Recently I’ve been asked a lot of questions about building your own website. Farmers have been asking me if they can do it.
The answer is, of course, you can.
Is it hard? Nope, not compared to back in the day (mid 90’s) when you had to handcode everything. Websites are much easier to build and there’s several companies that would love to do it for you like Wix or Square Space.
But if you want to DIY it. Here’s how I would go about it.
1. Get your content together first!
- Get photos
- Write the text
- Make some videos
Honestly you would not believe how many people want to jump right into the website build without any content prepared. How do you know what you want to say?
When it comes to a print brochure, you never start the design without having the content. The content is crucial to the design. Websites are no different. Start with the content first!
What content is normal? I would see these as navigational items on a dairy farm website followed by what question it answers for the customer.
- Milk Production – How is milk made?
- Animal Care – How do cows live?
- Our Community – What is it like where you live?
- About Our Farm – What else is on your farm? How does it run?
- Contact Us – How do I ask another question?
- Journal/blog – How can I see what it is really like to live on a farm 24/7?
2. Think about what you want people to do or know about your farm.
This is your CALL TO ACTION. Make this the most important call out on the website. Think about these questions when you are putting it together.
- Do you want people to reach out to you if they have questions?
- Do you want people to visit the farm? Maybe take a tour?
- Do you want people to sign up for an email list – you can give them updates on the farm, share recipes, tell them when BLANK is going on…
3. Should you setup with wordpress.com vs. wordpress.org? Well, that depends.
First you need to ask yourself “why” you want to self host. Here’s a general list of pros and cons.
– you have almost full control
– you can add content pretty easily
– lots of people use wordpress so there’s a ton of help online
– lots of design templates to choose from
– can be complicated to set up
– there are monthly costs (domain and hosting)
– can be limiting down the road if you need more features
– there are always updates that you need to be installing
Why I initially went with wordpress.com?
- No cost
- No worries on set up
- Search engines love WP.com
Why I switched:
- I wanted more control over the plugins I could use.
- The costs are very small.
- I wanted to capture email addresses and have more control over the design.
Personally, if you are new to blogging or websites, I recommend wordpress.com. It’s a lot easier to set up and get going.
If you are looking for something even easier than wordpress – I recommend blogger or tumblr.
But if you really want to use wordpress.org and control your own website then I recommend using WP Beginner or WP Learner. Read through the beginning steps before starting.
If you select, wordpress.org you can buy your domain through them or buy it through another company like 1and1.com. These are not affiliate links – I just happen to use them.
You’ll also need hosting. You can buy that through several companies. The guides will explain all of this. There are many companies out there and I’ve used GoDaddy, Hostgator and Rackspace to name a few.
4. Selecting a good design template
Both wordpress.com and .org have great templates. There are several things that I’m looking for in a template.
- Mobile friendly/optimized. More people are reading with their portable devices and you don’t want to be a pain for them.
- Clean design focused on large photos/graphics. Don’t get something to clutter – the user’s eye won’t focus on the content you want them to.
- The ability to add right or left side widgets but not both. I like sharing widgets how to connect with me and capture email as well as show them what posts are popular.
5. Make time to write once a month or more.
Putting time on the calendar is the most important thing. Block the time it takes and spend the time it takes. Don’t underestimate the time because then you’ll blow it off. You are going to need a few hours for your first posts. After that it gets easier.
What topics should you write about? Well, that depends.
Everyone is going to tell you to write about your passion which I assume is your farm. I write about marketing and how to do it better. That keeps me going.
But if you want to attract an audience, which I’m pretty sure you want to do then you should be writing about what your customers want to know about farming.
Most farmers I know are awesome storytellers and you should incorporate that into your writing. If the topic is animal care, then don’t just bullet point the checklist you follow for cow health.
Write a story about how you accomplished the checklist or what went wrong and how you fixed it. Nobody wants talking points – they want to laugh, cry or think about what happened on the farm. And some days a picture can be all that is necessary to convey this.
What topics would I focus on?
Animal Care, dairy farming activities, struggles and successes, how the community plays a role in the farm, how you play a role in the community, what you feed your family, what you do for fun with the family, how you are improving your farm, your opinion on just about anything, what hobbies you have…remember most people are pretty far removed from the farm and they are intrigued with the lifestyle.
6. Set up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.
After you get the website up and running, it’s time to add some tools that will make your life easier.
Add Google Analytics – this will let you know what people are doing on the website. Where they are going, what they like, what they are sharing, where they are coming from.
Add Google Webmaster Tools – this will tell you how the website is performing in Google’s search engine eyes. Can they search it effectively? What keywords are people searching on and finding your website? What pages are broken? All sorts of great stuff and it’s free.
7. Getting exposure.
The final step is probably the toughest when it comes to having a website. How are people going to find it? While I have a few steps you can do, I’m definitely going to be writing a larger post about getting your website out there but in the meantime here’s a few tips.
- Share your posts on social media as much as you can. I hate to bust your bubble but most people don’t see everything you post – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. So I would be oversharing as opposed to undersharing. And by social media, there is more than just Facebook out there. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, etc… If you are serious about blogging, then you need to be serious about using social media for the exposure and interaction.
- Share with the search engines. You can use pingomatic.com to post and it will ping the search engines to come check out your content. BTW, Google normally visits a site once a month until you get popular then they could visit a few times a day.
- Share via email. When you are first starting out, it’s ok to spam the family until they get tired. Make sure to ask them to share as well. You never know who they are all connected with.
OK, well that’s basically it for the beginner level. If you have questions along the way, feel free to hit me up and I’ll try and answer them. You can leave a comment below or just email me using the links on the right hand side.
Good luck. Can’t wait to see your site!