MadridMan: Running a website in Spain
Founder of MadridMan.com reflects on 15 years of running the site and recounts how one simple email to five companies set his website business on the right track.
20 July 2012 is fast approaching and I've made no plans to celebrate.
This happens to me every year, in fact. In July, MadridMan.com will turn 15 years old; more mature, much wiser and determined more than ever before.
I've had grand thoughts of organizing a huge affair at one of the larger downtown Madrid bars; reserving the whole room for a private gathering - by invitation only, and throwing a party worthy of newspaper, radio, and even television mention. I've even looked into sending out news releases, contacting news agencies etcetera. But, I doubt it'll happen like that.
Nothing is planned because it will be summer and no one is around in Madrid during the hot summer months anyway. Plus, it costs a lot of money for that kind of announcement - at least the kind I dream of. And besides, I'm not the kind of guy to blow his own horn for the sake of self-promotion. But doesn't a business need promotion? Isn't mine a business?? Well.... yes and no.
I started "MadridMan's Yankee Home Page" - what it was called during its first 10 years - on a free Geocities site in 1996, shortly after the invention of the graphical interface of the internet. At that time, there was only my website and another one or two about Madrid in English, so I enjoyed some incredible success since mine was one of the few.
Now, 16 years after the "birth" of MadridMan, 15 years after the domain name was registered, there are a several dozen personal websites online about Madrid in English and a couple thousand more corporate websites about Madrid in English. Needless to say, now there's a lot more competition and the piece of our pie gets smaller every year. Still, it warms my heart when viewing my website's traffic statistics to find many people specifically searching the name "MadridMan". That's branding success.
The Internet never stops evolving. Taking Madrid-related competition out of the equation, there's also competition for people's time and attention by a few very popular social media websites and some of the larger, corporate-run travel forums where people tend to "stay connected" for longer periods of time. "MadridMan" has its presence on the biggies and this helps branding strategies, but I feel many people first seek information on these website and then, maybe later, access the owner's/operator's website second. So while branding is important, if you don't own the social media networks or forums through which a lot of the information is gathered, traffic, advertisers & clients on the individual's website can suffer.
A number of my clients have shut down operations altogether while others have stopped advertising - or, at least, severely cut-back on these kinds of expenses. And more and more are "advertising" their businesses for free through Facebook and Twitter, among many. But there's a certain value applied to those who came first, stuck it out and rode through the storms. Only those who really enjoyed building and managing their websites - and those making money - have survived. Fortunately, MadridMan.com has had both things going for it, albeit times are much much tougher now.
Back in 2001, my Dad casually suggested: "Why don't you contact a few language schools or hotels to see if they'd like to advertise on your website?"
My response was quick and just a little bit rude: "Dad, no one in their right mind would want to advertising on my tiny, personal, horribly designed website."
To that, his reply was: "Well, it certainly doesn't hurt to try and you have nothing to lose." I promised him I would - and I did.
The next week I sent out five emails to language academies in Madrid. Two didn't reply, but three did, saying they wanted to advertise on my website. I was shocked and truly amazed.
And that's how MadridMan.com began making some money. Shortly after that, clients started writing to me, asking how they too could advertise. I never had to solicit clients ever again as they have all contacted me since then.
Now, in 2012, MadridMan.com and Martin Media, S.L. - a registered company here in Spain - does well for itself, although much less so in these times of extreme economic crisis and increased competition. But I can pay my own salary and the monthly bills without problem. Many of my competitors don't have it so well.
Will I be able to do all this, managing MadridMan.com, BarcelonaMan.com, and all the other websites on my own for the rest of my working life?
Who knows? I imagine someday contracting someone to assist me in the administrative or design part of the work but probably not both. I love what I do, although it can be overwhelming at times. There are lots of goals, lots of dreams and plans with no spare time to develop them, lots of emails back and forth with clients - both potential and long-standing. A lot of time is also spent replying to questions by first-time travelers to Madrid. Their wondrous excitement always inspires me.
But I cannot imagine giving up this "job". Few people get to work at home. Mine is one of those jobs I'd happily do in my spare time even if I had a "normal job". It's something I'd like to do until the day I die to keep busy - assuming I can keep up with technology and internet trends.
Who knows what's in store for MadridMan.com? At least I've made a name (brand) for myself in this industry and that really does mean a lot.
MadridMan / Expatica
The writer is from America and has lived in Madrid for six years.
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