In an electronic world, information is king. The opportunities to sell information are bound only by imagination and an interested market. Information sales range from leads to specialized advice to video game strategies. Formats range from tailored databases to downloadable instructions to paid message forums. So, how do you start to define your information business? First you have to choose a potential subject offering and then you have to determine if your idea can be profitable.
Internet sites require a steady supply of new information and traffic to maintain their search engine rankings. It is essential that you choose an area that is interesting to you and broad enough to remain vital to your potential customer. Consider your current occupation. Is there a skill you have that others need? Obvious needs are information latierrademisamores technology, law, health professions, etc. But, don’t discount the value of more specialized information such as auto repair, accounting, school tutoring, or even stain removal. Presented in the correct fashion, the market for specialized information is endless.
Examine your hobbies and special interests. Chances are there are others with the same interests. Money can be made by offering related downloadable patterns or instructions. You can offer “premium” pages on your website for members and require a joining fee. Or, you could consider offering free information to members and collect their contact data to be resold.
A growing area of information sales is internet research. In short, you would be paid to assemble available information for others. For example, you might be contracted to assemble a list of links related to a thesis topic, website topic, or book topic. Another search might have you assessing the internet climate for certain ideas or products based on forum and blog activity. You could even be contracted to conduct internet research on the internet itself. Web site evaluation, statistics, and improvement strategies are always popular products.
When you have an idea that you would like to explore, rough out your website idea. This does not have to be a long process. Focus on the main points and use a few words to describe your idea. For example, an idea for an information website about antique dental tools might be roughed out like this:
o Simple website of text pages with a maximum budget of $25 per month for hosting service.
o All content and design will be done by me to save expenses.
o Post free historical information to attract customers.
o Host classified section with a fee for posting an ad.
o “Expert” evaluation forum with fee to post picture of tool and member comments allowed for free.
o Contact data of members could be collected and assembled for sale to auction houses or other interested parties.
Once you flesh out the idea, then the work begins. It will take research to determine whether or not you can expect to profit from your idea. Use the following three questions to help with your evaluation.
Is there a market for my idea?
The best way to determine market is to conduct a search using at least two of the major search engines. Assemble a list of words that customers will use to find you. Plug the words into the search engine in different combinations to find websites in the same field. When you do this, one of two things will happen, you will find competitors or you will find nothing (or very little) available.
If you find competitors, congratulations! There is enough interest in your idea to support an online community. Move to the next step and evaluate your ability to compete.
If you find nothing, it is time for serious consideration of your idea. Could it be that there is not enough interest to merit online activity? Is the idea so difficult that others have deemed it not to be worth the effort? Or, do you feel that the idea will only need promotion to establish a presence on the web? If so, then move to the next question.
Will I be able to establish a web presence?
This is where the rough list you made earlier will be the most helpful. If you found a large group of competing websites, review the top sites in reference to the list. Consider the antique dental tools website; the first idea was to offer free information to attract visitors. Look at the top websites and evaluate the information offered. Do you have something new to add to the body of knowledge? How can you make your website unique and draw visitors away from the established websites?
Also evaluate the viability of the ways in which you would earn from your website. The first stream of income considered in the antique dental tool website was a classified section with a fee for posts. Quickly evaluate competitors to see if the same type of service is offered on other websites. If it isn’t, you could be on to something new in the marketplace.
If you are looking to establish a new idea, the fastest way is to tie in with existing websites. Try the search engines again using a few words that could lead you to compatible websites. For the example, instead of antique dental tools, you might consider antique medical tools or dental history. In this step you might find that your idea will locate its audience with a few small changes in keywords or content.
The research step will consume the most time, but will be the most helpful in projecting the future profitability of your idea. Evaluate every point in your original plan and allow new ideas to be added if an opportunity is spotted. Keep detailed notes to help you develop your website and its pricing strategy.
Will this idea generate money?
With your research results in hand, it is time to consider the potential profit of your website. You should have a good idea of what you will be able to charge for the products that you offer. You can use the proposed figures and a simple formula (expenses ÷ average sale = minimum customer purchases required) to determine your break-even point, the point at which sales exceed expenses.
Let’s assume that research for our antique dental tools website revealed that there was already a free classified service offered by a competitor. But, the “expert” evaluation forum was a novel idea that could draw customers. You anticipate customers will be willing to pay $2 per posted picture to utilize the forum. By dividing your monthly expenses of $25 by the average customer revenue of $2, you determine that you would need 13 purchasing customers to break even in a month. That sounds easy enough.
Not every visitor will make a purchase. The change from visitor to purchaser is called conversion. And, according to Yaro Starak in a March 2008 article for Entrepreneur’s Journey, conversion percentages are usually in the single digits. If the antique dental tools website could achieve the maximum conversion rate of 9%, approximately 150 visitors per month would be needed to achieve the minimum sales goal of 13 sales.
Return to the list of competitors identified during the research phase. You can use their historical data to help determine the traffic they have experienced. There are excellent free tools available to help you gauge competitor website statistics and ascertain if the quantity of traffic you need is a reasonable expectation. Try www.googleguide.com or www.alexa.com.
When establishing a totally new idea, you will have to make your best guess as to the reasonable time expectation to generate adequate traffic to your website. Of course, the time could be shortened by aggressive promotion. Be prepared to spend funds or invest time promoting your site. It is normal for it to take at least a month to be indexed with the major search engines. Crawling up the search engine rankings requires web traffic and links. Many websites will be happy to exchange links with you to increase the traffic for their own website. It can be painstakingly slow at first, but accelerates quickly once the traffic starts.
The information sales sector is large enough for everyone to be successful. Information sales websites are especially attractive because they generally require a smaller initial investment than other types of web businesses. Examine your skills and use these tools to help you find your niche.
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