How to set up a profitable comparison site from home
With comparison sites becoming increasingly popular, if you're looking for a home-based business with bags of potential, this could be the start-up for you
Comparison websites are hugely popular in the UK and are usually the first port of call for smart online shoppers when looking for consumer and financial products.
Provided that you keep your overheads low, you can run a very profitable comparison site from home in your spare time and who knows, you could end up quitting your job to work on it full-time.
As part of our regular home-based business guides, we explain the steps to set up a profitable comparison website from home.
Choosing what to compare
Choosing what to compare is the most important way to start. Have you seen a gap in the market where there is little competition or consumer information? Or perhaps you have seen a growing industry such as apps or 3D printing.
Ideally, you want to be able to compare products or services where this is strong demand and high conversion rates. This means that you can spend less money educating the market and all you need to do is create a good, functional site and drive customers to it.
Examples of industries with high demand include insurance, betting, loans, holidays, cosmetics, clothing, electronic goods and more.
Once you select the industry you are going to target, you will need to come up with a good name for your company, which hopefully clearly explains what you offer and using words like ‘compare’ or ‘comparison’ in the name is a great place to start.
It may be worth considering seeing if you can get a Start Up Loan (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) to help you with financing, and mentoring to start this business idea. You'll also need to think about registering your business, either as a sole trader or as a company - if a company, then Smarta Formations (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) are an organisation that can help you set up.
You can then see what domain names are available using GoDaddy or 123 Reg and purchase the best name available – with .com and .co.uk the most popular choices.
Creating a website
There are several low-cost ways to build a smart and sophisticated looking website. Wix.com offers several templates for free which are easy to configure and you only pay for the domain and hosting. However, you may be limited with search engine optimisation and upgrading your site in the future.
Another popular choice is using WordPress, which offers much smarter templates, but you should be expected to a pay a few hundred or thousand pounds with a developer or designer to make the site look really look perfect. WordPress comes with its own content management system so you will be able to make changes to your site’s content, add new pages and blog posts whenever you want.
When designing your site, you need to think about how you are going to compare the products. Are consumers just interested in price or do they also care about locations or the speed of which they receive the product? You will need to decide whether you use simple comparison tables or include a form where users can enter information and narrow down their searches.
So now you have a beautiful new website and you know what you are comparing, you need to think about generating traffic and leads.
Probably the most effective method to drive traffic is through Google Adwords and Facebook Advertising where you can pay on a cost-per-click basis to target specific keywords, interests and demographics. If you have some money to invest, it is worth investing with £10 per day and slowly building it up if you are starting to see conversions.
Other low-cost methods with require expertise include search engine optimisation in order to rank for relevant keywords on Google’s organic search. Although technical, the basics can be achieved by adding regular content to your website and gaining links through PR on reputable websites. However, once you go up the rankings, you don’t pay for any clicks, so it is virtually free traffic.
If you have time on your hands, you can also generate free traffic by posting on social media like Instagram (great for food and retail), facebook and twitter. If you have some funny or interesting content that can go viral, you can potentially capture thousands of users overnight.
To earn commission from your website, there are several revenue models available. You need to think whether users will be making purchases on your site, clicking through to another company or simply making enquiries.
Since you will be comparing products from other companies, most of them will have ‘affiliate programmes’ in place where you can sign up via their website, add tracking links on your site and receive a commission if a sale goes through.
Commissions can range from 0.5% up to 50% depending on the programme and you can reach different commissions if you reach higher volumes. Amazon has a great affiliate scheme where you can choose from millions of products to promote and simply earn commission for every sale that goes through.
Some companies will simply pay for enquiries by phone or email and all you need to do is find the companies to promote and they will give you a specific email or phone number to display. You could earn money on a flat fee or enquiry basis.
Approaching companies and creating deals is essential – but you will likely need to demonstrate a good user experience and steady level of traffic to get their attention.
Licensing and regulation
Depending on the nature of your business, you may require some kind of license or regulation. Something basic like comparing restaurants in your area will not require a license by for something like car insurance or payday loans which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, you will need to consider applying for a license (which can take over a year) or becoming a representative of a company which can be done much quicker.
Creating a profitable comparison site will certainly require some initial investment to build the website and generate some traffic. But over time, you will find that your overheads are very low as you don’t pay for office space, stock or staff and just a few pounds for hosting the site each month.
So provided that you find a good industry to target and can get a healthy flow of traffic, you will be a comparison champion and GoCompare will be singing about you for a change!