Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Get Yourself a Website, and Avoid the Scams

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If you are fairly new to web technologies, this little info package is designed to get you started. I won't build your website for you, but this will help you understand where to go to get one, and what you should ask yourself before you start - also, what not to do.

These days we get a lot of questions on how to get a website (usually they are after "free" websites), or how to make your own website. The fact is, if you don't know anything about web design and don't understand anything about coding, then the easiest way to get started is with a web host that also provides web building tools.

Where you start is going to be entirely dependent on what you want in a website. If you just want to share your experiences with the world, then blogging is the perfect platform for you. Most free blogs are "ready to go" services. You select a template design (the look and colours of your blog), add "widgets or gadgets" (things that let you add stuff to your blog) and start typing.

If you don't intend to add any advertising sponsors to your site, then you can use Wordpress or Windows Live, LiveJournal, or one of many other blog platforms (just search for "free blogs"). If you think you might want to add some paid advertising in the future, opt for Blogger.com

If you are out to build a "website" as opposed to a blog, then you need to look for a webhost that offers free websites. Here's a list of free website offers that appear to be reasonably popular to the "free website crowd" to have a look at:

For those looking to setup photography sites, or photographic galleries there are offerings like SmugMug and Redbubble, among a bunch of others that offer similar things. Not all of them allow advertising either.

Of all the above sites, I maintain an account at Redbubble, and have an account at google sites, though that is yet undeveloped. Not having used any of the above, I can't give any real recommendations, I only know quite a few people recently have tried these sites.

Then there are places like Squidoo, Hub Pages and Google Knol. In essence they are one page "shorts" that you can build on just about any subject. Simple and easy to start.

And, if you really don't want a website or blog, there are all kinds of community/social sites that allow you to share things in little short snippets, like Facebook or MySpace (I don't care much for MySpace - there's way too many users who spam), or orkut (don't care much for this one either) and a host of others you can look up. Then there's the ever popular "twitter", though for the life of me I can't see why it's so popular. Everything on twitter runs about as slow as molasses, and became so frustrating I canceled an account within days of opening it.

Regardless of which option you choose, there are things you'll want to consider - whether or not you intend to use sponsored advertising, or if you want to sell your own advertising.

Many free hosts already do place their own advertising or banners on your free website, so you'll want check whether or not advertising by the website owner is allowed. Many forms of advertising require you to be able to access the code or html for the site, or require the use of widgets, gadgets or plugins, so giving consideration to your future plans when you select a free webhost is something you'll want to do before making your final decision.

Once you've decided, and signed up an account for your choice of spots, then you start filling it with interesting stuff.

Now, if you surf around the net a while you'll see a lot of places that carry the same content, things like news aggregators, and articles on a huge array of subjects, but...many of these same articles, very nearly word-for-word, can be found on hundreds of different websites. That's known as "copied content". Copied content isn't all that interesting to most people.

Let's face it, if I want to know about a Nikon camera, I'm going to start at Nikon and from there, I might look for some user reviews, but I would be more likely to read a camera review from someone whose used it, than someone who copied their review from another website.

What you need to write, is something of your own. A lot of you are probably asking "what do I know that's interesting?" Think about this for a moment. Is your life an exact duplicate of anyone else's? You might have similar stories, or been through some similar things, but you as an individual are unique. You probably won't see everything the same way anyone else does.

The easiest things to write are those things that have a personal impact on you - your thoughts and ideas on anything from politics to health, to raising a family or remaining childless. What ever it is, it should be something you can write about from your own experience. Imagine if Erma Bombeck had never sat down to write her tales of family life? I'm not saying every personal blog will be an instant best seller, but writing what you know is the best start you can give yourself.

Once you have experience with your website or blog, you can branch out. Research things that are of interest to you, and then write about them. Share things like family recipes, or "how-to-s" if you have hobbies or a home business.

Do anything, except copying "canned, pre-written" articles.

Right about now, there are thousands upon thousands of websites carrying "information" on finances, stocks, forex, news, and technology. And the majority of them carry the exact same articles, and the exact same information. People are getting tired of those. Very tired. They want something fresh, something new, something unique. Don't get caught by thought of easily filling up your space with these free articles. For the most part, nobody really wants to see them again and again.

And here is a very big "what not to do". Don't get caught in buying into these "make money on the web schemes". There are almost none that will win you any income, save a very few (and they do not advertise with big flashy web pages or ask for money up front) and most will cost you a great deal, both financially and emotionally.

Scams play on the need for money - who doesn't need money today? They practically guarantee big returns, instant cash and lots of it. They nearly always offer you a "free info package" all you have to pay for is shipping (anywhere from 99 cents to $1.79 or $2.29 etc.)

The catch is in the fine print - and yes, it really is there if you read it. This free information pack or free trial costs you a fee every month (usually $59.95 to $79.95 or so) if you don't cancel it within a certain number of days (usually 7 to 15) - the biggest trick of all is that the "free trial" often doesn't get to the purchaser within that specified cancellation time.

Even worse, most people don't bother to read the fine print, and may not discover til a month (or many months) later that they are paying these fees. By the time they try to find the website they got the free trial from, it may be gone entirely, making it very difficult to the find the trail to cancel the "program". What often happens is the consumer ends up having to file a dispute for the costs with their bank or credit card, then having to cancel bank accounts and credit cards and setting up new ones.

If you are interested in earning money online, regardless of where you find the original offer, don't ever sign up for
anything until you've done some research.

After all, would you buy a car without checking it out, or a pair of pants without making sure they fit? Buying into anything online is no different, but it's a lot easier to find out information online, all you need to do is run a websearch for the name of the program or website and check out the search results. When you see a lot of bad reviews or information, back away quickly.

It's time for consumer's to take responsibility for what they do. If we all learned to do that then these scam sites would go out of business pretty quickly. Consumer's online need to educate themselves.

For most, all it takes is to be scammed once. What surprises me are the ones who sign up for one scam - discover after paying for it all that's it's a scam, and then a couple of weeks later sign up for another.

If you don't learn after the first time, you deserve what you get the second time. Yeah, that's harsh, but folks, we are supposed LEARN from our mistakes.

Now...go have a look around the net for a place that feels like home, and build your website.

(originally posted by the writer, me, on my other blog)

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