Despite all the attempts of software companies to “sell” web building software, you are foolish if you fall for them, unless you have a huge site with countless catalog pages and sub-domains, and even then, there are many web builders available for free that will do everything that the paid ones will. Some will create only web sites, some will create blogs, and some will do both. Some of you may have heard of programs like Front Page (no longer sold new or supported), Expressions (the newer version of Front Page), Dreamweaver (an Adobe product) (no longer available or supported, but CS6 is the new version), XsitePro and others, and those are all good, but can be expensive for someone starting out. On the other hand, there are free “open source” web designers from Kompozer.net, Joomla.org and Drupal.org, which will do everything the paid ones do. They’re all going to have a learning curve, but they all come with help screens and/or tutorials, so it gets down to ease of use, and one’s personal preference. All programs are going to take awhile to learn. Some of these might be availabe on Amazon.
You can also get a good free beginner program from Serif Software with their Web Plus Starter Edition, which is very good, and very easy, but be warned: although you can create as many sites as you want, the free version is limited in the number of pages you can use on each site. But for a single product site of five pages or less, it works great, and many of the sites that are on the web that are less than five pages make MORE money than the ones with huge catalog sites! It isn’t the volume of information you give people, the number of choices, nor how pretty a site is… it’s the quality of the information, how well you can convince the reader that he can’t do without it and whether it meets the users needs that makes the site owner money! Serif also has the paid version in their newest “Web Plus” series that they send you on a physical disk, and it’s a very good web builder at a very reasonable price. I have two of their past programs, plus the new free one, and they work very well.
Another free web builder is Weebly.com. It has been a couple years since I have used them, and I see their site is updated with many new features. But beware: if you use the free version, you will always have “.weebly.com” after your site name which will clue everyone into the fact that it’s a free site. But you can start there, and then attach it to a domain of your own. That can also be done with WordPress, Blogger, and many other free site builders.
There are many other free and paid web site builders available. All you have to do is a Google search for the term, and many will come up.
And speaking of Wordpress and Blogger, both of those are free blog builders, unless you go with the version of Wordpress at dot org, rather than the totally free one at the dot com site. The version at dot org is designed to download to a web domain, and for that, you have to pay for both the domain and hosting, but the Wordpress add-on is still totally free to use on your site. Also, that version gives you tons more functionality and freedom than the dot com version. But the problem lies in whether it is too complex for the average user. Because it an open source product, you can do anything you want to it within the code, once it is on your site. But is also comes with necessary maintenance regarding constant manual updates. I would guess that better than 75% of casual bloggers and small site owners don't need that much functionality. They just need a site that's dependable.
So… what’s wrong with a free site?
A free site “builder” is one thing, and there’s nothing wrong with them, but free hosting, where your site is only a sub-domain of another main site is a problem. These always appear as “yourdomainname.weebly.com” or .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com.
From everything I have read, the problem is three-fold.
(1) It has been said that the search engines are less “friendly” to free sites and sub-domains, and may not give them as high a position in the search results as a main domain. The primary goal of any web site or blog owner is to get as high on that first page of results as possible, because without traffic, you have no sales and no money! As a marketer, I know ways to compensate for that, but the average user won’t.
(2) There is a psychological issue of credibility. Would you do business with Walmart or Sears if they were using “.weebly.com” or “.blogspot.com” after their name? They would probably have only 1/4 the users that they have! When people see anything but a proper domain suffix after your name (dot com, dot net, dot org, etc.) they know right away that you are someone who is without proper knowledge or too tight to set up your business properly, or you are doing it for a hobby… not someone to be taken seriously! And…
(3), if the domain owner has their name on your site, they are literally saying that THEY own that site, and they are permitting you to use a small portion of it. They make the rules for the site…not you! They will never give you permission to get into the code of the site to tweak it to suit special needs or allow extra plug-ins or add-ons. Do you want to give someone else that much control over your business? I hope not!
So no matter whether you choose a normal web site or a blog format, you should put it on your own domain, unless, you are blogging just for the fun of it, and have no intentions of selling anything from your site... or... if you are doing strictly affiliate marketing, Adsense or other contextual marketing. Maybe you only put it out there so family members can see pictures and stories of what you are doing.
Or in our soon-to-be case, we are retiring from the rat-race of marketing for serious money. We’re not that greedy, and we have a comfortable income already. We don’t want to have to “work” at keeping up with all the marketing hype in the industry, and feel that if we make a few bucks from each of our many blogs, that’s enough. We no longer care to sit at the computer for 12-14 hours a day studying new marketing techniques! If we make some money, fine, and if we don’t, that’s fine, too. In that regard, we are converting many of our sites to free blog platforms, and that will be plenty for what we intend to do with them.
For our serious direct web sales of specific products, we know how to do that from a free blog, also, without running into any issues, and have been doing it on some blogs for years. And off-site, we also work the online auctions, for which no web site is needed at all.
Web site versus blog… which is right for me?
A web site is usually built with a special program designed for the purpose, same as a blog. But a web site is basically full of “static” pages, meaning there is no interaction from your readers unless they click on links or fill out a form. There is no comment form on most web sites. Web sites are good for sites that have a lot of pages that they want to stay all the same, like catalog pages. In other words, they can “speak” to the reader, but the reader can’t talk back!
The problem with sites like that is the bigger they are, the more maintenance it takes, especially of you have models or prices changing quite often, as with electronics. If you neglect any page for very long, it will lose importance in the eyes of the search engines and your rankings will go down, so you always have to be tweaking or changing something so it appears different and fresh. Also, since the search engines are basically ignoring all but description meta-tags now, optimization is more of a problem. You need inbound links from other relevant sites to show that someone cares about your site. With social interaction from readers leaving comments and sharing your site on social media, it lets the search engine know that your site isn’t just sitting there dormant. Keywords become even more important within the URL, titles and text, but they also have to be relevant to the topic of the page.
With a blog, it is so much easier to add social buttons, subscription or opt-in forms, special SEO packs and other things, that it is easier to get higher rankings with them. Also, because there is interaction between the posts (articles) and the people commenting on them, the content always stays fresh in the eyes of the search engines, so they know automatically that your blog is important by the number of people using it. The social buttons and “ping” options let you choose other easy means of promoting your blog with the push of a button!
There are other reasons listed below as to why professional marketers use WordPress more than any other platform, and they all boil down to ease of use for making money! The more efficient you are, the more you can get done, and I have seen proof that money making blogs can be built in less than 15 minutes!
Every blog is like an independent business. Some will do better than others, so this is hypothetical. No two people are going to do the same thing with it. Let’s say that even if it only makes $30 a month, how many could you build in a month, once you know how it’s done? And that is only for doing the work ONE TIME!
In a year, that ONE blog can be pulling in $360 a year. In ten years it will have brought in $3600… along with however many others you want to build until you reach the income level you are comfortable with! Even if you just count the first month, that’s $30 for 1/4 of an hours work, or $120 an hour! In ten years that 1/4 hour’s work DONE ONE TIME is worth $3600! And (if dsigned right) they all operate on (nearly) total autopilot once they’re built, so you can move on to the next one, and the next one and the next one, as many times as you want to!
Einstein said that the most powerful force on earth was the power of compound interest. The same is true of web marketing, and yet nine out of every ten people don’t see or understand either one, because they don’t take the time to THINK!
Sure, sometimes you need money coming in “right now” and admittedly, this isn’t the best way to do that. It takes time to build any business. But if you can learn this in your spare time, and then just spend 15 minutes building an easy one-page site every day after your normal work, how long would it be before you could fire your boss and never have to work again? You do the math!
By the way, this site already has made me money in the last week (and growing), and I don’t even have any products of my own or payment buttons on it, other than a donation button. I didn’t even count the donations that generous blog readers sent me. Still think it can’t be done? Why do you think I have multiple sites on the web already?
Sorry, I digress…
You can also get many free blog programs, with the two most famous being Blogger (owned by Google) and WordPress (a free “open source” program). Both can be used in their free versions (which will always have the tell-tale “.blogspot.com” or “.wordpress.com” after your chosen domain name, because your domain will always be a sub-domain of theirs… and they own you! Also, because the site is still controlled by the people who own them, they can shut down your blog if you aren’t managing it properly. But once you download the platform to your own domain… then YOU own it!
What is a blog?
The term blog, is a shortened version of “web log”, originally created as a place where people could jot down their thoughts, both for themselves and to share with others, and allow two-way communication for them to share their comments… an online conversation tool. Developers could jot down their ideas and put them in a place where other developers working on the same project from many miles away could collaborate with each other. Blogs were the original social sites, and have been around long before all the social sites we see today. You can make a blog totally open to anyone and located by search engines, semi-private so that only the people you tell will know where it is on the web, or you can make it totally private and secure so that only registered users with the right usernames and passwords can get into them.
How do I use a blog?
In the case of the free WordPress(dotcom), they won’t even let you use anything but their ads on it! If you go the WordPress(dotorg) version, which is the one requiring it to be placed on your own domain, then you "own it" once it is installed on your domain, and you can do literally anything with it.
On the other hand, Blogger has no such advertising restrictions, and you can even sell from your own payment buttons on it…as long as information and conversation with the public remain the primary focus. The only thing they won't let you do is get into the code. You have to use it within their operating structure, however, they provide just about anything you should ever need. But they can still shut you down if they see a need to unless you install the blog on your own domain!
Although, in theory, you can have a blog that has nothing but static pages on it filled with your own commentary and content, there is no point in doing that, as it goes against everything that a blog is about, from social traffic to marketing. You NEED the readers to comment because that and the posts that you write adds fresh new content, which the search engines love, and they will raise your position in the search results for it. Any site that remains stagnant loses importance in the eyes of the search engine. A blog must be used properly, whether you own it or whether you are just “borrowing” the space.
Is a blog credible as a business presence on the web?
It’s a proven fact that customers don’t take free blogs seriously if they are shopping for products, and that tell-tale structure of the URL at the end after your site name says it’s a free site, and not a sales site. If they see a dot com after your business name, they will take you much more seriously as a seller who runs a quality operation, and not just a person with a hobby.
However, one of the secrets of marketing anything, is to provide good, useful, and entertaining content that the reader can use and will keep coming back for. It is statistically proven that it takes about seven times of having contact with a seller, before the potential customer feels comfortable with buying from them. If they like what you have to say in your blogs, and they find your recommendations credible and useful, if they have subscribed to your posts and learn to trust you... why wouldn’t they feel safe with clicking on your links and buying from you or the vendors you recommend?
I know of several blogs that are about nothing but travel stories, that are pulling in around $800 per month on the average, from nothing but an Amazon store link on their blog. At Amazon’s typical 6% commission rate, that equates to over $10,000 in retail sales being made from that little “blog about nothing”!
Seinfeld made a joke about how successful his TV show “about nothing” was, so it can also happen in other media, too!
Many people think of blogs as information sources. There’s nothing wrong with that, as the majority of people come to the web for information, with no plan to ever buy anything. As a marketer you have to learn the difference between attracting buyers and attracting shoppers, and you do that with proper keywords. People who are looking for something to buy will go to places like eBay or .com sites. But when people see any kind of indication that it is a blog, they will go there to look for information. It is our job as a marketer to give it to them as fast and as accurately as possible, and if we can solve a problem for them in the process and give them a solution, “then” we can make a sale as a secondary action. That’s what blog marketing is all about. It doesn’t have to “high pressure” anyone into buying. Give them good, entertaining content, and they will eventually reward you by buying your recommendations.
So, if you use their (WordPress, Blogger) blog platform on your own domain, rather than their free one, readers don’t even realize it’s a blog when they see it on the search engines. Many people don’t even notice it after they get on the site, because many blog themes look like any other web page. So they may be buyers or shoppers, but if you have what they want, they will still visit your “store”!
You can usually do whatever you wish with a blog on your own domain, within the terms of the hosting company, and yes, a blog is actually “expected” as part of most business sites today. A business who does not have a blog these days is missing out on the importance of customer interaction as well as the social traffic that they can get.
Also, something to keep in mind… if you are planning a catalog site, with many pages of offerings for sale with your own payment buttons, a blog platform is usually not practical for that use. They typically only allow a limited number of static pages due to their menu layout. For a catalog site, a true web site builder is best, and then if you need a blog along with it, you can install a blog as a sub-domain or folder of the main site.
You can see an example of that on one of my own sites at http://blog.caravancamperrv.com where the blog is a sub-domain of the main site, and they can be controlled separately, if necessary, with different titles and completely different themes and looks. For instance, the blog is a WordPress format, wheras the site is built with Front Page. (Update: that main site is soon (late 2016) to be converted to a blog platform on Blogger). I actually made the FrontPage site home page and header look pretty much like the WordPress theme by building it with tables, but that is more information than you need for right now. We’ll get into tables and much more as we progress.
One main difference in WordPress over Blogger is that they have the WordPress.com domain for the free sites, but if you want the one that goes on your own domain, you want to go to the WordPress.org “install” version for domains. I have experimented with both versions using the same exact theme… but I found a lot of differences between them. I thought I could start with the free version until I got it built up, and then convert it to one of my sites to avoid down time, but I ran into so many differences that it was very confusing. The saving grace was in the simplicity of making the transition. I simply exported and saved the free .com version’s files to my computer. In the .org version that I added to my web site, I simply imported those files and voila! They all transferred to the new site perfectly, still avoiding a lot of down time as opposed to starting from scratch. All the important stuff was there… text, ads, menus, etc, but the “user-friendly” add-ons that come with the free version were gone, and that was OK, as I didn’t want or need them on the .org platform.
The WordPress.com version is a free stand-alone blog platform that you can build your pages on right there. No downloads or installation is required. Simply sign up, log-in, and follow the instructions. This is OK for personal sites where families just want to share photos and keep in touch with one another, but it can't be used for any kind of business.
The WordPress.org version is designed to be added to web sites, so they have a form in which to add your domain name during the setup process. This is an “installation” version. You must first have your domain registered, and a hosting account tied to the domain. You can then choose to use WordPress as the “root” (where the whole site is a WordPress blog) or you can add something like “blog.” (see the dot after the word?) ahead of your domain name, and then it becomes a sub-domain to the main site. Control of each remains totally independent of one another, but you only need one domain name that way to have more than one site.
For example, if you look at a lot of Google’s “tool” sites, they are almost always ahead of the Google name, such as “analytics.google.com” or “adwords.google.com.” It’s all the same domain, just with separate sub-domains, so that each one can look totally different from another, and yet be easily recognizable as part of the same site.
However, if you plan to use WordPress as your site building tool, then the easiest way to install it is to simply go to your hosting company’s “C” panel for your domain, and look down near the bottom of the offerings for a little blue smiley face icon for Fantastico. Some blogs are using a different installer, but there is still a way to install Wordpress. Simply click the proper icon, then choose WordPress (for a new domain) from the menu, and either leave the directory form blank to install it as the main site, or if you are attaching it to another site as a sub-domain, just add the “blog.” in front of your domain name to make it a sub-domain. You can also install it as a folder within the main domain so that you can link them together, by adding it as “/blog” after the full domain name. Then it becomes like a sub-page of the main page, and you should see a link to it in the menu bar. It can still be controlled as a totally separate site. Click to finish, and it’s done!
As always, if you need visual instruction on this, then go to YouTube and search for “install wordpress on domain” and you will find all kinds of help there. Then you can go to your blog URL and you will see the welcome page for WordPress. From there you can go to the setup and dashboard menus to choose a theme and build it the way you want it.
Most marketers these days are going to WordPress for building their sites. Since they are the ones “in the know” on such things because they do it for a living, many times with several hundred different sites online, they have the most knowledge over what works for making money far more than just a “one site” user. It is far more versatile than Blogger (if you really need unlimited versatility) (but that’s my own humble opinion).
There are several reasons for WordPress being so popular:
–It is a no-cost source for the most versatile blog or site building software on the planet!
— Blogs, because of their interaction with readers, are a natural when it comes to other people helping you to create content, and content is what makes for great search engine optimization (SEO). New content, whether by the author or the reader’s comments keeps the blog fresh and new in the eyes of the search engines. A site or blog that gets no regular updating loses rankings in the search engines, and that means decreased traffic. So even if you are only selling one single product (even just yourself), a blog is the way to go if you want to stay at the top of the search engine results! THAT is where you have to be to get traffic (and sales)!
–Wordpress is easy to use in its administration, as well as from a reader standpoint. Most of the technical questions that would come up have already been answered by someone on the web, and all it takes is a little research to find any answer to any question. YouTube is also a prime source of video information and instruction on almost any topic. Because WordPress has become so popular, there is far more information available on it than any other blog platform or web design software.
— There are many more free WordPress themes available (over 1600 of them on the authorized WordPress site alone), with more being developed every day, than comes with any of the paid web design programs. If you need more, there are also many more themes you can buy through third-party vendors than for any other program in the world! You can choose the layout, the colors, install your own pictures, and to make things easy… rather than having to learn any html or CSS code… there are over 20,000 plug-ins to choose from, to add everything from social buttons to monetization to your blog just by clicking the “install” link. And they are searchable, to easily find what you are looking for!
–Also, unlike some web building programs that require you to download software in order to edit your site, WordPress is online all the time and accessible from any computer. You will never lose your work! Even if your computer crashes, there are no programs that you have to have on your computer in order to do editing, as there is with most other programs. You can go to any other computer and simply log on!
–Unlike web sites, which in order to start an opt-in list, usually requires an autoresponder service (at additional cost), you can easily install a plug-in with one click for an automated opt-in or subscribe form for new post notifications, so it not only saves you money, but saves work from having to do extra newsletter writing. The posts themselves become the newsletters and announcements!
OK, so what’s the downside?
The disadvantage with “owning” your own WordPress blog on your own domain is that you have to pay attention to it. They will notify you of updates to both the blog as well as plug-ins, but you have to install them yourself… nothing technical… just the checking of boxes and clicking a button, but YOU have to do it. On the free .com version, they will do most of that for you.
On Blogger, since it is owned and maintained by Google, they will do the updating on the free version, but again… if you use that platform on your own domain, expect to have to do some maintenance on it. After all, they don't have access to your domain! The plus side of Blogger is that it is easier to learn and has less confusing choices of what can be added to it. For average users, Blogger has everything you need and keeps it simple, whereas WordPress is more geared to those with some technical experience. Too many choices can sometimes be a bad thing, and waste a lot of time experimenting to see what works best.
If you want a maintenance free site, that you own, then the best thing is probably a static web site, and even then… NO site is ever totally maintenance free! Like any other business, you have to pay attention to what’s going on, and that means on a daily basis! The more features and choices the site has in it’s components, the more maintenance it will require. You have to ask yourself…”Do I really need all that?” If it isn’t something that is going to make you more money, then you probably don’t.
What about “online” web builders?
There are many other web builders out there in both free and paid versions, but here is a warning… some of them are online and require a continuing subscription fee of up to $50 per month in order to use them!
Some marketing courses are online that provide their own web builder platform that you have to pay to use. That’s how they lock you into paying for them “forever”! It has less to do with them teaching you anything than it does to keep you in their income stream! If they were any kind of teacher, they should be able to teach you on other programs… but that doesn’t make them any money!
From my own personal experience, I can also tell you that many of the “instructors” that they assign to you are nothing but former students who know only what that program has taught them. That’s like having tunnel vision, because they see nothing else, nor will they answer questions about anything else!
I lost nearly $5000 with one of these programs! I highly discourage people from getting involved with subscriptions because once you start on their platform, it is next to impossible to get away from them without a complete rebuild (and maybe even renaming) of your site! That’s their marketing method and how they lock you into a lifetime of payments! DON’T fall for it!
Summary and Expectations
By now you should have everything you need to get a site online, except for the most important parts… knowing what you are going to sell, and what you are going to call your site. So before we start out backwards, as so many have done before, we have to do the keyword research to know the EXACT words (right down to plural or singular) that people are using to search for what they want to buy. Without knowing what those words are, and being able to reach those people, you site will be like a store at the end of a dark, dead end alley. No one will find it, at least with generic search engine results. The alternative is a lot of paid advertising methods, which again, takes away from profits!
That’s not saying that you have to sell something that you have no interest in, just because it’s a hot market. It’s saying that it’s OK to have a “niche”, whether it be tools photography, knitting, cars or whatever. It just means narrowing down things within that niche to make it profitable! Just because you like cars doesn’t mean you have to try to sell any make or model. You have to know the difference between Renaults and Yugos, versus Mustangs and Corvettes. In other words, highly specialized products and knowledge in the right areas will sell more than general knowledge and products about anything and everything. But which one sells better…Corvette parts or Mustang parts? Even if you are already a fanatic for one versus the other, what sells better... engine and drive train parts, or body parts? If it's body parts, is it basic body parts like fenders, or accessory parts like chrome trim and emblems? And even if that is determined, what years are in the most demand? See how this is "drilling down" to the absolute best selling item without leaving the initial topic?
That’s what keyword research is for, to see what the public is really asking for! When you know that, and have what it takes to meet their needs and how to reach them, then you can sell more to them than any of your competitors and make serious money doing it!
We’re not here to have you sell “our” products. Those cookie-cutter type programs very seldom work. We want you to learn how to sell something in which YOU are interested, because your knowledge of it makes it easier for you to know how to promote something like that. But you STILL have to know the right keywords in order to reach people!
So until next time, ask me questions in the comments and I will respond ASAP.
In the next post we’re going to show you what FREE software you need in order to get in front of those people to show them what you can offer them! If you can’t learn to do that, you won’t make any money!
Even “somewhat” experienced marketers have questions, sometimes technical issues, and I can’t help you if you don’t get involved in the conversation! So… what’s on your mind?