As I reported a few days ago, Markus Frind, the owner of the free dating site PlentyOfFish.com has been pulling in $10,000 a day from Adsense. What is even more remarkable is that he is single handedly (with a little help from his wife) running one of the largest dating sites on the internet. I asked him if he would like to do an interview for the blog, and he agreed.
In 2003 you made a post on WebmasterWorld where you said you were making $40 a day. At what point, either before or after this, did you recognize that you could generate a livable income, and beyond, through your own websites?
I knew the day adsense came out that i would be able to make a lot of money, suddenly here was this revenue stream i could actually build a business on. My site at that point only had a few hundred visitors a day and it was only a few months old. But my growth was steady and I could plot on a graph exactly how much traffic i’d have in 4 or 5 months in the future. This was the same time where i started doing mass anti competitive intelligence, i blocked anyone with the alexa toolbar from signing up and anyone using comscore. I figured if i was to have any chance i would need to stay completely under the radar, if no one knows you exist then no one is going to counter you or clone it.
What was the biggest obstacle you have faced since starting PlentyOfFish.com and how did you overcome it?
I wouldn’t say I had any real obstacles, growth is steady and you have a good 2 or 3 months lead time on when things will start to become an issue. I spent a good 3 months of the last 12 months on vacation. I suppose that the biggest issue has always been performance, In order handle 14-15 million pageviews a day on 4 servers you have to constantly tweak the database, as execution paths etc change as the database grows and load increases.
You started PlentyOfFish to learn and expand your skills. When did you begin treating the site as a business?
I was making around 4k a month off the site and i quit my job to do it full time. At the same time i learned how to do PPC, affiliate marketing , SEO etc. Basically i tried to learn as much as possible, adapt it to my needs and move on.
You appear to be an advocate of simple, quick loading designs. Do you think that there are any other elements of web site development that developers are looking at wrong and may be counter-productive to their success?
Function over form to build an emotional connection with the user. Blend ads into content, No flashing crap, make the site useful. Basically all those things that everyone knows you are supposed to do, but very few people actually do. There is no magic bullet, but you should always test new designs or new text etc to get the result that you want. You will never have the worst design and never the best, but through testing you can always improve.
I’ve noticed some resentment by promotors and owners of paid dating sites. They fear that once a customer gets a taste of free dating they will never pay a monthly fee, thus destroying the online dating industry as it exists today. Do you think they should be threatened by PlentyOfFish.com?
Many of the owners/promoters of these niche sites basically are people who had no clue about the internet and got in the market during the .com boom and lucked out onto a viable business model. Since then they have lived in a bubble with relatively little competition. The large sites are worried, but they have always faced stiff competition. For the most part the industry wants to ignore the fact i exist and they are just hoping that I will go away, so they don’t have to explain to investors why profits are vanishing.
I think in the future paid dating will account for 5 to 20% of the over all online dating market, currently 68% of my membership in the United states has paid for a dating site in the past, draw what conclusions you will.
Do you have a vision of what the internet will look like 5 years from now, and if so, can you describe it?
Adsense and YPN will be standard components of any business models. There will eventually be a massive market place where you just select a age range, city gender etc and your ads will be shown to people matching your demographics. More tools will be developed to track users intentions and monetize them. If you own a site about horses and someone was thinking about buying a car a week ago while searching the net, your horse site may display car ads. We will eventually see online ads approach the ROI of offline ads or even exceed them as monetization of intentions\preferences takes hold.