educational

Five Nasty Net Nuisances

Brian Dunlap
Webmasters have a host of ever-present concerns that demand time and constant attention. There are the obvious aspects of site operation: bandwidth costs, traffic sources, sales conversion ratios, content and so forth. However, there are other aspects of site ownership—from the conduct and behavior of those with whom we share the Web to subtle technological details—that can have profound effects on how our sites perform and whether we’re effectively conducting business or getting, pardon my French, the shaft. With that in mind, what follows is a list of nasty Net nuisances webmasters should be ever wary of.

1. Hotlinking
This term is used to describe displaying images remotely on a site other than where the images are actually hosted. Hotlinking can suck up bandwidth resources and ramp up bandwidth costs. Sites like Developer Shed and HTML Basix offer free tips and tricks on how to arm your site against hotlinking with an .htaccess file, which secures it from this potentially costly annoyance. Likewise, .htaccess configuration can ensure that new surfers enter your site from the main index page (as opposed to a deeplinked location) and don’t get turned off by error pages.

2. Unsolicited Email
It’s extremely common for computer viruses to be programmed to replicate and spread themselves by scanning an infected computer’s hard drive for email addresses located in, among other things, .html files. That includes a plain text or hyperlink reference to your "webmaster@" email address located in the cache of a machine that’s visited a page at your site on which it’s displayed. Keep your anti-virus software up to date and set to scan incoming emails, use your mail client’s filtration features, and don’t have a default/ main and catch-all email address that are one in the same. Consider not using a "webmaster@" email address at all and choose something a bit more creative and personal.

3. Recip Links That Never Actually Become Reciprocal
Submitting your site to a link list or directory that requires you place their reciprocal link (text link or banner on your own site that is directed back at the site you’re submitting to) on your own? Keep close track of whether or not you show up in their directory promptly after placing their recip and submitting. The entire time their recip is on your site, you’re sending them traffic and promoting them. If it takes them too long to place your link (over a month) then take their link down and move on to the next one. Don’t keep sending them traffic and making them money with no favors returned to you.

4. Altered Content On Your Linked-To Sites
Once those reciprocal links are mutual, the risk hasn’t entirely dissipated. Follow the outbound links on your site to be sure that the content on their destination is what you’re expecting it to be. Surfers won’t distinguish between the destination site and the one that got them there (yours) when they end up at some irrelevant popup/spyware/redirecting mess of a URL. Take the time to surf your own site as your visitors might to be sure you’re not directing them somewhere you’d not want to go.

5. An Inability To Be Spidered
When choosing a host, find out who some of their other clients are and do a quick Google search on their domain name to be sure they’re in Google’s index. Can you imagine a more nightmarish scenario than a site entirely inaccessible to the search engines, completely eliminating them as a potential source of traffic and revenue? It happens, and it happens often. Be sure your META tags don’t have incomplete or erroneous JavaScript or bits of code, check to make sure your robots.txt file is compatible with search engine spidering, and do a Google search on your domain name often until you find yourself in their index. A free dream utility that enables you to predict how your site will be displayed in Google’s index can be found at here. If the Poodle gives you an error message, it’s time to start sweating.

It’s very easy, when overwhelmed with all the massive and complicated tasks involved in developing and operating a website, to forget about or completely ignore the more tedious and less obvious details of running a website. However, applying even a small bit of preventative foresight could end up saving you a great deal of time and money once your site’s activity really kicks into gear.

Brian Dunlap is the Director of Marketing for Bionic Pixels LLC.

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