What if you found a online publisher that would run advertising for your site, offer you exclusivity, keep your ads up indefinitely -- and charge you nothing?
That's the happy situation when that publisher is you.
The trick, of course, is building a second site that generates sufficient traffic. Not a spammy bogus scraped content site. A real site, with real content, written to appeal to real people who would also be interested in your core business. Building such a site takes work, creativity, and some luck. And it might not have a positive ROI for a good long time. But the idea is interesting.
Consider Regiftable.com, a site dedicated to stories about regifting. The site is about sharing regifting experiences. There's a contest: the highest voted story by year's end wins a label maker and a Seinfeld DVD. (Wikipedia credits a Seinfeld episode with coining the term.)
There's nothing to buy on the site. But there is one ad on the bottom of every page from the site's sponsor, Money Management International, a credit repair firm.
As of this writing, Regiftable has gained 111 media mentions (Google News) and 51 blog mentions (Technorati). For a single day -- Nov 20th -- Regiftable enjoyed four times the reach of Money Management International (Alexa numbers, so take with a grain of salt). 440 people have submitted stories.
Positive ROI? Probably not. They'd need 400k visits to Regiftable to break even, assuming (more wild guesses) a 1% click-thru from Regiftable to MMI, a 0.5% conversion rate on MMI, and a $250 profit per conversion.
Anyway, here's my favorite story from the site:
I threw a Christmas party last year and got all kinds of gifts - packages of candies beautifully wrapped, but who's going to eat it? On my way to a party the following week, I found myself empty handed for the hostess, with a candy-box snowman in the back of my car. I thought about the "rules" of regifting and decided that though the giver and reciever of the regift live five doors away, they didn't mingle in the same cirlce. Arriving late, I found a parking place, a hostess gift, and was feeling great as I walked down the street when a car came around the corner. I stood in the middle of the street with the headlights on me, soon recognizing the car... the original giver of the gift! She pulled up and stopped; she and her girlfriend laughing hysterically. I laughed "I'm sooooo busted!" When they could finally utter a word through laughter, the girlfriend says about the driver (who gave me the gift) "I'm the one who gave HER that gift two weeks ago!"
As his day job, Tom runs a family of online businesses on the theme of "things sufficiently embarrassing you'd prefer to buy them online." His PriveCo Inc sites include ShopInPrivate.com, Private Way.com, MinoxidilShop.com, Bachelorette.com, SexToyParty.com, and BacheloretteParties.com. Tom provides a nice video tour of his company.
On the side, Tom enjoys carving pumpkins.
Not your basic pumpkin carving, but extreme pumpkin carving. Think sawzalls, routers, and serious flames.
Here's Tom's description of the site:
Extreme Pumpkins.com is my personal website. My name is Tom Nardone and I am the president of an Internet retail company. This site resides on our servers and we pay for the costs to maintain it. We hope you like it.
Carving pumpkins is something I enjoy, yet most of the pumpkin carving websites were not to my tastes. I decided to make a pumpkin carving site that included shocking, funny, and gross pumpkin designs. The concept is about adults having fun during the halloween season. This site does include sponsor links for my company at the bottom of each page, but it is doubtful that it will be profitable. Instead, it is just a fun website that I put together with the help of some friends.
We stumbled onto this site planning our company pumpkin carving afternoon in October. Tom's site was first in many many pumpkin searches on the major engines.
I was intrigued by the site -- both as a marketer and as a pumpkin carving fan -- and exchanged emails with Tom.
I asked Tom if the site was for a SEO marketing play, or fun, or both.
Tom replied, "The pumpkin site is just for fun. Some of the other ones are somewhat business oriented, but sometimes I do a site just for fun."
I believe him.
Yet I also bet he got good deal of free traffic from Google around Halloween. And will do so again, each October, for zero cost. Tom's central personal site says he has received 5 million visits across the last 8 years.
An excerpt that gives a sense of his pumpkin site:
Here is my friend Matt with our flaming head pumpkin. This pumpkin was all about flames. It had a flame top, and a "Ouch! My head is on fire" expression. It needed some serious fire to go with it.
We tried a few different combinations and materials before we came up with a great solution.
This pumpkin used an aluminum pie plate that contained some crumpled up paper balls. These balls, the pie plate, and the flames of the pumpkin were sprayed liberally with charcoal lighter fluid.
It burned for 5 minutes with strong flames the whole time.
Is the traffic qualified? That is, are folks interested in flaming pumpkins likely to be interested in sex toys and bachelorette parties?
I'm not sure. Regifting stories are much more closely related to credit repair than pumpkins are to bachelorettes. Still, "free" is an attractive price for traffic: any conversion at all is above break-even.
Additional brand-consistent high-quality low-cost content sites for SEO. Think about it.