The Content Site

The content site operates on a different principle as compared to the direct sales site. Whilst the direct sales site offers products or services for sale to prospects or customers, the content site gives away its contents (products, information even services) for FREE ! What a concept.

The underlying principle of the content site capitalizes on the following human behaviors:

#1 People like FREE things, they will also tell their friends where to get them (can it be called greed?)

#2 People don't like to be sales pitched. They feel tensed sometimes when they read the direct sales page because they know you will try to justify to them why they should buy your product. If they believe you, and they buy, they will feel that perhaps they have bought something they didn't want to buy in the first place. If they believe you, but didn't want to buy, then they will feel guilty because they knew they should have bought because it is good for them but they didn't. Either way, the tension and conflict is there. The content site is the opposite. They feel relaxed because they know a lot of things are free and there is no pressure to buy anything.

#3 People like to make informed decisions instead of making impulsive purchases (The direct sales sites capitalizes on human behavior of making impulsive purchases). These are the more cautious, restrained and "disciplined" people when it comes to making purchases. As such, they are more likely to buy when they are given a good recommendation by someone "important".

As such, in summary, a content site should have the following :

#1 Free contents

#2 No direct sales pitching (Must have products to sell, just don't pitch for the sale, appear neutral)

#3 Recommendation for good products

#4 Viral marketing (a mechanism where they are able to tell their friends - referral box, free ebook,e-cards)

#5 Elements of interactivity (updating of content, new free stuff, chat rooms, bulletin boards, greeting cards etc. to encourage repeat traffic back to the site)


Since we are giving stuff away for free, need to maintain the site constantly and to do research and development for new info and additional free stuff, how are we ever going to make money ? The income streams for a content site is as follows :-

#1 Sales commission - from the sales of the items you recommended. These are tracked via cookies and affiliate links. The core of any content sites are affiliate programs income. That is, you make money not by selling your own products, they don't pay directly to you, but by referring your customers to buy from other people, they pay you when the sale is made. You are an affiliate to them. In order to sell their products, firstly, their product must be relevant to your site's contents (you don't sell car insurance in a diving site but it is relevant in a car site) and secondly, they must have an affiliate program. Sign up for the program (so that they know how to pay you). You will get an affiliate link which you put on your site. When your readers click on the link, your affiliate will know they come from you. (Technically, most program will send a cookie that will reside on the readers computer which will track them even if they were to buy at a later date).

#2 Advertising revenues - from the charges you imposed on advertisers for spaces allocated to them in your site/newsletter. You can do so when your traffic has reach a certain mass in order for it to look attractive to advertisers. Would you pay to advertise in a site or publication which has only 1,000 unique visitors / subscribers a month ? Would you rather pay if the number is now 1,000,000 a day ? For a content site, it's absolutely vital to have a healthy flow of traffic in order to capitalize on advertising revenues.

#3 Offer premium products which are chargeable especially when you have established a credibility and reputation to be an authority on your subject. (Eg. Special report for members only, mail forwarding for USD5 a month, bigger 20MB mailbox for USD5 a month etc. etc.)

Examples of content site (Can you identify their income streams ? ):

Hotmail : Free email account (which you have to use often enough)
Blue Mountain : Free greeting cards ( it's chargeable now and no longer free since they are established)
Yahoo : Information portal. Free links to categorized sites,free email and premium paid services as well.
Google : Free searching (also provides search results for Yahoo).
Photoshop Roadmap : Free photoshop tutorials, product reviews, downloads and discounted purchases.
Joke-a-day : Free joke in your mailbox daily
*Amazon: Both a direct sale site and content site (free book reviews provided by readers)
Jim's Hardware : Free review on computer hardware.


Do you think you can compete with the likes of Amazon, Hotmail and Yahoo with your budget ? Would it be wise (or suicidal) even if you may raise the budget for it ? In the world of branding, the one who is there first has all the advantages. The rest is fighting an uphill battle (with dire consequences). Given your modest budget, a "general" portal is out of the question. Instead, your strategy would be to find a really niche market where supply is lacking and the demand is qualified (Qualified here means your prospects or customers are not just anyone but those specifically looking for what you have to offer).

I would suggest finding a niche in your area of expertise (work or pleasure). As such you have in depth knowledge in that area. It would be time consuming to go into an area of which you have no knowledge of. If there is a strong demand, and you are not familiar with it, it can still be done, either by joint venture with another person who knows the subject well or spend the time on researching the subject.

Assuming you have an interest in diving. Do a search on "Diving". I'm sure there are many sites dedicated to diving. Look for "diving in south east asia", the supply has now reduced considerably. Are there any sites dedicated to diving in the Spratly Islands ? Eureka ! You may have found a niche market which is not well represented. Given your knowledge on how to get there, where to stay, where are the diving sites, what are the main attractions, where to eat etc. are now an authority on diving in the Spratly Islands. Marketed properly, your site will be listed prominently as THE site for diving in Spratly Islands. Not only will you receive hits from people who has every intention to find out about diving there but also divers in general.

Okay, let's see what would be the contents in your "Diving in the Spratly Islands" website.


If you are not quite there yet, research more on the subject. Go to book stores, look for any info on Spratly Island. Ask your travel agent what choices of accommodation do you have there. Better still, make a trip there, get all the contacts you need for everything, transport, hotel, restaurants, guides, instructors, souvenir shops, etc. etc.

List all these down in your site.
#Where is it ? What are the main attractions ? Photos please.
#How big is the place ? Population ? Languages spoken.
#How to get there - choices of transport - how much ? Any travel agent ? How much ?
#When to go there - explain why do you specify the recommended timing.
#Where to stay ? List of accommodation, prices and services. Recommendations.
#How to get to diving spots ? Guides & instructors Etc. listing, prices. Any recommendations ?
#Where to eat ? What's the specialties ? Prices and recommendations.
#Where to buy souvenirs ? What's the must have items ? What's a good bargain ? Prices and recommendations.
#Etc. etc. ...links to other diving sites (More on this JV later), other attractions besides diving on the islands, amusing diving stories (to be submitted by visitors) get the idea.

During your trip to the Spratly Islands, you must have met up with all the owners of the services and products which you intend to list in your site. Work out a deal with those whom you feel are doing a decent job (to warrant a recommendation). Work out some mechanism for calculation of commission (eg. have a discount voucher printable from your site, when presented to the merchant which can track your sale). Then list all those as well as the rotten service providers as part of your free contents.

Besides those merchants, search the web for anything relating to Spratly Islands. Perhaps Amazon sells a travel guide to the island, another site offers diving equipments, a travel agent offer traveling packages there. Sign up as an affiliate and put your affiliate links in your site to direct your visitors to them as well.

From all those products and services which you have listed on your site, recommend the good ones (which you had earlier on negotiated a deal for) to your visitors. Your visitors will appreciate your good advice as it steers them away from the rotten apples, you are happy because you give good service to your readers as well as make a few bucks along the way, and the merchant is happy because you are sending them customers.

Your advice carry weight because you are now the authority on diving in the Spratly Islands (because no one else make a serious attempt to provide the kind of information you do). So your recommendation is valuable to your visitors.

When your site is found to be useful to your readers, they are bound to have friends of similar interest. They will happily recommend your site to their friends (and they to their friends as well). You can make it easier for them by putting in "tell-a-friend" boxes on your site. (Where they fill in their emails and their friends email address and you send their friends an email message about your site - these are handled by scripts)

Alternatively, compile your contents into an e-book to be given away for free. The ebooks should also contain all your affiliate links or any other sales tracking mechanisms. Give the ebook away for free and encourage your readers to give it to their friends as well.

The two examples above pass from readers to readers by their actions (who also markets for you) which is why they are called viral marketing elements.

It is vital that you get repeat sales and repeat visits from your customers. Repeat sales, because it is easier and cheaper to market to an existing customer than to find a new one. Repeat visits, so that you are constantly on their mind and to boost hits for soliciting advertisements. How do you get customers to come back and visit you often ?

=> New and updated contents
=> Free stuff (eg screen saver or wall paper every month, discount vouchers from merchants, sweepstakes)
=>Amusing stories submitted by readers (sighting of a 100 foot hammerhead shark)

One of the most effective ways to keep them updated is to run a newsletter which informs them of new contents on your sites. The newsletter can also be used for product reviews, new products announcements etc. (which is another 2 additional source of income for you : commission from sales of products featured and advertising space in newsletters).

1. You have many products to sell. Even if each one sells a few, collectively, they are significant to you.
2. You can change products any time you want. You may replace those who are not selling
3. You can broaden your range and scope of products and services as the number of customers increases
4. Opportunities for repeat sales are higher than 1 page sales letter
5. There are more income streams as compared to a 1 page sales letter

1. Slower to implement and takes longer time to see results
2. More work involved in R&D as well as maintaining site. However, many things can be automated by software and scripts.


Recommended reading :


Affiliate Masters Course

The Affiliates
Masters Course
by Ken Evoy

(Click book for
free download)

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