5 Of the World’s Ugliest Websites (and How They Sell!)

They say that attractive people are more successful in life, earning 3-4% more than “average-looking” people and scoring lower interest rates than their peers with similar financial backgrounds. But when it comes to websites, I’m just not so sure that the same rule of thumb can be applied.

I’ve recently been intrigued by some of the world’s ugliest websites – which turn out to be incredibly successful websites! Check out these five websites, and what makes them tick…

#1 Craigslist

I’ve already written about Craigslist here on the CEM blog, but not necessarily because of how ugly it is. It should come as no surprise that Craigslist’s “ugliness” is totally intentional. The simple, bare bones website content is focused solely on delivering what users want with no frills, and definitely no advertisements.

Craigslist understands its audience profiles, and has resisted any kind of change that might jeopardize the service’s integrity, something that seems to be at the core of what the company is all about.

#2 Plenty of Fish (POF)

POF.com touts itself as having “more dates, more relationships, [and] more visits than any other online dating site.” Yet you won’t see them advertising alongside Match.com or eHarmony. While other websites sell themselves by turning away applicants, POF wants anyone and everyone to sign up.

Apparently, it’s been working. In an Inc. Magazine article, founder Markus Frind discusses how he works roughly one hour per day, and takes in $10 million in revenue. Not bad. How does he do it? POF eliminates barriers to entry and has impressive biggest-and-best-bragging-rights.

#3 The Drudge Report

If you want to talk audience profiles, Matt Drudge, can talk some audience profiles with you. He feeds the conservative/GOP news junkies exactly what they want through The Drudge Report. Business Insider estimates that The Drudge Report probably generates between $15 and $20 million in annual revenues, and would trade somewhere between $150 and $375 million if it were to hit the market.

Matt Drudge’s website content is heavily updated and has really click-tempting one-liners (for example: “Expert: Cicada Season Could See 1 Billion Per Square Mile”). Any writer or business owner could learn a thing or two about writing CTA’s from Matt Drudge!

#4 Vacations to Go: 90-Day Ticker

While pretty much all of VacationsToGo.com is ugly, I think their 90-Day Ticker page deserves a special shout out. Garish. Ghastly. Lurid. Don’t you wish we were still talking about the Drudge Report? Nevertheless, it’s hard to badmouth a company that reportedly enjoys $29 million in annual revenues with a site design this poor.

Vacations to Go has the last-minute cruise deal market virtually cornered. The company was one of the first to get in the online cruise ticket business, and clearly hasn’t felt pressured to make any design changes since they started. Like Craigslist and other examples, this website delivers the content that the audience wants with no extra frills or distractions (besides those colors).

#5 wiseGEEK

wiseGEEK offers “clear answers for common questions,” and knows exactly what it’s doing when it comes to SEO. With a vast library covering everything from ancient mythology to modern fitness equipment, wiseGEEK has already asked just about every reasonable (and unreasonable) question someone might type into a search engine. Plus, page titles are formatted as questions (“What is…?”), which grabs great search traffic.

The website essentially functions like Wikipedia, but with lots and lots of ads, which don’t seem to be negatively affecting its business model. Not only do they have extensive website content, but their content is thorough and valuable, two adjectives any business should strive for in its web copy!

What ugly – yet profitable – websites would you add to this list?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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