Yearly Archives: 2003

An easy way to build a content-based website

One of the biggest stumbling blocks that people come across when starting to work online is how to actually design/build their website.  This is especially the case if you are planning a large content-based site with many, many pages.  Creating each page can be a highly time-consuming process and if you want to make even a minor change to your page template, you could end up having to amend hundreds of individual pages.

There are different options out there that will make your task easier and in the past couple of weeks, I have been using some software scripts known as Content Management Systems.  These scripts are installed on your web server (which is probably the hardest part of using them) and allow you to build and design your website via your Internet browser.  The basic layout is set though you can choose different ‘themes’ to give your site a unique look.

Where these scripts really come into their own however, is the ease in which you can add new content.  Let’s say you have written an article and you want to add it to your site.  You simply copy and paste the article into the appropriate form in your browser-based admin panel and the script automatically adds your article to your website and places the appropriate link from your ‘Articles’ section (or home page or wherever) to the new content.  Simple.

As well as articles, the scripts will handle download links, links to other websites, forums, polls etc.  You can even use them to create a membership site complete with members login capability (which funnily enough is what I am doing – more about that soon…watch this space).

Of course, such a product would save any webmaster hours of time and effort, so you would expect to pay a reasonable sum for the software, right?

Wrong! There are numerous content management systems that are completely FREE OF CHARGE.  The scripts are often released under a GNU/GPL license, which basically means you can use and adapt them at no cost whatsoever!

And don’t think that because the software is free that it is of poor quality or full of bugs.  Quite the opposite – these scripts are used by thousands and thousands of sites and are very, very well tested.

As I say, there are many free content management systems scripts available and I have listed a few of the more popular ones below.  Don’t be put off by the fact that you have to install the script on your website – this is not as hard as it sounds and it is a good learning experience.

PHP-Nuke: http://www.phpnuke.org
e107:
http://e107.org
PostNuke:
http://www.postnuke.com

Google

Anyone involved in Internet Marketing will understand the importance of the Google search engine.  It is, by far, the most popular search engine in the world and can be a great source of free traffic.  Webmasters spend weeks optimizing their websites so that they rank highly in the Google index.

BUT, the old saying, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ holds very true when it comes to your traffic and in the last week, many website owners have been reminded of this following a change in the way in which Google ranks sites.

Thousands of sites (my own included), that have enjoyed top Google rankings for months or even years, have suddenly disappeared from the search engine for certain keywords.  It seems that Google has chosen specific keywords to target and whilst the aim of the exercise is unclear, it could well be that the days of Google being a free traffic provider are coming to an end as they try and drive more commercial websites to using their paid service – Google Adwords.

Many people are whinging and griping over the change and I can understand this.  If your business receives 95% of visitors from Google and suddenly your site is not showing up in their results, you do have a problem.  However, I take a slightly different view.  Google has been providing me with free visitors for several years now and if they want to change the way in which they run their website, then that is up to them.  They don’t owe me anything and anyway, how many offline businesses get completely free advertising to a worldwide audience?  Having a first place ranking on Google is kind of like running a television advert on the most popular channel, all day, completely free of charge!  In the offline world, it just wouldn’t happen.  Therefore, I am of the opinion that if you are getting free traffic (from anywhere, not just Google), then be grateful for it and don’t take it for granted – it might not be there forever, so enjoy it while it lasts.

C’mon Rich, tell me what to do…

I get hundreds of emails per week and as you might expect, many of the emails contain similar questions.  There are probably ten questions that I get asked most.  I will save nine of them for another time as I want to talk about just one of the top ten questions today.

The basic form of the question varies but essentially it is the same and here it is:

‘I have read everything I can about marketing online.

I understand how to get traffic to my website.

I know how to make my website appealing to customers.

I know about generating income with ‘backend’ products.

I understand everything you have taught me over the past X years…

BUT WHAT DO I ACTUALLY DO?

Yup, the question is simply ‘What should my online business actually be – what should I offer – what do I do?’

Of course, this is the $64,000 question and there is no easy answer.  If I could pluck guaranteed business ideas out of the air every time someone asked for one, I would be a rich man.  Unfortunately, I can’t and neither can anyone else.  Even if someone did have a pool of surefire ideas, would they really be willing to share them with others for nothing?

However, I can try and help you come up with your own idea by making suggestions and eliminating some, almost certainly, bad ideas.

Firstly, do something that interests you and that you know about – if you are not interested in your product and don’t have the first clue what you are talking about, I can guarantee that you will not be successful.  For example, don’t try and sell products about making money on the Internet if you yourself are not making money on the Internet.

Secondly, don’t do something that is already being done by thousands of other people unless you can add a highly unique ‘twist’.  For example, you will never make any money setting up a general online auction site – there are already plenty of established sites with millions of registered members.  Why would anyone want to use a brand new auction site with no members when they can sell on eBay?

Thirdly, (and I know I keep banging on about this but it is important), find a small market that is easy to target rather than a huge, general market.  Small doesn’t have to mean ‘small’ on the Internet.  The money is in the niche markets – trust me.

I know how hard it is to come up with an original idea but it isn’t impossible and plenty of people do it everyday.  If you can’t come up with something yourself, spend time surfing the Net and ‘brainstorming’ with others in forums such as my own (link in the column on the right) to get ideas.

The fact and fiction of working online…

Fiction:  Working online is a quick way to riches.

Fact:  It is possible to earn a lot of money online, but it won’t happen quickly. Take a look at some of the most successful online marketers and websites – they have been around a long time. I started working online in 1998 and it was 3 years before I was earning enough money to go full-time.

Fiction: If you run an Internet business you only have to work an hour a day every now and then.

Fact:  Sure it is possible to automate a lot of the day to day tasks involved with an online business but to earn a consistent income it is important to continue to develop new products and services. Most of the top online marketers work longer hours than they would in any ‘real’ job.

Fiction:  You need to be a technical wizard to set up your own website.

Fact: Not so – many Internet marketers (myself included) are completely self-taught in the art of web design etc. Working online is a learning curve like any other – the more time you spend learning, the better you will get. No one knows it all and you don’t have to – you can take it one step at a time and grow at your own pace.

Fiction:  Working online is stress-free and quite possibly the most relaxing way to earn a living that there is.

Fact:  Running an Internet business brings it’s own stresses.  Remember that you are always going to be heavily reliant on other people to provide services – hosting, credit card processing, software scripts etc.  If one of these important links in the chain stops working, then so can your business.  Whilst we take technology for granted these days, it is a fact that the Internet is still fairly young and things do go wrong more often than most people realise.

Fiction:  If I buy an eBook about marketing on the Internet, it will tell me EXACTLY what I need to know to set up a $100,000 a year business.

Fact:  eBooks and other informational products will guide you and teach you the techniques of getting traffic to your website and selling to your customers etc but the ultimate idea for your website is going to have to come from you. 

Fiction:  I need to buy all of the latest eBooks and info-products in order to learn ‘everything’.

Fact:  There are plenty of online resources that won’t cost you anything and they are often full of information and advice.  Take a look at my forum (link below) – there are over 1600 posts and plenty of informational ‘gems’

How back pain gave me a simple idea…

Like many people, I suffer from back pain and therefore I visit an osteopath every once in a while to get everything ‘put back in line’.

I visited my osteopath this week and while he crunched and pulled at my back and limbs, we had a chat about the Internet and websites etc.  He explained that he was considering creating a small website to let local people know a bit more about his business – nothing fancy, one or two pages at most.

Knowing that I worked online, he questioned me as to how you actually build a website and how you get from your computer to the Internet?  So being the helpful chap that I am, I started to try and explain the process from start to finish.

Now, this is not an easy thing to do in a short period of time and in the end, it occurred to me that, to be honest, there isn’t really any need for a small businessman such as my osteopath to learn how to design websites or learn FTP etc.  After all, he only wants a one or two page site…

I therefore decided that in half of the time it would take me to explain how to get a website online, I could do it for him myself – after all, if you know what you are doing, a two page website is only a couple of hours work at most.  So I told my osteopath to draw a picture of what he would like his website to look like and write down what he would like to appear on the site and I would create the site for him.  In return, he could give me a few osteopathy sessions at no charge – everyone’s a winner.

This situation got me thinking, how many people are there that are in exactly the same position as my osteopath in that they want a very simple site just to give their business a presence online?  There must be thousands and thousands.  They don’t want to employ a professional web designer as the costs would be too great and they don’t want to learn how to do it themselves but they would be willing to pay someone $50 – $100 to put them online.  With a few days spent learning how to design simple websites, almost anyone could provide this service to their local business community.

True it is the bottom end of web design but if you can build a two page site in a couple of hours and earn $100, that’s a pretty good hourly rate.  You are also in an ideal position to sell additional services such as hosting, logo design, regular updates etc.

I am sure that with a bit of effort, it would not be difficult to earn a few hundred dollars a month on a very part-time basis working in the way that I have outlined above.

The moral of this story? 

If you have an osteopath, then go and offer to build him/her a website – my guy charges £60 ($100) an hour so if we trade two hours of web design time for two hours of osteopathic treatment, I have saved myself £120 ($200) and been relieved of a painful back!!