Developing a content website
Showing you the basics of launching a content website on the web such as a blog or a mini-site.
- Choosing Your Niche
- Building Your Site
- Content Writing
In the last few years I have mostly made my money online from content based websites, so I believe it’s appropriate for my first article on Demons Lounge to be on the same subject.
So what are content websites? Put simply, a content website is a website that focuses mainly on providing information to visitors. There are different types of content websites however their function is essentially the same; provide a useful resource to the visitor. Blogs (such as this) are one of the most popular types of content website on the web with millions of blogs being updated daily.
Another term you might here often in affiliate circles is ‘Mini Sites’. Mini sites are small content based websites which usually have between 5 and 100 pages. Mini sites are usually very focused on a certain type of niche, which allows affiliate marketers to build highly targeted traffic and advertiser closely related products on the same site. Wikis are another popular type of content website which can be hugely profitable if built correctly. Many people think that wikis are non profit websites, mainly due to the popularity of Wikipedia, however many wikis generate huge levels of traffic and as a result produce large revenue streams (Take a look at the Star Trek Wiki Memory Alpha to see what I mean).
Blogs, mini sites, wikis and other content websites make money in different ways and I believe monetizing each type deserves an article of it’s own to do it justice. Therefore today I will be showing you how you can start a content website and will be talking about some things you need to consider before launching your site. Most of what I write in this article is applicable to every type of content website though obviously how you build your site depends on what you are building i.e. developing a mini site is different from developing a blog etc. Please bear this in mind when reading this article
Choosing Your Niche
Image Credit: The secret of the good choice !
Choosing your niche is probably the first thing you will do when researching for your project. For some it will be a no brainer as they will simply write about what they are passionate about, be it their favourite sports team, tv show or hobby. For others it can be a major stumbling block when launching a website.
With most content websites I believe it’s important to stay focused on just one or two main topics. This is particularly true for blogs: the majority of successful blogs in the world today stay focuses on one topic such as technology, sport, gossip, politics etc. Many blogs fail because the owner posts on a range of different topics, which can alienate readers e.g. would you want to read a gadget blog where the owner spoke about their love of cooking every other week?
If you are going to be heavily involved in writing for your website then you should choose something which you are passionate about. I have made the mistake in the past in writing on subjects which didn’t interest me and I quickly lost interest in the project. Whereas, if you write about something you have a genuine interest in your passion will shine through in your articles. This is less of an issue though if you are outsourcing your writing responsibilities.
Choosing your niche for mini sites and other content websites where the main aim is to drive traffic towards a specific affiliate product requires a lot more research. I won’t delve too much into this topic today though I will say this: do your homework. I know it’s a pain having to do so much research at the start of a project but it’s vital you choose the right topic for your site before you launch.
Sam will be expanding on this subject in a series of posts on Demons Lounge so make sure you check out his first article about choosing the right niche on Wednesday.
Building Your Site
I will assume that you have some experience with working on the web and know how to register a domain name, setup a hosting account and code a little HTML. If all of this sounds a little daunting to you I recommend reading my friend Daniel Scocco’s guide How To Make A Website, which shows you how to register a domain and setup a website using WordPress.
Gone are the days when designers built websites from scratch. Today, the majority of websites on the web are powered by Content Management Systems (CMS). CMS’s are scripts which allow non-programmers to easily publish content on the web. There are other types of scripts which let you publish content (such as Wikis) available too.
If you are starting a personal blog and are not looking to make money from it then you may want to consider using a free service such as WordPress.com or Blogger, which allow you to publish content on the web for free. However, anyone who is serious about making money on the web (which I assume is all of you) should make a point of securing your own domain name and personal hosting package. Once you have done so, you need to find the right script for your site.
As someone who runs a blog focused on WordPress, it should be no surprise what my favourite platform for blogs and content websites is. WordPress is the number 1 blogging platform on the web though with thousands of free designs and plugins available to modify it’s features, it’s the perfect choice for small to medium sized content websites too.
If you are looking for something a little different I recommend checking out my favourite script directory Hot Scripts. It lists close to 50,000 scripts so it can take some time finding exactly what you want, though it’s worth it if you find exactly what you need for your project.
Another site I recommend using is Open Source CMS as it allows you to test hundreds of PHP scripts for blogs, forums, portals and more. It’s a great time saver as it saves you from having to download a script and install it in order to see if it’s any good.
When deciding on what script to use for your website you should consider the following:
- Does it have a large supportive community?
- Is it actively updated by it’s developers?
- Is it easy to use and easy to modify?
- Is there a large selection of templates and plugins/mods to choose from?
- Is the price justified when compared to free alternatives?
- Do the developers offer premium support. If so, for how long?
- Do the developers actively update the product?
I have never developed a wiki website though my first port of call would be to try MediaWiki as it’s free to download and powers none other than Wikipedia itself. As I mentioned before, I tend to always use WordPress for blogs and content websites these days as it’s free, has a huge community for support, boasts lots of features, and has thousands of free and premium template designs available for it. Though if you are not a fan of WordPress I recommend visiting Open Source CMS to try the alternatives.
Image Credit: I won’t write you a love song
What would a content website be without content? There is a saying that marketers use a lot which states ‘Content is King!’. It’s become a little cliche but it still holds true. Content is the reason people visit a content based website so it’s important that you focus a lot of your attention on it.
From a pre-launch development point of view, content writing can be split into two categories: content which you write yourself and content which is written by writers you hire. Whether you write for your own site or not depends on a lot of factors. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you a good writer?
- Do you enjoy writing?
- Are you knowledgable in the subject you are writing about?
- Do you have the time to writer?
- Can you afford to pay others to write for you?
I believe for blogs it’s important to have an interest in the subject you are writing about, unless you have a large budget and can afford to hire a good writing team from day one. I like to write all articles myself at the start of a blogs life in order to set the tone of the website and set the standard which other writers have to follow. It does pay to be passionate about your blogs topic if you are writing about it frequently. It also pays to subscribe to authority blogs and news sites within your niche so that you stay up to date with the latest news.
I can then bring writers in at a later date. With blogs it’s very important that the quality of writing is high as you are writing for the blogs readers and not the search engines. If you offer low wages to writers then you will end up with poor writers. You would think that the more you pay someone the better their writing will be but I have not found that this is always the case. Some of the writers I have paid the most to for writing for me have rarely given me value for money. Sure, their grasp of English was good, however their inflated prices were more to do with how well they have branded themselves rather than the quality of their work, and I found many who did charge a lot did the bare minimum for you. Admittedly, I was a little unlucky in this respect as the higher rate bloggers I did hire didn’t make an effort and it seemed like their work for me was bottom of their list of priorities – give me a hungry writer with a point to prove any day of the week!
Generally speaking I offer the average rate for the niche I’m asking people to write in. I also ensure that they are always paid on time and I try and give them a lot of exposure by having their profile and website linked underneath every article they write as well as a dedicated bio page. By far the best place to find blog writers is the Problogger Job Boards, which is also a useful place for figuring out how much to pay people to blog for you as you can see what other companies are offering.
It’s a little different for mini sites and content based affiliate websites which are set up to promote certain products and services. Since the majority of traffic will be from pay per click advertising and search engine traffic, it pays to write for the search engines. Obviously you still want your articles to be written to a high standard though it’s less of a concern than it is with blogs.
If time is on your side then I recommend writing the content for your mini site yourself to ensure that the quality is good and related to the products you’re trying to promote. However, once you start making money it pays to hire others to write for you so that you can focus on marketing and working on other projects.
Half the battle is finding a good writer. If you find a good writer, make sure you look after them (so to speak) and pay them a fair rate and on time every month. It could be worth paying them a bonus every now and then if the site is doing well too. There are dozens of directories and marketplaces where writers and website owners advertise their services though two I would recommend trying first are eLance and ODesk. Take your time and research anyone who applies for a writing position you advertise, as it can be a real pain having to hire someone to rewrite an article which another writer didn’t do correctly.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to what content websites are and how you can start one. I will be talking more about content websites over the next few months and focusing more on how you can make money with blogs and mini sites, so I encourage you to Subscribe to Demons Lounge if you enjoyed this article.
I would also love to do a case study for all of you guys and take you through every stage of creating a content website: from deciding on the domain name and setting up the website to marketing it and making a profit. I’m sure you would all find this useful as it would break down every stage of the process.
The best part about blogging is interacting with readers so please, if you liked this article, leave a comment below. At the very least introduce yourself and let us know who you are and what you do