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We can learn from Porn, Or If you build it, will they come?


Let’s look at the numbers first.  The monthly search volume for the word, “porn” last month was over 13 million. That’s the number coming from Google, Yahoo and MSN combined.  The term sex? Almost 22 million times last month. What does this tell you? Let’s put into perspective real quick. So you know that there is a major housing/mortgage crisis going on right now. It’s been in the news a lot lately. Well,  the term mortgage had been searched on a mere 7 million times as of last month. The Iraq war you ask? 189,000 times. I know, how about Britney? She has been in the news too much and the numbers don’t lie. Try 14 million times last month, now that’s more like it.

Ok so the point is this, in the porn industry, the ultra competitive  nature drives internet marketers to be on their game.  The reason why is for the simple fact that tastes and technology change quicker than the bath water. Think about it, leaving out the fact that porn marketers are shameless and unethical, with over 30 million searches combined for the terms sex and porn, there is money to be made. Lots of it. They know this. They also are accutely aware that they either can change quickly, either with the content or the technology, or be eaten alive. Good porn marketers are better than your average internet marketer because they push the technology as far as they can, and then find new ways after that. They take chances because they have to.

Because attracting eyeballs online is the name of the game internet marketers have to use every tactic and trick to get you there and keep you there. That’s why porn marketers are willing to try any and every new technology to achieve that. They are months ahead in some respects to what some traditional marketers might employ for user attraction and retention.

Starting with the user experience, porn marketers realize that content is king but too much “free” content will make them a pauper, thus the usage of creating crumb trails to the main paid content is the objective. In fact, porn price points for entry are almost nil, but, the usage of a recurring billing model and and the ability to accept any and all forms of payment in any and all currencies make it an ideal business model. Customer service doesn’t really exist in the porn game, except to the extent that they make it difficult to cancel an order, so to dwell on that aspect is a moot point.

Another reason  good porn marketers are better, is because they study the competetiton. They recreate what works best, and when that doesn’t work, they test something else, when that quits working they move on.  I can point to some normal sites that haven’t changed their GUI in 3 years and still pull a 9% conversion rate. But it always begs the question, what would a new look and feel pull? Guess they’ll never know. Good porn marketers will have days, weeks, months and years of data for you.

Another thing that traditional marketers could learn is that porn is as niche based as it has ever been. The more niche based, the better the audience retention is.  We will avoid naming for you specific niche examples, but I’m sure you can use your imagination.  The bottom line is that the recurring revenue model  in this situation is perfect as long as content is updated regularly but still retains the integrity of the niche. If you change the niche, they are gone.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Wow this person certainly knows the porn business well.” Actually, I will leave that comment as is. As someone who studies any and all online business models, I would be remiss if I did not look at why the porn business model is so successful. The majority of that success of course will always stem from peoples’ utter facination with sex and the search numbers that support that. But one caveat would be assuming the, “If you build it, they will come…” (no pun intended although it seems very appropo), model. That  business model would not last long in the hyper-speed nature of porn business models. At the advent of the internet, it probably worked very well. Now though, you need top programmers and savvy business people who understand the online marketplace backwards and forwards to be successful.

So if you think porn marketers operate in a vacuum and have no clue what they are doing. Rest assured, they are doing things from a technology standpoint, that the rest of the online marketing world would love to learn. Why? What do you think the PPC model might look like in the porn universe? If porn marketers relied on ppc, they would shoot their wad in one day(again excuse the pun) and be out of the business in a week. Instead they have to use not only traditional methods of internet marketing coupled with SEO best practices but they also have to test, test and test and then act at a moments notice.

Although I don’t expect you to rush out and go “study” porn sites, from an internet marketers standpoint. If you should uh.. stumble upon one, do take the time to study the structure and the messaging and the content… and then read the articles.

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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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October 2007
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