The Forgotten Manual-How to Start and Maintain a Successful Website and Online Presence (In English!); An Extensive Breakdown of EVERYTHING you Need to Know!
The following content of this post is an extensive and comprehensive guide all about how to build a website or blog from scratch and how to maintain a successful, ongoing business and online presence over time. It is best read sequentially, from start to finish, but at any given time, you can quickly reference certain steps here. Today, I assume you know nothing. We will define even the smallest terms from the very beginning up until the very end to set you up for long term success.
Why does it seem like everything has to be unnecessarily complicated ALL the time?
You all know what I’m taking about.
You can’t just speak to a real person on the phone when you call ANYWHERE and when you do, you have to repeat 10 minutes worth of information to 10 different people.
And then after 10 more minutes of waiting, you get disconnected.
For the 10th time!
You buy every ingredient for dinner tonight at a store, which is out of just ONE critical item warranting another separate grocery stop. And then the lines for the checkout at THAT said store are backed up all the way to the dairy wall and filled with carts that look like people just found out about the pandemic all over again!
Holding up the airport security line with your like…10 different bins because apparently everything to your name somehow needs to be separated by like…10 feet of space. That bag of pretzels is looking pretty suspicious! It best have it’s own bin!
Five words: “Where is the Tupperware lid?!”
Four words: Skinny jeans, big calves.
Three words: “Print it out.”
Two words: Ripe avocados.
One word: Taxes!
Let’s face it. There are seemingly endless overly complicated daily living circumstances to which we find ourselves saying “You’d think someone would have changed this by now!”
We can’t control every little nuisance in life. After all, nuisances make us appreciate when things are unexpectedly simple, right?! At least…that’s what we tell ourselves in a world of infinite “someone ought-tos” out there!
While I can’t explain how every Tupperware loses its lid and ever lid loses its Tupperware and I can’t make skinny jeans go away any time soon (Believe me, I’ve been trying for years!) and you probably don’t want me doing your taxes if you want to stay out of jail, today I decided to be the “someone” to “extensively simplify” and break down even the “I should know this” baby steps of yet one more thing that has become increasingly complicated over the years.
And don’t worry. This one doesn’t involve any long lines, explosive snacks, ill-fitting apparel or anything perishable (other than maybe your ongoing anxiety).
That’s right. Today, we are clearing the air on HOW TO START A WEBSITE!
And the best news you’ll hear all day is that the enjoyment you get from having your own site will last a little longer than your favorite green-pitted fruit in the window sill that was never actually used and is now mud-brown and…grossly still on the window sill.
We all know that person!
Even if it’s ourselves…
I decided to write a post on this particular topic because despite website building being such a common occurrence in these days of electronically-advanced everything except printers, “someone ought to” have invented some sort of manual that CLEARLY explains what it is we’re getting ourselves into on this little technology venture.
Well, I’ll tell you what someone ought to NOT have to do and that is spend FOUR WHOLE YEARS constructing a website that ultimately has to be torn down, scrapped and rebuilt completely from scratch.
Again. Five years later.
But with ALL NEW tools and terms to learn!
I think it’s safe to say I’ve been through a few trenches here and there!
Well, just because my old no-longer-existing website that took four years to build is now resting in peace somewhere off in technology heaven, that doesn’t mean YOU can’t peacefully rest at night already having the knowledge and understanding of what I took all that time to learn when going about building YOUR website!
Apparently my “four year learning curve” wasn’t ENTIRELY wasted after all. Both my clients and my personal friends and family seem to think of me as someone who has “been there done that” and is at least “sort of in the know” when it comes to building a business and struggling to create a website completely from scratch with no prior experience!
Yeah. What better person than someone who seemingly learns EVERYTHING in life the hard way to help clarify and simplify something unnecessarily complicated and daunting to the general public?!
Seriously. You should see the shenanigans I get myself into!
Over these past couple of years I have found myself hearing and answering many of the same questions over and over like that song you hear in the mall department store that you think is skipping and then discover it’s just one of those remixes with the two minute long introductions.
And then you remember…like….no one uses CDs anymore.
OK, let’s just not tell anyone about thought sequence. No one needs to know your age.
So what ARE some of these questions, anyway, and why am I taking the time to write an entire article on this?
Well, in case you still don’t understand what my business, Purple Hood Adventures, actually IS, it is not just about travel, but also about building a creative and location-independent life you love, which often BEGINS with having a website!
Today’s post is my way of sparing you at least SOME of the pain points and complications of building your own creative entrepreneurship or blog in pursuit of having the time and freedom to live a life you’re truly passionate about, whether that be traveling the world or doing whatever it is in life that you DO love!
Most businesses and blogs do need SOME type of website to really be successful, even if that website is a social media platform (not recommended but not totally unheard of).
Also, when you have your own website, you get to post whatever you want to and skip the distracting posts from your news feed staring you in the face, which make you vow for the third time in the past hour that you are DONE with social media!
Trust me. Having your own website may sometimes have you ripping out your OWN hair, but at least you won’t be ripping out other peoples’! That’s probably not legal and also doesn’t bode well for your personal branding. We want to avoid that if possible.
Today, we’re going to talk about the very basic framework you need to set yourself up for long term success from the very beginning. We’re going to talk about the things that you need to decide and about the basic steps to get started…
So many blog posts and “how tos” out there I’ve stumbled upon assume you have at least somewhat of an understanding of the website-building process and SOME tech skills here and there. Today, I assume nothing. We will breakdown each step and FINALLY fully explain all of those “I should probably know this alreadys” and the “Where’s the Advil?” terms from the very beginning, thoroughly and in meticulously, once and for all.
And in English, to boot!
Because…guess what?! If you WANT to succeed and you take the time to do things the right way from the very beginning, your business WILL be a success!
ALL…and I do mean ALL businesses, websites and entrepreneurships that FAIL are a DIRECT RESULT OF GIVING UP. If you stick with ANYTHING long enough and you’re not afraid to readjust your ideas to meet the needs of your audience, you WILL succeed. ALWAYS.
But the fact of the matter is beginning your own website, business or creative influencing gig is HARD! There is a reason why not everyone out there is doing this exact thing. After all, being location-independent and waking up excited every morning to work as you live off of something you single-handedly built, from the ground up, as you watch it flourish more and more with each passing day sounds kind of appealing, right?!
Heck! It sounds like a utopia, no?!
Then WHY aren’t more people doing this?? Why is it more exciting for people to talk about that “promotion at work” or “early retirement” rather than that “new blog post published” or “job you love SO much that retirement isn’t even on your radar because you love it THAT much?”
Because getting through work with incentives and promise of higher pay and being done sooner is FAR more common!
Living a life directed by no one but YOU doing what you LOVE? Every day? Not so common.
The hardest part of starting anything new is not simply beginning like they all say.
Anyone can begin. The REAL challenge lies in perseverance and NOT GIVING UP.
DISCLAIMER: There is no…I repeat, NO EASY WAY to build a creative influencing website or entrepreneurship without a lot of time, energy, work and dedication. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably selling something!
It’s like expecting to take a weight loss pill to lose 100 pounds and keep it off but not adjusting your diet or exercise patterns. If you want something REAL then you need to work hard for it. Every day. It needs to become a lifestyle and something you do because it is for YOU and no one else. The day that becomes true for you, the rest will fall into place.
If you’re reading this post and don’t think you can stick with something if it takes too long or demands too much energy, maybe go read one of my other posts like the one about winter hiking or Costa Rica.
If you’re still reading, congratulations! You just conquered your first milestone: not being scared off by the word “work!”
Although all of your work in whatever it is you’re about to embark on will ultimately be yours to decide on and learn about as you grow, we all go through the similar period in which we just need to learn how to get started. Whether it be content creating, building your following or creating products or services, let’s start at the very beginning: the basic framework of your own oh-so-important website that keeps the hair of your social media friends intact. My goal today is to also give YOU the maximum chance of keeping your OWN hair intact throughout your ongoing journey.
Since there’s nothing like numbers, colors and hierarchy to help me organize something in my own brain, here’s a little preview of the remainder of your day(s). If you really want to get the maximum understanding of everything you’ll need to know to build your site, I recommend you read the following topic points like a sequential story, but if you must, and your patience matches your Tupperware lid inventory, you can also just jump to any one of the following main points in this post for quick reference as you continuously progress through your website-building adventures (Why yes, I DID just learn how to create links to various locations on a page this morning, thank you very much! ).
So let’s start off with the most common question I get:
“Where do I begin?!”
I always feel bad for anyone who asks me this question because it warrants a rather lengthy response that, let’s just say, doesn’t always come out as organized from my mouth as it does when I take the time to write it out in colored font!
And I like to talk, remember?!
What most of the time, people really want to know when they ask this rather broad question is “How and where do I sign up for a website service and how do I know what to use?”
I’m sorry but I’m going to have to put that question on hold for a minute because there are JUST a few steps you need to take into consideration before you just “sign up” for something.
This is yet one of those many aforementioned mistakes I made in the beginning that eventually resulted in me having to scratch four whole years worth of work to start a new website…well…from scratch!.
So listen carefully on this one!
First things first…
SETTING UP YOUR WEBSITE STEP #1:
Decide on a name (or at least a tentative one) for your site and a DOMAIN NAME.
Assuming you already have gone through the steps of deciding WHY it is you are creating a website and what you plan to house there, the next step is to come up with a name for your site. I know this seems like it should be a bit of a later step but it’s not and I’ll explain why.
When signing up for any website, no matter what provider or platform you use, you will need what is called a “domain name”.
Now, before you go running away determining that building a website fits in with the rest of the unnecessarily complicated things in life, let me just explain that all a domain name is is a name that goes in the web URL (the address box) of your site. It’s your identity, so to speak, so that your website visitors aren’t accidentally pulling up online power sculpting workout videos at “rocksolidbutt.com” instead of visiting YOUR site and reading YOUR content.
For example, my domain is “purplehoodadventures.com.” Note that you cannot use spaces in a domain name but you can use dashes if letters pushed together remind you of a really terrible game of Scrabble you once had! I could have easily made my domain name “purple-hood-adventures.com” but I have been working on getting over my previous Scrabble traumas with a specialist so I didn’t.
Now let’s talk about the ending of my domain name. You often see business websites, especially ones in the U.S., ending in “.com,” but you could also easily select another ending like “.org” or something like that. There really is no benefit to the ending other than the fact that “.com” is more common and less likely to be forgotten by your visitors. I chose “.com” because it is more frequently used in our country than something like “.org” or “.net.”
But let’s say someone had already taken my idea and beat me to my “.com” ending. That’s when I might have taken a second choice of a “.org” ending if I was really set on keeping the “purplehoodadventures” portion. Typically “.org” is used for nonprofit companies, but it doesn’t have to be.
I’m not going to go much more into explaining the differences between website endings because you have more important things to not worry about once you’re finished reading my post here!
So you’ll want to come up with a domain name that is relatively easy to remember and that reflects your business. Often, this is the actual name of your business or blog. You could make your domain name something like “thebesttravelblog.com” or “hikingtheworld.com,” for instance. Don’t worry, I checked and neither of those domains are taken, so if you decide to use one of them, you already have some free advertising!
Now, don’t get too anxious about the name of your site. You can always change it later on and transfer your website to a new domain name should you realize down the road that you’ve come up with something much better. In fact, I not only changed my domain name once but I even had to go through the whole process of changing the name on my LLC!
Dude, when I said I’m writing this post because I always learn things the hard way, I meant I’m writing this post because I always learn the hard way!
All you have to do right now is to do your best and pick out SOME kind of domain name to identity yourself at this time. We’ll talk more on how you actually claim the domain name you want in our next step.
Just don’t make your domain name “whitehouse.com,” proceed to be dared to Google it and be in the sixth grade in 1998.
Apparently I’ve been learning the hard way my entire life!
But hard way or not, I still eventually made it to…
SETTING UP YOUR WEBSITE STEP #2:
Decide what kind of website service provider or platform you are going to use.
You’ve thought of a good name for your website and you have an idea of what you want your domain name to be. But how do you ACTUALLY set all of this up?
Well, this is the part that seems to get people the most confused.
I often get the question:
“Which website platform should I use?”
While I’d love to be able to answer this question as definitively as telling you that Tupperwares are actually aliens, I simply can’t because the fact of the matter is that each of you out there has a different reason and purpose for starting a website and depending on what that reason is, the answer to that question will vary.
What I CAN do is give you the insider knowledge that took me a very long time to discover and learn on my own and I can give you my personal story about those years of hard work that I wasted only to realize much too late that the platform I had originally selected wasn’t even going to come CLOSE to doing what I needed it to do.
Which was load. At ALL.
No, really. My website stopped loading ENTIRELY. I had no choice!
Also, it’s never “too late,” remember?! Annoying and lost sleep-worthy, yes, but remember what we said about not giving up?!
So I’m going to try to simplify this as basically as I can without giving you too much added overwhelming information. After all, the fewer sleepless nights you have the more brain power you can have to dedicate to your business!
There are many different website providers out there competing for your loyalty. Some providers are free and others are paid. Some are known to be more user-friendly and simple to set up without needing many technical skills while others are more complicated and involve a little more of a learning curve. But there are positives and negatives of both of these types of providers and the “simpler” and “user friendly” ones are NOT…I repeat…NOT always the best!
Let’s talk about some of the common website providers out there. These include ones like:
It looks like that last one missed the “W” memo.
So I’m not going to completely explain the ins and outs of each of those above site service providers because simplifying what you need to know is the name of the game today. If you like details and have a little extra time on your hands, you can do a more thorough comparison between them in this article I found for you here.
Let’s talk about the simpler-to-use web platforms out there like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. They are relatively user-friendly, they have drag and drop editing tools to construct your website and each of them have decent customer service and reviews. These platforms also have built-in “hosting.”
“Hosting” is just a fancy term to mean where all of your data on your website is housed and stored.
ALL WEBSITES need a place to store information.
Wix and Weebly both have free startup plans (if you don’t mind a few ads and some design feature limitations) but they also offer paid versions should you decide you’d like to upgrade. Squarespace costs a nominal amount of money per year, so for all intents and purposes, it is essentially free and you can also upgrade at any time if you choose. If you just need a very basic website without a whole lot of functionality, I recommend you go with one of those above three options.
And when I say “functionality,” I don’t mean “functionING.” I mean that all you need from your site is maybe a few pages, a description of your services and some contact information. Heck, you can even use one of those platforms for blogging purposes.
If you’re like many of my friends and clients, I sold you at the words “simple” and “user-friendly” and you’ll likely go with one of those above options.
If you do choose one of these, I will say that after attending multiple conferences and having used it myself, I recommend going with Wix. And don’t worry. IF you don’t need a lot of data storage and you don’t plan on needing a boat load of customization down to the coding, then this is a great option for you.
But I WARN YOU NOW…if you THINK there is any possibility of your website expanding one day, you’re planning to blog for the long haul or maybe you’ll even eventually end up adding new features and pages to your site (like online scheduling, customizable maps, etc.), Wix may NOT be for you. Don’t be like me and find this out four years after using it!
Or…ya know…do…and then write a blog post about it!
You see, I have here a travel website with potentially an indefinite amount of pages, posts and destinations. I don’t think I’ll ever truly be “done” creating it, so to speak. When I was on Wix, I found that aside from having a general search bar, there was no way to search within SPECIFIC portions of my database (AKA a visitor couldn’t just search for a destination. They had to search the entire site, which often returned irrelevant results!).
This is because I didn’t technically OWN or have direct access to my data and site content behind the scenes. It was all housed under Wix’s package and included in my purchased “bundle.”
To get around this little “minor inconvenience (or so I thought),” I ended up having the bright idea of creating separate pages for EACH destination ALL OVER the world with buttons on a map to link to each one. I had this all figured out! Genius idea, right?!
After four years, I found myself with, quite literally, hundreds and hundreds of pages.
What could possibly go wrong?!
Well, guess what happens when you have hundreds and hundred of pages on a website platform with a shared server (meaning a server shared with other websites)??
You guessed it. It was just about as slow as that skinny jean fad passing (if my site loaded at ALL). And if you don’t have a functioning site, chances are you don’t have a functioning business!
So you may be wondering what I DO use now that solved all of my problems.
Drum roll…I use WordPress!
I know. The big scary “not as user-friendly,” “involves a learning curve,” “why would any one pick this” selection I gave you above, right?!
And yes! I felt that way once too! Why do you think it took me FOUR WHOLE YEARS to switch? I had told myself that WordPress was too complicated and that I would never be able to create a functioning website using it despite millions of other bloggers telling me I HAD to make the change AND despite the fact that I knew that WordPress was rated number one for blogging and website building overall. I deemed it to be so complex that I was literally sacrificing my entire business in order to avoid it!
Did you know 1/3 of the entire world’s worth of sites use WordPress?! I did. Even back in those days!
WordPress was actually BUILT specifically for blogging and by using it, down the road, if you know what you’re doing (and even if you don’t), you can attract far more business to your site using it. I’m still working on learning that part myself, but I’ll give you what I HAVE learned in later steps.
The fact of the matter is that WordPress doesn’t HAVE to be a big scary word that makes this year’s taxes look like child’s play. WordPress can actually be kind of fun and enjoyable because you get to be really creative and you essentially have endless exciting possibilities for your site once you master the basics.
So let’s do a once over on WordPress:
Because I had such a hard time understanding what WordPress actually WAS for so long, I’m going to tell you how I see it now.
To start with, THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF WORDPRESS SITES! I don’t know WHY this isn’t written in bold, flashing capital letters in HUGE FONT at the top of every “About WordPress” article out there, but it’s NOT despite the fact that this little hidden detail is PROBABLY the most critical thing to understand overall!
Apparently that “.com” versus”.org” thing DOES matter sometimes after all!
The one you usually hear about from everyone is WordPress.org. This is what I use.
So here is the difference:
WordPress.com is a bit more like Weebly and Wix in the sense that it bundles everything you need to create a site right off the bat. They “host” your database for you (we’ll talk more about what hosting is here in a minute) and you can register your domain name right through WordPress.com itself. There are also a few basic plugins (we’ll get into what those are later on too) and other features needed for you all ready to go upon signing up, so again, this option may be a little more appealing to the beginner.
BUT HERE’S THE THING…
WordPress.com is not typically recommended for individuals who want more control over their website development because, once again, data and information is not owned or controlled by the website owner, but rather, WordPress. You also will have limitations in what you can do and create, once again. And the kicker? You’ll always have the word “WordPress” in your URL link! Ugh. How’s THAT for annoying? So really, in my humble opinion, if you’re thinking of using WordPress.com, you’re probably better off just staying on Wix or something like that.
But let’s talk about WordPress.org. From now on, just assume that any information I give about WordPress will be about this version. This is the one I recommend overall, especially if you want ultimate freedom and ownership of your own content and information.
I’m not sure why this was such a confusing, scary concept for me at one point but right before I dropped everything and moved to WordPress, I read an article that explained it like this:
WordPress is like buying a house (but free) with no furniture inside.
It’s basically a skeleton with unlimited possibilities for additions, upgrades, themes and practicalities.
YOU CANNOT USE WORDPRESS.ORG BY ITSELF AND HAVE A FUNCTIONING WEBSITE! It’s merely a framework for your additions! I’m not sure WHY that was so hard for me to understand initially, so there it is, plain and simple.
So you may be thinking…”what else do I NEED to turn my WordPress ambitions into a functioning website?”
That brings me to my next step which I promised to talk about before:
SETTING UP YOUR WEBSITE OPTIONAL STEP # 2.5:
Sign up for a website host- In case you aren’t actually reading this post and are skimming for the highlights, you ONLY need to do this step if you use WordPress.org (which is what I strongly recommend for ultimate control over your site)!
Oh no! Not a step within a step!
“Wait…what’s the difference between signing up for a “host” and a “website platform/provider, anyway?”
Well, as I mentioned in my home buying analogy, WordPress.org is merely the outside of your new house. Your domain name, data storage, bandwidth, website speed and memory will all be directly linked to your host. So for all intents and purposes, your HOST will be your ultimate “website platform“, so to speak. You’re only making the data behind the scenes appear as a functioning website USING the tools of WordPress, if that makes sense.
When you sign up for a host, you have many different options. Picking the wrong host was another one of my classic mistakes. I recently had to transfer hosts because again, my website speed was starting to resemble the duration of the era of the skinny jean fad and on top of it, the previous host company I was with was about to charge me an arm and a leg to stay with them!
In case you’re wondering, I used HostGator. I’m not going to go into too much detail of why I had to transfer. Let’s just say that even though they seemed to have pretty great customer service, I ultimately just needed more data space, a private network and a faster loading website and if I was going to have to pay an arm and a leg ANYWAY, at least I would be getting what I needed.
Being limbless is always better when you aren’t waiting for technology to load!
So how DO you decide what host you want to go with?
Again, that all depends on factors like the complexity or simplicity of your site and how much you have in your budget. You will have to pay for your hosting package, but if you opt for a simple “shared server,” which includes the very basic essentials you’ll need (like storage, bandwidth and a domain name), you probably will have to pay next to nothing. If you have a more basic website, going with a shared server option should work just fine for you! These shared start up plans don’t typically cost very much at all. I think I paid all of about $5 when I first signed up for a basic hosting package!
You’ll also probably be given some types of intermediate options with more features, which may cost a bit more. The most advanced options, but also the most expensive ones, are signing up for a virtual private server (VPS) or a cloud network.
Now, I know you might be wondering why anyone would need a private server and why they would knowingly choose to pay more money!
Well, that anyone happens to be me! And believe me. I TRIED to go the shared and less expensive route, but when it came down to the sheer amount of content on my site (and by content, I mean things like pictures, blog posts, pages, media and videos), it was imperative that my content didn’t go unseen because it never loaded for my website visitors in the first place!
Yes, as I mentioned before, THE DOWNFALL OF USING A SHARED SERVER MEANS EXACTLY THAT. YOU’RE SHARING YOUR SERVER WITH OTHER PEOPLE!
Think about the last traffic backup you were in on the highway.
Yeah. Sorry to put that image in your head. We’re trying to avoid the Advil here today!
The bottom line is do your homework before signing up, but don’t worry TOO terribly much about making the wrong decision. It isn’t all that difficult to transfer your WordPress site between hosts or server plans. The data is all there and it can easily be transferred without a problem because again, YOU have full control over your website.
Moving between hosts on WordPress is not like me moving from Wix to WordPress like I talked about before because, again, I never even had full access to all of my data to begin with. It was embedded in my Wix site and short of staying with Wix, I had to create a completely new site, from scratch, somewhere else. All I got to keep was my domain name because that’s about the only thing I was paying for that actually belonged to me!
Yeah, it’s kind of like that really bad relationship that you can’t seem quit!
To sum it all up, when you start with WordPress from the beginning, you can make mistakes and transfer hosts all you want because your content is YOURS to keep and you’re free to move about the cabin. All you have to do is pack your bags and leave!
And most of us like packing our bags and leaving! Let’s hope WordPress is somewhere warm! Time to ditch the skinny jeans for the shorts that go above your mid-abdomen!
So what ARE some good options for hosts if you do decide to go with the WordPress option? Here are some popular ones with great reputations:
–Bluehost (probably the most recommended by professionals and one you may have heard about)
–SiteGround (This is what I currently use. They offer cloud servers, which are even better than the virtual private servers)
–WP Engine (one of the leading WordPress-specific hosts out there)
–Dreamhost (just another top-rated host)
–GoDaddy (yet another top-rated, popular host for businesses)
Whatever you go with, the bottom line is that you want your website to function better than that 1970s Epson printer and to load as quickly as that pitted, green fruit rots in your windowsill. Hopefully now you have a bit of a better understanding of how to go about achieving this.
Or at least…a better understanding of it than you do about how to finish that paperwork with your annual compulsory financial obligations!
Ugh. Are we done talking about all this boring stuff yet?!
I suppose it’s time for a little fun!
SETTING UP YOUR WEBSITE STEP #3:
Select a theme and start designing your site (or hire someone to do it if that’s your thing)!
YAY! We get to talk about the fun part now, which is making your website look the way you want it to! Going back to our house buying analogy, this is where you would pick out your wall and carpet colors and basically decide on the overall look and feel of your home layout.
A theme is just that, except for your website instead. It is an overall look, feel, layout and design. Different themes might have different color undertones, menu appearances, layouts and just different general overall styles.
No matter what website platform or host you choose, you’re likely going to have to pick some sort of theme to match the purpose of your site.
For example, if you want to sell products, maybe you want to chose a theme that has a dynamic display of what you plan to offer on the homepage.
For WordPress, there is an infinite amount of theme options out there and there are creators all over the world who devote their entire careers to designing them!
My theme happens to be called “Backpack Traveler.” I chose this theme because it was one of the recommendations made to me by someone I had hired at one point. She recommended I go with a theme that was designed for travel bloggers and creators looking to also sell products and services on their websites, which is exactly what I do. So I took her up on one of her recommendations because the overall look and feel of that particular design appealed to me.
In WordPress, it’s really the THEME that you choose that will completely transform your site from a boring white page filled with text to an entire functional and visually-appealing website template.
And don’t worry. The theme you choose can be changed at any time should you decide one isn’t working for your brand or your technical skill level. Some themes offer drag and drop editing tools while others only allow you to make edits on the “back end” (AKA on the coding end with NO visual feedback whatsoever until you hit the “preview” button).
And guess who is probably the most visual person on this planet who somehow wound up choosing a theme that happened to be one of those little back end ones?!
You guess it!
Yet another one of my notorious classic mistakes!
Hiring someone to initially set up a website without a clue as to how to write HTML or shortcode or make back end edits YOURSELF once the web designer’s contract is done? Yeah. Not all that recommended.
Don’t worry. I’ve since taught myself a LOT up to the point that I can now code on a basic level and make edits to just about anything I want.
The take away message of all of this is to make sure you pick a theme that you can either understand how to edit from the beginning or that you are willing to learn with time.
If you do feel entirely overwhelmed by the concept of setting up your own website and you have some money in your budget to dedicate to your business or blog, hiring someone to set up your basic structure or design is a good idea. The reason I ended up initially doing this back in the day is because that was when I was still convinced that the likelihood that I could learn WordPress was lower than the chance that that old school printer in the corner of the room would actually respond when I hit print!
If you DO end up hiring someone, I recommend using Upwork. You can post detailed job or desired task descriptions and then have the chance to select professionals and freelancers, who specialize in exactly what you need, from all over the world. You can hire someone on a contract and sign off on his or her milestones to assure each task is completed before your payment money ever even leaves your account.
The person who initially designed my website was great and she had to jump through a LOT of hoops that I desperately tried to make myself not feel guilty for! Just learn from my mistakes and be sure you stay in touch with your designer on how exactly your site is going to work once he or she is out of the picture!
I swear. Sometimes learning things the hard way is the best way to learn hard things!
But you won’t have to learn the hard way because thankfully, this is why I am giving you this information now!
Just live vicariously through my mistakes and you should be good.
SETTING UP YOUR WEBSITE OPTIONAL STEP #4:
Add Plugins or additional features to your site to maximize its appearance or functionality.
This is where you actually add the furniture and appliances to your house! Maybe THIS is the MOST fun part! I can’t decide!
Most website provider platforms that aren’t WordPress offer “add-on” options, which may be free or paid. These added features may or may not automatically be included with your initial theme or website design. I remember that Wix, for example, had a “store” with many different fun and useful little additions I could pick from (like a better functioning search bar and what not).
But in WordPress, “plugins” really are what make your website do what you want it to.
I remember sitting down with my aunt a couple of years ago in her little tropical paradise backyard in Covina, California. She is a graphic designer who runs a very successful business from her seemingly magical little outdoor studio. She has been running a WordPress site for longer than I’ve been alive so I considered her to know a thing or two. She was ultimately the last voice I heard before deciding to take the total website transition plunge!
Anyway, on that particular morning, as my aunt tried to (unsuccessfully) actually explain exactly how WordPress worked, she mentioned this foreign concept of “plugins,” which she actually pronounced “plug-INS!” When I heard that word, I pictured one of the many times I had previously tried to load some type of video or media player on a webpage and getting some sort of error message saying that I needed to activate some sort of plugin.
Like, in my mind, I thought a “plugin” was like a flash player!
But, perhaps, it can be!
A plugin is a fancy word for something that makes your website act a certain way or do a certain thing. Most plugins are free with the option to upgrade to some sort of “pro” version should you need something more in depth. Here are some examples of plugins I currently use on my site:
–A contact form
–A newsletter form for subscribers
–A discussion forum
–A scheduling calendar
–Anti spam and security plugins
–A product-selling marketplace platform with membership options
You get the idea!
If you use WordPress and you ever question whether or not a desired feature or function that you’d like to have exists as a plugin, just remind yourself…
“Of COURSE there is! There’s a plugin for EVERYTHING, remember, self?!”
Now, I have been warned that BECAUSE WordPress offers so much freedom in what you can do and plugins are made independently of one another by different software engineers, there is a chance that some of your plugins have the potential to interfere with one another, or worse, your entire site (it is important to backup your site just in case, which we will talk about later). But no worries. Once you have a plugin installed, you have the ability to activate it, deactivate it or uninstall it entirely.
If it makes you feel any better, out of all of the plugins I’ve had over these past couple of years, I have yet to have trouble with one interfering with another and we all know how likely I am to have trouble with something by now, don’t we?!
Don’t stress too much about plugins. I personally find them to be fun! It’s like stepping into a store that has everything you could possibly ever want or need and everything being free!
And they sell perpetually-ripe avocados.
And normal people jeans!
SETTING UP YOUR WEBSITE OPTIONAL STEP #5 (IF IT ISN’T ALREADY DONE:
Make sure your website is secure and has an SSL certificate (you may or may not already have this depending on where your website data is held). Check to see if your site URL begins with “HTTPS” or “HTTP.” If it says “https,” you’re good. If not, you might want to read this step!
Or, maybe you love my writing SO much that you want to read this step #5 ANYWAY! After all, you just never know when I’ll throw in one of my fun analogies, right?!
So out of all the steps I’m giving you in this post, this is probably the easiest one despite it sounding complicated and no one REALLY knowing what “SSL” even stands for (Apparently it stands for Secure Sockets Layer and I only know that because I JUST Googled it!). This step may already be automatically done for you and included in your host or website provider package, but it’s a good idea to talk about it JUST in case it’s not and you are running around out there with a “not secure” website without knowing it.
And by the way…if you’ve ever loaded a website page and you see one of those big yellow or red exclamation points and a warning message that, based on its appearance, might cause you to believe you’re about to hand over your soul to the mafia, this message is because whatever website you’re about to visit does not have one of these little SSL certificates.
And also by the way, if you don’t have one, your website visitors will see this message trying to visit YOUR site. Don’t let them hit that “back to safety” button because they think YOUR website is owned by the mafia!
So what is an SSL certificate. anyway?
An SSL certificate is basically just something that gives your website security and confirms its identity. That’s really all it is. You honestly don’t need to know much else about it other than that it secures your visitors’ (and your) information as it is transmitted from server to server when your visitors load your site across devices over the internet. You also need to understand that no matter what your website’s purpose is, you don’t want to go without having an SSL certificate. If for nothing else, it’s to not scare your visitors away!
And a side note? Google is starting to crack down on sites that don’t have an SSL certificate by doing things like lowering those sites in their search ranks, not recognizing certain features and gateways from the site or worse, removing it entirely from its search results!
“So all that’s great and good but how do you actually go about obtaining an SSL certificate?!“
We’ll start off with the good news here. SSL certificates are free!
Here’s more good news. Chances are that whatever site platform or hosting company you sign up with will automatically include SSL in your package bundle, so you won’t need to worry about setting it up yourself. Just follow any steps you receive for activating it if it’s not already done for you.
If, for some reason, SSL certificates are not bundled in your plan, which would only happen if you had a WordPress site and a very bare-bones hosting package, you can easily add one of those handy dandy plugins and follow the instructions to install it. I too, at one point had to do this early on!
Some of the popular SSL certificate plugins are things like:
–Really Simple SSL (I used that one at one point. Also, whoever came up with the name for this is my new best friend!)
OK, enough about this step that you likely won’t even have to worry about anyway. Just note that when all is said and done, the URL link of your website should begin with “https://” and NOT “http//.”
And with that, we are HTTP-ESsentially MOVING ON!
Sorry, I need to have a little fun with this dry content!
SETTING UP YOUR WEBSITE STEP #6:
Learn how to grow and market your website to get found by new audiences and how to nurture and maintain existing audience.
And that leads me to my FINAL website setup “step” in this list!
Hooray!! I’ve managed to draw out five steps (two of which are optional) into like three hours worth of reading material!
Don’t worry. I have about 3 hours more coming your way to really explain just how to maintain and grow an actual website once you’ve mastered the basics of setting it up!
This final “step” is basically a mountain which we’ll work on chipping away throughout the remainder of this post, in case you really still feel in the dark about all of this!
So settle in!
The good news is, if you’re still stuck in that grocery store line backed up to the dairy wall to buy that one ingredient for dinner tonight that the other store was out of, you’ll at least be productive and, perhaps, a little less likely to engage in some…let’s just say…”less than ideal” behaviors in public!
So congratulations! You are now at the point that you have a functioning website that serves whatever purpose you had in mind! Now you’re at the point that you want OTHER people to see the fruits of your admirable dedication and labor (or, perhaps, something far more sinister that went on behind the scenes, but at least it’s over and done with)!
And depending on the complexity and purpose of your website, you may be constantly learning about improving your content or mastering the technology. If you’re starting a blog, maybe you’re still learning how to use the “posts” tab on your WordPress site and wondering what the heck the “block” editing tool is REALLY about and why it has to be so complicated (I’ll write a whole separate post on that eventually IF I ever have the answers myself!).
Maybe you’re constantly adding new plugins or features with your new ideas and focus of your business.
Maybe you’re constantly tweaking your underlying message or learning what is resonating well with your audience and what isn’t.
Or maybe you’ve TOTALLY had all the “fun” you can take for the time being and you’re done making edits and ready to just direct people to your site so that they can contact you via email or phone for whatever it is you’re offering.
There are endless possibilities of where you might be at at this point, but the bottom line is that you created a website for a reason and now is the time to turn that reason into a definitive success!
So let’s talk about how to bring your audience to you.
You want Google to list your site higher up in the search results and you want potential readers, followers or customers to actually click on the link you’ve posted on social media and engage in whatever it is you have to offer. Today, we aren’t going to go into the full analysis on how to maximize your success with this because…
A. you’re probably almost at the grocery store check out by now and…
B. because I’m still learning this step myself!
But what we WILL do today is set you up with a solid understanding of the basics so that you have a clear picture of what you need to succeed. I will share everything I HAVE learned up until this point.
Lately, I’ve been reading a book written by a successful entrepreneur who built her website and blog from the ground up. She’s managed to turn her blogging business into something that is now bringing in seven figures and counting! Her book has probably, single-handedly, helped me along in my understanding of how to actually drive income the most!
Her book is called “How to Blog for a Profit” by Ruth Soukup if you’re interested in also checking it out for some GREAT insight that explains A LOT about A LOT of information A LOT better than I will ever be able to!
Also, she gives that book away for free.
And I’m A LOT about that!
So let’s dive into some of what I’ve learned from both her book and also from my own personal experience over these past few years…
Let’s first talk about…
GROWING YOUR WEBSITE AND BUSINESS STEP #1:
General Advertising and Marketing
Unlike with all the technical stuff I had to write about when I explained how to initially set up a website in the first part of my blog post, during THIS part, you may get to take a sigh of relief. The following terms and concepts I’m about to start rambling on about are a little more straight-forward and recognizable to beginners without much technical experience.
We’ll begin with…
Ugh. The two words that most people have a strong mental connotation of, whether that be positive or negative.
It seems like there are two types of people in this world: the ones who literally have and use every single social media platform out there, who somehow seem to have unlimited time on their hands (and also eyeball straining stamina and phone battery life), and then there are those individuals who vow to never use even one platform EVER because…well…your “friend’s” hair is still better left intact for legality purposes!
While there certainly are positives and negatives of social media use for personal reasons, for business purposes, in this day in age, it’s generally beneficial to have at least one or two external sources for advertising your website.
Remember. Your followers, readers or potential clients don’t know about your website. How would they? You just started it!
OK, maybe you didn’t JUST start it, but chances are your audience has been liking Facebook posts, sharing videos and spending hours of time contemplating just how that heavily-filtered ocean picture got so blue well before you embarked on your little personal technology-designing website journey.
Even if you HAVE had your own website for years, in a day in age where social media is seemingly EVERYWHERE amongst ALL age groups (unfortunately), it still can’t hurt to spread the word of your business through more widely recognizable channels.
If Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and the rest of the 10 million social media channels out there are going to be draining the hours in the day, your mental energy AND your phone battery, they might as well at least be doing SOMETHING productive like helping your business succeed in the meantime, right??
So even if you DESPISE social media, it might be a good idea to at least create a business account or page for advertising purposes.
And when I say “advertising,” I don’t mean necessarily spamming your followers or being one of those annoying “Limited Time Only“, “Sale Ends Sunday,” “Absolutely FREE” marketers!
While social media CAN be used specifically for advertising deals or promotions, it doesn’t have to be. You could do something as simple as post a link to your site or to your latest blog post for your readers to check out.
Now. I know what you’re thinking because it’s what ALL of we creators are thinking. “How in the H*#$ am I supposed to keep up with all of the social media platforms out there?!
If you pay attention to any news feeds all day, it’s this: YOU AREN’T!
And this was also confirmed in that book I mentioned earlier just as I had suspected!
And here I was thinking I was the only one struggling to compete against tech gurus out there, 20 years younger than me, who continue to have unlimited eye-gazing stamina and disposable hours away from the phone charger!
The general rule of thumb is to pick one to two social media platforms on which to market your business or website. For me, I’ve selected Facebook and Instagram because I’m the most familiar with both and because I can use pictures and advertising and marketing tools to specifically market the content I want my followers to see. I am also on other platforms, but those two are my primary focuses. Maybe yours will be YouTube and LinkedIn or Instagram and Pinterest because your business is primarily image or video-based.
So before we move on from social media, I wanted to prepare you for the basic guidelines of using it.
There are a couple of terms and phrases you might hear when you begin using social media to draw in your followers.
Those phrases are “paid advertising” and “organic advertising.”
As you may have guessed, “paid advertising” is exactly what it sound like. You pay for for a specific ad to reach more people who are likely to interact with your post and click on your website link or offer.
Let’s use Facebook, for example. You have the option to “boost a post” by adding a certain dollar amount to a specific post. You’ll be able to tell Facebook how much you want to spend over how many days. If your budget is $10, maybe you’ll opt to to spend all of it in one day or maybe you’d prefer $5 spread over two days or $2 over five days. You get the point. The more money you spend on one day, the greater the audience reach will be on that day, but opting to prolong your ad over several days for the same amount of money will get fewer people who see your post per day, but stretched over a longer time period. There are positives and negatives for both, but that’s all you really need to understand for now.
“But wait…WHO is seeing my ads and how do I know they’d even remotely be interested in my website or business?!”
Well, that’s for the social media platforms to figure out using their complicated algorithms given YOUR input on audience targets.
That’s right! You can PICK YOUR people! You can control where the audience is from (i.e. the US, another country, a specific city, etc.) and what their behaviors, interests and even demographics are.
So for example, maybe you select to advertise to “frequent travelers,” “people who enjoy travel literature,” “women only,” or “audiences who are between the ages of 18 and 35.” Those are just some examples of how much you can narrow things down.
Once you set your paid ad, the platform will take it from there! All you have to do is sit back and look at your analytics (basically the results of who is ACTUALLY engaging with your post and who is clicking the link to visit your site)!
So now what is this “organic” advertising business?” Something that doesn’t use chemicals and is all natural and healthy?!
Despite that being a joke, it’s actually sort of not! If you think of your advertisement in relation to that produce you buy at Whole Foods that is “natural” without additives and chemicals, it’s sort of the same thing!
Organic advertising is exactly that, except, instead of leaving out the chemicals and additives to facilitate the growth of that “perfect apple,” you’re posting an ad without paying or getting a “boost” in some way for that perfect audience member! The people who click on your links will be “natural” and not necessarily directly marketed to by your specified audience targets. You’ll often find that more organic traffic will be those who are already following your page, but sometimes not.
The advantage of organic advertising is that it is free. You can post an ad whenever you want, really! But the downside is that you’ll have a lot more difficulty drawing in NEW audiences. As with most things, going the paid route gets you the most business the quickest.
But on the upside, your organic traffic, at least, will cost you less than your organic avocados that you bought earlier, which are sitting in the window and also probably already past their EATING window!
Seriously…you might want to go check on them now. They may NOT be OK.
I’ll wait to talk about hashtags until you come back.
Back already?! RIP, organic avocados. You tried.
Alright, let’s talk one tiny more thing before we move onto actually marketing your website from your actual website. This is probably my least favorite topic of today’s post but it’s necessary.
We need to talk about…get ready for it…hashtags. UGH. There, it’s out!
And just in case the air needed to be cleared on this one, that same “#” symbol on a telephone is still referred to as a “pound symbol.” There’s that little anonymous PSA to anyone out there who needed to hear that!
Hashtags are not to be confused with website tags, which we will talk more about on our next point. Hashtags are specifically used for social media advertising and they are easily recognizable by the “#” symbol followed by one or more words strung together without spaces.
Some examples might be #hiketheworld, #travel, #blogger, #Ineedmorecoffeeforthis or #socialmediaishard!
If you’ve ever used any type of social media before, especially ones like Instagram or Twitter, you’ve probably seen this little blue linked “#” followed by a word or words in abundance.
In fact, if you look closely enough, you’ll notice that professional influencers on Instagram and other platforms will add up to about seven hashtags in their actual post description and then they will literally add like hundreds more in their own comments.
You may be wondering…
Why do they do this and who has time for all of that?!?!
Despite appearing like hashtags are just pointless labels to gain attention that “look trendy and cool,” there actually is a reason for them, especially in the creative influencing world.
Let’s pretend you’re almost through that grocery store checkout line you’ve been waiting in for, now, close to an hour, and you realize suddenly that there was yet one more ingredient for tonight’s dinner that you ALSO forgot:
And if you are like me and permanently set for life in the vampire protection department, not having this bulbed plant in your dinner forecast is simply NOT an option.
Luckily, since you’ve been so good about not engaging in one of those aforementioned “less than ideal behaviors,” your aisle neighbors don’t hate you and they have agreed to hold your spot in line!
You quickly dart off and immediately know to head to the produce section to retrieve your vampire protection.
How do you know to go directly there rather than perusing the bread aisle or rummaging through the cleaning products for hours on end?!
Because you know that garlic is NEITHER of those things and unless you visit our grocery store here in Cleveland known as “Giant Eagle,” where there is positively no rhyme or reason to ANY grocery placements, you know that you will likely find the garlic in its usual expected spot.
Why? Because stores GROUP and CATEGORIZE their items!
Hashtags are similar to the aisles in the stores. They are used as a means of referencing a certain type of content. If you were to click on that hashtag, you would be taken to an entire page of images or posts related to that particular topic
So, for example, if you click on the hashtag #eatmoregarlic, you’ll likely be taken to a page full of images and posts related to everything garlic. Talk about a personal heaven!
“But why are hashtags important and why do I see influencers using so darn many?!”
Well, think about it. The more pages your content and posts appear on, the more people will find you just by going to that same hashtag group. This is often how creators get discovered, so the more hashtags you have, the better your odds, right?
But I’ve been told…
Somehow SEVEN is the magic number. You can add up to seven hashtags in your original post description or caption before looking entirely too tacky! So apparently, the way around this is to add additional hashtags in the comments where they are more stealthy but also get the job done.
You can make up hashtags or find ones that have already been created. The more obscure and infrequently the hashtag is used, the better and more likely your specific audience will find YOU among every other person out there posting similar content.
Obscure hashtags=fewer people using them=more people see YOUR stuff before it gets covered up by thousands of other posters using the same hashtag.
So long story short…#guidingthroughtravel or #thegarlicaddiction might be better than straight up #travel or #garlic.
Get creative, go with it and have fun. That is my best word of advice when it comes to hashtags.
So are we DONE with #socialmediahashtags yet?!
Let’s move onto…
GROWING YOUR WEBSITE AND BUSINESS STEP #2:
Maximizing and Optimizing the Chances of Getting Your Website Found by New Audiences and Maintaining Your Existing Audience Using Your OWN Website…
Shwew! We’re finally safe from pulling out everyone else’s hair. Now we can just concentrate on our own.
I understand that this has been a rather lengthy post and my last goal is to create more confusion for you than you had when you started reading, so we’re going to stay pretty basic here on this one. Should you master the basics and want to read more in depth about some of these topics, I will direct you to some excellent articles I found through my own search.
Let’s start with SEO:
Before you determine that SEO stands for “Sorry I Ever Opened” this blog post, let me explain that all SEO stands for is “Search Engine Optimization” and it is “Simpler than Ever, Okay?” So hear me out!
SEO, metaphorically, is like that same grocery store analogy we talked about earlier. Stores anticipate what you might be looking for first and place it in immediate reach.
That’s why when you walk in around Christmas time and find positively zero red and green sprinkles IN the actual baking aisle but instead, right in the front with all the other Christmas items…
BY THE PRODUCE!
Gotta be able to see it, right (*rolls eyes)?!
And then there are stores who take it to a whole new level like that same Giant Eagle nightmare that I’m stuck with here in northern Ohio, who feels the need to do things like place the protein bars with the paper plates!
Someone is actually getting paid out there to make their customers question one of this corporate employee’s personal sanity or possibly sobriety!
So how does this relate to our website, exactly, again?!
Most people use some kind of searching database like Google to find what they are looking for. And just like everyone else, Google wants business, so they try to match its users’ searches, as closely as possible, to the search results that appear. They want to keep you coming back so you best be having a good experience or else they’ll go somewhere else, right?!
Understanding SEO is like understanding how Google chooses to put YOUR website higher up in the search list than other websites.
After all, how often do you even go as far as to click on page 2 of the search results when YOU search?!
Don’t worry. We are not going to go into the full detailed algorithm of how Google determines what are relative search results and which websites are most likely to give its users what they are looking for. No one REALLY knows that.
Well…SOMEONE out there does but let’s just say it’s a mystery for most of us.
But what you CAN do is make your website and content as user-friendly, searchable and “standoutish,” as possible to give you the best odds.
There are many, many, ways to do this. If you REALLY want to get technical and learn about SEO in far more depth than I’m going to go into in this particular post, here is an article I found for you nerdy tech gurus!
But in very broad, basic and English terms, each of which we will briefly discuss, here are some general ways to improve SEO:
1. By having relevant, fresh and unique content
2. By having the right “keywords” in your content
3. By having a user-friendly and easy-to-read website that loads at a decent speed (Now you understand why I had to leave Wix)
4. By having the right titles, subheadings, slugs, tags, categories and “meta descriptions” (I swear…I’ll make this easy! Don’t run just yet!)
5. By having clickable and user-friendly OPERATING links within your site
IMPROVING YOUR ODDS OF GETTING FOUND ON GOOGLE (SEO) Step #1:
“By Having Relevant, Fresh and Unique Content”
That’s a bit vague and subjective, isn’t it?!
Of course it is! Just like most other things in the world, it seems ill-directed, yet I hear this one all the time!
So here it is, plain and simple. You want whatever you have on your website to stand above other sites out there with similar purposes. If you have a travel blog, I’m sure you won’t be shocked to hear that there are numerous other blogging gurus out there doing a far better job writing about what you want to write about than you!
Yes, in a world of infinite “they’re better at its,” outshining competition can seem daunting!
I get it. It IS daunting.
While you may never be the best of the best (Or maybe you will!), you’ll be relieved to find that it doesn’t have to be a competition. There is plenty of room in the world for multiple businesses, companies or blogs with the same purpose.
People like options!
So if you have the same purpose as others out there, it’s probably not all that surprising that I’m going to suggest you go the “as unique as possible” route. No two businesses, content creators or professionals are EXACTLY the same and likewise, no two audience members, potential clients or readers are EXACTLY the same either!
So being UNIQUE, in your voice and verbage, is what’s important. Keep your same writing or creating style across your posts and pages.
If you have a sense of humor or a sarcastic tone, keep everything, across the board on your site, lighthearted and witty.
If you hate funny business, laugh lines and facial wrinkles, make sure your website pages don’t cause your target audience members out there, sitting at home currently doused in three inches of retinol eye cream, to crack a smile. Unlike Elf, smiling is most definitely NOT their favorite.
If you’re going for the “squirt-milk-out-of-your-nose, choke-on-water-while-reading” tone, by all means! Just be sure you throw in a few links for local medical personnel, just in case.
Remember, your readers and followers are only of good to you if they’re alive!
My point is to be consistent and KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Have an avatar in mind of who you are speaking to and think about that avatar every time you update something on your site. With consistent readers and followers who like your message and style comes higher search rankings for you!
You also want to try to keep your website fresher than your avocados.
If you’re not a blogger, this one may be more difficult to do, but changing or updating anything on your site frequently gives you better odds of being found on Google.
Yes, Google KNOWS all. It knows when you’ve been posting a lot and it knows when you’ve made updates. It LOVES FRESH! Readers AND search engines like recently-added, new content, so if possible, keep your site up to date!
And finally, be SPECIFIC in your headings and in what you write!
Remember, being unique is important, so having a webpage heading or post title like “All About Garlic” may not be as good as something like “Ten Surprising Health Benefits of Garlic in Just One Week of Consumption.” Readers directly looking for health benefits of garlic want to find posts that are relevant to their search. So because your post title IS so specific, they’re likely to find it above that other guy over there just rambling on about random garlic facts!
And by the way, “rambling on” isn’t necessarily a bad thing because here’s a little secret. Google LOVES longer posts (or at least ones with 1,600 words or more).
According to Google, more content = more time a viewer spends on your page = the more information you’re obtaining from the results Google yielded to you! It’s like a little self pat on the shoulder by Google.
“Good job, Google!”
So ramble on, garlic feans!
So summary on this:
Keep it unique and content-rich.
Keep it up to date.
Keep it specific so that it is relevant for your audience.
IMPROVING YOUR ODDS OF GETTING FOUND ON GOOGLE (SEO) Step #2:
“By Having the Right “Keywords” in your Content”
Going off of what we JUST talked about above with the garlic example, it is also important to have relevant words across your website or in your blog post that match your title, or at least, the overall purpose of the post or page.
It isn’t going to bode well for you if your title is “All About Garlic” but then you go off on a rant about terrible grocery stores in your post!
Woops. “Website basics,” “website basics,” “website basics!” There! I should be good!
What I mean is that Google scans your content to be sure that what you say your website or your article is about is actually what it is about.
The important thing to understand about keywords is that they can exist all over your site and within your content. There are very broad keywords and then there are very specific ones. Both are important to improve your odds of showing up in someone’s search results.
Going back to my garlic example, having words and phrases like “garlic” or “health benefits of garlic” embedded in the content of your site will appear in a broader array of search results among many other sites and articles out there all about garlic health benefits.
But let’s say you have a phrase like “what happens when you eat entire garlic bulbs every day?” NOW you’re showing up in a more for a more refined niche of search results!
After all, who eats whole garlic bulbs in a day, anyway??
Kidding. But I’m not all that far off!
It is important to, again, be very specific in the words you choose and the questions you answer.
Keywords that become “relevant” to searchers can depend on other factors too like geographic location or even time of year. And we all know Google knows EXACTLY where we are and what day it is at ALL times!
So if you can do something like sell an in-season product or direct your words towards a specific location, all the better.
If you need suggestions for keywords related to your content, someone had the bright idea of helping you along with this. Just do some research here!
Oh, and one more thing. Questions?! They’re basically gold. Searchers LOVE to type in questions in Google’s search box (Nope, you’re NOT the only one!). If you can ask and answer their questions in your content, you’re doing both yourself AND them a huge favor!
“What happens if you eat too much garlic?“
You get people visiting your site, that’s what!
Use words and phrases that are directly relevant to your content.
Use broad terms but also specific ones to better attract your targeted audience.
And now Google thinks MY post is about garlic.
“Website basics,” “website basics,” “website basics.“
IMPROVING YOUR ODDS OF GETTING FOUND ON GOOGLE (SEO) Step #3:
“By Having a User-Friendly and Easy-to-Read Website That Loads at a Decent Speed (Now you Understand Why I Had to Leave Wix!)”
This may be a no-brainer and also something you want to think about more than just when talking about SEO. You’d be surprised how many websites, even ones designed by professionals, are NOT user-friendly or efficient whatsoever!
Ain’t nobody got time for that!
No really. People are at their prime for impatient these days. No one is going to sit there and wait for your slower-than-molasses webpage to load. They’ve got better things to do like wait for their slower-than-molasses TV streaming service to load.
There are online site loading speed testers out there that will tell you just how fast your website is loading and what you might need to do to improve its speed. Actually, you can check Google’s insights on the speed of your site here!
Another opportunity to maximize traffic to your website is to make sure your website visitors can read your text, your pages are mobile-friendly and your site has a clear message and purpose.
Let’s talk about the most important part of this “another opportunity” here, which is to make your site as mobile-friendly as possible.
In a day in age that everyone is seemingly glued to their phones, it is no surprise that WELL over half of website viewers do their “viewing” ALSO on their phones. In fact, I would argue that up to 90% of them do depending on what type of site they are on. In my own use of Google analytics, I find this to be the case for my website, at least.
So the bottom line? Be sure when you are developing your site, your content is easily visible using one of these little handy dandy, addictive “smart” devices.
Any website platform you use nowadays should offer tools for mobile viewing (sometimes referred to as “responsive” settings). I always make sure to double check my own phone and compare it to the look on the “mobile preview version” on desktop, which is not always so much of a “preview” but more of a “this is what, theoretically, it should look like on a phone, anyway!”
And finally, be sure that your titles and fonts are clear and free from typos or grammatical errors (I’m referring you YOU, apostrophe-addicts!). Check that the images on your web pages are also loading correctly and that colors and spaces are legible to varying eye sights!
Remember, just because YOU can see tiny font in a dimly lit room against a dark background doesn’t mean everyone can! This is a hard one to master for us 20/20ers!
Make text on your site for the near legally blinds out there!
Remember, those social media gurus who seemingly have Energizer Bunny phone screen vision will be old one day!
Also, I’ve found that my phone screen tends to portray much richer and more saturated colors than my desktop, so what may look like a nice light blue font against a black background on your computer may turn into a not-so-light midnight blue on a black background on a different device! Just something to consider!
And with that, consider the summary here:
Make sure your website loading speed is faster than that grocery line you’re still standing in.
Be sure your site is mobile-friendly (on multiple devices).
Don’t be ashamed to use an online spell or grammatical check because those “apostrophe’s” you love so much may be hanging out in the dark corners of your content trying to sabotage your reputation.
Select visually-appealing colors and legible fonts and text.
And speaking of appealing text, is it time to move on to our next step??
IMPROVING YOUR ODDS OF GETTING FOUND ON GOOGLE (SEO) Step #4:
“By Having the Right Titles, Subheadings, Slugs, Tags, Categories and “Meta Descriptions” (I swear, you’re almost done reading! Don’t run just yet!)”
OK, I promise this is going to be about as technical as I get today. Although some of these concepts may SOUND scary and new, they really aren’t. Most of them are just names for things you probably already knew about that you didn’t know had names!
Let’s start with you, title! As I mentioned before, it’s in your interest to consider keywords and specific relative terms and phrases which appear in your content. But this is also true for your titles. Even if you’re not a blogger, the titles of your page should contain words that specifically reference the content of that page.
If you ARE a blogger, you want some of those major relative keywords to appear in your post title and also as early on in your post if possible.
So if you are writing a post or formulating a page on “methods of fighting garlic breath,” you may want to include this whole phrase, or at least important words like “garlic” and breath” in your title. Or go a step further and make “fighting garlic breath” appear in your first few sentences!
It’s kind of like sucking up to the teacher but to Google instead. Good, predictable behavior gets you good rewards!
OK, on to you, subheading.
Not every post or web page necessarily needs a subheading, but having one is just one more chance to get in good with search engines to get you noticed!
A subheading is just about exactly what it sounds like.
“Sub” means below and “heading” means heading!
So it is the phrase or line below your page, post title or heading that gives the reader more information on what they are about to read after they are initially captured by your, hopefully, intriguing and attention-grabbing title!
Here is an example:
Title: A Breath of Fresh Air for Garlic Lovers
Subheading: Ten Definitive and Scientific Methods to Improve Undesirable Garlic Breath
Again, make sure you throw in some relevant terms and make what you are about to write about predictable and clear.
So are we clear on subheadings yet?
I think so. I’m coming for you, slugs!
Ah, takes me back to the good old days. Picking up slugs and then dealing with slime on my hands that wouldn’t wash off for like a whole day!
OK, I was kind of a tomboy as a child and definitely still am an outdoors girl, to say the very least!
If you’re not as into nature’s outdoor inhabitants with weird mollusk consistencies, you’re in luck! Today, we’re going to talk about a type of slug that stays on your website URL and not on your hands.
A slug is just a fancy word or group of words that make up the end of your URL link.
Your website URL link, in case you somehow made it through the entire first part of this post and missed my brief explanation earlier, and you’re still sort of confused on what a URL link ACTUALLY is, I’ll reiterate. It’s literally just the web address that you either type in or which automatically appears in that search box (the one at the top of the page) when you click on a link.
We already talked about the dreadfully necessary “https” at the beginning of your website URL and we talked about your domain name, which is always placed next, but what about the ending of your URL link and why is this important?
Think of it as the unique ID that takes you exactly to the website page you’re looking for out of billions and billions of website links out there.
There are no two websites in the world (unless they’re owned by the same person and duplicated) which contain the EXACT same URL link.
Ah, you’ve always wondered why sometimes you find links that end in a million random characters like “lksdfjsbfskfbksjdfsk hsuifhsiuhfsi473hfi4wehliufh!@#$sfuhsifwuefrj/sekjfskfdj/8274@*#@(#/dksfhds#9fhj!”
SOMEONE had to claim them!
That’s why the URL shortener, Bitly, exists. Talk about a successful business!
If you can help it, you don’t WANT to have a string of 8 million characters on your own website URL.
Who is going to remember this and type it in?!
Better yet, who is going to copy and paste your link to send to their friends when the address runs onto like three pages?!
The answer is very few!
It’s just tacky and unnecessary. Long blog posts=good, long URL links=bad. Got it?
OK, now that we’re clear, here is an example of a slug within my own website: “/my-blog.”
This is what it looks like:
So, in a nutshell…
Authentication proof: “https”
Domain name: purplehoodadventures.com
Every page or post on your site will have its own unique slug. In terms of ranking higher in Google and maximizing SEO, make sure your slugs are sticking to the content of their pages just like those garden slugs stick to your hands!
And, by the way, slugs can be one word or many words and again, no spacing is allowed. But when it comes to THESE words, unlike your domain name, it is helpful to use dashes between words, which helps the reader quickly visually see what is being spelled out, especially if you have multiple words like I did in my last blog post: “from-warm-breeze-to-frosty-trees-10-surprising-benefits-of-winter-hiking.” Do you see why the dashes are helpful here?
Scrabble trauma sufferers, it’s your lucky day!
And finally, you’re probably wondering how you actually make edits to your slug! That’s the most important part of all of this, right?!
Well, you may not HAVE to make edits to your slug. Most website platforms have made it so that your automatically-generated URL links contain slugs that are fitting to what you title that page.
Most of the time, your page title is automatically turned into your slug, but it may not be, so just be sure to check.
In WordPress, you have a direct way to change your slug on every given page or post. It’s probably the LEAST complicated thing on WordPress there is!
Here’s one more classic example of one of my many struggles on Wix for you and then I promise we’ll move on. We need to break up some of this dry content with some good old fashioned entertainment (stories about my technology debacles) at my expense!
When I was still using Wix, remember how I said that I had to create hundreds of pages with separate clickable destinations around the world to bypass the fact that searching within a certain subset of data wasn’t possible? Well, ASIDE from slowing my site loading speed down to nonfunctional, it also created a huge hassle with my slugs! You see, to get around “reinventing the wheel” on every single page, I would simply duplicate the page I created before and just change some of the words and colors.
Well, not so much. I had apparently not even NOTICED that my slugs were reading things like “duplicate-of-new-orleans” on pages about Bora Bora!
Well…I DID eventually notice.
Like 100 pages in!
Do you have any idea how long it takes to go back and manually change every slug for hundred and hundreds of pages that take five minutes to load a piece?! No. You don’t, and I pray to God you NEVER have to after reading this post!
Don’t worry. I never actually finished. That was a dark time in my life that makes me, once again, appreciate my WordPress move!
And by the way, when I used Wix, they were referring to their slug editing location as “SEO” if you’re using this provider and are STILL LOOKING for how to change your slugs for like the fifth straight hour! At one point, I actually thought “SEO” meant “website URL ending.” That’s how much I DIDN’T know at the time and why I’m taking the time to spell everything out in depth that I have had to teach entirely to myself!
Bottom line is just make sure your slugs make sense and are easily readable for you website visitors.
Alright…let’s stop talking about Wix and “stick” to our topic here. We’re moving onto…
Wait, didn’t we already talk about these??
Ugh, I know. Another confusing concept that no one bothers to explain out there. “Tags” are definitively different than “hashtags,” which are what we talked about earlier. I’m sorry. I don’t know WHY in a world with seemingly endless vocabulary words there has to be two very similar, but oh-so-different, website and marketing concepts with nearly identical names! At least “slugs” sounded interesting and distinguishable!
So here’s the difference:
Hashtags are specifically used for social media. If you remember, #eatmoregarlic could be used to get your website all about garlic noticed on social media pages by adding a hashtag linked to another page filled with content or images about garlic and thus, linking searchers and users to your page.
Regular “TAGS”, on the other hand, are those annoying itchy rectangles of polyester that make you even more aggravated that starting a website has to be so confusing!
Actually, you may want to go cut that off. It’ll make reading my post a little more manageable. I’ll wait and have another one of my useful analogies awaiting you when you return!
Back? OK, so what ARE tags and how are they used for your site?
Think back to that itchy tag you just removed. Why was that stupid thing even there, anyway?!
Well, just as how clothing tags are used to identify useful information about that specific clothing item or brand, tags on your website or blog post are words or phrases that basically summarize important and specific topics in your post or page.
They’re just like hashtags except they are used directly on your website instead of on social media and you don’t need to use that mysterious quasi “pound or hashtag” symbol at the beginning.
Also, with regular tags, you CAN use spaces!
And, again, you want to use a good mix of broad terms and phrases but also specific ones that are very unique to your specific post or page to get you noticed on search engines.
Here is an example:
Let’s say the topic of your page or post is on kitchen organization.
Some example tags you could use might be “kitchen,” “kitchen organization,” “maximizing kitchen space,” “kitchen help.” “how to store Tupperware lids,” “kitchen organization ideas” or “Tupperware is from another dimension!”
I’m totally kidding on that last one but you’d definitely get some very unique and specific viewers for that tag!
Here is a visual example of what it looked like on the editing back end of WordPress when I entered in my tags for my blog post about winter hiking:
Sometimes tags appear on the live page of your site, but other times they don’t.
Here is an example of what those same tags appeared as at the bottom of my published post:
The point of a tag is essentially the same as that of a hashtag except used more between websites and blogging sites rather than between social media platforms.
If this sounds like busy work or redundancy, think of it in the same way as you would trying to attract audiences to your social media platforms but to your actual website instead.
Imagine a reader perusing for blogs out there about kitchen organization. They may have no idea you, your site or your blog even exists. They’ve gone directly to the famous “Home and Garden DIY” blogger out there who is already making like 500K off of posts that always seem to make their way to the very top of Google for any searcher even remotely into nesting!
At least SOMEONE out there is winning at life, right?! Ugh.
But let’s say in YOUR equally-good-if-not-better post about that exact same topic is tagged with the phrase “kitchen organization tips.” Well…guess who ELSE used that same tag?! That blogger who already has her sh#* together!
Why is this good for you?
Because now readers have a chance of discovering YOUR blog all because you are using the same common tag as that other blogger who could definitely afford to share the wealth just a bit!
And guess what else?! There is no limit on tags. The more tags the better because the more tags you use, the more narrow your content is broken down and refined and the less likely that irrelevant content will appear in the search when the Google results appear for your audience.
And guess what else, what else Google likes?
You guessed it. Relevant, organized content and user engagement!
So think of a tag as like the tag you just removed on your clothing stating the brand, style and the size. That’s the clothing company’s annoying way of organizing their products for consumers. You’re doing the exact same thing on your website and by being more organized and specific, you drive your traffic. It’s as simple as that!
And at least YOUR tags aren’t itchy nor are they removable by your audience!
Have you got all of this organized in your head?! Nonsense! You need MORE organization and that’s where we need…
Categories are mostly a WordPress thing. You may not even need to worry about them on something like Wix or Squarespace.
Categories are pretty much exactly what they sound like. They are used to categorize and organize the content on your website. They are especially useful if you have a lot of “stuff” on your site. If your website is more basic, you may not even have to worry about them at all.
If you do decide to do a little spring cleaning organization on your WordPress site, you have the option to organize your content by selecting preexisting categories that you have previously created, but you will also have the option to create new ones. If you don’t assign anything to a category, by default, it may end up in the “uncategorized” category just in case you needed a little painful, jabbing reminder of just how NOT organized you are (WordPress has been conspiring with that pile of mail still sitting on the dining room table with abandonment issues).
Rather than make this overly complicated right off the bat, I’ll use my overly complicated website as an example since categories have basically become my latest best friends.
I have a “blog” category, which is where ALL of my blog posts live. But let’s just say I plan to break down my blog into either “travel tips” or “building a business tips” since both are a part of my website. The post you’re currently reading would fall under the latter while my post on Costa Rica would fall into the “travel tips” category. Both of those posts would also still remain in my overall “blog” category. The beauty of all of this is that you can have as much or as little of a hierarchy as you want and there really is no limit to the number of categories you create.
Furthermore, Costa Rica, in itself, is a category because I offer excursions and destination resources all over the world organized by country, one of which is…you guessed it…Costa Rica!
So I have “Costa Rica” as a category along with other destination categories like “Germany“, “Italy” or “Puerto Rico.” The category of “Costa Rica” would then house both my San Juan destination information page and also my blog post on Costa Rica. If I had a podcast episode on Costa Rica, that would too would appear under “Costa Rica” but also my “podcasts” category.
Next season! I promise!
I have far more types of categories spread across my own website, but in the interest of keeping greys off of your head, we’ll leave it at that. The point is that categorizing and organizing your own content is not only helpful for your audience and potential customers trying to find you, but it will also help them see MORE of your similar content all because the page your reader is currently on is connected to more things they might enjoy!
And what happens when your viewers see MORE of your content? You guessed it. More page views, sales and overall revenue!
Plus, categories will likely help you sleep better at night! Remember, Better sleep means more brain power for your business!
OK, I hope you’re rested for this next one because we have to talk now about one of those “intimidating-sounding” terms that sounds far more menacing than it ACTUALLY is. Are you ready?? Of course you are! You were born ready!
I’m going to just START with the visual here to calm your mind so I don’t have you running off to the kitchen to stress eat something with garlic for the 5th time today (We’re not in quarantine anymore, remember? You might have to see people!).
Does this make you feel better?! Yes, all a meta description is is that brief little summary that appears underneath your website page link on a search engine that briefly tells viewers what it is that they are about to click on.
You can create a separate meta description for each page or post if you want to in order to give viewers the most accurate (and enticing) depiction of the content you worked so hard to create.
But if you edit nothing else, the most important meta description is the main one that represents your homepage since that is the page most of your audience will most likely see and that is the page that gives most searchers their first impressions of your business!
And we all know how important those first impressions can be!
A metadescription can vary in length, but Google often decides you’ve had about enough of their precious page space allotment after around 160 characters, which may also vary depending on what type of device you’re using. As you see, I have a little homework to do myself in cutting down my word count (As if you didn’t already determine that from this blog post that’s taking you about 10 days to read!).
So you might be wondering WHY meta descriptions are so important for getting found online and what happens if you DON’T tweak your meta descriptions. After all, changing the summary of every page and post on your website doesn’t really sound all that exciting.
Just think of it as something to occupy your time rather than throwing an adult temper tantrum in a room by yourself as you not-so-patiently await to talk to that real human on that said phone call that has transferred you 10 times!
Also, that broken up looping elevator music on repeat better serves to invoke your writing creativity rather then landing you in the local anger management clinic!
Meta descriptions may not SOUND all that exciting, partially because they have to have such a technical word that “sounds hard,” but I promise it is worth taking into consideration in the interest of SEO and attracting YOUR people! Also, think about those keywords we talked about earlier. The more of them that appear in your content early on, the more likely you are to earn your little “Google’s pet merit search result award!”
Sorry, page 2 and beyond Gooooooooogle runner up website newbies that never read my blog post!
So that’s all fine and great, but you’re pretty sure not every single website owner out there updates his or her own meta descriptions (nor necessarily even knows what these are), yet no search result goes unsummarized on Google. I mean…right?!
That’s EXACTLY right!.
Every link to every webpage out there likely has SOME kind of meta description that appears on Google, even if the page owner didn’t actually write one let alone know what one is!
Yes, Meta descriptions are automatically generated on search engine results based off of other algorithms that I won’t pretend to understand nor do you need to, so I won’t go into what those are. I believe that sometimes the first few words on your page often automatically populate to form your Google summaries, but that’s not always 100% the case, so who really knows?!
Google knows everything, remember?
Another classic example of one of my own mistakes here for ya, just in case you forgot that I constantly seem to opt to learn things the hard way:
Before I knew what a meta description was, I was blissfully ignorant. I thought that all of my website links that appeared on someone’s search were somehow automatically up to date and 100% accurate representations of those pages.
But as with everything else in life, again, nothing is ever simple nor predictable!
Ugh. I should just write a book on how creating a website is like becoming a philosopher!
It turned out that some of my most important pages like my homepage, tour pages and blog links were defined by my disclaimer in my privacy notice about how I work with affiliate companies and may earn commissions on certain advertising links!
Yeah, although necessary to state in small print somewhere, that’s not the first thing I want the general public to see when trying to figure out what my website is even about!
WHY something like my affiliate link disclaimer automatically populated into summaries of my pages is beyond me, but it wasn’t until I actually LEARNED about what a meta description even was, let alone that I was able to control it, did I bother to actually go Google myself!
So lesson learned. Be your own audience for a moment and pretend like YOU’RE discovering you for the first time. If YOU don’t think your headlines and descriptions look like something you want to click on, chances are, other people won’t either!
After all, if you have a niche as specific as controlling garlic breath and you don’t have people who Google “how to control garlic breath” wanting to click on your site when they see it, there’s a problem there!
Alright. YOUR new problem is that you’ve now already finished your time in the extensive line at the grocery store and you’re now sitting in the car in standstill traffic reading this post.
And NOW you’re thinking…
“OK, I understand all of these SEO concepts in theory, but I still don’t fully understand how to implement anything. How do I ACTUALLY put all of these things into ACTION on my ACTUAL website?
By now, you’ve either got limited time left for “a little light reading” or you’ve got all the time in the world, depending on your rush hour luck!
So let me give you a little peace of mind here as you sit there trying to figure out HOW you’re going to create things like tags, meta descriptions and categories and whatever else you already forgot about from above because that was like 10 days ago you started reading this!
Obviously, there is no clear answer on this one because I have not personally used all of the website platforms out there other than Wix and WordPress. What I CAN say is that there IS a way to maximize SEO on ALL of them. It is just a matter of learning your particular technology of choice.
On Wix, for example (and I imagine most web providers), you can add tags directly to a post or page just by using the tools available on that particular page. It’s one of those instances where if you can read, you can probably locate it. Changing things like meta descriptions and slugs will likely be found under the “SEO” tab of Wix (Remember when I thought all an “SEO” was was the end of the URL link?! This is probably why!). When in doubt, you can always contact your provider for support. Remember, they’d LOVE to help you because they are getting your business and as you see, it’s a competitive web world out there!
What I can give you is my knowledge on how to do all of these things using WordPress. As with Wix, there is a spot off to the the right-hand side of each page, which prompts you to enter in tags and categories (both new and preexisting). That’s not too difficult.
As for the rest of your SEO specifics, do you remember the phrase I told you to remember?
“There’s a plugin for that! There’s a plugin for everything, remember?!”
So I will definitive recommendation for a certain plugin for WordPress here because it’s PROBABLY the best thing out there since sliced garlic.
Hands down, using the Yoast Plugin on WordPress has made my life easier than it has PROBABLY ever been (which isn’t really saying a lot but still a good thing)!
In case you need a refresher, remember, a plugin is like the furniture for your house. Having Yoast on your WordPress site is like having a bed: pretty necessary for your sleep at night!
There are other SEO plugins out there too, but Yoast is probably the most well-known and I can personally advocate for its use being a “non-techy” person myself by nature. Yoast can do a lot, most of which I haven’t even tapped into yet, but the main reason I use it is for SEO. They make it very easy to visually edit and preview everything that we discussed above by making editing tools, previews AND analyses on what you’ve done right and what might need to improve. They also give you a breakdown of your search result analytics on every single page and post of your site. You don’t HAVE to use it on every page but you have the OPTION to use it.
Options? Yes, please!
Here are a few visuals of my Yoast editing tools on this very blog post BEFORE I finished my edits. I wanted to share Yoast’s interpretation of potential “problems” and its suggestion for edits. I also wanted to share just how easy they make all of this “not-so-easy-to-understand” SEO mumbo jumbo!
And look! They even color coordinated all of my “Google’s not gonna like these” mistakes! Score!
No really. They REALLY like to tell it how it is. At least red is one of my favorite colors!
And, of course, here are your good old familiar friends, Mr. Slug and Mrs. Meta Description!
Guess I better edit these, huh?!
You can customize a whole lot more about your website and search appearance with Yoast, but using it, at least for SEO, is KEY-word!
Ugh, sorry you guys. I had to!
You know what else I have to do? Tell you about ONE MORE important point on getting found on Google.
And that is…
IMPROVING YOUR ODDS OF GETTING FOUND ON GOOGLE (SEO) Step #5
“By having clickable and user-friendly OPERATING links within your site”
Alright, we’re moving away from the techy stuff. FINALLY! Hooray!
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how much traffic website owners lose just by having either broken links on their site or ones that don’t maximize the likelihood of retaining a visitor.
And yes, even professional business websites sometimes struggle with this!
When I talk about links, I’m referring to two kinds here: ones that link internally to other pages within your own website and ones that link externally to other websites. Both kinds of links are good for SEO and to make you “seem more legit” in Google’s eyes.
Let’s talk first about the easy one.
Having links between pages and posts not only help direct your audience to more of your pages and content and thus, followers, engagements and even sales and revenue (if you’re even going that route), but Google sees that by you having these links, you’re more likely to have a better website to navigate and your overall consistency and credibility is higher.
And by the way, your link verbage matters!
Don’t ask me why, but by me linking you to my post about best travel perk credit cards instead of directing you to “click here” to learn about best travel perk credit cards, gets yet one more brownie point on Google’s ol’ “good little website” list!
Mmm…brownies. I guess one more trip to the grocery store is in order!
OK, let’s get you even higher up on that list and talk about…
External links are sometimes referred to as “backlinks” and they are basically just links you have on YOUR site that link to someone else’s website.
Oh, and Google even knows how credible THOSE external sites are and it rewards you with good rankings when it decides that you have good judgement on where you are sending your audience! Having links on your site that lead to “low-authority” or “spammy” sites won’t do you much justice. It’s best if your links can send your visitors to “higher authority” websites like social media homepages, well-known research-based sites or popular crowd source review pages like Viator, Yelp or TripAdvisor. Basically if another site does well on Google and you link YOUR website to it…well…let’s just say you get at least SOME benefit from someone who has this SEO business down pat!
You also get credit for BEING a backlink in someone else’s site, which really isn’t all that surprising.
When all is said and done, links between websites are generally good. After all, it is called the worldwide web!
Oh, and you’ll want to make sure your links actually WORK! Every so often, it’s good to “audit” yourself and check to make sure previously-working links within your blog posts and pages are still in ACTUAL operation.
Think affiliate links. I’m not going to go too into depth on this one because it is more blogging-specific and because it brings up painful memories of my meta description ordeals, but when you partner with other companies and earn commissions by linking their products that relate to the content of your posts, you’re “affiliating” with that company. It’s a partnership, so to speak. This can be a great for earning some income from your blog and also for backlinking.
But remember, businesses have free rein over their own websites and the products that they offer and at any given time, they may decide to change their promotions or links.
And guess what?! YOU may not know about it!
The result? The first time visitors to your site that are reading your three-year-old blog posts that YOU’VE since forgotten about, and are clicking on broken links that take them to no man’s land.
Trust me. This doesn’t do any favors for your credibility for either your audience OR Google.
Now, don’t freak out too much over checking EVERY link you’ve EVER posted over years and years worth of content. Most of the times, your links are safe, but every so often, there’s a rebel in the bunch. Maybe just check a few (even ones that link within your OWN site) just to be sure “poor old forgotten blog posts” over there aren’t protesting their neglect by sabotaging you and scaring away your site visitors!
They’ve been chatting it up with the mail pile again.
And speaking of scaring away site visitors, before I do this to you on a NEW post with all my information here, I best be moving on from links to my final point of step 6, which is…
GROWING YOUR WEBSITE AND BUSINESS STEP #3:
Growing, Nurturing and Maintaining your Existing Audience
If you’ve listened to nothing I’ve said up until this point, it’s time to start because without this final step of the final step, all of your hard work, time and energy isn’t really worth much.
You likely didn’t create a website for just yourself. You actually want to SHARE whatever it is that you’re developing or creating with other people, whether that’s for a business purpose or just for the point of spreading the joy or hobby of something!
So after all of those steps above that we went through, you’ve managed to attract a few visitors to your website. Hooray! Apparently your extra trip to the grocery store and afternoon traffic jam were worth something after all!
There are ACTUAL people on YOUR website right now! OK, OK, don’t panic! Play this cool.
Deep breaths. This is exciting! You worked hard to get to this point! This is your “house warming party” to celebrate all of the efforts you put into making your “WordPress-house” into a home! It’s a chance to show off all of your “wall paint and carpet-website themes,” your “fancy furniture-plugins” and your “king-sized bed-Yoast meta descriptions!”
But now what? Just let your company wander around your house while you go hide in a closet in case you offend them by being home?!
Of course not!
But that’s EXACTLY what website owners often do.
This is, single-handedly, one of the BIGGEST MISTAKES business owners do with an online presence. They vacate their homes and passively allow their guests to blindly meander about until it’s time for them to go home.
By not having a presence on your own website ready to meet the needs of your audience and guests, they will leave and they may never come back.
Well. Not today. Today, we’re going to learn how to get out the hors d’oeuvres and the entertainment! We’re going to be sure to give them a time they ACTUALLY remember. We’re ready to give them everything they could imagine and more so that they not only keep coming back, but they will be telling their friends and family about you too!
So what are the hors d’oeuvre of your website??
Hopefully nothing with avocados…
Let’s talk about a very simple and basic, yet effective strategy for getting your audience to engage with your website.
With a simple…
Call to Action:
Unlike what it sounds like, a call to action does not involve a filming director using a clapperboard (Yes, apparently there is a name for that thing!).
A call to action is exactly what it says. It’s a call for your website visitors to take action on something. Maybe that action is clicking on a button to sign up for an event or to contact you. Maybe it’s to sign up for a newsletter you’ll be sending out. It could be anything you want it to be.
A call to action could be something like a button, a link or an actual form to fill out, depending on how fancy you are. It doesn’t really matter what method you use but what DOES matter is that your call to action is clear, accessible and strategically placed around your website.
What do I mean by “strategically placed,” anyway?! This is starting to sound like one of those complicated board games played with pawns that have names or something!
What I mean is that it is a good idea for you to place your call to action links and buttons right around areas of your site where a user is most likely to click on them. If you have a “sign up here” or a “subscribe here” button off in the corner of a page containing a lot of content with a bunch of other distractions, your site visitor either may be too busy still meandering around to notice or there just simply isn’t an incentive to click on it.
Here is an example of a strategically-placed call to action button:
You are selling odorless garlic bulbs. You are writing a description about them, ranting and raving about why they’re ideal for that vampire-warding garlic lover who hates brushing his or her teeth. Maybe you place several opportunistic “buy now” buttons at several points down the page in between persuasively-written chunks of text about why the reader positively MUST have this magical “not even genetically-modified” invention.
Hey! I bet your “organic” website visitors would appreciate this product!
It’s best to give your page viewers several opportunities in a clear, easy-to-read and clickable button AS they continue on with your ever-so-enticing description. It gives your page viewers more opportunities to make a decision based on what they’ve been reading about AS they are making their way through your persuasive message. If you only have one “buy now” button at the top of your page before even beginning your detailed description of your product, your readers may have completely forgotten about that little button by the time they get done reading your five minute compelling rant.
They are now at the bottom of your page and even if they’ve decided your offer is kosher and are interested in practicing a little wallet yoga and giving you their money, because there is no easily accessible “DO THIS RIGHT HERE,“ exactly where they happened to be on the webpage, they may give up and click on the neighboring computer tab that takes them to something that IS accessible (like their social media page that has been loaded 800 times today already)!
If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that PEOPLE ARE IMPATIENT. They don’t want to have to wait for a webpage to load, they don’t want to spend time researching something and they probably won’t spend time scrolling back up to the top of your webpage to find the “buy now” button because time is “selectively precious”(for lack of better words) and that social media tab next door knows it!
Another example of a strategically-placed call to action is a popup “subscribe to my newsletter” that appears as your readers are enjoying your content. And yes, I agree. Popups ARE terribly annoying at times.
OK, REALLY annoying.
BUT to be fair, the popups that are the most annoying are the ones that appear on a website that is ALREADY giving me trouble.
Cue that 10th “recipe” I’ve tried to look up where the ACTUAL instructions are buried somewhere like 3/4 of the way down the page, deep within 100 paragraphs on the history of every ingredient alongside about 100 ads because apparently online recipes no longer exist outside of blog posts under 16 million characters.
You all know EXACTLY what I’m talking about and you know it!
And NO! I most certainly do NOT want to subscribe for more of your fun, annoying person!
But if your readers are having a good experience on your site, giving them a place to subscribe (AKA be notified whenever you post something new or add new content) is beneficial to both them AND you. We’ll talk more about the importance of growing your mailing list in a minute, but I will tell you now that although sometimes mildly annoying, definitive research suggests that those little popup “subscribe” boxes are effective for growing and maintaining your website audience and loyal fans.
So my suggestion? If you’re going to give your readers a call to action to subscribe to your content and you want to make a popup box where the reader has no choice but to either subscribe or ex out of the box, maybe set in on a delay for a few minutes after they’ve been reading what you have to say and have already (hopefully anyway) formed a positive perception of you AND your stuff! Annoying your visitors before they even process what the title of your page is is probably not all that recommended.
Also, don’t be one of those people who doesn’t give their readers an option NOT to subscribe. That’s a visitor’s one way ticket to the “back” button!
And if they do ex out of your popup, don’t make them do it more than once when they reload your site!
Oh yeah. And there IS a plugin for popup makers!
There’s a plugin for everything, remember?
And if you REALLY hate popups because they’re tacky and you’re TOTALLY not into tacky, I totally get it. I have differing opinions on them myself and depending on the day, I disable or re-enable my popups based on what mood I happen to be in!
Another idea is to just place a subscription form throughout your writing or at the bottom or side of your page, which is easily accessible to your readers AS they are enjoying your content.
And again, just as with our odorless garlic bulb “buy now” button, giving your audience several opportunities to subscribe throughout and at the bottom of a webpage or post? Probably for the best. That social media tab is still open and ready to steal attention!
And now, since I’ve been stealing YOUR attention for entirely too long here, I suppose it’s time to talk about the last, but arguably one of the most important parts of your last step of building a website:
Growing your mailing list!
See? I told you we’d talk more about this in a minute (OK, maybe more like 15 minutes)! I may be wordy but at least I’m reliable!
While growing your mailing list may seem like icing on the cake (or garlic on your garlic), I’m going to tell you right now…
According to, not only the entrepreneurial meetings and events I’ve been attending, but also that book I’ve been reading about how to actually make a profit from your blog or website, ONE OF THE SINGLE MOST MISTAKES THAT ENTREPRENEURS AND WEBSITE OWNERS MAKE IS NOT NURTURING AND GROWING EXISTING AUDIENCE BY BUILDING A MAILING LIST!
I cannot emphasize this one enough but I’ll TRY by using all capital letters and bold font!
Since I love ending blog posts on a positive note and saving pleasant surprises for last, here’s your “day made” remark:
WEBSITE TRAFFIC HAS VERY LITTLE (if any at all) IMPORTANCE ON YOUR ACTUAL PROFIT!
To clarify, when I say “traffic,” I don’t mean like the kind you may or may not still be sitting in reading this information with your car in park in the middle of the highway.
“Traffic,” in this case, is typically seen as a GOOD thing but it’s not the be all end all. Website traffic simply indicates visitors that come to your website at any given point. It might be someone clicking on your link and then immediately deciding your content isn’t for them OR it could be someone who has spent hours upon hours of their time reading your blog posts (You guys know I appreciate you, don’t you?!).
There are all sorts of ways of tracking traffic like using Google Analytics to see exactly what your viewers seem to be spending the most time doing and engaging with on your pages. While using these analyses are definitely recommended so that you can see exactly what is or isn’t resonating with your audience, directing all of your attention to just VISITORS is a HUGE mistake!
I get it! Seeing that your website has tons of new and repeated visitors is exciting! It’s like seeing that little red notification symbol on one of your social media accounts. It gives you that little positive jolt of energy by activating the reward center of the brain (psychologists are the TRUE heroes of the social media industry).
And while yes, web traffic is often correlated with people taking action and potentially resulting in a profit for you somewhere down the road, if that’s even what your website is about, studies show that straight up traffic actually has very little impact on your ACTUAL earnings or even loyal followers!
So great news here, new business and website owners who feel just totally overwhelmed the concept of getting hundreds of thousand of page views when you only know like 10 people to begin with! Research studies have actually PROVEN that even the most experienced bloggers and business owners may have thousands or even millions of page views yet only a fraction of a percent of those views are directly correlated with actual earnings.
Now, if you have a website for the sheer purpose of sharing your stuff without a business purpose or plan to profit from something, this may be less important to you, but the fact of the matter still stands:
LOYAL, REPEAT WEBSITE VISITORS AND SUBSCRIBERS ARE YOUR PEOPLE AND MEAN MUCH MORE THAN JUST “DRIVING UP TRAFFIC!”
Furthering on that research I mentioned, while website traffic does not have as much of a positive correlation with significant profit growth as one might think, growing your email list and subscribers DOES and it’s something not many people (even pros at this) actually think about at all!
You see, you have no idea what kind of people are driving up that website traffic number. Sure, with all of the fancy analytic tools, you can see somewhat of where they are from, what they’re interested in and what kind of demographics they may be (If this sounds like 100 steps ahead of where you’re at right now, no worries. It’s still like 50 steps away from where I’m even at right now!).
But you don’t REALLY know who is on the other end of that server laying their eyes upon what you’ve, quite possibly, lost a considerable amount of precious hair working to build.
Heck, sometimes, your “visitors” aren’t even actual humans! In a world with endless technology and people out there far smarter than we’ll ever be, hackers and spammers are capable of ANYTHING.
Don’t worry, I learned THIS the hard way too and now I use the company SiteLock to fully protect and secure my website. You don’t have to worry too much about this until down the road, but you should consider backing up your site (AKA making sure you always have a copy of it somewhere like with your host or using a company like SiteLock just in case sh#!* ever goes down!). It’s not a bad idea to get some extra security protection if you plan to consistently build and add onto your website over time.
My point is not to scare you or detour away from the topic here, but it’s important to keep in mind that all of your “website visitors” may not be who you THINK they are and the bottom line is, no matter who you THINK is visiting your site, you never really KNOW for sure.
So let’s talk about REAL visitors.
You know. The visitors that ACTUALLY love your intention, your vibe, your voice, and most importantly, what you have to offer.
I know we touched upon call to action buttons to get subscribers earlier, but let’s actually define what a subscriber IS and why they’re important.
Despite the word “subscriber” having sort of an “annoying advertisement” ring to it and for many of us people who lived through the 1900s, the word “subscription” will indefinitely connote something specifically related to a magazine or catalog, THIS type of subscriber is critical to your business. It is exactly the same thing as the old school “catalog subscriber” but in modern times.
If you really want to grow your business, share your purpose or expand your followers, it’s important to give your visitor a place on your page to submit their name and email so that they can be notified every time you have something new to offer or say.
This could mean they are alerted (either manually or automatically depending on how you set up your newsletter) when you publish your latest blog post or when your most recent podcast episode goes live. Maybe you have a special rate going on for your services or you’ve ADDED a new service to your business. Maybe you just want to update your followers on your whereabouts and the status of your company! There are infinite reasons to update your existing loyal fans to keep them engaged and coming back.
And the best part is that although you might be worried these email alerts may get annoying, remember that these people VOLUNTARILY took the time to enter their names and emails because they liked your website THAT MUCH! They WANT to keep themselves up to date and you helping them do just that will help them CONTINUE to follow you and tell their friends about you because they won’t have completely forgotten about you!
That lovely research I mentioned previously also shows that PEOPLE LIKE EMAILS! They like getting email alerts more than they like getting annoying spammy phone calls, mass text messages or actual physical junk snail mail.
And that includes YOU, envelope that has your name and address hand-written just so you open it!
Like…do these people ACTUALLY get customers this way?!
No WONDER that pile of mail has abandonment issues!
You don’t need to trick your customers into thinking they’ve received ACTUAL mail for the first time in about 10 years and then remind them just how unpopular they ACTUALLY ARE just to get business. All you have to do is nurture and grow the people who are naturally drawn to you! Some studies out there even suggest that up to around 70% of all profits made by website owners are directly linked to subscribers!
Maybe those catalog companies had it right all along!
Hey, if I could get ANYONE to love my content and style as much as my grandmother loved her monthly JCPenney deals and Reminisce stories, I think I’d be as happy as if JCPenney did some reminiscing herself and brought back normal people jeans!
So back on topic here, there are numerous ways to grow your mailing list like offering exclusive content to subscribers, creating awesome lead magnets (a fancy way of saying “crushing your persuasive messages and incentives to draw people in“), running contests or even just by having GOOD and CONSISTENT content that your audience simply can’t wait for.
Emphasis on the “good” and “consistent”here.
When I say “good” I mean take a step outside the box for a minute. Think about something you feel strongly about or that you’re especially passionate about and then write about it in an articulate, engaging and fervent manner that make your readers either go “THIS PERSON GETS ME!” or “That is SO NOT what I’m into! I can’t believe this person even has the audacity to say these things! Where’s the Asprin?!”
Why yes, I DID just encourage you to be controversial and to send viewers away!
The trick of writing GOOD content or making exceptional pages on your website IS to capture the audience you DO want and detour the rest. If you write about mediocre, indistinguishable topics that bury you right in the middle of the melting pot of all the other creative writers and business owners out there, you’re not doing yourself any favors. No one will feel strongly about you either way. You won’t be hated but you also won’t be loved.
You want your website pages or blog posts to be GOOD and you do that by speaking in YOUR voice on topics that really tug on YOUR heartstrings and by reaching the ears and eyes of the people out there who feel the exact same way you do. It is your perfect target avatar that you’ve created in your mind that you will ultimately build your loyal fan base and subscribers and thus, drive your business to succeed.
And yes, it IS OK to be controversial! Not everyone will love your stuff and that’s OK! You want REAL followers who love YOUR content. Your subscribers are a collection of exactly those people.
The rest? Mere traffic.
Now let’s talk about that word “consistent.”
You know what else your audience loves besides your content?
This is true especially if you’re a creative influencer of some type, but it’s also true for the overall intent of your business and website that your viewers pick up on.
Before you create any website or any post or page, consider the message you want to give. How do you naturally resonate with people in your personal life?
Are you naturally a serious person who is straight-to-the-point, all about the facts, concise and orderly? If so, maybe you don’t want to come to my house! “Coming to Jesus” moments are overrated.
Are you sarcastically humorous, constantly cracking jokes or imposing your witty remarks upon poor unsuspecting listeners who don’t have an equally matched reply until about 2am the next morning?!
Seriously, how do some of these people come up with these things so fast?!
Think about how you naturally communicate and how you connect with others in your personal life and then think about the overall tone of you business and the message that you want to give. The more authentically you you can be in that message, the better off you’ll be.
So when I say “consistent”, I mean pick a voice and message intent and stay with it! Don’t write a post on “serious repercussions of a garlic overdose” making your audience spend the remainder of the day on Web MD because you have them so freaked out and then turn around and publish “Why Tupperware Lids are from Another Dimension” the next day with the intent to humorously talk about kitchen organization. If you do that, you’re going to have your readers pretty confused.
Now, that being said, your topics don’t necessarily always have to be 100% related all day every day. You also don’t want to BORE your audience to death before the garlic overdose gets them first. You can switch up your loosely-related kitchen topics, but just be sure your tone stays the same.
If your readers like and grow to expect your sarcasm, give them their sarcasm! If they want the facts, give them the facts in all of your posts, all the time. Change is often a good thing, but when it comes to pulling the rug from underneath your loyal followers…well…let’s just say THEY might change their mind about you!
The same expected consistency also goes for your business intent, even if you’re not a blogger. Let’s say your business tagline is ” Making Weeknight Dinners Easy Again” and your target audience is the single parent looking for “easy and quick seamless dinner recipes” to make while holding triplets, finishing up work and yelling at the teenager upstairs who hasn’t cleaned his room for six straight months (you know…hypothetically, anyway). If that’s who you’re speaking to, it’s PROBABLY safe to say that they MIGHT not be feeling your long drawn out description of the entire history of all 50 ingredients they’re about to use and all of 20 different cooking methods of this this said “seamless dinner recipe.”
My point is if you advertise your business as “helping someone do something quickly,” help them do something quickly. If your intent for your audience is to “learn about the entire world’s culinary history,” that’s fine too. But be clear and consistent with your purpose and message. No one in a household of filthy teenagers likes any more dinnertime surprises than they’re already accustomed to!
So. In sum…
Write from your heart.
Have we beaten a dead horse yet on this one?
Wait, wait, wait…almost.
“I know how IMPORTANT building a mailing list is but what good is any of that if I don’t even know how to make a newsletter or even a subscription form?!?!”
This is something you will learn about and discover after you’ve completed your initial website setting up journey, so unfortunately, I can’t give you a direct answer because I don’t know what kind of website you will be building or what kind of tools you’ll have available, but I WILL say one thing. It probably should NOT be too terribly difficult to figure out!
If you use something like Wix or Squarespace, there will be built-in features that will walk you through how to add and set up your subscription forms. It’s yet another one of those instances where if you can read, you can do this without too much trouble. And again, if you DO have trouble, there are people behind the scenes being paid to answer your questions and help those of us on the technology-challenged spectrum without griping too much.
If you use WordPress…
Five words: There’s a plugin for that!
There’s a plugin for everything, remember?
Actually, there are several plugins for that.
There are several plugins for just about everything on WordPress, remember?
Back to the furniture fun house we go!
I use a plugin called “Newsletter.” I like it because the name is so unique and the creators of this obviously put a lot of time and thought into it!
Also, it’s free and super easy to use. There’s that too.
Subscription forms appear on my pages, posts or popups either by me dragging a “widget” there (AKA adding a little icon or gadget that has some sort of function) or manually typing into a text box:
This is known as “shortcode,” which is just a fancy way of typing in letters and characters to make something magical appear.
It’s as simple as that may or may not sound!
Here is what results look like from me typing in that code when I’m NOT typing it into “Paint” and then uploading it as an image in order to avoid it turning into another magical image:
Man. The struggle is REAL!
Don’t worry. I learned all of the above seemingly “simple” information the hard way too but in the interest of your mental health, we won’t go into THAT ordeal. I’ll just leave you with the above shortcode in case you decide to use the same plugin. You know. In the event this “minor detail” is impossible to find anywhere on the ACTUAL plugin instructions!
*Rolls eyes yet one more time*…
There are also far more popular plugins and even entire websites dedicated to helping you run campaigns and manage your contacts. These include things like Constant Contact, MailerLite, MailChimp and numerous others. If you REALLY want to get into depth, you can signup for entire paid programs through companies like these. You can read more about marketing and mailing platforms and do more thorough comparisons between options here if you really want to.
No matter how you choose to do it, my point is that at some point after your website is completed, you’ll want to give your customers and followers some type of way to stay up to date with whatever it is you and your website are up to (even if that IS 23,000 characters in your latest blog post)!
Hooray! You made it to the end and you now could not only successfully read those above hashtags but you knew they were CALLED hashtags!
And now you’re thinking I’m silly for using those there because we’re not on a social media platform!
Excellent progress, my friends. Excellent…
So may your website-building journey go forth with as few grey hairs and Asprin tablets as possible and may your ideas and creative energy always be fresher than your green-skinned fruit counterparts.
Always remember your underlying purpose and stay true to your dreams. If you do that, you will ALWAYS succeed, especially if your dream is to be the first person to invent a printer that actually works or to to be the author of the world’s first online recipe without an autobiography narrative.
Remember that although your local grocery store layout may have no purposeful reason, YOUR reason should always be purposeful. And if you DO ever locate the garlic in the cleaning supplies aisle, be sure to turn your vampire-warding dietary habits into a blog with a distinguishable title using tags that stand out as much as your malodorous breath.
May your SEO woahs always be “Something Easily Overcome” but may the your challenges give you incentive to write and share a 23,000 character blog post to help the next person in your shoes. And if you can’t take off your OWN shoes to fill yet another empty bin at airport security, well…just blame the skinny jeans cutting off your circulation.
May your conspiring, abandoned pile of mail begin the healing journey once you finally acknowledge it to send out the money you still owe on taxes with the money you just earned from your hard work and dedication to learning technology and terms that almost terminated YOU.
Enjoy every day of your ownership of your new website home. Enjoy the paint and floor themes, enjoy being content with YOUR content and most importantly, enjoy the ongoing housewarming party and social gatherings with all of your loyal followers, customers and fans that have grown to love you.
Just don’t have a Tupperware party. There’s no telling what aliens might do to your new website home.
Too bad there’s not a way to keep them out.
Oh wait…there’s probably a plugin for that.
You should Google it.
There’s a plugin for everything and Google knows it, remember?
That’s something EVERYONE has learned the hard way!