WP Hosting Case Study: Drive Zero 2019-05-22T15:43:52+00:00

WP HOSTING CASE STUDY

DRIVE ZERO

Steps to transitioning a WordPress website from hobby to side gig

Drive Zero’s goal is to help Australians move more quickly to low or no emission cars by giving them more information from existing owners.

Website: drivezero.com.au
Publisher: Keith Mason @ Newformula Media

Business Type

Team Size

Launch Date

Audience Location

Publication

1 – 10 

May 2017 

Australia

Driving into a fast-growing niche

Drive Zero is on a mission. While there is a growing global awareness of the impacts of carbon emissions, we still have a long way to go when it comes to doing anything about it.

One area where a movement is forming globally is a shift to driving alternatives to a regular, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. Modern ICE vehicles are much more efficient than older vehicles were, but still, there is considerable room for improvement.

One of the core beliefs of Drive Zero is that we need to be making more of a move toward sustainably powered vehicles if we want to be able to make a real difference to the planet. The challenge is that in Australia adoption of electric vehicles has been lagging behind. According to a 2018 report by ClimateWorks Australia (PDF), barriers to adoption include things like consumer awareness and concern about policy support for electric vehicles.

Founder, Keith Mason has always been a “car guy,” interested in technology as well as environmental issues. The driving force behind starting a hobby website was his own keen interest in the subject. Noting that electric vehicles have been comparatively expensive to buy until recently, he estimates that interest will increase as they become more accessible to people.

Keith’s own electric vehicle journey inspired him to create the Drive Zero site. It was about working on something he finds interesting and motivating himself, while hoping to engage others. He purchased a BMW i3 as his first foray into electric vehicles and hasn’t looked back.

As far as establishing a demand for the content that Drive Zero presents, Keith says it really was about doing something he was interested in first. It so happens that there is demand for this content as people become more environmentally conscious and want to find ways they can contribute in their everyday lives. In this way, Drive Zero is ideally placed to transition from hobby website to side-gig — there has to be demand for the content.

Keith’s key goal was to create a resource to help current and potential electric car owners find the information they need. He wants the site to continue with regular updates as technology changes, new cars are available and businesses or governments update policies to support electric car ownership.

The bottom line is to share good quality information to help raise awareness and have a lot of content that remains relevant to the electric car industry for a long time. They’re not trying to cover everything in the news as there is always a lot happening, but aim to keep a relevant resource, supporting those making the electric vehicle decision.

Creating content for engagement

Drive Zero began life as a hobby site with a focus on delivering content. The basic goal was (and still is) to inform people about electric vehicles. To do this, they aim to make the content they publish as useful to a wide audience for as long as possible.

Anyone who is in the business of running a website has probably heard for the last several years that “content is king”, or similar statements emphasising the importance of content. Having quality content on a website helps to draw visitors and keep them coming back. It helps build trust and reliability as a brand.

“Quality content” is the key term. People look for content for many different reasons, but they always want to get something of value from the content. In the case of Drive Zero, they’re looking for content that keeps them well-informed. They might be looking to make a purchasing decision for an electric vehicle and want to know the ins and outs of ownership. They might already own an electric vehicle and want to hear about updates in the industry, maintaining their vehicle or policies that are relevant to them.

When you have a niche topic such as electric vehicles, you need to have the right content creators to deliver the level of quality required. Keith says:
Real world experience and interest are at the heart of creating content that’s authentic and resonates with the reader.

Real world experience and interest are at the heart of creating content that’s authentic and resonates with the reader.

To facilitate this authentic content, Drive Zero works with writers who are knowledgeable about electric vehicles, either as enthusiasts or journalists. They also look for useful information from electric vehicle owners to add the “real life” element.

Monetising: Transitioning from hobby to side-gig

Of course, “what about monetising?” is a big question that is often asked of hobby websites that have a large following. When you build the right foundation with valuable content and a growing audience, you open up opportunities to transition that website to a money-earner.

At the time of writing this, Drive Zero is not concerned about quickly monetising, but when they decide to focus on this, they’re in a good position to do so. They have a great platform that provides writers, readers and potential electric vehicle owners a place to interact on the subject. They also have a number of ideas for monetising and experience in transitioning a site from hobby to side-gig already.

Keith started the hobby website “Point Hacks” in 2010 with the goal of sharing information about another complex subject — how to get the most out of the world of frequent flyer programs. That site is now a highly successful digital business and under new ownership.

He says although the subjects are completely different, there are many conceptual overlaps that he can bring across when considering how to make Drive Zero a money-earner. For example, if you’re looking to monetise;

  • Your readers come first. Think of ways to give them what they want easily, without compromising on user experience.
  • Insert your site as the “middle man” to create or facilitate a business exchange. It should be a logical progression that makes sense to the reader, rather than something that is jarring and “salesy.”
  • Try to avoid falling back on traditional digital advertising. Keith describes this as a “race to the bottom” so it’s not something he prioritises.

One thing we can see across the two sites that Keith operates is a commitment to being authentic. He could have chosen to pepper in other potential ways to make money off the sites, but he remains true to mission. The first priority is always delivering value to his readers, so he is naturally setting his websites up as authorities on their subjects.

One possibility for monetizing Drive Zero exists with the current “Marketplace” page. This has been set up to help facilitate the sale of electric vehicles or accessories. Currently, listings are free, but one option could be to charge a fee for successful sales. Alternatively, perhaps they could keep it free for readers, but charge dealers a fee to advertise.

Another important point is ensuring that the technology you use for monetising your WordPress site doesn’t detract from the overall user experience at all. There are a number of ways you can choose to monetise, but some of these are a risk in terms of the experience of your readers.

For example, pop-ups or banner ads can cause slower website performance and irritate readers. Revisiting Point Hacks site, monetisation opportunities fit within genuinely helpful articles — a natural experience for readers. There is no cumbersome code running annoying advertisements — readers can get helpful information from a blog post on the subject and choose to click on a link out to the product if they wish.

Drive Zero’s tech story: Putting the right tools in place

Behind every popular website there is a good set of essential tools. Here’s what keeps Drive Zero cranking:

Essential plugins

These are the plugins behind various essential functions on the Drive Zero website:

  • Jetpack – This is a sort of “plugin of plugins”, a feature-heavy addon that gives access to a huge number of potential applications. One of the key things to remember about plugins is that it’s about quality rather than quantity. Too many plugins can slow down your site, particularly if the coding is low-quality. Jetpack has excellent coding, and another plus is that if you don’t have certain features activated (something that the website owner controls entirely), then they won’t be running code in the background of your site.
  • Shortcodes Ultimate – This plugin provides a collection of visual and functional elements, to be used in post editor, text widgets or template files. For example, you can create buttons, tabs and responsive videos.
  • WP Rocket – Website load time plays a very important role in attracting and keeping readers. One way to speed up load times is to ensure that pages are cached, a function that WP Rocket provides. Other load-friendly features include static file compression and image loading on request — meaning the images only load as the visitor scrolls the site.

Choosing a theme

Keith describes choosing a theme as one of the most fun and frustrating parts of firing up a WordPress site. There are many options to choose from, so it’s a matter of narrowing them down based on how well they will fit some essential criteria that you devise.

Drive Zero ultimately went with the “New Standard” theme from Themeforest. Keith says “I think paying for themes usually results in a better outcome because you can ask authors for support on customisation and how their theme works.”

Website hosting

When it came to choosing a host, Keith had a couple of core requirements:

  • The host must be WordPress specific
  • The host must be local to Australia with good local support.

WP Hosting fit the bill, with dedicated WordPress hosting and Australia-based technology and support.

As an added bonus the WP Hosting team helped Keith optimise WordPress for performance, shaving a few seconds off the page load time.  In 2016 Keith selected to place Point Hacks on a more powerful Dedicated Server, and by contrast he opted to host Drive Zero on their WordPress Hosting Business Plan, with a view to upgrade to a dedicated server once he reaches certain usage and commercial milestones.

Extra resources for online publishers

If you’d like to know more about different key website components to drive the success of your publication, check these out:

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