Antivirus Direct – lessons learned

Idea

About a year and a half ago I had an idea about a price-comparison website created for people, why buy and upgrade their anti-virus software online.

Customer Segments. I wanted to target one particular type of customers: people, who are faced with a necessity to purchase an anti-virus license for the next year and who are not sure about the value of their current software. Potentially it is a huge market, hundreds of millions of users have to do it every year.

Value Proposition. The site contained all information, required to make an educated decision – list of ALL possible software, comparison charts, cheapest prices, direct links, etc. My goal  was to give people a direct link to an e-store with an anti-virus product of their choice. I did not expect people to spend much time on the website, just visit it once per year, read and click on the links.

Revenue Streams. Most of the links were affiliate links. Almost all Anti-virus vendors participate in one of the major affiliate networks (oneNetworkDirect, Comission Junction, Linkshare, Avangate or Cleverbridge ). That is how I wanted to  monetize the site. Search engines was the primary traffic source. I wanted to be found via keywords “compare anti-virus, buy cheap anti-virus, etc”

Cost Structure. I was able to get the first 1000 unique visitors absolutely for free. If the website starts to generate revenue, I could buy additional traffic via SEO or SEM.

Technical implementation

For the test stage I selected a cheap Godaddy hosting with a LAMP stack. I have created a simple database and filled it with ~2200 price positions for products of 52 anti-virus vendors. A number of PHP scripts were used to represent this information in a convenient way. I used a free template BlueCarbon from www.bluewebtemplates.com and Jquery with a couple of plug-ins ( Tablesorter and Fancybox).

Results

The site more-less successfully reached its first goal – to peruse people to click on direct URLs with product. 1,054 unique visitors clicked 307 times on the direct links (29% conversion!!). However this resulted in exactly $0 (zero) sales. Which is of course the most important metric. Let me try to describe the possible reasons for failure:

From the 307 clicks on the direct links about 100 were represented by those vendors:

  • Bkis (a small AV-vendor from Vietnam, I am on the first place in google organic search for “bkis antivirus”. The bad thing is that they don’t have an affiliate program 🙂  )
  • Free anti-virus vendors (AVG, Avira and Avast. I did not expect much revenue from free anti-viruses either)

The rest were  real affiliate links, but people were still not buying anything.

Lessons learned

Probably the most important mistake was wrong anticipation of visitors behavior. The “story”  my website was telling was a story of an IT-professional, who spend many years working for anti-virus companies. This doesn’t resonate at all with how normal people select and buy their anti-virus software online. People get  lost in a list of 52 products and 2000 prices. They don’t want that! They want a simple and convincing message which would tell them that product X is good and valuable.

I also was monitoring my competition and noticed that they did not have much success either (more about competition later this week). Which brings me to my second conclusion. Most of the hundreds of millions of people, who buy an anti-virus upgrade online don’t make their decision on the Internet! They have already selected a vendor and are not really looking for a change. In most cases they click on the direct links, provided by their current anti-virus vendor (and they are good in pursuing people to stay loyal. I know, I spend 3 years doing that 🙂

Legacy

I have written a number of articles about anti-virus software and market for the website. It would be pity to lose them when I pull the plug from the hosting, so I made copies to this blog

In the next couple of days I am going to analyze the anti-virus vendors and sites about anti-viruses and share some insights on what happened in the last 1.5 years.

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