In this section we will be talking about how to take your site to the next level. What kind of things can you do to take your site from thousands of visitors to millions of visitors!
Building up a community of regular readers who support and interact with each other is a great way to create a sustainable website that will grow organically in time. Provide a great environment for your members and they will not only keep returning to your site but they will also promote it to their friends and contact who have a shared interest in your topic.
You need to be realistic about building a community site:
- It can be hard to get it started. I only run one community based site and this took off thanks to a handful of early users who were clearly experienced forum users and were not phased by the initial empty state of the forum. In the early weeks I found that I had to start the vast majority of threads, I ensured I replied to every single post to keep discussions moving, and continually had to encourage interaction. However it eventually paid off with a forum now accommodating thousands of members.
- You will have to take responsability for your site. The idea that “free speech” exists anywhere in the developed world is a myth. There are actually very well defined laws regarding what you can or can’t write about individuals or companies and these rules apply just as much on the Internet as they do on television or newspapers. In certain parts of the world, the publisher, and that potentially means you, is responsible for material shown on websites. You need to watch very carefully what your members are writing on your site or you may face a very unwelcome law suit.
- You can’t please everyone. I wish I had been more prepared for this. But despite all my hard work and efforts to create a friendly and welcoming environment there will always be some that critiscise you. If you believe in what you are doing then stick to your views, don’t take it personally and accept that not everyone will like your site. Always consider comments that come your way and try to see if they might actually have a fair point. I faced some severe critiscm over my policy to stamp out rudeness, flaming and pointless remarks on my forum. I was accused of over moderating and ruining a good forum. As a result the disruptive people left in protest of having their freedom of speech restricted thus leaving all the friendly helpful contributers. This was a good thing in every respect and depending on your target audience I would recommend this approach every time whilst shaping your early community.
- It is hard work. You will need to reply to a lot of posts, you will need to read a lot of posts, you will need to deal with arguments, complaints, flame wars, malicious posting, spammers, etc, etc. If you are running the community specifically for commercial rewards you may find the return on invested time is not enough to make it worthwhile. On the other hand, if you run the site for fun (like I do) it never seems like work at all.
Treat each user as an individual
If you are serious about investing in a world wide hit site you need to listen to your users. Put up a prominant email address and invite people to contact you. Read and reply to every email. You’ll be amazed at how grateful visitors are to personal responses and interaction. And the people you help out today will be blogging about you tomorrow, sharing your links on websites, and telling their friends.
If a user suggests an improvement to your site – listen. Think about whether they have a point. If many people are reporting the same issue then consider acting on their request even if it goes against something that you thought was working well. The site is for them, not you!
If you have comments on your blog – read them! Respond to them, engage with your audience. Make them feel part of the site. If a reader posts a comment you don’t like then respond to it in a mature fashion. Find something positive to write about their point of view but don’t be afriad to say why you think there are different ways to look at the issue. It is important for you blog that all sides of the argument are explored so don’t take critiscm to heart.
Buy in traffic
I consider this a more advanced topic so I will mention it only briefly here. If you are interested enough this should give you a few hints as to what to Google up next! There are a number of places where you can exchange your hard earned pounds or dollars for web traffic. One of the more established systems is Google’s Adwords advertising network. This allows you to bid on search terms so that links to your sites appear at the top of a Google search results page. You might also want to consider facebook and stumbleupon advertising, as there is less competition for advertising you can get your site seen by a large number of people for less cost that a competitive search term.
Paying for traffic needs to be done right. You need to ensure you are buying in the right kind of traffic for the right price and your site needs to be of the right standard. Get it wrong and it can prove very costly. Get it right and it can give you the boost you need to get your site to the next level.
You’re on your own now kid!
I hope throughout the 10 steps on this site I have got across the message that anyone is capable of running a website and anyone is able to push forward new ideas and experiment with new ways of looking at things. The “celebrity” make money online blogs have their place and from time to time there are useful posts bubbling up from these sources. However many of them are blissfully unaware that they are only in that position through luck.
Signing up to ineffective and expensive courses will reveal little more than that which you can teach yourself through following the 10 step Blogercise guide and wider reading of official output from the likes of Google.
The rest is really up to you. Building websites is not some kind of guaranteed get rich quick scheme , it takes hard work. Although I must admit that I have “got lucky” with one or two projects which have provided a quick buck, I would be very weary of anyone who can promise you over night riches. If you aren’t prepared to keep at it, if you don’t find you enjoy it, being a webmaster may not be for you.