Success with Informational Sites – Part 3

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 22, 2010 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Business Marketing, Tips in 10

In the past couple of aritcles of Tips In Ten, I’ve been showing you how to create informational sites that you can use to build an audience and position yourself. Informational sites are search engine friendly and give you a way to attract a wider audience that trusts you and listens to you.
I’ve shown you how to find a domain name that works for you and I talked about a content management system (I like WordPress) to help you create and publish your content.

But, as I mentioned at the end of the last article, informational sites can fall flat if the site owner doesn’t have a plan. The reason is this: We live in an instant culture. We want everything and we want it now. In general, I like that I can shop 24/7 on the web or go out in the middle of the night to the convenience store if I want to. However, some things still require patience and building a successful informational site is one of those things.

Without a plan, you will start your informational site with great excitement and passion and you’ll pour hours of work into it. But 3-6 months in, you’ll start to get frustrated at the lack of results and you might also run out of things to say. So you let it lapse for a day. Then a week. Then two weeks. Then you find yourself not having touched your site in a month. All that work at the beginning was wasted and just when your site had the potential to break through to success, you let it go.

Creating your plan

A plan will help. You may still feel frustration but you won’t run out of things to say and you will have a framework that you can stick to, to help you keep moving forward. After all, if you want to have a successful informational site, you need to give it time. For niches that aren’t very big or popular, you might see results in 3-6 months of diligent, consistent effort. For really big niches that are very popular, you might need 1-2 years of that same diligent, consistent effort before you start seeing a return.

To help you add helpful information day-in and day-out for months, you need a plan. So, what should be in your informational site plan?

1.    Start by writing out a paragraph or two about your target audience. Who are they? How do they find your site? What’s on their mind when they get to your site? What are they hoping to come away with?

2.    Next, list all of the keywords you want to hit. You’ll have a bunch that you want, and you’ll want to make sure that they are integrated in. I’ll talk about how in the next issue. Keeping them listed altogether in one document is helpful.

3.    Then, start writing down ideas that you want to write about. I’ll talk more about creating content and building links in the next issue and you can use that information to finish building out your plan. However, to give you an estimate on what to aim for, I’d suggest that you publish at least once a week (and preferably 2-4 times a week) and I’d suggest that you create enough ideas to last you for 6 months. So if you decide you’re going to publish 4 times a week and you want to create 6 months of content ideas, you need to end up with 4 x 26 weeks… 104 ideas. If you can create more ideas then do so! For some of my work, I try to get an entire year of ideas ahead of time. Of course, you don’t have to publish them in order or on specific days, and there’s no rule that says you HAVE to publish one of these ideas if you suddenly have a better idea, but this gives you a bank of ideas that you can draw from. Also, be sure t o set up a threshold so that once you’ve gone through half to two-thirds of the content ideas, you site down and do another 6 months’ of ideas. That way, you’ll never run out and you’ll always stay ahead of yourself.

4.    Next, decide what the workflow is. Are you going to write the content yourself? Are you going to hire someone else to do it? Are you going to start the articles and pass them to someone else to polish? If you hire someone else to do it, what is your budget for this? How much are you willing to invest? Since the idea is to help you position yourself to sell more, and perhaps to generate some advertising revenue, it might be worth hiring someone to write the content for you. That will let you focus on your business while you delegate this marketing project to an assistant.

Once you have a plan in place, you can start to write. I would write at least one month’s worth of content ahead of time and schedule it to publish. Obviously, this won’t count if your content is time-sensitive but most informational sites don’t have a lot of time sensitive content. So if you can write and publish content ahead of time, and always stay ahead of yourself, you’ll be able to maintain your momentum on your site for even longer.

Marketing your site

Once you’ve created content and have set it up to start publishing, you will want to start generating an audience. There are a few ways to do this but I want to first address the question of when you should start marketing. Some people might start their content first and let it grow for a while before start marketing, under the assumption that people should only come to the site once there is actually content there for them to read. However, I would argue that both your site and your marketing will take time to spread out through the internet so marketing now isn’t going to send such a huge influx of people that it will hurt you. In fact, some of the earliest adopters of anything (not just informational sites but any product or service) are among its best proponents and evangelists and they will “go to bat” for you and help to promote you.

Here are a few ways that I would recommend marketing your site:

  • AdWords. These will cost you money, but it could be what you need to create that initial burst of an audience. Set a budget and turn it off after a while, but just get some people there early to see what they do on your site: How long they stay, what the most popular content is, etc.
  • Articles. Creating and distributing articles around the web with a backlink to the informational site can help to get traffic from very targeted searchers who are looking for more information beyond what your article provided. This won’t cost anything, although it does take up extra time.
  • Email signature line. I think this is a good way to share your site’s domain without heavily marketing it.
  • “Just blogged” announcements, which you can set up on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Squidoo, FriendFeed, StumbleUpon, and a bunch of other places. If every time you publish some new information, you push out a link to all of these places, you’ll help to market your site.
  • Search engine optimization. In my opinion, this is the informational site’s real strength and you need to make sure that you are optimizing your site as much as possible so that it searches well and appears high in search results.

We’re nearing the end of our discussion of informational sites and how to create a successful one that can help you in your business. In the next issue, I’m going to fill in a bunch of gaps and provide you with a bunch of ideas and tips you need to know about in order to create a successful informational site.

Heather Recommends:

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