So you are ready to start a website for yourself, your off-road club or maybe to sell your own goods. Right on! Throughout my years of creating new websites and helping others create their own website, there’s a ton of questions and misconceptions of just how a website works and how it works for you. As we get questions from individuals and clubs on Gorilla Dirt, I thought it might be time to throw it all out there, all the facts and not-so-factual info floating around the internet.
Do you even need a website?
This should be your first question to ask yourself. If you find some random service online who you have to pay money to, they will do their best to convince you that you do. Websites are not instant money makers nor do they instantly drive in traffic. See below for more info on this. If your social media accounts have a ton of loyal followers (not just bots following you trying to get you to like whoever they are working for) then it can be quick. But you need to have loyal followers. You always have the option to sell via social media accounts. Facebook and Instagram alone have catalogs and shops you can sell through without upfront costs.
You are ready and want a website.
You have a number of options for DIY websites that you don’t have to pay some dude thousands of dollars to build. Squarespace, Winx, WordPress and some others all have a DIY set up, though there can be a learning curve to using their interface, just as there is with any new software or app.
However, NO MATTER WHO OR WHAT YOU USE TO BUILD YOUR WEBSITE, YOU WILL NOT HAVE INSTANT WEB TRAFFIC. No matter what a service might claim, you will not have instant traffic – unless you have a huge following on social media you can convince to visit your website. Once you build your website Google, Yahoo, Bing and others have to index your pages for search. Once this happens, their algorithm essentially has to like your website and content enough to show your pages in search. It is basically a popularity contest. Literally. If you have content showing off your new off-road Jeep, but ARB for example has pages showing off their Jeeps and they have thousands of pageviews already and get thousands regularly, you are essentially the new kid on the block that search engines don’t trust or care about and you will show last. You have to earn that trust with quality coded pages and content that people view. Google want to show the most relevant info to their search visitors, to keep them happy, If, according to the algorithm, ARB is doing this, they will have preference over you. Right or wrong, this is how it works.
What can you do about this?
Make sure your website is coded properly and has relevant content.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization. This is all over the internet and there are more services offering this than anyone can count. Most are crap. If your website is called JoeBlowsOffroadJeep.com, your website better be about Joe Blows off-road Jeep. If you are showing info about your Jeep but also discussing how right or wrong politicians are, you are not showing relevant content and search engines will turn away. Keep your content on point and relevant. There’s so much more to SEO than this, but this is essentially what it is about. Most importantly… if any service claims to fix this overnight they are ripping you off. SEO takes a long time and takes regular updates.
So what can you do to get traffic sooner? Ads. Ads on Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. And the beauty is that it is dirt cheap to start. There’s some learning there too, but ads can give you that quick boost. But please… do not spend money on ads unless you are sure your website is ready to sell, show content, whatever or you will waste money.
- Expect a learning curve when building a DIY website or do your homework if you are hiring someone. There’s lots of crap out there selling things you don’t need.
- Decide what your website will be about, what it’s purpose is before building. Then stay focussed with everything you do thereafter. Relevant content is key.
- You will not have instant traffic just having a website. Promote via your social media accounts or even do paid digital ads.
- SEO is NOT automatic and overnight. It can take months or longer depending on how much work you put into it. No service can do this overnight either, no matter what they claim.
Having said all this, your own website can be amazing. It’s a way to start a business without all the typical barriers a traditional brick and mortar business has. It can bring groups together or bring awareness to your causes. Just please do your homework, ask questions before jumping into it so you don’t lose everything in the process.
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section. I understand there isn’t a ton of meat in this post, but this isn’t a lecture, just a brief overview.