Imagine setting up a website as a hobby to help your friends and family find the best holiday deals. Then by the following spring your website has caught the attention of national media outlets and within the next 18 months it expands to 140 employees based in 12 countries around the globe. This is what happened with Daniel Krahn and Daniel Marx’s German holiday deals website Urlaubsguru.de. Here they share their story including their most peculiar experience and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Tell us a bit about yourself – how long have you been using affiliate marketing and how did you get started?
In the summer of 2012 we brought the website Urlaubsguru.de to life in Unna, Germany after finding amazing holiday deals time and time again. To start with we put the deals online just to help friends and friends of friends. Then we heard about affiliate marketing and that travel companies were using the channel as an advertiser and decided to immediately link our deals via zanox. It was just two old school friends with a hobby.
When we started, we hoped that one day we’d be able to pay the cost for a banner advertisement. Now we have more than 140 employees and Holidayguru sites in 12 countries. In the past year we have facilitated a 100 million euros worth of holiday sales.
How long did it take to make your first sale?
We set the website up in July and built up a large target audience through a group of friends and acquaintances. People knew Urlaubsguru as someone who could help you save time and money. So when we then put the first affiliate links in place a few weeks later, it took just a few minutes for the first sales to come in. Naturally we pursued the initial development of the smartphone-app. Alongside Google Analytics we could quickly and efficiently analyse which travel destinations were a hit with our readers.
What tools or technology have you found useful in helping to generate sales?
When it comes to travel, it’s primarily down to emotions. We don’t use the traditional ad banners that many advertisers offer. Quite the opposite. We achieved the most success with text links which – obviously – are found in texts. Nice photos of the travel destinations also increase the probability of the curious user clicking on the picture to find out more. You can label that as content marketing; as we only blog about beautiful holiday destinations, we have very strong roots in the blogosphere. What started out as a simple blog has gone on to become an award-winning website, having been named website of the year in 2014 by regional politicians.
When did you decide to work on your site full-time?
In spring 2013. We both had full-time jobs and weren’t sure if it would be a success, so didn’t have a business plan. Initially no capital was needed either – just €6.90 for the domain. As the blog became more and more successful, the first bit of media attention came and featured us.
Then a city break in Budapest for just six euros that we featured was the turning point for us. The subsequent success – through social media too – encouraged us, together with the growing capital, to take one step further. A real highlight was when we were featured on TV. Shortly afterwards the first employee was recruited and an office was rented.
Did you experience any challenges along the way?
There have been challenges and there will be time and time again. The most important bit of knowledge: do! Don’t spend too long pondering or planning, just get going. Often you stand in your own way by being hesitant. Also we’ve had one or two experiences with foul playing copyright infringement lawyers, which have cost us heavily – so you need to be smart enough to learn from your mistakes to avoid repeating them.
What was your most comical/peculiar experience during your career as an affiliate?
As we expanded Urlaubsguru.de into Switzerland, we named the site Urlaubsguru.ch. Just a few months later someone said to us that an “urlaub“ (holiday in English) was only something prisoners had in Switzerland, when a prisoner has a few days of leave from prison – a ‘jail-holiday’ so to speak. After that, we changed the name of our website to the international brand. Since then, we have been known as Holidayguru.ch in Switzerland!
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt that you would like to share with fellow publishers?
The most success comes to those who are always in the “win, win, win“ frame of mind. Nothing comes from wronging or cheating people. We don’t just think about traders and users, but also about Google, our partners, and also to a certain extent our competitors.
In effect, you can say that all stakeholders profit from Urlaubsguru.de: the readers save time and money, we deliver high-quality traffic to advertisers consisting of people who are on the hunt for travel offers (those willing to book; not passing customers), and ultimately we profit.
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