The recipe for building a 10 mn visitor website on a very small budget
It has been nearly five years since MySmartPrice started operations as a team of two laptops and two extremely ambitious engineers in 2010. When I joined MySmartPrice in 2011 as the sole member of the marketing team, the site had a traffic of 2 million visitors and a promising Alexa rank of 500. Nearly 3 and half years later, today MySmartPrice caters to over 10 million users and generates business worth $120Mn in a year in GMV terms. But we haven’t ever done a television advertisement, or hired giant hoardings, or built on the back of celebrity investments or controversies. This post is not self-praise; it is aimed at guiding some other aspiring people on what the right steps to take are, in building your business from the ground up. While some of these may be applicable to your business, some may not be, because of the very nature of the internet.
A dollop of SEO
Search Engine Optimization has spurred the growth of many great websites and startups, both in India and abroad. Today, the term is almost abused by content companies and “consultants” who promise quick traffic at cheap rates. SEO is more a science than an art, and not one to be handed over to an agency or even done in-house half-heartedly. The benefits of SEO are too many to list in a simple blog post. But suffice to say, with careful and deliberate effort, SEO shows your site to your target customers. When you rank first on a keyword that best describes your business and is a constant query of your potential customer, you have essentially won over your competitors who spent billions on traditional advertising to convince a small percentage of potential customers. Choose your battles carefully. It is nearly impossible for every wedding photographer to rank for “wedding photographer”. But perhaps you maybe able to rank for “candid photographer”, or maybe you can rank for “wedding photographer in bangalore” etc. Fair warning; SEO is a constant effort, and sometimes a difficult choice for entrepreneurs. By its very nature, SEO is extremely frustrating. Don’t expect SEO to be a one-solution-fits-all or as a quick growth channel for your traffic.
A dash of Social
Word of mouth and virality play a big part in building your customer base. It is not only important to build shareability into your product and engage users on Twitter or Facebook through posts, but also important to ensure customer experiences are share-worthy. Good companies build a brand more on word of mouth than on advertising. Adopt an informal and friendly tone on twitter, making sure to address all queries your users have. Encouraging users to share the experiences they have had with your brand, and then building on that to tell your story, is just as important as running Facebook ad campaigns and boosting posts.
PR to taste
Public Relations through newspapers, blogs and other news outlets is an integral part of building your business’s trust. If your potential customer has come across your name either on a magazine, or a newspaper article, or even on any tech blogs, chances are he may be less resistant to engage in business with you. PR as such is difficult to be done by just an agency and requires just as much effort from within the company. It is more about creating a good story than about which papers know of you. Building good stories, however, is extremely difficult. Not everyone can rely on controversy. Not every company gets massive amounts of funding, and, even worse perhaps, not every company has enigmatic founders who look good in print. What is important however, is to tell interesting stories through data, through product, or through innovations in some aspect of business, be it marketing, product management, hiring or even day to day operations.
Make your own Sauce
In today’s competitive market, the same strategies can’t yield the same results for everyone. What matters most is focusing on your core strengths and appealing to your customers in your own unique manner. While one company may build on strong SEO and gather visitors through careful and long-drawn-out strategies, another may gather huge returns by being more social. It may be so that your company makes more headlines in the newspaper than is affordable through paid advertisments. There is no one size fits all. The truth, however, is that most companies must find a recipe that best fits them. It may include a bit of all three in varying proportions. Here’s hoping that you find your own recipe for success.
About the author:
Ashwin Sreekumar Nair is a marketer and an occupational tech freak with avid interests in smart phones and modern gadgets.
He is currently the Head of marketing and PR with MySmartPrice, a price comparison site that finds the best price for users for products ranging from Mobiles, Cameras to Personal Care.