So many visitors have asked me how this website template came into being. And they want to know how the websites color scheme was chosen; especially the “blended” woods and water theme on the Home Page.
Introducing a New Series of Articles on Blogging Finesse
I decided to tell the whole story of the template and colors as an introduction to a series of articles that I will be writing on blogging. Those articles will be slanted towards helping other bloggers to enhance their blog sites with custom templates and plugins.
I’ll also address the most worrisome characteristics when creating posts for a blog – writer’s block and writing style. What do you do when you can’t think of anything to write about? How do you start an article and get into what you really want to communicate? How do you know anyone will read what you have have written?
We’ll talk about those things in the upcoming blog series of articles. But for now, let’s talk about how this blog got started, the template, the theme, and the colors.
Here we go.
A Strange Name for a Website Blog
Some years ago, I think it was 2008, my wife (Mary) and I decided that we wanted to learn what all the fuss was about in Internet marketing. So we hired a consulting firm in Utah to teach us about Internet marketing, affiliate marketing, drop-ship marketing, and ecommerce marketing.
We were clueless at that point in time. We didn’t know anything about Internet marketing. What we did know was that I retired early, I had a technical background, and I needed something to do once I left my corporate 9-5 job.
We paid the consulting firm in Utah $13,000 for a six month program to build a website and teach us how to use it. The consulting firm had been recommended to us by Robert G. Allen, the real estate tycoon. The short video below features Robert talking about his new book, “Multiple Steams of Income”. He and Stephen Covey also co-authored “Multiple Steams of Internet Income”. Good stuff.
The decision was made that ecommerce training was a good place to start. So under the consulting firms direction, we began to create a website called ThisISthenorthwoods.com.
The consulting firm chose the web hosting company (Bluehost.com) and also chose the web development application, which would be WordPress.
The original domain name (ThisIStheNorthwoods.com) was kind of weird. But that’s all that we could come up with. The name of the website reflected a common phrase used in the Midwest that describes the most desirable place in the upper Midwest to visit and live – the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
The Northwoods refers to the extreme north of Wisconsin where woods, wilderness, and water are common. The Northwoods is a favorite vacation destination for residents of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, and Missouri due to the endless woods and more than 10,0000 lakes. It is common for local Realtors, when selling land or residences in this area, to brag, “This IS the Northwoods” (with the emphasis on the word IS) insinuating that the property that they are selling is a true reflection of living in the very heart of the Northwoods of Wisconsin. They wanted to let their customers know that.
I had always had an interest in real estate and had earned my broker’s license ten years previous. In order to expand my real estate knowledge, I accepted an offer to manage a brokerage in the Northwoods for Coldwell Banker for a few years. So I was exposed daily to this local habit of bragging that the property being sold really IS in the deep Northwoods.
Thus the original website name. That would be changed later. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves in this story.
What Would the Website Look Like?
The website would be an ecommerce site and we would sell things that are unique to the Northwoods and made by the local artisans in the area. These included things like air-brushed saw blades (the kind used to fell trees in the 1800s), books, photos, quilts, wood burning scenes on birch or kitchen cabinets, home-made candles scented with the smell of the Northwoods, and so on.
Our coach at the consulting firm that we hired, created a website using WordPress. I didn’t know anything about WordPress at the time; or any other website platform, for that matter.
They asked me what the theme should look like. I told them to make the theme look like the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Use fall colors and show some water and trees. The colors of northern Wisconsin are incredible in the fall. I sent them some photos of fall colors in this area (below). Can you guess which photo found it’s way onto the Home Page? It’s the one on the bottom left. The woods and water page header was also my idea. But even though I specified fall colors, the faint fall scene blended into each page background was Stephanie’s idea (our web developer). She deserves credit for some serious originality for that design.
The design that Stephanie came up with was rather remarkable. That is the origin of the Home page. In addition to the $13,000 that we paid them to teach us the basics of Internet marketing, we paid Stephanie another $2,500 to design the Home page and create a template for the rest of the site. The photo thumbnails on the Home page were my idea. They provide links into the rest of the site to complement the main menu of links. I also insisted on a photo slider at the top of the Home page. I wanted something animated on the Home Page.
All of this was built on a paid theme from Woothemes.com called Coda. Coda is no longer available but Woo Themes has many other custom themes that I like even more than Coda. If you want a stand-out blog site, seriously consider a custom paid theme. They are not all that expensive.
The fall colors used on the site are as follows.
Page background: DFCAA1 (I can’t remember the color name)
Page headings 556B2F (dark olive green)
Page text 7F532A (saddle brown)
ThisISthenorthwoods.com was supposed to be an eCommerce site but that’s not how it turned out, for a couple of reasons.
The website design was completed. But the website content was not. Our coach quit the consulting company we had hired and went to work as a communications expert for a Senator in Washington D.C.. Our replacement coach was an ATV nut from Salt Lake City and had little experience with WordPress. We didn’t know anything about WordPress at that point in time. So continued development got a bit rough.
We hobbled along with our second coach for a few months and then he left the consulting firm for another opportunity. Things got worse. We had the bare bones of a website but no content. To make matters worse, we had no idea how we would logistically acquire, package, and deliver durable goods made in the Northwoods or anywhere else for that matter.
The website languished. The consulting firm that we had hired did not offer us a replacement coach or a refund of the money that we had paid them. Instead they gave us lifetime access to their corporate website and course material as well as phone and email support forever. In other words, I think they expected us to teach ourselves about this Internet marketing thing.
They were very gracious and kept in touch with us. But with no plan and no direction, ThisIStheNorthwoods.com just sat there on the Internet while I paid the yearly hosting fees. It sure looked cool but it did essentially nothing since it had no content.
A year later, we still had the Internet marketing itch and hired yet another consulting firm to teach us the basics of affiliate marketing and drop ship. We paid them $9,000 for a six-month program. They were owned by Mike Filsaime, a legend in affiliate marketing. Due to Mike’s reputation, we knew that we were going to nail this Internet marketing thing and make some serious cash while having loads of fun doing it.
But That’s Not the Way That It Turned Out
My interest was in affiliate marketing. I was able to ascertain that that is where the money was at. Drop ship, and eCommerce seemed to be a pain since we had to deal with taking orders, shipping, returns, customer support etc..
But the new consulting firm that we hired wanted to start with drop ship and get into affiliate marketing later. So that is where we started.
I was bored with drop ship but muddled through and did the assignments for a couple of months. Then I started to miss appointments with my coach because I had not done the assignments.
And then the proverbial sh_t hit the fan. I discovered that material in my training manuals was outdated. Websites that I was supposed to study and review no longer existed. So I put the matter to my coach. He eventually admitted that some training material needed to be updated and commented that it was a challenge to keep everything up to date in a fast moving environment like the Internet. So I asked him directly, “am I learning outdated material, old strategies, and old methods of doing things that likely will never work in today’s environment. He reluctantly said Yes. And that was the end of that coaching program. There was no refund offered for the course fee.
So we were out in the cold again. And we still owned and paid hosting fees for ThisIStheNorthwoods.com which still did nothing except occupy server space.
I Took Matters into My Own Hands – No More Coaching
By that time, I was even more determined to master this affiliate marketing thing. So I got a Clickbank account and taught myself WordPress by building a new website called Onlinecashfromhome.com or something like that. The site featured all the top ways (and products) for making money from home via affiliate marketing.
To build the site I used a very challenging theme that was based on an online magazine framework. That is what made this theme so challenging. The framework seemed to have a mind of its own when it came to banner and article placement. It took months of trial and error to figure the framework out. I featured products like Clickbank Pirate, Commission Breakthrough, Stealth Profit Machines, Profit Siege, and many others. Once completed, this website was a marvel and I was a WordPress expert.
But I was clueless when it came to driving traffic to the site. And, of course, Google was not going to rank an affiliate marketing site. They hate affiliate marketers.
So this new site lasted for about six months and died a natural death. BUT, and this is a big BUT, I had mastered WordPress when building this site. So it was not a total loss.
Back to ThisIstheNorthwoods.com
With my new WordPress skills, I began to putz with our original, unfinished website. I like to write and I needed a release so I wrote some articles and published them. After all, ThisIStheNorthwoods.com was a WordPress site. And what is the most popular blogging platform on the Web – WordPress!
I still didn’t know how to drive traffic. And Google was not impressed that I had switched from affiliate marketing to blogging. So I waited. And before you knew it, I had comments from visitors. And then hundreds of comments. And they liked what I was writing! So I wrote more. I could hardly keep up with their demands. It was crazy. I still don’t know how these folks found my blog amongst the millions of other blog sites on the Internet.
It couldn’t be keywords that brought these visitors. Many of my articles had no keywords. I learned about SEO later. But to this day, my rule is this:
1. I write an article from the top of my head from start to finish.
2. Then I go back and ask myself – what is this article about? What are the main ideas and keywords/phrases.
3. If a keyword or phrase is not used within the article, I don’t claim it. My rule is that if it can’t be found in the article, it’s irrelevant.
4. I don’t write articles around keywords to get rank. I write what pops into my mind and worry about keywords later. I often wonder if other bloggers do the same. I heard the other day from the guy who writes the biggest blog on the Web that he finds the keywords first and then writes the article around the keywords. I thought you were supposed to write articles for people, not words?
The Domain Name Has to Go
I never did like ThisIStheNorthwoods.com. But it’s an intimidating task to change the domain name on an existing website. Especially when thousands of visitors have RSS feeds or bookmarks linked to your domain name.
Nonetheless, it had to be done. I hated the name. And it’s a personal blog. I wanted to brand my name. So I changed the name a couple of years ago but kept the old domain name for over a year and parked it so that it still pointed to scottalanreed.com. That way, bookmarks and RSS feeds would not break.
And then I let ThisIS theNorthwoods.com expire. It didn’t hurt that much. Traffic took a dip for about six months. Google changed the age of the website from five years old to brand new, which hurt any ranking that I had acquired due to website age. You can always depend on Google to screw you one way or another.
What’s in the Works For the Site?
More video!! I was on Jeff Walker’s personal blog and he has video on every article. I loved it. Never mind that he is a millionaire many times over and his videos are professionally done. On a side note, Jeff Walker is an Internet legend. He was launching his own information products in 1996 when the Internet was in its infancy. He created Product Launch Formula off the top of his head. And now that is the only way that new products are launched on the Internet. He’s also a great guy.
More photos in-line with the articles. Previously, if I had a lot of photos to share, I would put them in galleries and link an article to the gallery. But I don’t think anyone pays any attention to the galleries. I’ve had a lot of requests for more photos in-line with articles.
A survey or two or three. I have no clue what topics are most popular. When I first started blogging, I would write about the amazing outdoors around where I live and the multitude of outdoor recreation activities and wildlife. Folks liked that stuff and still dig around in my archives to find it.
Now I write about topics to get you to think, expand your mind, and develop as a person. Articles are longer and more in-depth because that is what you asked for. But many of my best articles go unread.
So I’m stumped. Time for a survey.
I’m going to break one of my golden rules of blogging and put some ads on the site. But they won’t be ads for stupid things like iPhones or feminine care products, or men’s testosterone supplements. They will be ads for tools that I use on a daily basis to make my business go.
I wrote an ebook about the three primary marketing models that I use to make a six-figure online income. You guys don’t know about this stuff because I do marketing in the background and not in your face. So if you ever wondered how I make some bucks without advertising like crazy on my site, now you will find out what goes on behind the scenes if you read the ebook. It’s free.
Finally, you have the opportunity to influence the direction of this website through your comments and feedback. I’m sure you all know that my e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org by now. That and my other social contact information is listed under Contact on the main menu bar. If you would like to see something in particular for content, drop me an e-mail and tell me.
You don’t know how many folks ask me in their comments to drop them an e-mail. Say what? I’ve never been able to figure out why they don’t just drop me an e-mail and tell me what’s on their mind.
Summing It All Up
So that’s how the colors, theme, design and all that came together. I chose the fall colors, thumbnails, water scenes, and Home Page slider, Stephanie chose the Woo Theme, framework, and made a real hit with the page background.
But that leaves one problem for me. This theme is old and unsupported. It’s not mobile responsive and I get a lot of complaints about that from mobile users. If I had an ounce of sense I would get a newer theme that is more powerful and responsive. But I have thousands of visitors come to ScottAlanReed.com whose initial reaction is, “Woah, what the hell is this!!? I can’t believe this theme! I’ve never seen anything like it!”
So what do I do? The obvious solution would be to find Stephanie, give her a new theme and framework like Thesis and tell her to make it look like ScottAlanReed.com. But I don’t even know Stephanie’s last name. And she could be living in a mud hut on some South Pacific island for all I know.
So that would mean paying big bucks for a web developer to do the same from scratch without Stephanie’s creative ability. By the way, I’m partial to the Thesis theme and framework if you haven’t figured that out yet.
So that’s the story about the theme and colors. I think that the next topic that I will tackle in this blogging series is writing style and writer’s block. That seems to be what stops folks in their tracks when blogging so we’ll tackle that subject. Until then………………….