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How Inc.com generates revenue from business and legal forms

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Mansueto Ventures' Inc. brand had amassed almost 1,000 business and legal forms that its audience of small business owners and entrepreneurs could quickly pick up and use in their day-to-day business activities. These documents included templates, worksheets, checklists, sample forms, presentations, spreadsheets, reports and contracts.

Management at Inc. wanted to monetize these documents by selling downloads directly to audience members. “The idea of selling products and services to our audience, in addition to selling access to that audience in the form of advertising and sponsorships, is a big part of our mission going forward,” David Grossman, director of business development for Inc.com, said. “We've dabbled with [paid content] in the past and have been successful, but we are now more focused on pursuing it.”

Each of the documents Inc. wanted to include in the database required a three-sentence description for two strategic reasons: First, on the Web, this text would help lead to high rankings by search engines. Second, on the Inc.com site itself, these descriptions would ensure that the most relevant documents would be served automatically as related content when site users were interacting with relevant articles and using Inc.com's site search function.

In many business media organizations, this seemingly simple task of writing the document descriptions would land in the laps of the editorial team, but Inc.com hired a search marketing firm, Volacci Corp., to handle the job.

“We hired Volacci because their copywriting is of exceptional quality,” Grossman said. “There are plenty of examples of copywriting that is obviously designed for machines to read. We won't do that because we take our editorial quality very seriously.”

While Volacci provided expertise in producing content that is optimized for search, he noted that Inc.'s editorial resources “are better spent on other things. I don't know that we're set up to write 800 to 1,000 50-word descriptions.”

The library of documents has been integrated into Inc.com's resource center called Tools from Inc.com. In early 2009, Inc. partnered with Docstoc, a document sharing site for small businesses and professionals that gives Inc.com visitors access to more than 100,000 documents. Docstoc also provides the e-commerce platform used by Inc.com. “The majority of the documents we're hosting are in partnership with Docstoc,” Grossman said.

Ben Finklea, CEO of Volacci, observed that page titles are perhaps the most important element of SEO. “Your website's page titles, the line of text in the HTML of a Web page that summarizes what that page is about, hold important keywords so that your page can be properly categorized by Google and the other search engines; and the search engines usually use the page title as the heading of the search results,” Finklea said.

“Social media discovery is very important to us, too,” Grossman added. “It's growing, and we're investing a lot of time and effort into that. But you can't dismiss the importance of search engines.”

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