Learn Marketing By Hiring Yourself

by Dan Walsh

Build and market a website for $32 in 15 minutes.

I posted yesterday about how to get $120,000 worth of digital marketing experience (for free) by helping non-profits with their AdWords campaigns. Today I want to discuss another method for gaining low cost marketing experience. This method requires more initial steps and doesn’t have the direct benefit of hands on AdWords experience, per se, but it addresses marketing knowledge that might be missing from the non-profit method.

In many ways, marketing is the art of connecting people and products. Your product informs the market you want to reach, and the various aspects of your market in turn help develop your product. The information flows both ways. True marketing power is attained when this back and forth exchange is fluid.

The non-profit method I described yesterday creates focused practice around reaching an appropriate audience. The product is fixed. You won’t be changing the non-profit’s website or helping to steer their mission, so you can spend all your time learning about campaign creation. This second method starts with an un-fixed product, which allows for the back and forth exchange between your market and what you’re actually marketing.

Build and Market Your Own Site for $32 – No Experience Necessary.

This sounds like an advertising gimmick, but you can build your own professional-looking site for less than $32. You don’t need any experience, and you can build it in as little as 15 minutes. No joke. You can make it about anything you want. Once it’s up, you can experiment with free traffic sources and learn the marketing ropes on a shoestring.

This is how you setup a site for $32 and become a marketer:

  1. Think of a topic. Seriously, any topic you want to create a website about. Ideally this topic is something you already do. If you play videogames, that’s your topic. If you love Trader Joe’s then that’s your topic. Do you like cute animals or television? That works too! Just pick SOMETHING that won’t immediately create a brick wall of effort in your mind. The topic can be anything as long as you’re already doing it.
  2. Choose a name and buy a domain. This isn’t tough and a lot of people freeze up here. “Oh what on earth will I call it?!? Cats.com is taken already? Woe is me!” Awesome domain names don’t really matter anymore. As long as the name has something to do with the topic, then you’re set. CutieCats.com is taken, but KutieKats.com is available. Bingo! I do my domain searching on Name.com, but prefer to buy on MediaTemple.net because they make step 3 and 4 really easy. So once you find a domain, signup at MediaTemple and buy it for $11.99 (or whatever the current price is).
  3. Purchase hosting. MediaTemple has great hosting plans. You don’t need anything fancy. Go for the $20/month Grid Hosting plan. Yes, they will charge you monthly, and YES it’s worth it. This plan will probably provide you with more space than you need, but you can also use it for any other website you want to host.
  4. Install WordPress on your new site. MediaTemple has a great WordPress installation tool. It takes about 3 minutes. Here is the full tutorial.
  5. Install a free theme. WordPress has a large community who create themes for the platform. Many of them are free, and they will immediately make your new site look like you spent $10,000 on a graphic designer. You can browse for free themes on WordPress or use Google to find something you like. Most of themes include options to customize colors and layout.
  6. Setup Google Analytics.If you have a gmail login then you’re halfway there. Go to http://www.google.com/analytics/ to get started.
  7. Install Google Analytics. Some WordPress themes come with a place to paste your Google Analytics code. If so, drop your code there. If not, then use the Simple Google Analytics WordPress plugin to make it easy.
  8. Create a post. Write 500 words about your topic. Post a picture with a caption. Whatever. Your content doesn’t need to earn a Pulitzer, you just need something that you can send traffic to. This content should be easy to create because the topic you chose in step one is something you already do, right?
  9. Drive free traffic. You can buy AdWords traffic if you want, but there are other free ways to get pageviews. One of my favorite methods is Reddit. Reddit has a vibrant community of users who want nothing more than to discover new things. Plus, Reddit users self-identify their interests by subscribing to “subreddits”. You can post your new site to an appropriate subreddit and get a pageview traffic spike on your first day. In my case, I would post CutieCats.com to reddit.com/r/cats. There are 172,000 subscribers to the cats subreddit. ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY TWO THOUSAND potential visitors! FOR FREE! You can also post to Facebook or Twitter to drive social traffic. Almost every topic on the planet has dedicated forums and / or a wikia page. Find these, become a member of the community by commenting on other posts, etc. Don’t forget to post your site every now and then, preferably only when you have new content. No one likes spammers.
  10. Become a marketer. This is where it all happens. After you drive traffic to your site, checkout your Google Analytics numbers. You should have enough data that you can start building assumptions about how your website performs. Use these theories to adjust the content you provide on your site. If you get a bunch of users from Reddit, but they don’t stay on your site very long, then you need to make  your content better – or longer, or both! Adjust your strategy, repost, measure results, and adjust again! This is marketing.

The volume from this plan might be lower than if you spent money on advertising, and the tools are different, but it will teach you how to think like a marketer. You will identify an audience, measure impact, determine key performance metrics, adjust your product to better suit your market, and everything in between. AdWords and the Facebook ad platform are just tools. They can be taught.

If someone walked into my office and showed me how they drove free traffic to a site they built, and then optimized on top of the data they collected… I’d hire them on the spot.