What I have learned as a newbie building a membership sites

Discussion in 'Black Hat SEO' started by WayneRoberts, Dec 18, 2010.

  1. WayneRoberts

    WayneRoberts Registered Member

    May 10, 2010
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    Hi All

    As a thank you to the forum for all the help it has provided this lurker, I wanted to provide a breakdown of my experiences over the last two years. Maybe you can get something out of this, maybe you cant. Just some things I have learned and the mistakes I made along the way.

    I run membership websites. I sell paid advertising for profiles and adverts on a myspace knock off. I wont share my sites, too risky here lol. So that needs to be put into context with that I have achieved so far. 4 of my 5 sites so far are top ranking in Google for the search terms I needed them to dominate and they are a passive income earner of over 200k a year now. By end of next year, based on projections and 4 additional new sites that have gone up and I am starting to bill on, Im going to be close to 400k I think.

    Much of this is based on previous marketing experience, but its traditional experience, not web based marketing. So there is a business model behind this, not a simple affiliate advertising site which just needs volume traffic. I needed search engine and targetted traffic. If advertisers dont get calls, I dont get paid.

    Now I am not some SEO genius nor do I know that much about the subject. I am a former advertising exec who wanted to use the internet to make millions lol. So save the extreme geekage, I dont understand it. I got lucky with a lot of stuff :)

    No doubt there are better, more effective ways to do things. Thing is, sometimes the time required to do them does not make it worthwhile. Everything comes down to time in vs money out IMO.

    My advice to newbies:

    1: Plan

    Its overwhelming at first and you dont know where to start sometimes. I spent the first few months getting caught up in details and not looking at what I was looking to achieve. In a nutshell, you want to rank on the search engines and you want a large footprint. Decide what SEO strategy you are going to use before and STICK WITH IT. For at least 6 months before you move on. I not have a basic formula I follow and Ill have my sites ranking and holding within 3-4 months now. I dont deviate from it. With all the options you can lose focus.

    2: Dont spend a fortune on automation tools

    As a newbie, I got caught up in the hype around all these money making tools. Most are rubbish and all they end up doing is distracting you. The most important ones are the ones that fit in with your SEO plans. if its outside that strategy, no matter how good it sounds, its best to ignore it. Bookmark it, come back to it when you may need it, but dont get distracted

    3. Not everyone is an expert, but research

    Understand that peoples views are shaped by their experiences. At one stage I thought being sandboxed was the end of the world. I believed that BH techniques would see my sites disappear forever. I bought in to the warrior forum bullshit hook line and sinker because I did not know better. Thing is, even that forum gave me the basics and helped me find some sort of grouding. Forums tend to turn into pissing contests though, and may of the people who are critical have not done much either all the time I suspect.

    4. Your time is valuable

    Dont waste it. Spend money on resources that save you time. Spend money outsourcing where you can.

    5. You have no chance if you are a tight arse

    It takes money to make money. Which means that trying to do things on the cheap all the time will cost you long term. If that 10k xrummer blast costs 50 bucks, but its a good service, its worth what you are paying. Remember that your time has a value too!

    One thing that drives me up the pole with the SEO community is that people will bitch about $5 here and $10 there. If you are that hard up, get a proper job, you are wasting your time.

    For the pro's-----What I have seen

    1. Sandbox

    It is temporary :) I made the "mistake" as a newbie of linking to my pay sites, and not just one. All of them. Ill continue to do it too. Not even deep linking, im talking over 10k links to my landing page at first. I believe that a lot of the fears regarding links to your main site are unfounded if you dont get silly about it. You dance, you dont get killed. Coming out of it makes you stronger.

    I now backlink directly to my main site, but also spread it between landing pages and pages of content within my sites. I do a little work for my web2.0 sites, but not much to be honest. I link from everywhere, be it forums on .edu domains or article networks with the anchor text.

    Google is not punishing me, it has been rewarding me. Now that I link my articles and web2.0 sites, all it has done is help my main site rank and hold faster. But nothing detrimental has happened long term with me spamming links to my main pay site.

    I also realised site structure and navigation can kill your rankings. Make sure broken links are fixed quickly. Penalties seem to be heavy IMO

    2. Forum profile backlinks do work

    A lot of debate about this. I achieved and maintained top level ranking on a keyword that generates 4k hits plus a day using nothing more than Angela packets. I did not know any better, and it took a year (i know why now hahahah) but I did it.

    3. Outsource

    odesk, freelance, etc. These websites are gold. While good providers are tough to find, if you are doing this stuff yourself after your site is generating some cash, you need your head read. The boring stuff can be done for less than 3 bucks and hour, and you are giving someone a job.

    4. My good fortune with a "dead" forum

    I uploaded a forum which I never linked to from my main site. Somehow, xrummer kiddies found it. It was smashed with spam. I took it down, only to see webmaster tools reporting over 50k broken links. Being a newb, no redirect was used, and I had to fix it quick. So I had my developer use one, while my rankings plummeted.

    My PR shot through the roof over a period of 3 months though when it came back out of the sandbox, and I came back to number one when those "errors" disappeared. All those spammed links were in turn linked all over the web. Just like you link your web 2.0 sites, they were linking my forum so the links were indexed :) Which meant that my first site has over 200k links in webmaster tools now, of which I created not more than 20k myself. Granted, few are relevant, but Im guessing that maybe it looks better. Seems more genuine?

    no penalties, held top spot for 5 months now. I will do it with every site I launch now. Forum the world can spam, after which I will redirect to main page before I delete. Thanks for all the free links Xrummer :). Those non relevant links to my site make my relevant spam look a lot less troublesome.

    5. Unique content? LOL

    I did not know any better. I would write one article and spam 100+ blogs with the same article, linking to the same pages in my site. I would then upload it to various article directories. I was thinking I was a genius as it was now 400+ relevant links for da amazink link jooooce all to my landing page in most cases. Mixing it up was pointing one link in the article to the landing page, another to my blog on the same domain. That was the extent of how I would mix it up.

    Turns out it was not the end of the world guys. I dont even bother spinning articles as much. I still write one article and spam it out. Links are indexed and I climb rankings slowly but surely every time.

    6. What linking strat worked best for me?

    SERPS - Forum profiles, blog posts but not comments as much even though I use Scrapebox, forum posts and spam, web 2.0 profiles, web 2.0 updates (many sites allow posts and status updates with backlinks). Directories did little for me, social bookmarks were a chore, twitter is a waste.

    Reviews - reviews on forums and blogs led to massive traffic spikes. I get the link, but the reviews were worth it to the point where I still do 2-3 a week which I post.

    Video - watermarked videos I uploaded to tube sites. Holy crap, day after they went up I would see 15k-30k direct hits overnight. I was creative with them, but I have over 200 created now by a company I outsourced to and I upload 2 a week through the various networks. I get almost as much traffic from this as I do from google.

    7. Its not always as bad as you think it is

    Dont get caught up in details! Paralysis by analysis. Its never going to be perfect and you are going to make mistakes. Realise that dedicated effort is more important than knowing everything and applying nothing. Sometimes knowing too much can be a hindrance.

    There is tons more I guess, so if there are any questions or you require any clarity on anything ask away. Happy to provide my input as limited as it is at times, and as I say, its been trial and error for me.

    Membership sites in particular I can offer a lot of advice on, along with traditional marketing advice.
    • Thanks Thanks x 10
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2010
  2. kez1000

    kez1000 Supreme Member

    Jul 24, 2009
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    This is very informative thanks for the time you took to write and to share all this
    juicy goodness.

    this is what is
    stopping alot of people in IM from making money

    one question can you give me a small example of what niche you can use and turn
    into a membership site? because the only membership site i know are IM one's
    so my thinking is kinda in the box.

  3. Nerevar

    Nerevar Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

    Jun 30, 2010
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    That's some great tips Wayne. I'm working on a subscription site and SEO for it and your tips will come in handy.
  4. arbydee2

    arbydee2 Regular Member

    Mar 20, 2010
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    great tips you have there buddy! :) +rep
  5. Nookie Monster

    Nookie Monster Senior Member

    Mar 28, 2010
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    Excellent post. Puts a lot of thing in perspective :)
  6. WayneRoberts

    WayneRoberts Registered Member

    May 10, 2010
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    There is a thing called critical mass, which is essentially when a site has sufficient traffic that it can almost run itself. Membership sites need to be built around a community of some sort and the information it provides needs to be specific. BHW is an example of a site that hit it ages ago.

    Most charge for the info, I went the other way and charged people to share their info. By sharing their information, they secure work and clients.

    So the trick is to find a niche where there is a need for information, decide who you would want to service, and build it from them.

    Take the model used by magazines and print. They charge companies to advertise. Their circulation justifies the price you pay to advertise. The problem is that web advertising normally fails because its not targeted like magazines and newspapers are. I applied the same thing to a niche I target.

    Membership sites require specialised info. I think they are hard to establish, but once going they are a goldmine. Social networking sites have opened doors though, and there are niches opening up.

    Forums are membership sites too, the trick is to build them around a product or service, build the community, then charge to advertise or take a small cut for creating the market. Tech forums for example.

    Need to think outside the box though dude!
  7. Merlin22

    Merlin22 Regular Member

    May 19, 2010
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    First off let me thank you for sharing your knowledge with the forum. I appreciate it. I hope you don't mind clarifying a few things for me.

    Did you build your own custom forum or purchase one of the paid membership forums available on the net. If so, what did you purchase.

    I have thought about putting together my own forum, although I can guarantee based off what you wrote that we will not be competitors...lol

    What exactly took a year and what are you talking about when you say you know why?

    Are you talking about doing a 301 Redirect, deleting all the broken links and then removing the redirect?