Drillers.com was initially created in 1996 by Steve Devereux. It was created as a technical drilling resource and jobs site – and was the very first online oil and gas recruitment site. Over the years the site has evolved, and new features such as Math CAD calculators and equations got added.
In recent years, Steve Devereux has taken a step back from the demands of running such an enterprise and, in 2016, he sold the site to his friend and colleague Dave Taylor. Dave and his company, Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, are well known in the oil & gas industry for their collaborative performance workshops and coaching, where they have served almost 250 drilling teams in 56 countries.
Drillers.com is now part of the Relentless Pursuit of Perfection family which also provides a few online services dedicated to technical professionals in the energy business.
Dave Taylor, and Jason Lavis, (Partner & Webmaster at drillers.com), have agreed to answer my questions.
Mike: Jason, how did you come to be involved in and a partner in drillers.com?
Jason: That’s a reasonably nuanced story and mainly a result of being open to serendipity. My background is in traditional sales and marketing (20 years) and then more recently, digital marketing (almost ten years).
While working as a digital nomad in Southeast Asia, I befriended an international oil and gas consultant called Steve Hauxwell. We shared stories of our particular jobs, and then came up with an idea of starting NatResPro, a web-based technical recruitment company, catering to the oil industry.
Through working with Steve, I met Dave, who needed some help with his performance agency website, and SPREAD, the world’s leading technical forum for drilling oil wells. This service became a repeat arrangement, so I set up OOTBI, a digital marketing agency to cater to these contracts.
Online marketing offers the opportunity of working remotely on a non-hourly basis. With outsourced contractors, it’s quite possible to work on multiple businesses at the same time. Through offering persistent value to Dave, I got the opportunity to become a partner, not just stay as a contractor.
By combining industry know-how, with digital marketing experience, we’ve been able to grow the footprint of drillers.com, as well as our associated businesses.
Mike: Can you expand on what you’ve highlighted in the opening paragraphs? What exactly is drillers.com and who is the audience?
Jason: Drillers.com caters to all areas of the upstream oil and gas industry. (Upstream means exploration and production). We provide specialist consulting, workshops, seminars, events, education, training, human resources and technical resources.
Our audience ranges from people looking for a college course in petroleum engineering to those conducting a high-level risk assessments or ultra-deepwater drilling plans. We believe that by offering tremendous value to oil and gas professionals of all ages, we build trust for future tenders and more significant deals.
Mike: It sounds like Steve Devereux scooped the name up at a pretty good time back in 1996. Can you tell us the sale price of drillers.com in 2016 when Dave Taylor purchased it?
Dave: I’m afraid that is a private matter between Steve and I, but I can tell you that it was a reasonably significant five-figure sum.
Jason: I smiled when I saw your question. The purchase price is a closely guarded secret, stored in an underground vault, next to the Coca Cola and Kentucky fried chicken recipes!
Seriously though, from a digital marketers’ point of view, I’d estimate the domain to have traded for $20-40,000. We’ve grown the traffic from a few thousand page views a month, to over 30,000 in the last two years. I know what highly targeted industrial traffic can be worth, as well as the hundreds of quality links that site has attracted over the years. If someone wanted to replicate what we’ve done over the last 20 years from scratch, who know what that would cost?
The fact that the price is a secret is typical of the premium domain industry. Some people are passionate, others justifiably proud of their digital real estate.
Mike: Are there any other sites like this out on the internet? I mean, sure, there are job boards, but anything specifically focused on the drilling industry?
Dave: Yes, there are, but in your other questions, you have helped highlight that we are somewhat unique in how we set out to make a difference. We do this by offering online technical support; a kind of one-stop resource for all involved.
Jason: There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of websites dedicated to the upstream oil and gas industry. There are industry giants such as the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE),(Created in the same month as drillers.com – December 1996), and the Association of International Drilling Contractors (IADC), (November 1996).
Then there is the second tier of high traffic (and reputation) sites that mostly offer news and technical resources. There are job sites, that tend to cater to the whole industry (upstream, midstream and downstream), and recruiters. I’m not aware of any website that does what we’re planning – a one stop shop for all drilling consulting, information and resources.
Mike: You’re not only a partner but also the webmaster. What does it take to maintain a site like this on a day to day basis?
Jason: The website got converted from raw HTML to WordPress in 2017, so the maintenance is relatively straightforward. I make sure that software is updated, and different alerts and monitors are in place. Software bugs happen, then get fixed as soon as possible.
On a day to day basis, I work on content and promotion. If a website is left static, there’s a tendency for traffic to decline and for content to get overtaken by new websites that go more in-depth into the same keywords. This means that to stay successful, and to grow, then a process of new content and promotion is necessary.
As I alluded to before, online business owners benefit from many things that their brick and mortar counterparts don’t. For example, I can create an SOP that can be followed by an assistant, anywhere in the world. We can create the equivalent of a sales pitch and publish it online, rather than pitching people one by one. Evergreen educational content continues to provide value day by day, while lecturers need to repeat themselves to help the next year of students. Technical spreadsheets and Mathcad software can get accessed without any labour from us. Once published, content needs little work, this allows for expansion of new content and the marketing of it.
Dave: It’s not just about the time-and-effort, it’s about believing that we can help those in the industry not only to find a job where they get respected in but also to help them do the best job they can. That is why the MathCad and engineering calculation and similar software are provided free of charge. We take great delight in the fact that members have pointed out the occasional (minor) error in equations and that we have another member (George Toma) offering up his life’s efforts to share with others!
Mike: Do you take on any special online or offline marketing for the site or do you rely on organic and type-in traffic?
Jason: I believe in a philosophy of striving for ‘online omnipresence.’ We focus on content marketing, and Dave has a vast network on LinkedIn. Also, I’m always looking for online PR and exposure opportunities, such as this interview with your good self.
You never know where the next deal or customer will come from, the world is becoming a smaller place. Dave and his team of trainers and coaches travel all over the world with their in-person workshops. That work-based repeat and referral marketing is bolstered by me, continuously creating evergreen breadcrumb trails online.
Mike: Dave will you ever decide to sell the name? If so, any speculating on its current value?
Dave: Good question. I have gotten approached several times, but it is not something that I’m yet comfortable to do. We have a lot of registered users and, for many of them, there has been quite an emotional attachment between them and the two owners (Steve and I), this is something that I want to honour. Who knows, when it comes time for me to to ‘hang up my boots’, it might be something I would contemplate. It won’t be just about the price, but about what any prospective purchaser ‘stands for’. For both me and Steve, it is also a matter of principle.