Do Not Try This at Home – Part Two

This is the second part of a response to an article on the Wall Street Journal entitled How to Create a Successful Web Site For Nothing (or Almost Nothing). You can see part one of my response here. In part one I analyzed points one through three of the article. Today I’m going to take a look at points four through seven.


In this section the article talks about adding shopping cart functionality to your website via PayPal. Don’t get me wrong. I think PayPal is a great product and I help my customers with it almost every day. However in order to work with PayPal you have to deal with HTML. Most people don’t like to even look at HTML, never mind actually work with it. (If you have any doubts about where you fall on this issue visit Welcome to My World.)

Also, what if you need something a little different than “out of the box” PayPal code? One of my clients faced this with her line of birthstone pendants. I modified the PayPal code to make a drop down box to allow people to select the month that they want.

As with many other things in this article, putting in PayPal code isn’t for beginners.

STEP FIVE: Get Sponsors

I don’t recommend that business websites have sponsors. You want customers to focus on you, not on the ads provided by Google Adsense.

If you have an informational website then ads are acceptable. I even do this myself. I place ads on LitQuotes, my quotations website. However it’s not the walk in the park that the WSJ article talks about:

It’s easy to add advertisements to your Web site to make extra cash.

While it is easy to add a few ads or put up some affiliate links it’s not easy to make a steady income from advertising or selling things on your website. Take LitQuotes for example. I work with 3 different ad agencies in order to get enough ads for the site. I have to “chain” the ad code so that if Advertising Agency One doesn’t have an ad then Advertising Agency Two has a shot at it. It moves down the line. Doesn’t it sound like the type of fun only a Geek Girl could love?

Also in order to get any money at all you have to have a large number of visitors to the site. This brings us to the final section of the article.

STEP SIX: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

OK, the article actually calls this section “Get Known” but what they’re talking about is getting your site to show on the first page of search engine listings. That’s called SEO.

While the information provided by the WSJ is sound they miss a few important points:

  1. SEO is like doing the dishes. You’re never done. There will always be more to do tomorrow. Just because your site scores well today doesn’t mean it will score well three months from now. Search engines are constantly changing the way they score sites. You’ve got to be able to keep up with the changes.
  2. SEO is such a big topic that there are people who have jobs JUST working on SEO. Some SEO tactics involve the HTML. Others deal with getting other sites to link to you. The newest SEO techniques involve blogs and other social media. It’s enough to make your head spin!
  3. Different search engines score sites in different ways. What works well in Google may not work as well in Yahoo or MSN.

Website SEO needs to be done (and reviewed every three months or so) but it’s not easy. And it can take a lot of time.

STEP SEVEN – Website Statistics

Website statistics are important and Google Analytics is a fine statistics program. However in order to add it to your website you’ve got to place some HTML in every page. Because most people can’t deal with HTML this might be difficult to implement. The way I deal with it is that I have my customers sign up for an account with Google. Then they send me the HTML that Google gives them. I put it into their website for them.


The reason that the WSJ article upset me so much is that I know people will read it and think that the only responsible thing for them to do is put up their own website. If you like computers and the idea of putting up a website fills you with happiness then go for it! But this isn’t the case for most people. Most people are like my friend “Linda”.

I’ve known Linda since fifth grade. About five years ago she opened up a cute little shop in our hometown. She knew that she needed a website but she wanted to do it herself. I was baffled because I knew that Linda didn’t like computer stuff. But she’s my pal so I helped her as best I could. We talked about domain names and website hosts. For two or three years that’s all her website was – it was just talk.

You see, as a small business owner Linda had her hands full. She was so busy taking care of her business that she didn’t have time to devote to learning HTML or doing icky technical things. The website just never got done.

I’m not sure what finally changed her mind. One day Linda called and sounded very decisive. “I want a website and I want you to do it!” With that we were off. I put up a website and a short time later I added some newsletter software. Linda hasn’t looked back since. What she has had time to do is offer more classes and expand the size of her shop. It’s still cute but it’s not little. The online newsletter has saved her time and serious money when compared to her print newsletter.

The moral of this story is that small business owners don’t need to do everything themselves. Sometimes hiring someone to help you is the best move you can make.

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