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MarkB
04-17-2004, 09:41 AM
I posted this on my blog (http://www.markbridgeman.com/blog/enhancing-your-site-with-webmail/), but thought I'd share it here (since it'll get read by more people;)). Hopefully Chris is OK with this.

Enhancing Your Site With Webmail
4/17/2004

Iíve been meaning to write an entire article about this for some time, but for now Iíd just like to quickly cover the topic of providing your visitors with free email.

Right. So, whatís the point? Thereís already Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, and soon (once itís out of beta), GMail from Google. How can you compete?

Quite simply, because a free email account from your site has the one thing neither Hotmail, Yahoo or Google can provide: a connection (however tenuous) to your site. Your domain name, believe it or not, is important to people who visit your site and keep coming back. Particularly if you have a healthy community already in place.

A case in point from my own past experience.

In 1999, I launched a website called MaidenCentral.com. This was basically a blog (before I knew it was actually a blog!) for the latest news, gossip and fansite updates for Iron Maiden fans. It was the first Ďfan portalí - offering news, links portal and more - focussed on Iron Maiden, and within just a few months it was attracting up to 500 unique visitors a day (which, considering its niche, is quite healthy).

Even before we added a forum in late Ď99, I knew we had a healthy community surrounding the site - I received emails every day, the site was mentioned on other Maiden sites, and we also developed interesting cross-linking opportunities.

But I wanted something that would not only bring people back to the site, but also tell others about the site without much effort (or expense) from myself.

I managed this by finding a service called BigMailBox.com. They offered free email services for external sites (now a pay service, I believe; I do not use them any more), in exchange for a percentage of the banner space that would run within the web mail service. What did I get out of it? The ability to offer my visitors free @maidencentral.com email addresses with about 5MB of space.

In the first year, I had 3,000 people sign up. And it still kept ticking over up until I removed the site in mid 2002 (itís now live again as an AllPosters.com affiliate).

Maybe 1/3 of them used their account regularly. And of every email they sent, at the bottom would be a small footer reading:

MaidenCentral.com - News and Fan Portal For Iron Maiden Fans!

So, not only did I have people visiting the site every day to check their email (and, at the same time, see our latest news headlines), but 1000s of people who otherwise wouldnít hear of the site, seeing the link in their email. It wasnít SPAM, it wasnít intrusive, but it was noticeable.

I now use webmail for another of my sites, UltimateMetal.com, as a premium service for paying members. I now also use HiveMail, a web email script that I run on my own server, and therefore have complete control over (something I recommend, if you have a dedicated server, or a shared server that allows it). Although its success is different to Maiden Centralís, itís still a key reason why many people pay to become premium members on the site.

Free web email addresses for your users is one thing to always consider, if you think it would suit.

Resource: www.HiveMail.com

http://www.markbridgeman.com/blog/enhancing-your-site-with-webmail/

Mike
04-17-2004, 09:55 AM
Good article Mark :) Will try to do something like that on a site that I'm working on!

incka
04-17-2004, 12:48 PM
Might give it ago...

John.Prescot@I-Hate-Bremner.com...

How much would he pay for that...