I like interviewing webmasters from time to time to find out some info about them and their web businesses. Following is an interview with Mark Doust who runs www.site-reference.com a web forum for people with new web businesses. Some great advice in here that I think is valuable especially on how to get started. Very interesting method of promotion in terms of referral marketing and article PR.

If you run more than one website. What is the name and URL of your primary website?
Site Reference (http://www.site-reference.com) is easily the largest website that I am associated with. I am also working on NFL-Forums.com and BrewingKB.com, although these are more hobby sites at this time.

The internet provides access to global audiences and markets. Where are you located and is your market influenced by your location?
I am located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Although my market is not influenced directly by my location, I always find it fascinating to see the demographics of my visitors.

What were the circumstances that led you to start your site/online business?
Initially I got started on my own sites/businesses after I found myself without a job. It is amazing how much motivation you can have when next month’s rent depends on making some money. I have actually always been involved in some business venture in one way or the other. I love the process of starting something, growing a business, and watching it morph into something entirely on its own. I promise you that at any given moment, I am working on at least two or three new projects.

What does this site do?
Site Reference is a resource for webmasters with a concentration on the newer website owner. We offer advice on web design, search enigne optimization, and various marketing methods. We also have built an extremely useful community of users in our forums.

Is this your only site?
Sometimes I wish it was. :) I always have new sites being built.
Are you a full time web business person or do you have other income as well?
I am a full time web business person and have been fulltime since 2003.

There are many methods of promotion for website. What do you do and which do you think are the most effective?
Well there is no single answer to this question – it depends entirely on your website. What works for an information based site like Site Reference will not necessarily work for a retail website.

Site Reference depends almost entirely on people referring other people to the site. We try to publish high quality articles which others will refer to their friends, talk about in forums they participate in, or link over to in their blogs. This has been extremely effective for us for years and will certainly be a corner stone of the site’s continued growth.
But as I said, of each of the many methods available, I am not too partial to any one in particular. I think PPC is a great promotion method if you are selling a product or service with a known value. Article marketing (if done correctly) can be extremely good if you are selling an informational product.
But if I were to talk about my favorite and least favorite, it would break down like this:

Favorite Marketing/Promotion Method:
Referral marketing/viral marketing/public relations. This is so powerful, and so cost effective, it is easily my favorite method of marketing. Unfortunately, it is also one of the more difficult methods to master (I certainly have not yet mastered it). The web’s most popular services and sites today grew as a result of referral marketing.

Least Favorite Marketing Method:
SEO. This may surprise some people, especially since I focus a lot of my time personally on SEO. The problem that I see with this method is that people tend to rely on search engines making sales for them. It makes absolutely no sense to base your business’s success on the whims and fancies of another company that you have no control over. Don’t get me wrong, SEO is great – I love SEO as a bonus to any marketing campaign, but I would never base the success of my business on a search engine.

What techniques did you use in the beginning to launch the site?
Site Reference was built using article marketing almost exclusively. Article marketing falls under that referral/public relations in my opinion. If you write quality material that actually helps people, you will quickly find that you will be looked to as a resource.

What are your main sources of revenue from the site?
Ad sales are the primary revenue from the site, although the site does fairly well with affiliate product sales and adsense revenue.

Where do you see key opportunities in the future for revenue?
Really just an expansion of the advertising sales. Site Reference is recognized by literally hundreds of thousands of website owners. At the same time, we try to keep our ad rates extremely reasonable that our advertisers can see a real return on their investment.

Where do you see yourself in a few years time?
I’m sure my wife would like to know the answer to this one as well. When I look back on where I was five years ago, I never would have thought I am where I am today. So where will I be in a few years? I honestly don’t know. I see no reason to believe that I won’t be building new sites that will hopefully help people in some way.

If you could give two pieces of advice to aspiring or new webmasters/internet business owners, what would they be?

  1. Just get it done. I talk to so many people who say that they want to work for themselves or get something started, but they never do anything about it. When I was first starting out on the Internet, I had a full-time job which involved the Internet. So after a full day of work online, I would come home and spend an additional 6 – 7 hours working on my computer. It certainly was not fun, but the work needed to be done.
    If you really want to start something, realize that you just need to get it started. Plan your steps, but most importantly start doing and stop saying that you want to do.
  2. Do not be afraid of technology. Learning the technical side of the Internet (such as how the Internet works, how to manage the basics of a webserver, learning HTML/CSS and a basic programming language) is invaluable. Do not be afraid of it – it is actually easier to learn than you may think. Iniitally it will seem completely foreign, but as you continue to expose yourself to it and play around with technology, it becomes quite easy to manage.

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