3 Quick And Dirty Secrets To Online Success

We’re all capable of success online. In fact, let’s define success before we go any further. If we were going to use a dictionary definition for success it’d look something like this:

suc-cess [suh k-ses]


  1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors
  2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
  3. A successful performance of achievement: The play was an instant success.
  4. A person or thing that is successful: She was a great success on the talk show.

Here’s the thing though, your success is different from my success and it’s certainly different from the Dictionary.com definition. If I had to guess, I’d say that your success would fall somewhere into these common goals:

  • make a great living
  • have time to enjoy it
  • …and be your own boss

Does that sound about right?

Here’s the dirty secret about success that you aren’t going to find in that next $97 info product:

Success isn’t a tangible item. It isn’t measurable in terms of dollars earned or hours worked. Success is a mindset and convincing yourself that you are not only worthy of success, but capable of achieving it is the only way to truly reach it.

1. You Need A Bigger Filter

As your profile grows, the amount of expendable time you get shrinks.

At this point, you have to start filtering the thousands of voices that you are hearing every day. Some blogs you read, podcasts you listen to, books you buy, and people you interact with are parasites to your time.

There are thousands of blogs online that teach you how to be a better entrepreneur, but only a few of them are actually worth reading. You might be surprised that not all of the blogs that seem to be “authority” sites actually are. I can name a few (but I won’t) that are massive, but offer very little information that is actually going to make you money. The posts are good, and they are correct in context, but if that blog was your only resource it wouldn’t make you any money.

EJ doesn’t fall into this category. Yaro has been there, and he knows what it takes to create successful entrepreneurs. He’s done it time and time again, and I can attribute a great deal of my success to the mentoring by Yaro.

As the saying goes: “if you aren’t paying for it, you are the product.” That’s not to say that free information is a bad thing, just that there’s too much of it to absorb, and not all of it is good information.

Think about this next time you start reading everything written, and buying every product sold by those who claim they can make you a better entrepreneur.

  • What’s their track record? If they haven’t done it themselves, what makes you think that they can help you do it?
  • Do you really know who’s behind the blogs you read every day?
  • As Google has pounded into our head after the Panda update, brands are what’s important. If you don’t know the person behind the blog or their credentials, why on earth are you wasting your time reading it?

When I first started out, I read everything I could get my hands on. While I don’t think this was necessarily a bad thing, I do think that I wasted valuable time taking information from people who were in the same boat I was. As I got more successful, I started to realize that I could learn the most from those that weren’t only teaching, but practicing what they teach.

2. Looking Busy Isn’t Helping You

Most new bloggers, or even experienced ones that aren’t making much money, place far too much emphasis on things that aren’t very important, while neglecting things that are critical to your success. Messing with your site design, tweeting 30 times a day, playing with plugins, signing up for every info product you can get your hands on, and implementing new features every other day aren’t going to grow your profile, your audience, or your income.

In the beginning especially, you need to spend the most time on crafting quality content and getting it in front of as many eyes as possible.

As pointed out by Kiss Metrics, there are plenty of ugly sites making millions. Your theme, color scheme, and those fancy jQuery sliders aren’t nearly as important as you think they are.

This is merely speculation, but I’d love to see a split test between two blogs in the same niche have a race to see who can make the most money in the first month. I’m nearly 100-percent certain that the person that focused on content and marketing right out of the gate rather than a pretty theme, Twitter background, and fancy plugins would leave the “pretty” blog in the dust. Some things just don’t matter as much as you think they do.

Usability is important, but making your blog into a work of art isn’t.

Twitter? Don’t get me started. Twitter should be used to interact with friends, fans and readers, not to acquire them. That’s not to say that you can’t acquire new readers with Twitter, but there are things that are much faster and more effective than tweeting what you had for breakfast, your latest blog post, and a retweet to your Aunt Linda. Take my word for it.

Spend the greater portion of your day writing great content, and then get as many eyes reading it as possible. Online reputation management and marketing are what position you for success.

3. Stop Looking For A Magic Bullet

300% guaranteed to make you money while you sleep, all with one hour of work a year and no prior experience!”

This sounds ridiculous, but this is exactly what plays in my head when I read the sales pages, videos, or pitches for most new products that are guaranteed to improve your income. Anyone that guarantees to improve your income is someone that should be avoided at all cost.

No matter how good the product, you are the only one that can improve your income. I could hand you a 3-by-5 index card with the magic bullet to internet success but it’s up to you to implement it. This is why I frown on those who make guarantees that their product will make you better at something. It can help you to be better at whatever it is, but they certainly can’t do it for you.

Too many marketers, new, old and everything in between think that the secret to success is hiding somewhere in an info product. The secret to success is sticking your nose on the grindstone and not moving it until you’ve obtained your goal or moved on to a different one.

Many marketers claim that they make “x” amount of money a year by working only “x” amount of hours per month. While it’s certainly possible to only work a five or ten hour weeks and make a great deal of money, what they don’t tell you – and what you didn’t ask – is how much time or money they spent putting themselves in a position like that.

As a marketer myself, this generally requires work that is way harder than any nine-to-five and requires longer hours to boot. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point”, he talks about a phenomenon known as “the tipping point.”

The tipping point can be summed up with a simple analogy that I’ve used before. Think of it as you pushing a boulder up a huge mountain. Once you get it to the top of the mountain, or “the tipping point” it’s as easy as following the boulder down the hill and guiding it so that it stays on course. You don’t have to push as hard to get the desired results.

Those marketers that only work a few hours a day are in “maintenance mode” and their business no longer requires the hard work of pushing the boulder up the mountain. However, when they pitch their products, they forget to tell you about the 16-hour days pushing the boulder up the mountain, and instead they focus on the five hours a week they spend guiding the boulder down the hill. Don’t believe the hype. Hard work, or significant capital – or both – are the only ways to success.

Bonus Tip: Mind Your SEO

SEO – or search engine optimization – has entire blogs, products, and books devoted to it so I won’t waste your time trying to break it down into three or four points here. When blogging, or marketing, the most important aspect of SEO that you need to focus on is online reputation management.

This means that when something is said about you, you need to know it before everyone else does, or shortly after. If I created a product, and everyone thought it sucked, I’d want to know this and be given a chance to correct the problem before it ruined my reputation.

Read what you can on SEO, and do it from a reputable source. I’m not going to make recommendations here because SEO is a controversial thing, and many people side with one site or method much more than they agree with the other side and their methods.

It’s all an educated guess, but you can’t go wrong learning what you can about simple SEO. Anchor text, links, and on-site optimization are great places to start. If you don’t want to take the time, you can always hire one of the many online reputation management companies. Sometimes you don’t want to fix the foundation if you don’t know how to lay cement. Know what I mean?

I’ve taken enough of your time, so now it’s time to take what you can from this and go forth into the world and use what you’ve learned here to your advantage:

  • Stop the busy work
  • Watch who you take advice from
  • Quit looking for the magic bullet
  • And learn simple SEO/reputation management

There’s your “magic bullet.”

Bryan Clark

About Bryan Clark

Bryan Clark is a professional writer, blog editor and evangelist. He has contributed to leading news properties and blogs in tech, entrepreneurship, finance, and the digital lifestyle. Bryan has earned features on Problogger, Entrepreneurs-Journey and USA Today. Bryan works with Growth Partner, a venture fund and startup platform for web businesses.

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  • Thanks for your very clear point. Thank you for reminding me that I should not fall for these quick money schemes, because I often feel that this particular is “the right one” 🙂
    So… back to work!

  • Good advice Bryan,

    I’d add that the mountain you have to climb is much bigger than you think when you start out.

    And “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is”

  • Man #2 hit me like a sack of nickles. I tend to focus on design when in reality like you say, content is what really matters. Im putting up a poster that says “focus on content first”

    This should help keep me on track.

    Thanks Bryan

    • I had an image that I printed out (I’ll see if I can find it) that said “Content is king, and then had a king that was made out of letters (typography).” I stuck a tack through it and put it on the wall next to my desk. It never hurts to have a reminder.

  • Hey Bryan
    SO true! The most important thing I can do now days is delete stuff and unsubscribe. When you begin to see that you know enough stuff and it’s just time to create, it’s an epiphany. Well done

  • Great tips especially for a person who is thinking about setting out their own. It isn’t as easy as it looks and it take time, hard work and dedication.

  • Speaking as someone who once made a good living from an ugly website I have to say you nailed it. SEO is key. The other thing I’d add is that once a business gets to the maintenance phase – Don’t take your eye off the ball!!

    We did – got hit by hackers and then Panda in quick succession and now we are back pushing that lead weight up a new mountain. It is less fun the second time because a fair amount of energy gets wasted as we kick ourselves for not having seen the ravine coming! 🙂

    As Heinlein coined it – TANSTAAFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

    • Sorry to hear that. The Panda update had some long-term implications that are sending some of my friends who were looking to expand and move into bigger offices back to the drawing board.

      You nailed it. No free lunches for any of us.

  • i like your tips. i think buying books which offer you to earn 300$ in a couple of hours is just wasting of time. if someone realy want to earn money online she or he must know about seo. Because we know that it is imposible to earn without drawing a good traffic to our niche.

    • I mostly agree. However, SEO should be but part of your traffic building strategy. I can’t fully get behind anything that can be taken away from me when Google makes an update.

  • Hi Brian,
    When I first started my blog I did spend way too much time fooling around with my log theme and fiddling with the code. I had a wake up call after about a month of this bad habit and I decided to change my tune.

    I focused primarily on writing content and connecting with other blogger which worked out well for me.

    I agree that there is not a magic bullet when it comes to earning online so I role modeled successful bloggers like Yaro and did what they did.

    • “If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do.” — Anthony Robbins

      He’s about as right as one can get.

  • Awesome article and useful tips Bryan…Unfortunately,I’d also hit #2 as other people here

    Oh,thank you for KissMetrics link..A funny & interesting article!

  • good points, just wondering why are you so against Twitter, coz I think it’s a great way to increase you readership if you tweet a summary of your newest article. twitter is not at all for just telling what you’ve got for breakfast

    • I’m certainly not against Twitter, I just think that most new bloggers have an over reliance on it as a traffic or reader building technique. It can certain add new readers, but it’s not the fastest way to do it. I think Twitter is better used as a tool to share your articles and to connect with existing readers than to spend a lot of time on trying to build a readerbase for new blogs. Make sense?

  • There is certainly no magical way to succeed online, the only thing that is needed is hard work and motivation. I really would like to learn more about online reputation management since I believe that the reputation of a business is one of the most valuable assets it has…

    Kostas | Opportunities Planet

    • One of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject was: “Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust” by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. Give it a try.

  • When it comes to SEO, It’s really important to get your facts from reputable sources. And to tell you the truth it’s not easy but it’s still possible to find a good info and guides for your campaign. A thing to consider is the track record, previous employment and achievements of the person or firm your getting your info from.

  • I appreciate your view a lot. Thank you. I’m still looking for an effective online reputation management tool, you know. Something to really help with this. So far I haven’t found any reliable tool/service that can really make this easier and avoid most manual work.

  • Great advice Bryan, and from someone so young 🙂 Talk about time-sucking and developing better filters, I downloaded some free software from cnet this evening that ate up over 3 hours of my time. Little did I know at the time, that it would require me to subscribe to list to get an unlock activation key, which was followed by hoards of sales pitches clogging up my inbox while watiing for the one with the A-key.. and to make a long story short, the darn software didn’t even work!! Sheesh… Guess it’s true that you get what you pay for. LOL Thanks for the vent.. keep up the great posts!
    Sally O

    • “Someone so young” is nice to hear. At 29, I feel like a senior citizen on the web.

      I’ve been in that before with software. Always a frustrating experience.

  • Great tips, ever since I got into blogging it is SEO I heard most internet marketers talk about. I then spent very many hours searching for legit reviews with regards to successful blogging. I thing online reputation management system is another wise idea I would like to learn more about this system.

  • Hi Bryan, you are quite right that success is an intangible commodity. For many it is immense wealth while for some it is the ability to be at peace with one’s life in a well-maintained healthy moderation, and there are those who are after the magic bullet that you talk about.

    The analogy about the tipping point is a great one. The hallmark of a successful business is in working hard to get it up off the ground with the right ingredients in place. Then once you tip it off the slope, you can just watch it roll.


  • Sam

    I especially liked your idea on SEO. Most people try to do it in an enhaustive way without caring for the user experience. I am fed up of seeing sites with keyword title tag and content only scotted for search engines. It makes me feel bad. It is so pathetic that google is still not able to filter those low quality sites.

  • Bryan thanks for your reward-winning words. You remind me at what it’s actually about WHEN you’re trying to be successful.
    My own goal to be successful is to get into the Alexa top 100,000 websites of the world within the next 3 months.

    I already know how I will get there. But it’s just so frustrating. Because, yes, it’s as you say. It takes a whole lot of time. Time – and more time.

    At the end of the day, you’re really not going to get anywhere generating “activity” but actually knowing what a blogger SHOULD be doing when you want to become one – sharing insightful and helpful articles and posts that will help people in such a way that that person will come back to your blog time and time again – and spread word about it at the same time.

    As at the end of the day, success, real success SPEAKS.

  • “In the beginning especially, you need to spend the most time on crafting quality content… There are plenty of ugly sites making millions.” I agree with Brian. My personal experience says that making your website look good works against your interest. A clean, uncluttered design and nice images in articles look good, but it generally results in less ad revenue. Most top revenue generating websites have plain text content with text-based ads. These are the ones that make money. For instance, one of my smartly designed websites makes $1-10 a day for 500-700 pageviews, while another website with similar traffic makes $1,500 a month in ad revenue. You see the huge difference.

  • Thanks Bryan,

    Those are great tips, although I wouldn’t go that far to actually call them
    ‘secrets’, or even – dirty – secrets. It does however helps me to remind to also keep on using ‘catchy’ blog titles for my own blogposts 🙂

    However on one of my Blogs (my Writing Lifestyle Blog) I got complaints from readers that
    it wasn’t easy on the eyes, so on that blog I did make a few design changes. Not that it has kept people from visiting this blog because I recently discovered that I actually had a +400% increase in the amount of – unique visitors – to that blog.

    So I do think that indeed the bad design hasn’t had a bad effect on
    the amount of visitors, and I do think that a lot of all the little Successes combined
    are resulting in a pretty amazing growth, in a way that I can begin to
    think about seeing it as a Success.

  • Great tips helps any one to be better in blogging and makes our blog more prosperous .

  • This is one of the best articles I have read online in a while. Really nails it.
    I think a good looking site is important, but dwelling on what colour of border is a waste of time for sure. Just decide on a clean aesthetic and concentrate on having good pictures with alt tags and lots of content.

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