Lesson #2 - The different types of web sites
The question was asked yesterday, "I read your post on celebrity blogs - Can a normal person make any money on a blog?" Another way to phrase the question would be to ask, "Is it possible to create a blog that gets any kind of traffic?" The answer to this question depends on a lot of different factors, one of the most important of which is resonance. We will begin discussing resonance next week.
For now, let's open this question up a little and ask, "What types of web sites are possible?" A blog is one kind of Web site, but there are many others. If you understand all of the different types of web sites that are possible, it can be much easier to choose the best type for your site.
Let's walk through some of the most common types of web sites that you see as you are surfing the web:
- Content web sites - Content sites contain some sort of content library. Good examples include: About.com, HowStuffWorks.com and CNN.com. All of these sites have thousands or millions of pages of content in their libraries. About.com has about 10 million pages, CNN has about 4 million and HowStuffWorks has about 100,000. These obviously are huge sites that were not created overnight. On a smaller scale, there are a zillion small content sites that people have created. James Dulley, for example, has a newspaper column and sends people to his content site at Dulley.com. It has about 900 pages.
Content sites can be either daily or evergreen. A site like CNN.com is a primarily a daily news site -- it gets a lot of its traffic from repeat visitors who come to the CNN home page every day for news. A site like About.com, on the other hand, contains millions of pages of evergreen content. Most of About.com's traffic comes from search engines.
Content web sites tend to make their revenue from advertising. Some (especially content sites that specialize in porn) use a subscription approach instead, but it is far less common.
- Retail sites - Amazon.com is the biggest fish in this space, but millions of people have created little internet stores that they use to sell every imaginable product. There are places like Yahoo stores that make it very easy to set up a store. See, for example, FridgeFilters.com or Trains4Tots.com (there is a nice little trains4tots success story here).
Most retail sites generate their revenue through sales -- people buy things, and the site makes a profit from each purchase.
- Blogs - Millions of people have set up blogs on every imaginable topic (See How Blogs Work for an introduction to blogs). An article like this can introduce you to dozens of different blogs. Basically a blog is a place where a person, normally an individual, posts topics on a daily or weekly basis. It can be personal topics that your friends and family might enjoy (in which case the audience is going to be tiny, obviously), or it can be focused on a hobby, or it can talk about great restaurants in your city -- just about anything is fair game for a blog. WebKEW is being done as a blog for reasons we'll discuss over the next several weeks.
Most people who create blogs generate revenue either: 1) directly by putting ads on their blog (lots more about this in the coming weeks), or 2) indirectly by generating traffic and then funneling that traffic into a retail site or other business site.
- Hyperblogs - there are a number of very large web sites that are blog-like, but they have transcended blog status and gone stratospheric. Three good examples are DrudgeReport.com, Fark.com and Slashdot.org. These sites tend to post new items many times a day, and the audience often plays a big part in the posts. If you look at them and think about it, you realize that all three of these are very simple sites -- just lists of links published daily. Go look up the traffic for those three sites in Alexa and see just how popular a site can become.
Hyperblogs can be considered to be daily-visit content sites (like CNN). Because of that, most hyperblogs make their money off of advertising.
- Brochure sites - Brochure sites describe a business, a person, a place, etc. in much the same way that a paper brochure would. The goal usually is to provide information for customers or potential customers. Brochure sites are often small -- ten to twenty pages. This site for a Houston dentist is a classic example of a brochure site.
The revenue from a brochure site normally comes indirectly. The brochure encourages visitors to use the business being described in the brochure, and when people use the business the business makes money.
- Forum sites - Forum sites are large communities of people who interact with each other in forums. A site like Yehoodi.com is a primarily a forum site. It has thousands of members talking to each other in the forums.
Most forum sites that generate revenue do so through ads. Some forum sites are set up for things like customer support and generate no revenue.
- Database sites - Database sites generate their content using big databases. Any search engine is a database site. Other good examples would be Mapquest.com and Weather.com. All of the maps and weather reports are generated out of gigantic databases. Ebay.com is a database site that generates transactional revenue. Most dating sites are database sites that get their revenue from subscriptions. And so on. Anytime you see a web site that generates its content in response to specific user requests (e.g. - Weather.com shows you the weather for an area after you enter a zip code, Google.com shows you listings after you enter a search string, etc.), it is a database site.
Creating a database site usually requires some technical expertise in database design/management and web software development. If you have the expertise, a database site can be relatively easy to create (depending on the scope of the project).
Database sites that deliver content, like Mapquest.com and Weather.com, make their money through advertising. Transactional sites like Ebay.com generate revenue from each transaction. Dating sites make money through subscription fees. In other words, revenue models are all over the map for database sites.
Which type of site is the easiest to set up? A blog is normally the easiest. There are a number of sites like Blogger that make it trivial to create a blog. You can set up your own blog in about five minutes, and have your first post live on the Internet within ten. Plus, places like Blogger are completely free.
A brochure site is the next easiest. There are many places on the Web that will let you create a simple brochure site.
After that, probably a small custom content site is the easiest. We will talk about this approach in the weeks to come, and you will find that it can be very easy to set up forums, email addresses, etc. with your own content web site.
As you are going through Alexa looking at the top 500 sites, and as you are thinking about your own site ideas, keep these different kinds of sites in mind. Ask yourself: which type of site would be the best fit for the material that you want to publish? What types of tools and techniques are similar sites using?