Andrew Leibenguth started his website, TamaquaArea.com, as a hobby to keep busy after returning home from Iraq. And it continues to be a hobby, but one that small business website operators can learn from too.
Last year, the website received more than 1.2 million hits. And since 2010, TamaquaArea.com, along with its photo archives and TamaquaArea YouTube channel, has received more than 15.3 million views. The site has been able to get all of those views despite the fact that Tamaqua, PA., the community the site covers, only has about 7,000 residents.
And despite all of that success, Leibenguth has no plans to monetize the site or run it as a business. He says that would take away the enjoyment he gets from the experience.
“I didn’t and never have taken any money or advertising for anything I do. I covered all types of news, not just non-profits. That kept people coming back to my site,” he explains in an email interview with Small Business Trends.
So why should small business owners and entrepreneurs pay attention to Leibenguth’s website? (Did we mention the 1.2 million views TamaquaArea.com received in the last year alone?)
In the end, website traffic often comes down to content. Leibenguth includes posts of interest to his local community (and those who no longer live in the community but want to keep up with what’s going on back home.)
This includes events, community announcements, coverage of municipal meetings, local police and emergency response incidents, stories about local businesses, and more. Leibenguth says he would prefer to just cover the good news in his community. But he tries to cover as much as possible so that the site will be taken seriously and considered a real resource for the people of Tamaqua.
Besides the local content, Leibenguth attributes his success to good timing coinciding with the growth in Internet usage locally, even in rural Pennsylvania. But even if the number of visits surprises him, it’s clear the site’s success is more than ust dumb luck. Leibenguth estimates he spends about 80 percent of his time working on the TamaquaArea.com, including taking photos and videos, writing posts, and updating social media accounts.
The site is currently a one-man operation, though Leibenguth is looking for some volunteer reporters, photographers and editors to help it to grow.
“As you can imagine, my hobby is full of anxiety — since I serve as the sole writer, planner, photographer, videographer, radio scanner listener, webmaster, technician, event reporter, feature reporter/writer, social media guru, and editor for my site,” he explains
But he still plans to spend a lot of time working on the site. Since his return from serving in Iraq, Leibenguth says he has found the fast-paced hobby helps him stay occupied and happy.
Last year, he transferred the site to WordPress.com, which he says makes the whole process of posting a lot easier and less time consuming. He also keeps photo archives on Smugmug and updates both his personal Facebook and business Facebook pages regularly.
But for Leibenguth, the site is still a hobby and a way to keep busy. He enjoys staying involved with local non-profits, businesses and community members. So the success of the site is really just a bonus.
“When people ask why I do what I do, I usually tell them, ‘If I fill my life with complete control and kind intent, nothing can go wrong,’” he says.
Images: TamaquaArea.com, Facebook