Old newbie needs help please

15 replies
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Hello warriors, I am brand new here - but I've been reading the forum for a while and get tremendous tips from members answering other posts. Now I have some questions.
I have a website that I bought on E-bay back in March, it came with hosting and a Cpanel, but the only content was a crappy Amazon aStore and some Google adsense.
I have been working very hard on it since, with only very limited knowledge of HTML. I have no money at this time to pay a professional for web design or SEO or anything else, really.
So trying to build the site myself, the hard way, I added some pages with aStores, some more for content, a bunch of affiliate links, etc. I get 5 to 10 visitors a day, (without Google indexing my site, they say I violate their site policy and landing page quality guidelines) a click here and there, but nary a sale to date.
I notice from my statcounter stats that a good number of my visitors spend 0 seconds on my site. I think this is because my site looks crappy and unprofessional. I've built all of the pages using Wordpress, but in the Cpanel there are other options, QuickInstall has Joomla and other software for web design and content management,etc. but I have no idea what to do with those programs.
Can you guys critique my site and give me some ideas on how to improve it and with what software? Please be honest, I swear I won't be offended! LOL! I hate the way my site looks, but don't know what to do to fix it.
Any help would be GREATLY appreciated! Just add dot com to my username to go to the site, and don't be shocked, it was built by me alone from a crappy 40 dollar cookie-cutter site, so don't expect too much! Thanks!
#affiliate site #newbie #webdesign
  • Profile picture of the author StandUpAndSpeak
    You didn't post a link, so I haven't any ability to give you a thorough critique. However, I can suggest that you use that CPanel to install WordPress, head on over to Themeforest.net, and spend $30 or $40 on a good-looking and customizable theme, and start developing the sort of content that will keep people coming back.

    The reason I suggest WordPress is because it's fast, and super-easy for a newbie to get a handle on. The reason that I suggest Themeforest is that they have an extraordinary range of good-looking, highly customizable themes for very little money.

    As for content, I don't know what the name of your game is, but I'm sure you can come up with enough to get you started, at least. And it'll look better than an aStore page in the end anyway.

    If you have any questions, feel free to send me a PM. I'd be happy to answer them as best I can.

    You have to let your voice be heard. I can help you overcome your fears, and learn how to captivate an audience. You just need to Stand Up and Speak

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    • Profile picture of the author bigfishingshop
      Also must have 50 or more posts to send a PM - found that out after I sat here for 15 minutes writing you one. Durn!
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      • Profile picture of the author StandUpAndSpeak
        Sorry about that. I must've missed that sentence when I read over your post the first time.

        So, now that I've looked at the site, I'm not certain that a WordPress install and cheap template is necessarily the best answer for you (though it certainly couldn't hurt...)

        You should start looking into putting together the capital to hire a designer. You really need a logo, and some consistent branding work. You need a professional eye to make sure that things like white text on a white background don't happen in your primary navigation, that you don't have tons of information being dumped right up front, that you don't have unused bits in the sidebar, and that your information is organized in a logical and easy-to-navigate way. A good WP theme will give you a little bit of control over some of that.

        What's your goal with your site? Are you selling gear? Are you selling information about fishing? Are you selling fishing vacation packages? What is it you want people to come to your site for? I mean, I can buy the gear on Amazon. What value are you offering me? Why should I come to you, and why should I keep coming back to you?

        When you get a clear picture of what you want your site to accomplish, it'll be easier to see what needs to be done to achieve that goal. And you need to be *really* specific about it. "I want to make money on the internet" is not a specific goal. Think in terms of what you want to deliver to your customers. What value do you want to add? How are you going to do that?

        Web design is more than just making things look pretty. Web design is the practice of laying out information on the web in a way that helps achieve those goals. If you're clear about your goals, the design follows from that.

        Hope that's helpful.

        You have to let your voice be heard. I can help you overcome your fears, and learn how to captivate an audience. You just need to Stand Up and Speak

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        • Profile picture of the author bigfishingshop

          Thank you very much for your reply and advice. My pages show up fine on my monitor, using IE 8 and Firefox, but I did notice today that on my work laptop, all is not well. I am looking for a decent template or even a wordpress theme that will take care of that problem.
          You asked what is the goal of my site, well, to put it all in a nutshell, I wanted to build a kind of "one-stop-shop for all different kinds of fishermen. I wanted a site where any fisherman could find everything he or she might need, such as rods, reels, lures, line, tackle, tips on catching different kinds of fish, resources such as books and magazines for learning how to become better anglers, (and catch more fish), instructional videos,
          etc. Fishing guides and charters , as well as fishing vacation home rentals to provide them places to stay and fish, and guides to help them catch more fish, if they so desire.
          If you do a search on any search engine for the keyword "fishing", all of the top results are sites such as Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops, etc. Look at those sites and they have all of the above plus alot more - they provide everything for the fisherman. I certainly realize I'll never compete with those giants, but what's wrong with offering many resources instead of just one or two?
          You mentioned that you could just go to Amazon and buy fishing stuff, what value do I offer? Well, go to Amazon and search "fishing rods" and you get hundreds of Spongebob and Barbie kid's fishing rods, with good ones mixed in, and you have to browse through many pages to find those. I have picked every single item on my pages individually, using my knowledge of what's good and what's crap. I state that on my pages, "you will find no junk here, only quality equipment from professional manufacturers", and "serious fishing gear for the serious fisherman".
          I know I might get better results if I narrow my niche more, concentrate on one type of fishing, or even one type of gear, such as "rods" or "bass fishing lures", but there are millions of websites that already do that, too.
          My ultimate plan is to split off the different categories into their own websites, but for now I'm stuck with just this one.
          Maybe I'm trying to be too big too fast, and am over-doing it, So for now I'm only trying to improve what's already there. I submitted my site to Google for re-consideration, but I seriously doubt that they will change their mind, they will consider my site an "affiliate site", and a "bridge page"
          unless I get rid of practilly all of my affiliate links, and that would leave me with an information only site...not what I'm after.
          If I improve the looks of my pages, and make it more professional looking, maybe I'll end up with a conversion or two.
          Having said all of that, I am seeking advice on how to turn my "chicken sh#t" into "chicken salad".
          Can anyone help??? :confused:
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  • Profile picture of the author burnbebe
    Hmn... Can we take a look at your site? Can you post a link?
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    • Profile picture of the author bigfishingshop
      The last sentence of my post reads:
      "Just add dot com to my username to go to the site, and don't be shocked, it was built by me alone from a crappy 40 dollar cookie-cutter site, so don't expect too much! Thanks!"
      I did it that way because the rules say I can't post a link yet.
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  • Profile picture of the author bigfishingshop
    I tried posting a link to my site and it said my post count must be 15 or greater to be able to post links...but like I said, just add dot com to my username - that's the URL of my site.
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  • Profile picture of the author Marco Lee
    shorten the width... people don't like horizontal scrolling... most still have small monitors
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    • Profile picture of the author bigfishingshop
      @ Marco - thanks for the reply. I've tried to narrow the pages - in my editor it only gives me one option for that, which is "Use the 1100px theme look instead of the default 800px one" . When I do that, it makes a complete mess of my pages - everything gets mis-aligned and jumbled up really bad. Is there another way to narrow my pages?

      update: actually, that box IS checked, so I'm at 1100px now, when I use the 800px, my entire header disappears, and the page alignment seems to overlap itself.
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      • Profile picture of the author bigfishingshop
        How about: "force the browser to re-render the content column" ? Would that do it?

        Update: Never mind, I researched "browser re-rendering", and it would seem to be irrelevant to page width.
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      • Profile picture of the author patey88
        Originally Posted by bigfishingshop View Post

        @ Marco - thanks for the reply. I've tried to narrow the pages - in my editor it only gives me one option for that, which is "Use the 1100px theme look instead of the default 800px one" . When I do that, it makes a complete mess of my pages - everything gets mis-aligned and jumbled up really bad. Is there another way to narrow my pages?
        You'll have plenty of visitors who are still using 1024x768 screen resolution, and for them you want content to only be about 960 wide, to allow for the vertical scrollbar on the right side of the page.

        If your theme only gives you options of 1100 or 800, then you'll need to go with 1100 but you can design the content part of your pages so that whatever is to the right of 960 is optional viewing. Ads, for example, or images. Don't make readers have to scroll horizontally to read your primary text.

        Your site has design issues, but you have clearly put a lot of work into it. I can understand that you've reached a point where it's overwhelming and you don't know what to do next.

        If it were mine, I would walk through it with a critical eye and start making a list of things that need improvement. Find similar sites for other niches, and pattern components of your site after what they're doing.

        For example, your top navigation is problematic. The links aren't aligned well, they're hard to see, it's not obvious they're links, they're 3 lines high on my screen (which might be because of my 1024 width). So, go browsing to find example sites that have top navigation with lots of horizontal items. See how they do it. A two-line menu bar, maybe? Smaller font?

        Your side nav, ditto. You have lots of ads of various widths, and it looks messy. Go find sites where the same is true, and see how they solved the problem. Maybe you just need to specify a width for those images, and force them to be the width you want.

        Your social bookmarking toolbar is in a strange location on some pages. There's text above and text below. Maybe it is logically positioned code-wise, but to a reader it looks funny. A reader doesn't know that it's at the bottom of the top division of your freshwater fishing page, for example. So maybe move it to the top, near the title. Or add something visual to make it clear that the text above the store is the start of a new section on the page -- a horizontal border, maybe.

        These are examples of things I would change. If things like this are not already on your mental list of what needs work, then you need to work with a designer, or a friend with a good eye. I'm sorry I can't make a full list for you, but the scope of change needed is just too big -- on the order of 50 or more things that could be improved to make it look finished.

        I think it's worth pursuing, though. You have so much there. I think it can be a great site. (I don't fish, but takemefishing.com is one of the sites I keep in my example site bookmarks.)

        At some point you'll want to improve your text content. Right now it's Vanna White-ish, in that it points out what's on the page like a tour guide, instead of delivering interesting information/stories about fishing. Your text content has the most SEO value; your store and ads, not so much. So you'll need text that is more robust, in order to be relevant for longer search queries.

        Regards, -- Patey
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        • Profile picture of the author bigfishingshop
          @ Patey, thanks so much for your reply and great tips on improving my site. Good advice from nice people like you is exactly why I joined this great forum. I will indeed take those steps you mentioned, I already removed some links from my top nav bar to un-clutter it - it looks better to me now. Well, back to work...lol. Have a great day!
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  • Profile picture of the author manwalksintoabar

    I would be happy to resize your header graphic if you like. It appears quite large. A smaller graphic might leave room for the menus to go beneath the graphic in black

    The graphic is 1087 pixels wide. If you use 800, the pic is still 1087 and will break your page.

    Landing pages/graphic design [1] [2] [3] [4]

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    • Profile picture of the author bigfishingshop
      @ manwalksintoabar - Thanks for the offer, but my webhost finally agreed to install a new Wordpress theme for me...but I have some more questions for them. Such as, will the new theme be reflected on ALL of my pages?, will I still have the same Cpanel?, will I still have Mandigo as my editor?, and how much of my current content will be placed on the "new" pages?
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  • Profile picture of the author pierro
    I think your site looks good, but adding some great content may make the biggest difference. Your visitors would obviously be interested in fishing stuff. Start there and give great interesting content, that the fisherman would love. Remove the links at the start and offer something of value for that channel. Fishermen are serious people, I know as my brother is a fishing nut!
    Check the fishing forums to get some ideas - I think start with the content and test and tweak.
    Hope this has been helpful for you.
    Cheers, Pierro
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