Live Coverage: Mequoda Summit Session 3 – Generating Website Revenue

Multiple Business Models are Required to Maximize Online Revenue

In session three, entitled Generating Website Revenue, Don revealed that there are the 12 different types of business models, or “archetypes” that a publisher uses to make money online.

Don used this explanation for the reason behind sectioning your online strategy into separate archetypes. “By packing more functions and tasks into the user interface you are pushing down completion rate.” To find out your completion rate, Don suggested taking 10 users and having them complete about 5 tasks (sign up for email newsletter, find a certain article, etc.). This gives you 50 as 100% completion, with each task counting as 2 points.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Don told the audience that the average website gets 52%, which is not a great number. He also revealed that users are 6x happier if they can find content on their own as opposed to searching for it with a search box.

“Would you buy a product if you could play with it in the store and it only did half the things it said it could do?” Don asked the audience. This same thought process goes for websites, how deeply engaged will a user get if they can’t do what they want to do?

This is where Don explained that the following archetypes are made to simplify tasks for the user. Each archetype has its own set of tasks made explicitly for each archetype therefore reducing the amount of tasks on any one website.

Below we’ll show how you might implement it on your own website (in brackets), and an example of a single existing independent example below that.

  1. Internet Hub (Example: a constantly updated and content-rich portal that is free)
    1. About.com
  2. Social Network (Example: a forum or a place for user-generated content)
    1. LinkedIn.com
  3. Online Magazine (Example: a linear issue-based online magazine)
    1. monkeymag.co.uk
  4. Search Engine (Example: a search box)
    1. Business.com
  5. Directory Website (Example: an about or glossary page)
    1. Superpages.com
  6. Lead Generation Website (Example: a “Free Reports” tab)
    1. LendingTree.com
  7. Classified Website (Example: a job board)
    1. Monster.com
  8. Book Website (Example: a book store with individual landing pages)
    1. BabyModelingSuccess.com
  9. Catalog Website (Example: a marketplace selling multiple types of products with a shopping cart)
    1. Amazon.com
  10. Event Website (Example: a single event page with daughter pages)
    1. SearchEngineStrategies.com
  11. Newsletter Website (Example: a newsletter archive)
    1. GolfOdyssey.com
  12. Membership Website (Example: a library of content)
    1. ConsumerReports.com

Don explained that even the largest publishers won’t use half of these archetypes. Websites like Boston.com have several “Internet Hubs”, decided by audience (Sports, A&E, Travel, Weather), but only use two other archetypes (Classified and Search Engine). The benefit to knowing all of these archetypes is seeing where you have the opportunity to grow.

Valuable tools that Don mentioned during this session:

Yahoo! Site Explorer – Find out how many inbound links you have
Compete.com – Find out your visitors, how many pages they view, and how long they stay.
Web Usability for Senior Citizens – A report by Norman Neilson Group recommended because as Don explained, what works for older people will work for younger people. The only difference is the look and feel that users will appreciate.
Don’t Make Me Think – a book by Steve Krug on Website Usability

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Fundamentals of Generating Website Revenue

Internet publishing profitability boils down to four elements

Most traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses have known for years that essentially there are only four ways to generating additional revenue:

  1. Acquire more customers with whom to do business.
  2. Increase your average dollar amount per sale.
  3. Increase the frequency with which you do business with these customers.

If you’re publishing a membership website or online newsletter, generating website revenue translates into:

  1. Acquiring more subscribers for your membership website.
  2. Increasing your subscribers’ average length of membership (number of renewal cycles).
  3. Increasing the total sales in related products and the frequency with which you sell these products to your membership website subscribers.

If you serve a small niche market, then generating website revenue may require creating additional information products, doing joint ventures with other entrepreneurs, and joining the affiliate programs of other Internet publishing businesses that offer quality products and services.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

What about generating website revenue by charging more for your membership website?

Of course, the fourth solution to generating website revenue is to raise your prices.

Helena Rubinstein:

 

Some women won’t buy anything unless they can pay a lot.

Her face cream, formulated according to a family recipe, made Helena Rubinstein a fortune. She charged handsome prices for her products by creating both real and perceived value.

She didn’t just sell cosmetics. She sold hope. She offered the promise of romance.

Are you charging enough for your membership website or information products? If not, you may be leaving money on the table because of the perception of their value.

Consider the time and effort you expend, plus the specialized knowledge required to produce your proprietary information products. With a membership website, as with a printed newsletter, you do the same amount of editorial work whether you have 10 subscribers or 10,000.

Then consider your support issues. With this component of your membership website, the more subscribers you have, the greater support you are required to provide. Are you charging enough to be compensated adequately for answering questions, coaching and monitoring the discussion forum?

Hint: You’ll probably enjoy greater satisfaction having 1,000 subscribers paying you $225 annually, than having 3,750 subscribers paying $60 annually. The membership website income is the same but with fewer, higher-paying subscribers, you deal with fewer kooks and cranks, and the rewards will exceed the monetary.

Finally, consider the perceived value of your membership website. What promise does it fulfill for your subscriber? How important does she think it is in terms of her ego gratification, income, or just plain fun? Does is get her closer to her dreams?

Helena Rubinstein knew that they are all important.

The combined components—content, service and perceived value—are all factors in creating real value and determining right price for your membership website.

If you have the right niche, provide outstanding content and service, and market your membership website properly, generating website revenue won’t be a problem, Your subscribers will pay the membership website price that you ask and deserve.

Live Coverage: Mequoda Summit Session 5 – SEO Copywriting and Campaign Management

Leveraging Content and Keywords to Drive Targeted Website Traffic, Build Email Circulation and Sell Information Products

This morning at the Mequoda Summit, we began with part two of building your keyword strategy. Don started the day talking about our favorite topic, the Google Visibility Report. This is the chart from yesterday’s keyword session that we came up with that tells us which keywords we should be using in all of our editorial.

In any given Google Visibility Report, you’ll find anywhere between 10-20 primary keywords. According to Don, primary keywords are used as your topic list and consist usually of two words. One word keywords are too broad and two word keywords are much more valuable to your keyword strategy.

The second part of the Google Visibility Report includes your secondary keywords. This list could include hundreds of secondary keywords. Each primary keyword should have 50-100 secondary keywords. These secondary keywords are usually 3-5 words long and are what your editors should use to choose the articles that they publish or the landing pages they write.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Also, as a reminder, these keywords are based on the stats we got from Wordtracker that tell us the search to page ratio. As in, the Google Visibility Index score will be higher on a keyword term that has more searches and less pages.

For example:

Primary Keyword: Landing Page
Secondary Keywords: Landing Page Templates, Landing Page Secrets, Building a Landing Page, Landing page Samples, Landing page Testing, Landing Page Tips.

Don compared adding keywords to your universe, to being a journalist and adding a topic to their beat. In general, creating a Google Visibility Report means creating a list of things you’re allowed to write about. However, it is constantly updated. Your secondary keywords can always be added to as long as you do the research first and see a need for the topic.

How to Get Your Keyword-Optimized Page Highly Ranked

As for designing your pages, we noted that your most important headlines should be formatted in HTML h1 and h2 tags because these are headline tags that Google will look for first and see as most important.

Another important note was that inbound links are vital for bringing even a keyword optimized landing page to page one in Google. This means that if you have a free report, you need to distribute online press releases, send it to bloggers, and try to accumulate as many inbound links as you can.

Internal links count too! For us at Mequoda, Don noted that for our free special report 8 Master Landing Page Templates, we inserted embedded text ads for it in all of our landing page articles like you’ll see here.

The Creative Process

Don talked a little bit more about how to use your primary and secondary keywords in your copywriting. The creative process for developing an editorial campaign using your keywords looks like this:

  1. Choose Keyword Phrases
  2. Choose Power Words
  3. Create Main Headline
  4. Create Sub Headlines
  5. Create 5-7 Copy Points
  6. Tell a Story
  7. Create Call-to-Action

What is Emotional Copywriting?

• Talking to the Customer
• Echoing Search
• Telling a Story
• Using Power Words

Don reminded the audience that long sales letters work best. He told the story of his good friend at Johns Hopkins Health Alerts who didn’t believe that long-copy salesletters worked better than short sales letters. Well, as you’ll see today on their site, they’re now true believers of long-copy. After converting, they saw a conversion rate increase of 230-260%. You’ll notice that even $19.95 reports have novel-length salesletters to go along with them.

Valuable tools that Don mentioned during this session:

Wordtracker – a keyword research tool that will tell you what your relevant secondary keywords are
Yahoo! Site Explorer – Find out how many inbound links you have
How to Start and Run an SEO Program – a book available from Mequoda

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Live Coverage: Mequoda Summit Session 6 – Designing Effective Media Websites

12 Webpage Templates Used by Today’s Top Publishers to Convert and Monetize the Most Visitors

According to Mequoda research, there are twelve master website page templates than any publisher uses.

They are organized by two types: Organic and Dedicated.

An organic landing page is a landing page that is attracting traffic naturally by google, with the main objective to get an email address. It includes the home page, topic page, article page, tag index, tag page, and author page.

A dedicated landing page is a landing page that’s primary purpose is to sell a product. It includes a rapid conversion (or name-squeeze) page, salesletter page, upsell page, access challenge (or blocker) page, priority code page, and marketplace page. According to Don, on average an organic webpage gets about a 3-5% conversion rate while a dedicated landing page receives about 20%. Home Page Example: Forbes.com

Topic Page Example: Canadian Living – Health

Article Page: Men’s Health – Is She the One for You?

Tag Index Page: People – Celebrities

Tag Page: People – Heidi Klum

Author Landing Page: About.com – Sarah E. White

Rapid Conversion Landing Page: Golf Vacation Insider – The Castle Course

Sales Letter Landing Page: InvestmentU.com – Investing in Water

Upsell Landing Page: Knitting Daily (sign up for the email newsletter to see)

Access Challenge Landing Page: Consumer Reports – Fabric Softener Ratings

Priority Code Landing Page: Student Health 101

Marketplace Landing Page: Ceramic Arts Daily: Bookstore

On article pages, our example of Men’s Health and what we call their “Story Nav” like you’ll see here resulted in a 78% increase in page views per month according to Don. He described Topic Pages as the primary second navigation. “30-40% of all users will enter through a topic page.” He also described the Tag Index page as “a pre-programmed search page, a page about pages, usually auto-generated.”

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Valuable tools that Don mentioned during this session:

WordPress.org – Free open-source blogging and configurable content management software
WordPress Plugins – Free and custom applications built for the WordPress platform

Mequoda Summit Coverage

Live Coverage: Mequoda Summit Session 7 – Email Newsletter Secrets

29 Insider Secrets for Creating Effective and Profitable Email Newsletters

Your email strategy is one of those strategies that you think about, organize and plan about once a year. It’s the process of configuring your editorial to promotional strategy and ratio and maximizing reader engagement.

In other words, getting users back to your site. If you’re product driven, most likely you are deciding how you will get users to buy a product while if you’re ad-driven you want to drive them back to the site to view pages and articles there.

Don mentioned seven things that you want your email newsletter to do:

  • Get Delivered
  • Get Opened
  • Get Read
  • Intrigue and Engage
  • Build a Relationship
  • Get Recommended
  • Generate Revenue

According to Don, the most effective email newsletters are also semi-promotional. Effective publishers have dedicated templates for each email newsletter they send. For example, if you are a medical publisher sending an email newsletter about “heart health”, your featured product better be a report about “how to avoid a heart attack”, or the like. According to Don, “68% of product sales start with an email source code”.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

The Mequoda email funnel shows that out of all of your emails, 100% are sent, 97% are delivered, 34% are opened, 6% are clicked on, and only 1% complete a transaction. However, if 1% is looking grim, take a look at the size of your email list. 1% can be a pretty decent conversion rate.

Don also showed a personal Mequoda example that showed how adding “Mequoda Daily:” to the beginning of every email subject line brought their delivery rates way up. We went from 4-19% of emails that went “missing” according to Delivery Monitor, to 0%.

Another attendee shared with the audience that in his experience, he had a lot of success with putting as little in the subject line as possible and instead including an issue number. This was because he felt that you can “give too much away” by telling people what is inside; if a user decides preemptively that they don’t need what you’re sending, they’ll just delete it.

Valuable tools that Don and attendees mentioned during this session:

DeliveryMonitor.com – Monitors your email delivery rates
MailingCheck.com – Monitors your outgoing emails for spam
SpamCheck – Monitors your outgoing emails for spam
WhatCounts – Mequoda’s new email client
ConstantContact – a recommended email client
ExactTarget – a recommended email client
EmailLabs – a recommended email client
YesMail – a recommended email client
CheetahMail – a recommended email client

Mequoda Summit Coverage

Live Coverage: Mequoda Summit Session 8 – Creating a Management Dashboard

Learn the 11 Key Metrics Every Online Business Manager Should Know

In this session, Don talked about the key metric management dashboard than every online manager should have. With this dashboard, you are able to see on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, your successes and failures.

Mequoda Summit attendees received a comprehensive template of this management dashboard, which is incredibly invaluable, so here at the Daily, we’ll simply do a brief review.

These 11 main management key metrics include:

  1. Google Visibility Index
  2. Google Search Impressions
  3. Inbound Links
  4. % Conversions to Email Subscriber
  5. Average Email Subscribers
  6. Revenue per M Email Sent
  7. Website Pages
  8. Revenue per M Page Views
  9. Leads Generated
  10. Revenue per Lead
  11. Online Media Index

You live these numbers every day, and you might not even know it. Since there are so many numbers to look at, you are managing by exception, looking for warning lights and only diving in when necessary.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Since the strategy behind each of these numbers is a big part of what some of our valued Summit attendees paid for, we won’t be revealing it all here. If you’re interested, please stay tuned to register for the next Mequoda Summit or contact Kim Mateus to schedule a workshop with Don where he will explain and create a management key metrics dashboard for your company.

Valuable tools that Don and attendees mentioned during this session:

Copyscape – website that will tell you who is copying content on your site
Yahoo! Site Explorer – find out how many inbound links you have
Google Analytics – free website analytics software

Mequoda Summit Coverage

Live Coverage: Mequoda Summit Session 1 – Making Money Online

Day one at the Mequoda Summit defines online publishing and delivers the seven strategies for online publishing success

It’s day one at the Mequoda Summit in beautiful Napa Valley. The conference room is full to maximum capacity with an even mix of online publishers ranging from magazine and newsletter publishers to primarily digital publishers.

Today’s sessions started with an overview of how publishers are making money online.

“A Mequoda publisher is nothing more than a profit-minded content-driven Google-friendly website operator.”

Don Nicholas described a “Mequoda Website” as “Google-friendly and revenue minded”. He noted that blogs dominate online publishing because they are designed for search engines. Why Google friendly? “Google is to online publishing what newsstand sales are to magazine publishing”.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Don defines the three parts of online publishing:

Online Publishing: the business of developing, acquiring, copyediting, designing, posting, marketing and distributing content for a public audience using web pages, email, RSS, PDFs, podcasts and other digital formats.

Online Retailing: the sale of goods or merchandise from a website in small or individual lots for direct consumption by the purchaser.

Online Strategy: knowing whether your online business activities will include online publishing, online retailing, or both.

Don also delivered the “Seven Strategies for Online Publishing Success”:

  1. Editorial Strategy: Leverage Multiple Media Platforms
  2. Business Strategy: Choose the Right Business Models
  3. Keyword Strategy: Attract Targeted Website Strategy
  4. Website Strategy: Convert Visitors into Subscribers
  5. Email Strategy: Maximize Reader Engagement
  6. Organizational Strategy: Organize by Platform and Skill
  7. Reporting Strategy: Manage Revenue by Exception
We’ll be updating the blog throughout the day today and tomorrow covering all of the sessions, so look forward to it!Mequoda Summit Coverage

Live Coverage: Mequoda Summit Session 2 – Using New Media to Expand Your Brand

How the Web’s Top Publishers are Using New Media to Build Loyal Customer Relationships

This session is based is the strategy of expanding your brand by distributing your content and repurposing via many platforms. The reason why new media is so beneficial to us is that it enables us to generate revenue by simply recycling existing content.

What is a Minimum Information Unit?
A minimum information unit is where your content comes from. If you are a knitting magazine who redistributes your content online, then your minimum information unit might be a pattern. Ask yourself where your content originates (not necessarily where it’s published first) to find out what your Minimum Information Unit is.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Don recommended that publishers ask themselves:

  • What is my Minimum Information Unit?
  • Is my MIU evergreen or perishable?
  • What does my MIU’s lifecycle look like?
  • How to make as many as I can with as much repurposing as possible?

Example: You publish an interview with a well-known celebrity. You print the interview in your blog, but since you recorded it, you then offer it as a podcast. Another example is that you publish a report, then decide to turn it into a webinar.

This podcast, could be free and sponsor-driven or could be sold on iTunes for $1.99. Your webinar could be a paid add-on for your report, or it could be repurposed even further and turned into a video seminar on DVD and sold with or separate from the report.

Don covered case studies on America’s Test Kitchen, FDA News, The Goals Guy, Early to Rise, Knitting Daily, and Mequoda Daily. Below, Don describes the lifecycles of each of these publishers. They don’t necessarily include all of their platforms, but the repurposed content:

America’s Test Kitchen:
Recipe > Magazines > Books > TV Show > Website > Membership Website

FDA News:
Tip > Digital Event > Encore Performance > CD > Management Report

The Goals Guy:
Idea > Consulting > Live Events > CDs > Seminars On-Demand > Books > Reports > Website

Early to Rise:
Idea > Books > Website > Email > Trading Services > Live Events

Knitting Daily:
Pattern > Magazines > Books > Website > Email

Mequoda Daily:
Concepts > Consulting > Live Events > Webinars > DVDs > Reports > Books > Website & Email

Don noted how America’s Test Kitchen repurposes their magazine and book content for television and DVDs as well as though email. To boot, about 25% of their magazine subscribers still opt into a separate subscription to a once-a-year collection that includes all of the content from that year.

If that’s not impressive enough, they also repurpose their television content into a video on-demand membership website which features clips from the TV show. Don notes that “more pages drives more links, which drives more audience” which is the downfall of America’s Test Kitchen being that much of their content is behind a firewall including many recipes that need an email address to access.

Towards the end of the session, a mass debate erupted about membership websites and downloadable PDFs. One attendee asked about security of online PDFs and worried that users may pass them along via email. Don commented that 0% is not your toleration for pass-alongs, it’s more like 5%. This is because you don’t mind a few people passing along once in a while as long as there is a link to your website and promotions for other products in that PDF. Another attendee noted that publishers can password-protect their content and limit opens by IP address if you want to be a stickler.

The debate about membership websites came down to the fact that they perform well for some publishers and less well for others. Publishers like FDAnews who have current information that is needed on a daily or weekly basis makes sense, while membership website with a collection of books may not be cohesive enough for some viewers, especially in the B2B space where prices are high and users are more likely to want instant gratification buying your books as a one-off deal.

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Live Coverage: Mequoda Summit Session 4 – SEO Research and Analytics

Choosing the Right Keywords to Attract Targeted Website Traffic

Don considers this “the new direct mail”. Keyword research and implementation is perhaps the most complex, yet effective way to drive the most search traffic to your website. The idea is that if you research your keywords and compare the search to pages ratio, you can choose your keywords based on your likeliness to show up on page one.

For an easy example… a keyword that has 900 searches a day, and Google only has 10 web pages with that keyword, this guarantees you a spot on page one with this search term. “Why Google?” Don reminded the audience, “Google has 68.9% market share, that’s why!”

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

If you optimize your tips for these keywords, you will dominate page one. Don recommends having two people dedicated to your keyword strategy, someone for research & analysis and another for campaign management.

About 10% of Google searches haven’t even happened yet. So how do you optimize for something that hasn’t happened? Don suggests using a service like Wordtracker to find out what variations there are of your primary keywords.

  • 20% of search traffic are coming from primary keywords
  • 80% of search traffic comes in on other variations of those keywords

Don reminded the audience that you want your pages on page one in Google. Research shows that by page 3, almost no one will see your page, much less by page 6. This is because most users find what they’re looking for between pages one and two. This is why it’s important to optimize, optimize, optimize your articles and landing pages for search with these keywords.

Don revealed to the audience how we at Mequoda discovered a very highly searched phrase “Landing Pages Templates” that had very few pages on Google. This created a great gap we were able to fill with a new special report that we created “8 Master Landing Page Templates.” We then created a rapid conversion landing page (or name-squeeze page) optimized for that phrase and now receive around 300 subscribers a month from that page because we’re listed as #1 (go ahead, search for it).

Valuable tools that Don mentioned during this session:

AWstats – free website analytics software
Google Analytics – free website analytics software
The Long Tail – a book by Chris Anderson about optimizing your strategy for the future, not just the present
Wordtracker – a keyword research tool that will tell you what your relevant secondary keywords are
Advanced Web Ranking – tells you where you rank in Google for any given keyword

Mequoda Summit Coverage

Rules for Website Success

Cutting through chaos to find success

There is no denying it: the Internet is a confusing place.

Commerce, piracy, debate, theft, publishing, networking, research, news, war—it all happens online. It’s chaos.

When you take a step back, take a deep breath, and start making sense of what’s going on, it can seriously impact your impression of the Web. Chaos slowly becomes clarity. ROI suddenly becomes possible.

We at the Mequoda Group frequently take these introspective moments to analyze how the Internet makes some publishers rich and other publishers frustrated. Because once you understand the Web, you can start to make money from it.

This is important to realize. When you start publishing online, you’re not entering a business world of total chaos. There are trends, rules and strategies available.

There are rules, for instance, to making a website. Breaking the rules won’t land you in jail, but they will prevent you from generating website revenue.

The nature of these rules largely depends on your online publishing strategy. How do you intend to make money online?

It does not matter if you monetize your website through subscriptions, advertising, memberships, retailing or donations. There is a specific type of website with required rules waiting for you.

Decide what kind of website you need and if it is going to work for your publication. If you already have a website, make sure that it has clearly defined goals and proven strategies to reach them.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Membership Websites, for example, need to sell memberships. That is their goal.

To do that, Membership Websites need to be a valuable reference tool for users. They need extensive archives of content that users can easily navigate.

Visualize a reference book, like a dictionary or a phone book, next to a 250-page novel. The reference book is well organized and bursting with content. The novel has less content and is not organized for reference.

Now apply the same content ratio to ordinary websites and Membership Websites. That’s how much content a good Membership Website, like ConsumerReports.org, requires.

So, two rules (among others) for establishing a Membership Website are:

  1. It needs to sell and renew many memberships
  2. It needs to have an extensive archive

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

The Internet is not total, inexplicable chaos. There are rules to every type of website you could want to create. When you begin to learn and master these rules, you can start designing profitable online marketing and publishing strategies.

Through our research, for instance, we’ve identified seven types of websites that publishers use to make money online. Each of them has their own requirements and rules to maximize their profitability.

Some publishers operate a hybrid of these designs, other publishers operate a network of them, but almost every publisher’s website can be broken down into these seven archetypes.

How chaotic can the Web be when every successful publisher’s website can be broken down into seven distinct designs?

Controlling Search Engines

Fed up with search results? Now you can create your own engine

We at the Mequoda Group are very fond of our website archetypes.

They are website designs from which all similar websites are patterned—kind of like a category.

We’ve previously identified seven distinct archetypes, and each has its own unique tactics and strategies. Some may sound very familiar to you, like:

  • Membership Websites
  • Brand Websites
  • Internet Hubs
  • Lead Generation Websites

But as the Web grows, our list grows.

Through our research, we have recently discovered another website archetype that you could create to drive traffic and make money online: the Search Engine archetype.

That’s right, you can create you own search engine.

This may sound nearly impossible with search giants like Google and Yahoo dominating the market, but—believe it or not—your search engine could have a very sharp edge on these sprawling portals.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Vertical Search

“Users, business users specifically, are getting frustrated with the types of results they are getting from Google,” said Search Channel President William Furlong.

Search Channel specializes in creating and maintaining niche topic search engines for media companies.

The idea is to create a search engine on a focused topic. This is called Vertical Search and it is much more precise than the Google’s sprawling horizontal style of search.

For example, pretend “you’re a dentist, you go to Google and type in ceramics, which is a type of material used in dentistry. You’ll get ten million results from Google and it’s mostly about pottery.”

“Then you go to our publisher’s vertical dentistry search engine…put in ceramics and you get thousands of results and they’re articles on how to use the material, companies that make ceramics, blogs that talk about it—but no pottery,” Furlong said.

For other examples of vertical search, check out marketing search engine engineK and veterinary medicine engine VetMedSearch, both created by Search Channel.

Ad Revenue and Marketing Tool

There are many different reasons for creating your own search engine.

First of all, you can control how the engine is monetized.

The large majority of publishers with search engines use them to generate PPC and CPM advertising revenue, but some also sell subscriptions to their engines, Furlong said.

Another reason to own your own engine is that you can control what content it delivers, possibly charging companies for good rankings or even putting your website on top of every search results page.

Not every publisher is brazen enough to put them selves at the top of every results page, but some will display their company’s relevant links next to the search results, Furlong said.

Creating Your Engine

While the benefits of owning your own search engine are powerful, it does take some work to establish one.

“If you build it, they don’t come,” Furlong said.

Your search engine has to be thoroughly SEOed and marketed to attract website traffic.

Also, someone has to index all the websites your engine will search through and outsourcing this process to companies like Search Channel is not free.

It costs about $10,000 to $20,000 for Search Channel to establish your engine and some publishers have additional contracts with Search Channel to add tools, perform maintenance or provide advertising consulting, Furlong said.

Mountains of Un-indexed Content

Still not sure if creating you own search engine is a good idea?

Well, according to Furlong, only about 20 percent of all the Web’s content is indexed, leaving massive piles of content just waiting to be added to someone’s search engine, and it could be yours.

Why not take advantage of all of that content—content you didn’t even create—and start using it to sell advertising, much like Google does.

Search engines, however, are only one type of website archetype that you could be using to generate online revenue and website traffic.

Learn how to design other archetypes in our Generating Website Revenue special report. This book will teach you to develop websites that are optimized to execute specific strategies that will lead your publication to success online.

Conquer the New SEO Challenge

Google’s new search system dramatically increases the competition for page rankings.

Just when your SEO strategy was polished and humming along, Google releases a press release.

Google announced last week that it is starting “Universal Search”, a more comprehensive form of search that could push your page rankings down if you’re not diligent.

Searches in Google’s default “Web” section will soon include results from Google’s news, books, video and maps databases mixed with the webpage results.

Incorporating more databases expands the competition for page rank. News and video results will be pushing some websites’ rank down, causing lower organic traffic and frustrating some SEO marketers.

For example, searching for “President Bush Speech” returns both video and news results in the top 10 rankings, knocking at least two websites off the first page. On a side note, the video can be watched immediately on the results page by clicking the “+” button next to its thumbnail—very cool.

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The “universal search results may be subtle” at first, but “over time users will recognize additional types of content integrated into their search results as (Google) advances toward delivering a truly comprehensive search experience,” according to the press release.

A great article from Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Land describes in depth what is coming from Google and provides advice to worried SEO marketers.

One great piece of advice: “Think beyond webpage databases, and you’ll be prepared for the future.”

Now that video, books and news will be in Google’s regular search results, your SEO campaigns should extend into those platforms to remain relevant. That means using proper meta-tags, SEOing press releases and maybe even SEOing your books.

Google has over 65 percent of the search engine market share, making Search Engine Optimization almost synonymous with Google Optimization. In other words: this news should not be ignored.

SEO is very important to your online publishing success, but it becomes irrelevant if your website is not designed properly. Attend our Generating Website Revenue Webinar to learn how to design the right website to fit your online publishing goals.

The Death of Traditional Media?

A new report suggests that traditional media are losing audience to niche topic publishers online.

If users have an informational need not being fulfilled, then it is only a matter of time before a clever website publisher finds a way to do it.

It is the beauty of the Information Age. Anyone who recognizes an unmet need can set up online and start reaping the benefits.

But this was not always possible.

For the majority of television history CBS, NBC and ABC controlled about 99 percent of television broadcasting, according to Wikipedia. If you discovered a need not being met by the Big Three in the 1980s, you would need a hefty bankroll to start delivering it to the public.

Thankfully, that era is ending online, judging from the new Hitwise US News & Media Report and your publication could benefit greatly.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

News Events Fuel Drain

Internet traffic drawn from News and Media websites—like CNN.com and the New York Times—that is flowing directly to Entertainment/Multimedia websites—like YouTube and MSN Video—increased by 196 percent from April 2006 to March 2007, according to the report.

Spikes in this flow occurred around major video news events, like the hanging of Saddam Hussein and the death of Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin, according to the report.

“Each major newsworthy video incident drives awareness of video content online, fueling the continued growth in video viewing online for both news and entertainment purposes,” according to the report.

The report also cites the success of celebrity gossip blogs like PerezHilton.com (currently number 4 on our Mequoda Blog100) as further deviations from traditional media.

When paparazzi photographed Britney Spears in revealing positions during a night out in early December 2006, the mainstream news media would not publish the uncensored pictures because of their lewd content.

But celebrity blogs like PerezHilton.com, which “are not required to adhere to journalistic standards…and do not censor content for profanity or nudity,” published the photos, according to the report.

During that week, the market share of gossip blogs went up 60 percent as ‘britney spears’ was the 5th most searched-for term on the Internet, according to the report.

A New Era in Niche Markets

The report continues to list a myriad of examples and statistics that point to users abandoning traditional media outlets, going to new information sources and creating a sustained level of increased traffic at the new websites.

We feel that this is pointing to one suggestion: niche topics are growing in popularity because they serve users what they want more precisely.

The media monoliths like the Big Three are too large to satisfy everyone completely. The Internet has created the possibility of every topic having a publication focused on it—meeting everyone’s informational needs.

If you are a publisher in a niche topic, this could be a great time for you. You should research how to better meet your customers’ needs with the Internet and go at it with full force. Find new ways to meet their needs that go deeper than the traditional media’s model.

Have you thought of a need in your market that the traditional media are not fulfilling?

If so, you need to build a website that profitably delivers your information to the pubic and Mequoda Group can help you do it. In our Generating Website Revenue Webinar, we describe how to successfully build a media empire from your niche topic publication.

Listen to the Billionaire

An old-media chief executive senses the birth of a media revolution and provides adoption tips

Rupert Murdoch is a classic old media titan. He’s the majority shareholder and chief executive of News Corporation, the ambiguously named media multinational that owns

  • 20th Century Fox
  • HarperCollins book publishing company
  • Fox Broadcasting
  • Dozens of newspapers (New York Post, The Sunday Times of the UK)
  • Dozens of magazines (TV Guide, The Weekly Standard, Vogue Australia)
  • MySpace.com
  • And a dizzying list of other businesses and assets

When Rupert Murdoch speaks, everyone listens. His position in the world gives him “canary in the mine” status for the media business—and the canary is singing.

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Murdoch wrote a letter published at Forbes.com on Monday to try to explain how his business is evolving, and he hit several points that we at the Mequoda Group have been hammering into our readers for years.

“People’s expectations of media have undergone a revolution. They are no longer content to be a passive audience; they insist on being participants, on creating their own material and finding others who will want to read, listen and watch,” Murdoch said in his letter.

This is why building a community attributed to your online publication is so important. Users want to comment and add their own spin on what your publication offers. If you establish a forum for this kind of content on your website, and make it easy enough to use, it will draw more users because they will want to contribute and see other users’ posts.

“Quality is more important than ever, because the marketplace is more ruthlessly competitive,” Murdoch said.

The Mequoda Group is always pushing for more valuable content for users. Publishers should ask themselves, “will this new tool offer more value to our online customers, or is it just a flashy toy?” Also, continuously providing good content is an excellent way to protect your brand.

Murdoch concludes his letter with “The future of media is a future of relentless experimentation and innovation, accelerating change, and—for those who embrace the new ways in which consumers are connecting with each other—enormous potential.”

In short: be adaptive or die. If your company has not started embracing the digital world, then you are losing out on “enormous potential.”

To learn how to capture the enormous revenue potential online, attend our Generating Website Revenue Webinar. During the webinar, you will learn how to construct media websites that encourage users to interact with your media brand, develop a trusted relationship and generate website revenue for your organization.

Top 100 Media Blogs in the US

The top five media blogs in the country remained for March, but one community-centric website is knocking at the door.

The March results of the Mequoda Blog 100 are in, and the top five media blogs in the country are the same as last month, but shuffled. They are, in descending order:

  1. TMZ
  2. USA Today
  3. glumbert.com
  4. PerezHilton.com
  5. The Superficial

All but one of the top five, glumbert.com, took a hit in unique visitor counts during March. Glumbert is the self-declared “center of the universe for the hottest, most outstanding, zaniest, and downright amazing videos you’ll ever see,” which earned it over one million unique pages views in March—up from 716,000 in February.

The MetaFilter, pushing on the cusp of the top 5 at the number 6 spot, is a blog that publishers should visit and learn from. It has loads of user generated content and embodies Community Building, a strong Mequoda value.

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The MetaFilter’s content is entirely user generated, edited and manipulated. Members can even adjust the look and feel of the site. Most posts are short, link to an interesting website and frequently generate over 100 comments. It is a self-titled “community weblog” and has no main writer to contribute the bulk of the content.

Websites where users generate more than 90 percent of the content are extremely valuable (think of YouTube). They give users a sense of belonging, which is great for branding and encouraging repeat visitors. Also, allowing users to comment generates loads of webpages attributed to the host website, which greatly increases SEO.

Every publisher should take lessons MetaFilter’s example and build a community into their website. User generated content

  • Adds value to your website
  • Gives users a sense of belonging
  • Boosts your brand, and
  • Drives up SEO.

To learn other ways to attract users to your website, and how to turn that traffic into revenue, attend the Generating Website Revenue Executive Webinar with Mequoda Managing Director and Chief Information Architect Don Nicholas.

How to Estimate Your Competitor’s Online Revenue

Have you ever wondered how your online revenue stacks up against your competitor’s?

Work in the dark no more. Estimating a competitor’s online revenue is easier than you think and requires only four easy-to-find figures:

  • Average Monthly Visitors,
  • Page Views Per Visitor,
  • Revenue Per 1000 Impressions, and
  • Percent of Inventory sold.

Average Monthly Visitor counts are often discussed in the media by website publishers and are also available from several Internet marketing research services.

  • Compete is a free service that will reveal a website’s monthly unique visitor count, but only from traffic within the US.
  • Nielsen and other Internet marketing research services can find the figure, but will require payment.

Page Views Per Visitor is also available from Compete and Nielsen, and other similar services.

Revenue Per 1000 Impressions can be estimated by any publisher analyzing a direct competitor. The market’s rate should be relatively uniform, and your figure should be close to your competitor’s. This number should not be confused with the similar Revenue Per 1000 Ad Impressions figure.

Percent of Inventory Sold is the hardest number to estimate, but not impossible. Successful websites sell about 65 to 75 percent of their inventory. Be sure to include advertising inventory when calculating this figure. If a website has three advertisements, and two are above the fold, then the third on the bottom of the page is being seen by fewer people and is not maximizing advertising inventory.

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Now that you have the numbers, apply the math:

How does your monthly revenue compare to the estimate of your competitor’s? Hopefully yours towers over the competition, but if not, we at the Mequoda Group specialize in helping publishers create websites that attract users and make money. Check out our webinar Generating Website Revenue to learn how to make money with your publication in ways you never imagined.

Constantly Updated Content Fuels UV Counts

Celebrity news sites are making gains on the Mequoda Blog 100 with content added several times an hour

The February results are in for the Mequoda Blog 100, our list of the top 100 media blogs in the US. Tech-blog Engadget dropped from the top five, leaving it mostly to entertainment news blogs, and there are ten new additions to the list.

Celebrity news vortex TMZ is still number one and has gained in every category except page-views per visitor, which dropped from 17.0 to 16.8—hardly a slip. Its 3.38 million unique visitors for the month were enough to beat number two USA Today by over 1.64 million.

The blog of the most widely circulated newspaper in the country, USA Today, maintained the number two spot and had a 451,035 surge in unique visitors, bringing its total to over 1.7 million for February, just over half of TMZ’s.

Other than USAToday and number five glumbert.com, the top five blogs on the list are based on entertainment news. The AOL and Telepictures Productions creation TMZ is gaining in news credibility as it grows in unique visitor counts, but PerezHilton.com and The Superficial are much more raw in their images and commentary on the stars.

Aside from topic, the big three entertainment news blogs have two other commonalities: frequently updated content and rising unique visitor counts. All three add content throughout the day with loads of images and juicy gossip, which brings users to the sites again and again.

Every publisher should appreciate how much traffic this constant content format generates. Users are more inclined to frequent a site with fresh content every half hour. As they come, they bring more opportunities for publishers and they increase advertising inventory that can be sold to sponsors on a CPM, CPC or a CPA basis.

The Mequoda Research Team has analyzed more than 2,000 media websites and identified what types of websites, like blogs, generate the most traffic and boost revenue. We detail them in our Generating Website Revenue webinar and also tell publishers how to develop a website network that turns their niche topics into online revenue machines.

Mequoda Group and Compete, a marketing research firm that provides premium web analytics to marketers and consumers, developed the Mequoda Blog 100 based on monthly unique visitor counts, aggregating multiple-blog sites across the publication. Mequoda Group and Compete will be continually monitoring over 300 of America’s most popular media blogs and reporting the monthly results to our readers.

Print’s Shrinking Bottom Line

The cost of publishing a high quality magazine just went up.

It may be time to consider switching to online publishing. The print business is not getting any cheaper in America. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez announced Friday that tariffs of 10.9 to 20.35 percent will be placed coated paper imports from China, according to the New York Times.

This is good news for US paper manufacturers. They should get more business with the inflated Chinese import prices. But this is bad news for print publishers with glossy covers and pages. Any publisher relying on cheap Chinese coated paper is going to take a hit, and likely, pay more money to publish the same product.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

These tariffs should increase the already speeding transition of print publishers moving into the digital world. After all, taxes on glossy paper are not going to drive up the cost of publishing a magazine online. They might, however, be enough to push some print magazine publishers over the edge and into the emerging publishing environment.

To make the print to online transition, publishers need a plan. They need effective website architecture, a digital marketing campaign and to know what methods provide the best results. We at the Mequoda Group specialize in helping publishers make the transition. See our webinar Generating Website Revenue to learn what type of websites you should be using and how to turn your niche topic into a media empire.

Website Load Time is More Important Than Ever

Websurfers are not getting any more patient

More people are installing broadband connections in their homes, and more than 94 percent of all active Internet users in the US now access the net with broadband, according to Website Optimization.

Online publishers should be concerned if their websites are slow to load. Users are paying larger Internet bills to have websites pop open, not gradually load. If your site’s load time is sluggish, users will surely take their business to a faster competitor.

Not sure of your websites’ load time? Website Optimization has a free tool that times websites. Test yours and compare it to the Mequoda Load Time Scorecard below to check your site’s performance. We base the scorecard on load time to grade a website’s ability to satisfy all users.

Load Time Scorecard

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How did your website perform? If it is in the A to B range, then your website is probably loading fast enough to satisfy your customers and not drive them away. If you are in the C to D range, following some of the tips below may help generate more return visits to your site. If you have an F, your website did not load, and you have a much larger problem on your hands.

To get that instant-load feel, a website has to be designed properly. It has to have:

  1. A reasonable amount of images,
  2. Reasonably sized images,
  3. No automatically running video or audio, and
  4. Efficiently coded website scripts.

All of these tips can help bring down a website’s load time and increase its score on the Mequoda Load Time Scorecard.

Creating a rapidly loading website is only a small part of creating an effective website design. To learn more about creating websites that drive traffic, gain advertising revenue and sell products, see the Mequoda webinar Generating Website Revenue.

Measuring the Success of Print-to-Online Transition

The Mequoda Online Media Index (OMI) is a Simple Calculation that Measures a Publication’s Transition from Print to Online

Online advertising is in an explosive trend. Internet advertising revenues for 2006 are estimated at a record setting $16.8 billion—a 34 percent increase from 2005’s record setting $12.5 billion, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau. Fourth-quarter 2006 revenues were just under $4.8 billion, making it the highest quarter ever reported, according to the IAB.

If publishers want to capture some of that money hemorrhaging into the Internet, they have to develop an effective online marketing strategy. They have to devote the same level of time and effort into their websites today as they did when building their print circulation.

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Unfortunately, there is no “how to” book for making the print-to-online transition, and companies are scrambling to find the best strategy. We at the Mequoda Group, though, have researched thousands of websites and developed an easy way to measure the success of a publication’s transition: the Mequoda Online Media Index.

The Mequoda OMI a mathematical equation that can immediately tell the effectiveness of any publisher’s strategy to develop an online audience. It breaks down as follows:

OMI Equation

Finding these numbers is simple and free. Compete’s free SnapShot tool provides websites’ unique visitor counts, and the Audit Bureau of Circulation’s Free Reports will provide a publication’s verified circulation numbers. Simply take those numbers, divide and compare them to our grading graph below.

OMI ChartOMI’s vary wildly from one publisher to another. Forbes, for example, has an excellent OMI of about 7.45. Forbes’ unique online content and breaking news are enough to draw over seven times as many unique users to its website a month as to its print publication. TV Guide has started to make the transition online, but as its .88 OMI indicates, its print circulation is still greater than it’s website’s draw, restricting TV Guide’s online advertising revenue potential.

How did your publication do? If you are in the A to B range, congratulations, you are doing an excellent job driving your audience to your website. If your score is any lower than a 1.0, then you should consider the record setting quarter that the online advertising industry just finished and how you are going to capture that growth.

Mequoda’s Generating Website Revenue Special Report is an excellent way for publishers to learn how to harness the Internet’s colossal revenue potential. In this report, we detail the types of websites that best encourage users to interact with your media brand, develop a trusted relationship and generate website revenue for your organization.

Top 100 Media Blogs in the United States

The Mequoda Research Team has made a list of the top 100 media blogs in the country based on unique page visitors per month.

In the sprawling and volatile blogosphere, mining for a gem of a site is hard work. That’s why the Mequoda Research Team created the free Mequoda Blog 100. Mequoda has identified the top 100 media blogs in the US to show our readers how the best blogs run their websites.

Mequoda Group and Compete developed the Mequoda Blog 100 based on monthly unique visitor counts, aggregating multiple-blog sites across the publication. Mequoda Group and Compete will be continually monitoring over 300 of America’s most popular media blogs and reporting to our readers their monthly:

  • Ranking
  • Unique page visits
  • Page views per user
  • Sessions per user
  • Seconds per user

The Mequoda Blog 100 is a snapshot of America’s widely varying interests. There are gadget and technology blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo; celebrity gossip blogs like TMZ and PerezHilton.com; newspaper blogs like The Washington Post; and even the ridiculous Ask A Ninja comedy blog.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Every publisher should appreciate blogs. They are perfect for publishing content and allowing user feedback in a structured way—drawing users with similar interests to both read and post at the same website. Users generate revenue at these Internet Hubs, but not by paying for content. They spend time at the site, increasing advertising inventory that can be sold to sponsors on a CPM, CPC or a CPA basis.

The Mequoda Research Team has analyzed more than 2,000 media websites and identified the Internet Hub Sub Archetypes like the Blog Hub in our Generating Website Revenue webinar. In the report, publishers can study the details of the Mequoda Seven Primary Website Archetypes—the basic templates from which similar websites are patterned—and learn how to increase online advertising revenue. It is information that no online publisher should be without.

Understanding the Seven Website Archetypes

Choosing the right business model and supporting infrastructure for any business is a key strategy for business success, especially in website publishing.

Gas stations, supermarkets and bookstores are all retail businesses. They all resell products, yet the specifics of their business models and their physical infrastructures are very different. Optimizing those specifics will support higher revenue, lower operating costs and happier customers.

Online publishing also supports different business models and each business model requires specific infrastructure to optimize the user experience, maximize revenue and keep costs low. Unlike a physical gas station or bookstore operator, the successful online publisher interacts with their customer in a virtual infrastructure. The nexus of this virtual infrastructure—the website—is defined by its information architecture.

Archetypes and Sub Archetypes

The Mequoda Research Team has analyzed more than 2,000 media websites and concluded there are seven primary website archetypes—or basic templates from which all other similar websites are patterned. Archetypes are found everywhere. There are television archetypes, like sitcoms, and character archetypes, like villains. Each of the seven website archetypes has many sub archetypes that represent significant variations on the primary theme.

Television provides a perfect example to further illustrate the archetype concept.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Television Archetypes

Early television shows were based on media archetypes borrowed from stage, film and radio. Because many early producers came from radio, many early TV shows were radio with pictures. Eventually, those archetypes evolved to better suit the new medium.

Today, TV producers draw on a rich array of television archetypes that include:

  • Situation Comedies
  • Reality Shows
  • Dramas
  • News Magazines
  • Game Shows

Each archetype can be represented best by an actual show or a collection of shows that are classic examples of the format.

Website Archetypes

Designing a website while fully understanding website archetypes will best encourage users to interact with your media brand, develop a trusted relationship, and generate website revenue for your organization in the process.

After reviewing more than 2,000 media websites, we’ve identified six unique archetypes plus a seventh hybrid that combines two or more of the six unique archetypes into a common user interface. Together they are the seven Mequoda Website Archetypes that we now use to set best practices for all media websites.

The Mequoda Website Archetypes include:

  • Membership
  • Retail
  • Brand
  • Internet Hubs
  • Classified
  • Lead Generation
  • Hybrid

Using Archetypes to Optimize the User Experience

Each archetype supports a unique business model or method of generating revenue. Matching the right archetype to the right business model is key to online publishing success. If the archetype and the business model are not in sync, success is limited. In fact, of the more than 2,000 media websites surveyed, the vast majority of those websites contributed less than 10 percent of total media brand revenue for 2006.

In our new webinar, Generating Website Revenue, we look at media websites that are generating more than 10 percent of total brand revenue to illustrate the seven archetypes identified by the Mequoda Group as best practice archetypes. We also look at a number of sub archetypes in depth and, finally, we review how the most advanced online publishers are building website networks that use multiple archetypes and business models to maximize their online publishing revenues.

Conclusion

The concepts revealed in this report are those that launched the Mequoda System back in 2004. If publishers don’t have an understanding of the seven website archetypes, executing a successful online business will be very difficult. This is the knowledge that separates publishers who are making money online with those that are not.

The Mequoda SEO Process

Every good wordsmith approaches the task of writing a little differently. Some writers start with an outline or by making copious notes. Others write numerous disparate paragraphs at non-stop speed and then revisit their first draft, cutting and pasting to arrange them in a “logical” order. Still others agonize over the lead or headline and feel compelled to get them perfect before they can write a single second sentence.

 

Whatever your editorial process is, don’t start it with search engine optimization as your highest priority. Write the article first.

 

Don’t try to write great search engine-friendly copy with the first draft. Your brain will hurt and your copy will probably be awkward at best or incomprehensible at worst!

 

However, you can, as a brain-warming exercise, begin the process by making a list of words that you want to work into the copy. That’s sometimes a helpful exercise to get you thinking about the content of your article before you write it. But it’s not essential to the process.

 

Whatever way you like to work, write your first draft and tell your story. Don’t be so concerned with search engine optimization at this stage that it impairs your ability to write the first draft.

 

Write your article and stop. Really stop. This is important. Don’t rewrite it yet. Don’t polish it. Stop.

Developing Content and Copy That is Optimized for Search

 

Now it’s time to open the Overture (Yahoo!) keyword suggestion tool.

 

 

Look at your headline and first paragraph and decide what the article you’ve written is really about.

 

Ask yourself this question: What keyword phrase would someone search for, then find this article, and say, “Wow! This is great. This answers my question!”?

 

Users go to search engines because they have a question. That’s one reason why search phrases are getting longer and now typically include three or four words. Searchers are looking for advice. Often, they’re looking for a product.

 

The Mequoda System SEO strategy is to not spend a lot of time optimizing sales letter landing pages and membership website pages. The Mequoda Network Hub—the website that is full of free, short, newsy content that is updated frequently—is structured to be optimized for search. That’s the content-based site full of short articles using optimized words.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

 

On a membership site (like this one), we recommend that you optimize the words used in the snippet or article teasers. On a retail or catalog website, you should optimize the words used in the product descriptions. Here’s how…

The Seven Steps for Search Engine Optimization of Editorial Content

 

Step #1: Choose keyword phrases for which you want to optimize the page

 

Begin with three- and four-word phrases. Each phrase might have at least two words in it (if optimizing for one word would not make sense, as in “alternative energy”).

 

Step #2: Determine keyword popularity

 

Go to Overture. Look for search terms that make organic sense, and have a popularity of approximately 2,000 to 99,000 hits for a special–interest consumer topics and 100 to 50,000 for business-to-business topics. The numbers are not exact. Your goal is to find words that have less competitive and that will still drive some significant amount of traffic. Repeat steps one and one until the best three to four keyword phrases emerge.

 

An Example from Mequoda Daily

 

Here’s an example from Don’s August 22, 2005, Mequoda Daily E-newsletter entitled Getting Serious About Email Newsletter Marketing on the subject of email newsletter marketing. The original headline did not contain the words “email newsletter marketing”. Originally Don Nicholas wrote the headline “Building You Email Newsletter Database.”

 

A search at Overture for “email newsletter database” turned up zero results. Virtually no one searched for that phrase during July 2005.

 

However, an Overture Keyword Selector Tool search for “email newsletter marketing” showed 288 searches for that phrase during the month. So, “email newsletter marketing” has a slight chance of getting a top 10, 20 or 30 ranking.

 

The Mequoda SEO Strategy is to do another search for a two-word phrase that is a part of a longer phrase. In this case, when Don searched “email newsletter” (as a part of “email newsletter marketing”) he hit the mother lode, with 13,397 Overture Keyword Selector Tool searches for that phrase during July 2005.

 

“Email marketing” uses two words of the three-word phrase, and it returned a 149,621 count—far too large a field in which to compete for a top 10 ranking. And those two words are not adjacent to one another in the larger three-word phrase. Because “email marketing” is too broad and substantially different from the notion of “email newsletter marketing,” Don rejected that phrase.

 

The phrase “newsletter marketing” works relative to adjacency, and it returned a score of 859, but Don knows his customers. He believes “newsletter marketing” probably is being searched by users seeking information specific to print newsletters. So he didn’t pursue that phrase either.

 

“Ezine” returned a score of 3,165, a perfectly respectable number. So Don may revisit that phrase at a later date for another article. But for this exercise, he decided to optimize for “newsletter marketing.”

 

Editor’s Note:The Overture Keyword Selector tool is easier to use than other available resources, and is currently free. For more precise information about keyword popularity, try the commercial service Word Tracker after reading John Alexander’s excellent article.

 

Step #3: Optimize the article headline, subheads and summaries

 

Start by making sure your principle keyword phrase is in the article headline.

 

The subhead should describe the content on the page, and should make the user realize he has come to the right place. It should also contain your exact principle keyword phrase.

 

The summary should provide a capsule overview and whet the reader’s appetite for more. It should also include your principle keyword phrase one or more times.

 

Example of an optimized headline:

 

“Place Online Order Forms on the Bottom of Every Content Page”

 

Example of an optimized sub-head:

 

“How magazine publishers are doubling and tripling print subscription orders by putting online order forms known as OFIEs (Order Form in Editorial) on every website page.”

 

Example of an optimized summary:

  • Understand how to make simple online order forms your largest source.
  • See how three very different publishers have implemented online order forms.
  • How online order forms are changing the way publishers deploy content.

 

Take advantage of these three elements by writing keyword-rich copy for each before you begin Step four, where you will calculate keyword density.

 

Here’s where the editorial process really changes from conventional journalism.

 

Step #4: Measure the keyword density of the first 300 words of each overview article

 

Ideally, each word for which you’re optimizing should show up 2.7 percent (or eight times) in the first 300 words of the page.

 

Currently, search engines typically spider and index the first 300 words of content on a webpage. Because all Mequoda Daily articles are 300 – 500 words in length, Don decided to optimize the entire “Getting Serious About Email Newsletter Marketing” article.

 

 

Next, Don revisited his first draft, looking to optimize the phrase “email newsletter marketing.” He rewrote his first draft to maximize the use of the words “email newsletter marketing” and “email newsletter.” He experimented with pronouns and descriptors and rewrote the article—without changing the original intent or meaning—in order to repeat the keyword phrases as often as possible.

 

Then, he used the search and replace function of his word processing software (Microsoft Word) to highlight the keyword phrases.

 

When he finished, the phrase “email newsletter marketing” appears nine times, for a keyword density of 1.9 percent. The phrase “email newsletter,” which is a subset of “email newsletter marketing,” had a keyword density of 4.7 percent. Both are good although neither of these is exactly on target for the 2.7 percent that Google prefers (at the moment).

 

Editor’s Note: How to Figure Keyword DensityMicrosoft Word indicates the original article is 491 words. Nine (the number of times the phrase “email newsletter marketing” appears) divided by 491 (the total number of words in the article) equals a keyword density of about 1.9 percent.

 

This new editorial process requires the writer to employ the precise language that the reader is likely to use. When Don started the process for this article, he initially thought the word “eletter” might be appropriate. But an Overture Keyword Selector Tool search indicated almost no one searches for the word “eletter.” So he rejected that word in favor of words that have proven greater popularity.

 

Step #5A: Optimize the meta title tag

 

The HTML Title Tag should contain all the keywords, but can be longer. In this case, Don copied the title of the article and made it the actual, word-for-word title tag of the page.

 

This tag gives instructions to a content loader (the person who creates the actual webpage) and Don wanted to be very specific about the content of his meta tags and other covert content. Google and the other search engines will pay close attention to the meta title tag, especially if the article title does not use words for which there is fierce competition. The meta title tag will weigh heavily in determining the page ranking.

 

Additionally, if the search engine spider “likes” the title of the page—if it is keyword rich—it will pick up the title tag and return it verbatim in the search results. If it is not keyword rich, the spider will analyze the content on the page, look for the first occurrence of the keyword phrase, and make up its own title and its own description tags. Similarly, if you don’t put anything in the title tag, or you chose words that don’t have the keyword phrase in it, Google will make up its own description and return it in the search results.

 

Step #5B: Optimize the meta description tag

 

While the meta description tag does not impact your ranking, it can impact your click through rate (CTR). Assuming the meta description tag includes the keywords for which the Google spider was searching, the spider will normally use the meta description tag to create the search results description.

 

After you begin to rank in the first 30 results of Google, you can try revising this tag to increase the click-through rate…

 

Step #5C: Optimize the meta keywords

 

The keyword tag does not appear to be important to Google but does carry some weight with the other search engines. Limit the keywords in this field to only the optimized words and their variations. Don’t use keywords words here that are not in the article’s content, or Google will deduct points in assigning page rank.

 

Step #6: Optimize the URL tags

 

Some website content management systems enable using a string of words within a long URL (Universal Resource Locator or website page address). The URL for Getting Serious About Email Newsletter Marketing is www.mequodacafedaily.com/i/internet_strategy/email_newsletter_marketing_42-1.html.

 

 

Note the words “internet_strategy/email_newsletter_marketing” within the long URL.

 

Here the Mequoda strategy is to append three or four relevant words onto the URL, repeating, if possible, the same keywords used in the title. The iProduction content management system that powers the Mequoda Group’s websites has this capability. On a smaller website you might have to hard code your pages with optimized URL tags.

 

Because we are optimizing for very specific keyword phrases in this article, we believe there is relatively little competition for these specific words. This tactic is recommended only when little competition exists for the phrases we are trying to optimize. In a highly competitive arena, the Mequoda System would not recommend URL tagging. When there are millions of well-optimized pages with the term, testing has shown that URL tags are neutral to negative in the Google algorithm.

 

Step #7A: Maximize internal and external linking.

 

Fundamental to the Mequoda System is creating a website network. You should establish a routine process for associating each article on your website with all the other articles on your website and on the other sites in your network. Ideally, all of your site’s articles should reference or link to all of the other relevant articles on your sites.

 

Example:

 

For in-depth reporting on Editorial Strategy visit the Mequoda Daily Editorial Strategy Topic Index Page, or check out these related reports:

 

The Mequoda System A Seven-Habit Website Management System, by Don Nicholas
Generating Website Revenue, by Don Nicholas
Mequoda Habit #3: Building a Website Network, by Don Nicholas
Your Traffic Building Checklist, by Ali K. Brown
How to Get E-zine Subscribers From Live, In-person Events, by Ali K. Brown

 

These links refer the user to additional Mequoda Group articles, tips, topic pages, etc.

 

Your strategy can be to link internally to other pages on the same site, or externally to pages on other sites in your network. Google and the other search engines award higher rankings to pages that have numerous incoming links from sites that include similar or relevant content.

 

Just make certain that your outgoing links open a new window and do not take the user off your site. Your webmaster will know how to use the appropriate “target” tag in the HTML coding. Some website content management systems do this automatically.

 

Also important here is what Google calls “link relevancy.” That means the search engine awards a higher rank to pages that use keywords in the highlighted blue hypertext link.

 

Example:

 

Mequoda System Habit #3: Building a Website Network

 

Editor’s Note: Step# 7B may be beyond the job responsibilities of the writer and editor. This is where the marketing folks really take over for a larger organization. Of course, for a small shop like Mequoda Group, these responsibilities fall to the managing editor and the webmaster, with assistance from an outside consultant like Eric Ward. You can also pay a search engine marketing firm like iProspect to do this for you.

 

Step #7B: Compile a list of websites you think might consider linking to this particular article

 

Then send an email or call the webmaster of each site that is complementary to yours, but not a direct competitor. Outline the benefits to them of linking to your site and provide the appropriate HTML code.

 

Make it as easy as possible for them to comply with your request. Write an appropriate headline for the link, as well as the HTML code, making certain that the proposed link opens in a new window.

 

This ready-to-use code is easy for a webmaster to add to the website or drop into an email newsletter. In a Web browser it looks like this:

 

Mequoda Profiles Ask the Builder

 

Don’t miss Peter Schaible’s excellent Ask the Builder Website Strategy Profile.

 

For additional information on maximizing external links see the Mequoda Daily report entitled Over 125 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies.

Why do the experts so often disagree about Google?

 

Are you confused by reading articles in which the supposed experts, who have actually spent considerable time working on search engine optimization, disagree about what is and what is not in Google’s search engine algorithm? Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger! We were, too!

 

After considerable research, Mequoda editors finally discovered that the Google algorithm contains a number of environmental variables. That means the mathematical formula Google uses depends on the content.

 

For example, do a Google search using a two-, three- or four-word phrase and examine the pages that Google returns. Depending on how competitive, well optimized, and heavily linked these pages are for a specific word phrase, the algorithm is variable.

 

In a recent study, researchers isolated individual variables, changing them one at a time, in an attempt to determine the effect on search engine rankings. This tedious procedure is sometimes referred to as reverse engineering, or trying to infer the value of different variables in an equation.

 

What they discovered is that using the keyword in the site’s URL (Universal Resource Locator or website address) carries a different weight depending on how much competition there is for that keyword. Ironically, in very highly competitive arenas, using the keyword in the URL can result in a negative or lower ranking.

 

Where there is moderate competition for a keyword or keyword phrase, using it in your site’s URL has a modest positive effect. In a relatively uncompetitive arena, using the keyword or keyword phrase has a huge positive effect.

 

Again, this is owing to the environmental variables of the search engine algorithm, which are configured in an attempt to diminish spamming.

Mequoda Recommended Practice

Know your market. Design your site’s pages differently depending on whether you’re optimizing for a keyword phrase for which there is heavy, modest or relatively little competition.

 

“If you practice an art faithfully, it will make you wise, and most writers can use a little wising up.” —From the last manuscript of American author William Saroyan (1908-81)

Recycling Website Content to become a Successful eBook Publisher

Executive Summary

  • Becoming an eBook Publisher May Be Easier Than You Think
  • Many eBook Publishers are Simply Recycling Website Content
  • An eBook Publisher Has No Inventory Eating Cash Flow

A writer and online publisher I know was making a good living with his simple, advertising-driven website. His topic is hot and his content is rich in keywords. His site includes about 3,000 pages of content and through a combination of Google AdSense ads and a few select affiliate deals, he’ll do about $1.2M in revenue for this year.

Opportunity: A writer at heart, he wondered if he could make a few extra dollars selling ebooks from his well-trafficked site. His first task as an ebook publisher was the creation of one title that was primarily a collection of articles from his website. Much to his surprise, the simple ebook sold very well. He decided to make a few more ebooks and by the middle of 2005, he had 43 ebooks available from links on his site, with plans to make even more.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Results: Our newly successful ebook publisher topped $50,000 in sales for June and $65,000 for July. Based on some pretty complex website analytics, he figures he can do about $400 per year for every page of his site that has a featured ebook on the same topic as the page. His current 43 titles give him ebooks for about 2,000 of his 3,000 pages. Oddly, it looks like he can do about the same revenue per page from advertising and ebook publishing, which should double next year’s revenues (or even a bit more).

Issues: Although he created the first few ebooks himself, he quickly decided his time was best spent being an ebook publisher and not an ebook editor. So he made the decision to hire out new ebook production. He correctly concluded that the best use of his time was creating new articles for the site and practicing the fine art of search engine optimization.

Our ebook publisher found a talented freelance editor who knew his subject area using eLance. His new editor can crank out three to four ebooks a month that average 65 to 125 pages by taking content from his site and giving it a mild rewrite and a little packaging. He pays his editor between $400 and $800 per book depending on the length, and the amount of rewrite that is required. They agree on the topic and she sifts through the site to find the right mix of articles for each ebook.

He now uses 1ShoppingCart to handle ebook order processing and fulfillment. He has also hired a full-time customer service manager to take over the growing customer support calls and emails associated with his increasing ebook sales volume. He’s also thinking about upgrading to a more sophisticated Internet publishing system next year.

Lesson: One really profitable revenue stream is a good thing. Two really great revenue streams is an amazing thing. Just last week, our now very successful website and ebook publisher told me he was going back to reread the Mequoda Daily reports on Generating Website Revenue and Building Website Networks.

“There are seven successful models,” he told me. “I’m only using two.”

IMR and SWEPA Merge to Create the New Mequoda Library, The Interactive Resource for Building Better Websites

Bristol, RI – June 3, 2005 – IMR and SWEPA Merge to Create the New Mequoda Library, The Interactive Resource for Building Better Websites

Two of the publishing industry’s leading membership websites, Internet Media Review and SWEPA (Subscription Website Publishers Association), have merged to create the Mequoda Library, the interactive resource for building better websites. The Mequoda Library (www.Mequoda.com) went live on June 3, 2005.

“The rapid growth of online marketing and publishing has created an almost desperate need for shared industry best practices,” said Don Nicholas, Editor and Managing Director of the Mequoda Group, LLC (formerly Digital Media Advisors, LLC). “At every conference I attend, every conversation I hear and every publisher I meet, I am assailed by an unfulfilled desire to understand where online publishing and marketing is going.

“The merger of SWEPA and IMR fits both our constituencies well. Between us, we offer users more than 300 articles, reports and reviews that chronicle the state-of-the-art, as we know it today, of website publishing,” said Nicholas.

Under the merger agreement, Peter A. Schaible, formerly the Director of SWEPA, joins the Mequoda Group as Editor-at-Large. Kim Mateus, formerly the Managing Editor of Internet Media Review, becomes the Managing Editor for the Mequoda Library.

Over the coming weeks, Mateus and Schaible will be responsible for launching the Mequoda Forum and the Mequoda Commentaries. These new features will empower Mequoda Library members to interact in real time, on a peer-to-peer basis, with the Library’s 15 expert authors. These include: Don Nicholas, Roxanne O’Connell, John Alexander, Lizzie Babarczy, Micah Baldwin, Robert W. Bly, Alexandria K. Brown, John Clausen, Terri Edmonston, Fred Gleeck, Larry Kerstein, Stephen Laliberte, Robin Nobles, Roger C. Parker, Jim Sinkinson and Jane Zarem.

In a related statement, Digital Media Advisors, LLC, announced it has changed its name to Mequoda Group, LLC, to coincide with the launch of the Mequoda Library and several other websites in the Mequoda Network that will be announced later this year. The Mequoda Group provides consulting, research and development services to help publishers sell existing print products online and create new online revenue streams.

Please visit www.Mequoda.com for more information. Credentialed members of the media trade press are encouraged to contact Kim Mateus (Kim@Mequoda.com) for questions, comments and complimentary full access.

FAQs

1. What is the Mequoda Library?

The Mequoda Library is an interactive membership website that offers website publishers best practice information for building better websites. The Library is updated weekly with 3-to-5 new skill builders, website reviews, landing page reviews, website profiles and resource reviews, all aimed at helping website publishers succeed. Library research is authored by over 15 industry experts and best-selling authors. Interested parties are encouraged to sign up for a 14-day FREE trial. Credentialed members of the media trade press are encouraged to contact Kim Mateus for questions, comments and complimentary full access.

2. What happens to SWEPA members?

SWEPA members get to enjoy continued access to Peter A. Schaible, as he will be moderating the Mequoda Forum. They also get continued access to SWEPA archives that are now available at the Mequoda Library. Additionally, Schaible will write content for the Library that is specific to membership websites. This content, written on a weekly basis, will include membership website reviews, landing page reviews for membership websites, membership website profiles and skill builders that feature best practices for membership websites.

3. What makes the Mequoda Library interactive?

We provide two ways for our members to interact with each other and with our expert team of editors. One way is through the Mequoda Commentaries. The Commentaries are an opportunity for our members to respond instantly to each and every article that is published at the Library. Using technology customized by iProduction, the Mequoda Group’s official hosting company, Library members can respond immediately to an article they’ve read using the Commentaries feature located at the bottom of each article.

The Library will also feature the Mequoda Forum. Members will be able to share ideas, suggest topics and ask questions. Schaible, who previously moderated the discussion forum at SWEPA, will moderate. While not a new feature for SWEPA members, for former IMR members, it is an added bonus that was not previously available.

4. How current are the 300+ article reports and reviews?

IMR launched in early September 2004, so the research does not predate 2004. The SWEPA archives, handpicked by Schaible, will not predate 2002. And with 3-to-5 new reports and reviews being updated weekly, Mequoda Library members can be assured that the content is always fresh.

5. What do the 300+ articles and reviews include?

The 300+ articles include website design reviews, website profiles, skill builders, landing page reviews, industry interviews and resource reviews.

6. Can you give me some specific examples of the articles I can find in the Mequoda Library?

Some skill builder examples include: Generating Website Revenue, The Mequoda System, 1-2-3s of Usability Testing, 10 Steps to Manage a New Website Launch, 14 Website Design Guidelines, Strategic Website Management, Consumer Magazine Website Design and How to Double Print Sales Online.

Some website profile examples include: ConsumerReports.org, Forbes.com, CBSNews.com, IMDb.com, Amazon, LendingTree.com, MediaBistro.com, TheBookReportNetwork.com, VarietyCareers.com, Harvard Business School Publishing and Yoga Journal.

Some website review examples include: AccountsPayableNetwork.com, BLR.com, Computerworld.com, WSJ.com, WebMD.com, Ragan.com, AutoTrader.com, Insurance.com, Atkins.com, eBay, WineSpecator.com and TheBookStandard.com.

Some landing page reviews include: SuperAffiliateHandbook.com, Louis Rukeyser and Morningstar.

7. How much does it cost to belong to the Mequoda Library?

An introductory annual membership to the Mequoda Library costs $89.

8. What does Mequoda mean?

It’s a term we use to describe best practices for website publishing. Our staff began using the word to describe anything that we thought was a best practice for online publishing and marketing. Our intention is that eventually, the word Mequoda will become synonymous with building better websites.

9. Why did Digital Media Advisors change its name to Mequoda Group?

We realized that from a branding perspective, it would be in our best interest to ultimately share the same brand name with other websites in our network. To date, our website network is composed of two websites, the Mequoda Library and the Mequoda Group website. Over the next several months, we will be announcing new website launches that will form the Mequoda Website Network. Each website in the Mequoda network will be dedicated to helping information marketers build better websites.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

The Mequoda System: A Seven-Habit Website Management System

Successful website publishing in 2005 means creating happy users and healthy profits. Without both, no website will exist for long. All of the successful website publishers we’ve studied have one thing in common: a consistent management system for achieving success that includes a number of key behaviors that are repeated over and over to become organizational habits. The seven habits that we’ll describe in this report can be used to form a powerful, self-reinforcing website management system we call The Mequoda System. As Stephen Covey points out in his bestselling Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, habits are the most powerful thing on earth. If you choose a set of good practices for any business and turn them into habits, the odds of success are greatly enhanced.

With that in mind, we’ve studied thousands of successful and not-so-successful website publishers to arrive at seven best business practices that can be used together to create The Mequoda System. The Mequoda System, when run as a repeating cycle of management behaviors, creates an audience-driven continuous-improvement website management system. The system can be used to launch a new website property, or to manage, maintain and improve an existing website. Let’s explore our seven habits of highly successful website publishers.

Habit 1: Start with a Clear Mission

A Mequoda™ Website Mission answers three key questions:

  1. Who is your website serving?
  2. What value is your website providing to the user?
  3. How do you measure website success?

The answers to these three questions form the foundation for your website strategy, which in turn drives your website goals, tactics and metrics. This system of goals, tactics and measurements can be institutionalized and taught as a management system for creating and running one successful website or a website network.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Habit 2: Pick Proven Website Models

After studying thousands of websites and working on the development of more than 100 successful websites over the past 10 years, we’ve developed a unique taxonomy for classifying website models: the Mequoda Website Taxonomy. The seven Mequoda Website Models are derived from a two dimensional analysis that asks two simple questions:

  1. Who pays for access, the audience or the sponsors?
  2. What does the user seek, content or commerce?

Our analysis reveals seven Mequoda Website Publishing Models. Each of the seven models has its own best practices guidelines for creating happy users and healthy profits—the two key, high-level measurements of website success. A successful website publishing organization often publishes many websites using more than one Mequoda Website Model. For example, many special interest Mequoda Membership Websites also have a companion Mequoda Retail Website that offers users branded merchandise and related information products. Mequoda Membership Websites examples include Britannica.com, Playboy.com and ZoneDiet.com. Each has launched successful Mequoda Retail Websites that sell a wide variety of branded or brand-related products.

The Playboy Store is a good example of a Mequoda Retail Website that is part of the larger
Playboy Website Network that includes a number of Mequoda Membership Websites and Mequoda Retail Websites.

Some progressive Mequoda Retail Website publishers have now launched their own Mequoda Editorial Websites to drive qualified traffic to their retail sites. Agora Publishing, for example, now operates nine very successful Mequoda Editorial Websites like The Daily Reckoning, that only drive traffic to Agora retail websites selling Agora books, newsletters, memberships, conferences, events and other premium information services. As we’ll see with habit number three, the ability to construct multiple Mequoda™ websites is one key element of The Mequoda System that maximizes traffic, conversions, sales and profits for the website publisher.

For more information on the seven models, see Generating Website Revenue: The Seven Mequoda Website Publishing Models.

Habit 3: Build a Website Network

To do a better job of meeting user needs and drive higher revenues and profits, savvy website publishers create a Mequoda Website Network. This group of related sites serves a specific audience with a variety of information and retail services. Each website can be designed to be easy to use. The network of websites can provide robust functionality that would be confusing for most users if incorporated into a single website.

A successful network can be viewed using the Mequoda Product-Price Pyramid. The base of the Mequoda Pyramid is a free Mequoda Editorial Hub with a high contact frequency. The site is largely open to the public (and search engines), asking only for registration to claim a free email newsletter, free report or post content to the website. The Mequoda Editorial Hub exists to drive traffic to the websites that make up the higher levels of the Mequoda Pyramid.

The second level of the pyramid offers the opportunity to sample the publisher’s paid products and services at a relatively low price point. The offer is designed to mitigate the risk of dealing with a new website and provide the user a broad overview of what the website publisher has to offer.

The third, fourth and subsequent levels of the Mequoda Product-Price Pyramid progress to offer higher prices for higher value products and services that are designed to meet more advanced audience needs. Knowledge gained from user interaction with the lower levels (which pages do a given user visit and products do they buy) may be used to guide the products and services offered later in the relationship.

A smart website publisher runs the entire website network on a single customer database to leverage the knowledge gained at each site and avoid making irrelevant or redundant offers. Successful website publishers create Mequoda Website Networks that meet many user needs and leverage the audience database for maximum profits over the life of the customer relationship.

Habit 4: Organize Around the Customer

Unlike traditional publishing and cataloging where the publisher drives the model, website publishing models offer the opportunity to integrate the user into the website organization. Websites are, in fact, interactive software programs that can connect the website staff and users in a dynamic environment. Many successful websites rely on the user to create 99 percent of website content. The website staff provide support and infrastructure. Monster, eBay and Wikipedia are all examples of websites where the users supply 99 percent of the content.

The relationship looks much like the government of a town or city, where the municipal employees exist to serve and protect the residents. In a website community, the residents vote with their presence. If the website managers disappoint them, they may complain and ultimately depart for a website that does a better job of meeting their needs. Successful website publishers build organizational models that integrate customer interaction into the core of the website model.

A sample Mequoda Website Network Organigraph.

Habit 5: Create Great Websites

First impressions have never been more important than on the Web. The increase in broadband availability and user expectation have resulted in a fantastic explosion of technology and complexity. The age of the Internet has also created many websites that are like homes that have been remodeled again and again with no master plan for making the rooms all work together. Our research indicates that many of these complex websites will function much better when untangled to create a network of websites, each with much less functionality for the user to learn effectively.

There are many pitfalls waiting to ensnare the overworked, over-extended website publishing team. Brand integrity, clear messages, easy-to-use order flows and intuitive navigation fall victim to the race to keep up with “technology.” It may give you some relief to know that best practices in website design and execution are often a simple case of common sense. That, and a firm handle on your audience’s expectations and perspective. To help website publishers create better websites, we created the Mequoda Website Scorecard™—14 principles for creating great websites. We’ve reviewed hundreds of websites and interviewed dozens of website publishers. We’ve conducted a series of expert usability reviews and actual user tests to determine what we believe to be the top 14 “Best Practices” for the seven Mequoda Website Models.

The key to successful website publishing lies in exploiting the user benefits that the Web has to offer as a unique medium. Successful website publishers use website content and design to create unique user benefits not found in other media.

For more information on the 14 guidelines, see How to Rate a Website using the Mequoda Website Scorecard™.

Habit 6: Diversify Your Traffic

While many catalog and periodical publishers can start a successful website with traffic driven from their print products, the Web also offers a diverse group of unique marketing channels to drive customers to your brand.

Search engines have become part of the English lexicon. More than half of all adults under 30 now use Web search as their primary means for finding the content and commerce they seek.

Users who like a website will bookmark and return for future needs creating a powerful, immediate outlet for both information and retail brand preference.

Affiliate programs offer website publishers with something to sell (or give away) a no-risk way to compensate other website publishers for traffic referrals that generate a desired transaction.

Co-registration offers publishers a low cost way to capture new customers by offering free newsletters or product information on other publishers’ websites.

Email and RSS feeds power an inexpensive, user-controlled ongoing relationship that can lead to continuing interaction for an extended period of time at virtually no cost to the publisher.

Savvy website publishers like Wine Spectator Online use free email newsletters
with great content to establish and build online relationships with buyers.
Successful website publishers create integrated, automated, user communication programs that honor the rules of Internet marketing and maximize Internet marketing resources in terms of both time and money.

Habit 7: Measure Website Performance

Every business succeeds because it meets the needs of its customers better than the competition. Websites are no different. To meet the needs of your audience, you must first understand those needs and their relative importance as they apply to each customer segment. Successful website publishers use a variety of research and analysis tools to gather information and make sense of the critical knowledge that leads to audience-driven decision-making. The goal of every smart publisher’s research program is the perfect allocation of organizational resources (time and money) to meet the most pressing needs of each audience member.

On the Web everything can be measured and, as the saying goes, “What can be measured can be managed.” Successful website publishers use a diverse array of tools to measure the key drivers of website revenue and profit.

It all starts with measuring website metrics. Software like WebTrends allows you to see what sites users are visiting before yours, where they enter your site, what they do while they’re there and how they depart. This data can be used to guide content development, site navigation and relationship development.

Mequoda User Satisfaction Studies offer a deeper insight into site interaction, attitudes, preferences and un-met needs. A well-executed user satisfaction study is the best way to prioritize the ongoing development of your website’s features and functionality.

Mequoda Website Usability Labs provide one-on-one feedback that is crucial to making your site more usable, thus allowing users to complete key tasks that drive website user satisfaction, loyalty and profits. Competitive analysis, audience surveys, and usability labs are the three research tools we’ve found to be most useful in helping successful website publishers know their audience.

Conclusion: Repeat the Continuous Improvement Cycle

It is at this point that the system repeats. With your newfound user knowledge, you once again evaluate the user’s needs in the context of a competitive marketplace. You validate and fine tune your website model and your organizational structure and business processes. You look for new ways to webify your content and diversify your traffic. You explore new products and websites that can extend your brand. You measure your progress and begin the cycle again.

As Stephen Covey describes in his bestseller, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, habits are powerful things. The seven habits included in the Mequoda System, institutionalized as a system, will give you the power to succeed and, perhaps, to dominate any website audience segment you choose to target.

May you find happy users and healthy profits on the road ahead.

References and Resources

How to Launch a Successful Membership Website

What should you consider when starting a subscription-driven or membership website?

The answers are not always obvious, even to a seasoned print or electronic publisher. Starting a new website is very different from running an existing property. Over the past 10 years, my partners and I have worked on over 100 successful website startups, as well as several that were not successful. Our understanding of website publishing is rooted in the world of print, which has given us insight into the similarities and differences between the two types of launches. This report will document the best practices we’ve seen, and been part of, over the past decade. The examples and costs we use to illustrate the best practices we’ve identified are geared toward a website that will generate $2 to $5-million per year in total revenues after three to five years.

Website publishing is different from print publishing in several ways. While all the traditional revenue streams apply (subscriptions, advertising, classified listings and product sales), website publishers also rely on affiliate marketing programs. These programs are revenue streams unique to the Web. The mix of revenue can also be quite different from print publishing, with advertising being less dominant than in magazine or newspaper publishing.

The sources used to generate website subscriptions are very different from those used to generate print subs. While print publishers rely on direct mail and inserts cards, online publishers use search engine marketing, affiliate marketing and co-registration marketing to build a subscriber base. Successful online publishers also give away 10 to 20 percent of their content for free—via email newsletters and article summaries as a key strategy.

The economics of online publishing are also different than print. A very successful B2B subscription website (like the one referenced in Figure 1) may have 75,000 basic subscribers who get limited content, and only 5,000 to 10,000 paid subscribers who have access to full content. The basic subscribers are valuable, because some percentage will become paid subscribers and they do generate some revenue from advertising, affiliate or product marketing programs.

While this report will not attempt to cover all there is to know about successful online marketing and publishing ( browse topics for Mequoda’s comprehensive list of reports on the topic), we will share the 17 steps recommended for a successful launch of a new subscription-driven website. In the process, we’ll cover the concepts required to publish a successful website at a basic level. For example, while there are dozens of ways to market a website, this report will focus on the use of search engine advertising, also known as keyword marketing or pay-per-click marketing. We use this method in the launch phase for two reasons. Not only is it a major source for marketing your website, it is actually possible to plan, execute and analyze a search engine marketing campaign for a website that does not yet exist. This process is often called “dry testing,” because it allows a publisher to test a publishing concept without actually launching the website.

To prepare this report, we are relying on our experience of launching and re-launching more than 100 subscription websites. When comparing B2B and B2C launches, we have found them similar. A B2B launch can be somewhat easier, since the subscriber and advertiser audiences are usually easy to define and quantify. B2B websites also tend to have smaller circulations and fewer subscription sources. Nonetheless, the steps required for launching a B2B website and a B2C website remain similar.

The 17 steps have been revised and modified over time, and we can now safely say the list is comprehensive, if not exhaustive. We hope these steps make your journey into website publishing more successful, enjoyable and profitable.

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

1. Focus Your Website Product Idea

Without a strong product concept, you have nothing. As a website publisher, you are running an information business. First and foremost, you are an information provider—marketing is secondary. So what will you provide your readers? And why are they going to want it? Get the concept down in a simple position statement of one to three sentences. If you can’t do it in 25 words or less, you probably don’t have a good idea. A tightly focused subject—for instance, “restoring 1960s Mustangs” instead of “restoring Ford cars”—is particularly important for subscription-driven websites. Your website should be targeted to a specific group of readers who share very specific information needs, and are willing to pay a premium price for that information. You must also identify your editorial competitors, both print and online. For print competitors, you should gather at least six months of back issues. Study what they’re doing and figure out how your concept will position against theirs. Remember, a great website offers its readers news and reference information, making it part periodical and part encyclopedia. It can also offer a software application that is Web-based and provide interaction between your data and personal data supplied by each user. The stock portfolio managers offered by many investor websites are just one example of a “sticky” interactive website application.

 

 

 

Like many investor websites, Morningstar.com offers a Portfolio Tracker for registered users.

2. Profile the Information Needs of Your Target Customer

Who – precisely – is going to take time out of their life for your website? Why will they need or want your website? You must be able to provide a simple and logical explanation of who wants your services. Your goal is to locate a target market focused on people who (1) have an established interest in what you’ll be writing about, (2) are proven website users and subscribers, (3) are part of either a growing or very stable audience and (4) are not adequately served by existing publications and other websites. The biggest mistake website publishers make is overestimating the number of people who will subscribe to their website – most print newsletters, for instance, never reach more than 10 percent of their potential audience and many run quite profitably with only one or two percent of the market. Niche websites are no different. In fact, a willingness to pay for print newsletters is one great indicator of demand for a subscription-driven website. At the same time, the interactive nature of the Web has created many very successful subscription websites that have no newsletter counterparts. Dating websites like Match.com and eHarmony.com generated some $450 million in 2003 and are competing with print personals and physical dating services. Many successful websites don’t compete with traditional print publishing. Still, there is always an offline competitor that must be identified to properly understand your online opportunity.

3. Prepare an In-Depth Competitive Market Analysis

Start with a Google search for the keywords your prospective customer might use to look for the information and services you plan to provide. Note carefully the paid and the free (organic) listings. If you find many paid listings on the top, right side of the search results page, it may mean that customers who want this information are willing to pay for it. It could also mean that there are online retailers, direct marketers or other non-website publishers who will be competing for your customer’s attention. You’ll want to create a comprehensive, competitive analysis to understand the marketplace you’re going to enter. Start by finding all the websites that show up on the first three pages of search results for the top 10 to 100 keywords that are associated with your topic. Explore each website and categorize their business models (see Mequoda’s Generating Website Revenue) using a computer spreadsheet. In addition to website publishers, pay close attention to vendors who give away free information and services to the customers you will jointly target.

Many of the websites you find will be run by print publishers who are also competing for your prospect’s time and money. You’ll need to understand their online and offline strategy. To discover the size of their print audience, audit reports (postal, ABC, BPA), the Statement of Ownership, Standard Rates & Data and media kits should all be scoured for circulation clues. You are looking for information on frequency, rate base, sources, sales levels, premium use, price, discounting, renewals and seasonal fluctuations. Pay particular attention to the relationship between their print magazine or newsletter and the companion website. Magazine website publishers, in particular, are just beginning to either charge for access for a solo subscription (as ConsumerReports.org has done for years) or make the website and print periodical benefits of subscribing, like Businessweek.com and SI.com. Later, these print and online media will provide the free (and paid) marketing access you’ll need to sell subscriptions to your website.

All the data we reference above is available online through their own subscription-driven websites. If you’re on a tight budget, the public library will have both the Oxbridge and SRDS directories. Your search will begin with directories that list the media we’ve mentioned, and then move on to collecting sample copies and other information the publishers can supply. New York-based Oxbridge Communications publishes annual directories of newsletters, magazines, catalogs and mailing lists. Chicago-based Standard Rate and Data Services publish monthly directories of magazines and mailing lists. On the book-publishing front, your library will have a current copy of Books in Print.

Once you know who your competition is, comb their websites, request sample copies or purchase copies of appropriate publications. In the case of magazines, request media kits in hard copy or access them online. You may very well be a future advertiser, so it will become important to understand each magazine’s advertising pricing. You’ll also find that many media kits include a wealth of data about your publication’s market—including estimates of size and purchasing power, plus readership demographics.

4. Select Your Competitive Position

Now it’s decision time. You’re looking for an opening in a market that is robust. Use a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis to evaluate the websites, print periodicals, books and service providers that will be your closest competitors. How will you be different and how sustainable is that difference?

Perhaps the best competitive position is that of the niche player. Find a small, healthy market where larger organizations won’t venture. As a rule of thumb, any business that will generate less than $5 million in annual sales is of no interest to a corporate publisher. Business units that small will not support the weight of corporate overhead imposed by larger companies. This places you on a level playing field with other entrepreneurial organizations where your star power, enthusiasm and great execution can be enough to create a profitable Web-based information business.

5. Quantify the Economics of Your Idea

We are not looking for details here, but big-picture data:

  • How many paid and free members will you have?
  • How much will you charge for an annual subscription?
  • What other revenue sources can you depend on?
  • How will you generate members and how much will they cost?
  • How long will they stay members?
  • How will you host your website and what will that cost?
  • How many staffers and freelancers will you need to execute your vision?

This analysis should be done with numbers that represent your website in a mature, developed state—perhaps three to five years old. We’ll worry about getting there later.

Mequoda Website Publishing Model 2.0

6. Grade the Concept—Pass or Fail?

You know what’s out there, so how does your concept stack up? Is someone already doing 50 percent of your editorial idea? Or 75 percent or 80 percent? If most of your ideas already exist, you probably need to rethink everything and return to Step 1. You can use the model detailed in Step 5 to figure out approximately how much revenue competitors are bringing in. Will your concept go after that same revenue pie, displacing competitors? Will it expand the pie, bringing in additional readers? Or will it make a new pie, targeting a different group of readers and partners? Make your decision to move on to the next stage: does your concept pass or fail?

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

7. Determine the Pre-Launch Startup Budget

You are looking to develop a website prototype and a full, professionally prepared business plan. You’ll use these to prove and fine-tune your concept before incurring the expense of building the working website and developing the real content you’ll need to fill it. You’ll also use your prototype and business plan to raise funds for the launch phase.

Start with the test phase (the next step) and determine how much money and time it will require. A complete business plan usually requires you to perform a market test, to line up key personnel, and to prepare and test a non-working website prototype with potential customers. This is all in addition to preparing the financial projections and writing the business plan itself.

Adding it all together, a small niche could be tested for as little as $100,000, with $500,000 being the average. The budget shown makes lots of assumptions about which tasks you’ll perform yourself and which you’ll outsource. Keep in mind that the intense time required might also cost you money (in lost income) if you have to leave or curtail your current employment. While 12 to 18 months is the average timeline for a website launch, we have seen successful ventures get up and running in six months. Anything less would be extremely rare and would require shortcutting many of the steps we’re recommending. For very small markets with a clear need and little or no competition, this may be the best approach.

8. Raise Test Capital

If you are an entrepreneur, financial support for detailed research and market testing usually comes from three sources: your savings, your friends’ savings or your families’ savings.

If you can internally fund from an existing business, there are two prime possibilities: your company’s cash flow or a secured bank-loan. For big ideas, you may find angel investors who are willing to fund your development. The dot-com bomb has come full circle and many companies and investors are looking for reasonable business plans that will give them online access. Keep in mind that outside investors experienced in direct marketing who are available to support your launch will look for control and big returns.

Most mid-size subscription-driven websites require modest investments when compared to magazines or other periodicals. All but the largest can be launched for $500,000 to $2,000,000. They quickly become self-funding because of their modest, fixed overhead and subscription-driven economics. While most banks won’t loan money for the initial development, they will loan money for operating capital once a track record has been established. Meet with your accountant and lawyer to discuss possible tax savings the test phase may offer individuals or companies.

9. Identify Key Personnel, Partners and Vendors

The trick: to identify the right opportunities and find the people who can make those opportunities happen—particularly for subscription-driven websites, whose only assets are its personnel and its subscriber base. If you are externally funded, your investors will pay more attention to your staff lineup than to your idea or your business plan. Look for people with a track record of doing exactly what it is you are asking them to do. An added bonus is a key management team member who wants to invest in the project.

The key functions include: editorial (the product), marketing management (the revenues), information technology (the distribution) and finance (the bottom line). Your managers must be willing to live and breathe the website during its first year or so. Their dedication and enthusiasm must be complete, but they should also be experienced in startups. And if you see a weak link, find a consultant experienced in your market.

It’s also never too early to start the search for strategic partners who can supply content, give you access to the market and build and host your website. Most website publishers, at a minimum, will outsource the market testing, website creation, website hosting and search engine optimization for their venture. More so than any other business, subscription-driven websites can operate with a very small staff and outsource specialized functions to a variety of partners and vendors.

On the marketing front, many of what may at first appear to be competitors will end up being your partners. Website publishers who serve the same market need each other to gain cost-effective access to new subscribers. Many of these relationships will be reciprocal revenue-sharing deals where you recommend and sell the other publishers products and subscriptions. Make a point of getting off on the right foot with these folks as early as possible. Don’t be annoyed if some don’t welcome you warmly right away. While some may welcome you based on reputation alone, others will wait for you to prove your commitment to the market and establish your subscriber base before they’re willing to promote your products. As the newcomer, its up to you to get the ball rolling by promoting their website, products and/or events.

10. Perform a Keyword Intercept Market Study

While qualitative, anecdotal data is useful, you may also want to get in the heads of your prospective customers where you’ll meet them in the future—on the pages of Google and Yahoo! search results. Both paid (pay-per-click) and free (organic) search are the backbone of every subscription-driven website’s new member acquisition program.

A Keyword Intercept Market Study is used to catch users who have searched using a keyword that indicates interest in your website idea. Using pay-per-click ad words, you’ll offer the searcher the chance to voice their opinions and earn a small incentive for their trouble. The survey should take less than 15 minutes and can include 50 to 60 easy-to-answer questions. Use the survey to discover who they are, what other websites and media they use and to explore the unmet needs your venture will attempt to serve. The results can be valuable in defining the website’s functionality and content. A clever survey can also gauge reaction to certain language and copy that will guide the subscription acquisition wizards in the creation of your marketing landing pages and order flows. Good survey designers, like good copywriters, are few and far between. Select a firm with experience in online survey research and subscription-driven website development.

11. Create a Functional Product Specification and Paper Prototype

A subscription-driven website offers its design team the challenge of creating an entity that includes all the functionality of an encyclopedia, newsletter and desktop software application—rolled into one easy-to-use website. Based on hours of website usability testing, we can tell you that most websites are very difficult to use. A good functional specification and well-tested paper prototype will help you produce a website that is customer-friendly—a rare thing in late 2004. It can, for the time being, be a powerful source of competitive differentiation and advantage while the rest of the world catches up.

The functional specification describes in words what the user can do on each page of your website. A wire frame is used to track where each click takes the user, or simply put, how your website pages connect. A paper prototype (see Paper Prototyping by Carolyn Snyder) and usability testing are used to fine-tune your functional spec and your wire frame before you begin spending time and money to build HTML webpages or the programs that will run them.

12. Prepare a Detailed Content Plan

Outline your editorial content for your website and email newsletters in as much detail as possible. Provide descriptions of article types and special editorial sections. Provide a brief description of enough editorial material to cover three to five months of website updates and weekly email newsletters. Make sure you have enough material to publish at your chosen frequency—weekly for most websites, daily if you have the content plan to support contacting your customers that frequently. Take your best material and prepare a non-working prototype.

Also, make it clear who will be creating the content for the website and email newsletters: how much via staff and how much via freelance. Make a few exploratory calls to well-known writers and experts. Consider adopting a board of advisors. This lends credibility to your efforts and its members may provide some very valuable advice.

Editorial content may be the blood and guts of your magazine, but its name and design are the skin that gives your backers and subscribers their first impression of your effort. Your name should portray exactly what you want, naturally drawing readers to your website. If the domain URL for the nameplate you want is taken, but not used, don’t hesitate to go after it. Domain squatters will often sell you the name for a few hundred, or a few thousand, dollars.

The design of your website must do three things. First, it must be easy to use and navigate.  In some market niches, the usability of your site may be your strongest competitive advantage. People are willing to put with inconvenience when it’s the only place they can go for the information they are seeking. When all else is equal, the easiest, most intuitive site wins.

Next, it must match up to, and speak the language of, the demographics you are trying to reach. Labels, headlines, snippet copy, and links must be in user-centric language. A surprising number of websites seem to have multiple “owners” and it’s reflected in the way they organize their content. The organization of the areas of the website must be in support of user goals.

And finally, it must also set your website apart from your competitors. Navigation, typeface, layout and color are all at your disposal. However, in your effort to stand apart, be careful to not move away from standard web conventions that actually enhance your site’s usability. As much as possible, exploit your audience’s prior knowledge and the mental models they apply your topic.

13. Create and Test a Non-Working Website Prototype

Now its time to take everything you’ve learned and make it real, or at least as real as the facades in a Hollywood movie. Using your final mockup and functional spec, it’s time to build Web pages that link. Use your best content to populate the pages directly. During this stage you’ll explore the paths a user might take to do all the things they can do at your website. These paths are often called use-cases, or task scenarios, and are captured in sequence as storyboards, another term borrowed from movie-making.

Once your non-working prototype is ready, it’s time for another round of usability testing. You’ll isolate three to five tasks and let someone who fits your target customer model try to complete them without help. If significant problems are found, you may continue to iterate the process until the average user can navigate your simple website tasks with ease. Be on the lookout for confusing language and functionality that the user expects and does not find. Usability testing can make or break the success of your website.

While it is possible to do your own usability testing, it’s difficult to achieve the level of impartiality required to get honest, helpful feedback from your test users. Planning, executing and facilitating a usability study is as time consuming and difficult as conducting a full-scale marketing research study that entails surveys and focus groups. In addition, accurately interpreting results requires a good deal of background knowledge in web site best practices. This is one area where time and money spent up front saves development and, more importantly, redevelopment dollars down the road.

14. Conduct a Search Engine Marketing Test

Online subscription marketing requires you to focus on either email marketing for publishers with access to the appropriate opt-in email list, or pay-per-click (PPC) search engine marketing. While you’ll use other sources to acquire subscribers for your website, email and PPC marketing are best for new product testing because, as we mentioned earlier, they can be planned and executed as a campaign before your website exists. We’ll assume you don’t have access to an appropriate email list for the purpose of this report.

PPC testing for a startup is quite a bit different than testing for an ongoing website. A startup just doesn’t have the capital available for a huge multi-panel test. Experience must be your best guide to setting up a startup matrix. For a mid-size website that will ultimately attract thousands of subscribers, a test that generates 500 to 1,000 gross credit card orders would be about right. Ideally, this would be made up of 10 keywords broken evenly into five panels. Four panels might explore three price levels and two trial periods, while the fifth panel should test a different creative format.

Each of these tests will give you information that will help make the decision to launch and move you to profitability faster when regular publication begins. Allow two to four months lead time to plan and execute your test. It can be done faster – but haste often leads to mistakes. We’ve seen plenty of tests that were rendered unreadable by poor execution. Choose vendors that are website marketing professionals. Again, you’ll choose between managing the test in-house and outsourcing. Cost constraints and experience must be your guides.

If the results vary dramatically, compare the cost-per-order or your best combination with your economic needs. If the cost-per-order is too high for all keyword and creative combinations, it could be time to forget the idea and move on.

Keyword Marketing Test
Full Matrix Campaign Budget

15. Prepare the Final Business Plan

This is the last step of the testing phase, where all findings from the previous steps are put together in a professional, compact format, projecting the first five years of operation. It should document and expand your preliminary research, detail how your test will be interpreted to create an on-going program with multiple sources, lineup key personnel, and finalize your website prototype.

In addition, the plan should spell out revenue strategies for selling other products and services to your subscribers. How will you leverage your brand and content to create books, reports and events? If you plan to take display or directory advertising, or generate revenue as an affiliate for other websites, detail the revenue model and potential participants. Don’t forget to explain how you will staff and manage these ancillary programs.

Once you have a detailed financial model, check your estimates from Step 5 with your new “real” projections. Any major discrepancies should be fully investigated. Keep in mind that the intense time required might also cost you money in lost income if you have to reassign current personnel. Again, a competent professional can be retained to prepare the business plan for you.

16. Raise Launch Capital

You are now entering the actual launch phase. Your tests point to a valuable product. Now you just need to convince those with the big bucks to back you for the first three to five years. To make this kind of sale, you have to be a publisher. As far as you’re concerned, this product does exist. You just have to get it to its subscribers.

Remember, a supportive attitude and solid experience in your investors is the thing that lets you sleep at night. While sources of earlier testing money may also be sources of launch capital, you will undoubtedly have to add others. Formal investors, such as general venture capitalists, usually aren’t the best source. In fact, they pointedly stay away from direct marketing; most don’t know anything about the peculiarities of the industry, and the incredible array of cost and revenue streams boggles their minds.

Other media companies are usually the best place to start. In fact, they may have been interested in a product similar to yours, but hadn’t found that perfect person with your energy and dedication. If your idea is a good one, they would be silly to “steal” it. People are the key to this business, not ideas.

 

17. Execute Your Business Plan and Let it Go

Remember, nothing is written in stone. Both your business plan and website should be allowed to evolve as you and your team gather data and experience. Be constantly on the lookout for better ways to run your business and new ways to sell subscriptions and ancillary product opportunities. As the market changes, make sure your editorial and functionality changes with it, or in front of it. Your editor should implement an ongoing research program that includes one-on-one reader contact and statistical research. Your website, like any successful business, should be allowed to take on a life of its own.

A feeling of excitement and enthusiasm has undoubtedly been building since the early part of the test phase. Don’t let the details or problems of the launch decrease that level of enthusiasm, both outside and inside your office. Unless you have deep pockets, gaining outside media attention usually requires imagination to get the most for your limited promotion dollars. Your goal is to simply and clearly get the message out about who you are and what benefits subscribers will gain from your website. You want to create a sense of community with your subscribers, partners, staff and investors.

A final word about your staff: remember that they are just people. Not only must their dedication and talent be tops, but their attitudes must be unerringly positive. Laughter and camaraderie, as any military veteran will tell you, is as important to winning a battle as strategy and tactics.

Don’t try to control every single aspect of your website—especially the content. For a startup, what makes a website special and good and true for its readers is that there is an editor who is focused solely on those readers and isn’t worried about other business considerations. The Internet also offers unprecedented opportunities for the subscribers to contribute content, which is the ultimate form of reader involvement.

Let the product be what its subscribers want it to be.

References and Resources