Brand Building: Picking Patrick’s Brain On ScienceFiction.com

On Thursday I interviewed Braden Pollock about his investment in ScienceFiction.com. So I thought I would also pick Patrick’s brain and learn a bit more about how he turned ScienceFiction.com into the site that it is today. Patrick has build a real brand on the site which is no small task so I’m excited to share this interview with all of you – enjoy and happy brand building!

Patrick Ruddell

What are the key steps that you took to build-up traffic on this site?
CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT! That is our big secret to driving traffic. If you produce good content others will link to and social your material. In fact, just today I received a ping-back that CNN.com (Alexa #62) linked to one of our articles. I have never contacted CNN or commented on their articles. Instead they must have been researching for a story and found one of our articles relevant to their discussion.

How did you find writers for the site?
All of our writers have come through either Twitter or referred by another writer working for us already.

What was your biggest barrier to success when you first started?
The two biggest barriers for us were partnerships and funding. Unfortunately the three original partners, myself included, didn’t work well together. I had a good idea of what needed to get done, but sometimes relaying that to others isn’t the easiest thing to do. I take just as much blame in my original partnership failure as anyone. Second was funding. We are a startup company that spends thousands every month on content and expenses. Not knowing if writers will get paid next month or how things will get covered is extremely stressful. I am very fortunate to have a new partnership with Braden Pollock which has helped relieve that financial stress.

Was there a tipping point, or a defining moment when the traffic went into the 100,000+ range?
Hiring more writers, although costly, was the best move we could make. Not only by increasing our content did Google crawl our site more often, but writers spread the word via social media about their content. Having 10 people tweet an article as compared to 1 makes a big difference.

Who is your biggest competitor and what differentiates your brand from theirs?
Tough question because there are a lot of great similar websites. I say similar because none cover everything that we do, Video Games, Comic Books, Movies, TV and Books. Having five big categories is tough to cover, and we have some work to do, but this makes us a one-stop-shop for everything science fiction. One step further, ScienceFiction.com is the PREMIUM brand, it doesn’t get any better.

What do you think your biggest challenge is in 2012?
Getting to the sci-fi events, as I personally question the importance of attending. Attending a domain name conference with 100 – 600 attendees and a sci-fi event with 25,000 – 200,000 attendees are two different things. The cost to send myself and writers to an event like San Diego Comic-Con could easily be $5,000 – $10,000. And that is without any major video editing or booth space budgeted, just attending.

If there was one SEO lesson that you have learned the most so far, what would it be?
I haven’t learned it yet, so I can’t answer this question. Besides keyword titles and article optimization we do zero search engine optimization. Everything to date has come organically. Maybe that’s the lesson, Google loves organic!

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