Product Development April 8, 2020

My side project is getting too much traffic

mackgrenfell

Sorry for the click-baity title, but this is genuinely turning out to be a stressful issue for me right now.

On the weekend I launched a little side project I'd been putting some spare time into: https://virtualmuseums.io. It's basically a Google Map of the world's best virtual museums, designed to help people relieve some of the boredom of being stuck indoors.

Long story short, it took off more than I was expecting it to, and it's nearly at 20k users over the last few days. More importantly; even though I've stopped promoting it, the numbers keep growing almost exponentially.

This sounds great, and in some senses it is, but I have a problem. I'm on the free tier of the Google Maps API, which I'm about to cap out on within the next 24-48 hours. After that, I'll be paying over a grand a month to Google just to keep the site live.

I'm at a bit of a loss on what to do. I've tried reaching out to Google a number of different ways. I'm looking at ways I could take small donations. Ads aren't a sustainable option; they wouldn't cover costs, especially with the plunge in ad prices over the last month.

Super keen to hear ideas that anyone has?

UPDATE: Someone at Google was able to point me to a fairly well hidden form, for applying for Google Maps credits to help out in times of crisis. Within 5 minutes of completing the form, I got a ton of credit added to my Cloud account, which will keep me going for a month or three!

For people asking how I got the traffic, I posted on ProductHunt (I think ended up #7 on Saturday) and on HackerNews. Those together provided a few thousand visitors, but I think from there on it was just people sharing/writing about it.

  1. 15

    First, congrats! That's a pretty great problem to have. Would love to hear about how you managed to bring that many people in.

    I have a couple ideas you may or may not have already considered:

    1. Obviously you can just shut it down if you're worried about cost.
    2. Create a Kickstarter/GoFundMe to cover the costs.
    3. Throw some ads up there to cover some of the costs.
    4. Is there another maps API you could use instead of Google Maps? Bing, etc?
    5. Looking at the site, I honestly am not sure what benefit Google Maps even brings to it. Couldn't you just replace it with a static image of the world and place some pins on it with CSS positioning?
    1. 4

      I agree with #5 here. Just display a static image with markers on top. No need for Google Maps. Or use a self-hosted JS library (like amCharts maps) if you want to keep interactivity (like zooming and panning). They offer a free version.

    2. 2

      Thanks a lot for the advice, this is really useful and I'll definitely look more into #4 and #5.

      On #3, do you have any recommendations for appropriate ad networks? Ironically my day job is digital advertising, but I've never been on the publisher side before.

      1. 7

        Use openstreetmap.org. You can use leafletjs.com to make it look a little better if you want.
        For ads, do check out Google Adsense and @yosidahan built purpleads.io

        1. 1

          +1 for openstreetmap. Great folks and they make a great product.

      2. 3

        adsense from google?

      3. 1

        I think a project like this could benefit a lot of Google AdSense, but as an AdSense customer myself I can tell you that it's absolute hell to get approved and generally takes a while (took me around a month). In the mean time, try to apply for more API credits. For future proofing the project though, I think suggestions 4 and 5 should be your top priority - those sound like really simple ways to cut down your costs of business.

  2. 6

    You could apply for the Google Cloud for Startups program as free credits are included in it.

    In the comments of this post you'll find even a signup link for it.

    1. 1

      This is a great shout, thanks a lot!

  3. 6

    I will ditch google map API, and built something like nomadlist, I will list all museum with thumbnail manually.

  4. 3

    What did you do to get that much traffic?

  5. 3

    Charge your customers $1 per visit to a museum. If your service is good enough to get $1 out of your customer then it is worth pursuing, otherwise I suggest you move on.

    1. 2

      Honestly yeah, people do value transparency. Like if you made a video or just communicated to your users the story on how this is costing you money, many would pay. Ad the social proof about how so many people are using the site and I think you have a compelling ask

      1. 1

        Yeah - I agree. This seems reasonable. Throw a banner at the top with a link to a blog post explaining the situation, and stating why you are charging $1 or whatever. You could even offer a discount for people to purchase a 30-day pass or something. That way you capitalize on the timing of the pandemic when users are most likely to want to use the service.

    2. 1

      That's... a lot.

      1. 1

        $1 per visit is a lot? Or great! that's a lot of money.

  6. 2

    This sounds like something that @garudacrafts and https://www.tipalink.com/ could help you with.

  7. 1

    Wow, congrats, and glad you the free credits from Google

  8. 1

    The traffic isn’t going to hold it’s only been a few days. You could try switching to mapbox or open street map but building consistent recurring traffic is challenging. I’m a little unclear on how google maps could cost $1,000 when an advanced embed costs $14 for 14,000 loads. Maybe something in the code you could optimize or a feature you could cut if it’s too expensive? https://cloud.google.com/maps-platform/pricing/sheet

  9. 1

    why not ask for sponsorship?

  10. 1

    @ryanvanderpol's response covers the technical aspects quite well.

    This is a not a response to @mackgrenfell or anyone in particular, but jumping to monetization (such as pay gate) as the solution is contradictory to what seems to be meant as a feel-good project in these dark times.

  11. 1

    Do these virtual museums have some sort of affiliate program? where you can earn a small percentage of the ticketing fee?

  12. 1

    If you want something cheaper then google maps, but a little better than openstreetmap, I would recommend mapbox- it gives you up to 50.000 loads per month.

  13. 1

    I can help, shoot me an email from my profile.

  14. 1

    Ditch Google Maps API... temporarily.
    After you sort out monetization, get back to Google because their service is quite excellent.

  15. 1

    First of all, congratulations on the problem! I'd listen to @ryanvanderpol, and go for the crowdsourcing + "no need for google maps" route. Easiest alternative.

    Thanks for doing something about the quarantine situation.

    BR,
    Nikola.

  16. 1

    Put a pay wall up, then you can cover the costs of Google APIs.

  17. 1

    Charge museum visitors for admission 🤓

  18. 1

    Where did you market? Did you use any advert campaigns?

  19. 1

    try openstreetmaps

  20. 1

    Grats on site! Honestly this looks really cool. I'm about to share it!

  21. 1

    Apply for Google Ad sense Bro. You will earn much more via Ads.

    Go outreach people/companies and show them screenshots of your google analytics & ask them whether they would like to show ads on your website & charge them.

  22. 1

    What a great problem to have. Congrats on a fantastic idea and moreover implementing it. Check out some of the Google Maps alternatives - https://nordicapis.com/5-powerful-alternatives-to-google-maps-api/ or else just go with a static image in the background with pointers (The maps look cool though)

    Additionally I would definitely look at the following types of monetization

    1. Sell Ad space to advertisers
    2. Have a Paypal donation link
  23. 1

    I would just move all the data to an API and then fetch from that.
    Then you could either:

    a) Display it as a list instead
    b) Use another map that is perhaps free or cheaper
    c) Or even do both? Give the user the option on how to display it

    1. 1

      Excellent idea on the indirection. Stick it behind your own API and right now you pass-through. When you run out of credits or want to go a different route, you just update the backend to hit a new source or return some fixed JSON responses (if you eliminate the API altogether).

  24. 1

    There are other mapping API's. How about OpenStreetMap?

  25. 1

    How many DAUs have you been getting in the last 2 or 3 days ?