So you want to run a deals site?

Michael Glozman, the chief bargain hunter behind CheapStingyBargains, is today’s guest at ProBargainHunter. I asked Mike to shed some light on what it is like to be running a bargain site as a full-time job and here is his story, enjoy!

For those of you who don’t know who I am, I founded (now known as about 3 years ago and have never looked back. Before running my deals site, I held various jobs in IT: Hardware Tester, Network Engineer, Performance Tester, and QA Anaylst. Despite the different IT jobs I worked, I never found my “calling” in the IT field. I knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial, but I had no idea what to do. Blogging was just starting to really become popular, and I tried unsuccessfully to blog about the details of my day. Pretty boring :)

Then came inspiration: I read an article about Adsense on Matt Haughey’s site (sorry, can’t find the original article). Matt wrote that he had earned $750 that month using Adsense. I was floored. Just think… making money writing about fun topics that interest ME and earn money while doing so. My wife and I had a baby on the way, so I thought if I could earn anything at all, it would go to child care.

CheapStingyBargains Logo

By stumbling on a single article, was born (admittedly, there were a few unsuccessful attempts before, but I won’t mention them here!). Because the site started out as a true blog, it was hosted on Typepad. I knew nothing about affiliate marketing, in fact I didn’t even know it existed. I decided I was just going to blog about cheap deals on the web, offer some consumer tips and monetize the site with Adsense. I wrote around one post a day and had virtually no traffic.

One day, about a month after I started, I logged on to my site and checked the stats — I saw there had been 1,000 visitors in the last hour! Wow, what had happened? I checked the referral logs and realized that super-blogger Jason Kottke had given me a SMALL link in his remaindered section of his site. I was ecstatic. I had placed Adsense throughout the site and logged in every hour to watch my earnings roll in.

The next big referral came from Yahoo. My site was named Yahoo site of the day! For the second time I was stunned with my good fortune. Yahoo sent me 10x the traffic that Jason had sent. And it lasted for a good two weeks. My site was officially a success and I worked very hard to capitalize and maintain the good fortune.

Over the next few years there were many ups and downs. As my site grew, Typepad could no longer support the site efficiently so I had to move to my own server and platform. Additionally, I decided to remove “bastard” from the name and replace it with “bargains” so I could have a more mainstream appeal. These two decisions wreaked havoc on the Google rankings I had earned since the site’s inception, but in the long term were well worth it.

Now three years since I started the site, things are pretty stable. I run the site full time with two other employees. I’ve never been happier. You can do the same thing, but it’s not easy. The deals business is more competitive than ever. So here are five tips for starting a deals site if you desire, or any site for that matter:

1. Learn SEO!

I can’t emphasize this enough. If you don’t know how to make crawlable, indexable, rankable (is that a word?) website you might as well quit now. If when I started I knew a tenth of what I know now about SEO, I would have earned 10x as much as I earned the first year.

Don’t bother hiring an SEO consultant either. Learn for yourself by reading what’s freely available. A couple of my favorite informational sources are The SEO Book ($79, but well worth it), Webmaster World forums and Digital Point forums. If you have a brand new site, you’ll probably have to wait a substantial amount of time before you see search engine referrals at all, so be patient.

2. Carve out a niche

If you’re thinking of starting a deals site, I wouldn’t try to come up with next SlickDeals or FatWallet….or CheapStingyBargains :) ! It’s probably not going to happen. The top deal sites have been around too long and have an extremely loyal base. Instead, try focusing on a smaller segment of the deals business. For example, build a deals site dedicated to shoes. If you do it right, you could become the authority on shoe deals.

3. Content is king

Yeah everybody says this, but it’s true. And you can build good content by focusing on a niche that you enjoy and have some expertise in. If you have content that readers enjoy and respect, then your readers will be more inclined to link to your site, providing a great way to get good natural back links.

4. Find a merchant that generates sales

Find an affiliate merchant that sells, then rinse and repeat. Not all merchants are created equally and the best deals from particular merchants don’t always have the highest sales. Develop relationships with the merchants that are generating sales and work to build them stronger.

5. Check your logs and PPC is your friend

If you check your stats and find out that you’ve sold 5 Nintendo Wii’s, don’t just pat yourself on the back, find out why! Check your referral logs. Did you rank in Google for a Nintendo Wii keyword? If so, then you did something right. Examine what you did, and do it more often. :)

You might also want to explore running some Pay Per Click advertising (Google Adwords, Yahoo) for certain keywords that have converted based on free listings you received in Google, Yahoo, etc. There is no reason to think keywords won’t also convert with PPC advertising (word of caution: watch you costs! start out very slowly, and track everything!).

My final word of advice is that you have to persevere. It’s not easy. I spend 60 - 80hrs a week maintaining the site (if not more). It takes a LONG time before you see any results. You have to be patient and keep plugging away every day. Nothing worse than stale deals on a site.

I hope these tips help!

Good luck,

Mike @ CSB

See also:

8 Responses to “So you want to run a deals site?”

  1. 1 XynamaX Mar 21st, 2007 at 7:20 am

    Great article. I started my deals site up a year ago,

    It’s a very tedious, hard, and sometimes frustrating to keep up with it. Everyone thinks that all you need to do is setup a webpage and people will come….not!

    SEO is extremely difficult and competitive in the deals categories. PPC is very expensive, and doesn’t yield the best results unless your doing something illegal (ie: keyword bidding on trademarked terms). Web site promotion is one of the hardest things to do!

    It’s definitely full of ups & downs, but fun none-the-less!


  2. 2 Mike Mar 21st, 2007 at 8:41 am

    It definitely does have it’s ups and downs. If you break down the tasks that you need to get done for SEO into small pieces, and do a little bit every day, it becomes much easier. Try setting a goal for yourself, like obtaining one link a week.

  3. 3 Alex Mar 21st, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Morals aside, would it be easier to just run a porn site?

  4. 4 XynamaX Mar 21st, 2007 at 11:32 am

    Probably not; need a LOT of bandwidth, and you’re faced with the same issues: how to get customers?

  5. 5 Alex Mar 21st, 2007 at 11:56 am

    I was joking actually. Competition in that sector is a lot tougher. ;)

  6. 6 J.D. Mar 21st, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks for the tips. After a little more than a year and a LOT of hard work, my “deals” website ( ) is starting to take off.

  7. 7 Mike Mar 21st, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    Congrats J.D. on you site success.

    Not only is Porn harder (no pun intended), but it’s really closed off to newcomers, since they all drive traffic to each other. Not that I would know anything about online porn :)

  8. 8 L Mar 27th, 2007 at 1:08 am

    Hey J.D. -

    I read another post on this blog about Amazon ripping into deal sites. Did you get hit too?

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