Note from Ros: I first noticed DinerDave.com when the domain name registration and hosting order showed up in my Inbox from Bluehost. “Cool domain name“, I thought. A few days later, Patrick Bayne (AKA Diner Dave) got in touch to ask me about Justin's design service. He also told me his internet business story and why he decided to go from a static website to an interactive blog. “BRAVO!“, thought I, and Patrick agreed to document the transition.
So, in the coming months, you will be able to watch the evolution of DinerDave.com – starting with his rational for making the change, to market research, design changes and monetization. Enjoy!
First Things First…Who is Diner Dave?
I am a die-hard diner that uses the internet for anything related to dining out – from searching for restaurant coupons and gift certificates to making reservations at my favorite eateries. Because of my day job as a wine salesman in Houston, Texas I spend at least 2-3 days a week in restaurants persuading wine sommeliers and chefs to purchase wines from my portfolio. The BEST perk of my job is dining in different restaurants almost every day!
I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but how do I turn this passion for dining out into a profitable business?
In the Beginning there was LunchDiscounts.com
When I was a wine sales rep in Austin, Texas in 2003 I had several restauranteur friends tell me that they wanted to bring in more new customers, but could not afford to spend thousands of dollars on newspaper or radio advertising. So I thought “why not start a business that would email coupons to nearby office workers and residents that are interested in receiving specials from restaurants in their area?” This service would be free to the subscribers and would cost the restauranteurs a FRACTION of what they would pay for newspaper or radio advertising.
Knowing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about starting an internet business I hired a local web designer to help me create a website called LunchDiscounts.com. I acquired most of my subscribers by going from one office building to another and persuading employees to login to the website to join my lunch coupon email newsletter (surprisingly, nobody else was offering this service). After 18 months I expanded the email coupon service to include Lunch AND Dinner discounts and changed the name to DinerDeals.com.
DinerDeals.com: Version 1.0
DinerDeals.com took in $25,000 in email advertising revenue from local restaurants in its first year and received a very favorable write up in the Austin Business Journal. The problem was that every penny went back into the business to pay my sales reps and web designers. The sales reps that I hired earned 50% commission on every dollar generated and my web designer charged $75/hour! For all my hard work that year I made absolutely NO money on DinerDeals.com and I wanted to change that!
Enter Rosalind Gardner…
DinerDeals.com: Version 2.0
After reading Rosalind's Super Affiliate Handbook I realized that I was spending too much time, effort, and MONEY on my static website for almost NO return! Why give away all my advertising sales revenue to keep sales reps on staff and pay a web designer to make minor changes to my website? Once I learned that I could “make money promoting other people's stuff online” for less than what I was paying to do it the old-fashioned way I was convinced this was the way to go!
I decided I would change the business model of DinerDeals.com from a local email coupon service to a National AFFILIATE site promoting restaurant oriented services like coupons from Entertainment.com and discounted restaurant gift certificates from Restaurant.com. I signed up for both of these affiliate programs on CJ.com. My first success under this new direction occurred when I made a whopping $400/month just by sending out emails with coupon codes to buy $25 Restaurant.com gift certificates for only $5! Now I know that doesn't sound like much money to make in one month, but you have to consider that I NEVER used PPC campaigns and ALL the affiliate commissions were coming from my 15,000 subscribers that I gathered over the last couple of years (yet another reason to gather email addresses on your blog)!
Even though I made some money sending out affiliate links in my emails to current subscribers, I'm still not getting much traffic on the new site AND I'm still relying on a web designer to make all the changes to DinerDeals.com. So the question becomes “how do I create an interactive, SEO friendly site at a low cost without having to pay a web designer every time I need to make a change?” I found the answer in the Super Affiliate Handbook: create a wordpress blog and populate it with compelling content that will keep your subscribers coming back again and again!
The Birth of DinerDave.com!
So I bid a fond farewell to DinerDeals.com to put everything I have learned in motion with DinerDave.com. I came up with the name DinerDave.com because it just sounds like a trusted friend that you could rely on to help you “Dine More & Pay Less!” (nice tagline don't you think?). Plus, as you can see, I'm a big fan of alliteration. I searched GoDaddy.com and the name is available! I snatch it up and, based on Ros' recommendation, I decide to host the site with BlueHost.com.
Now I just need to create some helpful content related to dining out. This of course means that it's time for a little market research to ensure that what I'm writing about is what foodies are searching for on the internet.
Stay tuned to see how I researched which keywords to include in my DinerDave.com posts to optimize the site for search engines…