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How to increase your profits using free and low cost content and community building services

NB: If you are currently running a traditional business offline and your website is merely a ‘brochure’ style site with products that are not really suitable for selling directly over the web, much of what follows will not apply to you. If this means YOU check out our article on how to best use your website to increase your profits. You’ll probably be surprised what you learn!!

But if you have any other kind of site, learning about ‘content’ and ‘community’ is an area you need to understand if you want to build a successful Internet business. This is a very wide subject area, and something we cover in far more detail in our new Project Package Manual and within the member’s area of the Niche Market Advisor Website.

But let me briefly give you an indication of what it’s all about now.

Basic Principles

Even if you’re quite new to Internet Marketing Principles you probably already know that to be successful you need to generate a lot of traffic (visitors) to your site. And more importantly, in order to build a relationship with your customers, you need to ensure they return to your site regularly.

If you achieve this goal, you will be more likely to sell more goods/services to them over time, and you’ll be able to gain the interest of more Advertisers/Joint Venture Partners etc. This means more income for you!

OK, so how do you go about this?

Well, marketing your site to generate the initial traffic is a different subject which we cover briefly in our Small Business Resource Centre (and in detail on our Advisor Website). What we’re concerned with here is keeping your visitors loyal once they’ve been to your site; i.e. to keep them returning.

There are many, many different ways to do this. We’ll mention a few briefly here.

Firstly, you need to have lots of regularly changing, updated information on your site for them to see (in other words fresh content!). Content can be anything from articles, news updates, new links to other sites, reviews (in fact any kind of new information); even just a new posting on your ‘Discussion Group’ is fresh content.

What’s a Discussion Group?

It’s basically a ‘message board’ where your visitors can put up messages (called ‘posting a message’) and other visitors can see it, and respond to it. Discussion boards are extremely popular, and help to build a sense of Community. Visitors to your site will come back regularly to check the new postings on your board.
So having your own ‘Discussion’ Group is a good source of content.

But other than Discussion Groups you can have other Community Building facilities, such as a chat room (where people post messages in ‘real time’); or you can offer an email facility, so your visitors can have an email box on your site (e.g. theirname@yoursitename.co.uk) – this is a good traffic builder, since your visitors will have to come back regularly to ‘log in’ to their email account from your site.

There are many other community building services you can add to your site e.g. surveys, polls, quizzes, games, directories, search facilities, greeting cards, and lots more. We explain about all of them in detail in our Project Package Manual and on the Niche Market Advisor Site.

The important thing to note though is how do you get these onto your site? And what exactly are they?

Well firstly each of these ‘plug ins’ (as they are often known) are usually simple ‘scripts’ (i.e. pieces of software) which are uploaded to your Internet server (i.e. where your website is hosted at your ISP or Hosting Company). These scripts are then effectively linked to your main website.

For example, if you already have a website any ‘script’ you use is not put within your existing site as such, but effectively sits outside it and you simply ‘link to it’ where you need to.

These scripts are created using computer language such as CGI, Java, Perl etc. But don’t worry. You don’t need to know anything about how to create computer languages to use them.

They’re all very simple to use; just like adding any other piece of software to your computer. The only difference here is, these are added to your Host company’s server, not on to your own personal computer.

So How Do You Get Hold of these Scripts?

Well there are three main ways.
  1. Most are available FOR FREE over the Internet. Others you may need to buy (but they're usually very low cost). For example you’ll find dozens of different free Discussion Group scripts available. And many software companies provide free versions (which are perfectly adequate for most people) with an option to upgrade to a more sophisticated paid for version if you want to.

  2. There are other companies who run these scripts on their servers (rather than putting them on your Host Company’s server) and then charge you a small fee to make use of them. These people are basically like Application Service Providers (ASP’s) since they run the software on their own servers for you and let you use their server ‘space’ to run your discussion groups, email service etc.

  3. There are also other companies who will do the same for FREE! i.e. they run the scripts on their servers, and let you use space on their server at NO CHARGE!

Why would they do this?

Simply because they will place Banner Adverts on the space you use, and also may use direct email advertising for any of your visitors who sign up for the service. So they get paid by companies wanting to advertise, but you get the use of free scripts/free space etc. Some of these companies even let you put your own banner ads on the space too. So you can earn from the arrangement as well.

These Remote Community Building Services are a huge growth market, with companies like zzn.com, everyone.net, freesitestuff.com and many others making a major impact. This effectively allows you to add (or ‘plug in’) the sorts of ‘portal services' which the big ‘portal’ companies (like Yahoo!, AOL, etc.) have on their sites.

Other Types of Content

There are many other facets to this new industry too. There are companies offering other types of free content.

Things like articles, reviews, news feeds and news headlines (e.g. lists of latest news from all over the Internet, which you can put effectively on YOUR site to keep your visitors informed!). And this news is updated every few minutes, and covers all manner of topics. For more details of how this works see Moreover.com, one of the pioneers of this sort of service.

Overall, hopefully you’ve now got more of an idea how easy it is to add ‘content’ and ‘community building’ systems to your site. If you’re still a bit unsure how it works and how easy it is, visit any of the sites mentioned and you should see just how easy they are to use.

All you need to know is how to use your browser, then simply ‘point and click’ to use any of these remote services. They’re very simple, but extremely effective.

If you’d like to know more we give you full details of these, and dozens more in the Project Package and on the Advisor Website.

And we also offer a comprehensive ‘content’ and ‘community building’ resource service at our ZedShop website. In the meantime until youknow more, a visit to any of the other sites mentioned may well be very worthwhile for you.

Whatever else you do, seriously consider learning all you can about how Adding ‘Content’ and ‘Community’ to your site will make your business both more profitable and easier to run. Once you start to make use of the many resources and tools available (often for free) out there, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without them!

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