Learning to write (again) Year 2002
Around 2002 I was in charge of 4 websites at the company. Still had my own photography website and just launched another website. That meant: 4 in the company, 2 on my own. Soon I would end up caught in the false premise of needing a full redesign every year. I was still reading every day how to create more effective content, yet the editors at the company were not interested. I could read the magazines and I would get some experience out of the articles, but when I read them on the web I took like 1/4 the time for reading and the articles gave me the impression of being empty. I believe we all changed as readers with the presence of websites.
Makes sense and it makes no sense. Back in the day standards and technology were different. You would build a fast website with specific picture size, and two years later people would have better screen resolution meaning more space, and also faster web surfing experiences, this mean your redesign wasn't needed only on looks, it was a full UX thing, a full experience.
Let's write something: the big difference
My main website was mostly about pictures and little content (but still ranking great with now 500 daily visitors, constant emails and selling stuff), my second website had stories. Still around 2002 I decided to erase everything on my second website and start from scratch, many things were different.
- Title, intro, story, pictures
- Yes intro, a different set of text for the article
- Articles and pictures included credits when needed
- A different picture for the intro
- Pictures had watermarks on them
Just using a different text for intro (and intro picture) gave the full sense of having resources, content. And all the content was generated by me, both pictures and text. This is something no everyone can afford but solved a lot of future issues. The challenge. In some ways my second website was competing with one of the company websites (accidentally). I was the webmaster on both sides. The difference: I had to work on their standards there, but on my websites I was free to do whatever I wanted to. We would have discussions at the large company on how to do everything, and they would have the last word there, but I would apply what I believed was right on my websites.
The large company VS... me
We were not competing, I was the same webmaster on both sides and there was no conflict of interests, yet I was able to put into competition what they said was right and what I said was right. I can say in full happiness... too bad they didn't listen to me. The main difference was the writing style. This proved effective after the first year, suddenly I noticed my second website (similar in nature to one inside the company) growing in traffic.
Slow growth but solid. Around 2005 website A (inside the company) had between 1,500 to 2,500 visitors daily, while mine would have 800 average. BUT my website would have more repetitive visits, less bounce rate and more emails per day, I was engaging with the readers.
And so I created more websites
My hobbies made it possible, I could create a different website for a different hobby. I wasn't just growing as a webmaster but also as a human being because I was forced to research more and more about my hobbies in more depth than before. Soon I started getting invitations from companies or business to visit their place and talk. Yes, talk. The amount of people wanting me to include them on publications wasn't big, it was mostly about people who shared same interests and wanted to meet me for conversation. I gained access to interesting places and posting a story was a secondary event.
Selling my pictures online wasn't that easy anymore, there were lots of paid resources and free pictures online but I was still making a bit of money. To me, honestly money is not that important, but it is somehow an indicator of how good are you doing your work online.
I would NEVER copy content, instead I fully worked on creating it my own even if that meant reading lots of material and using my brain in expensive ways. My websites allowed me to become a better writer, a better photographer, a coder and a better webmaster. Soon I would have invitations and a portfolio to sell my work, specially creating websites for clients.
Adsense was launched on June 2003 and soon after I joined out of curiosity. Surprisingly I was making money out of it, can't post the specifics, it wasn't that much as big players, but it wasn't low. I could pay for my hobbies and invest on better equipment. Remember, the money came from my hobbies so I felt I was getting paid by playing with the things I enjoyed the most. The money I got from Adsense over the years was enough to buy a small house outside the city (to give some indicator) and the combination of Adsense and work related to the web was good enough to contribute to my full life expenses. I always refused to leave my main job.
- The big company had resources, my websites didn't have full budget for production
- They had lots of traffic / authority site providing traffic, I only had my websites
- They had a team of writers, I was on my own
- They told me what to do and I did it, but on my sites I did what I think was right
- They used their professionals for writing, I had me and my learning
Over the following years I would witness the company sites grow to reach ranges between 5K to 7K daily unique, while my sites reached the range of 1,500 to 2,300. Quite a difference right? but the company sites NEVER had the readers, repeated visitors and constant mails I had. My sites proved more effective. Things didn't look good in the web realm: too many competitors, scrapers stealing content, media companies and specifically newspapers facing financial issues, etc. So the company added Adsense to the websites, the income was lower than mine.
Promoted to editor
While still being the webmaster I was promoted to editor around 2008 specifically to manage and create the content one of the company websites. Since then I gained editorial control over that website, but not full control. I would still suggest changes they would refuse, and I would continue watching my sites get better while the big company along with the "experts" failed. Large companies are slower in terms of adapting to changes, decisions depend on a chain of command while a one man band or a small team can move faster. Besides there are things a company might not want to try but you are free to do so.
Different languages fail
This was also addressed here on WebmasterWorld regarding native vs translations. The company decided to translate the main website (the one I was in charge of) to English, Italian and French. The results were terrible, most of the traffic were bots and not people. Diff people brought different translations, lesson learned: if you want a translation be sure you have someone on your team knowing the language, why? the company paid people who brought edited translations by free online services, what a rip off.
I tried on my own creating content in English and failed too :) I can produce great content in Spanish and sure I need time for that. English content required more time, and I would never produce the same result as a native English speaker. After failing I hired a Canadian lady who was really good at translating because she was asked to read several times and rewrite the article. It wasn't a translation, it was a full generation of new content, it worked better, way better. I learned my lesson and never again tried to generate a mirror site in another language, instead I would generate specific pages or specific websites only, never again dual language websites. That was my choice.