Customer Spotlight Interview: Automoblog by Chris Burdick

Posted on May 06 2010 by Alistair Barnett in Customer Spotlight 

Site Name: Automoblog
Site Owner: Chris Burdick
WordPress Theme Used: A Custom Mix of Solostream Themes With WP-Genius Base

1. How do you describe the site?

Automoblog.net is a blog for car enthusiasts and consumers. We like to focus on what isn’t typically talked about in your “corporate” type car websites, pointing out benefits and problems with particular cars that add to or detract from the driving experience, instead of only talking about efficiency and numbers. The feel of Automoblog.net isn’t as much about journalism, but more like you’re sitting around the garage chatting with friends over a beer.

2. How old is the site?

We’re coming up on four years this month.

3. What made you decide to launch this particular site?

Originally it was a hobby. I’ve always been a car nut, and I couldn’t find a place online that talked about what I care to hear about, so I started my own site to vent my opinions on great cars as well as the crappy ones. Your big-name car magazines and websites tend to focus on mainstream, well-known cars, and while we definitely cover those, some of the more off-the-wall and one-off cars can be the most interesting. I wanted a place where people could read about those cars too, and become part of our community.

4. What’s you business model (i.e. how do you generate revenue) for the site?

It’s always changing, of course, but most of my income comes from direct ad sales. I don’t do any searching for partners, they all seem to come to me. Maybe I should raise my price. CPC has been a good steady income as well; I use Adsense and Yieldbuild throughout the site, and I’m currently testing Netseer, which is doing fairly well. I’ve tried some affiliate networks, and the only one I’ve found success with so far is Commission Junction.

5. What are you main sources of traffic?

Organic search is my biggest source of traffic. I’m working on coming up with ways to increase my traffic from other car blogs, because those are the people who subscribe and stick around, and also contribute most to the community.

6. If you’re comfortable doing so, can you share any details as far as the site’s traffic growth, revenue growth or reader growth?

Without disclosing numbers, within the past 2 years my revenue has increased enough to live off the site alone. I quit my job in IT, moved across the country (to Raleigh, NC) and now I’m working on Automoblog.net full time. I’m also working on developing a small network of niche car websites.

7. What have been your biggest challenges with the site, and how did you overcome them?

Competing with the big players like AutoBlog, Jalopnik, Motor Trend, etc is my biggest challenge, and I’ll never be able to reach their traffic levels since they’re all owned by big, high-revenue companies. After all, Automoblog.net is just me and a few part time writers. That’s okay to me though, since they have a lot of rules and regulations they have to follow.

8. Are you using any type of email marketing with your site, and if so, can you say how effective it’s been for you?

We don’t do any marketing or advertising at all, actually. As far as email, we just have a subscription form run by Feedburner.

9. Has your Solostream theme helped you achieve your desired results with the site, and if so, can you say how?

I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on the new theme, and it definitely helped bring us up to current web design standards. It also has much more flexibility and functionality than my old theme, which is helping with cross-promotion and ad placement. It’s so much more attractive now, allows us more flexibility within the articles, and has increased subscriber numbers. Even my Google PageRank went up shortly after I switched the theme.

10. What two pieces of advice would you offer to other aspiring web entrepreneurs?

I spent a lot of time reading “how-to” articles on building a web-based business, affiliate marketing, blogging, etc. For every day I spent reading, I found maybe one thing that was useful. The best way to make something is to just get out there and do it. Throw something up there; you can change and tweak things as you go along, but if you just keep reading these so-called “expert” articles, you’ll never get anywhere. Also, think outside the box when it comes to monetization. Adsense is fine, but to bring in any real money you’ll need direct advertisers. Give them their money’s worth and they’ll be your customer for years.