Why did Paperbackswap grow suddenly?
June 5, 2009
I’ve been looking at Alexa.com and compete.com to see how BookMooch is doing compared to its main competitor paperbackswap.com. For about the first two years, both sites were growing at about the same pace.
Then, sometime around January 2009, paperbackswap started doing quite a bit better, and they seem to have maintained their growth rate.
I’m wondering: why?
What did paperbackswap do that suddenly made them grow?
My own hunch comes from the fact that they never seemed to improve the site much, until the fall of 2008 when suddenly the web site design changed (improving greatly), they buried the “free charter membership for one year, then we might charge you” stipulation (so most people didn’t see it), they pushed their new DVD and CD swapping sites, and a raft of other improvements.
My gut feeling is simply that they became buzzy simply by rapidly improving their offering, and that this built up energy and excitement for their site, which translated into more blogging and eventually a few big press mentions. In general, I feel that if you create a sense of excitement and momentum around a project, that buzz, press and growth follow.
Confusingly, when I read about book swapping sites being compared on discussion forums, I usually find that BookMooch is mentioned far more than any site. For a recent example, last month the Goodreads Horror Aficionados group asked: “Paperbackswap or bookmooch” and BookMooch was the clear favorite (PBS was mentioned a few times, and no other site was mentioned more then twice) among these forum participants.
I’d love to get your thoughts: leave comments below with what you think PBS did that made them suddenly grow? What do you think BM should do? Do you have other metrics?
Using the new Wolfram Alpha search engine, I come up with this chart comparing the daily number of visitors at both sites:
and this table:
Much has been made of Alexa‘s numbers being inaccurate, but it really depends on how they define “unique visitors”. I use a web site analysis program called “Awstats” which has its own definitions, which I think are not very accurate either, namely because determining what a “unique” user is, is actually quite hard. The Alexa numbers, at 48,000 visitors per day (is that unique visitors? I can’t tell), are in the middle of my two stats (25,000 or 60,000 per day):
Compete.com shows different numbers, but shows growth in November for PBS:
This chart from Alexa shows the percent of visitors coming from search engines (i.e. google). BM used to get about twice the percent (vs PBS) of its visitors from search engines, but now we’re about equal. That makes me things that PBS started doing better in search engine placement (aka SEO).
So there are the numbers… what are your thoughts?