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March 27, 2006

Do Ugly Sites Sell Better?

I think Scoble may have revelead this earlier in the month and called it “anti-marketing design“. Dozens of other bloggers picked up the story — Darren thinks ugly sites convert better but Rustybrick of seroundtable.com brings it down to the huge volume of organic traffic.

We’re talking about the online dating site PlentyofFish.com by Markus Frind of Canada. What caught people’s attention was the fact that the website earns a cool $10,000 per day from Adsense alone. Exactly, PoF is the 3rd largest dating website in the world and ranges in the 10 Million pageviews per day. Practically the No. 1 Adsense publisher of Canada.

I can only wish for $10k/month. But $10K per day? Dang! (see graphical stats)

Another interesting part of it is that PlentyofFish.com only runs on a total of 4 serverswith an aggregate bandwidth of 70 to 130 Mbps. A quick visit to the site will reveal that there are around 12 thousand to 15 thousand people concurrently online.

Going back to the “ugly” pitch, I don’t think thesite earns that much just because it’s ugly. It can have a great design and still earn the same or maybe even more.

Remeber my PMR computation here? Why don’t we apply the same formula:

PMR = {10,000,000 pageviews per day} x {1% CTR} x {$0.50 CPC} x {20% rev share} x {30 days/month}

PMR = $10,000 x 30 days

PMR = $300,000

I actually tweaked the % CTR and CPC in order to get the desired output. A 1% CTR and $0.50 CPC is already conservative.

Even if you just apply a $1 CPM in there, that’s still potentially $10,000 too.

See, traffic really counts.

Huawei Ascend Mate & Review


17 Responses to “Do Ugly Sites Sell Better?”

  1. jangelo
    Twitter: jangelo
    says:

    Or, there are a lot of desperate singles looking for mates online.

  2. Stu says:

    10,000,000 pageviews a day?

    Sheesh – what’s his bandwidth costing?!?!

  3. jangelo
    Twitter: jangelo
    says:

    Check out how ugly Google’s first site design was.

  4. Dave Starr says:

    Funny in a way what some people call ugly. I went and did quite a bit of poking around on PoF when I saw the reports on the $10,000 a day.

    It could well be that mant designers confuse the word “ugly” with the word”simple” and “action oriented”.

    There is no purpose behind PoF than to get people signed up (to increase the size of the database … equalling more fish in the ocean” and to make it easy for users to seach. I could list a thousand sites with missions similar to PoF who put tons of graphics, Flash and other useless “designer toys” in the way of the user … and obviously none of them rake in $10K a day.

    Google’s main page is “ugly” by many people’s definition too … but for those who know better, howe come your stock isn’t worth about $400 per share.

    Form should follow function … there’s a lot people could learn from PoF if they put aside their egos and analyized how the site is designed to meet its objectives.

    And RE: the bandwisdth question .. the simple functionality of PoF is one of the reasons the bandwidth is managble.

    ANyway, all can see I’m not an art school grad ;-)

  5. leo says:

    me, i’m more of a minimalist person.. the simpler the better. less clutter.. less destraction.

  6. Hi Abe,

    How about a test?

    Choose any of your sites which already have a good amount of traffic. Try removing the image header and see what happens to your earnings. Perhaps you can use a randomizer script to help remove the effects of time (i.e., higher earnings on Tuesday vs Wednesday, etc)

    In some cases, I’ve seen that header-less sites earn more versus sites that have the exact content and layout (except for the header image).

  7. noel says:

    I read in another site (can’t remember which one) that he has a free dating site unlike his competitors which have fees. This added to the increase in users.

    Plus he basically paid about $11k for marketing his site during the first year.

    And he uses ip targeting to generate his results. If one use uses an IP based in a certain city, then he/she will see people who are also based on that area in the dating site.

    A well crafted sticky site with tons of members can really generate a very good adsense income.

  8. yuga says:

    @ Manuel

    As a matter of fact, I did a quick test last year and I used varying WP themes to represent “ugly” and “great” designs.

    There were fluctuations in the CTR but it was primarily attributed to the layout and ad placements.

    Ugly or not, it all about blending your ads fairly well with Adsense which really impacts your conversion rate.

    It just so happen that regular Adsense ads are generally ugly so ugly sites blend better with them.

  9. magicman says:

    10K a day??? $#@%E%$^#!!! WOW!!!

  10. Dan says:

    Well, there’s “simple,” and there’s ugly. Yes, Google’s homepage is quite simple, but it’s not ugly. Plenty of Fish is incredibly ugly for such a lucrative site. It’s even worse than MySpace. On top of that, as far as dating sites go, it’s one of the worst out there in terms of features, moderation, options, and even *grammar* in the POF content (not talking about user profiles). It’s mind-blowing how the site is making so much money and has collected that kind of userbase.

  11. I am the owner of edate.com and I would like you to keep your eye on the site. It is quite common place for people to be discussing ugly dating and social networking sites do well because of their ugly design. I disagree. Those sites sinply offer a good rliable service for free.

    eDtate is offering a commercial quality site with a asthetically pleasing design that is fast and easy to navigate. It is our belief and some of our members belief that our great design will help to over take the free dating market.

    Edate.com has a great design, is easy to use, is fast and reliable and has great customer support. AND EDATE.COM IS TOTALLY 100% FREE TO USE ALL FEATURES AS LONG AS YOU WANT.

    So, we can all see if membership will grow faster then it did for the ugly sites. you can help by telling your friends about edate too.

    Thanks,
    Justin

    Feedback is always appreciated about the site too

  12. I guess this is the reason why I put up a dating site called Filipino Friendster World. At first it looks very simple but I chose to update it to a better version of the software. I think being an ugly site doesn’t mean it will suck massive traffic. Maybe because of it’s functionality and simplicity why it became so popular.

    And during the early days of the internet there were quite few free dating sites (1994)and that became an opportunity for PoF. I wish I knew about setting up a dating site in the early days of internet and maybe I’m a millionaire now. Anyway if you are curious about my dating site, it’s not hard to find. Just type “filipino friendster” on any major search engine on the internet and you will find it at the top.

  13. Ako says:

    filipino friendster?
    just another copy cat… yan ang hirap sa mga pinoy eh.. nde gumawa ng magandang concept na sarili nila.. puro nalang gaya-gaya!

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