After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Ginger Venable started her business career in the wild world of Direct Mail in the mid 1980s. Fast forward to the dawn of the internet in the late 90’s where she quickly jumped into online marketing, corporate communications and specialized in event planning. She loves to host parties. In 1998 she co-wrote a book on graduation party planning with a friend. Her 3 children and many of their friends have enjoyed very well planned and well attended parties. In addition to running the website, she is an event planner. She is usually juggling 3-6 projects at the same time. Ginger live in Minnesota and has attended over 100 graduation parties! When planning a celebration her main goal is to make the guests feel welcome. That is what they try to do with their website as well.
Ginger Venable, co-owns and maintains GraduationParty.com, with Susan Kielly, another mom with graduation party and web design experience.
Mike: Explain what the site, GraduationParty.com is.
Ginger: GraduationParty.com is the go-to site for people planning a graduation party. We provide advice on everything from start to finish: selecting a date, time, location, what to serve, how to decorate and who to invite are addressed along with helpful tips to make the celebration special and low stress. With over 3.3 million students graduating from high school every year parents are looking for insider advice, creative ideas & fun products. Our website is filled with tons of graduation party needs, from graduation invitations to graduation decorations to catering ideas and so much more! Most of our content comes from moms who share their party details and our party product affiliates.
Mike: GraduationParty.com is a dream name, how did you come across it? Were you the first to register the name or did you buy it from someone? If the latter, can you share the price?
Ginger: I registered the name and developed this site back in 1998. At that time the name was available, so our timing was perfect. I had just co-wrote the book, Graduation Parties: Everything You Need to Know from Start to Finish. Our original intention was to sell the books, but over time we realized that content was king and moved most of the book content onto the website.
Mike: The book is available on the site. What will the book teach us that the site won’t?
Ginger: The benefits of having a web page (full color images, the ability to update as trends change and to generate income) made the book somewhat obsolete. Some people appreciate the structure and checklists that come in the book. There are more details in the book than online as web pages need to be short to keep people’s attention.
Mike: Do you use social media to promote the site? If so, what are some examples.
Ginger: We have a blog gradpartyblog.com and Facebook page . We have also conducted a few contests for graduating seniors and have published the results of surveys we’ve conducted with our customers.
Mike: How much traffic does the site receive month to month?
Ginger: Graduation Party planning is a very seasonal business. Our visits peak in May with over over 87,000 visitors this year. Back in 2010, in our peak year, we had 210,000 visitors in May. Getting higher ranking in search engines is so darn tricky. We were number one or two on all the major search engines for many years, but then the logic changed and we’ve slipped. Maybe you could ask your readers for suggestions!
Mike: It looks like you link to some affiliate sites. What is the main way you generate revenue on the site?
Ginger: We sell advertising on our site and generate revenue through affiliate sales. The internet sales tax issue here in Minnesota has dramatically reduced our income as many of our largest affiliates have stopped offering affiliate programs in our state. We are hoping to sell the business to someone outside of Minnesota so they can partner with these affiliates again.
Mike: What do you find to be the most rewarding part of running an online business?
Ginger: Being at the top of the search engines for many years was very exciting. As search engines changed we’ve slipped a bit recently and are trying to figure out how to get back on top. Working with various advertisers and affiliates on new products every year is also an exciting challenge. Helping other parents plan their celebrations is rewarding as well. Many parents appreciate our prompt responses to their many questions.
If you have any SEO suggestions for Ginger, please post them in the comments. I’ll be sure to follow up in the future and see how your tips have impacted rankings.