search engines. A drop of pagerank may mean that you lost a link or two, or that a page that linked to you dropped in pagerank. The solution is to get more links to your pages. Submit them to some of the larger directories, and to smaller regional and topical directories.
I agree on the use of the frames. If possible, see if you can have the site rebuilt without using frames. Once those are gone, you can start optimizing each page on your site for the search engines, with their own unique page titles, meta tags, and links from within the site on other pages, that use keywords to point to each page.
Speaking of meta tags, you have quite a few that are unnecessary, or are unnecessarily redundant. Again, after getting rid of the frames, make sure that the </title> is the first thing that appears in the <head> section of each page, and that each pages title is unique, and reflects the content of that page. If it also includes a keyword phrase that describes that page and is something that people will use to search for your site, that will help you get visitors to your page. Use a meta description and a meta keywords, and get rid of the rest of the tags that start with <meta...
Your list of keywords is way too long. Once you have pages that aren't in frames, try to keep the amount of keywords for each page smaller, and use keywords that only apply to those specific pages - unique keywords for each page, as well as unique titles and unique meta descriptions.
Stick with it, and please feel free to ask questions here as you work to develop your pages. You have some great text and images, and hopefully we can help you get some traffic to your pages so that more people can appreciate both your words and pictures.
Posted 05 May 2005 - 07:12 AM
Thanks for the kind words and all the ideas.
If we could impliment all the advice we have been getting we should raise our rank a point or two and I sure would like to reach a 5 or so.
Thanks again and we will keep asking questions.
Posted 05 May 2005 - 03:17 PM
Why are you so insistent on getting a good page rank? If you look at this thread on the importance of page rank you will realize that there are far better things you could be doing.
Much of the advice given in the above post will improve your visibility to prospective clients and the search engine spiders. Having a good result in the search engine rankings is far more important than a good PR. And remember, unless your visitors are using IE and have downloaded the google toolbar they will never even know what your page rank is.
Note also, I have a page with a PR of zero - it is however, one of my most popular pages at the moment. Having a high PR won't change make it any better.
Posted 05 May 2005 - 06:35 PM
90% of the literature that you read on Google would be telling Marvin to get a high listing on DMOZ, both in a business are and a gepgraphical area and then chase get a high PageRank, through gaining inbound links.
PageRank has become a quality index on Google for the popularity of your site, and anyone who owns a business would be attracted to the simple idea of attaining that next level. It crossed my mind.
Having said that, I think PR5 would be a little hard for a site like this to attain. Would it make a difference to Marvin's business if he got there? Would the rankings for your search terms be any better if you got there ?
I would say yes to both questions. Why ? We recently attained a PR of 5 (up form 4) and our rankings on Google have changed, because more pages are ranking now. The extra effort we put in to get our site SEO'd also had a positive effect on the other engines such as Yahoo and MSN was worth it.
So keep in mind that although Google is number 1 in terms of traffic, the actual benefits of designing your site properly, finding appropriate and related backlinks, writing fresh content and capturing the robots attention has residual benefits on the minor engines.
We like finding sites that could provide inbound links to our customers or ourselves. The new tool by Randfish would be worth looking at. It attempts to mathematically assign a rating to the quality of inbound links which are being offered from other sites. Certainly an exciting development.
Posted 06 May 2005 - 12:38 AM
I joined this forum because I realized that we needed help and we needed it badly. So far that help has been, very generously, forthcoming. We are trying to implement as many of the tricks and ideas that we possibly can. I have been checking the stats on our site and it appears that most visitors only look at the first and possibly the second pages and then they lose interest and leave. We are trying to come up with a way to grab the visitors attention and keep it. I can write a pretty good story but good advertising copy is not in my area of expertise.
I think that we have some very interesting pages on our site , such as the Editorial Page and the Video Clips page but no one ever gets to see them.
There are many things that have been suggested and we are trying to come to terms with as many of them as possible but the going is slow.
We wish to thank every one of you who has donated your time and expertise to our problem and we will keep checking back to see what happens next.
Posted 06 May 2005 - 12:54 AM
Your story is very common. After getting a log stats meter for http://www.meditek.net , we noticed a percentage of people were staying for less than 1 minute and leaving from the front page.
So what can you do ?
Well, the problem is not getting new visitors to the site. Its no longer a search engine problem. The problem is now getting the confidence level up high enough to get visitors who are already n the site to prescribe to your philosophy on life and sign up for it.
We implemented a new graphic banner across the top of the page to make it more attractive, and placed "request a quote" and "request brochure" buttons in prominent locations on every page.
Looking at the stats 3 months later, the new graphically designed site did indeed keep people at the site longer, and the visitors have signed up more often, mainly because the access to those forms was made easier.
The percentages of people who fill in the forms (x) on your site is directly proportional to the attractiveness of your site.
If you then increase your search engine ranking somewhat, then x will stay roughly the same, and you will get more enquiries. Its that simple.
The number of people who actually pay for your product (y) is a fraction of (x) determined by your ability to turn prospects into sales.
So try and get a handle on
(a) Number of visitors per year
(B) Number of enquiries per year
© Number of sales per year
(a) is related to search engines and reffering links
(B) is related to your design and photography and attractiveness of the product or service
© is related to your internal sales ability.
If the referring link is from Yellow Pages Online, we have noticed an increase in (B) and ©. Those customers are wanting to purchase, so the referring link quality is critical.
Posted 06 May 2005 - 02:30 AM
Thank you for your excellent post - I feel much better informed. My point was a result of a question I posted ages ago about the relevance of page rank in which I was advised that PR is not that important. If one ensures that a site is optimized, has quality inbound and outbound links, is user friendly and all the other odds and sods that assist in getting a good listing then a higher PR will follow as a matter of course. I am not so sure that improving PR should be pursued as a goal in itself - which is what I was alluding to.
And I still stand by my point that I have a page in the top ten that has a PR of zero - if PR is so important then I would be a lot lower than I am as nearly all the pages below me have a PR of 3 and above.
But back to river trail.
Without wishing to appear rude: the homepage is a tad boring. There are no features that leap out of the page and make me go WOW!. Lose the editorial and put some bullet points in their place. Put a banner or logo across the top, put a decent sized picture in the middle. Sell the idea - at the moment it looks like a handout from a an estate agent (realtor).
And get rid of the frames.
And put some captions on the all the pictures (already mentioned but this would really help). And why have three separate pages? A single gallery link would be fine, put the best pictures on there and have a link to 'more images'.
Get rid of the splash page - your site should open straight into the 'main page'.
Tidy up your navigation. For example, both 'packages and prices' have prices in them and both repeat information.
The snowmobiler page is just a horrible scanned in image.
Your survey is huge and difficult to use - if you had decent webstats then you would not need to ask half the questions.
And you have loads of horizontal scrolling -the page is way too wide for somebody with a low resolution monitor. And you have vertical scrolling on the navigation - which means one third of the links a below the fold.
As you say, there are loads of good things on the site but the design and layout will turn people away.
Posted 07 May 2005 - 09:19 PM
Where does one acquire a log stats meter? That's what I was using AddFreeStats for but someone suggested I remove it.
As for the quality of the site itself, I have not been satisfied with it for quite a while but I didn't know what to do about it since I don't have the expertise to improve it and we can't afford to hire it done, what next. I guess it comes down to the fact that if we don't spend money on new text we won't have the money to spend, period.
Thanks for your input!
I have to disagree with you, our site is not a tad boring, even I find it a whole lot boring. If you read the whole reply that I posted at the end of page 1, I believe I said that, or words to that effect.
What are bullet points?? Remember, I'm pretty much website illiterate.
I totally agree about the 3 picture pages but he seemed a little reluctant to change that.
I also agree about the snowmobiler page. That was not my intention when I designed it and sent it to my webmaster. It was only supposed to be an example, not a page.
I realize that a lot of the problems on our site are my fault because I am not assertive enough about what I want and my only excuse is that I know nothing about web design and I was relying on my man to not lead me astray. Since joining this forum I have got a crash course on what works and what doesn't and some of it chafes even though I know it's true. I have been trying to talk my webmaster into joining because this "You said, he said" kind of communication is time consuming and not too effective. I think he will soon.
I very much appreciate every one of you who has been steering me in the right direction.
Thank you all,
Posted 07 May 2005 - 11:18 PM
We use Microsoft Servers, so I can only recommend the one we use for that.
We have found the http://www.loganalyzer.net provide the best tool for our services, but there are plenty of opinions from other members of this forum which will be relevant.
Microsoft Servers are used when you want asp, asp.NET or MS Access Database functionality to store bookings, enquiries etc.
As far as spending money, my personal opinion, and it is biased by my position in the market, is that spending money below a certain amount on design and development has little, none or in fact a detrimental impact on the image and effectiveness of your business.
I am not saying what that level is, but it varies between industries.
There is an upper ceiling on what one can spend as well, particularly in the restaurant, holday and recreation market.
So to listen to the fact that you have no money is what I hear everyday from every customer, but in fact, if you do it cleverly, you need to find where the website pays for its own development. So you find yourself in a situation where you know spending $1000 will have a big chance of retrieving that money plus some.
These are the types of relationships every designer dreams of, and I would hazard a guess that it only happens in 25% of all cases.
In my market, most web designers are like acupunctuarists. They will take your money no matter what your market and/or chances of success are, and stick pins in you regardless.
Posted 08 May 2005 - 09:21 AM
OK, so it's very boring - I was trying to be polite!
But let's begin at the beginning.
Get a Logo. This will be the primary advert for the site and must appear on every page. Get a good piccie of the cabin with the scenery behind it. Overlay this with the name of the site and a tag or strap line. This needs to be along the lines of: 'The wilderness comes home at Rivertrail' or whatever your key selling point is.
Introduce yourself. Put a 'Welcome to River Trail' type header under the logo.
Tell me what you can offer. List 5 or 6 key points about what you can do for me.
Show me what you can offer. A few well chosen pictures will sell the site much more than a description.
Show me what to do. Get the navigation on the homepage, do not make me click on a link to get into the site. The navigation can be on the left, across the top or down the right - this one is up to you.
And if your designer will not do what you want -get rid of them. If it is a friend or relation this can be a problem but they are not helping by not doing what you ask. If you are paying them to do the work then don't listen to their excuses - it's your website not theirs.
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