We Can All Use a Little Help Sometimes

Keyword research is not overrated. I used to build sites and pages without ever bothering to check the keywords for anything. I made sites that never got traffic, that never made sales, that—oops. Wait.

I had never heard of keyword research when I first started building sites. I made several that got plenty of traffic, and made several sales. In fact, one of those sites still makes sales and still gets traffic.

The thing is, you can build sites that work just fine without keyword data.

But, and it’s a big one, you can make sites earn a lot faster if you have keyword data that tells you what people are searching for in your niche and then you create pages that match those searches. You waste a lot of time building pages that possibly don’t help anyone because no one really wants to know anything about what you’ve just built a page around.

I can’t stand to do massive amounts of keyword research where I pull words, get traffic, figure out possible earnings, and then try to incorporate all that into my pages. I pay for that lack of interest though in slower traffic growth, less earnings, and fewer breakout sites.

I still don’t bother with traffic and earnings data, but I have been using a cool tool to help me pick out all the interesting things people search for related to some of the site topics I build around. The tool tells me what people type into the search engine when they’re looking for that topic and it has helped me with something I didn’t expect it to help with.

Article ideas. :)

I have the worst time dealing with large topics. I become overwhelmed and unable to focus. When I see the list of keyword phrases this little tool spits out for me, I immediately have something solid to grab onto—something that’s not possible when I have 4,822 ideas popping into my head at once when I think of my topic! This has saved me a lot of time just by keeping me focused and working and not flitting all over the place writing drafts I will never finish because I didn’t know where I was going with it when I started it.

And the good news is that if people are searching for these phrases, then writing that article is certainly going to help someone, somewhere.

<strike>GEOLOGY UNIVERSE</strike> Oops! Guess not

Because I have too few creative bones in my body and they mostly involve fictional tales of romance and foreign planets. This was a tough one. I had a really hard time picking out this name. I wanted something not related to the poor guy who gave me the idea, but in the end, this was as good as it got.

  1. geologyworld.com – taken
  2. earthgeology.com – taken
  3. geology.com – taken (seriously, I didn’t even have to check)
  4. geologydaze.com – not taken, but we know why
  5. geologyoftheworld.com – not taken, but doesn’t this limit me to only earth’s geology? Why would I want to do that? Mars has interesting geology and I love thinking about how the geology on other earth-like worlds might have developed.
  6. geologynews.com – taken
  7. geologyviews.com – Dang. I just thought of this one and I think I would have liked it.

I think I might be a little too tired after an overly stressful day. I now have 2 domains for the same site that I’m probably never going to build. :-o

Listening to: Cyndi Lauper – I Drove All Night; Blake Shelton – Some Beach

Site Focus Redux

LOL. I wrote this… And of course, I immediately started thinking about what topic I would pursue if I could honestly make money from anything I enjoyed learning about. Geology popped into my head immediately. That’s one of my few regrets in life, changing my major in college from geology to accounting. I mean, what the heck was I thinking at the time?

I’m not obsessed with geology, but I am fascinated by natural disasters of a geological nature like earthquakes and volcanoes. In fact, I once started writing a novel of fiction about the possibility of a super-eruption at Yellowstone. I even did some research. LOL. Famous author Harry Turtledove has officially beat me to the punch though, so I guess that’s okay. The world doesn’t need two. ;-)

I could devote some time to writing about and collecting news around the topic of geology and natural disasters without much effort spent to motivate myself.

And that IS a problem I have with a lot of the stuff I write currently. It’s just plain drudgery, not much better than the job I have that I’m no longer happy working.

I swear, I almost bought a domain for this before I came up on the brick wall of having to pick a domain name for this unnamed, insane project that would suck up too much of my time when I need not another 10 year website project, but something that would pay dividends much more quickly. Oops.

Sometimes I hate inspiration.

Listening to: Gary Allan – Life Ain’t Always Beautiful; “Weird Al” Yankovic – Party in the CIA (Parody of Party in the USA); George Strait – Fool Hearted Memory

Dude Has a Point But What’s the Point?

So I was looking for something to distract me today and I came across some new podcasts about a topic near and dear to my heart. Websites! :)

Anyway, the topics of the podcasts were pretty standard stuff, but the content was really good. If you’re into building websites, especially the kind that focus on one or two main topics and branch out from there—as in not just a blog of whatever’s going on in your life—you’ll probably enjoy listening to these.

I needed a break from real life for a few minutes, and I had a drive ahead of me too, so I queued them up on my phone and listened. The guy has a really nice voice too so that helps. ;-) Apparently he runs the site Universe Today, a site about space and astronomy, a topic I’m halfway interested in. Space, not astronomy. LOL.

What I found most compelling, and most vexing, was his assertion that working on multiple websites is going to mean you create sites that are only good enough, and that’s not good enough, according to him.

I actually agree. But that’s not what I do. I’ve gone back and forth with this issue for the last 5 years and I keep ending up back at the same place—with too many websites to keep even half of them straight in my head.

The only problem is, I didn’t see any real income growth with my hobby turned business until I started building all these other sites. I spent years chasing my passion with a site that now gets almost a thousand visitors a day and I haven’t updated it in over a year at this point. But I grew away from the topic, and where does that leave you? I mean, I have a short attention span, really. How do you deal with building up only one site over the span of 10 years and then deciding you really don’t like it that much anymore after all? What’s the point? That’s what happened to me a few years ago, and no, this wasn’t some whim. I had loved that industry, that topic, for 10 years before I ever started a site on it. I could never have imagined I would outgrow my passion for the site. But it happened.

So although I agree with him in principle that if you want to build something that stands the test of time and is really the best it can be, working on one site at a time is about the only way to go unless you have money to burn and can afford to hire lots of help.

In actuality, it’s a lot more complicated than that. It takes a long time to get a site to the point that it will earn a living. I never got that monster I created to that point.

Listening to: The Cure – Just Like Heaven; Eric Church – Homeboy; Pink – So What

Looks Like Storms

The wind is picking up outside, and thunder is rumbling. The rain has started and weather.gov shows tornado warnings nearby. The school where my children attend has announced that it will be dismissing today at 12 noon.

That doesn’t matter for the moment though. I am writing content for my websites and trying to decide what my next move will be. I have decisions to make and things to think about. I still have time to work without interruption even if it’s just for another hour. A lot can be done in an hour. :)

WordPress 3.3 – Woohoo! Much Improved

I like it. I’ve only had it up for a few minutes on one of my sites and I am already loving the improvements. I can’t say that I won’t find something I won’t like at some point but so far, the admin area is much faster and cleaner. I especially like the fly out menus, the new permalink settings (same old but now no performance hit for the one I really like best (the post name and nothing but the post name)).

WordPress vs Static HTML vs Database Driven PHP vs My Serious Lack of Mad Design Skilz

I’m not gifted with mad design skills. I’m not blessed with any design skills at all, frankly.

That’s not to say I’ve never designed a website that I didn’t like, or that I’ve never managed to be satisfied with something I’ve created from scratch. However, those sites are few and far between and I don’t hesitate to admit, the designs for those sites took at a minimum a month apiece after reworking the designs until I was sick of them.

These days I try to use templates and themes to help out, but I struggle with the idea that I should be able to create my own designs and code my own sites, because that’s where the fun is for me when it comes to working with my websites. Knowing my sites are exclusively my work is where I get the most satisfaction.

This is one of the core reasons why I struggle over the WordPress, static html, or custom dynamic database site issue. I want the ease of updating the content that comes with WordPress, the simplicity of picking a pre-designed theme, and the security of a frequently updated software, but I also prefer not having to update WordPress and that only comes with static html or a custom database site.

With all that in mind, I’ve finally decided how I want to use this website. I want it to be a place where I can discuss the things I learn about web design that other ordinary people like me might find useful.

This site isn’t for the graphically gifted, nor for those who won’t hesitate to buy or borrow graphic work from talented friends. This site is for people who want to do it themselves, all of it, from coding their html pages, creating their own WordPress themes, to designing crappy graphics for their sites even though they know their work is never going to be good enough for some.

It’s good enough for us, and if we work at it long enough, we do end up with presentable web sites. And we don’t care if any one else agrees. :)

Finally, I also plan to continue to update about the progress I’m making toward my goals of doing some kind of web work to make a living. Although I’m still working my part-time job, I’ve recently been pushed into a situation where it has become important for me to make some real progress.

Abandoning Akismet for Privacy and Control

I’ve recently switched the particular anti-spam plugin that I use on my websites (those I run on WordPress anyway). I deleted Akismet when I discovered that I was having some of my own comments deleted before I ever saw them, because Akismet was treating them as spam.

Not all comments were deleted or treated as spam, mind you, but any comments where I had tried to use a URL that didn’t lead directly to my homepage.

There are instances where not linking to the homepage makes more sense, for example, when I am posting on a topic specific blog but my blog is more general in nature. In those cases, I prefer to link to a relevant category or tag page (because I use categories and tags in VERY specific ways on several sites, so I can better organize and share my content). Occasionally, I like to link to a specific page on WordPress too, when that seems more logical.

Akimet seems not to care about logic, only controlling the web and who and how we comment on blogs.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter how grammatically correct you are (most spam fails a grammar test), how coherent you try to be (again most spam completely fails in this regard), or how relevant you make your comment. Akismet doesn’t like links that don’t go either directly to your homepage or your /blog/ index.

I found this out the hard way when a friend and I (who often exchange comments because we have the same interests and find each others’ material comment-worthy) were penalized because we had not linked directly to our homepages in the Author website field. My comments ended up in her spam box, and her comments ended up in mine.

So, as someone who isn’t above holding a grudge, I deleted Akisment and went looking for a better alternative.

I found Growmap’s Anti-Spam Plugin, installed it, and haven’t had a “spambot” comment make it through yet. GASP put me back in control of comments and I like that.

Check it out if you’re interested in an Akismet alternative.

I use Simple Trackback Validation (with Topsy Blocker) to handle trackback spam.

CSS Stuff that I Needed to Know but Didn’t

Ran across this CSS tip today, when I was researching an issue. I wanted to override a width in an element but the element already had a lot of styles applied to it and I didn’t want to create an entirely new ID.

Creating a new ID was my first instinct just because I don’t work with CSS nearly as much as I did when I first discovered it. I’m comfortable with the layout of most of my designs and just haven’t felt the need to more than tweak in years.

Really useful info, so check it out if you like to play with your CSS sometimes but want to keep it as streamlined as possible. http://css-tricks.com/multiple-class-id-selectors/

What I Want is What I Get

You know how when you have a site and it’s your site you can do anything you want with it?

That’s what I have here.

What I don’t want to do is keep updating this crappy challenge thing. All right. Yes, I know. I sound like a quitter. But sometimes you’ve got to quit the things that are making it hard for you to stay focused and do what needs to be done.

I prefer to think of my website empire in the making as my own personal thing. Making it public was a bad idea in the way I’m making it public, and frankly, I’m not comfortable with it. I prefer to feel free to talk about my sites and not worry about all the crap that I’m worrying about with them.

This post might not ever see the light of day, but getting it down here is helping me to realize a few things.

I’m not cut out to publicize my life.

I like my privacy.

I like to make decisions and then reevaluate and having a “challenge” like this is interfering with my methods.

I’m bored with this site. :)

Sorry, if you’re reading this, this is the last post on this site before I gut it and do something else with it.

By the way, read You Are Not a Gadget if you have a few hours. It’s quite interesting. It’s unrelated to the topic of this post, sort of, but it did have something to do with my sudden desire to change things up.

You Are Not a Gadget

0307269647-you-are-not-a-gadget

Jaron Lanier

Google books has pages available to read if you just want a taste of the book.