|A Tale Of Two Sites|
By James D. Brausch -- July 17, 2002
There are only two kinds of sites on the Internet . . . Informational and Sales.
Of course, that is a gross exaggeration and over generalizes the landscape of the Internet, but it will be useful for this article. We want to talk about how you can take any site you have and create a sister site of the other type in order to improve your traffic, sales and mission. First, let’s define these types of sites a little more and give some examples.
This is the classic content or free information site. It includes hobby sites, huge communities like Yahoo, search engines, discussion forums, news sites, how-to sites and a vast majority of the Internet in general.
This can be a classic e-commerce site sells something directly. It can describe a product/service and provide a way to provide payment directly on the site. The famous sites in this category include Amazon, Orbitz, and Ebay. The less famous sites sell a vast variety of the kind of merchandise that used to be sold via direct postal mail campaigns, catalogs, etc.
It can also include a more subtle type of sales site. Everyone was warned in the last decade that you had better be “on the net” or you would be out of business. Most organizations have taken that advice. Almost every corporation, non-profit organization, government agency, church and school now have a website. When many of these organizations created their website, they realized they had nothing to sell directly, nor did their true mission include providing a lot of free information content about their topic. Most of these sites provide information about their organization, press releases, methods to contact various departments, information about upcoming events, and product/service information (albeit, not for the purpose of direct sales). The end result is that these sites are there to promote the organization’s mission. They are really sales sites in that way.
Now that we’ve over generalized these two categories of websites, let’s admit that almost every website has some element of each. I’ve owned sites that have completely morphed from one type to another with lots of hybrid during the morphing process. I’ve come to discover though that it is often not a good idea to mix these up. Let’s talk about why.
Let’s say you have a pure information site. You are really into widgets as a hobby and you create a massive site with a popular discussion forum, lots of articles, pictures, how-to information, a massive resource directory of other widget sites, product reviews, etc. Your site is the #1 place people go to find out about anything to do with widgets. In fact, your site is so popular that your hosting bill is now way over your hobby budget, but this is a labor of love; right? Many of us have been here. The obvious answer is to mix in a bit of e-commerce to offset the bills. Maybe you add some widget banners or text links. Maybe you put an affiliate link to Amazon after your review of a book about Widgets. Maybe you even install a shopping cart and start buying widgets wholesale and selling them directly on your site. You even dream of someday making a living doing what you love: maintaining your site about widgets.
What happens? First of all, your traffic starts to decrease. Inevitably you turn some people off by your new emphasis on e-commerce. Second, your focus on what made your site great starts to suffer. You now have two competing forces pulling you in separate directions. One side of you wants to create great free content; the other wants to maximize profits. Some people find a good balance and press forward. Many others start a downward spiral. How many great search engines have we seen come and go because they lost their focus in exactly this way?
Let’s start from another direction. Let’s say you sell widgets offline and followed the advice last decade and registered www.widgets.com. If a widget can be described easily on a web-site and costs less than $1,000, you probably sell them directly on your web-site. If not, you probably have press releases, contact information for your various departments, descriptions of your various widget products/services, etc. You sell your widgets off-line, but your site supports that process.
Every site in this category would like more traffic. More traffic means more sales means more profits. Isn’t that odd? The guy with the information site had the opposite problem. He had too much traffic. Let’s say you realize that and try to increase your traffic by adding some free content. You start writing articles about widgets, start a discussion forum, etc. What happens? Your traffic increases dramatically, but your sales barely increase at all. In fact, you might notice that your sales go down. The new distraction of free content on your site is pulling away the attention of those who might otherwise be buying. You find yourself with the same problems as the above guy who runs a content site. Your focus has been split and the core mission of your site (selling widgets) suffers.
There must be a way. Of course, if you sell widgets, you can purchase advertising on widget information sites. And if you have a widget information site, you can sell advertising space. Many find a balance that works well here.
Here’s another option. Create a sister site of the other type. One site will be 100% informational (almost). The other site will be 100% sales. On the informational site, devote most of the home page to an advertisement for the sales site. We find that about 40% of our traffic ends up at the home page no matter how they entered the site (many search engines deliver them to a page other than the home page). If you place a large advertisement on the home page with a large “Enter Site” link under the advertisement, we find that you can receive a 30-50% click-thru rate if your sales and information sites are well matched in topic. That means that you can deliver a significant portion of the most likely buyers from your information site to your sales site. Now that your ad is done, don’t ever think about commercializing your information site in any other way. Don’t put any banners, affiliate links or anything else to drive away information seekers. Just focus on being the very best widget information site possible.
Do the same for your sales site. Don’t ever place anything to distract folks from buying. If you are tempted to put up some kind of content, do it on your information site. If you are starting with an information site and looking for a way to monetize it, forget about all the affiliate programs and banners. Either find one good sponsor and put them on your home page, or start your own sales site and become your own sponsor. After a bit of lost focus (setting up the sales site) you can hopefully turn all of your attention back to your information site and leave your sales site alone.
With this arrangement, you can drive traffic from an informational site to a sales site and never lose sales because they are distracted by some free content on your sales site.
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All Rights Reserved
James D. Brausch
James D. Brausch is the owner and coach of QuitThatJob.com, a step-by-step coaching membership site to help you build your Internet business.