Today’s post is a reprint of a guest post I wrote for flyteblog.com. A big thanks to my boss for having it on his popular blog.
As a developer, I’ve probably built or worked on several hundred websites at my current job.
As the company has grown and our offices have become more spread out, the exposure to elements of a project that are not part of development has naturally narrowed. (I do sometimes miss our “one room schoolhouse” office). Flyte has been on the leading edge of Social Media and I’ve become a convert, but haven’t done a lot with it beyond my Twitter and Facebook pages.
I thought it might be fun and interesting to see what my learnings would be while working through a new project of my own.
Lesson 1: Figure out your business first, then build a website for it. Not the other way around.
Several friends and acquaintances have mentioned that while Amazon is a trusted online store, they feel overwhelmed by the busy home page and the number of choices. As a voracious reader, my friends often ask me what I’m reading and for suggestions. I also hear excellent book suggestions from friends and my boss.
My idea was to present selected choices through Amazon with quick pick book suggestions. Once people find they like the site suggestions it can become a quick way of picking a book and ordering it though Amazon, usually within the framework of my cozy website.
Since this was a learning project, my approach was like that of a number of people with new, very small businesses – with a not fully defined idea for making some money, and a preference for spending my time worrying about what the site looked like instead of how effective it would be.
After going back and forth with my build (for much longer than I should have) because I waffled between direct links to Amazon or an iframe associates store, I decided to really go for the social media challenge and use the iframe store within my content area. This means I’ll need to get really creative with Social Media, since search engines will not “see” the book content in the iframe store. Iframes are sometimes a necessary evil but be aware of their limitations and build in other avenues to feed rich content to search engines.
Lesson 2: Visual look of design is important, but know your content, strategy, and information architecture so it can guide the design.
(And lesson 2b, which I already knew but apparently had to learn again the hard way – make sure you have the design locked down before you start the build).
- A site that is pretty will not trump the lack of good content or non-intuitive navigation.
- You can be unique and creative without getting your budget off track.
- I’ve been using an app for turning photos into ink and water color drawings and decided to use this to create illustrations for my site. After buying a few stock photos, and taking a few myself, I used the app to give a cozy welcoming feeling to the pages with faux illustrations.
I went ahead and made the site live. After all, if you build it they will come, right? My only promotion of it was to offer a sneak peak on my facebook page (soft launch) . As expected, I’ve had very few hits (I check my google analytics daily – there was one weird day where I suddenly had 42 visitors, direct traffic from Hennepin County, Minnesota – I have a vision of an entire classroom of people being given a wrong URL!)
The better approach
Now to see if targeting search engines and using Social media can make a difference.
Coming up with keywords: Word Tracker offers a free trial or you can use the free keyword tool at Google. I put in my generic search term – Book Suggestions. Wham! immediately it returned something I’m embarrassed to admit I hadn’t given a thought to – using the phrase Book Club suggestions. I was also surprised just how much difference a slight variation can make. E.g.: “book club reading list” had low competition, and global search number of 4,400. However, “reading book club” had low competition, and a global search of 246,000.
I came up with several similar eye openers and went back to my site, rewriting some of the content, navigation and titles to incorporate the terms. I admit, at times the text felt more awkward to me, but we’re giving keywords a try right?
Next I moved over some of my mainebabyboomer blog posts on books I’ve read to the new blog on The Cozy Library. Since I’m using iframes, the blog is going to become the main source of content that the search engines can find. Starting out with several posts gives it a kick start, and I’ll need to blog regularly each time I read a new book.
Lesson 3 – Know when phase 1 is done and it’s time to start phase 2.
I could go on tweaking the site and adding content forever, staying in “soft launch” mode. There will always be more SEO that can be done, more books added, more blog posts, more design tweaks. I want to comb through past flyte blog and Maine SEO blog posts culling out ideas to follow up. But that work can also be done after official launch. It’s better to get this website out and start promoting it – while I continue to go on reading flyte articles on how to use twitter, facebook, blogging and SEO to promote it. So….(drum roll)…Announcing the new site, Cozy-Library.com.
Postscript Learning – the spike in my google analytics turned out to be because I was doing cross browser testing using Adobe BrowserLab – be sure to take their IP out of the mix if you don’t want to skew your results.