Greetings from Inside the SEOigloo!
Today, I’ve launched my most recent pet project website: www.dollkind.com. Chances are, if you played with dolls in your 20th century childhood, you will enjoy a visit to this new website which features articles on favorite and famous dolls. But, even if you’re not particularly interested in dolls, I think you may be interested in the how and why of this new little site.
In this article, I intend to be as transparent as possible about the form, function, and goals of creating an information-based website. If you’d like a modest increase in your monthly income, read on.
Why Create a Website Like This?
If you have a hobby or talent that you have invested a lot of time in and enjoy speaking about, others may be interested in what you have to share. Creating simple, content-oriented websites can be great fun, and also, profitable if you go about it correctly. Before I go any further, I do want to clarify that poor quality informational sites bug the heck out of me. They junk up the SERPs and make for frustrating attempts to find whatever you’re really looking for. This article is meant to serve as a guide to building a high quality informational website that will be of real service to searchers.
80% of Online Searches are Informational
Statistics and analytics indicate that about 80% of search engine searches revolve around people trying to get answers to questions. Lots and lots of queries begin with “How To” or “What Is”. What this means for scholars and hobbyists is that if you can provide the answers to these informational searches, you have the basis for a valuable website. If you answer enough questions for enough people, your website can even become an authority in your special field.
Behind the Scenes at DollKind.com
It seems I was born with a love of research, and I enjoy sharing what I learn with others. Because of this, my husband and I are always kicking around ideas for new informational websites we might build. When we hit on the idea of building a nostalgia-oriented website about dolls, we liked the idea. With this bee in my bonnet, I sat down and did some research.
There are several informative sites out there that talk about dolls. However, for the most part, I encountered some serious design and usability issues in what I saw. Basic SEO principles were absent from many of the sites, and inconsistent navigation was really a problem.
This first bit of research told me that there is room for a new site about dolls that would be laid out in a more human-friendly, search-engine friendly way.
Next, I turned to a keyword research tool. Many people prefer the free tool offered by Overture.com. By typing various relevant keywords and phrases into this tool, I was able to discover that many thousands of searches are taking place each month in relationship to the subject of dolls. So, this was good discovery #2.
My third step was to run some simple Google searches to see if Google serves up AdSense ads related to my subject. I was pleased to discover that they do. This meant that I could offer my visitors not only articles that would be of interest to them, but also, the chance to learn about relevant shopping sources for various dolls.
Fourth, we spent two or three hours one evening brainstorming and researching domain names. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a good domain with the word “doll” in it. We’d think of something that seemed very esoteric to us, only to discover it had already been taken. When I hit upon the idea of the name ‘DollKind’, I thought it had several good things going for it:
The Creative Process Behind a Website Like This
Being a small business means that I do all of the writing myself. The big guys hire web copy writers to create their articles for them. The results of such a choice will be bad or good, based upon the skill and passion of the hired writer. In my case, that’s not an issue; I have always loved dolls, and knew that I could write oodles about them without running out of steam.
Yet again, we return to a research phase here. I decided that a reasonable goal would be to launch the website with 11 dolls and a few informational pages. The website will grow as I add to it over time, but starting small means that you can get things online and begin to promote the site and earn credibility more swiftly than if you determined you needed a larger site to begin with.
I devoted one night to each of the kinds of dolls. I researched them online, read about them in doll collecting books I had checked out of the library, and sent emails to doll vendors asking if they would be willing to let me use some of their photographs in exchange for a mention on my website. By the end of each night, I had a finished page with an article between 1000 and 3000 words long, complete with photos. I could really be proud of my progress, and feel that I was accomplishing something.
If you clicked on the link to DollKind.com, you may have noticed that the site looks pretty low key, considering it was created by a professional web design company. In point of fact, the word I’d use to describe it is plain. After years of developing informational websites and writing articles for other companies’ informational projects, we’ve come to believe that the simplest sites work the best in terms of delivering answers and winning clicks.
That being the case, we developed an extremely simple logo, a very faint background, a vastly simple navigation menu, and a plain white body for the text area of the site. Though the design does lend a somewhat vintage feeling to the website, it is the content that the eye focuses on…not fancy graphics. For our purposes, this is very important.
The actual design of the site took about 2 days to get it looking how we wanted it to.
Monetizing Our Efforts
If the above sounds like it was all a breeze, then perhaps I have understated the efforts it takes to develop a thorough and high-quality body of information for readers. I so enjoyed researching each of the dolls on the site, but it took focus and dedication to pull everything together into a tight and interesting format. I was working until 4 in the morning on some of the articles, determined to end up with an excellent finished product that would be a pleasure for people to read.
That being said, I will be glad to see some financial return for the efforts I have made so far, and the efforts I will continue to make to improve and expand DollKind over time. Our initial business model includes two types of potential for income.
First, we will serve Google AdSense ads on the pages of the site. Anyone with a website can sign up for a Google AdSense account. When visitors click on the ads, the site owner makes a small profit. The more valuable the ads are, the more profit the site owner makes. Every month, these ad clicks total up and Google sends the site owner a check.
There is a whole science behind using AdSense to the best effect. We learned some skills in this field years ago, but things keep changing and I believe that I will need to continue to study this to get the best possible results. How and where you place ads, the size of them, the color of them…these are all factors that contribute to clickthrough rates. I recommend Randall McCarley’s recent article AdSense Tips from an Expert to begin your study of AdSense best practices.
The second form of advertising I am offering on the site is through Amazon.com’s associates program. I have heard varying reports about the effectiveness of this as an income stream. Basically, the site owner can add book recommendations to the website. There are hundreds of wonderful books out there featuring dolls as the subject, and if my visitors click on one of the books I list and purchase it from Amazon.com, I will earn a small commission on that sale. Here is one of the pages I have created of books about dolls.
I spent some time describing each of the books on this list in my own words, and explaining why I believe the visitor will enjoy the book in question. Rather than using Amazon’s big, chunky, generic advertisements generated by their program, I opted for the simple text option as I have been told this format will convert better to sales. We’ll see how it goes.
* Be sure that you adhere to Google’s webmaster guidelines regarding affiliate links if you decide to sign up with a program like Amazon.com’s associates. Google wants to know if you are advertising in exchange for monetary gain. The way to let them know this is to include what is called a “no-follow” snippet in your link strings. This looks like this:
Failing to alert Google with the above snippet will put your site at risk for penalties and potential banning.
Launching the Site
Now that all my ducks are in a row, we make the site go live. My first effort in promoting the site is to write about it here. That is just the beginning. For many future months, I will be researching blogs and websites that are related to my subject and writing to the owners to ask if they would be interested in featuring some facet of my website on theirs.
For example, I have a photo of a mystery doll from the 1970’s. No one I have spoken to knows what this doll is. But, if I can get my doll’s photo out there into the blogosphere, doll collecting enthusiasts may come to my site and help me with identification. I will attempt to earn buzz, links, and traffic in this way as I strive to let the world know that DollKind exists.
It is this ongoing effort that is the most time-consuming thing about owning a website. The creativity that modern Internet marketing requires is intense. But, the dogged worker sees the payoff.
Summarizing the Two Goals of an Informational Website
Remember how I said that I really dislike junky websites? I want to reiterate that here, as I reaffirm that my hope is to encourage you to create really super sites that help people. The first goal of an informational website must be to provide value. The second goal is to create income for the site owner. Every decision you make along the way in creating and promoting your reading materials should always keep these two goals in mind if you want to own a site that you can be proud of.
I hope that the transparency in this article has given my small business readers a good sense of how to go about making the most of their gifts. If you have questions or need advice on this subject, feel free to let me know. Also, if there are any AdSense experts hanging about and you’d like to make suggestions for the improvement of my new website, I’d love to hear from you.
I hope you’ll take a moment to visit DollKind. If you played with Madame Alexander Dolls, Holly Hobbie Dolls, Ginny Dolls, or other popular 20th century dolls, let me take you on a little trip down memory lane!