Impossible? I did it in 11 months and 9 days with a niche site that solved a problem, but didn’t get a ton of traffic.
The traffic I did get, subscribed, purchased, and told their friends that were looking for similar information. Magic? No. Marketing.
Due to a non-disclosure agreement I signed after I sold the site, I can’t tell you the name of it, but I can tell you that it was in the internet marketing niche. To be more specific (and about as specific as I can get) it covered a common concern amongst marketers – how to increase traffic.
I had approximately 40,000 unique visitors a month, and I ranked on the first page for each of my four targeted key phrases, as well as a few that I wasn’t targeting.
As far as traffic generation, it was almost entirely search engine optimization.
I posted 118 posts within the first six months, and then didn’t add another post for the entire 14 months I owned it. I worked on bringing those posts to the front page of Google, and succeeded on quite a few of them. The niche was highly contested, but the keywords I was using weren’t. They were searched for a lot, but not marketed to nearly as much. Sadly, it’s harder to find these niches, but they still exist.
Although about three percent of the subscribers were RSS subscribers, the vast majority of them signed up to my AWeber opt-in to download a free book that covered their specific problem – traffic generation.
The book was outlined by me, and then written by an outsourcer for $900 in about three weeks time. Total amount invested in the site was roughly $1,500. Each time I sent out a mailing, I made an average of $844.
I sent one mailing each week with information about niche selection, traffic generation techniques, and how to monetize your existing traffic. The blog itself was almost entirely passive after six months. I didn’t write another article for the blog other than the occasional outsourced article for article marketing purposes. Not one appeared on the blog.
Here’s where a lot of marketers go wrong. I know many of you are saying to yourself, why didn’t he make a course? Why didn’t he charge $27 or $47 for the info each month and sit back and passively create income? Well, the problem with courses is that you have to maintain them.
As anyone that has ever created a course will tell you, getting members is the easy part. Keeping them happy, or keeping them from ripping your content and then leaving is a much different animal. Although I didn’t make anything on the front end, I did gain a subscriber, and I could market to that person indefinitely, assuming he didn’t unsubscribe from the list.
On the back end though, I pitched everything from products to hosting and even grew a nice base for my consulting business. I pulled in well over six figures in the 14 months I owned the site (and even more on the sale), even though on paper I was only showing about $3,400 each month (from the list). Some of the commissions were recurring, and I still get the random check here and there even though I sold the site two years ago for a tidy sum. The additional cash came from the affiliate links within the book itself.
Now here’s how you replicate my success…
Traffic generation is something that most of us have struggled with at one time or another. The niche was ripe for those looking to boost traffic numbers. A blog, a pop-up opt-in, and a few teaser posts were all it took to start generating leads. It was only about a month in before I had to switch to the next pricing bracket on Aweber.
If you solve a problem, you’ll always have business. I made quite a name for myself by generating traffic to new web properties, so a lot of the initial promotion was word of mouth. I didn’t do much for the next few months before my SEO efforts started to kick in. I was achieving month over month growth by helping people with one of the most common problems online. You can do the same, if you find a problem, and then solve it.
I’ve read on countless blogs that say you should avoid monetization until you have a substantial base of readers. Not true. I had the opt-in from the day I added the first post, and the random Google Adsense ad here and there to pay me for each click. The Adsense didn’t make me a ton of cash, but it was a nice bonus to the money the list and the book were generating.
On my first few blogs, my biggest regret is that I didn’t start to build an email list earlier. The gold is in the list, but I didn’t learn this until one of my many conversations with Yaro.
Whether you plan on mailing your list every day, or once a year, be consistent. Once you pick a frequency, that’s what you need to stick with the entire time you run your list.
Some marketers are advocates on posting sporadically and waiting until you have your best content to send out a mailing. Wrong again. The content should always be solid, but the more you mail your list (without going overboard) the more you begin to “train” them to open your emails. Provide value and they’ll always be happy to read whatever you send them.
Not only will they read your material, they’ll start to trust your opinion and that’s when the cash really starts rolling in.
The biggest single bump in my subscribers came when I decided that over the course of one month I’d do a cross-promotion with several marketers in my niche. They marketed my free ebook to their list, and I pitched their product of choice in theirs. Subscribers poured in.
Did I mention that I averaged a profit of 44 cents on every person that signed up for my ebook? This isn’t income made from the list, this is strictly from clicking on affiliate links within the book.
Not only did I cross-promote, I also had an option that allowed anyone downloading the ebook to tweet it to their friends for a free month’s worth of hosting (I was paid if they renewed after the free month via affiliate commission), and an additional PLR ebook on search engine optimization. Not a bad way to kill two birds with one stone. Tweet, Tweet.
Teaser content – in my opinion – is underutilized. I used it on approximately 25 percent of all posts. My best tips weren’t given away for free (or, without signing up for free to my list), but cut off just before they got to the “meat” of the article. I’d write a catchy headline that was guaranteed to pique curiosity, write 250 or so words leading up to the big secret, and then place a link telling them that they can read more if they sign up for my newsletter. Once they did, it gave them the password to read the rest of the post.
I implemented this in month three, and saw roughly three times the growth I had seen the previous months.
My last tip is probably the most important. Instead of selling that product of yours for $97 one-time, why not sign up a customer that you can market to for life?
I gave away my best material to my list and then gained people that were so happy with what I gave away for free that they couldn’t wait to see what I was going to offer when they actually had to pay. Selling a product to a new customer – in my opinion – is short sighted.
Acquire the customer, build the relationship by giving them valuable goods for free, and then pitch your products, or your friends’ products to them. If you pitch to them before adding them to your list, and they don’t bite, you’ve lost them for good. If you have them on the list, and they don’t bite, you’ll get another chance next week. See how this becomes way more valuable than a one-off customer?
Long story short, I sold this site in 2009 because I didn’t feel I was able to add any value to the newsletters anymore (I was running out of top-notch content), so I turned over the keys to someone that was hungry to keep it going.
I sold the site, the product, and the list for a great deal of money (still my biggest site flip) and although I didn’t get to keep the list, I made over $1,800 a month from it (on top of the sale price) for about a year after that. I’m still bringing in roughly $4,000 each year on a list I haven’t seen for over two years. Recurring commissions… not bad, huh?
So, my quick summary for the day is – don’t always pick the low hanging fruit. Sometimes by giving up money upfront, you are making yourself more in the long run. Big business calls this a loss leader. I call it smart marketing. What say you?