Follow Along as I Build a Mini Site

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This afternoon beginning at 12:00pm noon EDT, I am going to do a small experiment, simultaneously blogging here and Tweeting as I build a website on my domain name, AthensVacations.com. Yes, I listed AthensVacations.com for sale a couple of days ago and it hasn’t sold yet, but I am going to build a mini site because it can only enhance the value of the site. I am still willing to sell the domain name and website for now, but will take it off the market when it starts making good Adsense revenue 🙂

Just a few things to point out first. 1) I don’t know how long it will take because all of them take different amounts of time. 2) I am using a website template my designer created, which can be purchased by anyone on ThemeForest.net (called Bluelight). 3) The logo graphic was created ahead of time by my designer. 4) When it’s done, it will look similar to TobagoVacations.com – same structure. 5) If you have suggestions for the design, post them here or Tweet them @elliotsblog. 6) I will continue to update this with short updates that can be copied in to Twitter.

If you’re interested in following along with the progress – or if you just want to see how long it takes to build, you can check back here. I will time stamp it as I go…   See you in around 30 minutes!

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12:00pm – Creating an account in my LiquidWeb hosting panel so I can share changes as I update the website. I won’t change the domain’s DNS until I have the first page done.

12:03pm – Setting up the template by adding logo and removing previous art.

12:08pm – Changing some of the text on the home page as well as the meta description and title (for search engines)

12:20pm – Trying to come up with two great descriptive sentences about Athens for the home page. Feel free to assist! On TobagoVacations.com, I have “Imagine yourself sitting on a beautiful sandy beach, with the sun shining down on your face and a gentle breeze blowing through your hair. Enjoy a relaxing vacation in the tropical Caribbean island of Tobago. Your body and soul deserve it.”

12:28pm – Setting up the domain name in Google Analytics, which I will add to the template. It’s important that this code is added to each page or Google will record it as another website. Find/change works well.

12:35pm – Getting Adsense code for the site. I have many different size banners/boxes I need to get. I ordinarily wouldn’t put Adsense up right away on a fully developed website, but I am willing to do it on this mini site to monetize it. Down the road I may establish an affiliate relationship with IAN for hotels/travel.

12:46pm – Now a really fun part – searching iStockphoto.com for great photos of Athens. I am looking for 4 great shots of Athens and its attractions. I want people who visit and have different preferences to relate to at least one photo. When I change the DNS and post the first page, you can let me know if I can do better.

1:15pm – Found a few nice images of Athens. Once I resize and add to the home page, I will change the DNS and get set to upload the first page.

1:30pm – Uploaded the home page and css page (which has the code the site reads to know how things should look). About to change the DNS soon so the page resolves to the new site. Please don’t click the ads 🙂

1:40pm – Time for a little break. The DNS has turned over, and AthensVacations.com is now live. In the meantime, please let me know what you think of the home page (small paragraphs, photos, and Adsense placement for starters). I will begin adding content to the other pages when I return…. thanks in advance!

2:15pm – Going to search for hotels in Athens (using Hotels.com and Google) and set the page up like I did with the Tobago site. I will add 3 hotel descriptions that I write, links directly to the hotel websites, and hotel logos. For this, I want to have 1 luxury hotel, a small Athens-unique hotel, and a romantic hotel. This will give more variety and allow the site to cater to different types of visitors.

2:43pm – Apparently there was too many hits coming in or something like that and my blog went down for almost a half hour. It’s back though, and I am back to work 🙂

3:30pm – Working on writing a description for 3 hotels in Athens. I don’t really enjoy the copywriting part of this, but unique content is a key factor in getting ranked for longer tail keywords. Sure, I won’t be listed at the top of Google for “Athens hotels” searches, but if I can get listed for a phrase like “contemporary hotel in Athens” or something less competitive, I will be satisfied. I should have this page done very soon.

3:45pm – The Athens Hotel page is now finished. Next, I am going to work on a couple of the forms, privacy, and disclaimer pages. It’s important to remember that Google requires a privacy policy on sites that use Adsense.

4:05pm – Contact form is done and tested. If you use a template, be sure to change the subject so you can distinguish what site someone is referencing (if you have many mini sites). I also uploaded the disclaimer and privacy. An attorney provided me with the disclaimer, which I use on my other sites, and the privacy policy was created using the DMA privacy policy generator.

4:15pm – Time for a break to walk the dog and give her some attention – she’s been very good today!

6:55pm – I took a nap and played with the dog for the past couple of hours. I went out with a couple guys from NameMedia last night and I am still tired 🙂 I am going to start working again in an hour after dinner because I have a few more pages to build… Attractions, Restaurants, and History. There are also some important development things that I need to do when the content is built. See you in an hour.

8:33pm – Back to work and just searched for photos on iStockPhoto.com (cheap photos with few copyright restrictions). I am also searching for fun things to do in Athens that I would enjoy. Athens Activities page has been completed. I think it’s lacking right now, so I will probably come back to this page and expand.

9:00pm – Simultaneously watching the Pitchmen tribute to Billy Mays, following the Red Sox game and beginning the restaurants page. My struggle with the restaurant page is that I want/need to link to restaurant websites that are bi-lingual with an English site. I am targeting Americans and English speakers with the site, and I want to make sure they are able understand the site where I send them.

9:45pm – Just installed an .htaccess file which provides instructions to browsers (I think). In any case, I did a 301 redirect of AthensVacations.com to www.AthensVacations.com to avoid duplicate indexing. I also created a 404 error page redirect, so if you go to a non existent page, it goes to the home page.

9:55pm – Athens Restaurants page is now finished, but I will probably add another restaurant in a couple of weeks. I also may add a list of “notable restaurants” at the bottom of the page. I will come back to this shortly.

10:15pm – One thing which I will add now – but should be added at the end is a site map. I am going to build a site map at XML-Sitemaps.com, a free sitemap generator. I am going to need to re-do the sitemap once the site is finished. It’s quick and easy to do, and the search engines find it useful.

10:18pm – Speaking of search engines, I am now going to go into my Google Webmaster Tools account and add this website. I will need to add a meta tag so Google knows I own it. Once added and confirmed, I will add the sitemap location so Google can find it quicker and easier. Also, if the site wasn’t listed in Google when I did a search for the exact domain name, I would file a Reconsideration Request, letting Google know I just bought the domain name and developed it.

10:20pm – I am going to go spend some time with my wife and finish up the history page tomorrow. I am not 100% satisfied with the site yet, and I have a few more additions I plan to make, including videos, other activity options, an airport page, and a couple other additions. Stay tuned – and thank you for following this.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Great idea to inspire domainers to develop!

    I’ll be sure to stop by every few hours and see how it progresses 🙂

  2. Re: Sentences –

    “Vacation in Athens: birthplace of democracy, home of Plato, cultural hub of the Aegean. Walk the ruins of the Acropolis, feast in the charm of the Plaka, and take in the wonder of 3000 years of recorded history.”

  3. Site looks great Elliot and cool concept of sharing the development live.

    Some suggestions for ya…

    I am not sure about the AdSense positioning. Maybe swap the link unit with the large text ad unit. It seems odd to me to have two AdSense stacked on top of each other, so I would only use 2 units per page.

    Secondly you could technically remove the numbered buttons and arrows below the scrolling photograph. I have a feeling that those useless buttons are a first thing a user is going to click on. Removing them may make the page more sticky as users passively watch the images scroll and they will likely click on more important things. 😉

    Just some random thoughts, take em or leave em… you’re way ahead of the game already 🙂

    • @ Mark

      Thanks for the feedback. Will think about the Adsense, but am going to try and remove the buttons. I’d rather them click through the site or Adsense than mess with those. It’s also somewhat pointless to have since they scroll quickly and automatically.

  4. I love it! That IS a great theme for Geo domains. I like the menus at the top – classy looking. I kind of like the numbered buttons below the pictures. Gives you a feeling of control (I guess that makes me a control freak!).
    I really like the blue top half. Looks great with the pictures. Way to go!

  5. Hi Elliot.

    This is a fantastic idea. I’ve been following the transcript all day and have enjoyed watching this site come to fruition.

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Brian

  6. Hi Elliot,
    2 questions….what site development software are you using…Dreamweaver, or Photoshop…or ??

    I have been stuggling with forms and getting them to look and work right. What did you use for your contact form on the site?

    Thanks
    Ron

  7. Very impressed Elliot!

    You will need to update your blog traffic today and on mini site huge amounts of traffic for you I’m sure

    Enjoy reading your mini site experiences Elliot and what an amazing roi and cash flow on a yearly basis. 60 times the registration fee and imagine running more sites like this. 1.50 to 2 bucks a day.

    Obviously its not the burbank.com as your main business model or geo names but mini sites are easy to expand into full blown websites like your tropicalbirds.com

    Fun seeing your progress the past 2 years and you have really taught your readers many new tricks, ideas and your willingness to help others!

    Thanks Elliot!

  8. Thanks for showing your work – i’m just new to domains and development. I like how you fixed the 301 and 404 – I don’t know how to do that yet.
    Glenn

    • Glenn,

      I had a cheat sheet from another project for the htaccess file. Below is the coding I used, which I uploaded as a file called “htaccess”
      Here is a snippet:

      Options +Indexes
      Options +FollowSymlinks
      RewriteEngine on
      RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^athensvacations.com [NC]
      RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.athensvacations.com/$1 [R=301]

      ErrorDocument 404 http://www.athensvacations.com/404.php

      RewriteEngine on
      RewriteBase /
      RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
      RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d

      RewriteRule ^.*$ “http\:\/\/www\.athensvacations\.com” [R=301,L]

  9. Elliot, your ads are showing completely unrelated links to secure memorysticks, HTML forms & testing software. Not a mention of athens, travel, flights, hotels, etc..

    Might be worth looking into 😉

    Cheers,

    Alan

  10. sure i will email tomorrow.
    good relation to classical athens

    ps i am linking to site in a blog

    great topic

    one of my clients directed it it to me!!!
    i urled you to him a while back!!!

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