The Evolution of a Profitable Site

Jun 27th

The following is the three step process that I view as the best path for creating sustainable sites that are valuable, successful, and profitable.

Launching a New Website

When starting a new site a webmaster should be willing to do just about anything to build link equity, brand exposure, and an audience. This includes:

  • not monetizing too heavily off the start

  • buying a good domain name and site design (or as best you can afford)
  • paying attention to the marketplace
  • stroking the ego of important players in the market (via things like award programs, interviews, mentions, etc etc etc)
  • having a unique value proposition and something you stand for
  • create real value
  • buying a few key trusted links

This phase should include trying many different things...even if 90% of your ideas go nowhere you still do good if just a few of them spread. Test and learn, test and learn, etc etc etc. It is ok if some of your ideas in this stage are flat out bad...it shows that you are learning and it will make others more comfortable feeling they can also learn with you. People don't like to read someone who thinks they are perfect, especially if they are new to a market.

In this phase I usually do not care too much about monetization other than coming up with ideas that I know I can bolt on, unless the site is so niche that it is already immediately focused on the commercial aspect.

If you bought an old trusted site you can skip step 1 and head to step 2.

Monetize Your Site

As the site gets traction, the site can be back-filled with related higher profit content ideas. Don't place ads on your subscription channel in a distracting way. Instead, add other content sections to the site that are of high profit potential. Make a channel / feed of related deals, or create a static content portion of the site with related commercial offers. After you created enough content you can also repackage portions of it in an information product or sell a premium subscription service.

The site's internal link structure should also place more weight on the important high profit pages. As the site ages and gains high authority trusted links, the site's inbound link profile can back-fill that with obtaining some average to lower quality links with the desired anchor text for the most profitable sections of the site.

Here you can also look to launch (or at least think of) ideas that make you the authority on the profitable section of your site. What can you do in that niche to make people view you as the expert? Why would they cite you instead of competitors?

Solidify

If your site makes more than your living costs, but you feel is on shaky ground, it is time to reinvest earnings to create a real brand. If you don't have a great design and great domain name make sure to buy them. Make the site so strong that the competition can't clone you and has no choice but to buy you out. Create thick content that builds your brand even if it does not feel like it will be highly profitable in the short term. After you have enough easy to monetize content keep increasing the quality of your content and create something people would want to subscribe to and share with their friends.

As you keep building your brand and link equity you can also look to increase your income by doing any of the following

  • selling consulting or information products

  • adding parallel profitable content sections monetized via ads
  • going deeper with the commercial sections on your site (by adding more content in that section)
  • if you have enough distribution and market leverage, consider creating a marketplace or leverage your brand asset to move your site up the value chain
Published: June 27, 2007

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Comments

NickB
June 27, 2007 - 3:16am

Aaron,

A lot of the comments you make about building sites seem to refer to information based sites only. Or something more like mortgages, stuff like that. Where you're "selling" a signup form, or something like that. (Maybe a lead gen site, perhaps). And that is cool. But is there anything you would change about that post if it were to be about someone starting an online store? Selling a product that seems to be in demand, and that you actually have to buy/keep stock of?

Thanks in advance for the response, and as always thanks for the great advice!

Jonny
June 27, 2007 - 5:27am

Hey Aaron,

Very nice post, I think I'll be coming back to this one a few times. Just one question though - you mention the importance of buying a decent domain a lot at the moment, and here you state 'If you don't have a great design and great domain name make sure to buy them' once you are already making money.
What if you have an established site with previous press mentions etc but a crap domain name, what would you do in that situation?

Thanks,
Jonny

June 27, 2007 - 6:20am

A lot of the comments you make about building sites seem to refer to information based sites only. ... But is there anything you would change about that post if it were to be about someone starting an online store? Selling a product that seems to be in demand, and that you actually have to buy/keep stock of?

Hi NickB
I think it still helps to be the person evangelising your field and products. I usually write for smaller people just starting out. Honestly if I were starting a business and carrying inventory I would try to go the Woot route or try to have a theme that is associated with higher margin stuff...sell more as a service than selling commodities.

What if you have an established site with previous press mentions etc but a crap domain name, what would you do in that situation?

Hi Johny
I would use a 301 redirect. But that is another post. :)

NickB
June 27, 2007 - 6:14pm

Aaron,

Thanks for the feedback! I know this isn't a consulting session, so feel free to say just that.. But maybe I can pick your brain and get you to expand a bit more..

I define commodity (roughly) as something that Walmart sells. By that definition I'm not selling a commodity - but my definition could be wrong :). I think the product I sell is in a high-enough margin area that I could sell relatively little and make some decent money..

So, all that being said, plenty of people offer what I offer, and I am differentiating on service, and my "store" being a place to learn as well [beginners] (much like this blog, actually). Do you think it's enough?

Is it OK to launch the store and the learning part of the site at the same time?

June 27, 2007 - 7:43pm

Hi NickB
I think nobody knows everything...we are all always learning.

ChristianPF
June 27, 2007 - 7:58pm

Aaron, about 5 minutes ago I just starting kicking myself about a typo I discovered on my blog. I was wishing someone would have told me about it before too many people saw it.

- check right below SOLIDIFY heading

obviously, no need to post this comment, but it was a good post, by the way.

NickB
June 27, 2007 - 11:44pm

Aaron,

Cool, thanks for response. Keep up the awesome work, I really enjoy your blog!

~Nick

tim
June 30, 2007 - 6:23am

Nick -

I would go the Amazon route and ebay route. Still to this day, if I were starting from scratch.

I would use them primarily to build my volume to the point where I could buy at decent margin, become efficient in my back office & to build a customer list.

Online merchants seem like they need to cross a threshold of about $15k or $20k per month before they can really take off.

I have personally worked with customers who have gone from zero to $75 in sales in a couple of months on Amazon with the right products and the right prices. There is actually a "seo" science to doing well there.

I have worked with many others who have quickly (within 45 days) gotten to the $25k/month level.

Of course, you will be paying Amazon or ebay fat margins along the way (12% or so) so you better be REALLY good at buying.

Meanwhile, you can be building your site using SEO methods - but the buying and back office stuff is equally important. There are platforms that allow ebay buyers to checkout on your site so there is a nice opportunity for cross-selling and up-selling and repeat business.

If you can be successful in a competitive world (ebay/Amazon), you are well positioned to do well on the web.

Just my two cents.

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