Success with Informational Sites – Part 2

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 21, 2010 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Business Marketing, Tips in 10

In the last article we talked about informational sites and why you would want one. To summarize, an informational site is a site that does not directly sell but is chock full of information about a specific subject. And you want one (or more) for your business because they can help to position you, they are a laboratory for your thought leadership, and you can still earn money from them (either by driving traffic to your website or even through ad revenue).

In this article, I want to give you some details on getting started with your first informational site. I’m going to talk about choosing a domain name and setting up the site. But in order for you to get the most out of this article, you’ll want to have done the steps I outlined in the previous article:

  • Identify your sub-niches
  • Find the intersection between what they are looking for and what you provide
  • Plan your format (such as a blog).

If you haven’t done that yet, you’ll want to do it now. Even if you’re not 100% sure what target audience you want as a niche, it’s a helpful exercise to start. Then, when you will be ready in the future to work on this, much of the legwork will already be done.

Find a domain name

Once you’ve decided on those things, you can now think about your domain name. Domain names have gone through an interesting metamorphosis since their early usage in the internet’s earliest days. Today, businesses will often pick names for their corporate site that reflect the name of the organization. My site, HeatherVilla.com, is a good example of this. I do this because I want to brand my name so that when people think of me, they can type my name into their browser’s address bar and get to my site.

But informational sites are going to be really keyword friendly and highly targeted to your niche. People are rarely going to remember and type the name of the site into their browser. Instead, they are going to search for information on whatever your topic is and click on whatever comes up in the search engine results. If it’s really helpful, they will bookmark it and visit again. There is rarely a time when they will actually type in the domain name into the address bar.

Because of that, you can choose domain names that aren’t easily necessarily memorable or associated with your brand, but are instead chosen because they are search engine friendly. These domain names can be longer as long as they have the keywords you want in them. So, let’s build off of the example we started last week to show you what I mean: Let’s say that a sales coach is going to build an informational website for soon-to-be entrepreneurs. Instead of using a branded name that is borrowed from the name of the company, they may choose something that is far more keyword rich and search engine friendly. Off the top of my head (and I haven’t checked to see if this actually exists), that business might consider something like sales-coaching-selling-coach.com. This might be a long and annoying domain name for prospects to have to type in under normal circumstances but they will very rarely (if ever) type in that name. However, it can search reall y well for the keywords that are contained within the domain name.

To choose the best domain name, start by looking at the list you made from last week’s Tips In Ten in which you identified what content your target audience would be looking for. From that list, try to figure out what they would search to find that information. (Make a couple of test searches yourself to see).

Then, go to the Google Keyword Tool and type in some of those search terms. Google will give you an approximate number of people who search for that keyword every month. You should get a big list and you can pick several of the keywords or a combination that makes sense. The example of sales-coaching-selling-coach.com illustrates a few potential keywords – “sales coaching”, “selling coach” – that were squeezed together to create a long domain name that is keyword rich.

Choose a platform

Choosing a domain name is only part of the process. You also will want to find a platform to publish your content. You may want to choose:

  • A regular site (which might be commonly created in html)
  • A wiki
  • A blog
  • A Squidoo site (Note: You cannot get a custom top level domain name for Squidoo.)

I like a blog because they are easy to create and use and fresh content is always visible to your audience without them having to hunt around. As well, blogs are often automatically set up with RSS feeds and other widgets that can improve a user’s experience. Most importantly, I like blogs because they are a content management system: You can upload content and manage it from a central dashboard, allowing you to prewrite and schedule content or edit content without having to jump into the code to do it.

WordPress is my favorite platform – it’s the one I use most frequently – although Blogger is another favorite for website users. To create a WordPress blog for your informational site, buy some hosting and a domain from a web hosting company and download WordPress from www.wordpress.com. Upload it to your server and get started.

Yes, I realize that I’ve just described a fairly complicated process in one sweeping paragraph but everyone will have a different experience, depending on who they buy their web hosting from. For example, GoDaddy.com gives customers the ability to automatically upload WordPress to their host without having to go to WordPress.com. And if you use a platform other than WordPress, you may have to do completely different steps.

So, the bottom line is that you need to find a content management system (like a blog). Choosing and uploading your content management system can be time consuming and is obviously critical to your informational site’s success, but it is only one step in a much larger process.

Create a plan

Once you have chosen your CMS system, and you’ve got everything all working together (i.e. the domain name correctly takes a user to the website) then you need to put together a plan.

In my experience, people start these information sites with great dreams, but very little planning, and then they get frustrated and stop working on their site after a while. Next week, I’m going to show you what you need to do to create a plan for a successful informational site.

Heather Recommends:

I love working with coaches, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to help them become more successful. If you'd like to improve your business, find out how I can help.

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