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Asking for Direction(s)

I’ve had a great ride with MPGomatic over the last five years or so. Every day, I ask myself … how many folks are truly able to follow their vision and live the dream? I know how fortunate I’ve been. This little fuel-efficiency focused website was started on a shoestring budget and it’s ridden the waves up and down. The primary purpose of this site is to reduce our nation’s reliance on imported petroleum (while helping to slash the amount of cash you splash on gasoline each week) – not make the maximum amount of money we could make, at all cost. While we were never able to grow at the rate we needed to grow, we were able to cover expenses for a long time. We never needed or sought outside funding.

That all changed about about a year ago. We lost a substantial amount of traffic when Google’s engineers changed their search algorithm. The number of visitors to our website dropped precipitously. Our revenue stream dropped even further, as a result. ‘

The problem with algorithmic changes is that they leave humans out of the equation. When engineers make a decision with broad consequences, bad things can happen to innocent sites. It appears that there are insufficient checks and balances in the system to prevent relatively small focused sites from losing there lifeblood (traffic). Bad changes to the equations kill kittens.

I still consider it collateral damage … the search engineers have a difficult job keeping scammers out of the search results and just as soon as they whack one barbarian at the gate, another two gophers pop up to take their place.

Many wise folks (and some wise asses, too) will tell you that it’s never wise to build your Internet business based on organic traffic. In hindsight, we all know it’s true, but the flip side is that once you’ve been accustomed to a steady flow of visitors, you rely upon it … who looks a gift horse in the mouth?

I’ve always tried to fly under the radar and never brag about the number of website visitors we have or how many views may have rolled up on a specific video. But a little more than a year ago, two different publishers took a look at what we’ve been able to accomplish. Both of these well-funded sites made innuendos. Then they reverse engineered our success and took a run at our niche. These large sites have staffs dedicated to optimize their rankings. MPGomatic has me, and my primary focus is on providing solid research and truly useful content that you won’t find anywhere else.

Maybe I did it wrong. Maybe I’m not providing what you’re looking for. The tank’s just about empty. I may not be able to continue delivering the same auto reviews to which you’ve become accustomed. But that doesn’t mean the end of the road.

So tell me … if MPGomatic survives, which direction should I take it?

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11 comments ↓

#1 MJS on 08.13.12 at 4:01 am

I am sorry to hear that your site has been so affected by Google’s changes. I enjoy your reviews because they are so different from everything else on the web. There are plenty of sites that show how the newest cars behave on the track, but that is not how I use my car. That is what I enjoy about your site. You present reviews of cars the way I use them, trying to drive efficiently on real roads.

#2 Mike on 08.13.12 at 10:29 am

I agree with the above poster. I drive every day in traffic, occasionally get to 50 mph! Your reviews show how to wring the last nickel out of a gas wasted on commuting. I wish all my days were track days, or speeding on the autoban (whch i was stuck in traffic on, BTW).

I can not imagine what it must be like to be staring at the exposed dripping fangs of google and their ilk. Seems every square inch of content on the net must provide the maximum ad revenue, or its shortly out of business. Other sites have bitten the bullet – im thinkin of TTAC – I was horrified when it went commercial, but its still good in spite of it. Perhaps there is a middle ground? I hope so. I like your insights, and i beleive that u bring something unique and fresh to the endless drone about cars.

#3 K H-W on 08.13.12 at 11:46 am

I’m really sorry to hear this, too. Is there anything that we, your readers, can do to help?

#4 greg on 08.13.12 at 4:59 pm

I always look forward to reading your reviews on cars. Your reviews are unique. It’s nice to see a reviewer who does not always have a lead foot though out the entire test.

#5 james on 08.13.12 at 9:28 pm

I love your website. I check it frequently to see if there are any new mpgomatic reviews. I am sorry to hear the bad news. One thing I have always been interested to see is in what type of terrain and traffic you drive the vehicles while performing your reviews. The reason I wonder this is for comparison purposes. That being said, this website comes as close to what I’m looking for in a car review than any other source. Awesome job.

#6 jhaut on 08.14.12 at 8:00 am

I also love your site the way it is. It seams to be the most realistic review of cars on the web! Say true to you original goals. Help the consumer make wise decisions in what is often the second largest financial decision in their life. Don’t give in to hype or fads, and help the everyday car owner cut through much of the marketing that is thrown in front of them. If one door closes due to circumstances beyond your control, another door will open.

#7 PaulE on 08.14.12 at 5:19 pm

Great website with great advice.

I found it via one of your youtube videos.

Your website has to help you pay the bills, hell you have put thousands of hours into this baby.

I’m not a web expert but I know the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) aspect of web design is crucial. A high google rating is important: to get that you need to have lots of pages (you do), have a website that has been around for a while (you do), have frequently updated content (another tick) and lots of links from other sites to yours (google gives points in relation to the quality of the sites that point to yours: more points being awarded for high quality sites). I guess it’s this aspect that is impacting you badly post google’s search engine code changes. That change has badly hit a lot of small businesses.

Even having a facebook account for your site helps. There are hundreds of car forums out there. The more posts with links to your site, the better. I know many don’t allow you to simply post your link, but since gas is such a key cost with cars these days, having such a link in a car forum would be a benefit to its readers.

Some people are claiming to make a fair amount of cash from their youtube channel’s, but I think the hits need to be in the half a million plus category. Your channel is really good.

Can you get sponsorship/funding from a manufacturer with a new high MPG car? Or maybe advertising?

I’ll keep my fingers crossed that things work out, it deserves to for you.

#8 Josh on 08.14.12 at 7:58 pm

I have seen many sites go under when they experience a downtick in their viewership by trying whatever they can to get more readers.

Unfortunately, while I love your reviews and your goals, it is a little too niche of a market to achieve a truly significant user base.

I would see you potentially making a go of it by diversifying, updating the website a bit (fix the footer width, for instance) adding some banner ads (car specific, one would think).

This is a lot of work to expand outwards from a niche, you might have a better chance of integrating with one of the more popular auto-focused blogs out there (I’m thinking of one in particular), and doing a segment, rather than trying to compete with them directly, as they’ve already done the hard work.

That would keep you afloat, I hope, and allow you to bring your great work to us, while also allowing you to maybe take advantage of a wider selection of press cars.

#9 Rich M on 08.15.12 at 12:22 am

I too like your style of reviews, and the videos are a strong suit, especially the Prius C. Unfortunately I don’t know much on how to drive web traffic, especially with so many other vying for a piece of the auto review market. I want to see this site go on, but I do like Josh’s idea.

Maybe you can be the Yin to one of the typical, clumsy-footed reviewers’ Yang? But how do you get most of them to admit they are terrible drivers who need balance in their reviews?

#10 Jason on 08.23.12 at 8:51 am

Hey Dan,
I am so sorry to hear about that. It makes me sad as I love your site and reviews. Maybe you could try to talk to some of the car manufactures about linking/embedding your reviews directly to there site as an independent reviewer. Honda should have you on there payroll just for your CRV review. Bottom of the line your reviews help to sell cars and or make people feel good about the purchase after they sign the dotted line.

#11 rob bergeron on 08.30.12 at 5:46 pm

IF there is any funds that you may need to continue, I would be quite willing to forward some to you. I totally appreciate all that you have done to show the public just how easy it is to lay off the pedal and still enjoy the ride! Your reviews are second to none and I sincerely hope you are able to stay the course and show all of us the latest autos and what they are capable of. -Rob

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