For any entrepreneurial web developers looking for a new project, building a price comparison website is an excellent idea. Not only will you learn some very useful coding lessons but you will also be able to produce a genuinely useful tool that can be monetized with relative ease.
But before you begin, there are some tips and advice that you need to know beforehand.
Find Your Niche
How you proceed with planning, building, and running your website will depend on the exact niche that you will be operating in. There are a number of different ways that you can go about deciding on a niche. If you already have experience working in an industry that provides products or services that are well-suited to a price comparison website, this will give you an obvious target.
When you are choosing what you are going to be comparing the prices of, you need to choose something that is going to be useful to enough people to sustain a website. Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to one particular thing, but there should be a common theme to your comparison targets. For example, the business utilities price comparison website Utility Bidder compares the prices of energy for golf clubs and other types of business.
Work Out How You Will Make Money
There are a number of different ways that you can monetize a price comparison website, the best method for you will depend on a variety of different factors. If you’re able to attract enough traffic, you will be able to sell advertising space on your website. The easiest way of doing this is through Google’s AdSense, which will take care of most of the work for you. There are other similar advertising networks that you can use, or you can cut out the middleman and strike deals directly with businesses to place ads on your site.
There may be some cases where you can justify charging some kind of fee for performing searches using your website. This only really applies to very niche comparison websites, especially those that require access to premium data. The majority of price comparison websites will provide their services for free so you need to be absolutely certain that your site can justify requiring any payments to access.
If you are going to charge for your services, you will need to decide whether it’s more appropriate to charge a recurring subscription fee or to charge users a small amount every time they perform a search. If there are already a number of established businesses who offer a similar service to yours available free of charge, you will need to think very carefully about how you can encourage users to pay you for something they can get for free elsewhere.
A common tactic employed by price comparison websites to make money is to strike some kind of sponsorship deal with businesses who are included in the comparisons. These businesses pay the price comparison site a little and in exchange, their business will appear more prominently in search results and given priority over other businesses. This might be a difficult sell until you have an appreciable amount of traffic and can offer businesses enough exposure to justify the fee.
Finally, most price comparison websites will make at least some of their money via affiliate marketing. Put simply, an affiliate marketing deal means that you receive a cut of every sale generated through your website. That means that whenever someone uses your site to compare prices and then clicks through to make a purchase through one of your affiliates, you will receive a small portion of the money they spend.
Building the Website
Probably the most difficult part of starting your own price comparison website is the actual website building itself. The good news is that you will have a number of different options open to you and you don’t need to know much web coding yourself in order to be able to put a working price comparison website together.
If you have the necessary skills to design and code your own website and tools from scratch, then this will give you the most control over the process and enable you to produce something that is truly unique. If you build your website on your own, you will be able to give it whatever look and feel you desire. However, if you don’t have experience in projects like this – namely those that require the use of regularly-updated data sources – it is a very challenging one to take on.
Your other option is to use a pre-built solution or template so there’s no need for you to worry about the intricacies of coding the tool yourself. Pre-existing scripts like Pricetapestry seamlessly integrate with other web applications and do most of the hard work for you. You will still need to find an appropriate data source to use, no one else can provide you with one of these. There are a variety of pre-built scripts available for you to use, have a look at user reviews to see what other web developers are saying.
Acquiring the Data
Just as important as the tool you build is the data that you use. Without an accurate, reliable, and a constantly updated data source, your tool isn’t going to be very useful for very long. Ideally, you want to find a data source that is free for you to access. For most price comparison services, it is relatively easy to find prices online; you rarely have to pay money just to be able to see how much something costs, after all.
Once you have located a suitable data source or sources, your tool will be ready for final field-testing and deployment. Of course, without a reliable data source to use, your price comparison tool isn’t going to have anything to compare.
Buying your own price comparison tool is an excellent way of learning how to build web apps that rely on publicly available data. If you’re able to produce a genuinely useful and worthwhile tool at the end of it, plus you have numerous options for monetization.