Starting a business website - Forum Networks

Discussion in 'Starting a Business' started by MickyT, Sep 26, 2010.

  1. MickyT

    MickyT
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    Hello everyone, hopefully someone can point me in the right direction here. We have been considering opening a website that would be like a network for our sites providing potential advertisers a place of reference and contact as well as linking all our sites together, theres only 6 at the moment however due to selling a few two months ago. What we would also want to do is provide varied services to the public involving forum type services such as forum posting, forum maintenance, forum staffing and other related forum type jobs and perhaps even some web design/dev services. We already have a domain name which we feel covers all of these things and the name itself is really flexible when it comes to what it could be as long as the content is web related.

    Do you think it could be successfully done where its a network homepage for our sites, a services site and also a place for advertisers to contact us and find out more about pricings and such?

    Does anyone know of any other sites similar to this that are successful in terms of SEO, customers and such?

    I would appreciate any solid advice on this if anyone has any.

    Many thanks :)
     
  2. Fergal

    Fergal
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    MickyT, I know that you own some great forums and it is certainly possible to set up a network site like that. Please see links below to similar sites that I'm aware of;

    http://www.internetbrands.com/ - the owners of vBulletin software and a network of quality forums
    http://www.verticalscope.com/landing.html

    This is to give you an initial indication I will think about it further and post back more later today or tomorrow.
     
  3. MickyT

    MickyT
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    Thanks Fergal, those are sort of what I would want but with the inclusion of services from the company itself, would that be wise do you think or would that do nothing but hinder the business when it comes to selling ads and such? I am really new to the world of business to be honest and I would like any insight on this at all, even ideas on what you might think would be good or bad. I am not even sure if it would be classed as a business at first, more of a hobby to begin with but slowly turning into one if you get me. One thing that worries me a little is things like having employees and such, I notice IB has plenty of them, if I were to start something like this it would only be myself and my partner, at least to begin with. Also do you know if a business, if this is one, would need to be registered and such in the UK and would such a business be taxable and in what circumstances would it be? I think it would be more or a freelance type business if that makes sense to you. I really know very little about businesses, taxes and these questions probably seem stupid :D
     
  4. PaulPinnacle

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    The only stupid question is the one you don't ask, so don't be afraid there. The whole point of a forum like this is to be able to learn from the knowledge and experience of others, so never be afraid to ask.

    I don't fully understand what is trying to be 'grouped' together. You wish to offer paid advertising on an existing network of sites (great to have a single port of call for advertisers to go to and get information quickly and easily - so all positives there) and also offer a number of other/related/complementary services (such as web design, forum related services, etc.)?

    If so, it seems fine to be able to group these under a single 'business' and even a single domain (as they are all linked/related to some extent).

    In terms of SEO, as long as you can clearly explain each area clearly to the visitors and set your navigation of the site up in a clear and understandable manner (for both users and SE's), you shouldn't have any issues at all (and, if done right, quite a number of positives from such a system when it comes to trust and authority building).

    In terms of customers, as long as the site is easy to understand and navigate (if they're interested in a single element/offering they should be able to get to that area quickly without superfluous information blinding them) it should only have advantages really. It gives you a great opportunity to upsell and allow your customers to achieve a one stop shop for numerous services they might wish to acquire (e.g. they get a web design with a new forum and can get the forum postings from the same supplier).

    You do need to be aware of the potential negatives:
    - If you can't get your various offerings across clearly to the users, they might struggle to understand what you provide.
    - Potential for difficulty in 'branding' the services and developing a name in any single area (but this is down to your ability to manage it)
    - If you provide a poor service in one area (e.g. if your web design service develops a bad name) it could have negative impacts in other areas of the business.
    - If you interlink the various ventures, losses in one area can/will have serious impacts on profits from another area of the business (only really an issue if you had intended on going for a limited liability company in one area).

    There are various options open to someone wishing to operate as a 'freelancer'. Self employed, sole trader, partnership, company, etc.. There's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to do it, it will all come down to the specifics of your situation and your aims/needs for the business.

    In terms of tax, you're liable for assessment on any additional income you receive (including the existing advertising revenue you're getting, so worth checking out where you stand on that) but there are more than likely certain figures you need to hit before you're actually liable for any payments. I'm not familiar enough with the UK system to comment on this, so hopefully some of the other UK based users can help you here. If not, most accounting firms offer a free initial consultation with perspective clients where you should be able to get most of the information required.
     
  5. Fergal

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    MickyT, another similar busienss that I forgot to add yesterday was http://www.crowdgather.com/ - they are actually very similar to what you are looking to do, in that they own a network of forums and they also provide forum services to their clients. That is something you can do and the services are complimentary so they could work very well together.

    By the way Internet Brands was recently sold for $640 million, Which is pretty good evidence that the model can be profitable.

    I wouldn't worry about not having employees at this time, you don't necessarily need them. You can start off small and add employees as the business grows and develops.

    Writing a basic business plan would help you a lot to clarify the type of business you want to set up, the services you would provide, your target market, how you are going to sell to them and how you are going to make a profit. Have a look at some of the business plan templates in the Business Plan Template section of our Useful Business Resources / Links thread, for guidance.

    As I always advise, write an initial draft plan for yourself, keep it as real as possible without worrying what potential investors or anyone else would think if they read it. Spending even a couple of hours sketching out a basic draft of a business plan, really could help you a lot.

    Another similar network that I forgot to add to the list is http://www.ifroggy.com/
     
  6. Cathy Duncan

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    Fergal: Well, in my opinion, the latest addition to the list seems pretty good from all perspectives. Isn’t it?
     
  7. neha.lemon

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    Yeah I do agree with Cathy, latest addition seems pretty than any other in list.
     
  8. Fergal

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    Yes iFroggy is a great forum network and the iFroggy forum network owner has written a great book on forums, that is well worth a read for any forum owner Managing Online Forums by Patrick O'Keefe.
     

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