Shopping and blogging: website case study
I wrote this post a while back. The content can still be relevant but the information I've linked to may not be available.
I set-up a shopping website about a year ago called Shop Junction. It used a product feed and API from those nice chaps at Affiliate Window. In fact, it was the first version of their Shop Window system that I used. The software allows you to showcase a very large product catalogue from many different online merchants on your website. If someone clicks through and buys, you get a percentage of the sale. Sounds good?!
However, in recent months, I have decided to rethink the whole idea and shrink Shop Junction from a shopping catalogue website down to a product review blog and a short homepage that highlights a few favorite shops. Why am I doing this? Surely a large product catalogue is likely to make more money than a simple blog?
I realised that I did not have enough time to devote to a large catalogue website
Well, it’s not quite as easy as that. I was successful at getting many pages into Google’s index and Shop Junction attracted a reasonable number of visitors as a result. There were some sales but after a few months I realised that I did not have enough time to devote to a large catalogue website. A large catalogue sounds good but, when it looks like many other large catalogue websites, it’s difficult to generate enough of a difference in order to make money and continue to attract new visitors. To provide more website individuality would require more web development and marketing work. Of course, I could and probably should have concentrated on a smaller subset of products and it is perfectly possible to do that with the Shop Window system. But that also means more work.
Quality not quantity
One of the other reasons for shrinking the website down to a product review blog was to generate better content. A shopping catalogue website has many products with their short descriptions but the merchant’s product descriptions are the same as many other websites and, as a result, I felt that the concept became less personal than I would have liked. Now, with a blog, I have a better chance of writing some content that is different. I also quite like writing about products that I buy.
Change direction if you want
Don’t get me wrong, I think the Shop Window software does a decent job of pulling together many products from a range of different retailers. I’m sure it will generate money for website owners who put more work into it than I could or for those that focus on a specific product niche. However, it was not for me at the present time.
The main lesson for me out of this was not to be afraid of changing website direction if the situation demands it. There’s no point soldiering on with a personal website project if the project is not aligned with your own objectives and the time you have available. I may lose some money by doing this but the smaller blog concept works better for me at the moment.