Finding The Right Look
I just want to have a good website.
I know I’m not going to be on the level of a popular site, like Grantland, or Deadspin, or Pajiba, or Cageside Seats (of SB Nation), or Young House Love, or even The Wonder Forest (a site I spent way too much time on trying to find ways to make bhyphen.com better in my recent Blogger days). But I’m always fighting a constant battle with myself over the direction the site is headed.
The thing I keep forgetting is that no one is watching yet.
I made my first real web pages way back when a site called The Globe existed because Matt had made his website there. I started dabbling in HTML thanks to my EZBoard rap battle board days and soon, I was building personal sites (and sites for Marvel Anthology and DC Anthology) on Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire, Brinkster, and Topcities. Topcities was the first home of B Hyphen Online/Untouchable Catorce (that I can recall). And back in 2002, it was my personal site. I didn’t really consider the idea that anyone who didn’t know me would look at the damn thing.
In 2004, I purchased the bhyphen.com domain name and by late 2005, around the release of The Thunderstorm Mixtape (10/27/05), I had an honest to goodness website. And I recall being really happy with how it came out. But from there, the site devolved into an even simpler design by the release of The Mind’s Mixtape volume Three (12/4/07).
In late 2008/early 2009, I did my first “major” relaunch of the site. I even made a YouTube video showing off all the sections of the site (that has since been taken down but I still have it somewhere). But as time went on, my music output slowed, and the website got the short end of the stick, as I had some sort of online presence for anything else I was doing at the time (that being mostly podcasting and blogging for the now defunct Hip-Hop Manifesto music blog).
At some point, I discovered the Blogger of WVU alum/now-radio personality Elizabethany and I thought she was doing some pretty cool stuff with her web destination. So naturally, I thought I’d be able to take my content and do something similar to her (without biting!), so that was the first time bhyphen.com became a blog per se. This only lasted for a brief time as when I launched my #28YearsLater music series in January 2011, I was back to coding the site mostly by hand again.
The first time I tried to completely overhaul the site’s identity came in the summer of 2011. As I was going through some personal issues (some chronicled at the end of volume 4’s “American Love Story”), I decided (stop me if you’ve heard this before) that I was done making music as I felt like I had let it completely blindside me from the more important issues going on in my life. Because of this, I decided to change my “independent label” The Hyphen Conglomerate to what I was calling a “promotional company” for fellow artists. And then “Otis” happened, which in turn spawned “CM Punk Georgia Funk”, and I was making music again. The Hyphen Conglomerate version of the site was quietly phased out.
Another stint of hand coding HTML eventually led me to turning the site to Wordpress for the first time, but in all honesty, I hated it. The constant updates, I couldn’t get the site to look how I wanted, I was just never satisfied, etc. Unfortunately, I had taken all the posts I had done from the previous Blogger version of the site and moved them to the Wordpress version… then I deleted the site and lost everything. While it wasn’t that great, it was a couple years’ worth of posting that I lost and it still feels like a kick to the gut to this day.
The current incarnation of the site began in 2013, shortly after I got married, back on Blogger. Once I got going, I had a full-fledged site, with content almost every day and features such as The Dime Session (a list of 10 interesting links), Catalog Friday (I would feature 1 song from my catalog of music), and updates on the progress I was making on releasing Soon You’ll Understand. By 2014, I had added a photo blog (which has since been moved to Tumblr), and features such as DOPE (content I found elsewhere that I loved enough to reshare), If You’re Into Podcasts, and Song Of The Moment (where I would share a song currently stuck in my head).
Somewhere in there, I felt like I had bred a bit of a lifestyle website but geared towards the nerdier side of life. Thus bhyphen.com became Hyphen Nation: A Hyph-Style website. Which may be where the site would be at still today but as I had less time to be hands-on with it, I lost interest in the whole concept. So I quietly changed the name back to bhyphen.com.
From there, I felt like I wanted bhyphen.com to focus more on my personal content and so all posts not directly involving me were dropped and moved to other sources (and those eventually got dropped other than the Tumblr), I moved everything back to Wordpress from Blogger (I truly exhausted my options of what I could do. Wordpress can do more and I actually find it better to use than I did 3 years ago), and that’s where the site is today: columns/podcasts/music. And not necessarily in that order.
Finding The People
My site suffers from the same issues my music does, that being that no one really knows it exists. My close friends, colleagues, and family all know. But as far as drawing traffic, I don’t have a clue.
One of the reasons I left Blogger was the inaccurate stats I was constantly getting (Dear Blogger, you really should consider an overhaul. It’s been way too long). I went from thinking I was getting at least 100+ views a day to 25 views tops with Wordpress. I’d rather have the accuracy than the lies.
The way I’ve been using social media is pretty straight forward. When I post, it goes to my personal Facebook (I’ve given up on Facebook Pages. That damn algorithm has driven me insane and I don’t agree with the idea that those who like my page can’t see what I post without having to do extra work), my Twitter, and my personal Google+ page(I know, but I keep hearing about how important Google+ is to your site’s visibility. I don’t get it either). When I remember, I share the posts to my Tumblr (I only get views on my pictures there honestly) and on my Pinterest page (I rarely get a Pin shared). Some posts will do better than others of course and when I do post, I definitely top 20+ views. I have an SEO plug-in, my site can be found easily on Google, Yahoo, and Bing, but yet no one is reading the site. I even shared my 2015 WWE Year End Awards post 3 times a day for a week and it didn’t make a huge difference in my numbers.
I say this to complain a little bit (a lot) but mostly to the fact that this leads to the constant tinkering I do with the site. I think that if I change the site up, that will lead to more traffic. That it’s something I’m doing wrong. Would it be helpful if I saved a little bit and bought a few Facebook and/or Twitter ads? Absolutely. But I’ll be damned if I pay extra money that I don’t really have for some clicks. That’s super stubborn of me but I almost don’t care because one thing I’ve always wanted was for my fanbase as an artist/podcaster/writer/exotic dancer to grow organically.
I almost wonder if that’s impossible in 2015 but every day I read about some great idea that grew legs on its own and now it’s one the most popular things in the world. And it really comes down to being a matter of pride that I think my shit (music/podcasts/columns/dancing/this site) can be popular too. I could be wrong (I’m not).
This turned into a vanity column really quickly, didn’t it?
Back on track, I say no one is watching yet because it’s true. The site doesn’t have the views or the consistent readers. I just have to remind myself before I redesign the whole site again for the millionth time to stay the course.
What’s funny is this whole column came from the idea that I started working on a link post, similar in nature to this recent one from Pajiba. The Dime Session was my old way of doing a link post but the name made no sense (The Dime Session sounds like hot women or basketball assists to me, I was being too clever), it would take me forever to find 10 links for it (hence, DIME Session. Hold your applause), and eventually I shuttered them to my social media and then Tumblr and I recently decided to stop. And yet, I started a link post for the site. Right now, I have 2 links I want to share and I’m not going to even post it without at least 10 links, so I haven’t made any headway on it. But I’ve been obsessing over whether it will help the site or not.
Why would I do this? Because link posts create traffic? Wouldn’t you want to visit bhyphen.com for 10 links curated by me at least once a week?
I have some things in the works. Tricycle Offense as a site is on life support but I know that Trike Adventures and Mollyfog The Music and possibly the Nocturne Travel Agency Podcast will still continue on. Victory Jumpoff Radio will be making a return since I got it on iTunes. I’m also trying to figure out a way to podcast despite my lack of recording space right now. I’m ready to write and rap again for the first time since my daughter was born. I just turned what should’ve been a three tweet rant into a column, into actual website content. The dream for I Love Morgantown WV is still alive; we have new ideas going on there.
I have some things in the works. The thing I keep forgetting is that no one is watching… yet. But they will be (I hope).
Then I can write columns about how people are constantly bitching at me to put out new content when all I want to do is sit at home and play Lego Batman 3.
The gift and the curse ladies and gentlemen!