A Summer Spent Learning How To Make A Successful Website

I used the following as a personal statement essay for my undergraduate application to Stanford University, which was accepted in 2008.

In the summer after my junior year of high school, my dad came to me with an idea he had been mulling over for a while. He wanted me to build a website for him.

Throughout the course of his 35-year music career, my dad had accumulated hundreds of drum charts, which is just the term for sheet music in the drumming world, that he had transcribed. In the past he had used a mailing list and catalogue to offer them to other drummers and had decent success this way. But lately the charts had been collecting cobwebs in the file cabinets of his studio and he figured it was time to take better advantage of his products. He wanted to find a larger audience for his charts, and what better way to expose them to the masses than to take them to the World Wide Web.

My dad had acquired some computer skills from the technological revolution that he lived through, but they were basic for the most part. Now I was by no means any kind of technological whiz kid, but I did have an interest in the subject and some experience in building a couple of extremely simple websites in the past. So he decided to turn to me and ask for my assistance in the technical aspect of his vision.

I was excited from the start. It would be a great summer project; something to chase away the devious downbeat days that sometimes tend to sneak up on one’s summer holiday.

SBI website building tools picture

Just a few of SiteSell's wealth of business-building tools

I immediately began to scour the Internet in search of the best way to go about my new project. My research eventually led me to a program called Sitesell, which turned out to be a whole Internet community of “infopreneurs,” people who specialize in information in their own little niche that they share with the rest of the Internet community through their sites. But Sitesell was also a giant wealth of information; bigger and more comprehensive than anything I could have dreamed of. It was site-building optimization, and there was a lot to learn.

So I dedicated my efforts in the next couple of weeks solely to researching, planning what exactly it was I was going to do for my site, and learning how I would be able to accomplish that. I wanted to make sure that I was well versed before I even stuck my toe in the giant and sometimes intimidating expanse of water that is the Internet.

What I learned completely changed my perspective on how I would have to build my site if I wanted it to be successful. I couldn’t just offer my dad’s products and simply expect them to be found by people perusing the Web, or at least not any significant amount of people. I had to overload my site with keyword-specific content, “presell” my visitors with the way I wrote, build a links program so that I might gain enough credibility for my site to be listed well in the major search engines, and so much more.

Classic-Rock-Drum-Charts.com picture by Kevin Morton

Classic-Rock-Drum-Charts.com, the website I created that summer.

So I did just that in the pursuing months, creating Classic-Rock-Drum-Charts.com with my dad’s content, and it was a bit of an arduous task. But it wasn’t too long until I had a presentable piece of work and the orders started to come in. I was able to offer the hundreds of drum charts electronically, so every purchase turned into direct profit. I found other ways to monetize by selling ad space, making referrals, and offering my dad’s drum books that he had authored over the years. I began to receive emails of admiration from musicians literally across the world praising the site and that made every minute I put into making it completely worth it.

It makes me proud just to be a part of the Internet community in such a way, and contribute to the largest portal of information in the world. Besides serving as a great bonding outlet for my dad and me, our project taught me so much about the workings of the Internet and the web economy, not to mention the complexities and genius of projects like Google. It is things like that which really serve as fuel for my fire of inspiration and constantly instigate ideas in me for future projects.

Since writing this I have created several more websites using the knowledge I gained from this summer spent with SBI, reaching tens of thousands of visitors each month. You can find out more about them here.