I have been writing too many in theory type posts, so here is a post offering many practical tips to increase productivity and lower your site development costs.
If you have a deep interest in a particular market or understand some general macro-trends (online or offline) that gives you a big advantage over others in choosing what to make a site about.
You can track memes. See what is hot on blogs, on Google's hot keywords, or the Yahoo! Buzz Index. You can track retail. See what is hot on Amazon or eBay. You can track advertising. Look at top performers inside ad networks or affiliate networks like CJ, Linkshare, ClickBank, Azoogle Ads, or Performics. Also, if you see ads that are highly off target (like auto ads on a site about recipes) it probably means that ad buyers in that industry are hungry for ad inventory.
I also like to look at sites like Elance or ScriptLance to see what kinds of projects other people are creating. Also look at some of the past projects from some of the better service providers to find rich markets.
Buying a Domain Name
Go to PsychicWhois to look for names in related fields. If you can get an exact match keyword .net or .org domain for $8 it might be worth registering it. If you are aiming for a local market your local .co.uk or .ca might be a nice buy too.
Beyond that, there are some free tools that try to generate name permutations, like NameBoy, and a couple (fairly inexpensive) firms that do this were recently mentioned in the comments section on my interview of Frank Schilling. GrabaGoodDomain and PickyDomains cost from $50 to $100 (as of writing this).
Sites like Afternic, BuyDomains, Sedo, and Fabulous offer domains for sale for set prices, while SnapNames, Pool, TDNam, and Sedo (again) sell domains at auction. A couple years ago Mike Davidson wrote an article about buying expiring domain names.
At domain auctions the domains tend to typically go for fairly affordable prices. The .net and .org prices are fairly reasonable because many of the top auctions are based on some multiple of type in value. If the .com names seem a bit more mainstream they can get really expensive unless you have a strong monetization model or a large passive revenue stream. Frank Schilling mentioned that he paid 140x yearly earnings for SnoringCure.com, (over $8,000). Prices can vary widely though. A .net or .org or a URL with keywords in an alternate order may go way cheaper.
If you are creating a new word or brand it is best to get the .com of it, but if the .com is already registered and not much is being done with it yet you might be better off going with a .org or .net and using the price differential for site design, content development, and marketing.
Remember that once you start developing a name many of the associated costs (site design, content, market, etc.) are the same if you have a good name or a bad one. Eventually a good name should be able to pay for itself through lower recurring marketing costs.
Some people are graphically inclined while being bad at coding. Working with a bad site design wastes time and may kill your interest in a project. Requiring the designer to produce quality workable code or turning design into a 2 step process might make it more manageable. You can pay one person to create the graphics and use a company like psd2html.com to convert the design into code can keep design costs low while keeping the code usable.
Themespress is a $10 service that can convert your code into a Wordpress blog template.
Another great design option is to just get a free blog template or free site template, then buy a logo from an affordable source. You can buy the logos from logo designers like The Logo Company or Logo Design Works, contests in design forums, or outsourcing sites like Elance or Scriptlance.
Cloak Affiliate Links
By cloaking affiliate links through your .htaccess file or a PHP jump script it makes it easy to change affiliate partners if merchants change networks or payout levels.
I like using dynamic programing or server side includes to make it easy to change sections of a site without having to edit pages one page at a time. For example, many of my new sites have blank server side includes where the ads go. When the site gets some good traction ads magically appear.
Track Your Progress
Install a tracking script to track your progress to see what keywords you are ranking for and where you need to do more work. If certain sections of your site are more profitable than others make sure to over-represent them in your internal link profile.
How to Write Content:
You can find writers from sites like Craigslist, popular industry forums, look for local college students, or people who are already blogging about your topic. Six keys to profitable content development
- use content as a marketing strategy: as noted here
- segregate content quality: make sure features rock. make the other content good enough to pass a hand check and lead to conversions
- grow your content in proportion to your link equity
- don't display ads so aggressively that people will never link at your site
- focus the content pages on inbound links and subscriber acquisition...show few ads on them
- focus the conversion oriented pages on conversion :)
Use Gmail or some other service that makes it easy to tag, archive, and search your email. I have been a bit behind on email recently, but hope to be catching up in the next couple weeks.
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