I met Todd Fratzel briefly at the 2010 Remodeling Show and it’s funny, the topic of Building Moxie‘s site traffic came up. And in doing research for this article, I finally discovered Todd’s own site statistics, here. Wow! I know! Todd is a New Hampshire-based engineer and project manager. For all intents and purposes, he is a certified construction expert. He can be found on Twitter as @tfratzel or through any of his web entities listed below. He was kind enough to answer some interview questions for us recently. Thanks Todd and enjoy! ~jb
BMoxie: Mutual friends One Project Closer first introduced me to you and your site Home Construction & Improvement — was this your initial introduction into blogging (or websites for that matter)? When did you launch the site? And why?
Todd: I started Home Construction & Improvement back in January of 2006 shortly after a Christmas trip to California. While flying across country I read an article about a builder turned web publisher (AskTheBuilder.com) and how the builder hung up his tool belt and started writing about his experiences. The article went on to say how successful he had been and how useful the site was for home owners, DIYers and contractors.
The article peaked my interest enough that I set up a blog on Google’s Blogger platform. That was the beginning of a journey that has grown significantly and quite successfully.
BMoxie: In looking over your “About,” a visitor finds that you are an engineer (for a design-build firm) by day. Do you feel that draw the day to day for the content on your website, or is it more an escape from the job?
Todd: My experience as an engineer and project manager for a large design-build construction company certainly fuels a large segment of my writing. I’m immersed in the industry both on a residential and commercial level with every aspect of construction from permitting to interior decorating. My writing covers not only the insider’s point of view from the industry but also my experiences as a home owner. My wife and I renovated our first home completely and more recently built a new home.
BMoxie: Looking at your traffic number, it is quite staggering. And certainly it took time to build. But how did you start, I mean — building the site? How did you figure how you wanted it to look and how you would attack content?
Todd: The site’s design and traffic have all been an evolving process. The very first layout of the site was so boring and bland that I’m shocked anyone ever visited it! Today the site’s design is really a reflection of what I’d like to see when visiting a similar site. The site is really like a living entity that changes on a regular basis. It no longer runs on the Blogger platform. Today the site has it’s own dedicated domain, IP address and server.
Traffic has grown steadily since the day it started. I attribute the growth on one basic concept: quality content. When I write an article it has to help solve someone’s problem or it’s not worth publishing. The success of the site really comes from writing articles that solve every day problems for folks that don’t have the experiences I have. It’s really as simple as that.
BMoxie: I am certain there was a learning curve. Mistakes. Can you tell us one thing you might have changed right out of the gate in either strategy or technique?
Todd: Honestly the only thing I wish I had done sooner was start with the domain and self hosted WordPress. Other than that I think the key for others is to just focus on good quality content based on real experience. People shouldn’t try and write about topics they have no experience with, it becomes evident quickly when someone does that.
BMoxie: I notice that you accept reader questions. What is the most interesting home improvement question you received?
Todd: The questions that make me shake my head are the folks that email me asking if they can order materials from me. Seriously….does my site look like an online store?
BMoxie: Obviously you have grown with the addition of Tool Box Buzz, Today’s Green Construction and the new(ish) umbrella company Front Steps Media. Can you tell us a little bit about your thinking in doing this? Anything new, or crazy, that we can expect to see from these sites?
Todd: Front Steps Media, LLC was a necessary step in order to simplify my accounting and also provide some personal protection. The name of the company, “Front Steps Media,” was a bit of a joke. It referenced the constant stream of samples left on my front steps on a daily basis. I would strongly encourage other web publishers to create a limited liability entity in order to protect themselves financially. Setting up a small business isn’t that difficult compared to the risks with not doing so.
Tool Box Buzz was the result of nudging and pestering by the tool industry. Many of the tool manufacturers really liked what I’ve done on HCI and they asked if I’d consider doing another site dedicated solely to tools. After kicking around the idea for some time I decided it was a great idea. My hope is for TBB to continue and grow like HCI. The site is set up for multiple authors. This helps minimize the time I have to personally put into it. We’re always looking for tool junkies to join us!
BMoxie: It can’t be construction 24/7 all the time. What do you do when you are not thinking construction?
Todd: There are days that I feel as though it’s construction or tools 24/7. When I’m not working I’m spending time with my two young children. They are 3 and 6 and growing up faster than I could have ever imagined. Honestly the websites have allowed my family the chance to take some wonderful vacations together which certainly helps!
Here’s Todd in the introductory video found on Home Construction & Improvement:
Also in the pic with Todd from the 2010 Remodeling Show Ethan Hagan of One Project Closer & Robert Robillard A Concord Carpenter. For more encounters with these and other gentlemen, read more in our Blogging & Interview categories.
Thanks again to Todd for taking the time. ~jb