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5 Steps to building web gold

Posted in Computers,Software by Joe Colburn on the August 14th, 2007

These days, it seems like anyone with the right idea and the drive to make it happen can become a billionaire in about the time it takes most of us to get a promotion. The good news is that you don’t have to come up with the next YouTube or MySpace to make some money online. Since I’ve built and sold a few sites, I decided to share some of what I’ve learned.

1. Brainstorm for the perfect idea
The first thing you need to do to get started is figure out what kind of site you want to build. This process is much easier when you discover a need first and then decide to turn it into a site, but for our purposes, we already want to build a site and just have to discover the need. Brainstorm for a while and have a pen and paper handy to keep notes. If site ideas just come to you like they do me, you should be prepared to jot them down. Mine tend to come just before sleep, so I keep a pad and pen on my bedside table and it has proven useful a number of times. Just jot down the basics and set aside time later to smooth out the details. Niche sites tend to do really well. Starting a site with a possibility of 1,000 daily visitors and no competition will often prove more successful than trying to build the next Google or YouTube with little seed capital. Do your research. If you think you’re the first person with an idea, you will sometimes find at least 2 other sites already built. Sometimes you will get lucky and the competition has failed at providing anything of quality. In these cases, you may be able to take over a niche market by doing a better job at it.

Here’s a couple articles to get the gears turning:
10 Most Successful Web 2.0 Startups To Date
Ten Rules for Web Startups

2. Build it
If you are a developer like me, you have an obvious advantage in that you can eliminate some of the need for seed capital. If, on the other hand, you can’t write a line of code, you can always hire a web development firm or take your chances with a freelance developer from Elance.com or similar sites. I have personally used Elance for smaller projects that I needed done quickly and didn’t have the time or expertise to develop myself and have had only good experiences so far. If you have the seed capital and want to ensure success through growth, hiring a trusted development firm may be your better choice, as you will have peace of mind and support for future changes, enhancements, and bug fixes. Either way, you should take the time to figure out some of the details ahead of time.
53 CSS-Techniques You Couldn’t Live Without offers a long list of style examples you can reference when detailing how you want things to look, and Smashing Magazine offers plenty of “best of” lists for web design, including “Web-Sites of the month” for January and February. But don’t stop there. Look at other successful sites around the web and make a list of which features or design aspects you like about each site. The more examples you give a designer, the closer they should be able to get to your vision. Finally, take a look at 10 things businesses should know before building a website. Although some of it applies to existing businesses seeking a web presence, a lot will also apply to a new web entrepreneur.

3. Promote it for free
I’ve always said that you can promote the hell out of any site and it all means nothing if the site has no value to the visitor. That principal works the other way around, too. You can build a great and useful site, but if nobody sees it, what’s the point. Web promotion can be a very slippery slope. You can actually buy raw traffic, but that doesn’t do much to build the site’s web presence. You should be weary of sites promising to “add your site to the top 1500 search engines”, too. There’s really only a handful that count and adding your site to them is pretty simple. A tried and true way to get new web traffic is through links from other, relevant, sites. Seek out other sites that are similar in genre or nature, but not direct competition and politely ask them to trade links. This method has always worked well for me. As a bonus, Google looks kindly on incoming links, too. Ultimately, the holy grail of free promotion is known as “viral” marketing. If you’ve ever gotten an email from a trusted friend with a link, urging you to “check it out”, you’ve already been a part of the viral marketing phenomenon. Viral marketing is just what it’s name suggests. One person likes a site so much that they tell a couple friends about it and those friends tell a couple people and so on. Before you know it, you’re swimming in web traffic. Once again, however, you’ll want to get people to come back, which brings me to yet another link: How to create FireFox extensions. Creating a FireFox extension, Vista “gadget”, or RSS feed of your most updated content puts your site back in front of a visitor days or even months after their first visit and often makes them a return visitor.

4. SEO for organic traffic
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is a source of much interest and debate among web developers and web entrepreneurs. The right SEO can make a substantial impact on the success of your site. Most of my sites have shown at least 30% of their inbound traffic coming from search results. Of that, typically 90% or better is from Google. Suffice it to say that when Google Engineer, Matt Cutts shares
21 Great SEO Tips, you should pay attention. Obviously, the more traffic you can get from any source, the better.

5. Wait, monetize, wait some more
When you build your site, apply for ad networks like Google’s Adsense and Yahoo’s Publisher Network. Don’t forget to have additional revenue sources such as CJ.com and DirectLeads.com. You’ve heard about putting all of your eggs in one basket, haven’t you? That rule applies with site revenue as well. Last year, I received around $20,000 in additional income from Yahoo and Google ads and I was ready with one network if the other dropped me for any reason. Had I not been prepared and lost my only revenue source, well… you get the point. I have found that your first few weeks/months may bring very little traffic and some visitors can be jaded about ads on the web. Build your traffic up a little before putting ads in your site. You probably won’t miss the 30 cents a month, anyway. When you have a comfortable number of daily unique visitors (for me that can be 100-1,000), put the ads in place. Experiment with ad positioning, colors, etc. Try one thing for a week and then something else the next week. After a little bit of experimentation, use what works and re-evaluate every 6 months or so. If your site model allows for additional revenue streams like a paid membership, figure out your price point and run with it. Sometimes you can make money on more than just ads or have no ads at all.

The above 5 steps should help any newcomer get started, but there’s more to learn as well. Take a look, also, at Building a Niche Minisite (and Part 2) and bookmark me as I may have more to share in the near future including case studies and success stories.

Following the right web design tips can prove a way to building web gold. The current arena of W3 has made a good website design one of the must-haves for an impressive online presence. An effective web page design can be carved out by a cautious mix of the business model and the target consumers’ needs. A well renowned web development agency can be reached out that can custom tailor your web site with either a flash or a photoshop design. These web sites are equally good to be hosted either on colocation hosting or a stand alone and sounder dedicated hosting.

About the author

Joe Colburn Joe Colburn is a software engineer specializing in PHP and a technology enthusiast. Always eager to dive into new and exciting things, Joe writes about anything technology related news and products that he thinks you will also be excited about. Find Joe Colburn on Google+ or by any of the links below.

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One Response to '5 Steps to building web gold'

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  1. Zenith Media said,

    on July 15th, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Google positioning – 5 Key phrases Great post, google, world domination is their goal for sure :)


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