How to start a site successfully - my crash course
I have compiled this as a guide to starting your own website and getting if from ' zero to hero' within a month. Obviously I cannot guarentee this will happen but below is a list of what I do on a timescale just so you can hopeuflly get an idea of how to go about starting the site. Please feel free to go ahead and add to this with your own methods on how to increase the pageviews and registered users =]
This is based on wiiroom.net's start up.
Stage 1 - Business Plan
The most professional and organised way to go about starting a site is to get a business plan together and figure out a few things:
Firstly, Finances, you need to devote a set amount to what you want to do with your site, and accomodate your aspirations. You should consider these areas in this part of the plan: Total amount, Design Amount, Content amount (if any), Advertising ammount (if any) and then try and stick to it as closely as possible.
Secondly, time, the most important of them all. You should set a timescale of what you want to do and when it should be done by, if you hire any services make sure they are fully aware of what needs to be done by what time. I have attached the file that I used as a basic guide to see how I planned this area.
Lastly, and most importantly the conent needs to be found from somewhere, if you are going to rely on just your forum members (if its a forum) or users to give you content, you need to have content for rainy days. For example before the site launches you need to arrange a few reviewers to come together and give you a review for the one day the forum is in-active.
Here is WiiRoom's Business Plan:
Originally Posted by ME
*WiiRoom Business Plan*
Written December 2006
By Alexander Eyre.
Availble Budget: $300
Timescale: asap (less than 5 weeks)
1. I will find a design that accomodates the needs of a reviews site and forums, look out for a premade tempalte to help keep the overall costs down, the seperated budget is $100.
2. I will find a coder to professionally code the main site into XHTML/CSS and make sure it is valid ia the W3C reccomendations, while simultainiously look for forums software, requirements are that it has all basic features of VB.
the seperated budget: $50 coding
3. Install the site and the forum software onto hosting (cheap as possible) of choice, Note to self: hostedfx, webhosting2.
the seperated budget: $40 / year
4. Run tests and commence advertising thorugh suppliers such as adengage and find text links from quality sites and directories to generate backlinks for the site.
seperated budget: $25 (to start off)
5. Maintain content form the reviewers with lots of useful content and new refreshing posts to attract users. Also use my own Wii to generate the reviews of games I possess
seperated budget: $9 per review.
6. Launch site and then start the opening contest with the money left over, ideas include Wii console, Wii game or Wii memorabilia.
seperated budget: $60
this is a cut down version of the real WiiRoom Plan - in the real one, more detail is included on specs and pricing.
Stage 2 - Buying the Design
The main two sites I can point out for these as 'culprits' are Digital Point Forums, no objective here to deter you from visiting but the sites colors are attrocious, the only reason I go there once a while is because there is alot of potential over there. Here in talkfreelance like other websites such as GreenEarners the layout is sleek and easy to look at, and therefore I spend alot more time here than over there. So with two very alike sites, and even though the other one has a better sales area I still use talkfreelance more because of the design and ease to look at.
There are a few things to bear in mind when you are buying a design, the layout, your budget, your needs. The layout needs to be simple and easy to navigate around, if you find it hard to see how the navigation will work in you mind then the template is not right. You need to set a budget before you look for a template, and if you go for a custom one (reccomended) then you need to set a price you will not go above no matter what. Pay for what you need and not what you like, and dont automatically try and buy a premade design. With previous experience custom made temapltes and designs are alot more appealing to the user.
Stage 3 - Coding
The site isnt going to work to well not being coded, you need to find a coder that can complete the site to your requirements and also to the users requirements, the following are a must in todays internet world: cross-crowser compatible, clean and valid code, easily editble / integratable. You should also set a price that you will not go above for this task
Stage 4 - Advertisement
Advertisement is a muct if you own a user based site, that relys on user input for the site to work. You should leave a set amount aside both before and after your site has started. Leaving a 'tease' time before can improve the traffic on the day that you forum or site opens. Leave a link in your sig a week or two before it opens and allow people to go to your site and see a logo with a but of text describing the site and forums that will be on the domain. Secondly you may wish to invest in banner advertising and text links to help boost the amount of traffic you get to the site. If you want to earn money from your site then getting traffic is a must. Still to this day the best form of advertisement is word of mouth and good reports on a site. The methods I think that yu should include are: Text Links, Banner Advertisements, Word of mouth, Posters in local area. The one thing that will help your site receive more unique hits is the content of the site, as being indexed by google and the likes of the search engines. Which brings us beautifully onto the next topic, content.
Stage 5 - Content
This is the most important single aspect of your site, without content your site is nothing worth visiting, resulting in no traffic. Before your site launches, as discussed in brief in my business plan there is a need for you to go and do some reasearch into the area that you will be heading and how much content there is availble. Then you need to find the sources that you will recieve the content from. I suggest that you consider article websites such as ArticleCake and other around the web. Or you could try the paid option and buy reviews off people who ahve written reviews about the game. My last suggestion is that you do the reviews and find the content yourself, I currently find this is the biggest contributor to the amount of content on WiiRoom. I find most of my content by reading, word of mouth and magazines in which I started threads which can result in useful information being posted. Obviously as a WiiRoom specific I can get reviews from buying or finding out about the Wii and its gaming capability.
There are many advantages of having great content. The most important to your site starting and maintaining its visitors, as soon as a search engine finds a nice article on your forum that has a nice keyword density and relevance it will be put up in the search results. I posted a thread on wii room about the Shipments of the Wii in 2007 and I have recieved over 300 visitors from google regarding that thread alone, to read the thread go here: http://www.wiiroom.net/forum/showthread.php?tid=20 .
That is a living example of how if you target an area in the web you can reach through the search engine barrier and get users from the like of Yahoo! Google and MSN.
I hope people find this helpful, please add to this with your own experiences =]
Here is part two of the series in starting your own website(s). In this small post we will talk about maintaining and moetizing your websites. If you have anything to add or anything you need help with please post below and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.
Anyway, the first thing you need to get on your site is traffic, without the stats your site is worthless and monetizing is, well, impossible. To get some traffic I reccomend (as discussed above) you have a link in your signiture, get quality ads (www.adengage.com) and find suitable other sites to advertise on. Once you have the users, you need to keep them, otherwise you will find yourself repeatedly trying to get more advertising space to make the numbers shoot up. To grip your readers/users you need exciting, original ideas and content. This skill is something that cannot be taught or put into a tutorial, you either can do it or you cant. If you have an idea that will make yoursite original, and useful to the readers then you need to advertise or include that in your adverts. I suggest you run an advertisement with a few sites for two weeks or so and then continue with the ones that are providing the most clicks and unique visitors. I would suggest a realistic adverising stop point is when you reach 400-500 users per day, of whom all are unique.
Visitors are money there is no alternative to users browsing your site. Without them you cannot have a hope of making some money.
Once you have a website established with a regular flow of visitors I suggest that you can monetize your website by a few easy methods. Firstly, you can sell advertising personally, which depending on your stats and genre of site can work well. If I were you, and you were recieveing about 500+ Uniques I would place banners on rotation with software like PHPadsNEW. Otherwise I suggest services such as www.google.com/adsense/ or www.adbrite.com . To recieve maximum click, and therefore more money as a result you need to think about your advertisements position around your site, and the blending that it has with it. For example an advertisment link under the lowest point in your site in bright ornage will get less clicks than one close to content in a blending (same) color as the surrounding objects on the page. Within a web page there are different places that you should place ads depending on what site you own, there are differences between forums and normal site such as a blog etc.
For a Forum, you will recieve maximum potential by placing the ads:
-Under every post or thread.
-Inside the forum banner, like talkfreelance
-On a sidebox like talkfreelance again. I suggest the last two, but all three work a treat
For a Blog I suggest:
-In the header of the page - though this may affect the visual apprence.
-Directly beneath / above content of the site.
-In the navbar
-In a sponsered link box close to the top of the forum.
With all of the placements you want to make it blend with the design if it is a text link so users will read it. Users nowadays block out ads that look to obvious. If you want to place banners across your site I suggest that you place them close to the top of the forum.