(As of February 1st, we have added a real front page, search, and bookshelves to the website. I am leaving this up through in case authors are interested.)
We've gotten this great question from a few authors, and I wanted to share a bit more information on why I picked this strategy.
Here are the reasons:
- Search is not effective if you don't have anything to search for. We launched in April 2021 with 400 book lists and 2,000 books. That might sound like a lot but it is barely anything when you look at how many book/authors people expect you to have. Search just wouldn't have anything to search for until we reached some type of critical mass. As of December 2021 we have 22,000 topics and 20,000 books/authors and that is barely scratching the surface of what users expect (nobody has recommended Catcher in the Rye for example).
- It is very expensive to build search, both in terms of time and money. It is also expensive to run search, each search cost money (and there isn't much money in books). I am fairly worried search will cost too much to run with our current provider/implementation and we will have to rebuild it with a lower-cost solution (that will cost more upfront to build out but less over time).
- Before we could build search we had to build a recommendation engine and real topic support so that it would work. That took a good 5 months as that is complex and our sole dev works PT (can't afford FT yet).
And broadly speaking, one mistake that most entrepreneurs make is trying to build a full product before they learn/test with users on the core value proposition (a mistake I have made many times). This is why I started with the book lists to ensure they worked perfectly for authors and readers and drove book sales. Then, we can use those to build up enough supply to have something to search for and fill out subsequent sections like topic pages and the upcoming genre pages.
From a marketing standpoint, the strategy also had a specific reason since SEO is one of our primary marketing channels. By creating book lists first and growing those, we went after long tail SEO searches which are easier to rank for (although lower volume). Then we can move toward short tail searches which are much harder to rank for but have a higher volume (with topic pages). Google takes 3 years to really accept your website, so it was a way to start that process rather than waiting until we had a more "complete" website (oversimplification but general gist).
I hope to remove the "beta" tag toward Spring/Summer 2022 once we have a solid base in place. I want to get genre pages and filters out first (trying to license book data now as that is also quite expensive).