SBI! Reviews: Selling Your Own Products
Panda, Penguin -- and Beyond
In my last update I explained that we had been hit with the Panda and Penguin Google algorithm shuffle.
We had to do a lot of work like updating content. And it was so much work -- but I knew I had to do whatever it took.
I dug in deep and followed SiteSell's audit. I worked on it for months and months, bit by bit, until I was certain we had solid content. We used SBI!'s Move It module to redirect the old clunky URL to a more brandable DecksGo.com.
2013 was a step backward for us. As well as the site's traffic taking a hit, we had a problem with one of our resellers. That really hurt our sales growth -- so I parted ways with this reseller. I was determined to find new partners with goals more in line with my own.
These two issues -- the traffic loss and the reseller problem -- were exhausting to deal with. But I was determined to get our business back on track.
As well as updating our content and choosing a better domain name, I hired a SiteSell Pro to redesign the site. It was the best thing I ever did.
Once that was done, and I finished the audit work and renamed the site, DecksGo.com started turning around. I know it's been the same for many fellow SBIers who are committed to publishing only the best content on their websites.
It didn't stop there, though. I was determined that the business was going to succeed. So I called thousands of lumberyards, drove around the country meeting people. I rebuilt our online store with the next version of Shopsite.
I found more partners to add products to our online offerings that I was not able to provide. And I kept working on new patents for other products -- which has really helped.
By 2014 we were seeing a positive turn around and we had a record year. In 2015 the new team I had in place kept pushing, and the business kept growing.
Our traffic is now a steady 4000-5000 unique visitors a day and growing (a bit lower in the winter months). For 2016 we are on track to doubling our sales over 2015!
It has been a massive effort, and it's had massive returns.
Partners Make All The Difference
Through all this, the most steady partners I have had since day one have been SiteSell, and our SBI! DecksGo.com site.
It just keeps doing the heavy lifting. We promote all our unique products on DecksGo and test them before we ever try to sell them to our stores. Oh and -- by the way, we now have almost a dozen regional wholesale distributors in the U.S. and Canada. We also have numerous national vendor accounts.
We are outgrowing our facility and it's time to go to a bigger location in the next year or two at the latest. We are literally bursting at the seams.
Finally, I have hired a writer to take care of all my content issues. She is a graduate from a local university, just finished a master's thesis and is a fantastic writer. She works both in my office and remotely, and needs at least 25 hours a week, which works great for us.
She updates our evergreen content and brainstorms new topics to write about. She reviews all Content 2.0 submissions, and chooses which ones to turn into detailed articles. She maintains our social media channels. She interviews builders and other leaders in our industry, and turns those interviews into articles.
She is in charge of all the newsletter work. She comes up with unique advertising plans for those who are starting to call us. (We haven't done much advertising before, but we're looking at it now, as we have had interest.) So, in short, she does all the stuff I used to do but don't have time to do anymore.
How My Website and Product Lines Complement Each Other
Two things are truly proving to be INVALUABLE to me in my core business, building products.
Firstly, that I have an information site that is strong and competitive in my overall industry (deck building/backyard home improvement).
Secondly, that I own a building products design/develop/manufacturing company.
DecksGo has always been my big fishing net. From there we bring in enough fish to pay the bills and more. We were able to sell directly to customers from day one and get full retail. That helped pay off my start up costs and keep my company 100% owned by me - so far.
We never focused on affiliate income, just good old traffic. And we monetize that traffic by selling my products.
I make my money from my building products business, titanbuildingproducts.com. I use my information site, DecksGo, to share my thoughts about the industry. It also promotes the products I sell via TitanBuildingProducts.
As well as our own products, we also sell other people's. One example is stair tread covers. They're no best seller! But they did bring us some nice PR coverage. How? Well, three weeks ago the "Rachael Ray Show" called. They wanted to talk about recommending these covers on their show.
We sent a sample and they showed it in this episode: Stair Tread Covers For Safe Long Lasting Treads. They link back to our site and use our logo... nice!
That link is the culmination of ten years of work. Totally organic.
Most other startups in my business never did what I did - develop a theme based information site to create a stream of interested, highly targeted organic traffic. They only ever sold wholesale or to stores and at much tighter margins. So guess what? -- They have to sell part of their company to someone with cash to help grow their business.
It was essential for me to have my own customers from day one. And that is why SBI! is crucial to me.
The reason I finally chose SBI! was because I had tried doing another site by myself, www.easyleadguitar.com (this site is no longer active). I'd read your "Make Your Site Sell" book, but had not yet committed to SBI!. So I paid a fortune for this site and thought I would make it into the exact kind of site you described.
But the webmaster just took over. He did exactly what he wanted, and told me to use a bunch of other tools to make text edits etc. It was useless and a failure - except it wasn't a failure.
I knew finally that SBI! was what I needed. I decided I was not going to waste my life and plans. So I went in saying to myself, "I am going to be successful -- like these folks."
Do you have burning desire and work ethic? Are you reading this at that point in life where you're wondering how to grow a fantastic foundation for your business?
I can tell you.
Make the most of your passion and your energy. Point it in the right direction. Think about how a theme based information site might be workable for your main business. And never, never underestimate the value of the organic traffic you can build.
You have to be an expert in some area, and you have to love it. This is not a "get Rich Quick" thing -- it's a long road. But if you are an enthusiast and a student of your profession, you have got what it takes to be a thought leader.
Don't be a slave to someone else. Use SBI! to go way, way beyond a brochure style site. If you want to be self-sufficient, you MUST own your own traffic stream. This is critical. Ignore it at your peril.
Now - just get out there and do it!
Richard Bergman, LLB
President, Titan Building Products