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Step 2: Developing your site concept

As we've seen in the previous section, creating a nice side income from your recipes is not Mission: Impossible!

We've reviewed an approach that works: offering the recipe collection free of charge and getting revenue from advertising and affiliate referral fees.

But it has to be done in a certain way: before you start writing content, you have to choose how your site will approach the topic you have selected. If you don't do so, you will only get a set of pages containing recipes, that will provide information to your users, but will not get you any income at all.

The site concept

The site concept will be the cornerstone upon you will build the whole site. In other words, the theme of your site, the main reason why your visitors will come to you for information.

The idea is to select a profitable site concept - in terms of supply and demand, we'll see it later - and organize all the information around it. If the information (recipes) are relevant to this particular topic, your site will become a reference for people looking for it.

The more relevant your site is for that particular topic, your visitors will spend more time on your site, because it is an useful resource for them. If they stay longer in your site, the probability of hitting one of these affiliate links and buying increases. And so do your revenues.

Supply, demand, and profitability

There is one important thing to keep in mind: not all themes are equal. There are some better than others. Better in terms of profitability, that is, in terms of supply and demand.

The perfect theme for our purposes would be one that had a very high demand (that would mean that many people are interested) and very low supply (that would mean that we have very little competition). This ideal theme would get us lots of visitors, because many people would be looking for that information, and very few other sites are providing it.

I'll show it with an example: imagine you have a nice collection of Italian recipes. Let's have a look at the supply side first (don't worry on how to get the supply and demand numbers for each topic, we'll see it later, just focus on understanding the concept).

One possible approach would be just 'Italian recipes', straight away. A good try, but there must be millions of sites dedicated to Italian recipes (about 3 million at the time of writing this, according to Google).

There is quite a lot of competition, isn't it? It's like being in a street with 3 million shops. Which one would you select to buy? Obviously one of the 10 first shops you encounter when you enter the street.

Perhaps you should try something more specific: How about 'italian pasta recipes'? Not too bad, 1.7 million sites. Still a bit too much...

Let's try something even more specific: 'pasta recipes for athletes'. Wow! Only 143,000 sites! Competition has reduced by 10-fold! Our chances of getting a visitor have increased 10 times.

Now let's have a look at the demand. That is, how many people are interested in each one of these topics?

'Italian recipes' has a demand of about 13,000 requests a month, according to Yahoo!.

'Italian pasta recipes' demand amounts to 820.

'Pasta recipes for athletes' has no demand!!!

Which theme would be more interesting in terms of supply and demand? An easy way to do it is dividing the supply by the demand, that would gives a ratio, that it's called profitability. The higher the profitability, the better the concept for our purposes. In our example:

Italian recipes: 13,000 / 3,000,000 = 0.43%

Italian pasta recipes: 820 / 1,700,000 = 0.05%

Pasta recipes for athletes: 0 / 143,000 = 0%

So we see that, in spite of higher competition, our original topic 'Italian recipes' would still be the most interesting one.

One important thing: don't be misguided by the figures you get. They have no absolute value, and they are not a warranty for anything, they are only used for comparing several alternatives.

We've seen in this example, that different - but related - topics have different potential for our site. We've limited the example to three of them, but you should try more. In the next section we'll see how to do it step-by-step.

How to select The Right Site Concept

In the previous section, we've reviewed a simple way to numerically 'rate' different concepts, based on profitability. It is an important factor to take into account, but it's not the only one. There are a number of other factors, perhaps more subjective, that you need to consider before you decide where to spend your resources.

According to my experience the complete list of issues to consider when selecting the theme of your website would be the following:

  1. Breadth of concept: this factor intends to measure the ability you will have do develop content related to your site's theme. How can you measure it? By determining how many related keywords you are able to write about. It may sound a bit difficult to measure, but if you keep reading you'll learn how to do it.
  2. Knowledge of the particular theme: How much do you know about it? I can't see myself writing about gardening, no matter how much I read about it! You must possess some relevant - and practical -  knowledge on the matters you're going to write about. In our example, if you're going to offer your recipe collection, I would advise you to try your recipes before publishing them!
  3. Passion: I believe it to be one of the most important factors in the whole process. If you're not passionate on the subject you're writing about, your audience will notice it. What we're trying to do is to create a unique space on the Internet where you'll be able to tell them what you like, and how to do it. If you're not passionate about it, would you expect your audience to take you seriously? There is no practical way to measure this particular concept, it's more like a feeling, so look at your themes' shortlist and ask yourself: which one I'm more passionate about? The answer is inside you (sorry for sounding a bit like Yoda at Star Wars! I just could not help it!)
  4. Theme "sexiness": This is another subjective factor. Is your theme attractive to your potential audience? In our case, the answer is YES! Has someone asked for one of your recipes? Then you know the answer... Just send him/her to your site. You already have some visitors, and even before you set it up! So, no need to worry about this particular issue...
  5. Monetization potential: an important question, yet a simple one to answer: Will you be able to make any money at all with your site? Then answer is YES (again), as long as you follow my directions (I've made money, I'm making money right now, and expect to keep making it in the future). Recipe sites are really easy to monetize. We'll see that in depth in the last section, but I can tell you right now: If you follow my advice, you'll make money with it (sorry for sounding so assertive, but it is something I'm convinced about, and I can proof it's true!)
  6. Profitability: last, but not least, the concept we introduced in the previous section. Profitability is something that will change depending on the theme you select: as we have seen earlier, the term "Italian recipes" was much more profitable than "Italian pasta recipes", no matter how similar they were.

These factors have to be taken into account when deciding how we're going to develop our site, but at this stage, you might be wondering how to do it. You know what to measure, but not how to do it. Don't worry, in the next section, we'll explain the full process, step by step.

Evaluating Site Concepts

We've seen the most important factors to consider when selecting our site concept, the Theme. In this section, we'll review, step by step, what you have to do select the one that suits you most.

Ready? Let's start, then.

1. List your potential themes

The first thing you have to do is write down as many themes as you can think of. Not just any, but themes related to recipes, and where you believe you can write something about. Don't be too picky, just try to be creative. We'll discard the less interesting ones later. You should end up with a list of about 7 themes.

I would suggest you to take your time to do this. I once needed more than 6 months to decide on creating my tapas recipes site. So don't hurry, it should take you a couple of days to compile that list.

2. Gather Intelligence

Once you have your themes' shortlist, it's time to get information on all of them. I would advise you to use an spreadsheet (like MS Excel) to do this, but you can do it with a pen and a piece of paper, so don't worry if you don't know how to use an spreadsheet, it's just because I'm a bit techie ;-)

Before starting, I'd like you to introduce to a very useful tool to get this information: it's called Search It!, and it's free to use. It is part of the Site Build It! toolset, that we'll be using in this course, so I'll advise you to use it (as I will do from now on). It's an important success factor to use a tool like this, so spend some time getting familiar with it.

Search It! will give us all the information we need: supply, demand, keywords, etc. So click here (it will open a new window, if it does not, just open a new browser window and type the following address: http://searchit.sitesell.com/marinadeli.html ), and let's start at once!

Remember you'll have to repeat this process for every concept you have on your list. Then you'll be able to determine which one is the best for you.

2.1 Supply, Demand, and Profitability

The first thing we'll get is Profitability. To do so, we need the demand and the supply for each one of our potential themes. Let's start with the supply.

Go to the Search It! window, and select the following from the drop-downs:

  • On STEP 1:Select search category Brainstorming
  • On STEP 2: Select search type Yahoo! Search vertical Brainstormer
  • On STEP 3: enter the theme you're analyzing, for example "italian recipes"

Hit the button "Search it"

Youl'll get an intermediate page, explaining what is Search It! and how to use. Go to the end of the page, and hit the link on the bottom of the page, it will take you to the results page.

Once there, there is only one important figure, at this stage: the total search results. They are located on the right top corner, it should say something like:

The figure you need is the 14,900,000. That's your supply. Write it down next to your theme. That's it.

Now let's get the demand. That's a bit trickier.

Let's go back to the Search It! window (you should have it open somewhere). Now, make the following selection:

  • On STEP 1:Select search category Brainstorming
  • On STEP 2: Select search type  U.S. Yahoo! Keyword Selection tool
  • On STEP 3: enter the theme you're analyzing, for example "italian recipes"

As in the previous section, you'll get an intermediate page with some information on Search It!. Proceed hitting the link at the bottom. You should get a page like this:

Look for your term on the list you get (it's usually outlined in black, as in the picture). Copy the number you get at the right. That's the demand for this particular term in the last month.

Once you've got the demand and the supply, it's time to calculate the profitability. Just divide the demand by the supply and multiply by 100 (this way you'll get a percentage, it's not really necessary, but helps making figures more understandable).

Keep the lists you get for every theme (by printing or saving them to disk), they will be very useful in the next steps of the process.

Do this for every concept on your list, and keep the profitability for each one. Once you have done so, rate the themes, assigning 1 to the most profitable, 2 to the second one, and so on.

One last thing! If one of your themes gets zero demand (and so does its profitability), you can immediately discard it, and do not perform any further analysis on it. Figures are not very important, except to show us where is no interest at all! If this happens to many of your concepts, and the list of viable ones falls to less than 3 items, you should consider going back to step 1 and generating a new list.

2.2 Breadth of concept

Now it's time to discover if our themes have any potential at all. Potential can be measured in terms of how broad - or narrow - our theme is. In practice, the question to ask is, how many related topics (keywords from now on) can we develop with some quality.

A particular topic can be too broad (imagine devoting a site to "recipes" in general), or too narrow (imagine a site dedicated to "Mongolian fish recipes in the middle ages"). None of these examples is a good choice.

How do you analyze this magnitude? If you kept your supply analysis for every theme, there you will find related topics for each one. Just count how many entries you get.

Now you have to ask yourself a question: how many of this related keywords will allow you to write a page or two of interesting information? Or how many recipes that could be 'labeled' with this keyword? If any of this keywords does not give you any chance to write about it, just remove it from the list.

There is no specific rule, but you should discard (and consequently stop analyzing) any topic that has less than 20 related terms on which you can provide interesting information (that is, recipes). In the other side, try to keep away from a topic with more than 100 related keywords.

If one particular topic falls in any of the above mentioned categories, and you believe it's particularly interesting, and you want to keep it, you can try the following:

  • If it's too specific, try a more general one, like "Mongolian recipes" instead of "Mongolian fish recipes in the middle ages".
  • If it's too general, try one of the related keywords, perhaps one of the the list, with a good supply. In our example, "recipes" should be replaced by "Italian recipes".

In any of these cases, if you replace a theme, you should start the whole process for this particular one, determining its profitability before proceeding with the rest of this process.

Once you are satisfied with your results, rate every theme in terms of breadth. As we did with profitability, assign 1 to the broadest, 2 to the second, and so on.

2.3 Theme Sexiness, Knowledge, and Passion

These three factors, as I said earlier, are quite subjective. There are many ways to evaluate them, but I would advise you to conduct a survey. Not a full-fledged survey, but an small one.

Just ask some people what do they think of the subjects on your list. For each one, try to find out whether they believe it's interesting, if they would visit a site dedicated to it, and how would they rate every theme with respect of the rest of the list. Also, it is a good idea to ask for some comments on every theme, not just opinion, but suggestions on what would they find interesting to have in a site dedicated to that theme.

When you have it all, it's time to tally the results: As we did earlier, assign 1 to the most popular in the survey, 2 to the second one, etc.

Finally, it's time for some introspection. Ask yourself the same questions, and rank every concept in terms of passion and knowledge (you can use two separate scores, if you want). Once again, use 1 for the one you know more and feel more passionate about, 2 for the second, etc.

2.4 Monetization potential

On this particular issue, we don't have to perform any survey, or analysis. Almost any recipe site has monetization potential. Don't worry about it. We'll take care of this later.

3. The Selection

So far, we've generated a list of topics that we believe are interesting to our intended audience. We have also analyzed them with both objective and subjective evidence, and ranked them accordingly.  Now it's time to make up our mind. It's time to select the Theme!

This part is really easy: just add up all the scores you have for each one of the themes and pick the one with lower score. That's it!

There is no more. All the hard work has been done previously. At this point of the process the only thing we do is finish what we started a while ago. Easy, isn't it?

What comes next?

At this point, we've already got the main theme for our site. Now we're ready to design and build our recipe site. Not just any kind of site, but one that really is attractive to our audience, and will get us some interesting cash flow...

So, if you're ready, it's time to move on to the next chapter of our course: Brainstorming profitable topics.


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