Garth Adams is an Australian web developer who founded IWantThatFlight in 2001. He wrote a script to compare 3 airlines and SEO began to work. His website quickly rose to 50,000 visits a day, but after 2 years, Sudoku cooled and traffic dropped off. After a few false starts, he dusted off IWantThatFlight.com.au and has been plugging away ever since. He is now making a +$110,000/month.
IWantThatFlight is one of the several websites that Garth has developed. Prior to 2001, comparing flights was challenging. He so decided to write a straightforward screenplay comparing several airlines. After SEO started to work, his website started to get thousands of visitors. Garth now receives a monthly bonus of $110,000!
What is your background and what are you concentrating on right now?
I’m Garth Adams, hello. Throughout the years, I’ve built a ton of websites, including sudoku.com.au, accountantlist.com.au, netlaw.com.au, kakuro.cc, and most recently iwantthatflight.com.au. Aged 45, I reside in Melbourne, Australia. I work from home a couple days a week, but the most of the time, the rest of the team (two more people!) and I collaborate at a great coworking space.
What is your background, and how did you come up with this idea?
Since I was in elementary school, I have been programming in some capacity since I have always been attracted by technology. I’ve always appreciated the speed and uniqueness. Within a few hours or days, you can go from having nothing to having something that is worth displaying. This still holds true now as it did when I started my profession in the 1980s.
Why did you decide to start IWantThatFlight?
In 2001, I had the idea for the first time. Since there was no easy way to compare flights at the time (skyscanner, kayak, etc. didn’t exist), I created a quick script to compare the three airlines that offered the Australian domestic routes I wanted. While working full-time for a train infrastructure company (how intriguing! ), I did this in my spare time.
Sudoku then popped out of nowhere, and I had the good fortune to find sudoku.com.au. Sudoku had become popular all over the world, and my website’s daily visitors had quickly reached 50,000. It’s rare often that happens, but I gave up my job and focused only on Sudoku. At its height, it hosted genuine parties all around the world thanks to the community elements I developed around the puzzles. The popularity of Sudoku dropped and traffic reduced after two years, but all good things must come to an end. I looked for alternate jobs since I didn’t want to go back to working for other businesses. I finished off IWantThatFlight.com.au after numerous unsuccessful tries, and I’ve been hard working on it ever since.
Have any of your businesses ever failed?
Out of all the disappointments I’ve experienced, blogfight.com has been the worst. The winner of the “fight” between your blog and another blog was decided by traffic over a predetermined period of time (e.g., a few days, a week, or whatever you and the other blog owner decided). This website allowed you to place a widget on your blog (this was in 2007, when blogs and widgets were extremely popular), and it would match you up with another blog. In order to create some rivalry in the blogosphere (and increase traffic), you and the other blog owner had a cause to participate in trash talking, make fun of one other, rally your readers, etc. The idea was inspired by various blog competitions I had seen at the time.
I coded everything for weeks. making certain the screens could handle the traffic. making certain that traffic fraud was correctly recorded. Everything. However, no thought was given to how to make money from it or how to persuade blog owners to take part. Since I didn’t participate in the blogging community, I had no peers who might have used it just because they knew me.
In the end, I made the wise decision to hold off on officially launching it. I require a tested marketing channel before starting a project. The channel might be something you’re already familiar with, like your email list, Twitter followers, Facebook, or even the Buy-Sell-Trade part of a specialty forum.
IWantThatFlight: How did it come about?
The first draft of the script was written in a few days, but it was at least a year before I made it available to the public. I requested that my friends try it in an email, but the user interface was “difficult.” People had to enter their email address, and I would then email them the best deals on flights that I could find. I struggled a little with this format before switching to live results.
I kept using VB.Net since I had done so in earlier jobs.
What marketing techniques did you use to grow your company?
You name it, I’ve probably tried it. Since I found early success with SEO, I devoted all of my attention to it for a while. For a business-to-consumer website, SEO drives enormous amounts of traffic, but you spend most of your time optimizing the site for search engines rather than users. Giveaways (nope), affiliates (okay, but doesn’t really move the needle), Twitter (too much everywhere), Adwords (too pricey), and conventional PR agencies (no discernible effect) are other things I’ve done.
How did you use these techniques?
With SEO, you can target the right “type” of traffic in addition to attracting lots of it. Search phrases that are close to the bottom of the sales funnel might be your focus. Compared to Google AdWords, which allows for comparable targeting but at a considerably greater cost, Facebook has better targeting options and is more reasonably priced.
What was ineffective? Why?
traditional PR. I spent several thousand dollars on a PR agency. They were mentioned in a few newspapers, but there was no noticeable change in traffic or anything else.
Adwords on Google. Travel-related searches should avoid this area at all costs. Expedia, Booking, and Kayak, among other businesses, have raised bid costs to the point that it is now impossible for me to profit through Adwords.
When did you start to see improvement? How did that feel?
The website was kept up for several years as a side project. I decided to spend more time on iwantthatflight.com.au and see if it could grow into anything (via SEO) when my main website (sudoku.com.au) started to suffer. Luckily, this happened in 2006, so I had two things working in my favor:
Australia’s transportation system was not very crowded. There was no foreign rivalry, and established major businesses were just starting to realize the Internet.
Those were more easier times for SEO.
When the traffic started to pick up, the overwhelming feeling was actually one of relief. I had been running my own business for a while, but I was going to be compelled to go back to work.
Have you made any really beneficial or useful discoveries?
the capacity to program. Online small company owners without coding skills are forced to outsource their work to foreign firms in order to save money or pay more for a local coder. Although using offshore programmers can be less expensive, there are a number of drawbacks, including the need to provide much more documentation and specifications, the quality of work, and the generally longer turnaround times. Local shopping improves these areas but is often more expensive. Many business owners I am aware of have to wait months for even seemingly minor updates. Become a programmer.
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What were the biggest challenges you faced, and how did you get beyond them?
I recognized that SEO was no longer working for me about 2013. I was up against businesses with valuations in the millions, if not hundreds of millions, and they had sizable SEO teams. They won, and they did. Because I was spending all of my time on SEO (which wasn’t working anyway), IWantThatFlight.com.au was lagging behind rival websites in terms of usability and features.
I had to give up on SEO so I could promote IWantThatFlight.com.au. I read the entire “Traction” book, just like everyone else, but I eventually figured out how to make Facebook work.
To find out exactly what visitors wanted and how they responded, I also used forums. This was more of a steady stream of updates and information to see which had the best response than it was a call for input.
The fact that I had two young children, ages 3 and 5, at the most difficult time of 2013, probably helped, but they also gave me a great outlet when I wasn’t working.
What are your biggest flaws, exactly?
Flights Metasearch is presently dominated by just a few large companies. The great bulk of the market is under their collective control. You must persuade suppliers to work with you as well as increase your market share. If they are currently partnering with a major, it may be challenging to convince them to cooperate with you because they are typically tiny and have few resources.
What were the worst mistakes you made when building and expanding IWantThatFlight?
Where do I begin? Fortunately, nothing has turned out to be overly painful. The worst error was employing someone without doing a practical evaluation as part of the interview process and then having to fire them soon after.
What actions would you do differently if you had the chance?
Website development, maintenance, and upgrading do not constitute marketing. Programmers sometimes assume that if they just add this function, solve this issue, etc., the site’s brilliance will take care of the marketing. This is almost never the case. You need to have a strategy for promoting the site or business in addition to a plan for the site itself.
What additional learning tools besides mistakes would you suggest for new business owners?
Even though I usually detest autobiographies, Cliff Lerner’s “Explosive Growth” was both interesting and educational. I made a decision to include AB in my everyday tasks, which I did for a while.
For further information:
I don’t currently use any social networks! You could check IWantThatFlight
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