Doc Seidman Says…
…When it was time to move on from my wonderfully fulfilling career in college teaching/administration, I knew I had to find something else to do. Whereas I had offers to keep teaching, I wanted to turn the page and get involved with something different. After all, the first twenty years of my career were spent in the food service industry, the second twenty were my teaching career, why not find something different, but just as rewarding, for my next twenty?
While my teaching career was winding down, I began thinking about creating some type of college prep/support website. I saw so many students over the years struggling to not only pay for college, but to retain in school and complete their degree. I wanted to help. So, when my last graduation ceremony was finished, and I turned in my last set of grades, I began putting my college resource website into motion. With that, affordablecollegeprep.com was born.
My one big problem, however, was that I knew very little about the website world, and particularly, the business of websites. I knew there would be a learning curve. Just like learning how to be a good food service manager (and owner) and learning how to be a capable college teacher (and administrator) took time, so too would learning how to be competent at operating a website.
One year, and five websites later, I’ve learned many things about the website world. I wouldn’t yet call myself good at it, and I am barely competent at it too, but I have learned many things.
Here are the top five things I have learned about the website world that come to mind:
- Your website takes time
For many “traditional” businesses, have your storefront- or bakery- or hot dog stand, open the doors, and potential customers trickle in. Most of us have heard, “location, location,” and of course, the better your location, the more customers will come through your doors. A website works a little differently. Just creating your storefront—or website—does not mean people will come to visit. You have to make that happen (more on that later). But unlike the bakery, or hot dog stand, bringing any traffic to your site takes time; and patience. If you are anticipating a steady cash flow shortly after you go lie with your website, you may want to rethink that.
- You have to work backwards
We all believed that we set up valuable services with afforecablecollegeprep.com. We offered a wide array of college support services- both for free and for a fee—and were poised to help a lot of people and make a few dollars. We all knew we were offering something really valuable.
What we learned, however, was that where we thought we offered something people needed, it was not really something they wanted. We didn’t work backwards. By that, I mean doing some research at Google Trends and Google Keywords to find out exactly what it is people are searching for on line. I’ve learned that you need to build a website around demand, not speculation.
- Be resourceful
For anyone wanting to blaze a similar trail, you should know that you need not have to make a substantial investment to create a website. I developed my third site, internationalcollegestudent.com for around $200. YouTube as well as the web itself, are loaded with advice, techniques and services that can help you create your site resourcefully. Working backwards, as I describe earlier, and giving a little bit of gas (web marketing dollars) that site now gets over 150 views a day. Not at all bad for a website that isn’t even two months old.
- Chances are, you will have to spend some money to bring people to your site
Like a traditional storefront, your website will need some marketing dollars to get a lot of people in the door. A sandwich shop on the busy corner of Park and Elm will most likely have different marketing needs than a random site on the World Wide Web. Just launching your site is probably not enough to get people there. You need to do more. Google is king in this world. Calling attention to your site on Google isn’t always free. You might have to pay someone to make your site more visible through SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This will involve making sure you have important keywords in the right places so Google knows what your site is about. An investment in the various types of advertising mechanisms Google has to offer might also be worthwhile. I spend anywhere from $2 to $5 a day on Google AdWords for the internationalcollegestudent.com site. Five dollars a day was buying me 30 visits a day to affordablecollegeprep.com. When I took my foot off the gas, so to speak, by re-appropriating that money, it went down to five visitors a day.
- Monetizing your site takes time too
While my intent with affordablecollegeprep.com is to help people, I would also like to make some revenue from the site. I’m not looking to get rich, either quick or slow, but to create an earnings model that will bring in some type of monthly income.
This I am still learning. What I have learned to this point, however, is that like the maturation of your website, the trust created with your customers to buy something from you also takes time. Whether you are offering a product or service for sale, trying to make money by advertising someone else’s product or service, do your research, and create a process and model that will work. When you enter Mary’s Sandwich Shop on Elm and Park, chances are you can see Mary. You can associate a face and personality to the store and can feel more comfortable parting with your money. Websites are different. You are anonymous. It not only takes time, but some trial and error. After all, if you are like me, you are learning something new. Success doesn’t always happen right away.
I’ve learned much over the last year and know I will learn more over the next year. While the transition has been challenging at times, as learning new things often is, it has also been fun. After all, like most teachers tell their students, learning doesn’t stop after college. It should never stop.