What is the most important lesson I have learned about setting up a website and blog?
“Switch on the light when you enter the building.”
This should have been my motto, my mantra, in the months and certainly, days leading up to launching my website last year. Can I repeat it again? “Switch on the light when you enter the building.” The building, in this case, is the great hallowed halls of Social Media and to be honest, I’m sure most of you out there, are more technically and media savvy than me and wouldn’t have needed this reminder. Trust me on that.
I finished writing the first draft of my novel in January 2015. After just over three years, it was a good time to come up for air even though I felt too excited to stop, having enjoyed every part of the process so far. Throughout that time, I was given books and sound advice, attended talks on writing and publishing a novel, with guidance on how to approach it and sound practical tips. I also had a fabulous novelist, editor, and tutor who was and continues to be incredibly supportive to this day.
One piece of advice that really resonated was once the first draft was completed it was a good idea to slip it into a drawer and leave it there. For a while. It was suggested that only after a period of time could one address the novel with fresh eyes and a renewed keenness to sharpen and fine-tune the story.
There was also a gentle but persistent note to take heed and start building a platform and online presence now and not after the book had made some headway. Build the foundations early. Well, because I am such a social media Luddite, common sense told me that this was a good time to take a break and focus on building up a website. So I enrolled on a course for beginners. I ought to say here that I have two daughters who, like most teenagers, are extremely at home with social media and ICT; one, in particular, is very familiar with building websites, reading and understanding HTML coding. She kept offering to help but due to an illness, (an extraordinary illness worthy of the National press once she’s fully recovered, but that’s another story), I had to keep batting down her offers.
I started the course last May and went ‘live’ with the site 1st December. Eight months was longer than I planned to spend on it. Naively. Online research needed to support and understand site building, along with the course, domesticity and dealing with a poorly child was enough and the book was wisely, better placed on hold.
There was a lot to absorb in this course and I really had to concentrate hard but I was pleased with the inroads I had made. Even my two, who were watching from a distance, were impressed.
So since last December when my site went ‘live’, I have been writing a Blog every Monday. I find the commitment to putting my thoughts down on a weekly basis good fun, despite the ongoing encroaching deadline, I find it cleanses the writing palate and refreshes me after working on the full-on characters of my novel and I know that my work improves each and every time I write.
So picture me, days before site launch, unaware of how much I would enjoy doing it, wondering whether I really wanted to do this. I want to write but did I want to do this? This fairly private person, opening up to the online world? At the time I found it all a little too scary, but hey ho, I knew I was in it for the long run and the slow burn and I have a lot of patience- I knew that building up an online relationship with a vibrant and fluid community would take time. That was just fine with me.
So I’m trying to juggle (who isn’t?) life and domestic trivia, kids, health issues, edit my novel- which should have been polished and good to go, before the end of last year (what was it Douglas Adams said about deadlines and the whooshing sounds they make as they go by?) and write a weekly Blog. On the one hand, the Blog challenge may seem like it’s holding me back, but in fact, Its quite the opposite. I’ll keep those two plates spinning.
And here’s my daughter, on the mend and back to being busy. She is so savvy on the comp, what she doesn’t know isn’t worth and what eludes her, won’t for very long. Technical problems or challenges are just opportunities and she doesn’t miss very much. Pinning her down, at the moment is key. This weekend, she took a quick glance at my website, a flash nosey around on my dashboard and lo and behold she said unto me,
‘Why have you got the “Discourage Search Engines From Indexing this Site” box, ticked?’
In essence, my site had no chance of showing up in a search engine and was not verified by Google.
So, all my efforts from launch day and beyond did not have any lighter fuel. This is like all the preparations for a party minus the fuse for the lights and the music. It’s like the repair man coming to check an appliance, suspected of not working at its best, only to find it’s that click of a switch (or plug it in!) to make it work effectively. All work prior, amounts to not very much, if it’s not done properly.
She unticked the box, verified and site mapped it.
I looked around online after and found this.
To summarise, it is the single most important thing for SEO visibility. Untick, untick, untick the box, because it destroys the sites SEO. In addition, the site has to be verified so that the search engines know that it exists.
My daughter also spent some time sorting out a couple of other snags. The whole process must have taken her a couple of hours and for that, I am so grateful.
So, my conclusion? Don’t do as I do:
Enter a building and switch the light on, then people have a chance of seeing you. Make your presence known. Lord knows it still hard enough as it is.
Make sure the crucial ‘connecting up the pipes’ is followed through correctly and thoroughly. If you have friends or members of the family who are savvy about these things, get them to check it through. Otherwise, don’t leave important things overlooked. Perhaps employ the services of a professional who can see these things through.
What have been your experiences?