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I have seen it happen many times. A client asks me to code their latest great idea into a web site, and opening day has arrived. The site goes online, and… Nothing. No orders or signups that day. None that week, and maybe one or two that month. The days when one could launch a site and recline on a Lazy-boy, watching orders pour in are long gone, if they ever truly existed. Design and programming are only the first steps. It takes constant efforts to promote a site, a daily chore site owners often overlook. So, what steps should you take after launching a site? I will try to give you the minimum list of things to do…

I am not associated with any of the sites I mention and link-to below…

Your first step you be making sure that you have the correct meta tags. These tags are embedded in your pages and provide information about them, such as title, content, related keywords, intended distribution, etc. Search engines use them to classify your pages and link them to keywords. They are an important part of your pages, but because they are not mandatory, many designers do not use them.

Use a robot.txt file. This file tells automated web browsing programs how and what to index on your site. You can specify areas of your site not to be indexed. Robots can ignore it, but the legitimate ones will make good use of it.

You can control spiders/robots more efficiently using a .htaccess file, but that topic is beyond the scope of this article.

Allow your users to share your site on social media. A Facebook page can help you make your site more visible. There are tons of sites to submit yours to, like reddit.com. Add share buttons to your pages!

It is unfortunate that Google has become a quasi-monopoly in web services. You really can’t compete these days if you are boycotting Google, or if they are boycotting you! Fortunately what they offer does work.

Your site needs a site map. Search engines need a map of your site to index it. It is an XML formatted file placed in the root of your site, and often named sitemap.xml. Don’t worry about the format, softwares do that for you. Most E-Commerce software packages have built-in sitemaps. You can also use an online service to create it. Now that you have your sitemap, you need to submit it. Open a google webmaster account to do so. You will be asked to place a small file on your site to identify you as the owner, but that is easy to do. Google will now start indexing your pages, and they will be available (although far down the list at this point) in search results.

The most important factor in Google page ranking is how many sites link to yours. You should ask related sites to provide a link and offer them one on yours. One way to rank higher is to sign-up on related forums and regularly post or answer threads on them. You place your link in the signature of your posts, a setting that is usually available in your forum profile.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of search engines out there. You could visit all of them and submit your site manually, but it would take months. I suggest using a program like SubmitWolf. It will automate the task to a great extent. Even if each search engine sends you only one visitor a day, it will be worth it.

Create a QR code for your site, and post it everywhere. iPhone and smart phone users will have a quick way to get your link from print. Make sure you have a way to track visitors using it.

You need to know who visits your site, where they come from, what pages they load, etc. Open a Google Analytics account, place their piece of code in you page’s footer, and find out! Traffic information is also available in your web server log files, which you should be able to download. You can have a neat report generated and printed with a log file analyzer.

One often overlooked marketing tool is the RSS feed. It is mostly used for news. Your site probably has news too.. After all, it just opened, and isn’t that a big news? An RSS feed is another way to get the word out about your site. Like a site map, you can create it manually or it can be software generated. You need then to submit your feed to RSS aggregators, which will make it available for search, like a search engine.

If your site is selling products or services, it is a good idea to provide useful material which they might search for. For example, if you sell bathroom fixtures, provide tips on plumbing, soldering pipes, etc. Visitors are then more likely to find your site looking for related subjects.

You need to work on promotion every day, online and off-line. Don’t forget more traditional avenues of marketing, they work too! If you are still not getting enough visitors, try Google Adwords. You will pay for your visitors, but if it generates more profit than you spend, it is a good way to acquire new customers who might become regulars.

It does take a while to build traffic. Keep at it, update your site regularly, and soon or later, they will come!

I answer that question fairly often. There used to be very few choices. When I was about fourteen, my parents bought me a Sinclair ZX81 with a whopping 1kb of memory. After you turned it on, a prompt appeared, then, nothing… Pretty disappointing at first. You had to learn the Basic programming language to get it to do anything. I’ll be forever grateful to them for spending the equivalent of a thousand dollars on technology that at the time, was just a novelty. Today I make a living sitting in coffee shops sipping frappuccinos and writing code; better than digging trenches…

We have many other choices these days, and deciding which language to learn first can be a difficult decision. I will assume here that your goal is to learn skills you can market to hopefully make a decent living. Otherwise, go ahead and learn anything you’d like.

Most current languages are based on C. There is a lot of hoopla about Object Oriented Programming, and you certainly will need to know OOP, but as a first language, C can’t be beaten. C++ and Objective C are both subsets of C, and if you learn both, you can program on any platform there is, Windows, Linux, Mac, and iOS. Java is also based on C, and platform independent. For web programming, PHP uses a lot of C-like syntax. You simply can’t go wrong with C. Sure, it can be a pain in the ass. Pointers and memory management are, at first, rather annoying. It does however ingrain in you good programming practices an you will appreciate the higher level languages when you get to that point.

So, how do you learn C? Sams Publishing has the best programming books in the business. I suggest “Teach Yourself C in 21 Days,” by Jones Aitken. It provides you with a timeline to follow, reading and working on one chapter per day. Sure, you won’t be selling software after 21 days, but you will have a solid base upon which to build.

Where to go from there? It depends on whether you plan on developing for Windows or Apple OSX. For Windows, C++ is the natural progression. Java is also a good choice, and will allow you to code for Android devices. Objective C is used on all Apple products, Macs and the iPhone, iPod and iPad family of devices. If it was only for Macs, I wouldn’t bother. Not that I have anything against Macs. I just bought a Mac Mini, and OSX is superior to both Linux and Windows (which for the later isn’t very hard). Programming for Linux, well, there isn’t much money there, as you would be competing with hordes of programmers working for free.

I would definitely suggest checking out C++, Objective C and Java for your Post-C learning adventure. Sams Publishing has great books in their 21-days or 24-hours series to learn them. For Objective C, see the O’Reilly book: “Programming in Objective-C” by Stephen G. Kochan.

There are three languages I would like to mention on top of these choices. They are, in my opinion, excellent and worth a good look.

The first one is Python, and excellent platform independent scripting language which can be used to write command line tools, and even full fledged graphical applications, if you ever wanted to take it that far. I use Python almost daily to write database management programs. Perl used to be my first choice for such tasks, but Python is more organized, and has many modules available to do practically anything. And excellent book to learn Python is “Learning Python” by Mark Lutz, from O’Reilly.

A note on O’Reilly books. In my opinion they are of two kinds: The first is great books, even for the beginner, with clear explanations and easy to follow. The second is incomprehensible techno babble that is only readable by autistic savants. There is no middle ground. So, when you buy a book from them, make sure it falls in the first category.

The second is Borland (now Embarcadero) Delphi. The second language I learned after Basic was Turbo Pascal. It is a very good, fast and simple compiled language. For some reason I fail to understand, it has fallen out of favor; same goes for Delphi, which uses Pascal at it’s core. However, Embarcadero released Delphi XE2, which allows you to program for Windows, Mac and iOS at the same time. There is no faster Rapid Application Development tool anywhere, to my knowledge. I have a handful of shareware programs written in Delphi, and plan to use it again, when I can afford the $900 Professional version.

At last, for the web, PHP is the right choice. You can use PHP with Ajax, Javascript and of course HTML. PHP is great to connect to databases like MySQL. I use PHP daily for my customers and myself. Note that Ajax and HTML are not programming languages.

I hope you will find my suggestions useful. Have fun coding and don’t overdose on coffee!