After my recent post about working from home – can you make money I received a number of emails asking me about how to start a website.
Having written, back in April last year, about farmers failing to market on the internet it seems only fair that I share some of my successes and failures in creating websites with very little computer knowledge, no design talent and an even smaller budget to give you farmers and rural folk a taste of what it takes to get marketing on the internet.
Before we get started I want to point out that I am not an expert at building or running a website, it has taken me 18 months of working 14 hours a day to learn the little I know now but hopefully I can save you a lot of wasted time by pointing you in the right direction … gosh I wish someone had done that for me!!
Let us start by dealing with a few myths:
1. Build it and they will come!!
Read any web designer or seo ‘experts’ blog and you will see that building and plonking a website on the internet does not mean people will come flooding to your site and buying your products or services .. as with any business venture you have to do the hard slog of marketing your website just as you would market your products or services.
2. It costs thousands to build a website
It most certainly can cost thousands if you get a professional web designer to do the work but you can also get off the ground with free or very cheap off the shelf software, diy design, a basic hosting package (about £30 a year) and patience enough to read.
3. You need to be a computer geek to run a website
18 months ago my knowledge of computers extended to word documents, excel spreadsheets and ocassionally producing slideshows for training … okay the odd game of cards too. My knowledge is still limited and yet I have been running a website and two blogs for over a year now .. I learn something new each day which helps me to improve my sites but I admit I’m a slow learner where technology is concerned. The good news is this means anyone can learn. My mother (I shan’t say her age but I’m in my 40’s so have a guess) helps with my sites and has even got to grips with html programming .. she is our official “technical person” and has learnt some very unladylike new words in the process. All the information you need is on the internet, you just have to know where to look for free tutorials and help (I shall provide links in future posts).
4. You can become a millionaire while you are sleeping
Yeah right .. someone let me know how please. As with any business, running a website takes hard work to get off the ground and it doesn’t stop there but it is a great way of capturing a wider customer base and once running takes less time to administer than selling a pair of wellies to a customer in a farm shop but all this “buy our secret for becoming an internet millionaire while you sleep … only 30 places left” nonsense is exactly that, nonsense (or more honestly a scam to get your money). Yes a few people have become rich from running websites but Richard Branson is also rich .. do we all think we can be him?
So now we know it takes hard work, a lot of reading and a little help from online friends but if I can do it then anyone can and I’m not just trying to be modest, technology and I don’t mix. So if you are seriously thinking of starting a website then let us begin.
Lesson 1 – Understanding the internet
Think of the internet as the computerised version of the encyclopedia britannica and your website will be one small paragraph on one page.
People will find your website using a search engine, google is the best known search engine but there are many others, or by clicking a link on another website (no doubt you found my blog by using one of these methods).
Search engines are basically the index of the encyclopedia, so you can look up farming, then find uk farming, then pigs, then feed, etc, until you narrow it down to the page you are looking for. The search engine will then offer you a selection of sites it feels is most relevant to your search enquiry (the varying paragraphs on that page).
Most people will find what they are looking for in the first three paragraphs of the page so of course you want your website to be in that first three.
A huge amount of the internet is spam (regurgitated rubbish that nobody wants to read), so your website has to have meaningful content, something people want to read or buy and will keep them coming back to your site.
Todays learning task is to understand how search engines provide you with information. Off you go and start entering search terms into your search engine, it doesn’t matter what you type in or what the search engine finds, just look for how your search engine returns websites based on what you type in.
Here is an example to get you started .. type in cumbrian cheese. Each search engine will offer varying information but my search just found:
Results 1 – 10 of about 144,000 for
That means I am looking at the first 10 websites (out of 144,000 website pages) it found for that search term (cumbrian cheese).
Now type in cheese from cumbria, as you can see the results are quite different. Some websites are on both first pages because the search engines feel those pages are relevant to both search terms but some sites are found for one search term and not the other.