Increasingly, I receive emails from people who like my main site and want to learn how I built it and how they might replicate my success. In this post I want to provide a few pointers to anyone just starting out.
Firstly, I built my site at a time when the current tools were simply not available. I did not particularly want to learn how to code, so I decided to go with a wyswyg editor and initially chose Microsoft Frontpage, later upgrading to Expressions Web. Not wishing to be unkind to the folks over at Mircrosoft, I would never recommend these products or this route to anyone. I said I did not want to learn the underlying HTML, but the truth is that I just had to because of the difficulties of working with these tools. They both produce very poor code and, often, it will not render well on browsers other that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
Initially, I started my blog on Blogger and used their ftp facility to populate the blog on my own domain. At the time, I thought this was a great idea and I started about 14 different blogs at the White Dove Books site. I offered them, free, to my Newsletter readers and soon we had a nice little blog network in place. I was delighted with the idea. It meant that we were growing the site faster than I could manage working on my own, and it was also providing the bloggers with access to a wider market that they might have been able to address without our help. It was a win-win idea – something I am always keen on developing. However, eventually, Blogger discontinued their ftp service and that effectively also ended our blog network.
Shortly after the blog network was allowed to die, Google decided to place my blog on page one for my main search term ‘personal development’. I was, of course, pleased, but the blog was getting more and more out of date because of the termination of the ftp facility. That was when I decided to bite the bullet and setup my current blog. I had been meaning to try the WordPress platform for some time, but always had other things to do, so this was the ideal opportunity. Bearing in mind I had never used WordPress before, I had my new blog setup within about two hours. That included uploading the software, patching it, creating a theme so that it perfectly matched the rest of my site, importing my Blogger posts via RSS and installing the key plugins.
It has now been quite a few months that I have been using WordPress and I have to say that I am thoroughly impressed. Once you have it setup, you can get on with the important stuff, which is, of course, writing. Even now, I still have to remind myself when I want to add some functionality to my site that there will probably already be a WordPress plugin that will do exactly what I want. In addition to that, WordPress allows you to create pages as well as posts. You can use the platform to create any kind of website – not just a blog. So, I would wholeheartedly recommend using WordPress as the basis of any website you might be thinking about starting. If I were starting again, I would have built the Whit Dove Books site entirely within WordPress.
WordPress is completely free and is definitely one of the top three content management systems available, along with Joomla and Drupal. So if you are starting, I suggest you take out a hosting plan, get yourself a domain and install WordPress to get started. There is a lot more for you to learn, but this would be my first recommendation and if you can’t install it yourself, get someone else to do it for you (you can get a free WordPress installation here). Once you have your site setup, start putting some content on there (either pages or posts). You won’t get Google interested in your site without content, so forget about making money and first concentrate of creating a useful site. Just one last thing: before you create your WordPress site, think about your main search term and use it in the selection of your blog title and domain name.
When you have created a quality site, you need to get it ranked (see How to Get on Page #1) in the engines. There are many ways you can monetise your traffic (see 3 Simple Methods) including selling your own products. It might take you three to six months of solid effort to built a site of real value adding one quality post per day, but that’s what you need to do. That is genuinely the first crucial step that so few people will ever take. Ask yourself how you can provide value to your visitors an then go and do it. If you stop looking for a magic bullet and just do it, you will be ahead of most of the other people who are still looking for that secret knack. There is no secret! It’s just hard work and persistence.