I get many emails asking me for advice on starting a web site like The TechZone. Most are from readers, some are from people who have already started a site, but are having trouble getting visitors. Well, I’ve decided to put all I’ve learn about running a tech site into this blog post.
Now, I’m by no means the master of web publishing. There are many people who know a lot more about this stuff than I do. However, I will try to give you some tips that have helped The Tech Zone grow to the size it is now (200,000 page views per day).
While this article talks about starting a tech/hardware review site, the advice works for starting a game site or any other site (even a blog). The Tech Zone started out as Moto’s Project 504, a personal homepage about the first computer I built myself. I never started the site with the intentions of making it into a hardware review site. I never started it hoping it would make me rich or get me lots of free hardware from manufacturers. I created the site because of my love for computers. If I were to give you one piece of advice for tech site success it would have to be “Do it because you love it”.
There are tons of web sites and blogs popping up everyday from people who are just in it for the money or free hardware. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with that, and I have nothing against people who start hardware sites so they can make some cash or get some free product samples from the manufacturers. However, I really believe your chances of becoming a big site comes from your love of the site and not the things the site can bring you.
All the old school tech sites started out as hobby sites from people who were in it for the fun and never thought it would become a full blown business. Some of them are now household names – AnandTech, Tom’s Hardware, HardOCP, etc. I can assure you if you’re just in this for the money, you’ll never make it. Despite what it might seem like, running a tech site is not easy. The hours are long and the rewards are few and far between. Most people who run tech sites do it for fun and not for a living. This doesn’t mean you can’t make a living at it. I just wanted to let you know it’s not easy and very few webmasters are willing to put in the effort, and the money it takes to get their site to that level.
If I haven’t scared you away yet, then let’s get started.
Getting Hardware To Review
A hardware review site without hardware to review is kinda useless, right? Well, there are many sites in this situation. Manufacturers are not dumb. They are not going to send you their latest video card just because you’ve set up a hardware review site. Until your site gets over 200,000 page impressions per month, you can pretty much forget about getting any free hardware from manufacturers.
Now you have a problem. No hardware equals no hardware review. No hardware review equals no traffic. No traffic equal no hardware, and so on. How do you get out of this loop?
Until your site traffic builds to a level where manufacturers will send you hardware you will either have to buy your own hardware or find a local computer dealer who is willing to loan you hardware to review. That was how The Tech Zone got started. I was able to get loaner hardware from two local computer stores. Check with your local computer shop and see if they will do the same for you.
Content is king in this business. Without unique contents (hardware reviews in this case), visitors have no reason to return to your site. Posting news that is happening at other tech sites is not unique content. Ideally, you should do one unique articles per day. However, three per week is enough to keep people coming back.
While manufacturers may not send you hardware in the beginning, there are a number of internet vendors who will help you. I have received many review hardware samples from internet vendors like 1CoolePC, Crazy PC, CoolerGuys, Bigfoot Computers, FrozenCPU, and Directon just to name a few.
Just remember to be completely honest in your reviews. If something sucks, say so. Just because you got the product free does not mean you have to give the vendor/manufacturer a good review. Do not give in to pressure and believe me, some manufacturers can apply a lot of pressure on you, especially if you’re a fan site who depends on manufacturer support.
I have posted a few reviews where the manufacturers disagreed with what I said. Stick to your guns if you believe your review was fair. They will kick and scream at you, they will tell you that your testing method was wrong, they will tell you your site sucks, but when they have a new product release, they will send it to you.
Most manufacturers will want to see proof of traffic before they send you anything. The easiest way to do that is to use a 3rd party stats tracker like Sitemeter or Google Analytics. Not only do these services tell you a lot of information about your web site, it’s the best way to prove to a manufacturer that your traffic is not made up. Just point them to your Sitemeter or Google Analytic stats so they can see for themselves.
Even if you have no hardware to review, you can still create content in the form of articles and editorials. Articles on tweaking and various how-to don’t require any hardware in most cases. Do you know how to do something that no one else knows? Do you have some secret BIOS tweaks that will make a system run faster? Do an article on it!
The easiest way to get people to come to your new tech site is by sending out a news release. The release should be about a review or article you’ve written. Most news sites will not post about a new site launching. I get many emails from webmasters who tell me they have started a new site and then ask if I could post about it in The TechZone (or this blog). Unless you are a really good friend of mine, you’re not going to get a plug. However, send me an email saying you’ve started a new site and have posted a review of something new and chances are very good that your article will show up on the main news page.
I like to send out my news releases so the webmaster of the site has to do as little work as possible to post it. I word it so all he/she needs to do is copy and paste it to their news server. Here is an example of a news release I use:
Dear News Editor
The TechZone has posted a review of the Logitech AudioStation iPod Music System.
The Logitech AudioStation speaker system features matching satellites with two drivers each that together offer a wide dynamic range of clear, powerful audio. The 1-inch, high-definition, soft-dome tweeters produce high frequencies with remarkable detail and clarity, and the 4-inch, high-power, long-throw woofers offer deep, powerful bass. Its bi-amplified acoustic design delivers unprecedented performance from a surprisingly svelte system.
Direct link: http://www.thetechzone.com/?m=show&id=637
Image link: http://www.thetechzone.com/photo/data//515/195132575_6_1.jpg
If you think your readers would be interested in this, a post in your news would be most welcome.
John “Moto” Chow
Editor In Chief
There are tons of news site out there. Your job is to find them and add them to your news list. The TechZone’s news list has over 900 email addresses. If you want to send news to The TechZone, please do so at [email protected] Just make sure it’s real news.
Another way to get traffic is to submit your articles to all the social media sites that are popping up everyday. Getting on the front page of Digg.com will do wonders for your site traffic. Here’s a list of 357 Digg like sites. Most of them won’t send you a lot of traffic but they’re good for a backlink.
Here are some other posts that may help you on your quest for tech site success:
- So You Want To Be A Google Whore?
- News Sites That Send The Most Traffic
- Big Sites Rules, Small Sites Drool
- How Often Should You Update
- The Art Of Link Development
- Pumping Out The Content
- Other Advertising Networks Besides Google AdSense
I hope this helps. Good luck!