7- Themes and plug-ins. Once you have an idea what you want the site to look like, you can choose a theme. This is an area where we can far too often get caught up in the process, rather than enjoy it.
When I first started building sites a decade ago, I spent hours poking around in different ideas and themes and thinking what would be perfect.
And perfect is the enemy of done.
When I’m coaching people who are building their first site, I try to make as many decisions for them as I can, because I know that hours, days, weeks or more can be wasted in the name of ‘perfection’ when the truth is that we are afraid to just make a decision and move forward.
I actually have a cheat I take advantage of quite often. I have a sample starter website that I clone and use for each new domain.
If you’ve not seen an empty theme, you might not realize how much easier starting with something fleshed out is.
Another cheat I have is that I publish immediately. While the cloned site has the wrong images and no actual content, I know that the likelihood of anybody seeing it is next to nil. And the likelihood of anybody really caring if they did stumble upon it, even less.
I think we give far too much weight to possibilities that are exceedingly unimportant. I know I have.
… ok, sometimes I still do.
There have been so many groups I’ve been part of where individuals plan these huge launches and that requires huge buildup and rallying the troops and so forth. And I just do not think all that is necessary.
The truth is your site will never be truly finished anyway. So, just publish and move on.
Now, one of the many great things about WordPress is you don’t lose your content if you switch themes.
My suggestion is to pick a free one that is offered with the initial installation. Or buy a clone. I’ve seen them at quite reasonable prices. And starting with something is SO much easier and can save you hours and hours of work.
On the plugins, the theme you choose (if not a clone) will come with a couple of plugins, and you will probably be best off to just delete them from the get-go.
You’ll figure out what you need and that your theme doesn’t already provide, and then look for a plugin that does exactly what you need and no more, and that has been tested with your theme and has great reviews.
Once you start looking at plugins, you’ll see that there is a plethora to choose from. And again, you can spend hours and hours poking around in plugins. Don’t.
Our goal is to get a website built and published. You can work on design tweaks and making it pretty later. You need to understand that the content is the most important thing.
Since it takes a while for your articles/posts to be noticed by Google and then start to rank, you want your content published quickly. THEN you’ll have plenty of time to mess around with decking out your theme, trying a new plugin, making your site faster.
This also leads quite nicely into the next step.
8- SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Wow, does this topic get people frazzled. Lots of people purporting to be experts on this are spending a great deal of time convincing people that they need to throw themselves into this.
That everything they’ve built will be for naught because nobody will see it without taking their course or hiring them to handle your SEO.
Please do not overwhelm yourself with this.
Work on your content. Write good content with great titles and let Google do its job… which is find it and rank it.
I think a lot of people out there have the impression that Google is working against them. That this is a battle of wills. David and Goliath.
They seem to think they need to trick Google.
<sigh>… that just ain’t gonna happen. Not in the long run.
Instead, understand that you (and me) and Google are on the same side. We are all trying to accomplish the same thing.
Find out what people need and get it to them.
Write good content that is user friendly. Easy to consume. Enjoyable to look at. That’s the sort of ‘SEO’ that you never have to change. That’s the sort of SEO that will withstand any Google algorithm update.
Don’t overthink this. Don’t lose yourself and hours or days chasing magic bullets down rabbit holes.
9- Create a hit list of titles. This is kind of a fun activity. I’ll try to take you through my own process in my own niche to give you some ideas how you can do your own.
My niche is rescue dogs. Dogs in shelters who need homes. Written for Dog Moms. People who either are or want to adopt a rescue and bring it home an spend the rest of its life together.
Now, I think there is a boatload of material out there on various aspects of this topic. However, having been in this ‘industry’ for over 30 years, I can tell you that there is just a lot of crap out there. Poorly written, riddled with error and just not something I’d send a friend to.
My goal is to create one awesome source that answers all the questions a potential Dog Mom could have, being honest and supportive, and also offering other sources and easy to find and purchase tools or gifts.
I’m not supportive of purchasing tools to get your keywords.
Perhaps I should backtrack here. If you are new to all this, I’ve likely already said a few things that you don’t understand.
First- why are we creating a list of titles to write posts for? Glad you asked. There are a couple reasons for this. One reason is to help you wrap your head around whether there is enough interest in this topic to garner traffic to your site.
The goal here is a minimum of 30,000 page visits a month. That is about (this is an average I’ve found in a few places) $1000 of income from that site per month.
What we need to do is go to Google and start searching our topic and then let Google assume what we are looking for. Google makes this leap by collecting ALL the previous searches and putting in the most common searches that began with your selected words.
For example, on my topic, shelter dogs and adopting dogs, I went to Google and started a search query like “Why do dogs…” and Google gave me a suggested list of questions. I did a couple searches with just dogs instead of shelter dogs to see if there was much of a difference between the lists.
I continued my searches with “Are shelter dogs…” and “Can Shelter dogs…” etc.
Google gave me several lists of questions that it had been asked. I took a screenshot of those questions and filed them away.
This told me that there was an interest in my topic. I also went to a few of the pages that came up on various searches and determined I could do better.
So, that’s one reason to do this sort of search and make a list of all the searches Google had previously received. The other reason to do this is so you always have something to write about. You’ll never not know what to write about as you already have a list to cover.
Personally, I’ve never had writer’s block, more like the opposite… SO many things to write about… SO little time. A hit list of titles and topics to pull out and create an outline for with subtitles that I’ll put in bold… keeps me on track.
At least, that’s what I’m hoping.
10- Formatting posts. This took a bit of research. The goal here is to write your post in such a way that the reader enjoys the process of reading it. Additionally, to create a post that Google trusts and wants to send people to.
Google has a 200 page guide that anybody can read. It’s right here. And in that guide, Google discusses E.A.T. Personally, I can think of better acronyms… even with the same letters. TEA? ETA? But whatever, Google chose EAT.
EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness. So, Google wants to know that if somebody goes to your website, they find what they are looking for, they enjoy the process and that what they find is good information.
And Google has a bunch of advice or suggestions or just processes in order to do that.
Google doesn’t want to send people to Bob’s Blog if they are seeking medical advice.
Unfortunately, it is damn hard if not impossible for Bob to get any traffic over the Mayo Clinic or WebMD, unless Bob is a doctor and somehow shows Google that.
A lot of this will be covered in your “About Me/Us” page. However, another way to establish EAT is when writing your post, you’ll cite sources that are reputable.
My goal is to cite 4 sources in each post. I’ll let you know if that turns out to be reasonable.
When writing your post, you’ll want to give it some heft. Not just answer the query in one sentence and the reader leaves. When you were doing your Google keyword searches, you likely saw that some of the suggestions Google made were similar to another.
Perhaps a person searching for one of those keywords would likely be then searching for another. So, in your post, you can bring a few queries together and using subtitles, tie them all together in a package that will keep a reader interested for 1500 words, thus showing Google that your page is interesting.
I’m currently doing a bit of research on this particular topic. So, I’ll include more on it later.
11- Write your first Posts! Google wants to trust your information before you get a whole lot of traffic. So, your first posts will be what is referred to as Response Posts.
The strategy I have planned for myself has 30 posts. The first 10 are Response Posts, where you answer a commonly asked question. This post will be about 1500 words.
It’s time to write your first one. Yes, there are parts of your website that are ugly or sketchy, at best. Yes, you still need a logo, maybe. Yes, you’re struggling with your color scheme.
Please trust me that you’ll have plenty of time to think about all that and fix issues later, when your posts are published and you are just waiting for them to rank.
Get 10 Response Posts published. Work on making them easy to read and useful. Create some categories that make the posts super easy to find. Add a few images to each, but not so many that it slows down the page speed. Check your page speed now and determine if it is fast enough or if you need to compress your images or some other plugin to speed up your site.
But don’t sweat this part. You have plenty of time.
13- Work on a Resource Page. You’ll use the categories that you created to help you do this page or pages. What items have you discussed? What sources did you cite?
More on this later, too. I understand I have plenty of time before I need to be concerned about this step. I’m not going to sweat it.
14- Site Design and Structure. Once you have your 10 Response Posts published, you can take a view of your site with a critical eye.
As a website auditor, I’d like to suggest you get somebody else, who hasn’t been part of the journey yet, to visit your site and poke around. Somebody honest.
Of course, this is why lots of people hire a professional website critiquer. I’ve been critiquing sites for years. If you can’t find somebody with a good eye and straightforward demeanor, drop me a line. I’m hoping you can find somebody though, as I have a lot in my bowl. 🙂
15- Staple Posts. The second group of posts you’ll create are often referred to as Staple Posts. You want 10 of those, as well. What we are doing is showing Google that we can be trusted with greater and greater importance.
That’s why we start with the Response Posts. If Google makes a mistake and sends somebody to our website with a simple question and they get frustrated because that answer is NOT what is on our site, Google takes it in stride and that person bounces out of our site and checks another… no big deal. No real harm, no foul. But Google does take note.
However, Staple Posts are a bit more important. This is the sort of post that people share to social media. It doesn’t just answer a simple question, it gives some real meat to a topic.
If we write/publish these posts first, it’s too big risk for Google. So, it’s important to do these in order.
Where was I….
Well, maybe more on this later. You’ll want 10 Staple Posts.
16. Promoting Your Site. This is where many of us often jump the shark. BTW, I looked that phrase up to determine just where it came from and it stems from the Happy Days episode where the gang goes on vacation and The Fonz jumps a captured shark, on water skis… and in his leather jacket. A point at which far-fetched events are included merely for the sake of novelty, indicative of a decline in quality. It’s a term used to describe when shows do something utterly ridiculous.
Another term that means something similar is ‘go off the rails’.
In any case, and using any colloquialisms you’d like, the point here is to be logical and take proven steps. We have to remember that our goal is organic traffic. We want people who are looking for the type of content that we are creating to do a search and find us and come to our site and stay and like it.
We get no real benefit from people seeing it on Social Media, and just popping over o check it out. We might get a temporary boost in traffic, but we have seen over and over that organic traffic is where we get sales eventually.
So how do we promote our site?
Two solid options are Pinterest and Youtube. And the reason for this is that both of those are search engines. If you write a post and take two images and create pins and pin them to your Pinterest boards, they can be found days, weeks or moths later. And each pin will direct traffic to your post, on your site.
Now, there seems to be a bit of a question as to whether you should include the direct link in your text on your pin. I’m going to look into that further. But not right now.
YouTube is a great idea. So many ways to create simple videos and title the well and link them to each other and provide links in the description area back to your site.
Again, videos on YouTube get traffic for years.
I won’t be spending any time promoting my site on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. I won’t be buying ads, either.
My goal is use free sources of promotion. I won’t be doing guest posts but I might agree to be a guest on a podcast with an audience that makes sense to reach.