Starting up a new website is a huge topic, a colossal area that has been covered many times by more experienced people than I, but in the light of Squidoo’s changes, I wanted to help people become more independent of Web 2.0 sites, because I do not want to go through all this again, either.
The type of shortlist product review pages we have been producing will be welcome there for only a limited time longer, and I don’t see them being part of the new vision for the site, despite their popularity with Google visitors. I personally am not messing about with green lighting requests (locked content gets moved) nor will I be removing anything that earns and is still OK in Squidoo’s eyes.
So logic says it is time to dig in and do something else to earn on Amazon. This is a something else that is doable and should soon be in the comfort zone of regular web 2.0 contributors. I procrastinated on building my own sites for over a year after starting IMing as “I didn’t know how to do it” and I can procrastinate a long time when I don’t know what I don’t know, and have no idea where to start. I can’t tell you what to do, but I am hoping this gives you an idea and the resources to get on with it.
Setting up Amazon sites is not truly diversifying as the income is still coming from Amazon and still depends on Google, but should be something that can replace any lost income from Squidoo over time, and your fate is a lot more in your hands. Spencer Haws is doing a great job on his Niche Site Project and you can do worse than follow what he suggests and make your own enhancements.
I will outline what I do as clearly as I can. If I have skipped anything or you are lost, ask. Other readers may feel the same way. It is easier to share this once here than keep replying to forum posts all over, that’s why I thought I’d get on with this overdue post. This is not advanced stuff, more for writers who have never had their own site before. With Google algorithm changes, and security risks and legal considerations, there will always be adjustments and change, and plenty more to learn about setting up your own website, consider this a just a primer.
There may be affiliate links here where I could get compensated. As usual you can ignore/ bypass or go though. It won’t cost anything extra to do that, and I won’t know the difference, so the call is yours. This is basic info to get you started.
First, I will give you an outline of my website building experiences and the relative results. I apologize for the length, but the technical “how to set a site up” can be learned way more easily than what type of website business to do when and why.
With all these methods, assume I do not backlink them, even from Squidoo, and they survive on mostly being pinged then organic Google, Bing and even Yahoo traffic. I am hoping by sharing this it will give you some idea which type of site to choose or what will suit you.
As I see it, it is a fine line between having a site that is not so extensive that it uses all your resources and you get bored, or that it is too tiny and too limited and hard to create more relevant content if it takes off. It may be an idea not to go with a monster to start. Being careful with content spending and themes is a good plan and you want the best bang for the buck.
Free and Weebly Blogspot sites
I started with and have some free and paid Weebly and Blogspot mini-sites, more for my chickens and some niches, and before I really learned keywords well, they earn Adsense pennies. I have never been back really, I found more potential elsewhere and want my own properties.
Micro niche Amazon based sites
I started some of my own micro niche Amazon based sites last May, so about a year ago. I picked long EMDs that were my best performing keywords on Squidoo at the time. The biggest one had about 30 individual product posts, the smallest ones have a 5 product 1000 word article on the main page, (plus the disclosure/privacy/contact etc), but I will be expanding some of them when I change the theme.
I have not touched them in a year except to add a “best” multiple product article to one and traffic has jumped up. I get maybe 30 views a month on these max, and I do make the odd random sale for one of the products, but I wouldn’t call them a roaring success. The two best have earned $85 each in a year (one was a single page of content, the other with 30 posts) and the worst one earned $5, but they were really set and forget, and I am not certain that works for me and this style of content.
Single product review sites
Then in the fall, I learned from Wolfmii on the Warrior forum about a way of just posting a single product review of a 200-400 word newly released Amazon product by model number on a branded domain. Only linking/pinging was a post using Onlywire using the Onlywire plugin.
We did this over the winter for 4 niches that had done OK on Squidoo. There are between 50 and 100 posts per site and they got very little traffic, but it was buying traffic, and sales rates were higher than my usual 3-5 product reviews links. So content costs were say 300 words at 1 cent a word, 3 times 75 is approx $225 in content (actually the reviews were easy to do and we wrote, daily, the first 50 posts on 3 of the sites). We paid for setups and a list of low comp worthy products on 2 sites too for another $200 each.
The poorest performing site is close to earning half that over the 5 months it has been alive and most of that has been earned in the last month, it is not seasonal, but I think it’s gathering momentum. Some of them get content added more regularly than others. The best site has earned at least that each month and $1716 in Az commissions in 6 months. The other two have earned around $450 each in that time. They work, but niches are hit and miss, and the ones that work best are ones where people shop by model numbers. So this is likely different to your Squidoo successes as I have never had much luck with single products and is why I don’t see myself writing those types of lenses there in the future.
Multiple product review article sites
Just lately, with the writing on the wall at Squidoo, I’d like to reuse any locked or even underperforming/non-earning content from Squidoo. Since most of those are 3-5 product reviews, I decided to give it a go on my own sites with newly written 3-5 product “Skeffling style” content that I know works on Squidoo. The site I just set up was a longer EMD, but had traffic and sales from day one, it keeps going up and I had 158 unique views with under 60% bounce rate today.
I also added a 1-4 of these posts to the model review sites above, and daily traffic popped up (doubled or tripled) on those sites (it was low). These are very new posts and a site, just in the last few weeks, so I can only report what I have seen so far and it is encouraging. As I always wondered/doubted /wanted someone to tell me how a comparable page on your own site would do compared to Squidoo. And it is better than I thought (so far), it seems like 10-20 views per article per day on average from the start, but who really knows til they try, it has to be keyword search volume and competition specific. Maybe traffic will plummet in a week, but things are encouraging for now.
The disadvantage of these sites compared to the single product reviews is these go out of date more as a collection than a single item, just like a Web 2.0 page, you need to check links and see if there are newer models. The single product post are just a record of what has passed and you still want to add new models as they come out. But just add more posts, don’t keep editing.
So personally, I would go bigger with a site, or give room to keep expanding. If you have an established niche or group of lenses/articles doing well for you on Squidoo, go with it unless you loathe it. If you are going to experiment with new territory, go small to start, maybe 30 posts, one, most days, for a month. You can do less, but it may not give the results you are looking for.
You can do a combination of multiple product and individual review type posts, but you will need to decide on a theme and what you want your pages/posts to have and how they are arranged for readers will probably dictate the type of WordPress theme.
How to decide on a niche
What were your best performing articles about? What pages earned the most, the fastest? We soon learn which lenses we look forward to checking on! These are the best places to start. Why reinvent the wheel when it is costing you money this time to take the risk?
For a micro niche site maybe you could set it up around the best keywords that bring in the most traffic in a single or group of lenses. If you want to go bigger, go for it, but try to have all your articles related and branch into new areas later in clusters if you can, so your site seems more focused to Google.
How to choose a domain name
The possibilities are endless and likely to stump even the most excited new webmaster. You can go with an Exact match Domain (EMD) which may give your website some advantage with Google rankings, or may not. Some people will have monthly search minimum thresholds, but take a close look at competition as well, remember those allintitle ratios. If it was good enough to write about and earn per my usual Squidoo keyword ratios, it can be good enough for an EMD.
If choosing an EMD make sure it is more of an umbrella phrase that can cover a wide area if needed. I made the mistake of getting a ton of best under $XX domains and they just look spammy to me now, and I can’t do other price ranges either, so need to set a whole new website up for those. Better to get a “Best watch reviews” or something than “best jogging watches under $100″ just make that a post.
Don’t worry about buying an EMD domain if you don’t want to. Don’t narrow yourself down too much, you can optimize each post for related phrases/whatever you want. Remember, if someone wants to buy it way down the road when it is making tons of money, consider if the name still be suitable and big enough.
I am leaning more towards a branded site, then I can make it as big or as small as I like, so there is no expectation of size for the shopper, searcher or reader with a name like that. I am trying to go either 2 word domains, always .com nothing else (there is no need for it, just be creative and brand a site if you can’t get the EMD you want) usually one of the words is the product name.
So for example CameraGeeks.com or DiaperMagic.com (no idea if they are real!) or whatever. If concerned it may be in use, you can check the US trademark database too, though if the domain is available, it is likely OK. There are domain and even regular name-generating pages that will help you come up with unique website names.
How and where to buy a domain name
I have only bought mine at Godaddy. If you think you want to buy or renew a lot of domains, Goddaddy has a plan $89 a year, so you get any new .com domains for about $8.19 each a year and other auction perks, and free cashparking (Adsense on your parked domains). So do the math on how many domains you think you need to buy and also update in a year. You can also hope for coupon codes, but I hate having to scratch around and wait for them.
I am used to Godaddy’s menus and navigating to change and set things up now and have very little to compare to, but it is OK and easy to use. This is what I will be showing you how to use today along with Hostgator hosting. All these companies have their own tutorial videos so you can do whatever combos you like!
The only other place I got a domain was through Bluehost, I got a free one there when I just signed up for hosting, to be honest I haven’t taken much of a look at it. I am a bit of a wuss/procrastinator when it comes to transferring and moving things, so make sure your annual fees will be acceptable wherever you choose and there is not just some low cost deal to sucker you in for the first year.
Watch the upselling. If you want privacy, fine. I don’t bother. Unless you are starting an ecommerce site, don’t get the Trust or Verified Seals. And do NOT PAY FOR EMAILS. You will be able to set up as many as you like for free in the Cpanel later. I usually sign up for a one year term, but it is up to you.
How to get Website Hosting
Anyone who has Amasuite already will have access to a neat and tidy bundle of videos on how to set up a site using Goddaddy domain and Hostgator hosting. That is how I got my first ones done as I am pretty well a klutz at technical things and I have zero patience for trial and error! I have the videos open at one side of the screen and hostgator and the Cpanel open on the other and I did it.
I use Godaddy for domains, but not for hosting, I believe their service is not as reliable and is more easily hacked than Hostgator which is my main host. I have a few baby croc accounts (unlimited sites) on Hostgator but just decided to diversify with Bluehost and signed up yesterday for WordPress sites, so all my sites are not in one basket.
Hostgator has a single site deal (the hatchling), and a much better Unlimited websites deal (Baby Croc). The monthly amounts quoted on their home page are for if you sign up for 2-3 years. I have always done that and been fine with it.
Bluehost allows you to do the same thing, and if you decide you need a refund and to stop hosting there, you can get a prorated refund, so you have nothing to lose by signing up for a longer period of time and a lower monthly fee. Both of these sites will give you a free first domain name when you purchase hosting.
Both Bluehost and Hostgator called my home to verify the account, so expect an unusual phone number on the call display.
They email you with your username, name servers (that you will need in a minute), the link to your Cpanel (you will need after that), and your account login information (Title something like Hostgator: Your account info), so keep that email safe. Print it or save it on to an external drive or card.
You will need that information anytime you buy a new domain on Go Daddy, and you want to redirect that domain to your Bluehost or Hostgator hosting. You can also cheat by looking at previous domains on Godaddy that you have directed there and copying that information. I use Lastpass for saving that login info and bookmarking the Cpanel onto my browser bookmark toolbar.
How to change your DNS Server
(so you can buy a domain on one site and have it hosted by another, saves you $)
Then you get the message “Your changes have been submitted. These changes usually take 2 hours. However, it may take up to 48 hours for these changes to take effect. These time frames are estimates and not guaranteed.”
Then head back to Hostgtator to install wordpress. Use the link in that magic email to take you to your Cpanel to login, or if you have previously bookmarked it do that.
What is Cpanel?
Cpanel is a lazy easy way to handle the “back end” or guts of your website. For the beginner, the most important things is it can allow you to set up emails for your new website, and allows you to add extra domains to the hosting account, and install WordPress or Joomla or whatever platform you like.
You can drag and drop to customize your cPanel, and there is a lot more than you can do with it than I will show you here, and as I said before the Amasuite videos show you a lot more that can be done there. The sections in your cPanel may well be in a different order to mine, but should pretty well be present somewhere on that main page. It is a year since I’ve watched those videos, and I’ve probably forgotten most of it. So what I will show you now, will be enough to get your website up and started, and then you can go from there.
First login using the info in that email from Hostgator.
What if you want to install another website on the same hosting?
Ignore these first two two images if you are just starting one (your very first) domain, just of this if you want to add another one later.
How to Install WordPress to your domain
Installing WordPress is very simple, when you log into your host gator cPanel, there is something called Fantastico that looks like a Blue , that allows you to install whatever platform you like.
Check out the step by step screen shot pictures here.
How to set up WordPress, Themes and Plugins
Follow that link above to get to your WordPress Admin area. I have honestly learned how to use it by trial and error and there are many videos and forums on how to set it up. I may add more images later as this post is getting long and I want to get the basics up for people to use right away.
There are 3 annoying presets I always change,
1. In Settings>Reading, change the feed to summary only
2. In Settings>Discussion, I uncheck everything so I do not get an email every time the site is spammed, and it stops the spam comments showing
3. VERY important: Settings>permalinks for better SEO, need to be changed to post title is the url
You will need a Theme. That is like a background layout and skeleton for your site so you can arrange your posts and pages. They vary a lot in layout and organization. Make sure you buy them from a reputable place like theme-junkie, or if you get a free one, get it from a reputable place too, as there is the danger of embedded malware in free software you do not know.
I have bought the easy Azon theme from Chris Guthrie and it is OK for individual product reviews and has a little featured section for 5 products above the fold, I also use Freshlife from theme Junkie in the same way. For multiple product 3-5 item articles, I find the theme junkie ones are best, both free and paid. It depends on your products and how big you want the site.
Check these out, look at the example pages and think about how you want to organize categories and see which one will work the best. There are some good freebie themes. Go for something simple, clean with a white background and have a rough idea of how many posts you want and how related they will be to each other, as that will dictate your menus.
Generally you download the theme files onto your computer, then re-upload when in the Install theme part of the WordPress. You can upload a number of themes and activate or deactivate different ones, but it is better to do this before you get a ton of content as it can upset some of your customized areas, and you may lose changes you have made. There are 2 free default WordPress themes anyway, already there. Here is where you access the theme in wordpress on your site
You will want one or more plugins. These are like miniature programs that can run on your website. Some of them may collect data or stats, others may back up your website once a day or week or month, others may allow people to contact you through your email. The more plug-ins you have running on your site, the slower it will load, so choose carefully. Again, there are many blog posts detailing the top 5 or 10 ones you should always have, and honestly they will vary depending on what you want from your site, and what you want it to achieve.
I have evolved to nearly always having
Contact Form 7 (so people can email you, there is a code you paste into one of your pages to have a form show and accept input)
Limit Login Attempts and WordPress Firewall 2 (for security)
WordPress Database Backup (but you have to type in wp-db-backup up at the top when searching for plugins to use or the wrong one comes up-set weekly to email to me)
Special Recent Posts FREE Edition if the theme doesn’t really have something like that in it.
Here are where you search or input these theme names and look for others
You will need an affiliate disclosure and privacy page. It is smart to double check the terms of service of your affiliate accounts and see if there is specific wording needed. There are also privacy page creators online where you can enter in your domain name and check off the affiliate programs. Just Google, there are many and you may like some more than others.
A contact page gives credibility too, I use this code in conjuction with the Contact form 7, just paste it into the page[ contact-form-7 id=”6″ title=”Contact form 1″ ] without the space inside the brackets
An about me page is great to have and quite popular with readers. Just be yourself, you have nothing to lose!
Ready to get started?
As I said, I am not an expert, this is what has been working for me now and this is how I did it. I hope it has helped, and is really meant as a resource for newbie webmasters that have done some writing and keyword research for Web 2.0 sites especially Squidoo. Ask any Questions, I’ll answer what I can, and some of the readers may have much better answers than me!
If anyone has some awesome sites/videos to recommend to show people how to do this. Let me know. I was very impressed with Amasuites members area resources and that has everything broken down incredibly carefully and I recommend watching them.