A friend recently asked if I would help him set up a website (I get that a lot). He is unable to participate in a traditional work environment, but has some wonderful knowledge and skills that he wants to share online, hopefully for profit. Here’s the email I sent him, which I thought you might find beneficial as well. This isn’t the answer I give to EVERY customer who needs a web presence. It’s just one answer. As usual YMMV.

– Leon


I apologize for the delay. Here are some thoughts, ideas, pointers and – most of all – the start of our conversation.

1) homework.
Here’s some online reading you can do. First, there’s http://www.parrotsecrets.com/ which we talked about

Next, there’s http://www.cringely.com/2009/03/parrot-secrets/, which was written computer pundit who writes about computer geek stuff, and it’s where I originally found out about Parrot Secrets and the secret behind Parrot Secrets.

Now on to: http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/ and more importantly this downloadable PDF: http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/overnight-success/. You need to look at EVERYTHING this guy has done. He’s built a “following” in less than a year, and makes about $45,000 a year from his site where he does little more than travel, write about travel, and write about writing about travel.

Yes, that’s a lot of writing. And I guess that’s a point. If you don’t want to do a lot of writing, online may not be the way to go. The internet is about connections and community. If people don’t feel connected to you (and to an extent to each other) they won’t feel like they are part of a community and they won’t buy stuff. Unless you are Amazon.com. And even there, do you notice what they do? Customer reviews, feedback, recommendations, etc. They are building community too.

Last stop is my new site: http://www.edibletorah.com. Once again. A lot of writing. And I’m not even selling anything. Yet.

2) web site basics
Nope, I’m not teaching you web coding. I just want you to see how some of the basics work. First, check out: http://www.adatosystems.com/websites.php and look at all the links on the lefthand side. There’s a HUGE variability of what you can do with a web site.

Next, check out these sites: http://www.openwebdesign.org, http://www.oswd.org/ and http://www.freecsstemplates.org/. These are HUGE clearinghouses of free designs. Eventually, I’m going to tell you to go dumpster diving through those designs and pick one. I can change the color, size, shape, etc but I like to use these as a starting point. Want to know how much I can change? Check out this template: http://www.freecsstemplates.org/preview/balanced Does it look familiar? It’s what I used for the basis of http://www.edibletorah.com.

Eventually we’re also going to talk about web applications – blogs, forums, shopping carts, etc. But for now, we just have to decide what we want the site to look like. And THAT is determined by what you want to do there. Meanwhile, keep in mind that www.parrotsecrets.com is really nothing much to look at. But it rings in over $400k per year.

3) Search Enging Optimization (SEO)
As I mentioned, there’s stuff you can control and stuff you can’t. Once you are done NOT doing stupid things (which takes all of 30 minutes), you are pretty much finished. You are either going to show up in search rankings or you aren’t. What REALLY makes a difference? Getting listed on OTHER people’s web sites. Which means getting recommended, which means connecting to people which means (you guessed it) writing so people know you are out there.

4) What next?
Next, I want you to come to terms with the fact that a lot of this is going to rest on you, not me. I can whip off the design, set up the server, install the applications, etc. I can’t write the content of your web site for you. I can help you publish eBooks but I can’t help you write them. I can put all the technical tools in place so that people can find your web site and navigate it easily, but I can’t make them know who you are. That’s all you.

If you are up for it, so am I.