Q: I'm starting out and what's really the best way to start?
A: This is a tough question to answer. I would say start with your strengths. There are lots of different aspects to the Internet such as:
Different people have different strengths coming in. Some people are naturally more creative and geared towards design. Some people are more technical and geared more towards development/programming. Some people are knowledgeable in certain subjects and are more suited for content creation and writing.
SEO and Social are more on the marketing side and are also very valuable although I would say more than ever now they rely heavily on the content piece.
So aside from saying to specialize with what you naturally gravitate towards, if there was one piece that I would say is most important, especially with where we currently are and where the Internet is heading, I would say content is the most important.
People want good content
Content is the main thing people want when they go to a website and it is the main thing that people are going to share. More than ever now it is extremely easy for people to share content and for really good content to get popular fast. You can have the crappiest looking website, but if you have a badass piece of content that really provides value to people it will get shared.
And once your content gets shared you begin to have all the other side-effect boosts that come into play such as links for SEO, repeat visitors, email subscriptions, higher paying advertisers, better brand recognition, and on and on.
The content is the backbone to any quality site. Look at most of the sites you visit. You don't visit Google for how it looks or how it's programmed, you go there for the content. You go there to get good information back on your searches.
Look at Facebook. You don't go there because of how it looks or because of how it was developed. You don't care about the way it looks. You care about the content. You go to Facebook because of the content your friends and businesses create. You want the new content from people. That's why you go to Facebook.
And that's pretty much how it works for any site -- CNN, YouTube, Amazon, Craigslist and all the others have content that you want. They are always producing new content and the content they already have you share with other people. That's how the Internet works and that is the power of the Internet.
So if I were starting out I would figure out what I am knowledgeable about and what I care a lot about. I would think about what I have a unique and valuable viewpoint on and then I would produce amazing content in that area. This is what I have done with a few of my sites like Truth Control and Crowd Freedom. I care greatly about both of these fields so I know I can produce good content for these sites. I'm not personally writing content for sites that talk about celebrities or construction because I'm not interested or knowledgeable in these areas.
Now with that said it doesn't mean I couldn't move into these other fields... it just means I would not be the voice behind that site. Every site should have a voice and that voice should be an expert. If you're not an expert in that field find somebody who is.
People want the best they can get. They don't want mediocre content. They don't want good content. They want [email protected]#king awesome content. So give it to them. Whether it's you writing it or someone else. It just so happens that when you're starting out it's usually you writing and producing the content, so pick something you can do a good job on. 1 badass piece of content is worth well over 300 mediocre pieces of content that talk about the same thing you've already heard before. You are almost always better off putting 20 hours into once piece of content than 20 hours into 50 pieces of content. People know really good from just mediocre.
And when I say content I'm not just talking text. Sure all text can be good, but people love images, charts, graphs and all the other good stuff. If you can integrate lots of unique images, videos and charts people are really going to get happy. People don't want lots of text, they want the good stuff. That's why people would rather watch a movie than read a book. Give the people what they want and you will be rewarded for it.
The technical stuff
Okay, so to be a bit more specific here is what I would do. I would buy a domain from GoDaddy for like $10/year. I would go for something that is branded around my area of interest. Let's say I want to create a political news site. I would mess around on GoDaddy and try to find a worthwhile domain name. Yeah, all the good ones are taken but you can still make it work. The name really doesn't matter that much. What is important is that you own the domain name because that is the asset. You don't want to host it on wordpress or something similar (ie: mypoliticalsite.wordpress.com). So buy a domain name, get some $5/mo hosting (hostgator.com), and then install wordpress onto the server. So you want to buy a domain, buy hosting, and use wordpress for the site. If you don't know how to do this stuff just Google it until you figure it out. If you are don't want to use Google to figure out how to do this stuff then you probably should just quit now.
Once you have the site up I would create Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Pinterest profiles that match your domain name. I would link these from your site and interact on all of these services as you release new content and have cool stuff to share. Work on building followers and an email list. You want to create an audience. You want to become a brand.
I would try to load the site up with at least 20 or so really high quality pieces of content to at least give it a bit of a foundation.
Once I have a site on Wordpress with about 20 or so good pieces of content, an about page and the social stuff all linked up I would start to reach out to other sites in my field and create relationships with them. I would interact on their sites and become part of the online community. Keep in mind that if you are already passionate about this subject then this will probably be something you would do in your free time anyway.
Be sure to keep adding good content and keep making new relationships with other sites. The more content you have (as long as it is really good) and the more links you have (from high quality sites) to your site the better. Share your good content through your social network and work on building up your audience. That is pretty much the name of the game.
Install Google Analytics on the site so you can track your visitors. Once you start to get around 100 or so visitors you may want to throw Adsense on there and see if you can make some money. You will probably make like 0 - $.50/day for a while. That's okay. That's a starting point and a benchmark. Keep building up your traffic and building up your audience.
As your budget or skills permit you can start to make the site nice by redesigning it, adding new stuff and making it come across as more professional overall. But this isn't as big of a piece as you might think. It takes time to get there and the content is by far the biggest piece.
Yeah, but I want more monies!!
There is obviously a lot more to it, but this is a brief overview. A few other things to consider are the size of the market and the amount of money in the market. Certain industries like finance and sports get a lot of traffic. But of these two there is much more money in finance. If you check around Google's Keyword Tool you will be able to see the volume of industries and the average cost per click. You usually want the most amount of traffic with the largest cost per click. This way you know you're working towards a field that you're making money in. However, obviously these are the most competitive industries (insurance, finance, mortgage, law, health, etc). Again, all this stuff becomes much more important once you start to get traffic and see the results of your efforts. The first step is getting started. So get a site up and start writing. Get some momentum going.
Q: How long did it take you to get up to speed?
A: I started building Flash websites in 2003 and I have been doing online stuff ever since. So I've been doing it 10 years now. I started off mainly as a designer and then worked my way into programming and then once SEO became more popular I worked my way into that. I think like with most things the Internet will take at least 2 years or so to get up to speed.
These days I think being a designer and even a developer is one of the most saturated and worst markets to compete in. There are so many free templates, CMS's and Indians across the sea that it makes no sense to even try to outdo them. There is no shortage of websites. What there is a shortage of is valuable content written by insiders. So like I've said before, the content is where it's at. That's where your creativity and intelligence can really shine through.
Q: Did you build your site from scratch or use Wordpress?
A: My site is built on Drupal which is a lot like Wordpress. The theme and a lot of the extra code is custom which I have built on top of Drupal 7 core.
Q: Do you do all the marketing, site building, UI and content yourself?
A: For this site yes, but for other sites no. I have a marketing company so I have a team of people who do different things.
Filed under:Internet / Tech, Internet Marketing, Online