I recently took time to interview a good friend, Javier from TennisThis.com. I've seen him grow his site from the beginning to where it is today over the last few years. Like many of affiliates, the hardest part is sticking with a topic or topics that will truly interest you. Javier has taken his love for tennis and put his passion to work for him. The other side that we don't talk about often enough and especially those so called “guru's” is the support you will need from the ones around you.
Let's dive in here…..
Q: Tell us more about why you choose tennis as a topic for TennisThis.com?
I chose tennis because I am a tennis fanatic. I really love tennis, I play often, watch often, talk about it, think about it, and I even string tennis racquets in my garage. The whole thing started way back when I was laid off from my Affiliate Marketing Manager position for a company in Orange County (right when the economy went down the toilet). I wanted to try out making an affiliate site and make a million dollars over night, but that didn't work at all. So I stuck with the site and transformed it from a storefront-esq site to more of a blog/review site. This way, in my own words, I can talk about tennis; I can share what I think are good products and can explain certain tennis things that are on my mind that retailers can't.
Q: Why is your site different in the Tennis World?
It's just me. There are other sites, like Tennis.com, who provide incredible articles, match recaps, and product reviews; though they have teams of editors, skilled writers, and have a direct line to the major manufacturers. I don't have any of that, I just call it like I see it and my reviews are all paid for by me, there are very few freebies. Therefore, each review is about as honest as they come, if something isn't great I'll say so, if something is awesome, I'll say so; nobody pays me to say other wise.
I can also be a little unpredictable, since this site is sort of a side project, I don't have all day to work on it so I don't produce articles/reviews everyday, I do it when I can. This hurts me at times, where bigger sites post several times per day.
Q: What hosting company do you use?
I have been using Hostmonster.com (non-aff link) for nearly 4 years now. Their up-time and customer service is stellar. I would highly recommend them for new webmasters.
Q: How has your family supported you since the beginning of TennisThis.com? Any advice for new onliners?
Honestly, it's been tough, peaks and valleys. Many times, especially in the beginning, it's expensive. I got a lot of push back about how much tennis stuff I was buying (for reviews), and I found it hard to convince my wife that it was going to pay off…eventually. Eventually finally came, I started making money, not a lot but enough to cover the costs of products to review and some left over to take her out to dinner once in a while.
My advice for the new onliners, if you're going to do this, stick with it. If you're going to commit to something you're really passionate about, you have to stick with it…eventually you will find your place within your website.
Q: What has been your biggest highlights operating your website focused around tennis?
2012 has especially been a year full of highlights. Earlier this year, I had a chance to sit down with former world #8 Mark Philippoussis (finalist at Wimbledon and US Open) and interview him about a potential comeback. Not only did I get to hang out with him and pick his brain, I was able to hit with him for a few minutes…I gotta tell you, it's a completely different world of tennis at his level.
I've also been lucky enough to have received media credentials for a couple of professional tournaments in California, BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA and the Farmers Classic at UCLA. I was allowed to be on the court to take pictures and even get to hang out in the press room after their matches. I've been able to see some of the worlds greatest tennis players closer than most fans have, a nice perk I must say.
Q: How has Google's Panda/ Penguin affected your website?
When Google rolled out the Panda update, I didn't notice a difference. Then with the Penguin update, I literally lost 75% of my traffic overnight. I was at a loss. I didn't know why or what had happened. I asked friends in the industry, read articles, I was looking for answers; I felt I had been personally attacked by Google. The reality was, there was nothing I could do, I looked at my link profile, content, site structure, and more! I had followed the Google Webmaster Guidelines to a T; I could not find anything wrong. I considered shutting down the site, as Matt Cutts said in an article about Penguin, “…webmasters might find it easier to shut down and start from scratch…“; but all that work I put in! I couldn't just trash it. There had to be something I could do to turn this around…the answer was sitting in front of me. My site! That was the answer, my site; I just had to keep writing normally, keep reviewing and act like business as usual. I was going to rebuild…not start over; keep what I have and just hope the dust settles and I come out on top. Fingers crossed eh?
A month or two after Penguins release, I was getting traffic stats at about year 1 of my site, pretty low. I've since stuck with it and Google has released a few refreshes on the Penguin/Panda updates, I'm now back to getting good traffic, not exactly where I was pre-release but I'm gaining momentum. I stuck with it and didn't give up, and in the end all is well.
Q: What is one tip you could offer a new blogger or website owner to establish SEO principles?
Do not write for a search engine. Write for yourself and your audience, as if you were sending an email to a good friend or a colleague. If it's natural, it will give you far better results than something written for a piece of code. The more natural your articles read, the more likely you'll get visited and get users to return. Also, try not to worry about what people will think, it will prevent you from writing something awesome.
Q: What is you greatest struggle keeping the site going?
Finding things to write about. It's an everyday battle for me, I wake up thinking I should write an article about something awesome. I get to the computer and my brain forgets to think creatively. I have about 20 started articles sitting in the queue, waiting for the words to come from my brain to the keyboard.
Another constant struggle is to not get discouraged by the competition. I'm always going to be the smaller site, so it can be hard at times to want to keep going.