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Are Mini-Sites The Answer?

By Bob McElwain
Posted Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Mini-sites come in different flavors but all have one significant element in common. Each site is very tightly focused upon selling a single product or service. No Flash. No graphics. No links out. No banners or advertising of any kind. Nothing that detracts from the site purpose, which is to make the sale.

The Pure Definition

In simplest form a mini-site consists entirely of a sales letter and order form. That is, your visitor either buys or clicks the Back button. Your site offers no other option.

Suppose your current site is focused upon selling ebooks and software to help people raise their kids. Each product is a candidate for a mini-site dedicated entirely to selling it.

You might do well with, "How To Build A Sewing Site," or anything specific of interest to some. Maybe show how to remodel your kitchen, build a plane or boat. But a mini-site dependant upon keywords such as "site design" or "site promotion" isn't going to make it because there is simply too much competition.

Affiliate Programs

In some cases, pre-selling your visitors before sending them to the sales pitch on an affiliate site can work wonders for your conversion ratio. In others, you're better off simply generating a click to the site.

If pre-selling is a good idea for a program that is paying well, then a mini-site consisting of only a page or two can work very well. You may need only your enthusiastic endorsement of the product on a single page. Or you may want to add another providing an in-depth review. All content points to links to the sales pitch on the program's site.

This works, but as above, the major task is in drawing targeted traffic. If this can be managed, then this is also a good model.

Selling Hot Products

To take the notion of selling as an affiliate program one step further, you may want to consider selling currently hot items. For example, back up a couple of years and anticipate the interest in MP3 soon to burst upon the scene. Make the right pick, find the best affiliate program, and you may have a winner.

This approach works only for those who already know how to sell most anything. Without a background in selling effectively, particularly on the Web, it's best to leave this notion to those who do.

Profits To Be Expected

Your purpose in building a mini-site is to generate profits. However, you are not looking to make a living off the site. Quite the contrary. You simply want to generate a separate income stream. And $200/month may be all you need. Given one such site, the trick is to continue producing others, adding to total income with each.

Claims Of Time

In notes about building mini-sites, one claim made often really bothers me. That you can toss such a site together in an hour or two. This is not even close to feasible for most.

Pros may be able to quickly gather parts of existing sales pitches with information from the affiliate program or the manufacturer of the product. Then, in short order, cobble together a sales pitch that works at least reasonably well. Still, I don't know anybody who really can manage this in an hour.

To me, time is part of the cost equation. It takes time to put together a slick sales presentation. More to define an advertising campaign. And even more to track costs versus results.

Generating Hits Is The Hard Part

Okay. You've got a good product, a neat sales letter, and an order form. All is looking good. Now how do you draw targeted traffic to read your pitch? This is the critical issue, for profits depend upon success in doing so.

Yahoo and other directories will ignore you. And response from search engines will be limited. Their visitors are not looking for sales pitches, so yours may not show up.

Many who demand that a mini-site be only a sales pitch and order form are excellent marketers who have been quite successful. Thus they have a large list of followers, many interested in reselling what is offered. They produce a sales letter, announce it to their list, and sales follow almost automatically.

Since few have such lists, options are reduced to advertising. Personally I feel the pay-per-click search engines are the best starting point. http//GoTo.Com can bite pretty hard with their fees. While less significant, there are many smaller engines of this type that can be used for experimentation. For a list, click here.

You Can Lose A Lot Very Quickly

If your mini-site is generating say $200/month and it's costing you $100/month to advertise, you're in a risky position. For one, you need to commit serious time to make sure your advertising costs remain reasonable. If you don't, you may take a look one day and discover you're spending $300/month to generate $100/month. Not exactly profitable.

Only when confident that an $M investment will consistently yield $N, will you be able to delete the tracking time factor from your costs. What M and N need to be will vary with the individual. However, many will be content with spending $50/month for $150/month profit, provided results can be expected to be consistent for a reasonable amount of time.

The Potential Is Grand

A good mini-site can be a steady income producer. It's something we all should consider doing. For myself, the models above seem insufficient. I prefer what might be called a themed mini-site. While the evidence is not conclusive, there are indications that search engines like such sites.

In this model, beyond the sales pitch there needs to be good content closely related to the theme. I haven't tried this as yet, but plan to do so. I like the fact that I can generate hits from search engines with this model, then experiment with advertising and pay-per-click search engines to generate even more targeted traffic.

Is This For Everybody?

Yes and no. Skills are required. If you do not have them and do not have the time to develop them, then I'd wait a time. But this aside, the answer is yes. Here's what you need.

Go for a one page site with an order form, then work with the pay-per-click search engines to generate hits. If you lack bucks, pass on http//GoTo.Com in getting started.

If you go for a themed mini-site, in addition to the above, develop search engine friendly content pages.

In either case, risks of time and costs are minimal. And potential is unlimited. So take the shot!