Hello World! … We’re Iowa City Website Designers! (ICWD)

Hi, Welcome to IowaCityWebsiteDesigners.com (ICWD). I’m Greg Johnson. You can read more about me on my bio page and the links from there.

Why ICWD. There are a few reasons why I setup ICWD and a few goals I hope it can accomplish:

  • Central Dispatch. I setup this website as a central dispatch for website developers in our area. It’s similar in concept to the site IowaCityComputerSupport.com that I launched a while back. Potential customers call a single number, and actually get someone on the phone who can help them sort out their options and figure out who is a good match for their needs.
  • Personal Portfolio. I wanted to create a web-development-centric site where I could showcase my own work. Rather than calling it DesignsByGreg.com (or something else personalized), I wanted the name and the site to more broadly reach and serve the local web development community.
  • Reviews. As someone who thinks and lives with cooperation and collaboration in mind, I wanted to provide some positive reviews of the work being done by other web developers in the area. I thought ICWD would be a nice place to feature and review local website designers and their work since we have many good people in our area doing high-quality web development. Some of the best sites on the Internet are brewed right here in Iowa City.
  • Training. For those wanting to get started in web development, and for clients who want to be more independent, I want to provide some tips, training, and best practices. I hope to share transparently the open-source inner workings behind my own development work.
  • An SEO Case Study. Part of the motivation for launching a website with a seemingly generic sounding name was to create a website with a domain name that utilizes keywords people will likely search to find website services in our area. I’ve tested this method a few times before, and wanted to further explore it’s possibilities as an SEO mechanism.

Background – My Big Tent Success. Until recently, I’d put all my content under a single domain, the ResourcesForLife.com website, as a unified umbrella to aggregate content. The idea was to reduce time and money invested in hosting by having a single site that serves many purposes. So, I’ve used that site since about 1996 as the home to my various business operations and personal interests. In 2002 with the launch of the SmallHouseSociety.org identity I was interested to see if a single website (ResourcesForLife.com) could effectively serve disparate user groups while maintaining the unique identity of each. The past 10+ years have proven that the cross pollination of different interest groups creates synergy, and the outcome is more than the sum of the parts. There are many web-based resources that need not be duplicated in a shared environment, such as the Contact Us page, Donations/Payment pages, Feedback forms, Privacy policy, advertising affiliate agreements, and account connections to a long list of social networks. The social network unification system proved to be a huge time saver — providing a single point of entry into every social network on the web. This meant that each additional “user group” or micro website at ResourcesForLife.com needed only to have a simple page to be launched, then it could immediately piggy-back on the existing infrastructure of the site and the existing social network connections.

Big Tent and SEO. My long-time concern about having an all inclusive website was the matter of search engine optimization (SEO). A site without a focus would presumably be difficult for a search engine to make sense of. In the old days, when you’d submit your website to search engines, it was necessary to provide the purpose or theme of the site by choosing one item from a long list. Search engines weren’t really setup for mega-sites. Yet, with the growth of Yahoo, MSN, Excite, and other early networks, as well as the launch of Wikipedia, search engines became smarter and could be more aware of the topic branches within websites. Using a mix of keyword URL naming and keyword page naming, I was actually able to get some fairly reliable page 1 (and often position #1) search results positioning for keywords of my choosing. I’m not one to manipulate SEO methods for personal gain or create undeserved positioning, but if there’s a legitimate case for content to appear on page one for non-commercial reasons, I’ll work to see that it gets done. I believe that SEO practices need to be genuine, authentic, and valuable to the searchers. Since SEO is ultimately measured by a mix of machines and genuine human interest, it’s ultimately difficult system to trick. Authentic and valuable content eventually rises to the top. I’ve learned a lot from my SEO research and experiments. What I ultimately realized is that you just have to cook good food — meaning, you need to create meaningful content and (almost) ignore everything else you hear about SEO.

Small Tent Method. My interest now is to explore the benefits of creating independent branding and design for my different interests and endeavors. As the time and money invested in website hosting costs and domain registration fees have declined, this is now more feasible. It also allows one to utilize keywords in the domain name rather than simply further down in the URL.

ICWD Google Ranking. Back in September of 2011, I setup IowaCityWebsiteDevelopers.com with the intent to use it as a central dispatch for website developers in our area. I did nothing with the domain and the “website” remained as an untouched generic WordPress site without any content until February 2012. What’s interesting to me is that despite having been abandoned from its inception (which probably cost some SEO points), the site is currently showing up on page 9 of a Google search for Iowa City Website Designers (as of 20120208we1524). I’m interested to track the rise of the site to page one for that keyword search and see what methods appear to be effective for helping it rise to the top. I’ll plant to post some progress updates here.

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Document History. This document was originally created automatically on September 15, 2011 when this website was established. It was revised on February 8, 2012 but the original creation date was retained to avoid broken links with Google’s search engine.

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