How To Start A Tech Site

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!

Getting Traffic

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.

Quote:
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.

Thank you.

John “Moto” Chow
Editor In Chief
www.thetechzone.com

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:

I hope this helps. Good luck!


22 thoughts on “How To Start A Tech Site”

  1. Great article!

    It will help me a lot to startup my businesses i have in mind.

    I agree with you it’s hard to get a news item about a new launched website published directly on news sites. I also agree the method you are telling works, to send an article pointing to your site.

    For example take this article you have wrote, maybe it’s accidental or maybe it’s your intension, but right now you are promoting your blog very well. I’m sure this article will get digged many times and distributed through many blogs, so your URL “thetechzone.com” will get good promoted 😉

    Keep on doing your good things! I love to read your blog daily!

  2. Thomas says:

    I also have a tech site and started it just like you as a hobby a few years ago. I wasn’t really hoping for any revenue or free samples when I started it but after a year (or a bit longer) I discovered AdSense. I started making like $1-$2 a day but this increased a lot once I got more traffic and learned how to optimize my ads to get more income.

    Currently I’m a bit more interested in making money with affiliate networks but I still put quit a few hours of work in my site each day, the only thing I don’t really do anymore is writing new reviews or real unique content like howto’s, guides, … I liked writing reviews but nowadays I think it just takes way too much time lol.

    Do you still write all your reviews for TTZ or have you outsourced this to tech savvy friends or people you met on the Internet?

  3. John Chow says:

    Thomas – I try to do one article a week. The rest are done by staff or freelancers.

    Falco Pangkey – Thanks for the feedback!

  4. HMTKSteve says:

    John,

    This article is an example of why you DO belong on the front page of Digg.

    Well written and full of meat!

  5. siong1987 says:

    Ya… HMTKSteve, you are right. This article should belong to the frontpage of digg.

    Dugg.

  6. Nomar says:

    very strong article, really good, i enjoy it everyday to read your stories, strong content 🙂

  7. Mitza says:

    These days I was thinking at a website like this, and I didn’t know how I’ll do the reviews.But I’m still wondering how gagets websites, or luxury websites do their reviews, because I saw on some pages products of thousands of dollars reviewed.

    Another useful post idea : John could you shows as what are the steps of a review, the main parts. 🙂

  8. Techflock says:

    Inspiring and very well said. I am a big of fan of your site – I just discovered it couple of days back!

  9. Dave says:

    You’re right John it really is a catch-22 situation. You start with nothing and from there it really is difficult to build the momentum needed to sustain interest from manufacturers/vendors and alike. What you are eluding to is networking, making contacts borrowing from people who have the goods in exchange for maybe a note of thanks in the article itself which is akin to free advertising. From there interest from both vendors and visitors will start to grow and eventually you will hopefully gain traction. My question to you is, assuming you did all of the above (and more quite likely) how long did it take to reach the 200,000 level of visitors you speak of? Keep up the good work!

  10. Ian says:

    Also, do yourself a favour and read up on search engine optimization. Don’t cheat. Don’t buy traffic from shady “web traffic brokers”. Don’t click your own ads. Write reviews of stuff you buy anyway, it doesn’t have to be things companies send you to review. Your new TV. Your brother’s new mouse. Your friend’s laptop from work. Try to find a niche – there are a million and one hardware review sites and gadget sites. How are you going to be different? Be edgy. Be creative. Be quirky. Show some personality.

  11. Rayman says:

    John,

    I have a bunch of info sites that are new. Some are tech some aren’t. What in your opinion is the best way for a new site to solicit companies to submit news?

    I manually comb the big tech companies’ web site press release section but I find they don’t always update as quickly as news that appear on other tech sites. I also subscribe to any press release mailings but still run short on daily news items to post.

    How did you initially entice companies or sites to submit news until you get to where you are now; where you have so much you need an editor to weed out content.

    Thanks

  12. John Chow says:

    Networking is a very big part of tech site building. You are building relationship as much as a site. Your relationship with vendors that supply you with review samples can almost be viewed as a lifeline. The truth of the matter is, that 200,000 page view figure is just something I threw out – it could be more, it could be less. It really depends on how well the manufacturers know you. I’ve seen ex-writers of other tech sites start their own sites and without any traffic at all, are able to get manufacturer support because they are a known quality.

    While traffic will grab a manufacturer’s attention, the best way to go about it is to meet them at the trade shows. Spending the money to attend a major trade show like the Consumer Electronics Show that is happening this January shows the manufacturers that you are serious about your site. I go one-step further by throwing a big party in my hotel room the night before CES starts. It’s a great way to meet up with my product sponsors, advertisers and media friends.

    It also lets me stay in a $3,000 a night hotel room and write it off as a business expense. 🙂

  13. Laura says:

    Hey John –

    I will see you at CES! 🙂

    Great post, as usual. It’s interesting to read from the “other side.” I agree with much of what you said. 🙂

    Laura

  14. Rayman says:

    Thanks for your insight John, guess I’ll have to get out there and pound the pavement a bit.

  15. marcel says:

    Being one of those who asked for help, I’m glad your so generous.

  16. Jerry says:

    Yet another great gift to the internet. I like the advice to loan the hardware from the local PC shop. It’s probably even better if you know someone who is already working in one of those shops. I bet they probably take some cool hardware home to play with themselves and then reshelf them when they’re done.

  17. Vikas says:

    Nice Article.
    Can you suggest me some way to get the news service’s lists. W/out Searching ofcourse.

    By the way nice blog. 🙂

  18. Qwerty_ says:

    Nice post there John I really enjoy reading all the posts you have made, they have really inspired me.

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