Aaron Traffas: Hello and welcome to the 16th episode of the Auction Podcast from Auctioneer Tech. My name is Aaron Traffas and joining me today for the second in our vendor interview series is my friend Dwayne Leslie. Dwayne is the President of the Global Auction Guide Media Group based in Manitoba, Canada. Good Evening Dwayne and thank you for joining me.
Dwayne Leslie: Hi Aaron. Thanks for having me on.
AT: What is Global Auction Guide?
DL: Global Auction Guide is basically a network of websites. We started back in 2001 with a site called FarmAuctionGuide.com. As a farmer myself, I couldn’t find the auction sales in a nice aggregate format where I could search for any individual item across many different auctioneers. So, we thought, well, if we couldn’t find what we are looking for, then there is probably others out there looking for the same thing. We had a little bit of background in doing some other web projects and we thought, well, we will build it see who comes. Seven years later it is certainly been a lot of fun.
What kind of growth did you see over those 7 years as far as both the traffic of your visitors and your web stats as well as what kind of growth did you see in your own company? How many people did you start with and what has your staff grown to be today?
Well, we jokingly, refer to our company as a hobby that got out of hand in a very good way. We currently have actually 5 employees, so it works out very well. I actually still farm as well. So it allows me to continue farming in the summer and of course, having people on staff now to look after these things. But It’s a long cold winter up here. Just outside Winnipeg, Manitoba. We jokingly say we get 10 months of winter and 2 months of poor sledding. But its not quite that bad I think most of the times. No, we have come a long way. We originally had the agricultural site and within a year based on the feedback and the growth of that, the auctioneers were ask as to have sites for them as for other industries, you know they may have antique sale or real estate sale or industrial sale whatever the case may be. So we developed niche sites for each of these different types of sales as well and then of course, we branded ourselves as Global Auction Guide Media Group. It just kept growing and growing and growing every year and just 2008 for example, we had 70% growth over the year before and it’s phenomenal. The more we learn about the internet and the more we can harness the power of internet to help out auctioneers it just keeps growing and growing.
So you mentioned why you started to have additional domains. You know, you have started with Farm auction guide; certainly GlobalAuctionGuide.com is the one I use whenever I am going to see, you know, what is in the area. But I know that you have many many other sites, other smaller niche as you call it domains. Are you saying a benefit to that strategy is supposed to and I certainly think, there is may be not the correct argument, but certainly a legitimate argument to be made, that may be 1 site is better. You can focus all of your work to brand 1 site as supposed to many different sites. Why have you chosen the multiple domains and what are some of the other domains that you have and what are you looking to add?
Dwayne Leslie: Well, Probably a good example of some of the other domains we have, would be the one that covers your state, KansusAuctionsGuide.com. The big part of that is when somebody finds a site, when a bidder is looking for an item and they are from Kansas; they find the Kansas site they bookmark the Kansas site and they keep coming back. Because that’s there local access point for the national network. Of course they can find all of the sales across the continent on the Kansas site, but it’s just in their mindset. You know, this is for Kansas and I am gonna keep coming back here. The other important part is for SEO reasons or Search Engine Optimization reasons, where someone is on Google and searches for Kansas auctions it is a pretty good chance that Kansas Auction Guide comes up and certainly in the top 2 or 3. Most of the times our sites are ranked no 1 for what we target. That is a huge thing for us. We probably, average around 100,000 referrals just from Google every month. So the work that we do to get the, set the auctioneer sale bills and get our web sites to the top of the search engine is incredibly important to drive in traffic to the sales. Especially the sale is online bidding or live web casting and these types of things where you need to get the national exposure. A good SEO is so important and domaining is big part of that as well.
You have partnerships with many other companies and organizations. What are some of the more exciting alliances that you have the opportunity to establish? What are some that you are currently working on now?
Partnerships and syndication of our auction sales has been a huge part of what we have done. Basically from our very original business plan that we had back in 2001, we knew this was important, then, it just gotten more and more important as years are gone by. In the agriculture segment we have newspapers like Grass and Grain out of Manhattan Kansas. When you go to their website and look at their auction sales it is actually driven by our database. So it all looks sales on our systems that show up on their newspaper site with their templates and their look. They were able to promote in their newspaper come to their website Grassandgrain.com to see thousands of upcoming auctions from across the continent. We have many other partnerships like that. Brownfield Radio Network is a huge agricultural radio syndication program across the mid-west. When you go to their website, it’s a same idea its driven by us. So, we work with many other newspapers, radio networks and other portal and niche websites and even our competitors basically to get their auctioneers bills to be seen and heard as far and wide as possible. Probably one of the neediest things that come along the industry in many years has been a central auction hub, which actually is, originally sorted out by us I guess and launched by ourselves as auctionzip.com basically to make a central auctioneer or auction sale database. If an auctioneer wants to push his sales to 100 different websites, just with a couple of quick set of buttons, the way it goes. He doesn’t have to do all that work or re-enter it. It just, the way the internet. It really really shines. It’s been able to transfer the information as far and wide as possible.
What is your pricing structure at Global Auction Guide?
We have a very simple pricing structure. We charge 360$ per year for unlimited listings, unlimited text, unlimited photos. Its just one flat annual fee. So whether you do one sale a month or 200 sales a year. You know, it’s very economical. Compared to the cost of one print ad in a newspaper, we feel we are very competitive and well within the price range of small auctioneers as well.
There are, as you mentioned earlier, there are other auction calendars, some of which are free. What added value do I get as an auctioneer from using Global Auction Guide as opposed to one of those other competing calendars?
Well, I don’t really see it as being a competing calendar. I just look at it as it’s an other calendar. Just like, you can’t put all of your advertising into one newspaper or one sale bill or whatever the case may be. You need to be basically on as many different websites as you can get. Many of the free websites out there are actually tide in with central auction hub so that you can come on to it, global for example; and push your sales out all these free calendars and get as much exposure as possible. Using the global system that just gets you that many more people gain your sale. Because we do things and we spend lot of time doing SEO and lot of time marketing your sale bill out to many different syndication partners. We feel that it’s the marketing side of thing for which you are really paying for with us. That’s approximately a dollar a day. For what we do, we feel it’s a huge value for the auctioneers.
You mentioned it before but I just can’t want to rear it as a part of the discussion. When I list my auctions on Kansas Auction Guide that goes into database and so all over the continent for my listing gets listed and can be found on Nebraska Auction Guide, Missouri Auction Guide and Farm Auction Guide and all of those other sites with in your network. As an auctioneer, I need to, when I am looking at my website analytics and looking to see what value I have received from Global Auction Guide, I need to be cognizant that it’s not just the traffic from GlobalAuctionGuide.com, it’s the traffic from Kansas Auction Guide, Missouri Auction Guide, Nebraska Auction Guide and all of those in the aggregate, it’s truly the number of referrals that I am getting from the whole Media Group, when I am looking at the dollar a day cost. And we have been certainly using the GlobalAuctionGuide.com for several years now and I have certainly, you know, always kept an eye on the fairly substantial number of referrals and traffic that we certainly have gotten from the network and I think it’s really great that you continue to add partners and add outlets for syndication of those auction listings.
Yeah and lot of times its not necessarily the referrals that you see come back to your own website because on our system the entire sale bill is there. All of the text, all of the photos. In many cases lot of people won’t even click through or go back to the original auctioneer’s website unless they want to learn more information about that particular auctioneer. I will give you an example. Our top sale of all time was a farm auction in Minnesota and it just got over 30000 page views on our system. There is so much of traffic that doesn’t even come back to the original auctioneer’s web site. Its is the eye balls that see the sale and then hopefully whether they find something there that makes them want to come to the sales site or do proxy bidding or phone bidding or whatever the case may be.
That’s really great point and in my experience as instructing at the Auction Technology Specialist course that’s something we definitely touch on. Whenever you are advertising for any industry, there is always a goal, there is always a conversion, called auction, for the person whether it’s a listener or whether it’s a viewer or whether it’s a reader of that advertisement there is always called auction. There are certainly auctioneers, who that are called auctioneer, to get that person to the auctioneer website. There are auctioneers where they don’t care about, really the viewing the auction content on their website. They just want, you know, buyers and seats of the auction. Would you guess that’s probably the majority of the goes of the people who post on global auction guide just to get physical bodies to auctions?
Absolutely. They want to make that the phone ring with questions or get as much auction in advance and get as many seats filled at their auction house or their sales site wherever the case may be. We have auctioneers actually who, the morning of the sale or the night before the sale, will actually go on to our system and print off their stats for that particular sale so that when they are finalizing the paper work with the client the next day after the sale they can hand this piece of paper and show them the web stats. How many 1000s or 10 of 1000s of visitors have seen their sale bills ob the web sites. The first time I actually had an auctioneer told me this, I just, it just blew me off you know. I hadn’t thought of auctioneers doing it this way and promoting what they are doing to the clients. Many of them actually use this information in their presentations when they are trying to get the client sign on with them to have their auctions. They should be able to say here 60 here 50 and here 100 website that carry the sale bills if you give me the sale. It’s been a huge advantage for some auctioneers and they have told me they have got sales because they advertised with us. It just makes me so proud for what my staff does and what my company accomplished hence 2001 to be able to see the results of all these.
Well, that brings up a couple of questions that I have. Because you allow the posting of what is essentially unlimited amount of media as long as the auctioneer can host pictures and that kind of content on his own server and I also know you allow an auctioneer to upload images and you host a certain number of images. kind of talk if you would about the types of content that are allowed and if you seen a shift the way from may be plain text listing of title, time, date and a paragraph of, you know, may be coma separated list of items. What are some of the other ways the auctioneers might be listing the auctions?
Well, we certainly seen the most successful auctioneers have gone to the model of basically naming and putting every little bit of key word into those sale bill as they can. Because they just never know what it is some one is looking for and probably a great example I know, this is a sale quite a few years ago in Saskatchewan, this fellow had a Minneapolis Moline lawn mover. Minneapolis Moline is not a Canadian brand and it is sold only in US. So the auctioneer expected this to be, you know, a piece of scrap iron. Because of the website and so much huge US exposure there was actually two people came to Saskatchewan from US. The winner ended up buying this lawn mover I believe for 2700$. In old days you might not even detailed the piece of equipment very much because you didn’t think it’s worth your time or effort and certainly not worth the cost of putting that in a print ad. But now a days with key words and so overwhelmingly and the important thing is to put in there. And of course now days we have been able to embed videos and of course pdfs have been added as well and other things. There are other things to get the information. It just attracts more and more people every day to their sale.
What type of content can I upload and how much can I upload straight to your servers to your site that you will host for me in the auction sale bill listing?
We had, basically the only limitation is how much time you want to spend uploading the photo. We never had a limit on anything at this point. Storage space on servers has become so cheap in the last 3, 4 years. We basically, the easiest way to do it is just make it unlimited for everything. If someone wants to upload 400 photos for a sale, by all means, upload as much as you want. When it comes to the video portion of it, we are more than happy to host anything if the auctioneer produces something. But we certainly encourage them to put it on you tube and have it exposed to those100 million people a day who are searching you tube for videos and there is no reason why it should not be in the first place. Any video put in can be automatically embedded to the sale bill on our site. In fact today I just came across one on you tube for a company in Nebraska called stock auction company and they had basically, almost a 10 minute commercial for their company upon you tube. It’s very well done and I am sure they must get some exposure and perhaps even some sales from this piece of media what they produced. It’s a great new medium for getting the message out there.
One of the big position I am advocating on auctioneers tech, on an auctioneers website by far and way the very most important component is the upcoming auction calendar. That is what you specialize in and you know once an auctioneer has that, than the only other super important real requirement to an auctioneer website is an institutional statement. What kind of Auction Company are we and what kind of auctions we do, couple of static pages if you will to provide a basic auction web site. Do you host complete websites for auctioneers using your calendar system? If so, what kind of additional pages and content can an auctioneer host with you?
We have done complete web site design from start to finish for auctioneers who are looking for a new web site or their first web site and things like that. We don’t really promote a lot, mainly because we are so busy doing at what we are very very good at. But we have auctioneer’s website that we done and we have still developing something like that although we do find that many auctioneers have their local person or the local guy they deal with or company in their home town and they kind of, really want to keep that local and keep that money in their own community helping other businesses. So many of them will do that but when it comes to the supplemental marketing, which is the term I like to use, they know they need to advertise in websites like ours to get as much as exposure as possible outside their local area. So we haven’t promoted it great amount. But we certainly do websites and whatever it is an auctioneer needs we can do that certainly for them
Speaking of website design, when are we going to see the update or visual refresh of the global auction guide network of the sites?
Well, we have been working on things last few months and it looks really good. Currently they say at least every 8 years or so we should update your websites. We have been very hesitant to make major changes only because what we have done so far has been so successful. When it comes to SEO and getting such superb rankings on Google and things like that we are very careful not to screw anything up to be honest with you. But it will be coming in next couple of months straight after the April selling season is over. That’s traditionally our busiest month of the year. We won’t be making any major changes when that’s going on.
So you are talking about your busy season. You must be obviously tracking down the number of auctions you are having during times of the year. You mention, you are still saying a very large increase in website traffic. What are you saying about the economy and the number of auctions that are being posted to the calendar, year after year and month after month?
Well, for those who are not familiar with western Canadian auction market place, April is the biggest month. There are many companies who probably do upwards of three quarters of their annual business just during the month of April. Just the crate of time between snow melting and seeding starting. That’s traditionally always been our busiest busiest month. The auctioneers actually will fine up their sales in September, October and November. They take all the pictures and have everything all sorted out. They start advertising at that point. But the sale doesn’t happen until April. It allows one to get huge such traffic numbers and people are already browsing these April sales already in September and October. It’s just amazing the traffic they get in that short period of time early on may be when their spring sale already posted. What we have seen from the convention season that we just wrapped up is most auctioneers are telling us that they are having less sales this spring or this summer. There are many different reasons many even feel, why these numbers are down. In some areas auctioneers are not going to do their own spring catalog but many of them do. For example, In Saskatchewan right now we have I believe around 150 upcoming auctions listed. In past year comparing we had probably 200 or more listings some year. So its, certainly showing that the sales, the number of sales is going to be down this year.
You mentioned the convention season you wrapped up and I know you go to many different conventions. In fact you recently gave a presentation at the Kansan Auctioneers association here in January, certainly good to see you and catch you up. How many conventions you attend each year and how often you get the opportunity to give a presentations?
This is probably been our busiest convention season from mid January to mid February between myself and our sales manager Nicole Smallwood we have done 12 great shows in 7 weeks and that ranged from Oklahoma city to Edmonton, from Denver Colorado to London Ontario. Most part we did anywhere half hour to 2 hours internet marketing seminars at these conventions. It was a great season. Over the rest of the year we will probably do 4, 5 or 6 more conventions. A few in the summer and then November, in different times and different areas. We found it’s been a very valuable use of our promotion budget doing these conventions and getting our name out in front of these auctioneers and explaining what we do and how we do it and all the other things that they should be doing with their own web sites. Actually the title of our seminars was called Internet Marketing, more than just a web site. Because there is so much they must be doing online to get the best bank for their advertisement dollars.
Are we going to see you in Kansas for the NAA Convention?
I hope so. We have a bit of a scheduling conflict that weekend and depending on how we cab get things to balance out with just some of the few things that we have to do in personal life as well and that happen to be on the same weekend. But I certainly hope to see Kansas City and it’s relatively close to us as well.
Many auctioneers are struggling with the question how to use some of the newer type of media. The global auction blog started as far as I can tell in 2005. Tell me a little bit about this and how has this helped your business?
Well, it’s been a very interesting little project. It’s a very easy and convenient way to get information out. As you are blogging as well you know how important it is get the information out. It allows the auctioneers, able to give us stuff that we can help spread that information far and wide as possible. May be I shouldn’t say this because somebody might scoop me on this, but on our new site actually each of the auctioneers will get his own blog right on our site and that will be part of their home page and all these type of things. So just to make a simple system for them to able to start blogging and do these type of things. But calling back to something we talked about earlier that so important for SEO reasons. Being able to have all these huge amount of articles and all these content on our site helps bring in more search engine traffic everyday. To be able to do link dating and things like that for the web site helps very very much.
What are some upcoming new features or improvements to global auction guide that we might see in the upcoming months? I know you are working on a new classified system and new real estate system. So, talk a little bit about each of those if you would and anything else that we may see coming soon.
Yeah, we actually launched a new classifieds platform kind of quietly about 6 weeks ago. Basically we had so many auctioneers who do lot of consignments or private treaty items, basically non auction items. They want deal to get out the same users of our web site. So we developed a classifieds platform and we just this week embedded that into our auction site. So for example if someone is searching our auctions for a John Deere 4020, now they will get a list of course of huge amount of auctions that have 4020 and then will also get, that comes up beside the sale bill is all the matching classifieds ad that also have 4020 in them. So basically we have seen that when farmers, in this example, looking for a tractor, if they are looking for it in auctions they know they have to come to Farm Auction Guide. But then if they are looking for it from dealers or private individuals, they had to go elsewhere on the internet. So we wanted to build a system where they are able to find that piece of equipment no matter where it is or in what manner that they have to approach. So it’s something that we brought out and said about 6 weeks ago. I don’t know if it’s gonna be a huge success yet. But we certainly had a lot of people happy so far. So and then with the new site design we will be having a real estate platform as well. You know, especially in the mid west, many auctioneer are the small towners and they are also real estate agents. They want to basically get their MLS listing out in front of all these same people who are looking at the real estate auctions. We decided to provide them that service as well. We are actually looking at couple of different partners on the real estate side of things because I am not necessarily the one that has to reinvent the wheel every time. If I can see somebody doing a very good job, their business model, lot of times it works better to partner with them rather then starting from scratch. So we are finalizing a few final arrangements I guess. Then we will able to talk little bit more about what we are doing on real estate side of things.
One of the problems that not only we have seen, but I know from talking to many other auctioneers across the country a sense of frustration when listing real estate on traditional MLS systems which require, you know, a price or many of them flat out wont allow auctions to be listed. Do you have the plans to solve those problems where somebody can look for real estate of all kind either traditional or at auction or have it integrated or this only for traditional listing?
No, it will certainly be a hybrid of both. I know from the MLS side of things they kind of, I don’t know the proper terminology, but they are not that happy auctioneer doing real estate. From the aspect we come from we have no hang ups about that. A piece of property for sale whether an auctioneer selling by auction or same person as a real estate agent wants to sell it by traditional method, we will do our best to serve both sides to give as much exposure as possible.
We are about at our time Dwayne. But before we go tell as a little about your farm. What you do in your off season and how much even off season do you get?
Well, I guess my other hobby is I farm about 2500 acres of cereal crops, special crops in the area of Manitoba just west of Winnipeg. I farm with my father and we have a hired man as well. It works out very well. We had one of our best years we ever had in 2007 and then 2008 again. Some days I wonder which my hobby is and which is my real job. But i know when April comes around I will be looking to making some dust and getting out of the office again.
Well I certainly know the feeling.
Well, that’s it for episode 16. My guest tonight was Dwayne Leslie from Global Auction Guide Media Group which you can visit at www,globalauctionguide.com. Thank you very much Dwayne for joining me this evening.
Thank you Aaron, Have yourself a great evening.
You’ve been listening to the Auction Podcast from AuctioneerTech. If you have suggestions, questions or comments, or are interested in being a guest, please let me know by going to www.auctioneertech.com/feedback and leaving a message. You can also post public comments about this or any other episode, as well as find show transcripts, on the auction podcast page of auctioneertech.com.
Thank you for listening, now go sell something.