Hank Stoever
part time nerd, part time gnar.

Post-Mortem of a textbook referral website

posted almost 4 years ago - 2 min read

The fall of 2012 was the first time I ever made money from my own website on the internet. I made a script that scraped the official Seattle University bookstore website to collect a database about required books for each class. The script looked up each book on Amazon.com by ISBN, and if there was a match (which there was about half the time), I would store the price of the Amazon book and a link to it's page with my Amazon referral tag. I then created a static website, hosted it on Amazon S3, and put it live at seattleubooks.com.

seattleubooks.com

The next step was spreading the word about the site. The only marketing I did was on Facebook. Simply posting a status and getting a few friends to do the same sent a bit of traffic.

I finally found growth when I joined the incoming freshman class Facebook page. I posted about my site, stating I was a fellow student, and that if anyone referred other students to my site I would invite them to any parties at my house throughout the year. That post got a lot of likes, comments, and quite a bit of traffic. Most importantly, it led to about 10 other students re-posting my site over the next few days, which kept traffic incoming. Here's what the Google analytics report looks like for the time around the beginning of the quarter:

seattleubooks google analytics

All in all, the site only received about 231 unique visitors. But the Amazon affiliate revenue is pretty impressive given the relatively small amount of traffic:

amazon affiliate

I shipped 100 items for a total of $1620.38, earning me $97.42 in total.

I did have a few costs. Hosting the website was free, but I had to pay $10 for the domain from namecheap.com. I also printed flyers and placed them all around campus on move-in day. I printed about 50 high quality flyers for about $30. Ultimately, printing the flyers was a big waste of money. I printed them on September 22nd, and from then on I received very little traffic or revenue.

Final stats:

  • Revenue: $97.42
  • Costs: $40
  • Profit: $57.42
  • Visitors: 231
  • Profit Per Visitor: $0.25

After that quarter, I never again updated the database or spent any time marketing the site. There has been about 40 visitors since then, presumably from organic search. These visits didn't result in any revenue.

Overall, this was a great experience and it was really awesome to actually make money on my own, even if it was just a few dollars.

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