Aggressive Internet Marketing (guerilla marketing)
That’s right. As the title suggests, we are going to cut right to the chase and offer some direct insights into the subject that webmasters ask us about all the time.
There are small webmasters and big webmasters that use our e-commerce services. And of course there are the many webmasters in between. Some webmasters earn as little as fifty cents a month while others earn anywhere from $500 to $50,000 per month. We will outline some basic methods in achieving a solid amount of income per month.
The best way to teach any subject is by example. We have developed a hypothetical example based on the fusion of two actual websites and the marketing strategies of many more. In the following story are a wealth of basic, but very powerful strategies and tips in how to get just about any website to start earning improved profits.
Bicycles and Bikinis
Johnny Webmaster wakes up one morning with an interesting concept for a website. Johnny loves mountain bikes and everything associated with the sport of mountain biking. He also loves lovely twenty-something shapely swimsuit models. Why not create a website for the biking enthusiast with all types of information about mountain biking, spiced up with some tasteful and fun pictures, nothing too salacious, of women in bikinis riding bikes, posing with bikes and repairing bikes? Each month Johnny intends on posting numerous interesting articles about mountain biking to his new website along with pictures of the latest bike models and accessories. Next to each article would be pictures of swimsuit models, some in mountain bike regalia, posing alongside the latest bike or accessory to hit the sport. Okay so old style feminists may not like the site but his target audience of younger, active males should sign up in droves.
Brilliant concept. Now how does Johnny make any money with his pet project? Well, Johnny has to go through a step by step process if he wants any success on the net:
1. Design The Site With Income In Mind
It is easy to design a nice looking site. Graphical tools and services abound on the net and software is relatively cheap and easy to use. The key is to design the site according to the Three Golden Principles:
The site’s Preview Pages are THE MOST important part of the site.
The site should be designed to make money from signups first and other schemes later.
The site’s content should be substantial to encourage repeat business.
Fortunately Johnny Webmaster is a smart guy. He collaborates with a professional photographer to get great pictures of mountain bikes, biking events, biking superstars, accessories and of course bikini clad models with even more of the aforementioned biking related paraphernalia. He ensures that he is licensed to reproduce all the pictures and that he or the photographer have all the model release forms archived as required by law.
Johnny also buys content in the form of articles, pictures and sports videos from other sources and even gets permission from some biking manufacturers to reproduce their product literature online.
Johnny spends quite a bit of effort over many weeks to create phenomenal web pages that essentially form an amateur but good quality online magazine. These pages will serve as the CONTENT area of his site and will be password protected for paying members only.
But Johnny does not prematurely launch his site just yet. Johnny realizes that the most important part of his site will now require just as much thought and effort to create. Even though it may take a bit less time to create than the content area, the PREVIEW of his site has to be carefully thought out. After all, this will be the sole aspect of his site that a prospective member will judge before deciding whether or not to pay the membership price.
Creating a good PREVIEW means adhering to the Silver Principles of site design:
Look at your preview as if you were a visitor to your site. Would you join?
Never plaster a preview with ads for other sites or click through banners
A picture is worth a thousand words
Set prices that are neither too low nor too high
Johnny Webmaster remembers standing in line at the supermarket and remembers how is eye was drawn to the magazines and tabloids. Even though he would never buy most of those, he does remember that on many occasions he was tempted to do so. Even magazines that are meant to appeal to young women occasionally looked worthy of purchase. Why? Well, the cover pictures were usually attractive or they piqued one’s curiosity. The headlines also mixed sensationalism with practical items that were (almost) newsworthy but at the very least interesting. The remarkable thing about magazine and tabloid covers is that they manage to pique one’s desires and curiosity with minimal text and strategic use of the right photos.
Johnny is smart enough to realize that a website preview is not a magazine cover but he could certainly borrow some basic publishing concepts. He designs his preview to contain only sporadic blurbs of text. The largest sections of text would be a paragraph here or a paragraph there. In most areas of his preview, two to three line text descriptions would suffice. There would be enough empty space on his pages so they don’t look cluttered and the most important elements would be small pictures of what his site offers on the inside; A picture of a mountain bike here. A picture of the latest headgear there. And surrounding the biking pics would be cut outs of some of the smiling bikini models – all tastefully and economically arranged on the page.
Johnny works so hard on his preview that he actually ends up creating two different previews. One preview consists of one long page, about two screen lengths long and the other is a multi page preview of three to four pages. Johnny will try uploading each preview for a few weeks at a time to see which one pulls in more customers. Both previews even offer short ten second samples of some of the sporting event videos.
Both previews expound on the benefits of Johnny’s site through pictures and words and both ultimately lead the user to a signup page.
On the sign up page itself, Johnny sets prices of $14.95 per month or $59.95 per year. Any prices outside those ranges and Johnny reasons that people would either think his site is likely to be crap if he charges too little, or a total rip off if he charges too much.
2. Traffic Generating. Where is Everybody? And where is my $ ?
One can create the greatest preview and have the largest amount of content on a site but if nobody sees it, no one will ever fork over a dime to you. Johnny understands this and realizes that he needs to generate TRAFFIC to his website. After much research, Johnny discovers the best ways to generate traffic:
Most people start off their internet sessions at popular search engines or directories like Altavista, Lycos, Excite or Yahoo. Search engine traffic is generally a webmaster’s most valuable traffic because people reaching your site from a search engine were specifically looking for a certain subject and would thus be more likely to join your site. For example, someone searching for “mountain bikes” on Altavista may come upon Johnny’s website and would be more likely to join the site then, say, a surfer who comes across Johnny’s site from a link on an unrelated site such as website devoted to skate boarding. Both surfers would be good prospects for Johnny’s site but the search engine surfer would be a much better prospect. Search engine traffic is generally the highest converting traffic a webmaster can find.
Visit each search engine and add your URLs.
Pay special attention to the most popular engines/directories:
Search Engine Dog
To make the best use of search engines and directories, Johnny Webmaster covered the following basic steps:
Johnny searched the engines for all sites related to mountain biking and all sites related to swimsuit models. Johnny saved many of these pages.
Studying the saved pages, Johnny developed 5 or 6 pages of his own, with good titles, keywords and META tags, based on the keywords and META tags from the saved pages.
Johnny downloads any one of many submission shareware programs off the net, which allowed him to quickly submit his site to over 500 search engines.
So as not to get blacklisted by any search engine for ‘spam-submitting’, Johnny only submits one page per day. In 5 or 6 days, all of his pages are submitted to the various engines
Johnny got MKSTATS installed on his site. This program, or others similar, is a great resource for telling Johnny how many hits came from which engine for each page that he submitted to the various engines. Your host can usually recommend a good stats package, or you might even try www.hitbox.com
Each week, Johnny removes any pages from the engines which are not getting him enough hits. He creates 1 or 2 new pages each week, by doing a search and getting good keywords from other pages.
Link exchanging is another traffic generating tool to try after mastering search engines. Exchanging links is a very popular way to drive traffic to any site.
In Johnny’s particular case, Johnny reasons that perhaps people who frequent other types of biking and cycling sites would be very interested in his own site. For that matter, people who frequent many types of sports websites such as skateboarding, roller-blading, tennis or cross country skiing may also be interested in taking up mountain biking.
Johnny surfs the net, using search engines and directories, to locate several hundred websites in the aforementioned categories. He makes a note of the email addresses for these sites. In general, since most sites are fairly small, sending an email to a generic address such as email@example.com is good enough to ensure that his email will be read by the owner/operator of the website.
Johnny sends an email to the other webmasters asking to exchange links. Since this is a very popular method of generating traffic many webmasters agree to the proposition.
Johnny creates a ‘links page’ on his site, which contains links to all the other biking and sports sites, and those sites in turn put links on their site pointing to Johnny’s Bikes and Bikinis site. The end result is that Johnny now gets some good quality traffic from similar sites to his own.
While very effective, link exchanging does require a lot of constant, manual work. But there are also links pages and search sites which will accept links without requiring you to link back to them. Johnny was able to find such sites by searching for +link +exchange, or similar string, on most search engines.
POSTING TO NEWSGROUPS
Johnny posts some simple messages to the many biking and cycling groups on the usenet. The posts are kept as simple as possible: a compelling subject line with a message that contains at most 10 lines along with the URL of the Bikes and Bikinis URL.
Warning: ‘spamming’ off topic newsgroups with multiple messages can get a webmaster terminated by his or her ISP, hosting company and by GloBill-systems. If you do post to newsgroups, make sure you do it very responsibly and with restraint!
There are many top lists, top25, top50, top100 and so on, which all basically work the same way. You put a link to the list on your site and send some of your traffic to the list. The more hits you send to the list, the higher up your site’s URL appears on that list.
For top lists, Johnny was able to find some that were fairly new and growing. He avoided the more established top lists since those ones already had many experienced webmasters who were sending tens of thousands of hits to the list, making it difficult for Johnny to ever crack the top 20 position or higher.
Johnny was already able to generate a lot of traffic to his site from the search engines and from link exchanging so he in turn had a good deal of traffic that he was able to send to a top100 list. Since he was sending a lot of traffic to the top100 list, his site’s URL moved up to the #5 position on the list, making his URL much more likely to get clicked on by users. Since the top list gets tons of hits from all the websites that are sending traffic to the list, Johnny’s site ended up getting many tens of thousands of hits in return from this particular top100 list. Even though, top list traffic does not convert as easily to signups as does traffic from the engines or link exchanges, it is purely a numbers game – the more hits you get from any source, the more signups you are likely to get.
THUMBNAIL AND PICTURE POST SITES
There are many sites on the net that allow webmasters to post a few sample pictures and/or banners for their site.
Johnny Webmaster found one picpost site that specialized in links to sites dealing with swimsuit models. This particular site had traffic of over 150,000 visitors per day. Johnny posted a compelling photo of one of his own swimsuit models (posing next to a mountain bike of course) along with a flashy banner to his site. One the first day of posting his photo, Johnny received an extra 10,000 hits to his site. Like top lists, picture post traffic does not convert as easily to signups but with so many hits, extra signups do occur, adding to overall income.
A quick search on the net will yield names of the most currently popular thumbnail and picture post sites.
Here are some unorthodox traffic generating tricks that Johnny Webmaster used to further turbo-charge his income.
The Free Site Teaser Trap
Since a lot of the internet is free and most people want something for nothing, Johnny reasoned that a small free site version of Bikes and Bikinis should attract a fairly large audience. Johnny put together 20-30 of his medium to best pictures and articles to create a mini free site. Johnny submitted this site to the search engines as a completely separate site to his main pay site. People seeing the word “free” in the search engine listings were immediately drawn to visiting the site.
Johnny also added his free site to link sites like Persian Kitty and many others to further draw traffic.
The key of course is that Johnny’s mini free site was plastered with banners for his main pay site. Many people who liked what they saw in the free teaser later paid to join the larger pay version of Bikes and Bikinis.
The AVS Teaser Trap
This is similar to the free site teaser. Johnny noticed that there are many Age Verification Service companies that each listed hundreds of mature access websites. Granted, Bikes and Bikinis was not in the ‘adult’ category but his swimsuit models would certainly appeal to that segment of the market.
Johnny converted his free teaser site into a mini AVS site and then signed up for all the AVS companies he could find. His mini site was then successfully listed with all the AVS sites. And just like the free site teaser, his AVS site was plastered with banners for his pay site. Thousands of AVS customers eventually were lead to the main Bikes and Bikinis site.
Red Herring Password Maneuver
There are many ‘underground’ websites that give out stolen passwords so that people can get into pay-websites for free. All ethical webmasters should speak out against such sites. In the meantime though, Johnny figured out a way to turn the password site around to his advantage. Johnny contributed a fake username and password to his own site by posting it to a password site. Several thousand ‘cheap charlies’ who frequent such password sites, picked up the username and password and went to Johnny’s site, thinking they would get in for free. Of course, since the username and password were fake, the cheap charlies could not get into Johnny’s site. However, Johnny’s preview pages were so compelling that certain cheap charlies turned out not to be so cheap after all and actually forked over honest cash to join Johnny’s site!
3. THE ULTIMATE MONEY GENERATING STRATEGY
Do you really want to know the secret to earning money on the internet? Well, it can all be summed up in one magic word:
The most valuable asset for any business is the repeat customer. Johnny Webmaster clearly understands this. After all the hard work he has put into site design and traffic generation, the last thing he wants is a one shot customer. After working so hard to get a customer, doesn’t it make sense to do just a little bit more work to retain that customer?
Bikes and Bikinis makes up to 60% of its income from repeat customers. Most users who signed up for the month membership, choose to allow their credit card to be rebilled for a second month. Those customers that signed up for one year, usually choose to renew their memberships for yet another year.
Johnny ensures that most of his customers are repeat customers by constantly adding fresh new content to his website. Johnny puts the customer first and offers rapid response customer support via his site’s email address.
So in addition to constantly signing up new members, Bikes and Bikinis also benefits from the many past customers who allow themselves to be rebilled. Thus, the concept is similar to that of compound interest. Income just keeps growing and growing.
Note that we emphasize customers who “allow themselves to be rebilled”. It is very important not to mislead the customer and attempt to rebill him without his consent. The rebilling policy of any website must be clear, especially if it is a case of automatic monthly rebilling. Customers must be reminded that they will be rebilled and must be given clear links of where to go to cancel rebilling. Trying to ‘sneak’ rebilling onto the customer will have the opposite, and disastrous effect of causing chargebacks and associated fines, including termination of billing services.
The bottom line is that customer satisfaction coupled with clear and ethical business policies is a recipe for total success.
The real world websites that the fictitious website, Bikes and Bikinis, was compiled from followed the strategies outlined in this document and each earned over $25,000 per month. Both sites were owned by single individuals working initially in their spare time. Of course, your experience may be very different depending on your type of site, current market conditions, and the laws of supply and demand. But the general principles outlined here are basic principles that, if not currently being applied, should greatly benefit most any site.
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Charles has been working as a webmaster since 1998. Since then, he has had his hands in thousands of websites and has helped millions get online through a company he partially owns called Web Host Pro.