Are you ready to take your portfolio to the next level and learn how to build a million dollar website? Do you think it’s even possible to build a website that big with all the big publishing players out there right now?
Today we speak with Alborz Fallah – one of Australia’s best motoring journalists. And what’s really exciting is that Alborz has not only built one multi-million dollar website, but he’s just done it again in under 12 months with Car Expert!
CarExpert.com.au is already one of, if not THE leading car review sites in Australia. And Alborz has very kindly shared some really valuable insights on what it took to take this site from an idea, into the number one ranking car site in Australia.
Spoiler Alert – he’s using the same straightforward SEO techniques that Liz and I teach in our Digital Investors Program.
So to find out more on exactly how Alborz created his multi-million dollar website, watch the video or read the transcript below.
Hear from Alborz Fallah how to build a million dollar website, which he did with Car Expert in just 12 months!…
Matt Raad: Today we wanted to give you an update from Alborz of what he’s done with his website Car Expert and how its gone over the last 12 months. Because not once, but twice, he’s out there proving that he can do it yet again. And so big thank you, Alborz, for coming along today.
Liz Raad: Yes, welcome.
Alborz Fallah: Thanks for having me. It’s always nice to be here with you both. It’s a shame we can’t do it in person in front of an audience, but such is the world.
Liz: I’m sure you’ll share just like you always do!
Alborz: It’s always nice to get the crowd feedback in person, I really do appreciate it. It’s really lovely to get that energy.
Matt: Well, Alborz, just so you know, everyone’s been asking and really looking forward to your update. Especially after last year’s awesome interview at our 3 Day Digital Investor Summit event. So thanks for coming along today to give us that update.
How to Build a Million Dollar Website in 12 Months
Liz: Yes, so what’s been happening? Where are you at now with Car Expert – Australia’s largest award winning car website? Last time we spoke to you, I think you were at about 300,000 uniques a month, which was phenomenal given its age. Where are you now, what’s happening?
Alborz: We launched our website in late April 2020 as a beta version. Then we actually launched version one in September 2020. So, it’s been a year now since the real website was launched.
Last month we did over 900,000 unique visitors to the site. That’s not just visits, it’s visitors (individual people), which is pretty crazy. When I left Car Advice, I think we were only around 30% bigger. So it’s a crazy amount of visits to get to our new site in such a short period of time.
But to do that, we took the best people. We took all the knowledge (over a hundred years of combined experience in the sector), and we just put it back to use. And it goes to show you that if you know what you’re doing, you could do it pretty quickly.
How Alborz used the Lessons Learned from CarAdvice to Launch CarExpert.com.au so Quickly
Liz: What do you think are the main things you learned from Car Advice that you’ve now applied here that’s made that journey so quick? Because previously it took 10 years to get to that level. Now it’s only taken you 12 months with Car Expert.
Alborz: I think to be fair to Car Advice, it probably took us seven years to get to this level. And a lot of that had to do with the SEO side (the content side). It’s really understanding where to invest our time.
It’s also understanding consumer needs and consumer behaviour. At Car Advice, as much as we loved doing it, a lot of time was spent driving super cars. But that doesn’t really help. We’re not going after that audience. We’re going after the car buyer audience, which is where the money’s at.
Also from a business perspective, both from a technology data and just general business practices, we’ve got enormous experience compared to Car Advice. So there was a lot less time wasted. We had everything set up properly right from the start this time. It’s literally a case-in-point example of – if you’ve got the right team, you can actually build something that works quite rapidly.
Why Using Quality Content and SEO Practices Matters
Matt: After all these years Alborz, is it still all about SEO and good content?
Alborz: Building a website from scratch is about good content and SEO, in that order. I wouldn’t put it the other way around.
I think SEO is fundamentally important, but you can’t have SEO without a high velocity of content. That’s literally all I do. 50% of my days is SEO related. And we’ve basically got a full-time SEO guy who’s amazing as well. And we work together to build that up.
From an SEO perspective, our traffic is up 20-30% month-on-month, every month at the moment. And it just keeps improving. There’s so much volume of searches for car stuff that the traffic obviously reflects that. So, a 5% improvement will get you an extra half a million visits or something like that. It’s ridiculous.
So, we’ve just got to keep pushing it and pushing it and pushing it. So that’s what we’re doing.
When Looking at How to Build A Million Dollar Website – Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Things…
Matt: Let’s talk about the car niche. It’s hyper competitive, and that’s one of the things you’ve always said to our audiences. People have these perceptions about your competitors. You’re up against really big corporates and always have been. And I know you’re a fighter and you like to beat them.
Can you give us some comments on where that’s at now too? What you’ve learned over the last decade, taking on these big corporates when it comes to SEO?
Alborz: Look, most your audience reading this are probably in a nimble, small-to-medium size business. It may just be themselves and some staff, family or friends etc. That gives you an enormous opportunity to make decisions rapidly and implement changes in technology a lot faster.
I can tell you, having been acquired by Australia’s largest media company, that things go a lot slower. Decisions get made a lot slower after that because there’s so many stakeholders, so many meetings, and so much paperwork to get anything signed off and done. And then no one wants to actually have the onus of responsibility if it goes wrong. So no one wants to change anything.
As a result of that, if you are building a new website (or an existing website), don’t be afraid to change. Don’t be afraid to implement and try out new things. And if it doesn’t work, you’ve got to be able to fail. We did a bit of that at Car Expert as well as Car Advice.
Despite all our learnings, I’d say 9 out of the 10 things that we did worked, because we knew they would work (and because we’d done them before). For all of the new things that we tried, some of it worked and some of it didn’t. But we knew pretty quickly what was working and what wasn’t. So, we’re very happy to keep trying.
How to Outrank Big Players Using High-Quality Content and Basic SEO Principals
Liz: Speaking of competition, I think a lot of people reading this are thinking, “Well, you did it 10 years ago for CarAdvice.com.au. But that’s not possible for me now”. Alborz, what you are doing right now shows that in any market, at any stage, you can grow a business online.
Alborz: Look, even when we first started Car Expert last year, there was just a tiny bit of doubt in my mind whether it was possible in this day and age. As a start-up media publishing business (basically, a website that publishes content), can we compete with the big guys out there who have 15 years exposure and understanding of SEO etc.? And these big companies have got all these massive network effects where they all link to each other etc.
So, I was thinking, this is going to be quite challenging. And don’t get me wrong, it was challenging! But ultimately, we’re always on the first page of Google now.
What that has shown me is that you can do it as long as you’re patient and you’re willing to put in the work. And I think more importantly, it really does show you that the velocity of really high-quality content is now more important than ever before.
Obviously having your structure right, your SEO titles right etc. is basic fundamentals. But writing content that people actually want to read, that gives all the right signals to Google. So it’s time on page, session duration, page duration etc., that stuff has massive impacts.
And we just proved that by writing really high-quality content in a website. We’re now outranking big players, like Car Sales, on really big search terms. I don’t know how big Car Sales is, but it’s enormous! It’s a multi-billion-dollar company. And for another little upstart blog to outrank them for some of Australia’s best-selling cars, it does put a little smile on my face. I do Google it almost every 15 minutes sometimes just to make myself feel better. So, that’s where traffic comes from.
Why You Should Know Your Value When You Build A Million Dollar Website
Alborz: At the moment, as we record this, every single car dealership in Sydney and Melbourne is closed. They’re not allowed to sell cars. So, we’re in a business in the auto sector that is currently not trading. It’s crazy.
Liz: And yet you’re still getting 900,000 unique visitors.
Alborz: Yes, and its growing rapidly. It took us 7-8 years to get there at Car Advice.
Liz: That’s the power of experience though. Because I’m assuming that your expectations of a business now are at a different level. When you think back to when you started Car Advice, do you feel that your levels of expectation were very different to what you’ve got now?
Alborz: I remember when we got a deal across the line at Car Advice with a manufacturer that was willing to pay us $9,000 a month. At the time I thought, “That’s it, we’ve made it. $9,000 a month, I can retire.” But I look at it now and that’s almost insulting to get an offer like that. It’s the power of – half expectation, half belief.
Also, I think the industry is so small that once you get known, I don’t think people underestimate us as much as they did the first time perhaps.
Increase Your Passive Online Income by Improving the Monetization Methods You Use
Liz: Do you think this time around, you know your value too?
Alborz: That’s right. Also, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we don’t have any ads on our website.
Liz: Yes, you’ve got a totally different monetization model too.
Alborz: Totally different. And it’s given us around a 52- 53% higher click-through rate than a display advertisement. It works really, really well.
We also proved ourselves to the market really quickly. From the very start, we said to them, “You know us, you trust us. Come on board, we’ll give you a $20,000 trial. And if you don’t like it, we’ll give you your money back.” No one’s ever asked for it back. And in fact, all have come back and spent more.
That’s because the product works. It delivers results that traditional display advertising doesn’t deliver. And you’ve got:
- The SEO feeding in the car buyers,
- The content solidifying their decision making (whether they should buy this car or not)
- And then our product.
This then leads them to go take that extra step in the car buying journey.
Ultimately our job is to help connect the right person with the right car. And in the process, we collect some money, which the manufacturers are more than happy to pay for. So, it’s a great business model.
Know What Your Client Wants and Deliver Unbeatable Value
Liz: I was just interested where you said, “Our goal is to connect the right person with the right car.” I think that’s a really important foundation to a business. Your intention is to help people.
Alborz: Well, I guess that was also our intention at Car Advice. It’s what set us apart. We are a bunch of passionate car lovers.
Our intention wasn’t to be a war journalist. We’re not going out there to try and make some really hard-hitting news about a car executive who said something that wasn’t right. You know what I mean?
Our intention was simple. If you’re looking to buy a car, you’ve got 3 to 6 months of research. We want to make that really easy for you. Here’s all the cars that you should look at. Here’s the reasons why you should buy this one and not this one, etc. We stayed out of all the other rubbish that was meant for perhaps the industry itself and not for the audience. We focused purely on the car buyer and the audience.
And that’s realistically the problem we’re solving. We’re not in the politics of it – quite frankly, we don’t care about the politics. There’s a lot of other publications out there that get lost in the nitty gritty stuff. They write for their own little-inner circle thinking other people care about that.
But the mum and dad that’s Googling a Toyota Rav4 (Australia’s bestselling SUV), couldn’t care less about what some guy at Toyota said about something. She just wants to know about the car and whether it’s right for her, that’s it.
Why Alborz DOESN’T use Ad Placement to Build a Million Dollar Website
Matt: And then rather than display ads, you use the anchor text links now, don’t you?
Alborz: Yes, contextual ad products are embedded into the review itself. So, if you’re reading a review of an Isuzu D-Max as an example, midway through the review it’s there as words, not an ad product. It’ll say, “If you’re interested, download a brochure or click here to book a test drive.”
You know what? People are reading and going, “I am actually interested.” They’ll click on the link and it’ll open the Isuzu website and they book. And obviously Isuzu sees the results and goes, “Well, these guys are delivering a lot of results for us!”
It’s so simple because if you think about your own user behaviour. If you are reading a review of, say, a fridge. If you saw the ad for the fridge everywhere on the page, you’re like, “I’m probably not going to click on that because it feels like an advertisement.” And even if it isn’t (in most cases, it isn’t), that’s just the model. The model has always been display advertising.
But if you’re reading a review about a fridge and then somewhere through the review, it says, “And if you’re interested in buying this fridge, click here to get the best price.” Or, “Click here to find out more.” Well, you probably would click on it. That’s because, if I am interested in that fridge, it’s helping me move further along the journey. But a display advertisement, we all just block it out. We ignore it.
We literally had 14 years of data from Car Advice to show you that that didn’t work anymore. It worked at the beginning. But towards the end the click-through rate was something like 1 in 10,000. No one cared. And to be honest, I’d say most of those clicks were accidental.
Improve Your Profit Margin by Making the Most of every Visitor to your Website
Matt: So now it’s easy for you to show value. Not only to the end user, but also to your sponsors (advertiser). There’s direct proof every single day.
Alborz: Exactly. Because we’re not a huge media publication with 10 million unique visitors a month, we need to make the most out of the visitors that we have. So, we’re really targeted in our approach.
We focus primarily on the model of connecting the right person with the right car. And if what we are writing doesn’t fit that simple sentence, we don’t write it.
Liz: Isn’t that an awesome, simple way to guide your content too.
Matt: Absolutely. And thank you for throwing in the big plug for SEO there, that’s perfect. To hear it from you, as you do every year.
Alborz: Car Advice wouldn’t exist and without it, and Car Expert wouldn’t exist. Simple as that.
Liz: There you go.
Matt: That is awesome. In my opinion, for the best car reviews in Australia make sure you check out Alborz’s CarExpert.com.au!
Liz: Thank you so much, Alborz, for sharing that update and letting us know where you’re at now and where you’re headed to. These are very exciting times and a massive congratulations on creating an incredible site (and hopefully award-winning site) once again.
Alborz: Thanks very much guys.