On July 30, 2010, I participated as a panelist for the 2010 NABJ Conference (National Association of Black Journalist) workshop entitled, “Making Your Website or Blog Your Business”, held in San Diego California. The workshop, organized by Premier Multimedia Group, LLC, featured Kim Betton, owner of Premier Multimedia Group and founder of SmoothJazzTimes.com, Isiah Carey of Isiah Carey’s Insite and myself Lisa Dowdell of Lisa Dowdell Consulting. The expert panel shared information, experiences and resources to help its attendees make money with their websites and blogs.
The following is a review of the information and resources provided during the workshop:
Subject Matter or Niche – When starting a new website or blog, find a subject matter that interests you, or that you feel others might find interesting. You can even start a website based on a personal experience that you have. Take for example the blog called “Photography is Not a Crime” which evolved from a photographers experience of being jailed for taking a picture of a police officer against his will. Through his blog the author documents 1st Amendment violations against other photographers around the country.
www.compete.com is a website that allows you to do a comparative analysis on your potential competition — find out how many page views they accumulate, what keywords visitors use to find them…etc. This will give you insite on your potential market. You can compare up to three sites for free.
Domain Name – Once you’ve selected the subject matter of your website or blog, you’ll need to register a domain name to help others find you on the web. Some of the top registrars are: Register.com, GoDaddy.com and Network Solutions. My personal favorite is GoDaddy.com, but as I recommended to the audience, never pay full price. You can always find a coupon for a percentage off your purchase at websites like retailmenot.com.
When selecting domain names, also think about the top level domain (TLD) that you will use, such as .com, .ws (stands for website), .mobi (used for mobile websites), .org (usually for non-profit site), .me and so many more. If you select a primary domain name that is not the traditional .com, try to obtain the .com version as well to be used as a redirected domain name. Years ago, it was easy to get the perfect domain name, but nowadays, it feels like all the best .com versions are gone — It’s time to be creative in your name.
One option is to buy an existing domain. It might cost you more but if it’s a name you just “have to have” then go for it. One advantage is that the average age of top ranking domains in search engines is 7 years old — none younger than 2 years old. Another option is to create a name for your website that utilizes the TLD and/or subdomain in its name, such as del.icio.us. DomainNameSoup.com has tools for creative domain names — such as a tool for creating word combo names like Flickr (from the word Flicker).
The panel recommended that you ensure your domain name is registered in your name, not your webmaster’s or designer. This way you have total control over your domain name and this eliminates complications when trying to switch webmasters. Check out an earlier blog entry for more key tips to obtaining your domain name.
Hosting your website or blog – There are many options out there for website or blog hosting. Free blog hosting is available through: WordPress.com, Blogger.com and Blogspot.com. Additionally, there are some reasonably priced shared hosting services available such as Siteground.com, GoDaddy.com, Web.com and 1and1.com. Your web designer may also provide shared web hosting or should be able to work with any of these third party hosts. Look for shared hosting that provides redundancy with close to 100% uptime and regular backups of your site. Whatever the hosting selection, be sure you have access to your web hosting account and files. Don’t be held hostage by your webmaster, you should be able to have access to your files to move them to a different hoster if you find it necessary.
Content Management Tools (CMS) – A good CMS will allow you to manage your own postings and articles on your website. Back in the day, owners had to contact their webmaster every time they needed to update some information on their site. With all the great free and commercial CMS products on the market, this inconvenience is a thing of the past. Sure, some structural or design changes may still need to be left up to your designer but adding, editing or deleting posts should be as simple as writing in a word processing application like MS Word or Wordperfect. Depending on the structure of your postings, you can download and install on your website one of the free CMS tools such as WordPress.org, Joomla.org, or Drupal.org. If your design budget is small, there are plenty of ready-made design templates out there that work with one of these CMS tools. More complex structures may require a commercial or custom CMS product.
Getting Content For Your Site – Besides your own writings and posting, there are several content sources available to add content to your website or blog. Some of these include news feeds from other resources — Feedzilla.com or FreshContent.com are two examples of website that allow you to embed news feeds in your site. You can also integrate update feeds from FaceBook or Twitter. If you are looking for images and photos for your site, royalty-free stock images and photos can be purchased from iStockPhoto.com, VectorStock.com, 123rf.com, or GraphicRiver.net. You can obtain inexpensive images and photos and sometimes a few free ones on these sites.
Other types of content you can add to your sites are embedded videos from YouTube.com — with this you can have a section of videos that feature content similar to your website. On Widgetbox.com you can find different widget tools and applications that can be embedded on your site, for example, if you have a site that talks about the increase of mortgage rates, embed a tool that allows folks to calculate mortgage rates based on a specific loan amount. Also try the content platform Squidoo.com for embeddable articles and information.