As of this blog entry, this site is a little over 11 years old. If you visit the ABOUT page, you can read the full story to its background and creation. Whenever someone asks what I do on my free time, other than gaming and watching Anime/Shows, I answer I run my website. Besides the time to make graphics, running a website is quite time consuming. When you’re not coding something new into the back end, you’re trying to optimize for the latest technology or advertise without advertising. What am I talking about?
First, if you’ve been around long enough, you notice small websites come and go. It costs money to run a site. Someone pays for the domain and server space. If a website receives little traffic or the owner becomes too busy or loses interest in the site’s subject, the site closes down. A few years back, things like Google Adsense and paid advertising spots were a thing, but everyone and their mom has Adblock nowadays. But in the long run, a small site could never depend on ads to fund it. Unless a site has a strong following, donations and premium memberships will also be scarce. So how did The Forgotten Lair stay afloat?
1. Website Coding and SEO
Remember when iframes and Flash splash pages were a thing? When you reached a website, you would be greeted by an elaborate animation with music and sound and whatnot. You’d click something to enter the and then finally access the contents to the site. Want to know why they disappeared? Because they were bad for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). When Google or any search engine spiders through your site, they are searching for information that pertains to the user’s search phrase/word. If you are a hobby site whose front page only contains a flash video, there is simply nothing to grab, other than basic metadata. That’s not enough to throw you to the front page of a search, no matter how saturated your inner pages might hold certain keywords or content. Same for iframes. Because the elements to one page are coded apart in an iframe, search engines cannot read them all together and dismisses much of the information you might have displayed to a viewer with eyes.
The best way to get up in the search engine ranks is by correctly coding your stuff (W3C Validate) and to have all the content read as one page. (HTML/PHP/etc.) Besides metadata, be sure your text headings are relevant. Content Managing Systems (CMS) like WordPress and the likes are really good at this and make populating site content easier. Have you considered switching from hand-coding? 😀
2. Website Design and UI
It’s kind of a no-brainer that if your site is hard to navigate or look at, viewers will be discouraged. It was once cute to put animated gifs as the background and to hide navigation links in fun places and/or embed in the design somewhere in the attempt to make things “pretty,” but at the end of the day, people are visiting your site for the information/content they want and then LEAVING. No one cares what fun cursive writing you wrote the image map navigation in… User Interface (UI) is one of the leading elements in returning visitors. You’ve got approximately 3 seconds to impress your new visitors and if they don’t stick around longer, you’ve lost them forever. This is the “We Want It Now” generation, so if they’re not feeling it, they won’t browse and they will definitely not scroll down.
Footer content has a 20-30% chance of being seen. STOP PUTTING YOUR MAIN NAVIGATION AT THE FOOTER…!
3. Affiliations, Backlinks and Advertising
When small sites are first created, many web owners tend to find affiliates or link exchanges to build a network in hopes of more traffic. For new niche websites, there may not be a lot of traffic that comes through that way.
Backlinks are links back to your site via other websites. Other than affiliates, you can achieve this via a site reviews, having another site blog about you, or even having a signature that links back to your site on a forum. The more sites that link back to you or mentions you, the higher up you are in page ratings.
Lastly there’s advertising. I’m not talking about paid advertising in any way. I mean actually putting yourself out there on public forums, social media, etc. Talking about your website and promoting it in places where people might have an interest in your site. Hashtags, Reddit, the comment section of Youtube, etc. I’m sure you’ve seen them. An audience takes a long time to build up, so a solid week of advertising won’t get you hundreds of views instantly. When this site first began, I was on Neopets for hours, advertising. I did it for about a year non-stop and was finally seeing the results flow in via word of mouth. If you’re serious about your site’s advertising, don’t expect to sleep much. You’re supposed to constantly hunger for new channels and keenly watch what the latest and greatest in social media is. Speaking of keeping up to date…
4. Optimize For Mobile
It’s hard to get this part through to some people, but you HAVE TO optimize your site for mobile browsing if you seriously expect people to visit your site outside their homes. Just ask yourself how many times a day you check your phone or surf the net on it. It’s even more important that you optimize for mobile when your site itself provides a service for mobile users. Have a site that makes ringtones, but people have a hard time navigating via their phones? Doesn’t take a genius to figure out why there might be little to no traffic. Mobile sites do not have sidebars or top navigation that go across the page. Everything is clean and minimal.
5. Communication and Rapport with Visitors
This one is optional if you are running a site you wish to remain anonymous on. However for the most part, many sites wish to build a community of some sort or a fan base. To achieve that, you have to be able to connect and talk to your visitors. Whether by a chatbox, commenting system or forums, visitors would like to express their opinions on matters pertaining to the site and its content. Contact forms generally aren’t used unless there is business or affiliation matters. The humanization of a website also gives the site a personality and a sense of friendliness to the visitor. If a visitor is able to speak directly to a site’s creator, the visitor is more likely to revisit for that special warm feeling people get when being noticed.
This is also where social media comes in. Kids these days are glued to them and the only way to announce anything is through social media. At first it will seem like you’re screaming into the wind, but over time your voice will be heard by an individual that will share the information to another individual and the cycle will continue.
6. The Content
This last one is a no-brainer, but if it hasn’t occurred to you yet, the reason sites get repeated visits is because it contains content that people want.
Frequent updates and quality are nice. If it’s a community and things are self populating, then you need to be sure some sort of quality control is being upheld. If you are running a small personal site, try and make your content unique. Find a niche you are passionate about and isn’t overly saturated. Ask yourself if you would use your content. Then ask a friend. Then ask a family member, because they’re more honest than friends and meaner. You need the opposing ideas as a way to grow and push yourself to better your content. “Yes Men” aren’t useful.
Well that just about wraps up what I do for this site. I had been asked on many occasions on how to expand a newly created site. As always, feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or contact me via the Contact Form.