Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I am Kevin Wilkerson and I publish the lifestyle website PubClub.com. This is primarily a content site with information on travel, nightlife, food and drink, festivals, and sports around the world. I like to say it’s a site for those who like to have a drink in their hand. That is what makes it unique.
The site generates approximately $2,000 a month from advertising and we receive approx. 25k users/month to our website.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The idea of PubClub.com was born while I was in Amsterdam with a friend. It was a Sunday afternoon and nowhere in this normally-lively city could we find a happening bar. One place we walked into was just sweeping up the floors from what was a big party. And we had just missed it. That is when I realized it is not only important to know WHERE to be in a city but WHEN to be there.
Websites were just coming onto the scene then and I started thinking about starting one. Later, while traveling for a public relations client in Toronto, I learned the “routine” of the bars locals go to on specific nights of the week. Bingo! I had a unique concept for a site.
Gradually, over time, I began to add destinations in the USA and Canada, based primarily on my PR travels. Money was not a problem – it was simply going out on the towns on the road like I did at home and it was not expensive. The difference is that I kept a notepad with me to make notes about the atmosphere, the crowd, and a camera to take photos.
Eventually, tourism boards took notice and started inviting me to press events and even trips to their destinations. I have been to Switzerland three times, for example, at the invitation of its friendly tourism board.
My expertise to publish a quality website comes from my background. I majored in Journalism at the University of Alabama and began my career as a reporter on daily newspapers. Writing came easy to me and I have a lot of experience in photography, as well. So it is a very good fit.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The first thing I had to do was learn how to publish a website. Fortunately, I had met someone who was doing a daily newspaper type of site where I lived in Manhattan Beach, CA., and he walked me through the process. The first site was on Dreamweaver and now it is on WordPress. This took me less than a month to build. I had someone design it and then once I bought the initial Dreamweaver program, I got a crash course, and I was on my way to publishing articles. Most of what I have learned has been self-taught and there have been some trial and error lessons!
The start-up costs were small – I had to purchase Dreamweaver and Photoshop as well as digital cameras and a lot of memory chips in the early days. Setting up on WordPress is free and a hosting fee is generally $50 a month through a service such as GoDaddy.
The biggest lesson I have learned is that I need to keep evolving and when a new app comes along, I had better utilize it.
I suggest paying extra when setting up WP to get a dedicated URL for your website. GoDaddy can do this; they also have a web design service. All in all, you can do it for less than $1,000 and certainly don't pay more than $4,000 if you go to a website design company. Yoast SEO is $75 a year, I think and that's a necessity.
There are no real legal issues; as a journalist, I do not steal photos or content from other sites or sources. It’s all original.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The launch was easy. As it turns out a good friend of mine owned a website hosting company. So all I had to do was load up the pages. Getting people to notice it was another thing. One day I received a random email from someone offering to teach me to SEO optimize the site. Turns out he lived a few miles from me. He taught me well because suddenly, my pageviews skyrocketed and about that time I received an email from GoogleAdsense, and suddenly I was making pretty good money from ads that Google placed on the site.
I learned you can never get complacent. If you get lazy or don’t stay aggressive then someone else will be there to scoop up your page views.
As a result, I never had to do a Kickstarter or anything – heck, it didn’t even exist when I started the site. The biggest lesson I have learned is that I need to keep evolving and when a new app comes along, I had better utilize it. This is why I have started a “Drinking Tip Of The Day” video on TikTok and shared it on Instagram. I also utilize Facebook Groups, Quora, and Pinterest to share articles. In the beginning, I was slow to recognize Twitter and Instagram and as a result, do not have influencer-style social media numbers.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Fresh content. I am always on the lookout to publish fresh content. I will post two, three, or even four stories a day. It could be a local experience, something from international news I have come across, or taking a good press release from a PR person or agency and tailoring it to my site.
Of course, posting an article on the site is just the first step in attracting and retaining customers (which in my case are website visitors). I must put the link on several social media outlets. I need to utilize my PR skills and start sending out press releases. That’s one area I know well and I am not taking advantage of it.
I do have a newsletter, which I call the PubClub.com Party Report. It’s very successful in the Los Angeles beach cities but I need to expand it to a broader audience. Boots on the ground. Getting out to the PubClub target audience, talking about the site, and asking them if they want to be included in the Party Report. The tool I use is my personality, not an automated program. It's not the best way to build a large audience but you know when someone signs up for it they will pay attention to the newsletter when they receive it.
One very important element that I learned from my auto racing PR background is branding. Every time I go to an event for the website (and often when I’m just going out), I am branded in a shirt with the PubClub martini glass logo on it. I also wear this when traveling and it never fails to get a positive response, especially on airplanes. Always carry business cards with you, too, for you never know whom you might meet when away from home.
I also utilized my experience working with the Miss Grand Prix girls at auto races to create promotion girls, whom I call the PubClubettes. I dress them in cute– and classy – shirts and take them with me to press events, festivals, bar promos, have them as guests on the Livestream show and basically, anywhere there is a crowd where they and the website can get recognition. They pose for pictures and mingle with people. I often give them temporary tattoos to put on patrons. That’s good branding retention. I even made a calendar featuring the PubClubettes. The back of the shirts, by the way, says “Follow Me To PubClub.com!”
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Due to several Google search changes that favor big sites over smaller, individual ones, it’s a struggle. PubClub.com does make money on advertising and I am certainly hoping that continues, of course. I am working hard to regain lost page views and am confident my efforts will be rewarded.
I have expanded beyond the written word by launching livestream shows. The reason is to build brand awareness while at the same time seeking new avenues to attract advertisers.
Because I do not make or sell any products, my costs are very low relative to those types of businesses. The short-term goals are the same as the long-term goals: keep working on the site, come up with creative ways to expand and market it, and stay after it.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I learned you can never get complacent. If you get lazy or don’t stay aggressive then someone else will be there to scoop up your page views. I also learned – on the fly, too – that I have to keep up with various social media apps, changes to them, and how to use them and their new features. I wish there was a class I could take!
I do occasionally work with other site owners and that helps us both out from time to time. A huge recent challenge is backlinks; this is another change and ranking criteria of Google search. That is one new skill that I need to learn.
If you truly believe in something, then go for it. Be prepared to put in the effort, tho. You won’t get anywhere by doing it halfway or without a full commitment.
My biggest mistake was not calling the site PubCrawl, as some people suggested. That’s way easier to remember but as a journalist, I wanted something more descriptive of the website's content and I don’t do many pub crawls. I should have just named it that anyway.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
The website is published on WordPress.Most news and content sites use it because Google search constantly crawls WP sites. I also use social media: TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook Groups, Pinterest, and YouTube. Links to the PubClub social pages are below.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Other websites, mainly. The publisher of the two following sites has given me some great advice and tips on what has worked for him:
My podcast, too, is a livestream show. I call it PubClub LIVE!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
If you truly believe in something, then go for it. Be prepared to put in the effort, tho. You won’t get anywhere by doing it halfway or without a full commitment. Be open to suggestions from others, too.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am not looking to hire anyone at this point but I do on occasion use other writers to post articles about events in their city or other PubClub topics. You can reach me via email at: [email protected].
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Thank you for this great opportunity!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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