Website startups - big or small?
June 12, 2008 10:10 PM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a language-learning website which would take some time to set up. But while I'm doing that, I have thought about setting up a part of the future website - say a blog - and running it independently, hopefully to build up some traffic for a while before incorporating it into the full launch later, when it comes. Which does weblore say is better - to wait until your full site is ready to go, or to start small, potentially building up interest, and then develop? Are there any links giving thoughts on these issues?
posted by Holly to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Think outside of just websites and to general product development and marketing. If you were to launch, say a new book. But you only provided a few pages as a teaser to start, would that entice people to wait out for it or annoy them?

I don't think there is a definite opinion on this either way, but it seems what a lot of people do is have the site set up and ready to go, but seed interest with a development blog and beta invites. Ideas aplenty on the Mashable Forums about this.

The main thing you need to do is work out what makes your site unique from the thousands of other language learning sites out there - and promote that heavily.
posted by wingless_angel at 12:29 AM on June 13, 2008

It used to be all about a big launch, but that was when "a new website!" was newsworthy.

Starting small and building up is almost always the way to go now. Organic traffic, inbound links... they all work better over time, and cumulatively.
posted by rokusan at 12:51 AM on June 13, 2008

Best answer: Generating traffic is always a great thing for a new site. It can also build you credibility and a following in the business, (and get you a small bit of ad revenue in the meantime). Don't just talk up your product, link to other good language learning tools, blogs, articles so people know that you know what you're talking about and that you're truly interested and involved in language learning, and that you have good ideas. Make sure you get trackbacks/backlinks going so the places you refer people will know you exist and can reciprocate when the time comes. (And it'll help your Google pagerank.)

However it sounds like you're doing this whole thing yourself (or at least on a shoestring). That great, but don't let the blog get in the way of the main project. Maintaining a good, regular blog can take a lot of time. When I maintained a blog for similar reasons, I would make a week's worth of posts on Sunday and set a time delay so they would show up throughout the week. I think the Signal vs Noise blog from 37 Signals is a good example of how to do it, though you certainly don't need to keep up with that many posts. Again, don't let it overwhelm your main focus. See if you can get some guest contributors to take the load off of you.

Also, don't let it go stale. More than a month without a post and you're better off removing it. (Or re-dating all the posts...) It will make the business look stagnant and negligent. And don't let spam into the comments for the same reason.

Oh and have someone proofread your posts to put some spit and polish on that business image.

Geez, I sound like Columbo here. And another thing...
posted by Ookseer at 1:31 AM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd echo Ookseer point in 37Signals direction, in fact they wrote an ebook about just this topic - Which I'd really recommend.
posted by paulfreeman at 7:46 AM on June 13, 2008

Make sure you'll be able to get the main site out more or less on schedule. I've been using my blog to promote an online product but because the service side of my business has taken off (thanks to the blog), I haven't had enough time to work on the project. So the blog has a link to a site that's been in "private beta" since November 2007, which doesn't look too great.
posted by PatoPata at 8:08 AM on June 13, 2008

Best answer: Starting a blog as early as possible is definitely the smartest thing to do, from several perspectives:

1) Users. You absolutely can prime your site's traffic/potential userbase. The important thing to remember when working toward this goal, though, is that your blog shouldn't be about how wonderful the site's going to be and how cool all of the features you're planning are. Boooooorrrrrring. Your target audience isn't interested in your site, they're interested in the things that make them your target audience! Presumably, foreign languages, culture, travel, maybe passing their classes. Make those your focus, and you'll have a much larger audience you can occasionally ask things like, "how useful would feature X be for you in language learning software?"

2) SEO. Starting a blog early will make it a lot easier for people to find your service through search engines once it's launched, because the search engines will already have a decent idea of what your site is about. Not only will you already be indexed, your domain name will have history (important), and if you're writing good content people will be linking to you (very important)!

3) Connections. Even though the blog is only a sideshow to your service, in the beginning it's better to have a quality sideshow than nothing but promises of a quality main show a year down the road. The blog provides proof that you know what you're talking about to potential partners, investors, and customers. And having that online presence will bring connections to you that you'd be missing out on, otherwise.

Best of luck with everything! You may want to check out Lingro, they're an awesome language-learning startup, and the founders are very helpful guys. Also, Hacker News is a great startup community if you want more focused answers than you may get from MeFi.
posted by ElfWord at 12:34 PM on June 14, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for both your thoughts and your recommendations, everyone.
posted by Holly at 1:24 PM on June 14, 2008

I have always been interested in starting a business
posted by nanoboy at 5:34 PM on June 23, 2008

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