TL; DR: SiteBuilderReport, a robust catalog of software reviews penned by CEO Steve Benjamins, is branching out into the stock photo industry with Stock Up. The service, which aggregates search results from a vast portfolio of free stock photography sites, helps businesses slash photography budgets and save time digging through photo sites. Stock Up also provides in-depth license information for each photo — a necessary precaution amid the rise of copyright trolls.
Steven Benjamins is well-acquainted with the successful business pivot.
In 2012, the entrepreneur created a website builder to outshine corporate juggernauts dominating the industry. Unfortunately — even when armed with a high-quality site builder — Steven couldn’t put up a fight against the $100 million quarterly marketing budgets wielded by industry Goliaths.
Faced with a true lemons-into-lemonade moment, Steven found the perfect way to stir up his business plan. “I realized consumers didn’t need a new site builder,” Steven said. “They needed someone to figure out which site builders were good and which were bad — and, by then, I had developed opinions on that topic.”
Thus, SiteBuilderReport was born. Readers eagerly consumed the content on the site — so much so that today, Steven supports his work by earning affiliate commissions when they choose a website builder based on his reviews. But his entrepreneurial days are far from over.
Now, Steven is branching out into the stock photo industry with Stock Up, an image service that indexes thousands of photos from dozens of free stock websites into one concise, searchable database.
As anyone who’s ever searched through page after page of dowdy stock photos knows, this service has the potential to save users a lot of time and headaches. Stock Up also helps users reduce costs spent on pricey stock photo subscriptions and frivolous lawsuits from copyright trolls looking to score opportunistic profits.
SiteBuilderReport, together with Stock Up, now provides the first line of resources novice site creators need to start piecing together their online presence: a highly recommended builder and free imagery. With an integrity-based approach and close relationships with readers, Steven is poised to lead the two services on a path to continued success.
SiteBuilderReport: A Robust Catalog of Software Reviews
When it comes to SiteBuilderReport, Steven’s ultimate goal is to make honest, fact-based recommendations designed to benefit the reader, not the company he’s reviewing. Steven is careful to provide complete transparency regarding the income he earns from affiliate commissions and has straightforward statements on his site explaining his methodology — which further enhances his credibility.
“There’s a lot of fluff out there, with a lot of people just promoting the products of their largest payer,” Steven said. “I’ve made a point on SiteBuilderReport to avoid that and maintain integrity.”
He may receive affiliate compensation, but Steven’s not afraid to speak up when he believes a company is underserving its customers. After all, he’s building the site for readers, not Google. Steven is particularly critical of site builders that employ poor billing practices — even if his honesty causes him to lose out on high-dollar affiliate payouts. “I think being explicit about that stuff helps build trust with your audience,” Steven said. “I don’t really have any data to back that up — it’s just the right thing to do.”
The reviews themselves are sorted in a range of categories so users can easily find their best fit, whether they’re looking for a free site builder, one that’s easy to build, offers multilingual support, or provides ecommerce optimization. Unhappy with your current provider? SiteBuilderReport features a handy Alternatives section for users plagued by specific limitations of their current website builder.
Steven knows the site-building industry in and out after reviewing large and small providers for six years. In that time, he’s observed a massive consolidation. “When I got into this space, I thought my job would be to try out, say, 30 website-building companies and determine which ones were best,” he said. “But a very small amount of website builders have captured an enormous part of the market.”
Stock Up: A Symbiotic Relationship Benefitting all Stakeholders
About four years ago, Steven began to notice free stock photography sites popping up around the web. They were trustworthy and featured stunning images, but they were hard to find. As a value-add for his SiteBuilderReport readers, Steven decided to write a blog outlining his favorite sources for free design assets and stock photos.
He published the blog and moved on, not expecting much of an uproar. Soon, page views skyrocketed, and Steven realized he had stumbled upon an underserved market. “The post went viral, and that tipped me off to the fact that there were a bunch of people unsure about where to find free stock photography,” he said. “I knew there was an opportunity.”
After the rush of going viral waned, Steven got to work developing a solution to aggregate dozens of free stock photos from websites, and Stock Up was born. At its launch, the platform featured a few thousand photos. Today, the Stock Up database includes 20,000 free stock photos and counting.
The new tool became popular after receiving media coverage on Forbes, KillerStartups, Product Hunt, The Huffington Post, and The Next Web, among other sites. Today, Stock Up gets 20,000 to 30,000 visitors per month — an influx of traffic that ultimately helps SiteBuilderReport.
“The way I see its value is it has really built up SiteBuilderReport.com’s backlink profile,” Steven said. “Even though it’s a free service, I get the links, so it’s a mutually beneficial partnership.”
Cut Costs and Save Time Searching for Stock Photos
Stock Up references an extensive list of 31 stock sites — including Burst by Shopify, Good Stock, Looking Glass, MyStock, and more.
Kamboompics, for example, features free images for lifestyle and interior design bloggers. Cupcake serves up fresh photography from Sweden-based creative Jonas Wimmerström. Foodiesfeed offers more than 1,100 mouth-watering culinary photos, and Barnimages offers unique photography, graphics, and illustrations which, surprisingly, do not include a single barn.
Individually, these sources provide a wide range of attractive photos that are almost impossible for a single person to search through effectively. With Stock Up, all 31 sites are part of a stunning, user-friendly collective. To save users even more time, Steven included instant search functionality. If you’re searching for a photo of a mountain, for instance, you only need to type in a few letters (M-O-U) before rocky peaks surrounded by evergreens start to appear.
In addition to saving time, Stock Up helps users save money on expensive stock photo subscriptions and pricey individual licenses. This is especially helpful for those with tight budgets, like entrepreneurs struggling to get their business off the ground and online. In the future, Steven hopes to learn more about clients’ pain points so he can attempt to solve them through product development.
“For a long time, most of my business ideas came from opportunities I felt I could sniff out or things that I thought I would want myself,” he said. “But in the last couple of years, I’ve made an effort to reach out to users, talk to them, and use their feedback to guide my path forward.”
Avoid Copyright Infringement Through Explicit Permission
In recent years, a new threat has been crawling its way through the web: The copyright troll. Known for their aggressive and often questionable tactics, copyright trolls create copyrighted images, make them available via the internet, and file claims when someone uses them incorrectly. The lesson: Never pull a photo off the web and assume it’s safe for publication without seeking permission from the copyright owner.
Stock Up makes the process a little less scary by promising only to index websites that have granted the service explicit permission to use the photos. Each photo on Stock Up will show the license when you hover over it, and many are Creative Commons 0 (CCO 1.0). According to the Stock Up website, “while you can do just about anything with most of the photos on Stock Up, you should always refer to the original photographer for the license.”
Like SiteBuilderReport, Stock Up exists to cut through the noise. Together, the tools allow business owners to identify the best site builders and the best free stock photo sites on the web — making it that much easier to build an online presence.