Building a Website!
Have you ever thought about building a website?
A great many model railroaders have their own websites showing off their own layouts and how they built them. Many have sites about various, particular aspects of the hobby - like how to take model railroad photographs, or how to build structures, etc.
I’d thought about building a website related to model railroading several times over the last few years, but I always felt that it would be impossible for a number of reasons. I didn’t know how to go about building a website for one thing. Second, I had heard it costs thousands of dollars to learn how to do it and get help setting one up. Third, I thought that even after all that effort and money spent, it would take a miracle for it to be successful.
On the other hand, I could see lots of advantages to developing your own online web presence. For one thing, you can be your own boss. You can develop and manage your site as you wish. Second, you can use your website to make your footprint in the world – sort of like writing a book, leaving a legacy. Third, it’s a way of expressing what you want the rest of the world to know about a certain subject – something you care about, something you want to promote, to spread the word about, or teach others about; or, you may want to provide a great service or product. Fourth, and not least, building a website can potentially result in some income - and, if you do it right, maybe a lot of income - and who couldn’t use some extra money these days.
(See also the article on this site: "Create A Website".)
Now, if you pick a topic for building a website that is really interesting to you and that is fun for you to write about, like model railroading, for example, and if you can make money doing it, I'd say you’ve got it made. It’s part of the American Dream, isn’t it? Do something that you really enjoy doing, provide a service or product to others who also enjoy it, and make an income while you’re having fun with it. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
But how do you get around the fact that building a website requires knowledge of computer code, web design, how search engines work, etc.
Well, actually, there is a way to do it; and, get this, it's not difficult or complicated! However, unless you’re a computer programmer or professional website designer, you will need a guide to take you into unfamiliar territory. Just like on a safari, you want to be sure you have the right guide – one who knows the territory and how to avoid the dangers.
Of course there are other things that you will need to bring along on the journey as well…
The first thing you need is a passion, a sincere interest, or knowledge about something – anything that you’re enthusiastic about. And you need to want to provide that knowledge or service to your viewers. It may be just the enjoyment of looking at a collection of model railroad photos that you've taken, or information about rail fanning and the prototype railroads you've learned about. You may want to start your own blog with weekly entries on how to build bridges or make trees (although if you get into it, a website with a blog is probably better).
Building a website is a way of giving something of yourself to the world, and it allows you to teach thousands of others what you know, and what you've learned that can benefit them. You will feel great about yourself for providing this to others and they will be happy to learn what you know.
People will come to your site looking for information. Your main goal should be to provide them with what they're looking for, and a lot more. Your loyalty and service should always be to your viewer, not to yourself.
Choosing your topic or theme for your site should naturally follow your passion - and because of this, it will most likely be something you probably already know a lot about. For me, it was model railroading, of course - something I have enjoyed learning about and doing for many years as a hobby. It was therefore fairly easy to write about; and as I got into it, I actually found that I was truly enjoying the process of building a website about it - almost as much as building the railroad itself!
Even better, after a few months of this, I started making enough money to support my hobby with new equipment and scenery supplies. Now, after eight months, I'm on my way to making a significant second income. I've had so much fun doing it, though, the money is like icing on the cake. Believe it or not, I would have done it even without the income.
Not only that, but I also feel a sense of pride that I've accomplished something that is useful to lots of people. As of this writing, this website has 400-500 unique visitors per day and a total of over 35,000 page-views a month!
Many model railroad clubs have built websites promoting their clubs; they contain a wealth of information about model railroading. Building a website like this could be very successful at providing the information that model railroaders enjoy, and a great way to make a significant amount of income for the club. Just think of the supplies, the locomotives and rolling stock you could buy with an extra $2000 a month going into your treasury.
If you pick the right topic and build the website properly, any individual could do the same, given the right resources and tools for the job. Those tools would have to include...
• A mechanism to help you be relatively certain that your chosen topic will be successful.
• Instructions on how to write content for the site that would be valuable for your viewers.
• Learning how to optimize your site for your readers.
• Learning about how search engines (like Google and Yahoo) work and how to use the right keywords to attract them.
• Learning how to attract traffic to your site - mostly by writing good content, providing what people are looking for.
• Methods of monetizing your site so you can make an income for your efforts - but only after you have built a valuable service for your readers.
But, what if you "can’t write". Well, that’s probably not really true. If you can do an eighth grade book report, or if you can talk to someone and tell a story, you can almost certainly write well enough to build a website. You don’t have to do rocket science. You just have to put down on paper (or type on a keyboard) what you would say to a person about your subject if you were talking to him/her in person. You may have to clean it up a little and organize it to make it better, but that’s all there is to it.
I was never much of a writer in the past. I always thought maybe I'll write a book someday, but I never thought I could write well enough to do it. I was amazed at myself, after learning a few things about writing, that I could sit down and write a lot of things fairly easily, especially when I started just writing down what I would say to someone if I were talking to him or her.
Once you’ve written some good content, and used the right keywords, the search engines will begin to take note of your site. When people type in certain keywords that match yours, people start finding your site. If they like what they see, they will keep coming back.
Search engines "know" how many people are visiting your site. They "know" how many other websites have links on them to your site. The better service you provide to your readers, the more popular your site becomes and the more likely the search engines will send people who type certain keywords to your site rather than to a less popular site.
Once you get enough people looking at your site, then you can start putting a few ads on your site to help you make a little money for the effort you put into building a website. You can add more of these as time goes on, but I think you have to be careful not to overwhelm your reader with lots of flashy ads that detract from the content and the main purpose of your site.
Okay, so we have the interest, the motivation, and the writing ability. Where do we go from here?
This is where your guide comes in.
It is extremely important to choose the right guide that will show you, as it did for me, the proper step-by-step process required to build a website successfully. There are many web hosting sites on the internet. Most of these just take your money and provide you with a domain name and you're on your own after that. If you're like me, you will need someone to teach you how to do it and also provide you with all the tools and information you need to help you make the right decisions that you will have to make along the way. Plus, you will need someone to give you unlimited technical and instructional support as you build your site.
I learned about Site Build It! from my son who was building a website about Strength Training, about which I was fairly impressed. He actually purchased a one-year subscription to Site Build It! for me for my birthday. I received the password to access the SBI website right away by email.
The Site Build It! Action Guide, a step-by-step video tutorial, made the whole process easy for me to accomplish – not that I didn’t have to put in the time and effort to do it - but I didn’t have to learn any significant complicated computer code. And, their step-by-step process of helping me learn about the Internet and about building a website made it very easy. Basically, if you can read a recipe or a cookbook, you can do this.
The Solo Build It! Forum is full of people who have built successful sites from scratch using what they learned from Solo Build It!. And they are constantly helping others to achieve the same goals. They are very friendly and always ready to help if you have any questions or problems. They will review your site periodically, if you request it, for their suggestions and hints to make it better. You may visit the SBI Forum by entering the domain name of this site (building-your-model-railroad.com) as the username and also as the password on the Forum log-in page.
The technical support has been excellent. The few times that I had difficulty, the support team responded within an hour to my email that got me back on the right track.
I have heard about other web-building services that make you pay thousands of dollars up front and make great promises about how much money you’ll make after a year of building a website, only to fail because the site wasn’t built properly. My son and I went through two of these before finding this one.
With Solo Build It!, they show you how to optimize your site for the viewers as much as for the search engines, if not more so.
Most sites just optimize for the search engines, but when visitors view the site, they don’t get much out of it, so they don’t go back. If you optimize it for the viewers first and the search engines second, your chances of developing a successful site are overwhelmingly better. The more people like your site, the more often they will come back, and search engines pick up on this fact. Then they start directing people who type certain keywords to your site rather than the others with little or no content.
The bottom line...
If you’ve been thinking about building a website about model railroading or anything else you might be interested in, my personal experience with “Solo Build It!” tells me that’s the way to go. If you're able to provide the elements of (a)passion about your subject, and (b)motivation to succeed, and if you let SBI be your guide and follow it carefully, you have a formula for a very successful website and one you can be proud of.
Believe it or not, building this site has been a life changing event for me. It has added a new direction, depth and purpose to my life. Since starting this site in April of 2008, I have personally built 2 more sites unrelated to model railroading while continuing to work full time professionally and building a fourth model railroad layout - all without ignoring my family or any of my other community obligations. To see for yourself, feel free to visit the other sites I have personally built using the tools I obtained from SBI, all since April of 2008...
These very different-looking sites exemplify the versatility of the tools used in designing them. SBI allows you to create a very professional looking site that is unique, so that it is truly YOUR site, unlike any other. The ads you see on this site were put in by me after the fact. They are not SBI ads. If fact, you don't have to have any ads if you don't want to.
If you are at all interested in this, send me an email, I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about setting up your own site... firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or click on any of the following links for more information from the SBI site itself. Pick the one that applies to your situation...Turn your hobby into income.
Work from home.
Use the knowledge you already have to build a successful website
Make extra retirement income in your spare time.
Take a home-study course in e-business.
Learn more from Case Studies.
For more information, visit the Sitesell home page.
Or if you have any specific questions about whether building a website is right for your particular situation, ask a specialist.
Here's a good question...
One of my visitors wrote:
"Looking to start a web page -- can you provide any details-- I saw your Solo Build It - but thats $300/ yearly -- there are some that are $35 / year - so cost wise they seem more in line --Also registering Domain is done thru a service and not owned by the "site"-- what are your thoughts and suggestions?"
My answer was as follows:
Thanks for your email!
I was in the same boat you are now about 3-4 years ago. My son and I had tried 3 other web development services before settling on SBI. Two of them were very cheap and went nowhere after a tremendous amount of work. We tried another service that was supposed to teach us how to optimize the site to get the most traffic. This was very expensive but the methods were flawed and ultimately didn't work. Oh, we had a site all right with all of the different services we tried. If you typed in the URL of the site, it would come up on the screen and look nice. The problem is that nobody else knew it was there. It's nice to have your own site, but if nobody else knows about it other than you, your family and a few friends, it's not going to go anywhere.
We wanted more than just a place to post pictures for friends to see. We wanted to make money at it. One of the sites we had was a listing of all kinds of items we were going to sell by drop shipping. Again, there was never enough traffic to make it worth while. We tried advertising with Google and with other price-per-click services, but the cost was greater than what little income we made.
So we basically gave it up for a short while till we found out about SBI. We felt like we'd already been burned by the other ventures we tried so we were very skeptical and looked at it very closely before we jumped in. The best thing about it was that there was a LOT more support and teaching about how the Internet works and about the right way to build traffic.
The thing is, anybody can make a web page, and domain names are very inexpensive. But what you won't get for the $35 fee that you're looking at is the knowledge, finding the right keywords, the analytics and the html coding techniques and the multiple other tools you need to drive traffic to your site. Unless you yourself are already a master at computer code and search engine optimization, your $35 site will almost certainly fail - fail to get noticed, fail to be found by search engines except maybe on page 548 on a Google search, and fail to make any income.
If you just want to have a webpage to show your family or friends or just want a site for your club to use or to have a webpage that you can put on a business card or brochure to hand out locally to individuals, and if you're not really interested in making any money with it, then go with the cheaper site.
But if you want a website that attracts visitors and search engines and gets your site listed on the first or second page of a Google search, and if you want to make some income for the work that you put into it, the $300/year for SBI is a real bargain. Most companies would pay over $4000.00 for a site like that to be developed.
Again, probably the biggest difference is in the support and the knowledge that you get from SBI that you won't get anywhere else. The amount of information they give you and the amount of how-to knowledge is HUGE. It's not hard to learn either. It took me about a month to go through the videos of information that I needed to get started. You just follow the instructions on the video guide step by step and you will learn everything you need to know. They have a large number of attractive templates that are available for you to use and modify as you wish. If you get stuck on anything, you get very quick replies from the support team. Also, the SBI online forum is full of people learning how to build their sites, trading information and tips with each other. There will never be a question that you put out to the support team or to the forum to which you won't get a good practical answer. The CEO of the company is a regular visitor to the forum and frequently provides input.
In summary, I'm sold on it. The $300/year I pay to SBI is without a doubt the best investment I've ever made. The site paid for itself within the first 8 months, and now I make about $6000/year after only 2.5 years. The site still growing rapidly - up to 32,000 visitors/month. My little model railroad site is in the top 10% of websites worldwide. Since the income is driven by advertisements, the more traffic I get, the more money I make. I'm on the receiving end of the pay-per-click ads now instead of the other way around.
I hope that helps. If you would like to talk more about it by phone, let me know. Or if I can answer any more questions for you by email, that works as well. As you can see, I'm almost as excited to talk about website building as I am about building model railroads.
Greg Warth at email@example.com
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