How Kentucky Native Plants Project Built an Educational Resource With Wix

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We had the pleasure of interviewing Zac Gnadinger, the owner of Kentucky Native Plants Project, about the journey of his small business. From choosing Wix as a website builder to Zac’s goals for the future of the project and how the website aims to fill a gap in the market. This educational resource shares content with users to help them find native plants to use in gardening and landscaping.

“There were few helpful resources on the internet in my niche, so I wanted to help fill that gap with my website.”

Homepage for Kentucky Native Plants Project
Kentucky Native Plants Project’s website includes a detailed navigation and search bar so users can find what they’re looking for easily.

Planting the Seed

“The Kentucky Native Plants Project is a website that promotes the use of native plants in gardening and landscaping. Our blog offers educational content and resources to help people create a more environmentally friendly yard.

I started the website in August 2022. After living in Colorado for nearly a decade, I planned to move back to Kentucky and settle down. One of my old college passions was native plants, and I looked forward to incorporating some into my landscaping after the move. However, when researching plants on Google, I couldn’t find any good, Kentucky-specific resources.

I figured if nobody else had good information on the topic, then I could become that resource.

I own two other businesses, so the project’s goal isn’t necessarily to make money but to give back and do something to help better my home state. I currently run the website in my free time.”

A Local Resource

“The project is very niche, as other native plant websites don’t necessarily focus on gardening, and other gardening websites don’t typically focus on native plants. The Kentucky Native Plants Project combines both worlds to help promote a more environmentally friendly and sustainable yard.

Everything has been done in-house for the project. While outsourcing is a great way to get things up and running quickly, I wanted to take my time and keep this one as a personal project.

While the project started as simply posting information online, it has gradually become something more. Part of my time has recently been devoted to helping local native plant communities with different things. I’m becoming more involved with those communities and creating relationships with them.”

Creating Content

“The best part of my daily work is when people contact me on social media, or through the website. Whether it be asking a question, seeking collaboration, or words of encouragement, it’s gratifying to have people interested in your work.

An average month for the website consists of research, writing, and creating graphics for different articles for the blog. Some months are more productive than others, but when I have free time, I work on the website.”

Building a Content Strategy

“My content output is slower than most because it’s done in my free time. In my best month, I wrote four articles, but typically, it’s around one or two, sometimes even none. A lot of research goes into my articles, so that takes up most of my time.

Regarding my content strategy, I’ll pick a broad topic and then cover every aspect within it. For instance, I first wrote an article about all native plants. Next, I wrote articles on each plant category discussed in the original article. So, now I have articles on native flowers, grasses, ferns, shrubs, etc. Each one of those categories can be broken down further, such as “red” flowers, “ornamental” grasses, etc.

Start from the top and work your way down to longer keywords and more specific information. After a while, you’ll be left with hundreds of articles on a given topic. That’s topical authority. I still have a long way to go, but Google already ranks a lot of my content by using this approach.

I would advise somebody starting a blog or online resource to focus on topical authority

Even if you don’t think you’ll rank for a keyword, cover the topic anyway. Google will only see you as an authority and rank you higher if you cover tons of information on a given topic. Despite a year and a half with a website, topical authority is still my priority.

The main challenge with the project is the research involved in creating content. I want to ensure the information I post online is accurate and high-quality, so it’s a constant learning process. I’ve bought around thirty books so far and try to stay up-to-date on new studies and other online content. As I publish new content, I frequently update older articles to help ensure they’re up-to-date and accurate.”

Monitoring Performance

“For most everyday tasks, I use Google Search Console and Google Analytics, but when I want to dive deeper into the data, I’ll also use Wix’s analytics and Ahrefs Free.

In January 2023, shortly after starting the website, we had about 20 clicks from Google searches. Fast forward to May 2023, and we finished the month with just over 2.2k clicks from Google. That was the most dramatic shift in data so far – and, for a niche website, I think that’s pretty good. Since then, click growth has become more moderate and consistent, mainly growing as new content is published and more search queries are covered.”

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Connecting With Readers

“The members area came as a package from Wix when I created the blog. If you want to leave a comment on a Wix website, you must have a member’s account. Membership is free, but it acts as a barrier to help reduce spam being posted on your website. I’ve expanded on what members can do to add more value, such as adding the forum area, member achievements, etc. Still, as an informational website, most people find the necessary information and then leave the site. As I grow the website and add more features, the members area will have more of a purpose and help the website – but, for now, it’s mostly there to be able to comment on blog posts or post in the forum.”

Community Engagement

“While it’s less significant than Google for clicks and views, social media has been great for fostering a community around the project. I currently use Facebook and Pinterest. Pinterest is where I post the graphics I’ve made for various articles, and Facebook is where I post articles, graphics, and project updates. Facebook is also the most popular way people get in contact with me.”

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Growing Strong

“My proudest moment for the project was when reputable sources started mentioning the website. For example, the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Native Plant Society websites. It helps me know I’m on the right track and that people are finding value in my content.”

Building With Wix

“I created a website because Google is the first thing people check when looking for information. There were few helpful resources on the internet in my niche, so I wanted to help fill that gap with my website. You can also find the information in various books, but I wanted to create a resource where people could learn about Kentucky’s native plants for free.

I chose Wix because I have experience with them from another business website I run, which is now almost five years old. I researched website builders before starting my first website, and Wix appeared to be the best regarding features and usability. My friend was starting a website a couple of years ago and did trials for both Shopify and Squarespace. He was leaning towards Shopify and asked me to help create the website. I used their builder for 10 minutes before convincing him to switch to Wix. While Shopify is great for creating a quick, generic website, I found it frustrating to be held back by its lack of customizability.”

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Wix Pricing

“When creating the website, I chose the Wix Unlimited plan, which unfortunately doesn’t look like it’s offered anymore. Compared to their current plans’ features, it sits between their Light and Core premium plans. If I were to start the website today, I would choose their Core premium plan, as it’s the cheapest one offering site analytics, which is very useful.”

Benefits of Wix

Benefits of Wix

The best thing about Wix is the freedom and customizability they offer with their builder. With Wix, if you want to move an image five pixels to the left, you can. Don’t like the way a premade element looks? You can customize it until it fits what you’re looking for. All the other website builders fall short of Wix’s customizability, and you can feel locked into their premade templates.

The site analytics Wix offers have been super helpful. I also use Google Analytics for the website, which gives more general information and statistics, but if I want to dig deeper into the data, I’ll use Wix. They also frequently update their analytic features. For example, they recently added a real-time analytics view, where you can see detailed information on the current activity happening on your website.”

Easy Set Up

“Creating a website with Wix is actually really easy once you get to know their interface. The first time I made a website with Wix, it took me some time to learn how to navigate everything, so I had to look a couple of things up on YouTube. But, for the most part, it’s very intuitive. If you struggle with creating your website, Wix recently released their Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI). It allows you to use AI-enabled tools to help build your site, making the barrier to entry even lower in creating a website. I’ve played around with the feature, and it’s astonishing how close it can get you to a completed website with minimal effort.”

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Slow Pages

“The one thing I would change about Wix is their page load speeds. According to Google’s standards, a page should load in under 2.5 seconds to maintain a good user experience. Even if you do everything Wix recommends to reduce load times, some pages can still exceed 2.5 seconds. It’s a minor frustration, as I still have pages rank very high in Google, even if they take a little longer to load. Still, it would be nice to see load speeds eventually get better with Wix.”

Committed to Wix

“I’ll be using Wix for the foreseeable future. There are so many features I’ve only scratched the surface of or have yet to use. There’s plenty of room for expansion on their platform. The only thing I can see myself changing is upgrading my plan to have more storage space available for the website. I have quite some time before I’ll have to do that, though.”

Advice for Building Your Website

“They should take a look at the brands they interact with regularly. If you’re new to creating a website, borrowing elements from websites you like can be helpful. Also, think about your website from a customer’s point of view. What aspects of your website could cause frustration? Is it easy to find what they’re looking for? Never be afraid to change or edit your website for the better. A customer gained yesterday doesn’t mean you won’t lose two tomorrow due to a poor user experience.”

Career Advice

“While it may come across as somber, the advice I would give my younger self, and anybody starting a business, would be to watch out for the snakes.

Many people and companies profit off preying on new business owners who don’t know any better. I’ve thankfully avoided most of them in my career, but some people aren’t so fortunate. Overcharging for shoddy website building/SEO is a common one I see people fall victim to, which is why Wix is so empowering for new business owners.

Also, buy your domain name before you incorporate your business! Some companies buy domains when your business paperwork is filed and then they hold it for ransom. My friend had to choose a different domain name for his business because the people who bought it wanted $9,000. I can’t stress this enough: watch out for the snakes.”

Future Plans

“I would love to create a kid’s coloring book about native plants and donate copies to local libraries during summer breaks. My interest in nature started at a young age, so giving the coloring books away might help foster the next generation’s interest in nature. Soon, I plan to create a Patreon page where subscribers can help support projects like the coloring book, among other community projects. I also plan to eventually release products to help gardeners on their native plant journey.”

Written by:
emma ryan author bio
Emma’s been a Senior Writer at Website Builder Expert since 2022, having first-hand experience with website builders, such as Wix and Shopify, through hands-on testing and research analysis. Her work and expertise have been featured in Digiday, TechRound, Industry Today, and Digital Information World. Specializing in writing about website builders, ecommerce platforms, and hosting providers, Emma stays in the loop of industry updates by attending conferences such as eCommerce Expo and managing Website Builder Expert’s news articles.

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