Another week and another blog post. It’s been a tough week, it’s sinking in how long it will take to make this, and with how unclear getting any revenue will be it’s very bad news. We chugged away with improving the search, added a bunch of products, got quite a few organic installs and more!
Bug fixes and search improvements were the name of the game this week. We’ve had some minor bugs pop up that slow down our crawler and database backend, and our developer has been spending a lot of time thinking about how to improve the search. There is light at the end of the tunnel though, and we will implement some of it this week. We have also come up with a list of 5 technical things we need before we try to charge money, and we are sorting out the exact specifications for those. It will be 4-6 weeks before they are in place I think, maybe a bit longer. They are:
- Search improvements
- Incorporating Amazon reviews into the results
- Incorporating categories into the results
- Front end improvements
- More products displayed, a way to show everything that is relevant
- User accounts
- Replying to user messages (currently if you message us in the extension we can’t reply, something that causes me a lot of grief)
- Basic stats showing how often people click items in the box, how often the box appears, so we can more easily see if there are technical problems.
We did a paltry 5000 listings this week. I have shifted to approving small companies, usually with 5-10 products. I did a lot of them but it still moves the needle a lot less than the large 3-400 listing companies I spent weeks on in the past. Our debate on electronics is ongoing too, something like half of Amazon searches are for electronics and we provide almost no results. We want to make life as easy as possible for our users, but there aren’t really any made in the USA. We are thinking of adding the “best” ones, the ones made the most in countries that share the USA’s values, but I’m not really sure how to present that to users. We could do the research easy enough, and it fits our central idea that we do the research and show it to everyone so people aren’t all individually looking for information.
I forgot to post the article again! It’s been like 3 weeks now, that’s my fault. The company profiles are on hold for the moment, they just don’t get anywhere enough views to be worth spending any time on 🙁 However our What does made in American mean to us post has gotten way more clicks from people browsing our website, so I will be making more of them. Most likely one on spices, which I’ve already started researching and is quite interesting, and another on electronic peripheries. In general content creation as a method of telling new people about our project has failed. There is little to search volume for these topics to get many google seearchers, so I need to write something good enough someone will share it with their friends, and that hasn’t happened. There is a lot of value in posts like What does made in America mean to us, and those are quite enjoyable to research, but I don’t know how to make the company profiles good enough. We initially hoped that people would see them in google searches, but the volume is both low and no one clicks on our profiles while searching related things.
It’s interesting how traffic works. If I make a post that gets a bit of traction on Reddit/Facebook/Twitter it results in heightened views for days, it lasts a lot longer than I expected. I haven’t been posting that much recently as I’ve been focused on researching and our traffic dropped a lot, to 30-50 a day.
I’m very concerned about the future. I’ve been speaking to people who run large similar extensions, I’ve managed to chat with a few of them. Without exception they don’t seem to make money directly from their extensions. Reading about a price tracker or a program that analyses Amazon reviews, and they make enough to get by through affiliate revenue/advertisements on their website. They all appear to offer an extension in the hope that people will click it sometimes and end up back at their website, and because it’s sort of easy to make. Fakespot appears to have attempted a subscription model in the past, but no longer has one so I assumed it hasn’t worked. Keepa, another price tracker, does have an active subscription program now, however Keepa’s subscription is aimed at business owners I believe, Amazon powerusers, and I don’t really know how our extension could be useful enough to a business. When I’ve mentioned that we hope to charge a monthyl/yearly subscription they’ve seemed to say it has no chance. We really need to start making some revenue soon, unlike all those extensions I mentioned which seem to have started as side projects, we have had 4 full time employees from day one and have done more than 3000 hours of research. Another factor is how we get new users. I’m very experienced in paid digital marketing, and the plan was always to attempt that, but from the little public information I can find these other similar extensions make an incredibly low amount per user per year, a range where you aren’t even close to being able to promote it with paid advertising. We get organic visits now, but most are mobile, so we only offer a solution to 20-30% of our site visitors. We plan to develop a mobile app, a firefox/safari/edge version, but that will take a while and is waiting until our core product functions a bit better. That’s another factor for why we haven’t gone all in on content creation, since only a sliver of our website visitors can actually find a solution to this from us it makes a lot more sense to work on that closer to when we have the other versions ready.
All of that added together has me very concerned. I can’t find any examples of a pure browser extension that has a reasonable amount of paid subscribers. We could make a website/extension like those other similar companies, but they seem to barely make enough revenue to support our team, and that’s the few that have survived for years and have a million + users. So the plan is to make the technical improvements that will allow us to charge, and start charging for a premium subscription version of our product and see what happens. The time is getting very concerning though, we’ve been cracking away for 5 months and it will be another 1 or 2 months before we can see if people are happy to pay for what we’ve built. We also won’t be able to survive on organic traffic, even if the other versions will done, with organic traffic it will just take too long and require too much investment to get to a point where best case scenario we are breakeven. The medium/long term success of this will be based on our ability to generate vastly more per user than other similar extensions. That’s not out of the question either, the other Amazon extensions are price trackers and review checkers, they are based off of programs. What we have is based off of our research, and that’s a very time consuming task whether we do it or someone else does, so we aren’t completely comparable. At the end of the day we have built something great! We have by far the best solution for people looking to not buy Chinese/buy American. We blow every other solution out of the water, and it’s a product/cause we are real proud to be a part of.
See ya next week!