First, some personal backstory: I started working here at Soholaunch after it was already an established company, but in my personal life I created two popular websites from scratch. I have taken a website from "just registered the domain name" all the way to "so much traffic that it's a little intimidating" — twice. Here are five lessons I learned along the way.
1. Vision is common; persistence is rare.
You can beat 90% of your would-be competitors just by staying in the game longer than them. It's a mistake to think that your biggest challenge is coming up with the best ideas possible. Lots of other people are having ideas right now that are similar to (or in some cases better than) your own. What will separate you from them is struggling to make those ideas tangible and public while those other people sit on the couch and congratulate themselves for having the thought.
Here's a scenario that's going to become familiar to you: It's six o'clock on Friday evening. You've just gotten home from work. You're tired and hungry and sick of working and there's a TV show on that you really want to see, but you promised yourself that you'd finish that page on your website this week, and you haven't done it. What do you do? Do you put off working on your website and relax?
If you do relax, nobody would fault you for it. You put in a full workweek at your day job. You're a contributing member of society. Most people would choose to relax. Be the one who doesn't.
2. Traffic can take months or years to build.
You've been mulling over this website idea for years, and you're finally doing it. You've registered a domain name, signed up for Soholaunch Ultra (shameless plug), created a couple pages, and set up the shopping cart. Two weeks later, there's still barely any traffic and no sales! What gives? Was this not a good idea?
It took me 2 years to build my first website up to a healthy level of traffic. When I created my second website project, it took me less than a year to get to the same level.
How did I build up the second website in half the time? I'll tell you how: The difference the second time around was that I understood from experience that if I kept working on it, the traffic would come. I spent less time getting discouraged and worrying about failure, and more time working optimistically and expecting success.
3. Your visitor statistics program (e.g., Google Analytics) is the best place to find free, effective ideas for increasing traffic.
In the movie What Women Want, Mel Gibson plays a (male) advertising executive trying to figure out how to market things to women. In one scene, Mel is trying so hard to understand his customer (women), that he draws a bath, lights some candles, paints his toenails, cranks up the sappy music, and tries to "get in touch" with the female brain.
When you're trying to figure out how to improve your website, it's tempting to enter into this "Mel Gibson painting his toenails in a bathtub" mode of thinking where you really strive to "get in touch" with your customer.
In reality, "going Mel" might be how you get your big epiphanies, but 80% of your most effective ideas will come from looking at Google Analytics and half-heartedly thinking something like "Huh. My visitors seem to buy more red handbags than other-colored handbags. Maybe I should offer more red things."
4. If you keep working at it, you can build exactly what you pictured.
Stay excited about your vision. Believe in it to the point of delusion if that's what it takes to keep working on it. You're going to experience failure, you're going to have a slow build up process, you're going to waste a lot of time doubting your idea, but if you keep working on it, ultimately you may end up with something that looks very much like that first picture that popped into your brain.
The funny thing is that you forget about your original vision sometimes, and then suddenly remember it when you achieve it.
In the beginning you think "I should start a blog about the Turkish Angora breed of cat. And maybe I could start an owners group too! And I could offer reviews of local breeders! And maybe it could be like this huge resource for all things Turkish Angora!"
One year into the project, you're so narrowly focused on the first step (e.g., writing blog articles) and bringing a few visitors onto your site that you've all but forgotten about the grander parts of the idea (owners group, reviews of local breeders, and being the end-all resource for all things Turkish Angora).
Two years later, you've built the most popular blog on the Turkish Angora cat breed, you've created an owners' community, and people are asking you for the ability to review local breeders. But you've taken so many twists and turns to get to where you are that you forget that it's exactly where you planned to be in the first place. Then one day you remember. You make the connection between your younger self first thinking up the idea, and your current self staring at it realized. That is a wonderful, wonderful feeling.
5. Creating a great website is almost as rewarding as being in love.
I don't have kids and I've never been married, so maybe I'm being naive on this point, but in the whole of my life (29 years and counting) I have experienced two great joys: Being in love, and creating a website that means something to people.
It may sound extreme to equate building a website to being in love. But I'll tell you why creating a good website is so rewarding: Because after a certain point, the rewards of a website are automatic.
Let's say your website makes ten sales a day, or gets ten positive reviews a day, or elicits ten "thank you" emails a day (as in, people email you to thank you for the work you've done). Whatever the metric for success is on your particular website, let's say you're getting ten of those successes a day. Here's the good news: That doesn't go away. Growing traffic is hard, but keeping the traffic you have is much easier.
You can spend the whole week working diligently at your desk, or you can spend it being blackout drunk in Las Vegas; wherever you are, whatever you're doing, whether you're paying attention to it or not, ten new people are finding and appreciating your website for the first time.
It's hard to stay in a bad mood when your inbox fills up with ten little successes every day, no matter what you're doing. And that feeling only gets better when the number becomes a thousand little successes per day.