I started building websites back in the mid 1990’s when the technology first became available. I bought my first PC at Sears, a Packard Bell for $3000, which was a princely sum back in those days. It was an MS-DOS system with memory and speed that would be embarrassingly archaic in this day and age. But it was a start and great learning experience, dealing with a couple of ancient e-mail systems and rudimentary bulletin boards that were THE method of communication prior to web pages. Believe it or not, selling anything on the web back then was a HUGE taboo! Can you imagine that?
I was probably one of the first in my town to have Internet access when it became available via the squawky old phone modems. I also had a sideline business selling collectibles at toy fairs and sci-fi conventions on the weekends. Despite rubbing shoulders with the cast of Star Trek, etc., it soon became a tiresome activity, even though it was good money at first. There had to be an easier way and this new Internet thing looked certainly looked like the solution!
Getting started in web design wasn’t as easy as it is now. Finding a way around the bulletin boards and a tricky way to advertise my toys and collectibles online soon became a driving obsession. HTML was the answer to building visual web pages and the ticket to covertly selling online. Thus I got started with e-mail marketing by sending a printed “catalog” to people I connected with in the online bulletin boards and very basic web pages. Eventually, hand coding HTML became much easier when the first Windows web editing software became available. Computers started getting cheaper and it wasn’t long before people started asking me to build websites for them too.
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First page Rankings in Yahoo!
Back then, almost every website I built, easily landed first page results in Yahoo (which was the Google of that era). Keywords were all you needed and in terms of SEO, it was the wild west, no holds barred and anything goes. Soon thereafter you could even SELL things on the world wide web. Wow…what a concept! One of the first companies I built a small e-commerce application for landed top ranking all over Yahoo. AltaVista and the other search engines. They raked in 3/4 of million in online sales in the first year, after I moved them into the newly available Yahoo Store. I think I made $500. Arggh!
“People keep coming in and saying that they saw me on the web…“
This story is just too crazy to be true, but I swear to God, it’s TRUE! I built a small website for a local business. Like most of my other sites at the time, it landed in the first page ranks of a Yahoo search. People came into the business and proudly proclaimed to the owner, “we saw you on the web…“, which was a big thing back then, when people started getting on to the Internet. But, the business owner asked me to pull down his website and stop it. WHY??? Because he didn’t own a computer and couldn’t see the website. He said that it made him nervous that people kept coming into his store and mentioning that they saw him on Yahoo. Though I explained to him that this was a good thing, he insisted the website come down. “After all,” he said, “it’s not like I can see this webby thing. It’s not like my ad on TV that I can see every week!”
These days, people beg me for help getting first page rankings in Google or pay tons of money to try and achieve it. Go figure!
In the follow up post, I’ll get more into the web design business and some of the lessons learned. Valuable stuff that you NEED to know if you’re even thinking about starting your own web design business. Be sure to subscribe and get all the latest posts and news.
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