If you are reading this article now, you must have already realized that you are going to set up a classified website, or you are seriously considering this option. You have obviously gone as far as doing a basic search among the alternatives available on the market.
Many people worldwide start their online classifieds projects, but not all of those projects become cash cows. It is important to start right and to continue the same way in order to succeed. In this article based entirely on our huge experience, we are going to take you through 10 very important steps that you should keep in mind to maximize the benefits from your classified project.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? No, it is not all that easy. This point is paramount to the success of your project. You simply have to have a basic game plan in your head (better still, on paper).
Say, you want to run the one and only used Lamborghini classified website in Beverly Hills, CA. This is great for starters, but you need to keep this basic idea in your head for a little while longer to add a few important details to your basic game plan. These details are as follows:
You have thought about all of the above points, and you have this basic idea formulated in your head. Nice going! It is time now to move on to Step 2.
This is straightforward if you have done your homework during Step 1 above. You will need to come up with a 3-5 sentence paragraph covering the key information about your initial plan. Here is a great example of such an outline:
I am going to have a used Lamborghini classified website in Beverly Hills, CA area. I expect to have about 100k people that will visit my website each year, or roughly 10k per month. All Lamborghini owners are rich anyway, so I am going to have them pay $100/mo to list their cool cars on our website. In return, the only people in that area who can afford a used Lambo will see their listings, and I will also give them a free cool haircut coupon.
My target audience is composed of rock stars, pro golfers, etc. I need this website up and running in two months so that I can start marketing it among my friends and golf buddies, and I am ready to start the project now. My project budget software is $250 (it actually is $500 but I am not telling you that because I expect you developers to come up with a great website in less than $500).
I need the software that will help me do all this and a nice looking Lambo template.
There you go; you have the idea documented. You can send it to our sales people and have them look at it in order to offer you the best solution. Go on to Step 3.
Studying what your competitors have to offer is a crucial step in your project. We would say you should do that concurrently with your goal formulation. Knowing what the competing projects offer, you can shape up your project to position yourself in a unique niche.
Market research is a very popular and widely covered subject, so we are not going to spend too much time discussing it here. In fact, we can safely skip the description of the market research methodology by referring the people interested in finding out more to google that topic.
You should now be able to make certain adjustments to your initial plan if required, and then move to Step 4.
This is an important decision you cannot underestimate in your preparations.
Our experience shows that many people immediately shoot for the stars and decide to go for a nation-wide project in their marketing strategies. For smaller countries such as Belgium or Costa Rica, it usually makes sense because running province-level classifieds is a waste of time when your project can be recognized on a national level quite easily.
However, for a US-based website, going nation-wide from the very beginning is overly ambitious and is hardly justified by the budget you are ready to spend on it. There are tens of thousands of those who opened up their websites planning to sell for everybody, and 99% of them are selling for nobody in particular or not selling at all.
Let us look at a very simple example. Autotrader.com, one of the biggest car classified services on the US market, comes up with a meager 58 listing search total for new cars in the 10-mile radius of ZIP 17321. Yes, the Fawn Grove, PA, area is not THE car dealer Mecca of the USA. Still, the search found ONLY 58 cars in the 10-mile radius. Can you offer anything better for every ZIP code on your nation-wide website?
Now, creating a website for a specific county or a city will make a lot more sense. Why? The answer is straightforward.
Your website will be THE only one that features ALL the local car dealers regarding of their size, ad budget, or the level of owner’s computer literacy. Guess which website will be more influential for this region, Autotrader.com or yours?
Ok, we know the market, we know the competition, and we know how big we need to be. Now it is time to define a service model for your website, which covers how you are going to service your customers and what it will cost them, if anything.
Think about how is going to pay for what based on your customers (those who post listings). For example, set a pay-per-listing charge for individual Lambo owners ($100/listing), and charge any luxury car dealer a $500/mo fee with unlimited listings. Sell Featured Ads at $500/week, and charge $200 to highlight ads.
Having identified the cost of your services, you are ready to move to the next Step.
It is evident that your project budget is not what it used to be when you started thinking about getting your own website. Just as a reminder, your initial budget was set to something like $1.2k for the entire project.
To cut things short, we would recommend you set a $3-5k budget for your initial project that would include a marketing budget. If you save money in the end, that is awesome, you can buy yourself a new IPad or whatever, if not, you will at least know that your money is well spent on a cool website that is visible to your customers.
You are now ready for this step.
First, get a great domain that is nice for SEO purposes and reflects the nature of your website. The art of domain selection goes beyond the scope of this article due to a number of tips and tricks involved that we will cover later.
Then, find and purchase the appropriate software package (we will assume it is a Worksforweb product) by selecting features you need for your project. It is typical for manufacturers to add more free stuff into more advanced packages (and we are no exception). This turns expensive packages into a better value-adding choices in the long run compared to the entry-level packages.
Next, take minimum system requirements from the manufacturer and ensure your hosting server meets them. None of our colleagues would ever give a refund based on the system requirement mismatch. To be sure, send server requirements to Hosting Support and have them confirm the compatibility in writing (just in case you need to change hosting servers later).
Then, order a custom design. Your website will have to be unique and visually attractive. The cheapest way is to buy a ready-made design and have it adapted to the software. A more expensive option would be to have a visual designer draw you a unique one, which is great, but it may take time.
So, with all the above done, you are all set to read the next Step.
Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Starting early means that you should go ahead and expedite installing a default package on your domain before working on a list of changes you need.
This is extremely important even if it may not make sense. It appears that your website is not ready to go live yet, however, it can still be crawled by search bots.
Certain reputable search engines (such as Google, for example) put every new website through the probation period of some sort. Search engine spiders crawl your website immediately upon its URL submission, but then some search engines wait for a couple of months before starting to show your website in search rankings.
Even if you have the greatest website in the world, they still will not display it until the probation is over. It is done to make sure your website is bona fide and not a silly traffic-boosting hoax. Therefore, put something on your hosting space ASAP and work on changes as time progresses.
Finally, it is a perfect time to request all those mods and changes you have been dreaming of.
Think of the custom features that are not in the default setup. It may be a custom field set, a new payment processing service, or integration with third party services such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Put up a good description of what you need customized, and request a quote. Descriptions like “I want everything to work and look like www.craigslist.com” are the worst descriptions you can come up with. Nobody but the developers of Craigslist.com know exactly how their websites work. This means that you will not be able to check and verify the fulfillment of your order, but you can count on developers making additional provisions in the quote just in case you start nickel-and-diming with them on features they “missed”. Smart developers will not ever accept this as a tasking order.
If you receive a sensible quote (custom work usually costs more than what you paid for the ready-made software) which is within your budget, then go ahead and accept it.
Ok, your custom classified website is now live and is fitted with all the changes essential to its success, and you are ready to service customers. You need to start advertising your services, but before you do so, stop for a moment.
The history of Internet is full of services that became victims of their own popularity. A decent marketing budget and a team of marketers who know what they are doing can pump in website visitors in thousands per day. However, the last thing you need is see your new customers leave your website and never come back because of a hosting-related issue or server overload.
To avoid losing new customers, we recommend that you test your waters first with organic visitors and build up your Web presence gradually. This will involve improving your servers, troubleshooting your interfaces, streamlining your business processes, introducing new features, etc.
With proper planning, you can grow very rapidly in months, but with no expansion strategies handy, you are doomed to join the ranks of losers.
Having read the above, you now realize that a process of building a unique classified website that provides valuable services to your visitors and customers, and lots of money to yourself, is a job that requires time, effort, money, and skills.
However, for those who manage to balance all those factors, taking part in the rat races as Robert Kiyosaki skillfully named the never-ending climb for a fatter paychecks, will soon become your hobby, not a necessity. In a year or so, you will have an opportunity continue running your online business yourself, or sell it at a substantial profit to those who cannot do what you can, and start a new service based on the lessons learned.
Author: Sergei K. Worksforweb Sales Department
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