How your competitors can make you more money

by Martin Reed on 22 February 2008 in Articles

Online competitors can make you more money

Keeping an eye on your competitors is important. Knowing who they are, what they are doing and what their customers (members) are demanding will help you improve your own website. When considered this way, competitors can be a positive influence on your site – they can even help you make more money.

How online communities make money

The majority of online communities make money through advertising. This can be in the form of graphical banners, text ads or affiliate links. Some can even charge for membership, although this is not common and should only be attempted if the content in your community is extremely valuable.

Keep an eye on all competitors, but particularly the most successful

You should be scanning your competitors websites on a regular basis. You should check out the sites that are smaller than yours, as well as the sites that are significantly larger. The larger sites are likely to be making more money, but this may not always be the case. Smaller sites tend to be more innovative in order to differentiate themselves so make time to check out the small fry, too!

When you visit the sites of your competitors, consider the following:

1. How are they making money?

Are they using banner ads? What size? Where are they positioned? How many banners are there on each page? Are they using text ads or affiliate links? Where, when and in what context?

2. What companies are they working with?

Your competitors may be promoting products that you have never considered pushing on your website. They may be working with companies you haven’t tried working with yourself. If your competitors feel these companies and products are good enough for them, why not give those companies and products a try yourself? It never hurts to experiment, and the potential gains can be enormous.

Keep an eye on the SitePoint Marketplace

I always keep an eye on the Sites for Sale section in the SitePoint Marketplace – when forums and other online communities come up for sale you can learn how much revenue they are generating alongside other useful information such as traffic statistics. You can then take a look around the site and see how they are generating that revenue.

Every now and then a community is put up for sale with great income figures – these are the sites I am particularly keen to check out; not with a view to purchasing, but to find out just what they are doing to make that money!

Competitors help you succeed

If you see competitors as a solely negative influence on your site, you are destined to fail. Competition should be seen positively – they ensure you differentiate your site, they ensure you work hard to keep your members happy and they can help you make more money. For more information on understanding your competitors, take a look at the UK Business Link website.

Your thoughts

Do you keep an eye on your competitors? Have you looked particularly at how they make money in order to increase your own revenue? Did you change your monetisation techniques based on what you saw your competitors doing? Share your thoughts, opinions and experiences by leaving a comment below.

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{ 29 comments }

Online Furniture Store February 23, 2008 at 7:30 am

Yes it is a good idea to keep an eye on your more as well as less successful competitors. And as long as competition remains healthy, it is great for everyone around.

Smiley February 23, 2008 at 4:04 pm

I’ve never been a fan of ads, but lately I’ve given in and implemented them.

My Paypal was hacked (some bugger tried signing up to a gaming site for 50 !!) so they’ve suspended it until I can send them ID which I just can’t be bothered to do, so I’ve made username reservations free for ‘loyal’ regulars. Which kinda works actually, it’s sort of a reward to ‘loyal’ members of the site, huh?

So now I’m especially paying more attention to ads. I have to admit, I do from time to time peek at your chat page to see where you’ve put yours LOL, sorry !! but I also check out the other big sites, Chat-Avenue.com and such.

I really like PaidOnResults, they’ve been great. I know you don’t like the new Chat Forum version, but it does have one advantage.. as well as having ads on the chat page, I can also have a banner ad in the chat rooms as well.

Although I don’t like the word competitors, I’m not trying to compete with anyone. Just doing something I enjoy, I’m not even that bothered about becoming big. I want to be at a comfortable size with a nice group of regulars with plenty of new visitors coming in for chit chats, an active forum (which I already have), enough revenue to pay the site’s bills and I’m happy as Larry!

One thing I like about PaidOnResults, is that you can use the target=”_blank” code so you don’t lose your visitor. I want to do away with Google Adsense all together.

I’ve noticed you’ve stopped selling link spaces on the chat page? I thought that was a pretty good idea.

Smiley February 23, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Oops, I mean I think selling link spaces was a good idea. Was wondering why you stopped doing it. (wish there was an edit button so I didn’t keep double posting heh)

Chat February 24, 2008 at 5:21 am

I personally always check out the competitors, They are one of the best information resources at my disposal(besides this one ;)). I am slowly learning and improving my website based on what I see on a competitors website and it seems to be working out really well for me, I have more then doubled my traffic and member signups. I have not really attempted any of the competitors advertising strategy’s as i have been quite happy with adsense but as of recently i have been looking more into affiliate sales.

I too visit Chat-Avenue.com and try to study it; Most of the time i just end up scratching my head as to how they rank so high in search engines. They have basically no content! they must have some powerful links.

-Cody

Smiley February 24, 2008 at 5:28 am

Chat — Most of the big websites are basically.. absolute cack. Badly designed, little or no content but rank so high and are busy 24/7.

I think in the case of those sites such as Chat-Avenue, a1-chatrooms (bad domain name) etc etc, it’s simply a matter of how long they’ve been around. Back when they started they probably had little competition so had a head start.

Amish Made Furniture February 25, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Certainly, you need to keep a watch on what your competition is doing. This however should not become the end all. You need to get your business working so well that your competitors are watching you!

Eric Martindale February 25, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Hrm, I was hoping for a bit more detailed information! I think you’ve outlined some good points for beginners, but not much for those who already keep a watchful eye on their competitors.

Good post though, I’ve stumbled it!

Nicole Price February 26, 2008 at 9:48 am

I did look for ways how other blogs were making money. Tried my hand at some of them.

Chantix Lover February 26, 2008 at 10:02 am

I prefer to concentrate on my website and care very little about my competition. I work hard and try to do the right things and the results will come. No point in spying on my competitors..is wasted time in my opinion.
Cheers,

Niche Annihilation Method February 26, 2008 at 10:44 am

Revenue sharing forum encourages the members to contribute. However, is there really another big way to make money with forum?

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 27, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Reena – Healthy competition means you are operating in a potentially profitable niche; too many see competition as a bad thing – I believe the opposite can be true.

Smiley – I can recommend PaidonResults, too. I notice you promote a lot of the EasyDate sites. Have you considered cutting out the middleman and becoming a direct affiliate? I believe the payouts are higher.

I removed private ads from Just Chat as I don’t have time to properly promote them as yet – I need to start planning for a new design but that is a few months off. In the meantime, the banners I have running in the current space and design are more economically valuable that the private links were.

Cody – You should definitely give other advertising methods a try; you may be pleasantly surprised with the results. Dating sites work particularly well with chat sites – try the EasyDate private affiliate program and let me know how you get on.

Ramana – You make a very good point. Watching your competitors doesn’t guarantee success; indeed, obsession with your competition could actually be a bad thing if you end up paying less attention to your own site!

Eric – Thanks for your feedback. Were there certain areas that you wanted me to cover? I don’t think many people recognise the value of the information they can obtain from their competitors (all for free) and I rarely hear of people watching the SitePoint Marketplace to obtain more detailed competitor information and knowledge – hence the focus on these areas in this article.

Nicole – How did it work out for you? Don’t go building up the suspense and not telling!!

Chantix – Watching your competitors is not the same as spying on them! It’s great that you are concentrating on your website, but you may find benefits from checking out your competitors – for example, you may learn what features members like or do not like, what monetisation methods work and what members are demanding. You are then potentially saving yourself a whole lot of time, effort and money – surely a benefit for you, your site and its members?

Niche – Revenue sharing may well encourage members to post, but will the content be any good? There are a number of ways to make money from forums – just check out those currently online for ideas!

Smiley February 27, 2008 at 9:37 pm

Yeah I got rid of EasyDate, wasn’t making anything. PaidOnResults seems to make me the most. I thought becoming direct affiliates were for big sites only; that’s why I’ve never bothered.

Although I was surprised to learn today that I’m on the second page of AllTheWeb for the simple keywords of “chat rooms” and #1 for “UK chat site” or “British chat site” or “friendly chat rooms” (obviously cos of the new domain).

Already seeing the benefits of the new domain without the hyphen. I’m getting more visitors.. and of course.. more revenue!

Chat February 28, 2008 at 12:05 am

Martin,

Thanks for replying. Will EasyDate work well with Canadian/American traffic? or is it strictly in the uk? Do you know of any Programs similar to EasyDate that would target North America if EasyDate does not? I just recently signed up with date.com and im going to give them a try; From the cover date.com seems it could have great potentially but i guess i will see after a trial.

Congratulation’s Smiley on the success, I to have been hitting high serps for popular keywords it feels awesome doesn’t it :p

Another thing ever since i found this blog i more then doubled my traffic. Weird eh? ;)

Thanks Martin!

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 28, 2008 at 2:06 am

Smiley – You promote DatetheUK and SexintheUK through PaidonResults, right? Both those sites are part of EasyDate! I’m glad to hear of your success in the search engines. Congratulations!

Cody – As far as I am aware, BeNaughty (a casual dating website) does accept USA traffic. Their US program pays out $5 per lead and $100 per sale. I am not sure whether they accept US traffic for their general dating sites, though. Try dropping them a line for more info.

Ah, you visit this blog and your traffic doubles – you best stick around then ;)

Smiley February 28, 2008 at 3:58 am

Hey I agree with Cody. I think if it wasn’t for things I’ve read in this blog I’d have failed miserably!

Chat February 29, 2008 at 12:09 am

I do plan on sticking around Martin, I only wish I did that chat dofollow blog search sooner :)

Smiley February 29, 2008 at 4:07 am

Cody?? Question out of curiosity.. how the deuce do you have 8,000 registered users and only 800 posts?!

Our users have posted a total of 810 articles
We have 8205 registered users

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 29, 2008 at 6:21 pm

Smiley – Reading tips and advice is nothing. Actually implementing them is where the real challenge lies. You have only yourself to thank for your successes.

I would imagine Cody has a high member count vs post count due to spam/automated memberships and inactive members. I have addressed these issues previously on this blog in the following articles:

Keep your phpBB member count accurate

Why are active forum members like gold dust?

Cody – I am glad to hear you’ll be sticking around. I look forward to reading more of your comments in the future.

Cody March 1, 2008 at 12:37 am

Smiley its a combination of two things, My forums uses a custom registration which is located on my homepage. When a user comes to my website they register on my homepage and rarely make it to the forum to post. If the member registers on the homepage and does make it to the forum its usually my lack of dedication to the forum that makes the user not want to post and moves on to other sites via ads/ my other site services.

My websites not a “forum” and uses the same database for all of the site services including profiles and groups etc. With phpbbs default registration spam is a problem but what i noticed is with my own registration i don’t have a problem with spam.

Eva White March 3, 2008 at 7:25 am

Great article. I have been looking at options of making money through ads and other revenues. I agree to one thing that you have mentioned, to look at competitors blogs with a positive attitude. I look at other sites which are doing well, but thinking one day even I have to reach where they are. Positive attitude helps a lot in the success.

Martin Reed - Blog Author March 4, 2008 at 7:21 pm

Cody – I think you need to prioritise the different sections of your site. Decide which areas are more important to you, and focus on improving them. Otherwise, they will all suffer as a result of a lack of overall focus and dedication.

Eva – You make a good point; not only can looking at our competitors make us money, they can also inspire and motivate us!

Chat March 8, 2008 at 5:12 am

Martin i think i need too as well, i start try to come up with a strategy, im thinking i might move my group applications to a new domain, the yare too innovative to have hidden away in a chat site were no one can find them. I currently have like 5 projects on the go so when im done them i will probably look at trying to see what should stay on the chat domain and what should go. Also right now i can’t seem to get good ranking for anything related to groups in search engines; im thinking if i move to a domain with “groups” in the domain I might get more targeted visitors.

Martin Reed - Blog Author March 15, 2008 at 8:11 pm

Cody – Having a keyword in your domain definitely helps, but you shouldn’t necessarily choose a domain name based solely on that. Remember – you already have traffic coming to your chat site. You can either leverage that to attract people to your new features, or start again from scratch on a new domain.

nancy April 12, 2008 at 8:37 pm

It’s always been said that if you want to succeed, find someone who is successful and do what they do. I guess that’s the same as seeing which sites are successful and do what they’re doing. Or finding what they’re lacking and capitalize on that.

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 15, 2008 at 11:04 am

Nancy – Copying others can sometimes help, but you need to ensure your site is different; if you copy whatever the competition does your site will not be able to offer anything unique. I suggest that you be inspired by those who are successful, but do your own thing to reach that point yourself.

Adnan April 23, 2008 at 5:57 am

I like that business point.

‘Keep an eye on the Marketplace’ To see what kind of stats, revenue and other numbers they’re generating.

And all this time, I probably never even bothered to see what’s going on in the marketplaces and see what’s being offered for sale, what the revenue looks like and other stuff.

Love that point.

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 25, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Adnan – The amount of information available just from the SitePoint Marketplace is fantastic; I would highly recommend keeping an eye on it!

Blog For Money May 30, 2008 at 7:39 pm

I love checking out my competitors’ blog for information and the latest. This is how I keep myself abreast of the latest blogging trends and informations. However, I do know that I can’t always follow blindly. Anyway thanks to Martin for sharing this info.

Paul March 26, 2009 at 10:07 am

Thanks for the great article.

Evern major corporate companies look at competitors all the time to see how they are earning money.

The internet makes it extremely easy to check out the competition

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