I personally don’t like these “easy builders” because of their inherent limitations. For some, it’s just a convenient way to get a website up quickly and not worrying about how the site runs. Websites that are easy to setup allow people to sign up, pay, and focus on content and that is great to a point. It makes the future difficult if or when they become successful and need something much more flexible.
The site builders make selling online or building your blog painless, or frictionless. Simplifying the process for someone to sell widgets or write content has been a winning strategy for sites like eBay, Amazon, Reddit, and many other sites on the web for a couple decades now.
Let’s try to focus on just building a blog and leave out the eCommerce for this post and find ways to start all the way to generating traffic. This can be the easiest way to start because you only have to write, take pictures, and engage with your readers in the beginning. This seems straightforward, and without eCommerce or other functions, your site becomes light and fast…or at least we can hope so. The important question is, how do you build a successful blog? That question can be answered in many ways, but I am going to take a fairly straight approach to answer this.
The Basic Setups
Figuring out the magic in building a popular website has been akin to finding the meaning of life, which we all know is 42. The web grows each second and that mass further bury new sites that have great content that no one will ever read because they don’t know how to rise above the noise. It’s a sad truth and even this blog is not immune to the growth issue.
Taking a moment to understand the high likelihood of failure is vital and needs to be accepted before you can move forward. However you need to sort that reality is up to you, but for me, it has been the practice of failure that helps me learn. Go in with “guns blazing”, but understand that it may never be enough. Pessimistic much? Yes, but it’s also a very real thing that can’t be ignored. Use it to build confidence and find ways to overcome those that tell you that you have no chance in Hell in making it. I have failed in countless projects while only feeling success a couple of times in my life and I own every one of them.
Starting off, before we buy any domain names or hosting services, we need to define the niche that you want to cover. What do you want to write about? Maybe it’s about being a mom, traveling, or something else that you have a passion for. Once you know what the site will be about you can move forward with buying the domain name and then finding web hosting for the site. After nailing that down you’ll need to figure out how you will build your website.
Will you build it from scratch and learn how to develop as you go? If you do want to learn how to code and start from scratch then I recommend checking the DevTips and LevelUpTut’s YouTube channels. Or, you can simply download and install a CMS like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal to name just a few that will make the framework easy. The website installation on your server should be easy and straightforward. YouTube will be your friend if you have no idea how to do it, and I would personally use WordPress as it has the lowest barrier-to-entry for beginners or those that want a lot of flexibility.
I started off by learning Joomla and finally moved away to WordPress around 2008. If you are unsure about how to build a website or how to use your hosting you can opt to hire a freelancer to do the work for you so you can worry about the good stuff (content). All you have to do is Google “freelancer” and plenty of options will show up. For those that want to get their hands dirty, here is a quick walkthrough:
- Choose the name and niche. (brainstorm something cool)
- Buy the domain. (Google domains, Amazon Route 53, GoDaddy, Namecheap…etc)
- Buy the hosting services. (To0 many choices, start here)
- Download WordPress.
- Create a MySQL database, user, and password.
- Upload WordPress .zip to your server’s public_html folder.
- Extract the .zip file and go into the “WordPress” folder, select all, move to root (next level up).
- Go to www.yoursite.com and run the installer.
- You will enter localhost, DB name, DB user, DB password.
- Store all of this access info in a text doc just in case.
- WordPress should be installed with the admin account created.
- Delete and .zip files and empty folders called “WordPress”.
- You have a brand new website.
Assuming all of the above went well and you are seeing a brand new website, we now have lots of work to do. It’s time to go visit all the social media platforms you may want to use in the future for your blog and create a page that uses your domain name. You need to reserve your name, but don’t do anything with them yet. We are simply holding the properties for later. Let’s jump through each piece…
Once you have established your brand new site (or an old one for some of you struggling), you need to start building your brand’s social presence. Out of the gate, I go to all the platforms that I might remotely use and get my brand’s vanity URLs and setup the initial pages so you have it before someone else snags it. This is roughly a 20-30 minute activity and the platforms I would personally focus on are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, Soundcloud, Reddit, LinkedIn, Vimeo, Disqus, Snapchat, and any others that make sense to have. Here is the key idea…I don’t use them all, but I have them all.
I try to focus purely on a couple that will work for my niche. It’s important to know if you are visual, audio, or just text kind of brand. I am not all that visual with my blog so another platform I am registered on is Medium, and maybe WordPress.com so I can get my writing out there. I try to capture all of my third-party platforms as possible and then I brand them with consistent artwork. Your logo and branding are another critical piece to get right, up front.
Some may laugh at this, but try to consider how important first impressions are when you meet someone for the first time. Online we are trying to convey the same feeling but by using a name, colors, typography and more so a person will see what your site is all about and remember it. This is critical, and if you want to challenge this concept please take a bit of time and read the book Blink by author Malcolm Gladwell. Here is a quick list of what I personally do when working on a brand and building out someone’s vision from nothing on the social media sites.
- Register all brand vanity URL’s or secure a presence on platforms without the vanity URLs if the option doesn’t exist.
- Focus on the colors, brainstorm many logo ideas, build out the overall design set for all platforms.
- Make sure the site & social media has the branding correct across everything.
- Then turn the focus to content.
The next step is going to be just as critical as your branding. We need to switch gears and think about the actual content people might want to read or that Google might index. On each platform, you should have filled out any and all “About”, “Descriptions” or any of text fields that you can fill in. All of the typed content on social media should compliment your website’s “About”, “Mission”, “Terms of Service”, and any other pages that outline your purpose or function. It should not be a copy and paste either so be creative.
This should lead us to talking SEO in the next segment which will also include the discussion on content. This is how people organically find your website when they search in Google or other search engines. You have to build a presence and hopefully becoming an authoritative one in your niche.
Search Engine Optimization is something many people try to avoid, but you need it. Even if it is just a little link building here and there, it’s an important part of existing. The content you write will need to be indexed in search engines and social media platforms. You now have to take into account the keywords, sitemaps, phrases to rank for, link building, and so much more. Google even takes into account page speed and security on your website too.
Solid Tip: Take a bit of advice and get your SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt and never look back again. Also install The SEO Framework to help guide you in meeting your keyword goals. I am moving away from Yoast or WordPress SEO.
Let’s take this post as an example. My goal is to rank for “building website traffic”. I know that is going to be nearly impossible to get first page results using that phrase, but it’s still a reasonable example. We need to take search into account so I made sure that “building website traffic” is in the title, meta description, in the body of the post and even the Alt Text of the images. Crazy right? I made sure to have an SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt, employed Cloudflare to protect my website, and use the WordPress plugin called WP-Rocket to speed things up. I even made sure I am using the “h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, and h6” titles correctly.
Using h6 for Building Website Traffic
I should note that I have never made a post using an h6 tag that I can recall. So I added this just in case :)
Using all of these things together allows me to tell Google to “look at me!”. I am writing an awesome post on “building website traffic” and I want to be first in the Google organic search results for that phrase. I have tried to do everything I can in my control to set this post up for success, but I am not done…by a long shot.
We need to leverage social media to send signals to Google that I wrote something amazing. I need the correct size images for my social media post and create custom titles and descriptions for the social media to pull information from the website post. Once things look good I go ahead and add my new post on all of my social pages. I also try to schedule my content to post when my audience is most likely to be online.
Then I try to reach out to people that I know and ask them to like and share my posts or tweets. This then should catch the Google spider to come around and see what is happening. If I did things correctly then it might want to come back and see if this post needs to be ranked higher in the search engine. This is all done in a “perfect world” of course so everyone’s mileage will vary.
These 6 paragraphs shouldn’t be taken just as cliff notes on search engine optimization. It’s meant as a quick intro into thinking like Google does but you should really be creating content for humans and not Google spiders. I go much deeper in other posts on all of these topics so don’t be shy on the search button. Let’s move along to the high-quality content phase and how to maintain it.
When committing to creating only the best pieces you can muster, do not force ideas just to meet a deadline. Yes, I believe in consistency, but it shouldn’t be at the degradation of the quality that your readership expects. As much as I want to tell everyone that a new post comes out every Tuesday and a video on Thursday, I can’t and won’t. If I hit a writing groove then of course, I can probably meet that goal, but the content is always king on my blog. Set your standard however you want but try your best to only publish the best pieces that you can.
The goals for your content and how to incorporate SEO within can be challenging, but done correctly and it will be something that helps carry water. If that post is solid then it will be well be well received and shared on social by your audience when there is one. I truly take a while in building out the framework and creating content that I think is worthy of the world to read. I could write each day a 500-word post, but I would rather take my game to the next level every time.
Content is 80% of what you do and what you are online. If you are producing low-quality content that no one wants to read or share (excluding Buzzfeed for some reason) then you are already out of the game. There is no replacement for high-quality content. This includes all of the written, audio, or visual types. Never leave a description empty and give the readers what they want. Successful blogs begin with incredible evergreen & useful content that engages and pushes a person to share it and come back over and over again.
Site Navigation and Aesthetics
The overall look, easy navigation, and the ease your readers have in finding the content they want are crucial. These points might sound silly, but UI/UX is probably the most important puzzle pieces to ensure people can move around your site quickly and that it is frictionless. I try my best to get the right typography (consistent font-use across the site), correct colors, and menu navigation that is easy to understand. I want the reader to get to the content in no more than 3 clicks, but 1 click is my target. That is what I call removing the friction.
You might ask what I mean by the word friction. It’s the ads that might lead the reader off your blog, the annoying pop-up to capture their email address, or just a completely disorganized site. Your #1 purpose in being a blogger is to get your content read & shared. That’s it. If you want to create friction for your readers then expect a higher bounce rate, less engagement and all the other thing that come with making your site a pain in the ass to use.
This one is probably the difference in winning and losing. You either have it or don’t from all of my experiences. A blog can take us all on an emotional rollercoaster, but if we really believe in what we are creating we stay focused. Even if you had tons of cash to throw at your blog it will only last for so long. People need reasons to keep coming back or to recommend your site to others. There have been plenty of sites backed by millions of dollars that got a giant leap and some of those have weathered the storm. There will be many that never do much, but the few who have the patience last and climb the mountain of success.
I have never had millions of dollars to build a website so I can’t tell you how to do it correctly. Instead, I offer the shoestring way that has gotten me this far. I am still somewhat in the middle of my internet journey, but it has been one that I would do over again and again. I have patience now and that could be from several things I have done in my life. I know that it could be another year before this blog gains a traction that I feel would be considerable. It’s always about the long game.
A project consumes either time or money and you probably only have so much of both. Focus on the end goal and celebrate the shit out of it when you get there! If that doesn’t happen then I will lend you a shoulder to cry a bit then I will tell you to pick it up and build again!
Having a schedule is important so your audience knows when to catch you. They need to know if you are a daily blogger or a monthly one. People like some kind of structure. This is an area where I struggle to practice what I preach. It’s very hard to be consistent, but it is not impossible. A great example of consistency that comes to mind is the Philip DeFranco YouTube channel. Now this can be an unfair standard because this is his job and has employees while me and you are on our own (assuming).
While I know that being on time and being dependable is super important, I also know that content goes out when I decide that it is ready for the public. I refuse to be tied down and put out just so I can meet a rigorous schedule. I see so many channels on YouTube suck because they are forcing content so they can get those ad dollars. It works for some but not for all. I won’t ever take my own advice but maybe your content is the type that can be on a schedule.
I will add that if I had other writers the consistency would change. I would love to publish an amazing post every day, but even once a week is still awesome. We will see if this changes in the future.
Knowing Your Audience
Another important item on the checklist is knowing who you are targeting. Who are you hoping will read, listen or watch your content? This keeps yourself from just throwing all kinds of randomness to an audience that is showing up at your site for A, and you are talking about A, B, C, and D. Leave the B, C, and D out unless your audience likes something out of the ordinary from time to time. Focus and measure your audience so you can gear your content towards them.
You can find your audience by looking at your demographics on social media, or in Google Analytics. You can always do some old fashion research online to see who is reading, listening, or watching your type of content. It may be easy if you are simply trying to reach people just like yourself.
For this blog I am targeting B2B or small businesses wanting to find a way to come out strong. There are other segments too, but those small businesses are at the heart of my content. I want them to know how to win online.
Leveraging the content stacking strategy is certainly a big deal and we all need to learn how to nail this. I want to go a bit further in defining different mediums and how they relate to your effort.
- Writing posts give readers something they can chew on.
- Audio (music or podcasts) can give the audience another way to consume your thoughts.
- Video on YouTube can put you on all kinds of devices from my cell phone to my Chromecast.
- Infographics can allow you to be a source for beautiful data.
- Photography can give you some special attention for us visual folks.
- Live streams on Facebook, YouTube, or something like Twitch gives your audience real-time interaction.
You can read my post on this, but the outcome is taking a piece of content and turn it into many different mediums. You are building your content vertically. I can write this post, then narrate it, maybe expand on it and write an eBook for Amazon, and finally do a YouTube video on it. Content stacking is a way to grow well beyond your audience.
Writing content is basically at the heart of any blog. You have to create content to be indexed in Google and to give people a reason to come to your website in the first place. This takes time to nail down and repeat it often. This is an area that I struggle to get right as well. I was trying to create content in hotel rooms, after 9+ hour flights across the Pacific Ocean and any other time or place that I could. Well written content is powerful and the rewards come time after time if you spend your efforts creating gems that people love and share. Be actionable in your writing.
If you are the type that doesn’t want to write and just want to do a vlog or podcast just remember that it’s hard to index that kind of content. On social it’s fairly easy but not if you are just adding it to a site that Google struggles to index for the correct terms. Keep in mind that you need balance.
Imagery runs the web in my opinion, but I also know that you have to do more than just add imagery. Whether it is a photo you took at the zoo or an image you created in Adobe Illustrator, it can’t stand alone on a website and be a lighthouse. People are visual by nature so take out your camera or sit at your computer and create beauty for others to enjoy.
There are also stock images, embeddable visuals from social networks or other methods to consider. You can use Getty images if need be but I personally don’t support Getty. Let your images add vibrance or emotion to the text you are posting or even just let them tell a story on their own with a gallery.
I never create a post without a visual piece that people can relate what the message is about. I do it because text can be boring. I don’t like to be boring, but sometimes it is what it is.
People automatically think of podcasting when they think audio. You can get a mic, download Audacity for free, and upload your audio to a media host. That is the easiest way to start a content stack, but I also audio blog. People like to listen while they are working, driving, or just hanging out at home. All they have to do is press play and you are in their ears. That is a quick and powerful way to get your content out there for many to consume.
I recommend getting a mic even if it is one for your smartphone if this interests you. It adds another layer that people can fall in love with. Audio is powerful and companies like Google and Apple are racing to be that audio port in your car. Take a long look at the evolution of audio and figure out a way for you to own it in your own way.
YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and people around the globe are consuming more video content than ever before. Creating a YouTube channel can become a huge win and allow you to really build a following if you make great videos. Just remember that YouTube isn’t the only game in town. We have choices like Vimeo, Facebook, and live streaming as well on several services to include a platform like Twitch and Blab if they come back.
This can be the realest or the fakest medium to dive into. If you live stream without cuts like Louis Rossmann then people are going to see you as authentic and I know this is why his channel rose out of nowhere so quickly. You have plenty of channels that probably come to mind when I say the fakest. The point is to find the way it works for you and establishes your brand.
The last thing I will say about video is to prepare for lots of time spent creating, editing, and uploading. The video medium is the most intensive in my opinion.
Use Third Parties
Rinse and repeat each day with a piece of content to share on a site that is not yours. Write on Medium, answer on Quora, G+, or anywhere you desire. All this content will continue to pile up and index in organic search and hopefully passed around by others. If you have the time to do it like that then start preparing content for people to follow.
I never write off a good article on Medium or an answer on Quora. I just make sure that I build my house (website) on my own property (hosting). A third-party website or service and be gone in a flash along with all of the content you shared. This is a double edged sword and this is why I tell you to do it, but tread lightly.
I remember the years that any commercial on TV, store, or the entire advertising world always ended with “like us on Facebook” and now it’s nowhere. Rarely do I hear or see any kind of Facebook endorsement. It’s not dead, but many stepped away after many changes. Take this to heart so you aren’t crushed when you get 3 copyright strikes by a competitor on YouTube, or Facebook decides to remove your page for whatever reason. I have heard and seen people get crushed by over-investing into a platform they didn’t own.
Use them, but use them with the knowledge that your run on them can be epic or an epic disaster. Going in armed with this knowledge can certainly make a huge difference.
Traffic is not easy, so that’s why I encourage anyone to start by building a home…your own website. You have to have a place to bring people after all. Then, and only after then, you should grow roots and spread your message out and find your audience. The “Build it and they will come” method is dead. You need to go knock on their doors.
This system of bringing in traffic is the largest puzzle for all of us. You need everything I have covered up to this point and then figure out what is next. That next is where do you want them and what do they do once they show up.
You can buy traffic if you need numbers but I advise against it as much as possible. You won’t get anything out of it except a bunch of bots that tag your site. You need to find the right traffic for your content. You also need to decide if you are going to go with the guerilla method of getting your hands dirty with unorthodox ways to bring people in, or pay for it. Paying for it means learning how to use Google Adwords, Facebook ads, and plenty of other platforms that will happily take your money for some ads.
If you go guerrilla then get ready to have fun. You can search for endless ideas and hopefully come up with your own to get people to see you. It is very possible to gain some serious attraction with the right ideas. Whether it’s placing weird stickers around the city or stir up some controversy with clickbait.
There is a third way to get traffic and it’s by just creating content people want. A great video or researched piece can grab a lot of attention. Figure out what you want to do and run with it. I will expend on this specific area in another post. This section on traffic happens when you carefully execute the previous sections. If you do it right the traffic will start flowing in from different sources. The execution is the most important part.
It’s Not Working
If you are still not seeing growth in your stats, then maybe your expectations are too high or something isn’t right. Check through all of the above items and see if there is something you missed. If you honestly can’t figure it out after 4-6 months of pushing, then it might be time to have an outside opinion on your efforts. You can ask a friend, ask a question on Quora, or you can ask me. I can’t guarantee that I can accommodate a review, but the worst I can say is, “no, I don’t have time”.
We are all here trying to make something of a temple online. Mine is helping individuals and small business owners. If you need something really in depth please feel free to email me and we can see where we can go with your brand. I lend advice for free, but I charge for actual consulting work.
My true goal is to give you something to chew on and hopefully get you back on the right track so you can capture all of the success that you want. We can win together. Thanks for reading this post and I hope you will find my others just as helpful. Feel free to leave a comment below and join with a free membership if you haven’t already.