This article is typical of how many independent websites such as ours were able to grow into profitable businesses as the internet became part of our daily lives. It describes our experience of how affiliate marketing developed and how the appearance of the Google search engine and its advertising programme known as Adsense changed our lives …
When I started the Spanish Fiestas business back in 1998 I was working at a university in Madrid and began by arranging weekend breaks for British football fans coming over to see a Real Madrid game. This was ticking over nicely when I met a bloke called Miquel from Barcelona who was doing something similar there and thanks to him I was able to start offering FC Barcelona football breaks.
I soon came to realise that I’d really like to step up a gear and turn what was essentially a hobby motivated by my interest in Spanish football into a full time business providing all kind of travel related services around Spain. A friend of mine helped me set up a simple website promoting my football weekends and I started putting together some ideas for private tours of Spain aimed at small groups. At this time I had a very fortuitous meeting with Roger from Gomadrid.com who told me that his website was earning commissions from hotel bookings which originated on his website. This was my eureka moment. I found it mind blowing that someone could earn money as a result of someone clicking on a link on a website then making a booking.
Now with my head full of all kinds of business and moneymaking opportunities I started looking into how I could get into this commission game. I signed up with a website called Travelnow.com who Roger was using then recommended a few of the hotels in Madrid that I used for my football visitors. Nothing happened for a while and I was still working as a full time teacher in Madrid so my website wasn’t the main focus of my attention. Then it happened … an automated email from Travelnow appeared in my inbox informing me that I’d earned $7.30 from a hotel booking originating on my website. I couldn’t believe it, if you’d told me I’d won the lottery I doubt I’d have been any happier!
Now was the time to give this website idea my full attention so I gave up my excellent job in Madrid, moved to the south coast and Kirsty got a job to tide us over whilst I established Spanish-Fiestas.com. And we never really looked back as demand for football weekends rocketed, I got my first private tour clients and online hotel bookings started to become significant in a business that now had a name … affiliate marketing.
The Growth of Google
By now the name Google was becoming well known online as a website which helped internet users find what they were looking for. Their search results just seemed better then other companies doing the same thing. In 2003 Google changed our lives considerably when they introduced their Adsense program. This meant that when visitors to your website clicked on an advert the website owner earned a commission for the click, no sale was necessary. So we were now in the enviable position of having a website which was being seen more and more through Google’s search results which earned booking commission from hotels that we recommended through the website and advertising revenue from clicks generated withing Google’s Adsense program. Happy days.
As the years went by the website exploded to the point where we were getting half a million visitors a month. I could barely cope with the daily demands of the website so Kirsty started working with me full time. Over time we were able to automate many processes and we reached a point where many processes looked after themselves leaving us time to enjoy travelling around Spain as well as taking two extended trips to Asia and having an amazing 12 months in Australia.
Fast Forward to 2013
Google is now such a household name that it has become a verb! For the accounting period from July to September 2013 it reported a profit of $2.97bn. Not bad for an advertising company that has never had to write a single word of its own content to populate its search results! Have you noticed how the majority of search results you see these days are often for the websites of major branded companies? These companies are household names with the resources to finance teams of people dedicated to looking after their marketing campaigns backed by impressive advertising budgets.
Just because you see them at the top of Google’s search results doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best results available. Where do you think all the little websites – the “Mom and Pop” sites as the Americans say – have gone? Just yesterday I wanted to look for news about a national park in Spain and was saddened to see that Wild-Spain.com is no longer online. I used to love reading about the nature of Spain on this site but assume that like thousands of other sites they’ve been forced out of business by the way that Google now favours large, branded websites over small, independent ones.
Never before has it been so difficult to generate an honest online income with content driven websites. Whereas ten years ago I was encouraging people to set up websites about their hobbies and passions, today I leave them to their own devices. Unfortunately, as the mighty Google lines its own pockets it seems there’s little left for small website owners who are unlikely to see their fresh, original website content appearing in the search engine results.
In addition, there’s a whole new world of social media out there and an army of self-proclaimed “experts” telling website owners how to exploit the new media to attract visitors. Many of these “experts” now inform us that we need to spend 10% of our time researching and writing content then spend the remaining 90% of our time marketing that content. It’s at this point that I have to say “enough is enough”! For the sake of personal sanity I cannot dedicate my days to trying to get “retweets”, to getting more “likes” and to basically behaving like a sheep following the latest theories on how to get visitors to the website.
I’m going to carry on travelling, writing articles that appeal to me and keeping in touch with people like yourself through my newsletter. I’ll send out the occasional tweet and post on Facebook in the hope that some people will find what I have to say is interesting to them but I can no longer dedicate myself to trying to please Google in the hope of again getting into their good books. I’m well aware that marketing experts will probably accuse me of committing “online marketing suicide” but having your life dictated by computing algorithms and ever changing online trends is no way to live. Only time will tell as to what the result of my decision will be.
Please Help Support This Website
Over the years I’ve received numerous emails from subscribers to my newsletters asking why I send out such informative articles without looking for recompense by selling something. Well first of all I’d say it’s because I’m a teacher at heart and not a salesman, and secondly, you can see from ny above description how the business rocketed for many years without the need for any intrusive sales techniques to keep it going. This allowed me to write content about my travels around Spain and recommend things I did and places where I stayed which earned me a commission in return. Please note that I only ever recommend a place or business if I’m personally convinced by it, I’d never recommend something purely for the sake of getting a commission as this would be a quickfire way to destroy the trust I’ve built up over the years.
Nowadays with much reduced website traffic from the “New Google” the potential for earning commissions and advertising revenue is drastically reduced so I’m going to ask you to do me a favour with regard to your online shopping. What I’d like you to do is click on any of the links to our affiliate partner companies which appear below when booking online. The price you will pay for their goods and services will be exactly the same as if you’d gone directly to the sales website, the only difference is that the product or service provider will pay us a small commission for the sale.
List of Partner Companies: Below I’ve also put together a list of companies that I can recommend offering all kinds of online travel services. Each one of them pays a small commission to the referring website. Please support Spanish-Fiestas.com by using these links every time you’re booking online.