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Creating a "hub" site for your niche market

Hi all,

Recently I scored a great (from an SEO perspective) domain name. So I've been trying to think of ways to leverage it.

One idea that came to mind is to create a "hub" site for the niche market that my product is in. I would create a site that links out to all the products in this niche, provide some useful resources to people who would be looking for this kind of product, maybe a forum, perhaps even a low-volume blog.

I would of course make it very clear on each page that the site is sponsored by my product. This would serve as both full disclosure and drawing visitors to my site.

It is my understanding that Google looks kindly on hub sites (sites that link out to a wide set of sites that constitute a group, as well as getting inbound links). See for example:
http://www.webpronews.com/insidesearch/insidesearch/wpn-56-20050918GoogleHubSitesABlogGoal.html

There is nothing even close to a hub site in my niche right now. I realize this could be time-consuming, but the benefits could be huge. Right now I don't stand a chance to crack the top-three in the SERPs with my product site. There are well established sites with PR6 up there. But with a hub-site I might make it (though it would take a while).

I think at least one person on BoS tried something like this. This was a while ago and I can't find the thread anymore.

What are your thoughts and experiences?
OP
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
 
 
I don't know your market, but if it's anything like mine you'll find it a lot easier to score valuable links (.edus, .govs etc.) if you completely play down the commercial angle, or leave it out altogether while you're link building.
MB Send private email
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
 
 
If I understand correctly, you want to make a hub site to drum up interest in your niche, basically make it easier for users to get to your product by offering a more generic and supposedly independent site ?

Sponsoring a hub site sounds like a good idea, investing in the community of your users, as long as it really is independent. I think you'd need other people (users) to run it because it could take up a lot of your time and you don't want to be spending your time having to add links to your competitors' products.

The case of you owning the domain sounds a bit like conflict of interest. Could this site claim to be outside your control if you could take away their domain ? Maybe in this case it's better to keep the domain for yourself.
koan
Thursday, December 13, 2007
 
 
Mark Pearce Send private email
Thursday, December 13, 2007
 
 
Thank you Mark Pearce.

A quick look at Ian's hub site through Google's eyes is very revealing.

A search for 'open source help desk software' shows his hub site as number one. It has a PR of 3 and about 10 inbound links.

The second site, http://www.oneorzero.com/ has a PR of 6 and 124 inbounds. Its title is "OneOrZero Open Source Task Management and Help Desk Software" so it's totally relevant to my search query. Yet it came in after Ian's puny little link list.

This is powerful stuff!

Koan, the website will not be "supposedly independent". It will be disclosed as dependent on my organization. I am not going to try to pretend it's not my site.

MB, I'm interested in how you built up links that way? How did you present yourself as a useful resource to edus and govs without sounding commercial at all?

Thanks,
OP
Thursday, December 13, 2007
 
 
I think it's best to be up front like I did on OSHDL. Say you're providing it as a service. People are cool with it. I get emails all the time saying it's helped people out. Some choose HelpSpot, the vast majority don't.

This was a list that simply wasn't available anywhere else. If you can come up with something people are looking for then you'll have created a useful resource and folks will appreciated it.

I also recommend not doing any below board. For instance on OSHDL all the links are standard, I didn't add any nofollows or other bogus tricks. No redirector in between so they impart rank on who I link to. Spread the love.
Ian L Send private email
Thursday, December 13, 2007
 
 
OP, I've not made a hub site such as the one you're talking about, but I have got a bit of experience building links (or trying to build links...) by emailing editors of sites to request/suggest that they might include a link, typically in their news, blog, or resources sections.

I've found that quality links to my product home page are very difficult to get from .govs and .edus.  Certainly in my industry, many government and academic sites really don't seem to want to link to any product that isn't free, however useful that product might be.  In fact, this is often written as policy on their websites, and several others have responded to an email of mine to tell me that they don't list commercial resources.  (Frustratingly many of them will gladly link to awful sites and software tools, provided they're made by a non profit.)

I've found it a bit easier to get links to articles on my product website - articles that were useful information relating to, but not about, my product.  However, I do suspect that I'd have a much better strike rate if the web template didn't clearly convey the fact that those articles were part of a commercial product website.

I managed to get a couple of very good links through reprints of an ezinearticle that I published a few months ago.  I found a high-ranking .edu site with a blog about my niche, and suggested their readers might find it useful if they reprinted my article, which they did (along with the SEO'd links to my site in the author bio box).  I shall hopefully be doing more of this in the future :)

So basically it's the sum of these experiences that's convinced me that the further removed the content seems from a real business, the easier it is to get .govs and .edus to link to it.

I think Ian's angle is absolutely great - the fact that he's comparing open-source software and not his direct competitors must make the site seem much more impartial (coming from a commercial outfit), and therefore much more linkable.  Plus, although he's sharing the link love, it's not going to his most direct competitors (the commercial ones).

If you want to get the best links, you could leave your business out of it for the first year or so of link building.  However you might not be comfortable doing this (not sure I would).

Assuming not, you need a good angle that enables you to make a site that:
(a) seems (or really just *is*) an impartial enough resource to make links easier to get.
(b) brings traffic, link equity, or ideally both, to your site (ideally lots of it).

A sitewide footer link probably won't help (b) much, so you'll need some other way to funnel traffic and link equity to your site without affecting (a) too much.  Some sort of angle like Ian's, or maybe something a bit like the author bio box in an article (you could use different link text, and deep links to pages of your product site on each page of your hub).  Or maybe you could get traffic to your site through a newsletter of some sort.  Hmm...
MB Send private email
Thursday, December 13, 2007
 
 
Ian, thanks for chiming in. I was hoping you would.

I agree being upfront and open is key.

I think I would be providing a real service to people if I gathered all the information about this topic under one roof. I think people would be grateful, and would be cool with it being sponsored by one of the solution providers (me), as long as I make the content and links impartial. I do not plan on using any nofollows.

MB, Thanks for the very useful info.

I agree Ian's angle is ideal. In my case I'd have to showcase my direct commercial competitors. Not ideal, but I can live with it. They all have better PR than me anyways, eh. I'll also be doing a lot of linking to non-product resources (articles, maybe an events calendar for relevant conferences, etc...), links to governing organizations, etc...

Balancing (a) and (b) will be key to making this work. But at this point, I have very little to lose.

Thanks all for your suggestions.
OP
Thursday, December 13, 2007
 
 

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