Generating Passive Income With A Diamond Search Engine

$500
revenue/mo
1
Founders
0
Employees
product
The Diamond App
from Baltimore
started January 2017
$500
revenue/mo
1
Founders
0
Employees
3.92M
alexa rank
11.5K
followers
0
subs

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

What’s up! My name is Tony Florida (yes my last name is Florida) and I am the founder of The Diamond App, an online diamond price tracker and search engine.

Think of The Diamond App like Google Flights for diamonds—you can find cheap diamonds in seconds, compare similar diamonds, and sign up for price alerts.

I work with a half dozen online jewelers, and to date, the website has diamond price history for close to 8 million loose diamonds.

My target audience is anyone looking to save money on their engagement ring, and who isn’t? All kidding aside, most of my users are guys with a budget who want to get the best bang for their buck on an engagement ring for their girlfriend.

Diamonds range in value from a couple hundred dollars for something the size of a pencil tip all the way up to millions of bucks for a perfectly cut hunk of rock. That being said, the jewelry industry is a highly competitive industry. The Diamond App brings in on average $500 per month in revenue, mostly from affiliate sales.

generating-passive-income-with-a-diamond-search-engine

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

The idea for The Diamond App started when I was engagement ring shopping for my girlfriend. I knew nothing about diamonds except that they were expensive.

With zero knowledge about diamonds, I went to a local jewelry store and looked at some diamonds. I went home and discovered that I could find an equivalent diamond online for thousands of dollars less. This is when I learned that buying a diamond online is much cheaper than in a brick and mortar store thanks to significantly less operating expenses with an online business.

I also wanted to find the most sparkle for my budget, so I spent weeks researching the 4 c's of diamonds: cut, color, clarity, and carat. I stumbled upon other lesser known factors that affect light performance of a diamond such as pavilion angle and depth percentage.

After learning the exact properties and proportions that allow for the most sparkle (i.e. allow the diamond to reflect the most light), I wrote a software program that essentially picked out a sparkly Blue Nile diamond within my budget.

I finally had a perfect sparkly diamond, but I hesitated to buy it because, well, it was still going to be the most expensive purchase of my life. My hesitation paid off when I woke up one morning to find that the price of the diamond dropped by $633 overnight. That price drop put me over the edge and I bought it right then and there.

After discovering that diamond prices are not set in stone, The Diamond App was born. I used my software engineering background to develop the website in a matter of a few months. I was working at a hedge fund at the time and found a lot of parallels between tracking stock market prices and diamond prices.

I started out partnering with on one online jeweler, Blue Nile, which is where I bought my engagement ring from. To date, I am working as an affiliate for six jewelers where I earn on average a 5% commission for any sales that I drive to their stores.

Take us through the process of designing and building the website.

Today, The Diamond App is essentially a 100% hands off, passive income generating machine. It wasn’t always like this though. It took a full year of coding on nights and weekends to get the website to this point.

My goal for the “beta” version of the website was to automatically download Blue Nile’s diamond inventory on a daily basis, save it into a database, process the price history, and make it available for users. I wrote the software to do just that.

If you want to start an online business, then start an online business. Many people often make the mistake of overthinking and second-guessing.

But as I partnered with more and more jewelers, I started hitting the resource limits of my shared hosting company. In other words, I was using up too much memory and processing power when I was analyzing the hundreds of thousands of rows of diamond data, and my code would crash.

I realized that I needed to upgrade from shared hosting to a dedicated server which would give me more resources. This was my first big expense… instead of paying $10 per month for hosting, I had to now pay $58.88 per month.

The upgrade was well worth it though, because after some further redesign and code optimization, I found myself having to develop the site less and less. Everything worked the way that it was designed to work. Diamond inventory was systemically ingested into The Diamond App on a daily basis, and I didn’t have to lift a finger.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Hands down, the hardest part of launching an online business is getting the word out to potential customers. My expertise is building and writing software, but I had no clue how to actually get people to use my website though.

Social Media

I initially focused on social media by creating a Facebook and Instagram for my company. I soon found out that my audience on these platforms were more interested in seeing pretty pictures of jewelry and diamonds than the content of my actual website.

I was seeing at most 10 users visit my website every day during the first few months. These users were primarily coming from social media but were probably not interested in purchasing an engagement ring.

Paid Traffic

The Diamond App website traffic vs affiliate commission

To my surprise, my first affiliate sale was one month after launch and yielded me a hefty $375 commission. I was ecstatic; however, I knew I had to target my audience better, but how?

I started to experiment with Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. Traffic and sales certainly increased with paid ads, but after 3 or 4 months of this, I realized that I was spending more on ads than I was making in affiliate commissions. It wasn’t until I stepped up my SEO game that I started being profitable.

Affiliate Partnerships

Another aspect that I should mention here is the process of partnering with additional jewelry stores as an affiliate. I found this to be drastically different depending on the jeweler that I was talking to. Some jewelers have an online form that you can fill out and you’re automatically approved as an affiliate, while others require much more convincing.

It really helped to have Blue Nile as my first partnership. For those who aren’t familiar, Blue Nile is pretty much the dominant force in online engagement rings and diamonds. Having that partnership under my belt was a major advantage when talking to other potential retailers.

In the end though, I found out that it’s not the number of affiliate partnerships that you have, but rather the quality of your relationships and your trust in the retailer. As an affiliate, you should believe in the company, product, or service that you are promoting.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

SEO: Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization has worked the best for bringing the right customers to my website. SEO is the process of optimizing your website in a way that search engines, like Google, show your pages higher up in search results for specific keywords. The best part of SEO is that it’s free.

By targeting specific, relevant keywords on Google such as “diamond search engine” and “diamond price tracker”, my website now appears on the first page of Google. These keywords get up to 300 searches per month, which may not sound like a lot, but I rather target these specific keywords than shoot in the dark for a broad keyword like “diamond clarity” for example.

generating-passive-income-with-a-diamond-search-engine

When I was experimenting with paid traffic, I noticed that when targeting a general keyword like “diamond clarity” my bounce rate would be near 100%. On the other hand, when I targeted a keyword that was specific to my website like “diamond search engine” the bounce rate was much, much lower and user engagement was drastically higher.

I used this knowledge from experimenting with paid ads and incorporated it into my SEO strategy. I knew what keywords worked, so I combed over my website and inserted these keywords where relevant.

Additionally, I made sure my pages were optimized using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Many website owners don’t realize that Google prioritizes faster loading webpages in its search results over slower, less optimized pages. The same goes for mobile friendly websites.

Facebook Ads

Over on Facebook where you have a lot more demographics and metadata about your potential customers, I still found it hard to target engagement ring shoppers. I spoke to Facebook marketing experts about this, and they agreed. On the flipside, as a wedding photographer for example, it’s really easy to target newly engaged couples on Facebook thanks to Facebook’s relationship status.

The thing about engagement ring shopping is that most times it’s a once and done thing. I generally don’t expect my customers to return after making a purchase. That’s why I decided to stay away from email marketing and spending a lot of time on social media. I truly feel that SEO is the best method for attracting customers in the diamond industry.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Like I mentioned earlier, The Diamond App is completely hands off for me at this point. I’m just an affiliate for these jewelers, so I don’t actually sell any physical products. That means I have no inventory or shipping to deal with. My business exists in the cloud and practically runs itself.

Starting a business is like investing— they are both long term games. Don’t expect to be profitable next month or next year even. It may take years until you see your efforts pay off. If you aren’t willing to accept that, then starting a business may not be right for you.

Operating costs are predictable at $83.70 per month. I see anywhere between 1 and 3 affiliate sales per month, and with most affiliate commission being at least $100, I am definitely profitable.

500 new users visit The Diamond App every month. I know this number isn’t huge, but with a bounce rate of 50%, I much very much appreciate these 250 engaged users every month.

I am very satisfied with what I’ve built and the value that I offer. I have no plans of expanding to other jewelers or doing any further development at this time.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Starting a business is like investing— they are both long term games. Don’t expect to be profitable next month or next year even. It may take years until you see your efforts pay off. If you aren’t willing to accept that, then starting a business may not be right for you.

Along the same lines, don’t start a business just to make money. You have to be passionate about the product or service that you’re offering. For me, I’ll admit that I’m not passionate about diamond per se, but I am passionate about helping people get a good deal on their engagement ring.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I built my website from the ground up using Python and the Django web framework. I’ve built my own tools for internal reporting and scheduling of tasks as needed. My decision to build these tools in house was an artifact of the fact that me core website was built in house. It was much easier to integrate my own tool into my website than to integrate a third party tool.

The only tool that I pay for is G Suite. G Suite allows me to have an Gmail inbox for my business email address for $5 per month. Outside of that, I should mention that I used 99designs to have my logo designed.

generating-passive-income-with-a-diamond-search-engine

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Podcasts, in particular, were hugely responsible for me having enough knowledge and courage to start an online business. I used my 45 minute commute to and from work to binge on podcasts that would educate and inspire me.

I’d have to say that Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast was most influential and introduced me to the world of affiliate marketing among other passive income methods. Additionally, the Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast by John Lee Dumas provided me the daily inspiration that I needed to keep going when I felt stuck throughout the development process.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

If you want to be, do.

In other words, if you want to start an online business, then start an online business. Many people often make the mistake of overthinking and second-guessing.

Just get started with whatever it is that you want to do. You’re going to make mistakes and that’s okay. We all do. Learn from it. Correct course along the way. Be persistent and you’ll eventually succeed.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Tony Florida,   Founder of The Diamond App

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