Close your eyes and imagine the website of your dreams…
I want you to close your eyes and imagine a website that you wish you could create…
Slick design, beautiful fonts, perfectly positioned videos that you created and uploaded all by yourself… a shop, a forum, a social media website, an auction site, a photo gallery, a membership site.
Anything you can think possible. Now I promise you that pretty much everything you imagined is not only possible to create, but possible for you to create for yourself – without any need to do anything very technical at all.
A decade ago, when I was first starting out online with my initial forays in to Internet Marketing, simple websites called ‘blogs’ were pretty cutting edge.
In fact, they seemed so extraordinary and amazing to me that I felt they were virtually inaccessible to someone who didn’t know what they were doing.
Since then the world has changed. As the Internet has developed, so too have our attitudes to what we are able to do, create and achieve online.
But the idea of a blog, in its old, traditional, one-post-after-another-in-date-order format, doesn’t have quite the same edge it used to.
That’s not to say that a ‘traditional’ blog site can’t still be successful. It certainly can. But, for many of us, the new opportunities presented by advances in website development – developments that result in the fact that virtually anyone can do virtually anything with a website without having any technical ability – mean that we would like to create something a little more ‘special’ for our websites now.
Some of the changes to blogging that we can access are practical: more images, more video, a homepage that’s not just a blog (i.e. not a long list of posts), social sharing buttons etc.
These practical elements are fantastic ways to create a modern site. ??More important, though, is a shift in what people perceive a blog to be, and the limits on its functionality, reach and potential.
I think the biggest change to blogging over the past ten years, is the sheer potential of what a blog can be. What you can achieve with a blog has become limitless.
Over coming weeks, I want to look at ways that you can create an amazing site using blogging software – a site that can be whatever you want it to be.
I find that one of the best ways to get inspiration for a new site is to study other people’s sites.
Last week, I interviewed my very own brother about his blog and how he’s turned his passion into a fulfilling sideline business. Loads of you got in touch to say you enjoyed reading that, so today, I have another Q&A for you…
This time, we’re chatting to someone who uses blogging software to create a different type of site: one focused on reviews.
Keith Walters runs his own book review site at http://www.keithbwalters.com.
A brief history of your site:
Why did you start it?
I started this site only quite recently as a way of finally merging my previous book reviewing blog (booksandwriters.wordpress.com) and my own writing blog (keithbwalters.wordpress.com), having come to the sudden realisation that most of the items I shouted out about on Twitter would only send people to my reviews – why not merge the two, so the fact I was also writing would gain a little more notice too.
How long has it been going?
Although the current website and blog have only been live for a few months, a lot of the content that has been brought across from the previous blogs is 3–4 years of work.
How long did it take you to set up?
On this occasion, not very long – I spent a couple of weeks sketching out roughly how I wanted it to appear and the things I’d want to be able to do with the site and the blog area.
Deciding to make an investment this time round, I employed the web design skills of a good friend of mine to build the site for me.
Running your site:
How long does it take you to maintain?
To date, I’m just trying to get some content on there every day, when time permits, and that could be a press release, author feature, review or a piece of flash fiction.
Whilst adding posts I check and respond to any comments. I put in the links etc as I go along – so, very little in terms of housekeeping maintenance, although I do have a ‘training’ session (which will mean a pint and lunch) this week with my friend, so he can explain to me how to do some of the content changes (images under the ‘currently reading’ title, adding books to my own scrolling bookshelf with Amazon links, etc).
How many contributors do you have to your blog? Do you write much content yourself?
Pretty much everything on the site is written by me, with the exception of author guest blogs or press releases – I’ve just always preferred to work that way, having edited and produced small press photocopied fanzines years back (pre-Internet; also as pretty much labour-of-love solo projects).
Do you spend much time on keyword research and analytics, working out what content is pulling in traffic?
Not really, no. I’m a simple soul and, although I know I really should be looking into those areas, my demanding day job means that time is tight to do much more than add content to the site.
My friend is preparing me some analytics in the next few weeks so we can take a look at some tweaks if necessary.
Do you think you need to be passionate about the subject you write about?
I think so, yes, otherwise (in my case) I would simply be pasting press releases day in day out onto the blog, rather than making any comment about the books/events etc.
It might be that would provide a much broader site in terms of the amount of coverage and diversity of books mentioned, but it would become nothing more than a ‘coming soon’ book catalogue if there was no passion behind the comments posted.
How do you (indeed, do you?) monetise your blog?
Up until recently it wasn’t something I’d looked at. Although now, with my own ebooks as a scrolling banner with direct links to Amazon buying pages, I’m hoping that a bit more traffic will head that way from visitors to the blog.
Also, as I’ve finally gone for a paid-for domain name: I have signed up to Amazon’s affiliates programme, which should result in an income from purchases made through links from my recommendations.
I think, in general, review blogs need to be very cautious about the way they behave, as it is such a fine line between being seen to be a fair and honest blog and one that can be misconstrued as being almost in the pocket of a publisher – it’s all about balance.
What do you most enjoy about managing your blog?
Feedback. It could be the simple act of somebody re-tweeting a blog post link or adding a comment; there’s a real buzz when somebody says they have ordered a book straight after reading a review or (as has been the case before) have bought tickets and accommodation to a writing festival based on a report I’d written.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to someone trying to set up a similar blog to yours, e.g. a blog on a subject they are knowledgeable about and want to teach to others?
Be yourself. There are hundreds of blogs out there, so it pays to be as you are in life; individual.
If you choose to backtrack and cover earlier works or career of somebody you are blogging about, then go for it – it’ll be a fresher approach than all the other sites that are likely only covering the latest blockbusters.
But, at the same time, you’ll need to be very selective. It’s very easy to say yes to everything, but fare harder to produce all of those promised reviews and features.
In all likelihood the blog will be a hobby: something you love and enjoy, and likely to exist alongside your ‘other’ life – your day job, your family and other responsibilities. So, enjoy it, but be sure to take your foot off that gas pedal every now and again.
I’d like to thank Keith for taking the time to answer my questions.
If you have a site and would like to be featured in the email newsletter with a Q&A about your work, please do drop me an email.
And if you would love to create your own amazing website but aren’t sure where to start, you really should sign up to hear more about the Nexus Programme, which starts with a series of free training videos very soon.