How Focused, Good Design Made Us $27,500

This is from a site we purchased in November of 2008.  We bought Holly for $,2500 (our most expensive acquisition at the time) because we saw serious potential:

1) Increase the site’s rankings (0bviously).  More visitors means more money.

2) Improve the site’s design.  We saw this as seriously low-hanging fruit and you’ll know why when you see the original site.  So…here’s the original:

Original really crappy design

You see what the site’s lacking?  Focus.

What is the visitor supposed to do when they land on this page?  Click on Adsense? Click on one of those cities listed below?  Try and find a hotel reservation through that form?  And why is there that welcome text there?  Visitors know what they want to do when they’re searching for hotel reservations…they want to make a reservation.  They don’t care about your site.  It’s obvious that the previous owner was adding that content for SEO purposes, but they put it in one of the most prominent spots on the site…bad new.

So here was our first pass with a redesign:

Holly in progress

Notice a few things.  Now answer this question in two seconds:  What do we want the visitor to do?

The site is monetized by doing lead generation for hotel reservations.  We’re using the a second-tier middleman.  What this means is that we’re generating leads for Middleman 2, who is paid by Middleman 1, who is paid by the hotels.  It’s obvious where we’ll go once we have traffic worth bragging about:  Middleman 1 (and perhaps a few deals wit specific hotels that would be very lucrative — those types of relationships are profitable, but that’s for a different post all together).

Anyway.  We offer some quick links to cities which sends them to the same page except it has the City form field already filled in.

What’s the real key here?  Giving the user what they want.  Anything else is much less profitable.

Our final design once we ironed out some kinks:

The final design of Holly

We took out the city bit in the form (it was distracting) and moved the familiar logos (familiarity is key when getting conversion from visitors) to the top.

What about content for SEO?  That’s all where I put the big black box.  What about other content?  Writers are adding content constantly, but the content always plays second-fiddle to the action we desire our users to take:  get a reservation.

What Have the Results Been Like?

Since we purchased the site, traffic is up 1,303%.  But that doesn’t tell us how well the new design is doing.  Here’s the key stat.  Before we purchased the site, revenue per visitor was two cents.  Our revenue per visitor for the prior 30 days is twenty-six cents.  A 1,200% increase.  We can’t wait to get our traffic higher so we can negotiate with a more profitable affiliate provider.

At any rate, do you see what a bit of design does to help you make money?  Instantly?  This is what makes flipping websites so unbelievably valuable.  If you buy the site for $2,500 and then turn around and increase its earnings by 1,200%… (remember, that increase can be attributed directly to the redesign itself, which took us three hours) what is the site now worth?  $30,000.

2 comments On How Focused, Good Design Made Us $27,500

  • Awesome case study! It’s amazing how many ugly websites there are out there… Simple designs really do make a big difference.

    Do you find that you can get better deals through or just emailing webmasters and making offers in niches that interest you?

  • I’m having fun following this project! Can’t wait to see where you are now

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