From time to time, we will be featuring Publishers on this blog and trying to get to the bottom of what makes them so awesome. This week we had the privilege of interviewing Tim Flight of GPS Review. The aptly named GPS Review is one of the web's top destinations for GPS gear reviews. Well, let's get the interview started, shall we?
Chris: Tim, please tell us a little about yourself and GPS Review. What initially got you passionate about GPS devices, and what lead you to create a site about them? How old is the site?
Tim: I started GPSReview.net back in July of 2005, so the site is about to enjoy its third birthday and we're moving into the fourth year of fun. I have a passion for outdoor recreation as an avid snowboarder, kayaker, and most every other outdoor activity. I also love gadgets and technology. Those two passions don't intersect all that often, but they do with GPS devices, so it was a natural fit.
Chris: Was there a moment when it hit you just how popular GPS Review had become? Any specific breakthroughs? Or was it a gradual build up?
Tim: The site did have a fairly gradual buildup of traffic. There were certainly mornings when I'd pull up the statistics and just shake my head in amazement-- the first $100 day, the first day of 10,000 page views, and the first time I was mentioned in the mainstream press.
Chris: What do you believe are the keys to success for creating and growing a website about product reviews (or just a strong content site, in general)?
Tim: Passion and expertise of the product are critical, but those should be obvious. Understanding that there is a fundamental difference between recommending the products that meet my needs, and finding products that meet the consumer's needs is something I don't see as much of-- and it is important. We all have slightly different goals and uses in mind when it comes to consumer products, and the devices that are "best" for me are not likely the same devices that will be "the best" for you. Early on I had a "eureka!" moment when I realized that the best product for someone I was talking with was actually a product I had written a "bad" review of. The bad elements were not something that would impact this customer and the device had a few unique, but seldom used features this customer was looking for.
I think many product reviewers (and consumers) struggle to understand that while expert opinion is valuable, the ability to break apart that opinion and match it to the actual needs of the specific consumer is even more valuable.
Chris: What made you think to use the Shopzilla Publisher Program and how long have you been using it?
Tim: I saw the ads on another gadget site and they looked like they would be a great match for my site. With lots of product images, and updated store pricing information it looked like not only would it provide revenue, but the updated store prices would also provide something the consumers were looking for. I started using the publisher program in April of 2007 and within 30 days I was allocating about 50% of my ad inventory to the Publisher Program. Plus I wanted that cool shopping cart with flames logo on my site. :)
Chris: The shopping cart with flames logo is the definition of cool, and the main reason I work at Shopzilla. Do you have any tips or suggestions for current and potential users of the Shopzilla Publisher Program?
Tim: Integration, integration, integration. (With a hat tip to T.R.) Bite the bullet and take the time to make sure you are getting ads for the correct product on the correct page of your site. If you have a page talking about a MacBook Pro, don't show an ad about a MacBook Air. Even if it means taking the time to hand edit an ad on every page, chances are the efforts will more than pay you back. I also like to display ad units that highlight prices and store names.
[Ed. Note: Tim's following tip should be implemented at your own risk... we can't offer support for it. If you modify the ads and accidentally break something, or omit an important piece of code, we won't be able to help you out of that pickle.]
For WordPress users, you can automatically use the Page Title as the keyword (or "Search For" as they call it) for Shopzilla ads. These are for the 'Top Search Results' ad type. Create the Top Search Results asset using just the letter "a" in the "Search For" field as the keyword. Pick the banner size, set your colors, etc, and then get the HTML code. Look in the HTML code for the following:
Replace that with this:
/keyword-<?php echo(urlencode(strtolower(single_post_title('',FALSE)))); ?>/
That code should take the title of the WordPress post and use it as the keyword for the ad unit.
Chris: Thanks, Tim, that's a really useful tip! Anything else?
Tim: I'm really excited that stats are now showing up early in the morning! All you Zillans must have been hard at work now that the RPS competition is done. ;)
Chris: Thanks for all the terrific insight, Tim. I'm sure this will prove helpful to veteran publishers out there looking for an edge, as well as folks just getting their feet wet. By the way, I was knocked out of the RPS tournament in the first round, so thanks for opening that old wound (though Rex advanced pretty far). :-)
To everyone else, we hope you enjoyed this conversation and we encourage you to check out GPS Review. Please drop us a line if you'd like to be considered for the focus of a future Publisher Spotlight.