One Year - One Website - One Lesson
When used as a verb pretty much describes how I've recently spent a portion of my free time - contemplating and reviewing the past one year, the progress I've made with my one website and what I've determined to be the number one lesson learned - at least so far.
If you had asked me over a year ago would I be willing to build a website, in all likelihood I would have said, "No way!"
In the beginning, the idea of building a website from the ground up sounded very intimidating but as soon as I decided to jump in (hit the premium button) and get my feet good and wet (purchase a domain) I quickly found "intimidation" in my rear view mirror! The challenges I faced and what I learned along the way soon conquered any fears I had - in particular, in my ability to learn something entirely new.
Today, I can't image my life without spending at least an hour each day doing something, anything, to benefit my site. This includes keyword and article research, analyzing my google console, reading as much about SEO as hours in a day will allow, creating Pinterest pins, Twitter posts, YouTube video tutorials - anything to improve my site's visibility and of course, creating written and physical content which is largely derived from sewing/piecing/quilting items to be showcased on my site.
Of all the changes, challenges and lessons I've encountered along the way, there is one element that has remained unchanged - the importance of KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE.
This also remains my biggest challenge.
Knowing Your Audience sounds easy enough until you begin to examine the diverse wants, needs, attitudes, opinions, education levels, cultural influences, economic status...etc., of every other person who also shares your passion for quilting and is a potential reader/follower of your content. But, before you can "know" your audience you need to first IDENTIFY your audience.
Again, at least for me, this has been easier said than done.
Who, exactly, are these people who will be reading what you have to say?
In other words, what do people who share my interests want to read? What problems are they having and how can I (or someone else) provide a solution?
Getting Out of Your Own Way
Time and experience have compelled me to examine this more deeply and at least make an attempt to answer these questions. Great content does not invite or retain readership unless that content is giving the reader the answers and information they seek.
When my website was new I felt like a wide-eyed tourist walking through the streets of Manhattan for the first time. Everything I read or heard about website design, SEO, etc. were the tall buildings and flashing neon signs I couldn't look away from yet my perspective was focused on ME. My site, My content, My rankings, Me... Me...Me.
The impetus for creating this website was to provide information for beginners interested in sewing and quilting. However, even with that narrow range, I felt my website, overall, was (and still is) without direction and focused on the story I wanted to tell and less about what other's wanted to read.
This past year has also allowed me to make even more important discoveries: 1) many of my readers were not beginners and, 2) beginners in this niche often require more than a couple of images and few written paragraphs to fully grasp the techniques needed to make your first quilt. ( For most of us, one-on-one, hands-on instruction not only helps us get started but has the potential to prevent a newbie from becoming too discouraged and giving up before experiencing that crucial first success.)
"Ain't Nobody Got Time For That"
The field of sewing and quilting is slowly regaining the traction lost since the latter part of the 20th century when ready-to-wear (RTW) clothing became a necessity. As women began to join the workforce and work outside the home this resulted in women with less time to sew at home.
Fast forward to today - women continue with a strong presence in the paid workforce however, innovations in technology and changes in cultural norms has, in some ways, freed up a couple of extra hours here and there and from that free time, the creative spirit has slowly re merged.
Today, the field of participants in the textile world and those willing to provide one-on-one, hands-on instruction of this kind remain few and far between - hence, the presence of websites, like mine, willing to fill this gap.
"Success is No Accident" ~ Pele
Armed with this new information, I began to take a closer look (and with increased scrutiny) at other blogs and sites I follow.
Without much surprise, I made the following discovery: website elements that appear to gain the greatest viewership are those that contain video tutorials, freebies, giveaways and variety.
Variety in the sense of providing information and external links covering a range of topics not necessarily about but, related to, the niche subject.
The success of these elements, I feel, resonates with the existing but often overlooked aspects of our nature - we love a bargain and we love a good surprise. Anytime I visit a site and receive more than I expected, and /or, I am happily surprised my other favorable offerings such as a give-away or a free pattern I am not only more likely to join their email list, but I am also way more likely to open that email when it lands in my inbox!
"Good Things Come to People Who Wait, But Better Things Come To Those Who Go Out and Get Them" ~ Walt Disney
This next year will continue to be a "building" year for my website but with a few tweaks and fine-tuning.
What follows is a condensed version of my primary To-Do list:
1) More Video Tutorials. Currently, I have only one very short video tutorial (it's more of a trial run!) but my plan is to create many more of these during the following year.
2) Finish Photo Studio. I now have a dedicated space in my basement to serve as a photo studio to create more consistent and professional looking images for my site. Stock photos have their place but I prefer the authenticity of using my own images.
3) Increase Network of Collaborators and Followers. This includes, but is not limited to, increasing the number of comments offered on other sites and learn more about creating an email list. A couple of good places to start - here and here! Although I feel I do not yet have the website traffic to justify subscribing to an email marketing service I do need to re-visit those webinars and get that ball rolling!
Advice Too Good to Ignore
The following is primarily directed at those new to WA but may also serve as a gentle reminder for anyone at any stage of their online business building venture:
DO concentrate on just ONE website - at least in the beginning.
DO NOT wait ONE YEAR to determine your audience. True, we do learn from our mistakes but why make this mistake when you don't have to!
BONUS: Knowing your audience significantly improves keyword research!
So...do I have this "know your audience" thing completely resolved? Not entirely. However, I would like to think I do have a much better visual of my audience today than I did one year ago. It is this visual that I will use as a guide to make the necessary changes in content and engagement that will hopefully, be the most advantageous for me, my site and my audience.
Now, I'm curious... For those of you who are not new to WA, what is the main lesson or lessons you have learned since building your first website? What element of an existing website do you feel the most confident and what aspect do you feel has room for improvement?