One of the first projects my digital agency worked on was an online gaming website. We developed the business from scratch and grew it all the way from zero to over 3.5 million sessions per month. We worked on the project from the start up to the time it was acquired almost 2 years later.
Here are the lessons learnt from this journey:
Domain matters. If you have money invest in a good domain, doesn’t need to cost a fortune but a short or brand specific or “exact match” domain compared to irrelevant or random domains can really improve your business long term prospects. It doesn’t need to be expensive as long as it is good, don’t take me wrong, but games.com, playgames.com etc. are definitely superior than letsplaysomegamesforfree.com
Analytics. They exist, they are free, use them. Install analytics on day one of your business, your most valuable asset while trying to grow your business are your data. Use them and treat them as gold. Proper use of analytics can take you long way
Conversions. Setup goals and gather conversion metrics, even if you have free content make sure you have specific goals. In our case the goals were: click somewhere, stay on site 5+ minutes, visit and play 3+ games. You can segment and optimize based on your conversion rates and traffic sources
Create a growth list. On day one, write down 50 ideas for growing your business (don’t worry if they are too broad or sound stupid) Day two do the same but start being more specific. By day 7 you will have a nice list of 300+ ideas that can grow your user base and traffic. Now spend a day to rank those ideas by “time needed to implement”, “possible value added”, “risk”
Get traffic where you can get it. Don’t aim to receive only SEO or PPC traffic, look out where your people are and get the most out from any channel possible. Secondary search engines, yandex, social traffic, twitter ads, toolbars, pop traffic, produce and distribute content (e. Free games by developing or sponsoring them in our case), press etc. Don’t limit your biz, if it works it doesn’t matter where it comes from
No traffic source is small. If it converts, then use it even if its 10 visitors a day. If a source can be setup one time and bring you 10 pairs of eyes a day for life, then what are you waiting for?
Small successes accumulate over time. 10 visitors a day is peanuts but what about 100 of those sources? Think of your growth as a tower, the more bricks you lay down the higher you can go and the stronger your foundation is.
Never, never lose money. If your goal is not branding or raising awareness, then losing money is the stupidest thing you can ever do. Losing money has a cost, the nominal money cost, but also has an opportunity cost. Don’t throw opportunities into the dumpster.
Losses accumulate over time. Losing 100 a month when you make a few thousands might not seem much but 100 a month over many months is a 4 digit amount you could use for a range of productive activities. Being tolerant to loss allows you to accumulate losses and its a dangerous game
Know exactly what your value per conversion is. Break down by location, interests, gender, age group etc. segmentation is key to maintain profitability and as a consequence growth
Make an app. IOS and android, submit to secondary markets like amazon too. Even if your app is just a binder of your web version you can’t neglect a few links from apple, google, amazon and all those secondary marketplaces that scrape their content.
Be an authority in your niche. This might sound a bit vague if you compete with tech behemoths. It doesn’t matter if you are big or small, if you add value to your niche then you are an authority, this can be either through blog posts, producing software/tools/add-ons for free or producing content e.g. games. People will notice, people will quote and copy you, the more this happens the more your weight increases.
Grow a bit, repeat, cause a butterfly effect. Things get easier once you have the leverage of some size. The reality is that people don’t care about your startup, what if you had 10,000 users’ signup at your business? Or 5000 visitors a day? You exist, people start to notice, they start to care, deals will become easier.
The good deals exist for businesses bigger than yours. A new project we are working can get access to big providers if you sell over 500 a month. Big providers mean a wider range of services to our customers, better pricing, better margins, more growth.
Once we reached over 10,000 visitors a day with our gaming site people started to notice in the niche, deals became easier (advertising companies, games marketplaces access etc.)
Be a nice person/company to deal with. Reputations stick and will haunt you forever. If you are a bad people’s person better have another person handle your affairs. It became obvious to us that while trying to buy games to publish, developers kept note and many times gave us a better deal than having to deal with big companies
When you owe money, pay in seconds. Pay the same day or even in minutes if possible. People respect that and will prefer to deal with you next time and even offer discounts than go through net 30-net60 payment terms, bureaucratic company. When people need money they can provide great value to you for a same day payment
Be nimble, be flexible, not all deals are standardized. Be willing to lose a bit somewhere you don’t care much in order to get the deal. A quote I recently saw is “you give a bone but you get a dog”. It doesn’t matter if you pay a bit more for example if the content resonates with your audience or you can accept to feature a person on your site if the value they offer is more
YouTube influencers are gold. If you are good at what you do, people might make videos, more people will come, if your biz is not easy to be reviewed then contact people, you will be amazed how many people are willing to review you for free, cheaply, or a freebie.
People need to bring more people. Especially if you pay for traffic this is particularly important, if a person brings another person on average, your cost per client acquisition drops to half, you instantly reduce your cost by half or raise your competitiveness in bidding 2 fold. Of course this is not easy but you get how valuable this is. People can go miles to get a free service, if you offer a free service if people refer others then people will simply refer others.
Optimize often. Split test more often. Growth is a constant rat race and you need to be ready to use your data to push small or big improvements to your product as well as your traffic sources
Design a funnel. See where your visitors drop off, remove the bottlenecks and see your bottom-line grow allowing for more growth. Analytics is great for that.
Laser targeting means happier users, higher conversion rates, lower cost per user. If you are providing a specific sub niche, targeting the main niche wont work the best. Example if you target “games” while your game is a “racing game” you will probably annoy most of the users looking for casual games, social games, girl games and so on and so forth
Dream of it, believe it, you can do it. Ok now stop dreaming and get you’re a** to work. Do the effort, dreams only, wont get you anywhere. Growth is a daily repetitive process that needs time to show its true value. Prepare to sweat and stress but in the end you will prevail. We had days or even weeks of utmost despair when growth was flat lining. People there need your product, get it to them.
Account for seasonality. When you are plotting growth rates and month over month growth in users and revenue don’t despair if you miss a month or two. January will not be the same as December and summer not the same as winter, seasons change, check your trailing average instead
Know what’s up in your niche. Having connections in your niche or related niches help you know what happening what’s changing and helps you reap huge benefits as well as avoid situations, network as much as possible, attend events, be around in forums etc.
Cold email works. Competitors, or relative niche webmasters are people. They can be your friends if you really want to. Send an email, you lose nothing.
Don’t forget to stretch. Take a break, enjoy life. Growth is a long many month or even many year process. If you want to pull an all nighter go for it or even 3. Always know though that 3 spikes of work can never beat a consistent daily output of work. To do that be healthy and never give up. Go for it.
Marios is the CEO of Intergo Interactive Ltd. a digital marketing and technology agency based in Cyprus. The company is responsible for projects like 2pg.com and more recently fax.to. He has founded and grew many internet businesses including many high traffic websites. Connect with him at twitter @italosmarios, or use the contact form at intergo.com.cy/contact