When I first started trying to figure out a way to develop an income online, I was pretty naive. I made lots of mistakes.
But thankfully, I didn’t make what many consider to be internet marketing mistake #1. That is building your content marketing on sites that you don’t own.
Beware Web 2.0 Sites
If you’re just getting started today it will be tempting to take advantage of building your content on web 2.0 sites… Facebook, HubPages, Squidoo, Blogger.com, WordPress.com, etc. You can avoid having to spend the money for hosting a site and maintaining it. Heck, you can even avoid springing for a domain registration (or even knowing what that is).
This is especially attractive if you aren’t technically minded. But it is a mistake. “Big mistake. Huge!” (thanks Julia 8=)
Don’t get me wrong. There are advantages to using social media sites. They can really help you spread your message and engage with potential customers or even JV partners.
But you can’t build your business with them as a foundation… and you are building a business, right?
While it is tempting to build your content empire using these wonderful tools, it is important to remember something…
You Don’t Own It!
When you write an amazing article and post it to HubPages or EzineArticles or Facebook, you don’t own the site that your article is on. They could fold up shop (not likely with the big guns soon, but possible). Or (more likely) they could change their rules or even decide that the existing rules need to be interpreted differently.
Suddenly, your account is downgraded or even banned. Your articles are gone (you did make backups first, right? I thought not). Your content empire crumbles to the ground, as does any income you had from it.
This kind of thing has happened to people on YouTube — including some big name IM people you may recognize. I’ve seen it happen to people on Twitter and Facebook and many other platforms. Blogger.com has been known to shut down entire blogs with no explanation and no appeal.
I’ve even had this happen to me. That’s right, poor little me!
My Sob Story
My story involves HubPages, and while I didn’t get my account blocked, I had a hub that I had written blocked due to links to bad neighbourhoods (well, they spelled it neighborhoods but I’m not gonna knock the improper spelling used by Americans 8=) This happened right after Penguin hit and shook up the article directories.
The thing is, all the links were to my own site! Not this one of course, but still. I run a site called ToxicHabits where I have subsites (using WordPress MultiSite) for various health and personal development topics. One of those sites is related to time management.
So, being the good little SEO link builder that I am, I wanted to write an article on HubPages that linked back to my site where I share tips on managing time better and promote my book on time management (<blatant_plug>it’s a great book, you seriously need to get it now</blatant_plug>).
Because the site promotes an ebook, HubPages has decided that it is a bad neighbourhood. Even if you link to a site that sells ebooks then your site is a bad heighbourhood. Ouch! Don’t link to Amazon people!
I had to question them several times to determine that this was what they meant, and when the dust had settled I needed to remove several other hubs that linked to some of my other sites for the same reason.
Needless to say, I don’t do a lot of writing at HubPages anymore. I still write there once in a blue moon for fun, and it is possible to make a bit of coin with their revenue sharing. But as a link building resource they are not viable for me.
Can you imagine if I had built my entire business on HubPages?
Forsaking your own web properties and building your business on other platforms has been likened to sharecropping or even fuedalism. Leasing land and turning the bulk of your revenue back in to the landlord who doesn’t really care about you as long as the revenue continues to flow.
The Foundation of Your Business
Now, my story wasn’t as sad as some. HubPages was a small part of the content web that I’m weaving. A very small part. Most of what I do is based on domains that I own.
And your business should be built on a foundation that you own as well. It is great to have the extras that web 2.0 platforms provide. But they are the window dressing, not the bricks.
What should you be building your business on? That’s a great question. I’m glad you asked. Here are 4 major building blocks you need for a strong foundation
Block 1 – Domain
First of all, you need to have your own domain(s). No more mygreatsite.wordpress.com or thebestsite.blogger.com. Get a domain that is relevant to you and/or your business. SEO experts will tell you to have your keywords in there, and it can’t hurt.
Notice that this site is listmarketingadventure.com. I chose that because that is what I’m about here… learning how to make list marketing and related technologies work. See the keyword listmarketing in there?
To get a domain registration, you’ll need to go to a registrar and sign up for it. Find a domain name that you like and see if it is available. You’ll need to register for a year (you can register for up to 10, but I’d advise against that).
And make sure that you set up an email account with that domain! I can’t understand people who go out and purchase a domain and still promote their ISP email on their site and business card. It is very unprofessional. Not to mention the trouble you have when you change ISP.
A hotmail or gmail account is a little better, but it doesn’t look as good as email@example.com now, does it?!
And you can forward your domain email to your gmail or hotmail if you want, so there’s no excuse not to publish your domain email to the world. Except that it will get spammed of course 8=(
Block 2 – Hosting
While it is possible to get your domain pointing to a free site like WordPress.com, Blogger.com, etc. you just don’t want to be doing that.
First, they restrict what you can do on their site in many ways:
- Limited plugins
- Limited themes
- Limited monetization options
- Terms of Service that change over time (or simply have a change in interpretation or enforcement)
But most of all, you don’t own it.
So bite the bullet and pay for a hosting plan. You can get one as cheap as $4/month. If you have multiple domains, you can get very cost effective plans that allow multiple domains in one account. You can even resell your hosting to clients and cover your hosting costs!
Get a good hosting plan for your business and don’t look back.
Block 3 – Platform
But quickly I realized that spending time or money on the nuts and bolts didn’t allow me to do what I really wanted… write.
So I looked into platforms. XOOPs, Joomla, Drupal, Sugar and WordPress were ones that I investigated. I actually put together a site using XOOPs as a test. I liked it. I built a site on WordPress and I really liked it. I tried Drupal for another. It was okay, but I kept coming back to WordPress.
And I’m convinced that for 99.99% of the web sites that are out there, WordPress is the best platform to develop them in. It has a strong base, lots of plugins and themes to work with and tons of great people to help out when you get over your head.
So, unless you are familiar with one of the other platforms already, or have a developer that knows how to work with it, install a free copy of WordPress on your new domain and start building your content.
Block 4 – Autoresponder
The final brick in your foundation is your email list. You’ve probably heard it hundreds of times “The money is in the list!”
Well, the fact is that despite all the hoopla around Twitter, Facebook, etc. the giants of online marketing still use email as their main interaction tool. So should you.
And you need to have a secure way to manage your lists (notice that is plural). The best way to do this is to use an autoresponder service. There are so many benefits:
- multiple lists so you can have lists for specific sub-niches
- segmentation of lists so you can target emails to parts of the list
- tracking stats
- autoresponder series (an automatic sequence of messages when people sign up)
- signup forms
- high delivery rates
The last one is probably the most important one of all. If you have your own list management software on your site (or worse still, just collect email addresses in Outlook) then you’re probably ending up in spam filters all over the internet rather than inboxes.
The major players in the autoresponder industry work very hard to ensure delivery, achieving in excess of 97% deliverability rates. You’d be lucky to see 50% doing it yourself.
Now You Can Play in the Web 2.0
Now that your foundation is strong, you can go about building your content empire. Have lots of great, useful and fun content on your own site. Then spread your web throughout the internet, always linking back to your home base.
Bring people from Facebook back to your site and onto your list. Tweet about your latest and greatest content (not exclusively — don’t be a social media dork) and build your followers. Write articles for EzineArticles, HubPages and Squidoo. Have your satellite sites at Blogger.com or WordPress.com. Entertain and teach with your YouTube channel.
All of the Web 2.0 platforms are where you cast your net. But don’t forget to bring them home and make them comfortable.