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By Yaro Starak
How is this for a claim to fame – earning at least $200,000 a year for the last four years straight online. That’s what Courtney Tuttle has achieved.
A long time ago I was researching what top level keyword phrase I wanted EJ to rank for in search engines. I decided to try the very challenging phrase “Internet Marketing”.
I searched Google for this phrase to see who was at the top and the name “Courtney Tuttle” kept appearing. I had never heard of this Courtney person (I thought it was a girl initially for obvious reasons!), but she certainly knew how to rank for a competitive search phrase.
It turns out Courtney (Court) is a man and yes, he is very good at SEO.
What is surprising about Court’s story, which you will hear in this interview, is that he entered the world of search engine optimisation with absolutely no background in it. His friend had a job at an SEO consulting firm, Court was interested in what he was doing, used his friend to get an interview, convinced them to give him a job just because he promised to be hard working, and within two years was a manager.
During that time Court not only helped other people with SEO, he practiced what he preached, launching a cellphone website using his knowledge of keywords. The site eventually became a money maker, earning as much as $5,000 per month.
From there Court quit his job, launched more sites, made more money and then started teaching. However instead of teaching online, he started running small workshops at home in the evenings just to local friends. This spawned a blog and eventually the keyword academy training site.
Listen to this interview and you will be inspired to see that you really can enter the world of online marketing without needing any skills beyond knowing how to use a computer and the internet.
Be sure to stay tuned to about one third through the interview where Court breaks down his keyword research system to find what phrases make money.
He also explains his formula that uses the CPC (Cost Per Click) values that the Google Keyword Tool provides if you are logged in, to figure out how much money per month he should make from a given website from adsense.
For more details about this system, including pictures and screen recordings, check out Court’s training site, The Keyword Academy.
Today on the line, I have Courtney Tuttle or Court for short who, I recently came in touch with through private coaching. I was actually quite surprised when I got an email that Court had booked a session with me because I have known Court as a quite established Internet Marketer so, I didn’t really realize he would need coaching but everyone who does something online, we all benefit from coaching, me included.
So, we had a great discussion and then, I got to know more of Court’s background. I think it’s an amazing story and I’m looking forward to digging deeper in this interview.
So, Court thank you for joining me.
COURT: Thanks for having me. And, thanks for the coaching. It was awesome to talk to you. So, thank you.
YARO: So, we were just talking before we started this call about coming up with a claim to fame to tell people about why they should hear your story. The thing for me that sticks out the most is you told me you’ve made at least $200,000 a year for the last four years through what you do online. That’s some pretty consistent results.
You’re not launch-based. You’re not hitting on fads that come and go or, maybe you are but, you’re very good at keeping on top of them. So, let’s really look at all these.
Now, I’ve known you primarily for The Keyword Academy. That was the one thing I definitely remember your name being attached.
YARO: So, obviously, you’re a keywords guy and I’d love to dig in to that because that’s not a strong point for me but, let’s get to that when we reach that point of your story.
Court, where did your business background begin?
COURT: You know, it was all an accident. Here’s how it started. So, this was back in ’04. Back in ’04, I was just working. A friend of mine got a job at a Marketing firm. What they did at that Marketing firm was just consulting. They taught people basically how to do SEO on their sites, get their sites to get more traffic and stuff.
So, I was just super fascinated with what he was telling me like I was really just captivated by what he said. And, he had no idea what he was doing but, he was just telling me basically what they were trying to do as a company and I wanted to work there.
And so, just through talking to him like seriously two days later, I had an interview and I got hired.
YARO: What was your background though to be interviewed?
COURT: I had no business being there, seriously.
YARO: What were you doing?
COURT: I was just so intrigued. I was working at Radio Shack.
YARO: [Laughs] Okay, so you were doing retail.
COURT: Yes, just, I was making $9 an hour.
YARO: Awesome. So, okay, prior to even Radio Shack, was there any business experience in your past like had you done anything?
YARO: No, so you were completely…
COURT: No. Well, I mean yes. I’ve always been the type that if I have a job, I go all the way. I work hard at everything. I try to get as knowledgeable as I can on the stuff that I’m working on. So, I was always a good employee but, I had no like… I didn’t finish college. I didn’t have a cool job… I really wasn’t doing a whole lot but, when he told me about it, I was just super interested like immediately captivated by what he was doing.
So, I had no business being in the interview.
YARO: Wow. Like, how did you even get an interview because, okay, I’m a Radio Shack guy. What were they hiring you to do with this new company? Was it SEO?
COURT: Basically, I came on when I… because when I did get hired miraculously. Basically, what happened was I came on as like a junior member of a team that was teaching people how to do SEO.
It was a long process of me learning how to do everything that was needed for me to be able to actually teach a person on my own. So, at first, I was just a junior member of this team and then, eventually, I started moving up. So, yes, I was there for a couple of years.
YARO: What was the company? Was it like a company selling SEO services or educating people on SEO? I should say this is search engine optimization so, how to get traffic to websites from sites like Google for the absolute beginners here.
COURT: Yes, exactly.
YARO: It’s amazing. You came to that with no background. So, what was that company doing?
COURT: [Laughs] So, we were doing SEO consulting.
YARO: So, you got hired as an SEO consultant without any background in SEO [laughs].
YARO: You must be a smooth talker or something in interviews, Court.
COURT: I think timing was just right like I had a friend that had an in and I was just like, I basically just convinced him like that I was the best employee at every job I’ve ever had. And, I just sold him on the long-term like I will own this if you give me a shot at it. And, they did.
YARO: And, did you own it?
COURT: I did, yes. I did really well there. So, I moved up really fast. Before long, I was the managing consultant. I was the top consultant of the company and I was only there for two years. So, this happened really quickly.
YARO: What did you learn exactly, Court? How did you get so good so fast?
COURT: You know what? Honestly, they weren’t that great at what they were doing. I learned how they were doing in keyword research. I learned how they were doing in link building, how they were structuring web pages and all that but, I was so consumed with how that stuff worked. I literally spent like day and night reading, trying to find people who were experimenting with it, talking to other people who were doing well with it.
I literally just reached out everywhere I could and just consumed the information. I think one thing that set me apart in a huge way from all of them is a couple of months after I started, I immediately started a site. I was like I can’t know this stuff if I don’t start a site. I have to start a site.
So, I started my first site. It was the most ghetto like it was terrible like it was the worst thing you’ve ever seen. But, I had a site so, I just started doing experiments and testing the stuff they were teaching me. Some of it didn’t work. Some of it did. So, I started getting more confident in what I knew. It was a long process for that to happen.
YARO: What was your first site? What was it about?
COURT: It was a cellphone review site.
YARO: So, did you do like WordPress and start writing content?
COURT: I didn’t. I actually learned HTML in the process of doing this. So, in my first site, it was just static HTML pages.
YARO: Wow. So, you came from nothing, taught yourself HTML, and then, taught yourself all these link building techniques and keyword techniques and did it on a cellphone site.
COURT: Yes, yes–
YARO: Which, you, I interrupted you there, did you write the content yourself or…?
COURT: I did. So, yes. Because of my background at Radio Shack, I was super up to speed on phones like really, really up to speed on phones. I figured, “You know what? I can do a better job than anybody doing this.” So, I just started reviewing phones based on what I already knew about phones.
YARO: Did it work?
COURT: It did. So, that first site that I ever created, I got it up to around 5000 per month in revenue which it was all profit. I didn’t have any expenses. So, it did work.
YARO: How, how did you do this? Take us through the process. So, you set up the site yourself, what did you do next?
COURT: Basically, I monetized back then with Yahoo Publisher Network ads just like Adsense.
YARO: Prior to Adsense? Was that available yet?
COURT: [unclear] I did Adsense first.
COURT: Someone I knew said, “Hey, try Yahoo because Yahoo pays more.” I tried it, immediately back then, this was like ’05 or maybe ’06, back then, Yahoo was paying way more because they were trying to get theirs started and yes, it like doubled up my revenue overnight.
So, yes, it was Yahoo Publisher Network.
YARO: Okay, so it was basically advertising on the site. How did you get the traffic?
COURT: SEO. My strategy was when I, and this remains my strategy in a lot of ways today so, I tried to find keyword phrases that not very many people are trying to use. Back then, the big phones were like the Motorola Razor and they had another one called the Razr, the skinnier version of it.
I tried to target keywords like Motorola Razr V3 review. So, it was really long. It was just a lot easier to rank for. So, I did all phrases like that, just longer tail phrases without a lot of competition and I ranked really well for a lot of these phrases.
And then, over time, I got the site to where it actually ranked number one in Yahoo and Yahoo was a bigger deal back then than it is now. It ranked number one in Yahoo for Motorola phones and Motorola cellphones and that’s where all the traffic came from primarily.
YARO: Right, got it. It’s probably a good idea for us to dig more into your SEO tactics. But, let’s get to the present since not many people care about Yahoo as a search engine anymore. So, take us forward.
You’re making a website that had $5000 a month in Yahoo Publisher income. Thanks to your keyword research skills and your knowledge of cellphones and you’re also working a day job at the consultancy.
YARO: Now, you said you quit after two years. Did you change jobs after two years?
COURT: Pretty much I just left. I did quit. I decided, “You know what? I’m just going to do this Internet stuff.” I started some more sites. I actually lost my cellphone site because I was so… there wasn’t a lot of new ones to my technique back then so, I was just super aggressive everywhere that I could be.
So, what ended up happening was the site got, even though I monetized with Yahoo, I’d say the majority of the traffic came from, well, probably 50-50 Yahoo and Google. So, I ended up losing all my Google traffic and then, my Yahoo traffic started to diminish as I started working on another project.
But, I had a whole bunch of projects going. It still, I never had trouble paying the bills. I haven’t had any problem being a full-time earner since 2005 doing this stuff.
YARO: You were just doing lots of sites. You just kept looking for more markets?
YARO: Can you explain how did you pick markets back then? Cellphones make sense because you were worked at Radio Shack but, what else did you do?
COURT: Almost everything I’ve done has been stuff that I have first-hand experience with. Almost everything.
YARO: Can you list some of the sites from back then?
COURT: Yes, totally. So, I did cellphones. I’ve done a lot with loans. I’ve done a lot with credit and repairing credit because I personally went through this whole process of, you know, my life was a mess back then. My credit score, the first time I checked it, was under 500 which is terrible here in the US.
So, now my credit score is 800. Going through that process, you learn a lot. Naturally, when I’m doing keyword research, I’m like, “I’m going to look at credit repair stuff.”
I’ve done a lot of credit repair stuff, lots of finance stuff that I’m really into, and now lots of the make money using different methods – Make money with Google, make money with the Internet and all that kind of stuff. I’ve gravitated toward that zone because I feel like I really understand how that works so, those are some of the different niches that I’ve done.
YARO: That sounds an awful lot of work for one man to be writing content and doing keyword link building and so on. Was there a stage when you realized that you can’t do it all by yourself?
COURT: Yes so, basically I didn’t ever outsource anything until 2010, somewhere around there. Until 2010, I did all of it on my own. I wrote all my own articles, everything that I did, I did myself.
YARO: So, what was a day in the life of Court back then? Just writing all day? [Laughs]
COURT: You know what? It wasn’t as hard as you think because basically, I tried to pick niches that just aren’t that tough so, it’s just not that hard overall. So, how things work with me like my Hub Pages are good examples.
With Hub Pages which is a site where you do your keyword research on your own, you go to Hub Pages and you write an article for Hub Pages and you put it up on Hub Pages. Hub Pages splits ad impressions with you so, you make money as long as those hubs get traffic. I created my hubs, I created a hundred hubs in May and June of 2009. That was 3 ½ years ago.
Well, really, my income on those hubs today is pretty steady. It has gone down a little but, it hasn’t gone down a lot. Like my high month in 2012 was about $850 on Hub Pages and in 2009, it was $677. So, it’s just I try to pick stuff that doesn’t take that much work. All the works for those hubs, I did in one month. That was a crazy month. I was like 12 hours a day doing those hubs. But, now for the last three years, I haven’t done literally a single thing.
YARO: That’s consistent income, too. Amazing. So, when you say hubs, I’m assuming you mean HubPages.com and it’s their platform. You just have to submit content, right?
COURT: That’s exactly right.
YARO: Now, if you’re doing 100 Hub Pages, that’s… Is a Hub page one article or, is it actually lots of articles.
COURT: It’s just one article.
YARO: Okay, so you wrote 100 articles in those two months. How many words were they roughly on average?
COURT: I’d say the average was probably, most of the hubs were between five and 800 words.
YARO: Okay, so fairly not super long but, definitely full-sized article. And, to pick what you’d write about, you said you did your usual research before that. Can you maybe take us a little bit into detail how you do that. Is it just going into Google keyword tool and looking for long tail phrases like you said before about the Motorolas that don’t have much competition?
COURT: Yes, so there are actually a few ways I do this. So, when I teach this, I usually like to talk about the free ways first.
The free ways, you start with the Adwords tool. Anybody can use the Google adwords keyword tool. You can just search in Google for that — Google adwords keyword tool and you can find the tool.
What that tool allows you to do is to check the search volume for the phrases and it also allows you to look at what the CPC is which is the cost per click and that is the amount that advertisers are paying Google in order to buy clicks from Google. Those two things both matter a lot because if a keyword has zero searches then, even if you rank first for it in Google that doesn’t do you any good because you don’t get any traffic from it.
Even if a keyword has 100,000 searches, if the CPC is zero then, even if you can get traffic to your web page or whether that site of yours, or Hub Pages, or wherever that is, if people click on it, it just doesn’t pay you anything. So, both searches and CPC matter.
What I look for are phrases that have both. I actually have, this is complicated but I have a system that I use to estimate how much I think I can make if I can rank for a specific keyword phrase. This is how that works.
I take the searches. Let’s say the number is 1000 searches per month then, I assume if I ranked first in Google, I can get 25% of that. I assume that I can get 250 searches. With every keyword that’s different. I know that and that’s fine. But, I am just trying to make a rough estimate of what I think I can make so that, I can compare a phrase to different phrases.
I take that 1000 searches and I multiply that by 0.25 to get 250. That’s how many visitors I think I can get. I think I can get on average 5% of those visitors to click on an ad. So, I multiply that by 0.05 to account for that. Only 5% will click an ad even if I can get them all to the page. Then, I multiply that by the CPC because that is the cost than an advertiser will pay Google for the click. I know that I am not going to get that full amount so, I apply a dampener to that. So, I multiply that (sorry, this is complicated stuff) I multiply that by 0.25 and that accounts for the share that I think I can get from Google of what the CPC number says.
COURT: I figure this out just by looking at a whole bunch of keywords and what I’ve been getting paid for over a few years.
So, that’s just the basic formula that I use that spits out here’s how much you can make per month if you pick this keyword.
YARO: Okay, how consistent is that?
COURT: On average, it works pretty well. But, some things can make it completely different. For example, if you have search traffic that is a person looking for a loan then, the 5% of people clicking on the ads is way, way, way too low probably 15% of them will click on an ad. That’s just kind of how it works. If you rank high for a phrase like Internet Marketing, a tenth of a percent are going to click on that.
You can only use it like, it’s a rough way to estimate phrases in niches that you don’t know. But, if I’m working in a niche that I know like finance niches, I have a really good idea of what kind of CTR I can get. So, I’ll change that in my formula to account for that.
YARO: Interesting. I guess some of this, there’s a bit of psychology behind what you think people are more actively clicking on and showing interest in. It’s interesting for you to say that people will very rarely click on Internet Marketing as a phrase where they will click on, well, like you said, with the loans and so forth, where to an average person that you’d think Internet Marketing is a hot phrase. Everyone wants to learn how to do Internet Marketing to build websites to make money, right?
COURT: That’s what you would think. Actually, one of my sites ranked first in Google for Internet Marketing for a while and it was great traffic but, they don’t click ads ever because this is people like you and me. We don’t click on Adsense ads because we know what they are, we know that we can get a more relevant result by clicking on the organic listings in Google. So, we just don’t click those ads, the paid ads.
So, even if I see an ad on the site, on an ad in our niches like if I was on your site looking at Google ads, I’d probably never click one.
COURT: And [unclear] like that number is so low. If a person found you searching for Internet Marketing, they’re just the more educated person in my experience when I ranked for that.
YARO: Now, I don’t want to get too brought down in the details of all these process because it’s probably something that’s better taught through visual means, as well. I’m assuming that you have plenty of tutorials actually, Court. Is there a place that if people really want to see you what you just talked about more visually, they can go and check out?
COURT: Yes. They can just look at the free report that’s on The Keyword Academy. So, Home Page of TheKeywordAcademy.com, download the free report. It will show you, you know I do screenshots and stuff so, you can see how that [inaudible].
YARO: Okay, so we’ll have to mention that again in the end but that’s a place you can head to right now if you’re interested in watching Court go through this process which is quite, for me, that bores the crap out of me [laughs] to be obviously honest, you know. I like to sit there and think of something interesting and write about it and not have to go through this sort of keyword process.
Now, I know you’re a bit like that, too, Court. You like to create a process but, you seem too mixed in a little bit of a statistician here, a mathematics kind of guy, or at least a guy who cares about his numbers to make this work financially.
How important do you think that is especially for someone completely new who wants to set up a website that makes money?
COURT: [Unclear] way. It’s a faster, like for you to get to where you made a dollar, it’s much, much faster. It’s much, much faster because you can start out by picking a really easy niche and making sure the niche is easy as a completely different topic. And, we’ll leave that for what’s in the free report.
But, if you can pick a niche that’s really easy, making that first dollar, that first $10, that first $100 is just so much easier.
YARO: Now, when you say easy, you just mean that there’s not much competition but there are enough people searching that you can hit these phrases and get into the top one, two or three position in a Google search result for that phrase.
COURT: That’s exactly right. I want a phrase that I think has value. People are searching for it. It has a decent CPC. And then, I’ll actually go to Google and look at the competition. I’ll search and I’ll just see who is there and I’ll pick the ones that are easy. If I think I can get to the top three with a minimal amount of work, that’s ideal. That’s what I teach people to do, too.
YARO: Okay, so how much of this is the way you’ve made this $200,000 a year for the last four years? Like percentage of it is this setting up niche websites?
COURT: That’s a good question. This is responsible really for all of the revenue I have with a few exceptions. Even on The Keyword Academy where I basically teach people how to do this, almost all of my traffic comes from doing this. So, I try to pick easy phrases and I target them with blog posts and I try to make just incredibly useful detail blog posts and then, I bring people in and they look at my free report, download the free report, and then, there’s obviously more stuff involved like getting a person to make a purchase is a completely different thing but, the way I get traffic, this is pretty much it.
So, the [inaudible] I have is I do have maybe, I probably have $2000 or $3000 a month in revenue that I would attribute to my affiliates. Anything else?
YARO: I’m curious because I know a lot of people I talked to have problems with making the keyword research actually deliver traffic like a number of times, I hear people go and read a Pat Flynn site or a report like you’ve got at The Keyword Academy, go through maybe a Niche Profit Classroom Adam Short’s thing, or all the other countless resources out there for doing keyword research and getting traffic from Google. It just doesn’t seem to work for them.
Even a friend of mine, Nick, he went through this process for a tea niche. He created a tea blog and wrote his tea articles hitting those phrases and it took him I think eight months to get any sort of noticeable traffic back.
Why is this so hard?
COURT: Well, you know what? The biggest missing piece that we haven’t talked about is being able to get links. That’s one of the reasons. I would be super interested in talking to him just to see where the issue is. It could be a phrase that’s just too difficult because I don’t know how he did his research. But, it could be a phrase that’s too difficult or maybe he’s not focused enough on the phrases he’s picking or maybe he doesn’t know how to generate interest as far as getting his site linked to.
But, one of those things is definitely off if he doesn’t have a traffic, he’s missing something.
YARO: I know a lot of people struggle into link building. Can you maybe give us a quick run through, especially currently, what you recommend the people that they do to start building links?
COURT: Yes, totally. I do a lot of guest posting and I do it on quality sites. It takes time to learn how to do this well. But, I think guest posting is huge and if you can do it on really good sites, you just have a tremendous, enormous advantage. I try to do that.
But, in some niches, that’s not necessary at all like I just did a case study, I had to do, so I picked this keyword 650 credit score. I thought, “You know what? I can get ranked for this keyword pretty, pretty easily.” This case study got published on SEOMoz a few weeks ago and then, promoted to the main blog a couple of days ago.
So, if you want to find out in the main blog, you can find it there. But, here’s basically what I did. I picked this keyword, I set up a niche site, and the site needs to be improved a lot like [unclear] look at the site. But, I went out. I did 13 guest posts.
That’s no joke. Most people would probably not do that, 13 guest posts.
YARO: That’s a lot.
COURT: But, that’s all it took. So, now the site ranks number two in Google. I [inaudible] all that work in about week. Now, the site ranks number two in Google. It gets traffic from the phrase 650 Credit Score and from a whole bunch of related keywords. It’s not a ton of income but, it’s a really good start.
Just with Adsense, it pays to do over $100 a month and then, I’m going to be working on improving the monetization of the site by looking at credit card offers because people are going to be looking at they want credit cards, they want loans, the people that find that site will naturally, if they search for that phrase, they are naturally looking for something either a loan, or they are looking to improve their credit score.
So, that’s what I try to do with it. It took in that example 13 guest posts which most people wouldn’t do that work but, it’s not like it takes a year’s worth of work to build up to 100 bucks a month. I did that on a couple of weeks and [inaudible] within two months.
YARO: How hard, I’m curious, with the 13 guest posts, those 13 articles you have to write so I’m thinking, almost 10,000 words of content there and then, the actual process of securing the places to put the guest post. Do you have a system for that?
COURT: Okay, actually I think that the titles of the guest post matter quite a bit. I did the titles myself and the titles I used, I used titles like… Okay, trying to rank for 650 credit score, so I used titles like, How to Improve Your Credit Score from 650 to 800. And so, I do the titles, I did all the titles like that and then, I actually went to TextBroker and I outsourced the articles.
Then, when I got the articles back, I was the editor of the articles instead of writing the articles. I went in, made changes, added formatting, added bullets, added my own personal touch. I’ve been through that process myself. So, I was familiar with how that worked to like how the credit score improvement worked.
So, it really wasn’t that long of a process just because I outsourced the articles and then, I improve them. For me, I found that that’s much, much easier than creating the whole thing from scratch.
YARO: So, the outsourcing, what was the site you said? Text…
COURT: TextBroker.com, yes.
YARO: And, that’s an article writing service.
COURT: I wouldn’t recommend just buying their articles and using them out of the box. I just don’t get a level of quality that would make me comfortable. So, I act as the editor. I try to improve them and I’d recommend doing that.
YARO: And then, how much does it cost per article?
COURT: It depends on the level of quality that you want. I was spending about $8 per article and you can spend up to $25 I think. And, if you spend $25, you’ll get a much higher quality article but, I’ve found that for me, I’m going to want to edit the article anyway even if I spend $25. I’m just particular like that. I want to make sure that it’s up to the standard that I want to publish.
YARO: Okay, so I think we got a picture. I’m assuming there’s more to it than just guest posting to build links but, again, I don’t want to spend the entire call just on the process because I’m sure you outlined that in what you do at The Keyword Academy.
We haven’t even talked about how The Keyword Academy came to be. So, just to summarize quickly, basically, the niche system you have is really your keyword research technique to find these long-tail phrases and of course, they have to have enough traffic and you have to know a little something about it. It sounds like you like to be familiar with the subject at least a little bit.
And then, set up the website, get some content written to target those key phrases and then, get some content written to use as guest posts to bring some links back to the site and then, I’m sure you got things like social media and like you submitted your site to SEOMoz or case studies so, that’s another thing you can do to build traffic in your space, and no doubt there’s countless things like that you can do to build things, as well.
COURT: Yes, absolutely.
YARO: And then, did you get to that one, two, or three result in Google and you start making 100 bucks a month from the Adsense ads on your site which I’m sure you also have a system for where best to place the ads and all that sort of things as well.
So, there’s layers to this which can’t be discussed in one hour into you. Is that a good summary though of what you do?
COURT: Good summary, yes.
YARO: Okay, can we maybe just get back on track with your story then. This is a system you built starting it sounds like at that job you first had and then, with your cellphone site and then, leaving the job and doing your own bunch of different websites on different subjects. When did The Keyword Academy get created?
COURT: It’s a really good question. Here’s what happened. When I left my job, I started working basically from home and that completely blew the minds of so many of my friends because that was back in ’06 and back then, that just wasn’t normal.
Now, it’s really different and a lot more people are doing this kind of thing but, back then, my friends were like, what the heck are you doing?
So, I started teaching them how to do this. It started by, this is why I say my career is kind of an accident because it started by having, I had meet ups. We had a projector in my house and I had roommates, we had projector and we had meet ups at my house where I would teach them this basic stuff. Here’s how you would do keyword research. Here’s how you design web pages. Here’s how you do on-page SEO. Here’s how you get links.
People would come over and they just loved the stuff.
YARO: Was that just for fun? You were just helping your friends?
COURT: Yes, I was just helping my friends and so many of them started sites and some of them are still doing this stuff today. Some of them are doing it full time even.
So, it grew to where it got out of hand like it grew to where new people kept wanting to come but, we were talking about stuff that was further down the line. So, it didn’t work for that long and I thought, “You know what? What am I doing? I just need to put all these stuff online so, I don’t have to teach this.”
I started doing that. The first site that I started was CourtneyTuttle.com, so it’s my name which that site doesn’t exist anymore. That’s where it all started. So, I started teaching all these stuff online and all my friends came to that site at first. So, when people asked me, I said, “Yes, this is where you’ll find it. It’s CourtneyTuttle.com.” That site took off. Before too long, it took off online, too and people were just in to these ideas and people were starting sites and trying to make it happen.
Basically, a year or two after I started that, then I decided, “You know what? I’m going to create a membership site and teach people how to do this.”
That’s where The Keyword Academy came to be. It was just an extension of CourtneyTuttle.com. It was basically just a different format. I thought, “You know what? People really need to see video. They need to see me work. They need to see my screen. I want to show them how I’m doing this but, I don’t necessarily want to do that for free.”
My site, CourtneyTuttle.com wasn’t monetizing that well. I was selling direct ads and that was working. I was making a couple of thousand a month but, it just wasn’t enough to justify the amount of effort I put into it.
So, I was like, “You know what, I’m going to create a membership site.” So, I did. That was The Keyword Academy and that’s where it started.
YARO: Court, so with The Keyword Academy, what did you know about in terms of running a membership site. It sounds like you’re quite technical so, you were capable of building websites by then, for sure and you were teaching people so, you knew how to teach. But, changing this to protected membership area, online videos, there’s a lot of components there that’s actually quite difficult to do and really stumps people with setting up a membership site.
So, how did you go with all that?
COURT: Yes, so I actually took on a partner which if I could do it again, I wouldn’t do that again. That’s what I did. So, I took on a partner and he headed that up. He hired a programmer. So, we had a programmer who helped us put all that together and that was just the kind of thing that I could have done by myself. My biggest concern in starting a membership site was I don’t know how to sell stuff.
So, my partner was a big-time sales guy. That was the main reason why I decided to partner with him. But, he took care of the set up for me. If I could go back, I just would have done it myself because I could have or I would have just hired a freelancer to do it. That’s probably what I would do now is I would hire a freelancer to set it up for me.
But, as far as just setting up the site itself, it wasn’t that hard. I use WordPress for the Members’ Area. I use BB Press for the forum. And, I used wishlist to protect it and yes, if I started a Membership site today, I would just hire a freelancer to put it together for me and–
YARO: And build a list.
COURT: If I absolutely had to, I could do it myself. It would just take so much time. I just wouldn’t want to.
YARO: Okay, thank you for giving us the tools. I was going to ask you that. So, BB Press for the forum, for community, Wishlist to actually protect WordPress has a membership area and WordPress itself to house the content. Quite simple. So, now you said marketing wasn’t the sort of thing you’re strong at. Was that an instant success with The Keyword Academy because you said you used your own SEO skills to bring traffic to that site early in the interview, as well? So, how did it grow?
Because, I think, we talked before, what was the top number of members you have at its peak?
COURT: The top was about 17,000 members.
YARO: Paying how much per month?
COURT: Paying $33. Well, some of the members actually paid $29. So, we have two levels. We have $29 and $33 and the vast majority is on $33 but, some are on $29.
YARO: Okay, so you had a very successful membership site. So, how did it grow?
COURT: It [unclear] right away. I had a good following on CourtneyTuttle.com so, when I launched it officially, it works really well. When we launched it, when we launched The Keyword Academy, we didn’t launch at $33 a month. We decided that we were going to try to make the cost of the program $1000. I think it was $997.
COURT: And, in the first, I want to say, I can’t remember the exact numbers. I wish I had these in front of me but, we sold about 30, or 28, or 29, something like that accounts the first day that we launched. We sold quite a few the first day.
YARO: That’s amazing success. Can I ask you, maybe going back to CourtneyTuttle.com then. You had this audience ready to go when it came to launching your membership site. Was that just the case of doing what you always do over a period of time to build your audience?
COURT: You know what? That was much closer to what you do. I feel like I did everything on that site because I know how niche SEO works and I did that. I tried to get into niches where I thought I can get this site ranked and the site did get ranked really well.
But, it was also a huge experiment for me because I wanted to rank for bigger terms. This is like something I had never done before that site.
So, I thought, you know what? I’m just going to pick the biggest one I can think of and that one is Internet Marketing. I’m going to figure out how to rank for that. To rank for that, it took so much more because people that ranked for that are out of control.
So, everything, like I guest posted. I tried to guest post on the biggest sites that I knew of at the time which were, I guest posted on like Problogger. I guest posted on John Chow. (Wherelse? I’m trying to think.) I guest posted on [Mahone?] which was, I think, they were in the top three for Internet Marketing. So, yes, all these big blogs and…
YARO: You know what, Courtney, now that you mentioned all these, I’m beginning to remember, when I used to search for the phrase “Internet Marketing Blog” which is one of the phrases I went after for a while, your blog was there. And, I was remembering, “Who is this Courtney guy doing this?” And, that was you. I do remember now. This would have been a while ago, too.
YARO: Quite a number of years ago. You definitely know how to do what you do with SEO. You keep proving that over and over again so, you definitely have a knack for it.
COURT: I think this was like in ’09.
COURT: I did everything. I was networking. I was making friends with other people. I was guest posting. (What else did I do?)
I would do free SEO consults on sites in exchange for an “Optimized by Court’s Internet Marketing School” link. So, just stuff like that. I just did everything I could to get traffic. I had traffic from forums. I had traffic from my friends. I had traffic from everywhere you can get it. I was just out there everywhere I could possibly get on that site. That was the first time I had ever done that.
But, I knew I had to be able to rank for that term. And, also just to be able to grow the site as big as I could. I really had a varied approach. It was pretty different from what I tried to do with little niches.
YARO: You’ve done both and you’ve been a niche marketer as well as going deep blogger sort of scenario.
YARO: Now, meanwhile, all those niche sites you’d built, they were making money, right while you were doing all these work in CourtneyTuttle.com?
COURT: It were, yes. That’s pretty much what allowed me to do it. I had the income already and I wasn’t making a ton back then. But, that’s when it started really catching on. As soon as I launched The Keyword Academy, that obviously, my income went up in a huge way but, if I didn’t have those other sites, I wouldn’t have been able to put so much into it to get CourtneyTuttle.com really rolling.
YARO: Yes, you built your platform like so many people seem to struggle to do. They just can’t get that consistent income stream and you’ve done it really well.
Have we caught up to date with where you are today in terms of what you are doing more recently?
COURT: I think so, yes. I mean, the biggest project that I’m trying to do right now is the Blog Builders which is what I talked to you about in the coaching call. It’s CourtneyTuttle.com 2.0. It’s just the same thing.
It’s just me going out there teaching people how stuff works for free and doing, you know, I’m going to do a podcast, I want to do YouTube. I’ve been getting traffic from Pinterest. I’m going to do SEO on the site. I’m going to create some, what I would consider to be extremely high-level tutorials about blogging and picking niches and doing SEO for blogs, just stuff that should generate a lot of interest, a lot of links, a lot of sharing and so, yes. I want to do that because I want to recreate what I had with CourtneyTuttle.com.
YARO: And then, obviously, you still have niche sites and you still have The Keyword Academy and all that that’s running.
I’m really curious about this actually, Court. What’s a day in a life like for you? Do you maintain those niche sites everyday or are you just working on most of the BlogBuilders.com.
COURT: Yes, that’s a very good question. Since I have the membership site, The Keyword Academy, I spend quite a bit of time in there supporting, just answering questions in the forum, answering emails from members, helping members with there. We actually have members that do niche case studies inside The Keyword Academy because we’re always trying to figure out new things.
We’re trying to figure out how to get traffic from YouTube, how links from YouTube affect your SEO, just all kinds of stuff like that. We’re always just constantly trying to figure that stuff out. So, I spend quite a bit of time in there every day.
Then, yes, on top of that, I spend a lot with the Blog Builders. I Google hang out with two really high-level bloggers that have insane traffic like way more traffic than I have. We do these hangouts. I’m also creating eBooks. I’m creating some books for Kindle right now. So, a day for me is very, very diverse. I’m working really hard right now, probably harder than I ever had. That’s mainly because I bought out my partner on The Keyword Academy on December 31st. So, that’s been about 3 weeks ago. That’s increased my workload a lot.
My day is, I can do everything from answering questions in my forum to picking new niches to writing guest posts to being an editor for other guest posts, to creating stuff for like I just a put up a guest post on SEO Moz and that took a lot of time to prepare something that would be high-level enough for them.
Man, like every day is different but, I’m just constantly trying to pick projects that I know will make money. It’s kind of a long answer but, that’s —
YARO: And, you didn’t mention your niche sites anywhere in that. So, are they sold [unclear] right now.
COURT: They really are. I mean, that’s what I try to do. I just try to pick niches that will be easy and if they’re easy then, I don’t have to do a lot for them. They can slide eventually. If other people come in and create better resources that get linked to a lot then, your niche sites are going to slide. If that happens, then you’ll have to go in and then, prove it.
I do that but, I do it on an as needed basis so, if I have a niche site that’s just doing really well, and it’s the one that’s getting linked to in our niche, then it’s probably going to stay there for a really, really long time. That’s why I have these projects that I’ve just been cranking for four years because if someone does a search for that and your site is the one that’s getting linked to, naturally, in forums and everywhere else that people is talking about those subjects then, it’s going to last for a really long time until someone creates a resource that’s much, much better than yours and starts to get those links that you use to get.
YARO: Now, it would probably be a good time to start wrapping this up, Court. I am curious, and I’m sure people listening want to know this, too. Can you give us a rough breakdown today of what income streams you do have, the obvious ones are The Keyword Academy membership and Adsense income from your niche sites. Are there any others?
COURT: Yes. Adsense is actually not that big of a revenue stream for me anymore because I’m constantly trying to get away from it. So, I do, I much prefer affiliate offers. Affiliate offer is a really, really big income stream for me, too because for me, this is how I see it.
Adsense is the starting point but then, once traffic comes to that page, there’s almost always a better way. Whether that’s creating a product or whether that’s selling someone else’s product, you can almost always make more by doing some kind of selling.
So, yes. I do niche-sites, Adsense and I have Hub Pages for example that still pay years later and it’s all Adsense. I have other stuff that are still all Adsense because I haven’t really figured out how to get to take it to the next level.
But then, the next revenue stream for me is using niche SEO to sell affiliate products. That’s one of my most preferred ways of doing it right there. I would much rather do that than do Adsense even though on a project that does that, I probably started it by doing Adsense.
And then, my higher level stuff with The Keyword Academy and now, with the Blog Builders. The Blog Builders will be a massive opportunity for selling affiliate products.
YARO: But, where do you find affiliate products?
COURT: I use mainly ad networks like NeverBlue.com, Commission Junction. Between Commission Junction and Never Blue ads, I have quite a few different offers that work well. But, sometimes like in this Internet Marketing space, the make money online space, you have to go straight to the source. You can find some things on ClickBank but, there are just so much stuff on ClickBank that I would be able to get behind. It just wouldn’t work.
More of what I tend to do is I just sell everything that I use. Like, for keyword research, I use a tool called Keyword Project Manager. It’s KeywordProjectManager.com. I use Market Samurai. That’s just, I think I think it’s NobleSamurai.com if I can remember right. It’s a desktop app. I haven’t been to their site for a while but, I use those.
I use Blue Host when I start niche sites. Those are three things that I sell a lot of as far as affiliate commissions. I take a lot of membership courses just because I want to know what other people are teaching and there’s always something that you can learn.
I took the Become a Blogger course that you and Leslie Samuel and Gideon are doing together. I took that course and yes, I’m probably advanced past most of what’s in that course but, I learned good stuff in that course. This happened just recently. So, that’s just one more thing that I can sell. I don’t usually sell stuff that I don’t use. That’s how it works for me like I’m always taking courses, trying to learn new things, I’m using tools and those are the best opportunities to sell because it’s the stuff I use. That’s how I do it.
YARO: With Never Blue and Commission Junction, those are good places for what kinds of offers? The ones you mentioned are all sort of make money online type related products. But, you have things in debt and refinancing and I’m assuming a few different niches. Is that where you get the affiliate offers for those things?
COURT: So, Commission Junction is really important for me for that world especially for finance offers, for loans, for credit cards, they really have a ton of stuff. They have so many offers that you could look through and Never Blue is the same thing.
To be honest, Never Blue isn’t my favorite. I would say they are more, they lean towards more like the ClickBank where they got a lot of information things that just really aren’t that great and so, there’s stuff there that I don’t like but, they have Discover card, the credit card company, Never Blue has the Discover card offer. That’s where you go to get it.
The kind of both just have everything so, if you want to sign in on CommissionJunction.com then, you’ll see so many offers like it gives you lots of ideas for stuff you could market, for niches you might want to get in to so, it’s a pretty good place to go.
YARO: Which leads me into, I think would be our last question, never say never, the person listening to this, hearing your story now, Court, you kind of stumbled into this with a friend who was doing a job that you liked the sound of and then, managed to get the same job which has led you down this entire path and who knew it, but you happened to be really good at it, too. You probably didn’t see that coming but, it happens to be a really great way to leverage your skills, too. You managed to make a really nice double six-figure income for four years now as a result of it so, fantastic.
I am hesitant to say, you can’t teach people how to stumble into something like that the way you did it. But, if there’s a person listening to this who hasn’t ever made a niche site that made money, or maybe he has tried to make niche sites that make money, do you still recommend that is the best entry point, starting point for a new person looking to build an online income?
COURT: For starting out, I really do. Yes, I really was the luckiest guy in the world, like it was so lucky. It was just a miracle that happened. But, the reason that I got so stoked about it was because I started a site and it worked. And, if people who are just starting out, if they can just start anything that works, they just catch fire. I’ve seen it so many times. We surveyed the income, the revenue of our members and it was amazing to see but, I wasn’t that surprised because it’s just this switch that happens like if you can make even a dollar, it’s just so much easier to believe that you can get to more.
I just like to see people start something that works. Once you can do that, you just catch fire and I see it all the time.
I would definitely recommend it as a really good way to start. And, there’s other ways. I’m not going to say it’s the best way, I guess because there are other good ways but, it’s a really good way to get started.
YARO: Is there a certain type of person who is better for this kind of path or not?
COURT: Oh man, that’s a really good question. You have to be able to handle technical things and if you can’t, it’s just really tough. So, when I started out, I knew nothing. I had to teach myself HTML just with free sources I could find in Google. But, it’s not an area where I have had a lot of trouble in my life. Like, I get computers. I get how they work. And, I did before I started doing this stuff. So, it was just like one more thing that I had to learn. It took a lot of persistence to do that. But, if you have a really hard time with technical things, I think it’s going to be really, really tough unless you can find a partner that can handle that stuff.
Also, like if you don’t, me doing it the way I do, it’s because of Math. For me, it’s just numbers. Like, SEO is numbers. Keyword research is numbers, and I’m really attracted to it for that reason. And, if you’re not into numbers and systems and how things work, it’s much, much harder for you.
My sister is a really high-level blogger. She, I don’t know how comfortable she’d be talking about her income but, she makes a full-time income, too. And, what she does is so completely different from what I do. It couldn’t be more different besides the fact that we both have blogs. Because she’s just not into the same stuff I’m into. She’s not into numbers. She doesn’t want to do keyword research. That’s fine.
Not everybody does it. People make tremendous incomes without doing it. For me, this is my thing. I love numbers. I love Math like Google’s algorithm is the most fascinating thing in the world to me. I spend hours a day thinking about it and testing it. And, if you’re into numbers, you’re going to be a lot better at doing keyword research and figure out the way Google works.
YARO: I think you’re a weirdo, Court, interested in the Google algorithm, spending hours a day thinking about it, huh? [Laughs] But, you know, everyone has a hobby, so that’s good.
COURT: Yes, so, you know, it’s not for everybody. I’m not going to say that it is because some people just do way better just creating super, super high level stuff. That’s what my sister does and everyone links to it and shares it. Her traffic is just amazing. It’s just unbelievable and she just doesn’t really know how SEO even works. So, there really are two tribes.
YARO: It’s great. Isn’t that a great thing about blogs? They can use as a platform for a small niche site which is all about keywords and numbers or going deeper in one subject where SEO happens without the person really trying like your sister.
What’s her topic, by the way?
COURT: She does like do-it-yourself thrifty decorating.
YARO: Yes, okay so very different from all the market you’re in, as well. You wouldn’t sit there and write a blog about thrifty decorating, would you?
COURT: Never. I mean, what she does, I just couldn’t do it. She’ll spend 30 hours writing one blog post. She will like completely revamp a piece of furniture. She’ll re-upholster a sofa for her blog post.
I’m thinking a lot of time to write some blog post like back in the day, pillar articles. That was your thing. I got that for me, I was like, “I got to have that.” So, I did that and I took 10 hours to write some posts but, she just takes it to a completely other level. That’s just her thing. That’s just what she wants to do. She just wants to create the greatest thing ever no matter how long it takes and put it out there. And, she’s just more into that and she is phenomenally successful at it.
So, yes. It just couldn’t be more different like when she first wanted to do that, she came to me and talk to me about stuff and she just completely disregarded everything I said. Just did her own thing and was incredibly successful.
YARO: Of course, for every story like that, there’s no doubt hundreds that do the same thing and don’t succeed. Maybe, the smartest advice we can leave people with there is that if you do want to improve your chances of at least making some money, if that is the primary goal here, a keyword-focused strategy or keyword focused system to begin with at least, and to start identifying possible money-making niches is a good step. If you can weather the math you might need to do at looking at how much people are searching for and how much competition you have and what sort of cost per click values the advertisers are spending right now on ads. If you can handle that then, what do you offer? Again, it’s TheKeywordAcademy.com to check out your free report is the way to go. Is that fair to say, Court?
COURT: Yes, you do have much better odds and that’s not even biased. You really do. You have much better odds especially in the beginning. But, yes, I see people make it work all the time.
YARO: I do remember looking at your list of successful customers at The Keyword Academy and you broke it down by a number of people making a certain amount of money per month.
You started at least making some sort of money, $100 a month. There was like, I think close to a hundred people in total, maybe more than that on that list, or maybe a hundred in one category so, maybe several hundred overall. I was also thinking, my own experience teaching my clients, we do want the going deep with one blog. It’s definitely a harder path but, it’s a different type of person.
Court, I think we covered your story. Is there anything you want to add to this before we wrap it up?
COURT: I don’t think so. I really appreciate you having me on. It was really fun to talk and I don’t get to tell that story very often so, I appreciate it.
YARO: Yes, it’s good to hear where you came from. I didn’t know that and I’m so impressed that you had no background in any of these before you got into it. So, it really shows that you could be working right now in a supermarket and in a couple of years’ time could be an expert in copywriting or SEO or blogging or YouTube marketing or the Internet. It’s a huge potential opportunity for people no matter where they come from so, you’re a great example of that. So, thanks for sharing your story, Court.
COURT: Welcome, thanks for having me.
YARO: And, good luck with the future man.
COURT: Thank you.
About Yaro Starak
Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.