Case Study – Once I Bought a Website…

There is something to be said for those who build a site from the ground up and make it successful. It takes a certain bravado and courage, it takes a certain vision, and it takes a certain amount of hoopla to be able to take an idea, make it a reality, and then market it to a large enough audience to ensure that millions know about you.

But there’s also something to be said for those who take over existing sites — either though buying or managing them. Having recently bought the site at DriveSeek.com, I’d like to share my perspective as well as some possible pitfalls and tips for those taking this rarely praised route to Web success.

Do A Checkup

One of the greatest and most fearful things about taking on a new site is finding out what works and what doesn’t. Often a site can be very effective and popular, and yet have significant flaws. To diagnose these problems we’ll do a TERM analysis (yes, I did just make that up). A TERM analysis is similar to what we’d do if we were creating an initial plan for a site, however, instead of defining the Who, What, and When etc., we’ll look specifically for problem areas.

We’ll also need to determine our Target audience, assess how Effective the site is in achieving their goals, and provide them with a reason to Return to the site. Finally, we’ll Mine for untapped or unrealized resources that the site offers.

Complete the TERM Analysis

Because I’ve recently finished this type of analysis for the site I’ve recently bought, I’ll share those results with you.

Target Audience

Because DriveSeek is such a specialized service (it allows users to find online storage space that’s perfectly suited to their specific needs) the target audience is clearly defined: those looking for online storage space. In your case, though, it may not be so clearly defined, and you may need to poke around in the dark.

That said, one potentially problematic area we noted in defining our target audience invovled two groups of people:

  1. Those who need online storage space, but don’t know about DriveSeek
  2. Those who either don’t know about online storage space, or don’t know they need it

Thus, we’ve already identified two potential growth areas by increasing our non-target audience penetration levels.

Effectiveness for Users

The question we ask here is: when people who need storage visit the site, do they find what they want? I found that DriveSeek had actually been very effective, as first time visitors were offered a tour that showed them how to find the perfect storage drive for their needs. Similarly, return visitors received updates of DriveSeek’s service offerings onsite, as well as through an email newsletter.

Return users

This was found to be another area in which DriveSeek could easily perform better, simply by interacting more effectively with users. We’ll talk more about this in the Mining section.

Mining for Untapped Resources

We’ve already touched on some of the weaknesses of the DriveSeek site: lack of communication with users, lack of communication with storage companies, and lack of strong relationships with anyone. Until a relationship is established between DriveSeek, its suppliers, and its users, the site will continue to be a "last resort" for customers, rather than their first port of call.

So, how do we make DriveSeek a household name? This was the final question we sought an answer to, and in doing so, we outlined 5 key growth areas:

1. Establish a value-added supplier membership program.

We decided to establish a membership program for our suppliers, which they could join for a yearly fee.

What they get: prominent listing on the site, and a strong DriveSeek commitment to promoting the supplier’s services.

What we get: a "listed on DriveSeek" link on their Website, and a commitment from each supplier to build the relationship. This has the added benefit that it allows us to gather more accurate stats about the effectiveness of various campaigns and member sites, as well as records of any sales that are generated through these channels.

2. Increase the potential of the newsletter in 3 steps.

The current newsletter was not being used to its full potential (as was obvious by the subscriber list, which totaled less than 100 recipients).

Step 1 was to make the commitment to optimize the newsletter.

Step 2 was to promote the newsletter on the site.

Step 3 was to establish a recursive promotion in the newsletter. Essentially this was a contest held each month — the prize being either online storage or Website hosting. Each existing subscriber received 2 ballots, and additional ballots were awarded to those who referred others to the newsletter.

3. Increase user feedback.

Currently users interacted with the site only through reviews. By increasing their interaction with DriveSeek, and each other, we realized that we could create a community of users who’d share tips and tricks, and help themselves and others make the most of their online storage.

4. Cross-pollinate the newsletter and community.

This is pretty self-explanatory. After we grow the capacity of the newsletter and establish a community, these two entities should cross-pollinate and encourage growth in each other.

5. Team up with preferred partners.

By teaming with the "best" online storage sites in more effective ways, we can offer our users specials and inside information — content that can be fed into various industry news feeds with "provided by DriveSeek" attached to the bottom of every feed. This will increase the exposure of DriveSeek, and build its reputation not only as a search site, but also as an industry authority.

Living It Up On Your Site!

I truly hope this hasn’t scared you. In reality, to take an existing dream and make it better is one of the most exciting things a Web punk can do. Armed with the examples I’ve outlined above, you should easily be able to take any site and make tweaks to it that will bring it closer to that coveted "perfect site" status.

And remember, not every site has to be a Google or a SitePoint! As long as it does the best it can within its niche, its goal is fulfilled.

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