Today we are going to go through the process of building a new website from beginning to end starting from scratch and ending with a site that has good solid content and the ability to have monetization channels for revenue.
Getting started in niche websites can be a struggle and getting a first site up gives you the confidence that it can be done and that is what will be our goal at the end of this series. This article will also be helpful for those who already have sites up and running as it will cover a solid foundation of information. Even though we will start at ground zero and end with a fully functioning site it will provide value for both beginner and intermediate level readers.
Our goals are:
1) Educate the reader about and document the process of building a niche website from start to finish.
2) Determine how to pick a site that has good search traffic that has potential to rank well in the search engines and obtain organic, not purchased, traffic
3) Discuss the potential for adding monetization strategies. While the goal will to build a solid content site that adds value to a reader, we are also investing time and resources in building the content and traffic so there is a reasonable desire for monetization possibilities.
4) End up at the end of the series with a solid website property.
As a general reminder, it is ok to focus on a topic that interests you as the guiding principle in this website building case study, as long as it has some commercial potential. While there is nothing wrong with selecting a topic for your niche based solely on monetary factors (we are talking about web “business” after all), when possible it can be helpful to select a niche that you do have some interest in or knowledge about to get started. This can make it easier to maintain interest in the project as well as making it easier to add content on your own.
Keyword research is the process of finding the words and phrases that you will target for ranking in the search engines. Ideally, keywords with high search volume and low competition are what we are looking for here.
As mentioned in the introduction, we can look for a keyword that is primarily based on commercial intent and target easier monetization, or one that covers a topic of personal interest or knowledge to help retain motivation and allow for easier content generation on your own.
As you are thinking about this, brainstorm on things you like to do, read, or watch. Look at your bookshelf and movies, etc. What do you like to look at on the internet? These can all give you ideas for possible keywords. What have you purchased lately in your Amazon shopping cart? How about a hobby that you spend a lot of time on? All of these can get you started.
Take a look at some of the popular websites like Amazon and look in the bestseller area for ideas on items that are popular or trending. Another option is to browse on Flippa and see some websites that are up for sale or recently sold that could spark some ideas.
Make an initial list of keyword ideas in a few broad areas that interest you, and then next to each keyword expand a little more with a more narrow idea to get some creative juices flowing.
At this point you will have a nice starting list built up and we are ready to move to the next step which is seeing how often our target keywords (and related ones) are being searched in Google.
Google Keyword Tool
You will need a free Google account for several of the next steps, so to follow this process go on over to Google.com and sign up if you don’t have one. The starting point for our keyword research will be Google’s own <a href=”https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal” title=”Keyword Research Tool”>Keyword Research Tool</a>.
Using this tool, potential keywords can be researched and the average monthly searches can be found along with some other relevant data such as the estimated average Cost per Click (CPC). Start off with one of your broad and narrower keyword sets and enter them and hit search so we can see some results.
Note: Let’s talk about broad, phrase, and exact match for a minute.
Broad match results give the number of searches regardless of the order or words that may be between a search phrase.
Phrase match gives the number or searches for those words in that order but can be part of a larger query.
Exact match gives you the number of searches for the keyword or keywords as entered exactly.
Example: Using the phrase “Make Money Online” as your keywords would give:
– Broad match for any of these searches: Make Money Online Fast, How to Make Money Online, How to Make Fast Money Online Now
– Phrase match for these searches: Make Money Online Today, The Make Money Online Answer
– Exact match for only: Make Money Online
It is important to pay attention to the type of match selected as broad will give the largest search numbers, but is quite misleading at times. Exact match is considered the standard to judge potential search traffic by, and will be the lowest number of these three with Phrase match somewhere in the middle.
This is important, as many people have chosen what they thought was a great niche only to realize they have been hit with the Broad match overstatement. Google will also list some other similar words to your listed keywords in related that you can review.
There are tons of tips and tricks for how to determine if a number of searches is high enough to tackle with a niche site, but one rule of thumb for starting is to go with a keyword with at least 1,000 local searches a month to target a keyword with enough traffic to make it a minimum for viability.
That gets us to the point where we can identify how many searches there are for a keyword, next let’s take a look at some competition analysis.
Competition & Monetization
At this point after reviewing the keywords on your list, hopefully a few of them will have passed an initial screening of meeting a minimum level of searches and you will have a couple of favorites. At this point there are still a few more things to consider.
First and foremost, what is the possible competition to rank highly for this keyword? Second, does the potential site and content offer a possibility to monetize in the future?
There are multiple tools to do competition analysis available on the internet, but one that has a nice free version is Traffic Travis which offers both a free version and a paid version. You can have some initial success with the free version, but can consider the paid version if you like what you see.
In this program, going to the keyword tools section will give you an average daily search result including multiple search engines (Google, Bing,Yahoo, etc) and the totals so you can see an idea of what other search engines may bring you in addition to Google (these are broad match results). The real meat for us in this program though is in the SEO analysis section, you can enter your chosen keywords and the program will go grab the top 10 or 20 search results for that phrase and provide you its analysis of the relative difficulty of ranking for the keyword as well as details on the competing sites in the top 10 or 20 results.
The program will give you its rating of the difficulty of ranking for the keyword, and you can also see some of the key data on the top ranking sites for your analysis.
Another popular program that is also used by many is Market Samurai which has a free trial offer as well, then becomes a paid program if you want to continue using it.
If the competition seems reasonable, make sure that you do some brainstorming on possible monetization strategies. Most sites will have something available whether it is is advertising, digital products, or physical products as affiliates. As a solid content site, advertising is always a possibility, but the payout could be low. Using Ebay or Amazon affiliates for any site talking about physical products seems reasonable as a possibility. Just make sure you aren’t in a completely non commercial niche before going any further.
In the last three posts on keyword research we walked through how to select a keyword and now we will talk about selecting a domain name and how we will go about registering it. Godaddy.com is a popular site to register domains and many people have had a good experience with them overall and they are a huge domain registrar. They are an established and reputable company.
To have a website, it must have a domain name which is the website address that is used to reach the site. Domain registration is relatively simple. To get started, click on over to Godaddy.com to get to the domain search at Godaddy on their homepage. Once there and at the search box, type in the domain name that you want in the search and it will return the result of whether it is available, and if not will give some suggestions for alternatives.
It is most commonly recommended that if at all possible for a niche site that you get the Exact Match Domain (or EMD). This means the domain name is the exact same as your keyword. If it isn’t available, it isn’t a dealbreaker, but it is generally accepted that it gives you some initial boost in the search rankings. If you find that the EMD isn’t available, then adding something as a prefix or a suffix can get you there. Try searching with best or top on the front or HQ or reviews at the end of your keywords. The key is finding something that fits, but that gives you a keyword rich domain.
Once you have found the domain you want, add it to your shopping cart. At this point, you can add additional domains or go to the checkout (you will need to register an account to buy domains just like any online store).
There will be options offered to you to make several upgrades and upsells which can usually be safely declined except for one. The one that can be added and many do is Private Registration which helps protect your personal information from public searches in Whois. If you want to host with GoDaddy they do offer hosting, but the next post will cover another web host and the recommendation is not to use Godaddy hosting.
One quick tip on private registration is that if you add 5 or more domains to an order, then the private registration is added at no charge to the initial order. They call it bulk pricing. If you have five names you would like, then this approach can save some money on private registration. Now that you have a domain name, you need a webhosting service…
Now that you have a domain name and an address on the web for your site, it needs somewhere to be hosted at on a server so that people can access it. The domain name is just the address, but the webhost is the actual home of the website.
Hostgator is topnotch website hosting and they have a long history and lots of solid reviews over many years around the web. Hostgator offers two “introductory” hosting plans at a reasonable price. Their “Hatchling” plan is currently $4.95-$8.95 per month and the “Baby” plan is at $7.95-$9.95 per month depending on the length of the initial signup. The key difference between these two plans is that the Baby plan allows you to host unlimited domains on their shared servers while the Hatchling plan only allows one. If you are planning to expand to multiple websites the Baby plan seems to make more sense.
If you get big and have a larger traffic site, they do offer more extensive plans, but the shared server solutions should be adequate for your starting traffic and is a good place to get started.
Note: They also offer Reseller Hosting plans if you want to go the route of reselling your own hosting as a part of a way to start a web business, but that is a different business model.
After you have obtained your webhosting, then you are ready to setup the domain name on the web hosting account, setup an email address, and change the domain nameservers to your hosting account nameservers which is the subject of the next post.
Setup domain & nameservers
Now that you have a domain name and webhosting then we need to setup the domain name on the web hosting account, setup an email address, and change the domain nameservers to the hosting account nameservers.
If you just registered your webhosting, you should have been run through the request for your domain name at registration and already have the domain name setup on the Cpanel account at the webhosting provider. If this is an additional domain, then in the Cpanel account, we will add it as an add-on domain. To do this, in the lower section of the Cpanel, click on Add-on Domains, and add your domain name and password and hit the add domain button on the next screen. Now the domain name should be registered with your webhost.
I like to go ahead and setup an email address at my new domain, so go back to the Cpanel home, click on email accounts in the email section, then at the next screen add a username and select your domain name and hit Create Account. Now we have a custom email address.
Next, to have your domain properly forwarded to the webhosting provider, the nameservers must be set to the ones provided by your hosting company. You should have received these from your webhost at signup. Make note of these, and then we will go back over to our domain registrar (GoDaddy) to set these.
Once there, go to your account, and the Domain Manager. Click on the domain information for the domain you are changing, and hit the Nameservers link/tab. At this screen, overwrite the default nameservers with your hosting provider’s nameservers that they provided.
It can take a few hours for the nameservers to populate, but at this point you are really close to having your home on the web setup and started, but there is still some more to do to get where we want to be.
Now you have a domain name, hosting, and have basics configured, the next step is to install WordPress which is a great blogging/web platform. We will be using WordPress in this study and will discuss installation in the next post installing WordPress.
Next up we will install WordPress and also an FTP program that we can use to upload files to our webserver. The good news is that WordPress has a simple installation with Hostgator. The Cpanel at HostGator offers a great one click installation of WordPress via a program called Fantistico. To get there, go to the lower section of the Cpanel and click on Fantastico. Once there, a menu will appear on the left, and select WordPress. At the next screen, select New Installation.
Now there are three steps left. On this page, select the domain to install WordPress on, then select a username and password and the other fields and click Install WordPress. At the next page, confirm the information, and click Finish Installation. WordPress will now install, and you will get a note with the key information about the install. You can enter an email address to send the install information to and hit send. That is it. Now you have WordPress installed on your website and you have a home on the web!
An FTP program allows you to link to your webserver and upload files from your computer to your websites. While not necessarily required as many themes and plugins can be installed directly from WordPress Admin area some have to be uploaded because they aren’t in WordPress’ hosted database.
If a user of the Firefox web browser, the FireFTP addon is recommended. If you haven’t setup FTP, go to Cpanel and click the FTP menu and setup a user name and password.
Once FireFTP is installed, it can be found in the tools menu. Create an account and give it a name. The host is ftp.yourdomainname.com (where yourdomainname.com is your website domain) and add your username and password. Connect and you will see your computer files on the left and the server on the right and can upload to them as needed in the future. Next up we will add some plugins to our WordPress site.
One of the great things about using WordPress is that there are thousands of plugins available to expand the basic WordPress installation. In fact, there are plugins for almost anything imaginable that make building up a site with it much easier than having to code in HTML. To learn about how to add new plugins read the below. There are both paid and free plugins available for WordPress, but these below are all free as of the time of this writing.
In the WordPress Admin area, click on the “Add New” link under Plugins and search for the plugins desired. When you find one to install, click install and it should be installed and added to the plugins menu for activation and setup as needed. Plugins can also be added via FTP after being downloaded to a local file and then uploaded to the plugins folder on the website server if they are not available inside WordPress (usually this is more common with paid plugins).
On a new site setup, the following are the plugins that are commonly recommended to install at startup and cover much of what is needed for a new site.
All in One SEO WordPress plugin
This plugin is a strong plugin to help Search Engine Optimize your site. It adds options for adding additional information to page and post headers, descriptions, keywords, etc and is a top add plugin for your site.
Google XML Sitemaps
This plugin creates a XML sitemap and submits it to Search Engines based on the options selected and can help guide the search crawlers as they index your website.
Contact Form plugin
An easy automated plugin for adding a web form to send an email to you directly from the website.
The Sociable plugin adds social networking icons to the end of your posts and pages so that readers can easily Tweet, Digg, Bookmark, Stumble, Facebook, etc your post and hopefully drive back social media traffic to your site.
Another solid option for sharing is a plugin called SexyBookmarks, which isn’t adult even though the name makes it sound like it might be. They are just another icon set with a different look that does basically the same thing as Sociable in function.
This plugin allows you to schedule automatic backups of your WordPress site and have it emailed to you. This can help make sure that you never lose your entire site as it can be restored from the backup files. These are some great plugins to get started with. Next up we will look at some WordPress theme options.
Like plugins, there are also thousands of themes available beyond the basic WordPress default theme. As the basic look of your website, the theme will define the header, the sidebar menus, the colors, etc. It defines what the site will look like. To learn about how to add new themes read the below.
In the WordPress Admin area, click on the Themes link in Appearance and select”Add New” to search or browse for themes on the WordPress site. When you find one to install, click install and it should be installed and added to the themes menu for activation and setup as needed.
It is also common for themes to be added via FTP after being downloaded to a local file and then uploaded to the themes folder on the website server. Then they will show up in the Themes menu as available to preview or activate.
Some themes have customization menus in the Theme options, and others don’t, only allowing easy customization via widgets, with any other changes requiring some php code editing. Themes with good customization options are preferable for most, but a nice clean look is a main factor regardless of the customization available.
Some popular free themes to check out are:
– Semiologic WordPress theme (Highly Customizable)
– Lightword WordPress theme (Modest options support, nice clean look)
– Simple Balance WordPress theme (Highly Customizable)
– Vigilance WordPress theme (Modest options support, nice clean look)
– Pressplay WordPress theme (not a lot of customization options, but like the look and flow for certain sites)
– Tarski WordPress theme (nice two column clean look, not alot of customization options)
Hopefully this list will help you speed up the search process. You can easily spend a lot of time looking for and browsing for themes that look good and give you the functionality desired.
There are also paid themes available that have many options and customization built in and these are another option. Next up we will discuss setting up tracking for traffic on your website and using some of Google’s tools for website management.
Google Tools & Analytics
Installing <a href=”http://www.google.com/analytics/”>Google Analytics</a> on your websites can be a good way to track the traffic coming to your site. Once signed up with Analytics you will receive a block of code to include on your website that will allow Google to report to you on the number of your website visits, how people got there, which pages they visit, and how long they stay.
You can see traffic numbers from search engines including what search words drove the traffic. If the traffic came from a referring site you can see that also, so for example if you post your link somewhere to drive traffic you can measure its effectiveness. Also available for research is to see what pages are visited from all of your pages and posts so that you can see what content is bringing people to your site.
Google <a href=”https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/”>Webmaster Tools</a> also provides data that can be used to evaluate a website’s performance. While somewhat more performance focused as it shows things like errors and possible search crawl errors that can be relevant for search engine indexing, it does also show a listing of queries for your site, a list of backlinks to your site, and if you have a sitemap it will show you how many pages are indexed in Google.
The combination of these two free Google tools will help to give you guidance on your website’s performance and a view into your traffic statistics.
Links are included below in addition to the clickable links above.
The next part will discuss some standard pages to include on a website.
Standard Pages (Privacy, Disclaimer, Contact)
An earnings disclaimer is quite common on sites discussing how to make money to indicate that you may not make anything at all, and may lose money.
The contact page will list how to contact you via a web form on the page that will send you an email.
The about page will give information about what your website is about and what is its purpose.
Other general information is also often included about the site on a general page. It may discuss anything wanting to be listed for possible site readers. It is common to talk about information being the reader’s responsibility to use properly for example and that posts aren’t medical, legal, or financial advice, and other general terms of service.
One of the plugins recommended earlier is of great use in building the Contact page.
-Contact Form 7 allows a very easy setup of the web form that will allow you to be contacted from the form that it can create on a page.
With this done, we now have most of the basics of building the website framework in place with just a few more housekeeping items to go. Continued next is some basic WordPress setup advice.
Basic WordPress Setup
To start, a quick note is in order about the difference between Pages and Posts in WordPress. Also a couple of important WordPress Settings will be discussed also.
A page in WordPress is a static document that doesn’t go into the feed and stream of posts that is typically associated with a “blogging” style layout.
A post in WordPress goes into the RSS feed and usually goes into the stream of posts on the homepage based on date published with the newest post at the top. This can be modified on a post by post basis by making a post “sticky” in the admin panel to keep it on top.
A decision can be made in the Settings for Reading to have the front page display a static page of your choosing with your post stream on another page of your choosing instead of the default option. If that style fits your website design better than a homepage that is in a more blog feed format, then feel free to use it.
Two other WordPress settings that should always be checked and changed if necessary are under Privacy Settings and Permalink settings.
Under Privacy settings, if you want to be able to obtain search results and rankings, then the blog needs to be set to be visible to everyone including search engines. This is typically the default listing, but always check to be sure.
Under permalink settings, change the Common Settings to Custom Structure and use /%postname%/ in the entry box. The default WordPress url structure is not very SEO friendly as it would assign your posts a number or letters, etc instead of whatever your post title is listed as. Making this change puts your post name as the url which is much more search engine friendly
Now that WordPress is setup with a basic configuration and there is a general knowledge of pages vs posts, we will move to submitting our site url to the search engines to get indexed.
Submit to Search Engines
After a long hard climb through the first 12 posts with a lot of actions and a lot of learning, especially if this is the first site you have ever built, this short action of how to submit the website url to the major search engines (Google and Bing) will be a much easier task to accomplish.
There is some debate over whether this step is necessary, but since it is quite easy, and gives us a breather from a lot of heavy lifting, then it can’t hurt to do it and maybe speed up the site indexing process.
Although it is common, especially for WordPress sites, that most of the major search engines will find your site on their own, submitting to their submission pages notifies them of your website and its url address so they know to come crawl it and add it to their index of sites.
Submit URL to Google
Submit URL to Bing (signup required)
Next up we get going again with building things up by learning about adding content.
Content is king. Or so say the current rules of the Internet. Starting up a content based website for is what we have been discussing and so far, not a lot in this series has been about content just yet. That must seem strange, but we had to lay the foundation first.
A couple of notes on that. First, this is assuming a step by step walkthrough, and after doing some of the ground work once it will be a lot easier the second time around. This means that in the future the content creation will be able to start faster. There is also nothing to say that things must always be done in this order because there is definitely nothing wrong with getting some content in work or on the site before everything else is 100% in place. In fact, it is taking actions like that which will help you persevere through the tough times.
Writing good solid content can take time and focus, and at first just getting everything together and setup may take all of that concentration which is why we have focused on the foundation pieces for your website which will be one of the pillars of starting an online business.
But yes, it is now time to focus on content creation. Whether taking the form of articles, blog style posts, how to’s, informational posts, reviews, etc. the meat of a website is its content and without it the search engine rankings and traffic will not come.
If you have chosen a niche that you have some familiarity with, then selecting some topics to write about may come easier than if it is an unfamiliar niche topic. Either way, some other suggestions to find topics to write about are below.
Google’s Keyword Tool – Using the related keywords from the keyword research earlier, other similar and related topics will have presented themselves in those other keywords.
Google Trends – If looking for things to write about that are currently hot, then looking at the Google Trends can show you what is trending up.
Search Engine results – Searching for the related keywords in the search engines and seeing what results come up can give you an idea of what the competition is ranking for and can give you ideas of what content is ranking highly.
Article Directories (ezinearticles.com) – These will come up again later as part of driving traffic and building backlinks, but can also give ideas for what topics people are finding interesting.
You can start out with posts closely related to the topic, and then expand the site over time to cover more related topics that can flesh out the site.
In a topic that could be its own course, if your budget can afford it or you want to speed things up, you can utilize an outsourcing service to create the articles and posts for your site. Textbroker.com is a solid article writing service that has reasonable prices and lots of authors in the system. The service runs the articles through a copy checker for you prior to releasing them for review and acceptance, so the content you get is has a better proof of being original for your use and there is an option to send back for revision prior to acceptance if it doesn’t meet your requirements. Next up we will discuss getting a Twitter account and RSS feed through Feedburner for your website.
Getting a Twitter account for a website is a step to take next, even if it doesn’t seem like it will be used a lot at first. At a minimum, the account can be used to send out tweets announcing new posts on your website which will get your site in Twitter’s search stream, and possibly create some traffic. At best, if in a niche where posting is frequent and many followers end up on your account, it can be a key traffic mechanism and lead generator similar to an email list.
Since it is easy to do and may be great as a future piece of the website strategy it is a piece of new website setup that should be done and then automated as much as possible. As it is being regularly discussed that social signals such as Tweets may be being considered as ranking factors in the search engines, that is another reason to do it. To setup an account, just go over to twitter.com and open a new account (it’s free).
You may also want to consider setting up a Feedburner RSS feed instead of just using the default WordPress feed. The default WordPress feed is ok, but the Feedburner feed can provide a little more detail about subscriber stats over WordPress, but this can be considered more of an option than a necessity. Unless the Theme offers the ability to include an RSS subscribe button that can be pointed as you define, a plugin such as the “Subscribe” plugin must be used to add the Feedburner feed to the site for subscribers.
To setup a Feedburner feed requires a free Google account which is also needed for Analytics and Webmaster Tools, so if following along you already have this. Go to http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/myfeeds to create a Feedburner feed.
There are some nice plugins for WordPress for Twitter and RSS integration that can be used in conjunction with these. There are tons of Twitter plugins that can do everything from including your Twitter feed on your homepage to posting a new tweet automatically when a new post is published. One plugin mentioned above, the “Subscribe” plugin, can add a widget to the sidebar which will allow people to follow your Twitter account or subscribe to your RSS feed from the homepage sidebar. Next up adding video to your site will be discussed.
Adding videos to a website can be a strong draw for visitors to your site, and can also add to the feeling of a well planned and developed site that can get natural search engine results. Video has exploded as a medium for communication on the web. Youtube is one of the largest and most visited sites on the internet with tons of videos to view and share as well as providing the ability to upload your own content.
Video has become a big enough topic that it shows up separately in many search results by default, and has its own video section in search engines as well. Ranking well in these search results for videos can be an important driver of traffic as well as the normal text search results.
Ideally you would create brand new original content in video form. This could then be uploaded and then shared on your site with a link back to your site from Youtube (or other video site like Vimeo). Also, when creating your own content from something as simple even as Windows built in Movie Maker a visual of your site name and address can be added to the video thus making more exposure possible in case other sites pick up and embed your video on their sites.
Making a video to upload doesn’t have to be complex. One simple approach is to take relevant image files that have been merged together in slideshow form to make a video. While this probably isn’t the ideal way to make a video, depending on the topic it may work well and should at least get exposure and links. Most digital cameras and many phones include a video capture component that can be used without buying expensive or extra equipment.
Youtube videos can often be embedded based on the video settings, and can be added to your site as well. Next up is a similar topic to using video in your website efforts by using pictures and images on your website.
Adding images to a website is another solid method to attract visitors to your site. Much of what was said about videos applies to images as well.
Images and pictures are another large content area on the web today and like video they also have separate search results and areas in the search rankings.
The image content can also be either original and created by you or used from shared content from sites such as Flickr.com if the image has been shared with a license allowing it to be used (check licenses on Flickr). The images can be hosted on your own webhost or linked from a site such as Flickr.
Images are even simpler to create than video as all you need is a digital camera and the shots can be uploaded with only any minor editing that is needed. This can be an easy way to add original content to a site especially if the site is on a topic you are personally involved in since the pictures of normal activities and hobbies could become original content for the search engines to index and display.
Flickr images can be searched, and there is an option to search for images available under licensing that allows it to be added to another site, usually with a link back as photographer credit. There are also paid image sites available where you can buy rights to use images from an available selection. This may allow you to find a larger selection of images. Istockphoto.com is one of these options that it popular to use. Next up we will be discussing backlinks which will lead into other traffic strategies.
Obtaining links from other websites on the internet to your website is an important part of gaining search engine rankings as well as referral traffic (ie visitors from the linking site). Google and other search engines use links from other websites along with many other factors in making its ranking decisions. These links from other sites are called backlinks and account for the “off-page” portion of search engine optimization (SEO). (“On-page” factors are similar to what they sound like including the content, keywords, title, url, etc. of your webpage and are the other part of SEO). Backlinks are like a vote for your website from the linking website and help to establish credibility with the search engines.
There are numerous ways to attract and/or build links to your website or other web properties. Several of the next posts will discuss some of these different types of links and define what they are and what to consider in approaching link building. Each type of link can be considered to have a use in a link building strategy, but some links can be overdone as well and look bad (spammy) to the search engines.
First, a couple topics to address briefly are anchor text and follow vs nofollow.
Anchor text is the linking of a website with the use of a word or phrase as the clickable link. Often, the desired keywords are used as this anchor text which is supposed to help a search engine crawler obtain more information about a site’s content. A regular (naked) link is a clickable format of the full url. So for example, see the below examples:
Anchor text link for a website in HTML:
<a title=”Your Domain Name” href=”http://yourdomainname.com/” target=”_self”>Your Domain Name</a>
Naked link to a website in HTML:
Using good anchor text is important, but it is considered good practice not to overdo it with one anchor text to avoid search penalties for over optimization of anchor text. Some people even recommend using a few anchor texts like “click here” as anchor text as it helps make for a more natural link structure.
A link can be a “nofollow” link or a “follow” link. Nofollow is an attribute that can be added to a link to tell a search engine not to pass any of a site’s page rank to another site (or “nofollow” the link). Nofollow links are often considered to be less valuable than a follow link because of this, and comparatively that is often true, but others believe that a link is a link and thus a possible source of traffic even if it doesn’t pass pagerank. In building backlinks it should be an issue to be aware of and consider, but a natural link profile would likely include a mix of follow and nofollow so it should be ok to mix it up.
Web 2.0/Blog sites
Web 2.0 (blog) sites such as tumblr.com, squidoo.com, over-blog.com, insanejournal.com, or wordpress.com can be a great source of links that can be built up over time and really send your site some good links. This post is about using these web 2.0 sites to get links back to your site which will help in ranking in the search engines, but can also drive traffic to your site through referrals as these sites can rank some themselves (although this isn’t their primary goal).
Most of these sites are community type sites in which users register for an account and can then add their own page or pages on whatever topic (with the usual exceptions for adult and other prohibited content) they want to. You will need the typical information for signing up for an account on the web, but it is pretty easy to do. This process can even be outsourced (fiverr.com, odesk.com) or automated with the right software (SEO Link Robot, SENuke), but the software can be pricey and not really needed unless you are going to use a ton of links which may not be best for your site anyway.
At present, many of these type of sites are receiving good authority from Googleand they are crawled and indexed by Google quickly so a link from them can help get your site indexed by the search engines as well as help in ranking although this is a secondary concern. A link here back to your site also gives you the first opportunity to create some “anchor text” which is the keywords that are used for your link. For example, instead of “click here” and a clickable link, it will be “your keyword” and a clickable link. As we discussed in a previous post, anchor text helps tell the search engines what the link is about and helps in search engine ranking.
As an example, to setup a Squidoo lens head over to squidoo.com and sign up for a free account and select the option to create a lens. A lens must contain some content and add some value to a user so write some words and text about your subject. They also have some cool options to add different things to the lens to make it a general aggregator page. For example, you can feature polls, blog searches, Twitter feeds, picture search, etc. In addition, there is a link back to your site that traffic is being driven to and since it is a related site with more information on the subject, anyone clicking through will find good related information. Once you are done click publish and the lens is live. Squidoo offers the option to share in the revenue by adding the standard affiliate and advertising options so it is also a possible revenue source in addition to the main website.
The other sites all have the option to create the account on their site, write and post an article, and add a link, so check out the others above and do some searching for many more.
Web 2.0’s make a great “1st tier” set of backlinks. A tiered linking structure has lower quality backlinks (discussed later) pointing to higher quality links which point back to your main website. This strategy is believed to help lower the chance of receiving any ranking penalties while adding authority to the web 2.0 sites that have been created. The next post will discuss using article directories for linking purposes.
Article Marketing (Tier 1)
Article marketing refers to the strategy of writing articles for distribution on an article directory on the internet to drive traffic as well as obtain backlinks to a website.
There are many, many article directories available to post articles to (which will be discussed in more detail as second tier links in a later post), but the ones that are the subject of this post are Ezinearticles and Goarticles which are two of the higher quality article sites. (two other options are Articlesbase.com and Articledashboard.com) Ezinearticles is considered one of the top directories since they follow a stricter standard for article approval and editorial quality. They are considered to have the highest overall quality articles in general for article directory sites.
It is a good idea to pick these or a few other upper tier articles sites and use these like the web 2.0’s as part of a first tier that you will link back to with some lower quality links.
At Ezinearticles as at any of the article directories, the main benefit to the author is that at the end of the article in the “resource box” a link back to a website along with anchor text is allowed. The benefit to the directory is that they get an article that will attract people to their site, so it is theoretically a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties.
Be aware that at all of the article directories the submission rules should be read and adhered to in order to make sure that your articles are accepted and published with the least amount of time and revision possible. Most of the directories have limits on how many links can be in the body of the text (if any) and how many can be in the resource box. Most will not allow direct affiliate links in the resource box although some do allow linking to a sales page, but not always.
The opportunity to get quality links and traffic from an article marketing strategy shouldn’t be overlooked. It can be somewhat difficult as when you write a nice article, the instinct will be to want to put it on your main site, but one or two articles should be written specifically to be listed on article directories. It is recommended not use your best content on this, and not to post it on your site after posting it to an article directory. Next up is social bookmarking.
This post and the next four will talk about some additional different traffic and linking methods that can help in driving both direct traffic as well as building up backlinks. These will both aid in and supplement the search engine traffic that will hopefully be the backbone of your traffic, but all of these other methods can help, especially when a site is new. These link types can be used as either links to your main site or your tier 1 sites, but it is recommended not to go to heavy on links to your main site, especially at first. A common approach is to use only the higher quality versions of these links to the main site, and the lower quality ones to the tier one sites. In this way you get some diverse links without overdoing it, and building up the tier 1 sites at the same time.
This next link strategy will be the use of social bookmarking websites. These are community type sites where a user can post a link and then other users can vote on it. The higher the votes, the higher the chances that the link gets visited by the site’s users. In addition to this direct traffic from the site referrals, if a user likes the content there is always the chance that they will send it out as a tweet in Twitter or post it on Facebook or other similar sites thus giving the added benefit of social media exposure.
Three of the biggest players in this arena are Digg.com, Stumbleupon.com, and Reddit.com.
Almost all of these sites do require a free registration, but after that submissions can be made just by logging in. it is a good idea for you not only to add your site or sites, but add other interesting content found on the web so that you are a valuable user who won’t be seen only as a self-promoter. If you regularly add interesting content users on some of the services will be able to start following your updates and thus helping to get more traffic to your site. Also recommended is not to submit just every single post that is made so it doesn’t look like you are spamming the service, but are sharing your quality content as well as other sites that you enjoyed.
The below are some other sites in the social bookmarking arena. Also, remember that by adding the Sociable or SexyBookmarks plugin to your site then sites can be submitted from your posts and pages by the visitors to your site easily.
There are dozens more out there for use, but this is a good start, especially if you will be doing this manually. Like all links, this one can be outsourced (Fiverr.com) or automated (Bookmarking Demon). Next up is blog commenting.
Another way to build up traffic to your site or blog is to use a strategy known as blog commenting. Blog commenting is pretty much what it sounds like. You will go to other blogs and post a comment in the comments section of one of their posts and then list a link back to your site when doing so.
We will be assuming in the notes below that you are building blog comment links directly to your main site, so you want them to be good quality. If you are using any of the automated programs (Scrapebox, etc) it is probably best to send those links to your tier 1 sites and not your main site.
Some keys to successful blog commenting are to choose a blog to comment on that is in your relevant subject area and also to make a good valuable comment, not just a spam note and a link. If your comment makes it clear that you didn’t even read the article, then it often will not be approved or will be deleted by the website owner.
To make a good comment, don’t just throw a generic “good post!” For one reason, this isn’t likely to attract any clickthrough back to your site, and it increases the chances of a comment being seen as spam. Give the article a quick read, make at least a couple of sentences of good feedback and post the comment and it will be more likely to be a good comment.
Also important if looking to get clickthrough and not just build a link is to select a blog in your topic area. One of the ways to do this is to do a regular Google search for your keyword and then the word “blog” or to do the regular keyword search, then on the left side of the page on Google to click on the blog link to give search results from blogs. This is a good way to find some relevant blogs that have at least a couple things going: 1) they are related to your keywords, and 2) they have enough Google respect to rank for those keywords.
Spending a little time doing some quick commenting each day can become an easy 10 or 15 minute habit that isn’t difficult to accomplish and over time you can build a nice following in your niche along with some nice links. The next post covers a similar topic area which is forum commenting.
Much of what was just posted about blog commenting also applies to the strategy known as forum commenting. With forum commenting, you go to a forum related to your topic and post questions, answers, posts, or replies and leave a link in your signature block and/or profile back to your website.
As mentioned with blog commenting, pick a relevant forum and add a good post with value to a reader. A good answer or interesting post will make it more likely for a reader to click through to your site.
When looking for forums to comment on, you can do a Google search for your keyword plus the word “forums”, or do a regular Google search and click the link in the left side of the page for “discussions.” This will usually list some good forum links with discussions about your target keywords.
While maybe not quite a forum, adding answers to Yahoo Answers is another way to comment and get traffic and is a link type that is worth mentioning in this post.
This one is a little shorter than the others due to some similarities and crossover with the previous post in blog commenting, but both can be valuable strategies that will reach different audiences.
Note: It is important to mention that this is not meaning forum profile links, which are typically built in large quantities and if used at all should be used only to tier 1 sites and not your main site. Next up is more on article marketing, this time as it relates to articles pointing to your first tier instead of your main site.
Article Marketing (tier 2)
In an earlier post we discussed article marketing in general and specifically using a few higher quality sites as tier 1 sites to use to link to our main sites.. We focused on those first because of their importance in creating the tier linking structure.
So, at this point, if you have submitted an article to Ezinearticles (and a few others) then hopefully it is approved by now and it is live with a link to your site in the resource box. If not, then the suggestion is to wait until it is before sending it in to any of these other sites.
For creating these 2nd tier article marketing links, it is going to be recommended to use either outsourcing (Fiverr.com, etc) or to buy some software (Article Marketing Robot) because you will be submitting to hundreds of sites for this purpose and probably spinning your articles. If this isn’t something you want to do, then you can skip this step or just pick a dozen or so if you still want some tiered linking from article sites.
This is one of the steps that you will probably not want to send directly to your main site, especially not at first since this step creates a lot of automated links, which is desirable in tier 2, but not in links to your main site. Next up we talk about using directories to get links.
Listing your website or blog in directories can be a way to build backlinks and some traffic although with a lot of directories the traffic will be secondary to the link building.
There are thousands and thousands of directories that are on the web. Finding a directory for your niche can be done by Google searching for your topic or keywords plus the word directory.
In general a directory is just a site that has categories and then allows for submission of a link back to your site. There are general directories and topic directories. They can also be free or paid. Be aware that some free directories will want a link back to their site and that some directories are full of spam sites. It is always a good idea to take a look around the site before submitting your site to a directory when doing it manually or to your main site.
A lot of the better directories will have someone at least take a look at your site, and some of them require a blog to have been around a certain number of months or have a regular posting frequency to be listed. Like all of the other linking strategies, using directories will require some investment of time and energy to see progress when being done manually and to the main site. It can be a little bit harder than some of the other link strategies, but could result in what is considered a higher quality link if getting into the better moderated directories.
As a note here too like with the second tier article sites, with the exception of finding a couple dozen manual directories, this is a task that is well suited to outsourcing or buying software for, and if done in any volume should also be sent only to the tier 1 links, not the main site.
It is worth mentioning the directory that is considered the big daddy of directories even though you probably will never get in. 🙂 That is DMOZ.org and it is considere the premier directory at the present time. It is a free submission directory, and each submission is moderated by a human being who is a volunteer for DMOZ. It is often discussed online about how long it can take to be approved for inclusion in DMOZ, and some sites never are. Even though it can be a long shot or take a long time, the possible advantages of being in DMOZ are worth making a onetime submission request and then moving along to the next one
Take note of the DMOZ submission guidelines and follow them when submitting your site. Make sure to list your site in the right category and comply with all of their other requests to help aid in an approval. It may seem strange since it takes so long to get approved and may not happen anyway, but because of the potential benefits it is best to only submita site once it is either fully built, or if it is going to be regularly updated and has some substantial content. Having a good site with good content should aid in DMOZ approval.
Give directories a try for some link diversity, and remember that if sending links to directories by automation to filter them through your tiers, and if going with manual and higher quality directories to go ahead and link to your main site. The next post in the series is about adding a forum to your website.
Add a Forum
Adding a forum to your website is definitely not for everyone, nor is it the right move for every site, but it is worth discussion because it is something that should be considered depending on the niche and the site. In addition to allowing post and page comments from the readers of a site, having a forum can be an additional way to drive user engagement and community building on your site.
By adding a forum, the website becomes more of an interactive community where readers can log in and not only comment on existing posts, but add their own content, questions, and answer others questions as well. If a forum takes off on your site it will help build up its credibility and will make it more likely that the forum users will return as well as adding content to your site that is created by others.
One way to add a forum is with SMF (Simple Machines Forum) which if you are using Hostgator as discussed earlier in this series will be available to install via Fantastico and the SMF link on the left side of your screen much like when we installed WordPress earlier in the series.
If adding a forum in this manner, it will ask where to install it, and if it is going to be an add on to an existing site then adding a /forums directory after your domain name is a good suggestion. Setup a username and pass as requested and then add the forum via the Fantastico install. Forums can be a little harder to get used to and manage than a WordPress site, but can add value to a site as mentioned above and aren’t that tricky once you log in a few times.
However, they can be hard to get going as at first the forum will be empty and have no posts or active users. Expect it to take some time to get an active forum going. Making a serious go at creating a forum may be more appropriate once a site is drawing steady traffic or if the webmaster is prepared to put in a lot of initial time while it builds a solid audience. Also, be aware that a forum can be a spam magnet as many of the automated softwares post links to forums on the web, so you will need to be committed to moderating it to keep it clean.
Now that we have covered adding a forum as a possible feature of your website, the next post up is gets us moving into monetization methods.
Up until this point, everything in this series has been about building the infrastructure of a website, adding top quality content, and how to get traffic, links, and search engine rankings. Nothing about monetization yet. That is because without those things it is unlikely that a monetization strategy would matter because no one would find your website without them, and even if they did there would be nothing there to keep them around and coming back for more. This is why the series has focused on the things that will build up a good quality website which is the basis for building any future business and traffic on.
But now at this point with a good website that is hopefully starting to see some visitors and some search results it is time to start thinking about how to add some income streams to the site. There are several ways to go about doing this, and some of the top ones, especially to get started with, are listed below.
Google Adsense is the advertising arm of Google. By signing up as an Adsense member you will be allowed to display ads on your site for Google publishers and be compensated each time a user clicks an ad served up on your site. Google is one of several advertising partners available to use, but is a major player and is relatively easy to sign up for and get started using. If you have your Google account like discussed earlier in the series then head over and sign up.
It is recommended to not include Google ads on any so called made for Adsense sites (low quality one or two page sites that don’t have much content for example) or any low quality site as Google has been known to ban Adsense accounts of users using their ads on sites such as this. Adsense is a common method many people get started in monetization while testing other methods.
Amazon Associates is the affiliate program of Amazon.com. By signing up to become an affiliate, you will be able to add text and image links back to products on Amazon that your website readers may be interested in. If they click over to Amazon and make a purchase, then you can get a percentage of the order as commission for the referral. Approval for Amazon’s affiliate program is usually relatively quick and easy.
Ebay Partner Network
The EPN (Ebay Partner Network) is Ebay’s affiliate program. Using this program allows you to add text or image links to Ebay auctions and you can be compensated by users who click over and bid on or buy the products. EPN pays out on a per click basis, not on a commission basis. It can be difficult to get approved for EPN compared to other programs. It is recommended to apply only once a website is fully created with some good content.
Clickbank is the most commonly known information product (ebooks) affiliate program on the web. Signing up with Clickbank is quick and easy and you can get an affiliate link to place on your website very quickly. Clickbank is a marketplace for people who list their information products for sale through their website. These products are all also available for selling as an affiliate and you will get a commission for each product based on what is listed in its description. If you are a creator of information products, you can list your product here and make it available for others to market for you for a share of the sales value as well.
Commission Junction is another affiliate program that includes lots of companies with lots of different products and offers for sale. CJ includes different payment structures including commissions for product click-throughs followed by sales as well as cost per action programs where compensation is gained when someone signs up for something (a free trail for example) or performs a similar action.
There are a lot of other monetization possibilities including other advertisers and other affiliate programs in addition to selling your own ad space and your own products or services, but this should give you options to evaluate and consider for use on your website.
Remember the user experience when placing offers or ads and make sure that they don’t override the content. After all of the work to build a quality site it could be ruined as a ton of different monetization strategies could make the site look too much like one of those spammy sites we have all run across and ignored. Next up in the series is making a decision about the future direction of the site.
The Future of the Site
In our most recent post in the series some methods for monetization were discussed. At this point in the process of launching a site, the site is built, indexed, has some links, some search results, and is probably getting some traffic. After the last post, maybe you added one or more of the monetization strategies discussed and are hoping to see some clicks, commissions, or sales. So now, at this point, a common question is what happens next with the site? Build it out, move on to the next site, focus on links, etc?
One question needs to be answered first that determines the detailed answer to that question. Is this the end of your updating of this site except for maybe one or two posts a year? Have you said what was needed and made a nice resource site for the niche? If so, then maybe you don’t plan to do much except monitor the site in Analytics and Webmaster tools to keep an eye on it and monitor and test your monetization results for optimization of conversions. There is nothing wrong with this approach. As the site ages and gains more authority it will just set on autopilot and (hopefully) gain even more traffic. Maybe one or two posts a year help keep it from being completely stale, but mostly maintenance free. A lot of smaller sites in more static niches can fall into this category.
However, if this is going to be a site that has more future potential or is in a topic you are interested in, then you will want to post to it more regularly (multiple times a week or month) and keep the content fresh and the traffic increasing. If the site has a lot of untapped potential left then this is a good strategy. Many people currently believe that this model is the future of website building, and if you have identified a good niche, then really building it into a big authority site may be the best way to go.
If you are going to continue updating it, then a recommendation is to go ahead and lay out that plan so it doesn’t get lost as you move to building the next site or any other online endeavors. Go ahead and write down traffic plans, any ideas for great posts, any seasonal ideas (Halloween/Christmas/Holiday articles), basically any suggestions that come to mind to avoid any future writer’s block. Keep this a running list so that ideas can be added in the future. Keep in mind that to build a site that is considered authoritative in the future and gets good page rank (PR) then growing the site past 6-12 posts total is going to be needed, so adding to the content regularly is needed if this is what you decide is a goal with the site. Next up is a post about what many consider the holy grail of the internet marketer which is getting opt in’s and building an email list.
Building an email list through an opt in form on your website is a tried and true principle of internet marketing taught by almost everyone as a method to use in growing your brand and adding monetization to a site. An email list can be used to send information about your site’s updates, send a newsletter, and market to the list by affiliate offers or in email advertisements. It can increase the “stickiness” of your site and keep users coming back for more as it can also be an avenue to let people know about new blog posts or new products.
Aweber is considered to be the premier email list program. It has a lot of the features that are desired in a mailing software including building the forms and code needed to add to your site as well as templates for different types of mails and newsletters.
With the autoresponder features of a mailing list management program like Aweber, it can be configured so that new subscribers receive preset emails after they sign up in the order and days apart that you set. This is in addition to any on demand emails you would like to send to your list.
This type of opt in and email functionality is often used to offer a special report, free mini ebook, or a several part tips or training course that offers a good free incentive for signing up. This way both parties gain value. The user gets some valuable content that can help them in the search for information they were looking for, and the website owner gets a subscriber to their email list that can potentially become a long term reader and customer.
If you use the signup form on Aweber’s site, then you can get Aweber’s test drive email campaign and you will get a series of emails from Aweber which will answer questions about Aweber, and why they should be the ones to manage your email marketing.
Almost anyone in the internet marketing world when asked says that their number one mistake was not starting to build a list soon enough. Keep that in mind and consider getting an email capture form added to your site.
And now coming up is the final post with closing comments.
Now lets close out our post on building a niche website starting from ground zero and ending with a functioning and fully built website. As we moved through this series a lot of ground has been covered and a lot of information has been shared. Here is to the hope that your startup site is already starting to see some good solid traffic, that backlinks are being built, and maybe you have seen clicks and earnings!
This final post closes with a couple of solid tips. One that can add to the revenue streams of a site and another that can help build traffic and backlinks.
Adding an advertising page that lets people know that you will consider taking ads on the site as direct placements is a way to put that idea in front of potential advertisers who may not have otherwise contacted you. Having the Contact page and Contact Form plugin installed as recommended earlier in the series does give potential advertisers a way to contact you without a separate page, but listing it separately can give it more exposure. In addition, if you choose to do this, you can go ahead and list desired pricing for different types of ads (text, banner, sidebar, etc). If your traffic warrants it, then traffic numbers can even be added here. This approach won’t be for everyone, but for some sites, this page could help bring in advertisers who otherwise wouldn’t think about advertising with you directly.
Next up, getting user generated content in the form of either guest postings or picture and video submissions can help to add some solid original content to your site while helping to engage with your user base. You can offer a link back to someone’s webpage when they provide a guest post on your site and this is a win-win for both users. One person gets some good original content and the other person gets a link. This is basically what article directories do, but on a larger scale.
This approach can also be carried out with other sites in your niche if you want to do so. If it isn’t necessarily a direct competitor site, then you could contact the owner and ask if they wanted to write a post for your blog (or you could offer to write one for theirs).
Other user generated content can come in the form of pictures or video. If your site has a gallery area or otherwise uses images and video, then a call for user submissions may get you something to add to the galleries.
User generated content in the form of posts, pictures, video or any form can be a help to a site as it provides new content while engaging the readers of the site and giving a sense of community. It may also help in social media and bookmarking traffic as the users who have submitted content share with their friends and contacts, and if they are website owners themselves with their readers.
Use these final two tips to put the finishing touches on your website strategy.
Tags: Building A Niche Website