One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, “If you had to start over, what would you do differently?”
It’s a great question and one that I’ve asked of other people as well.
If you’ve been a subscriber of mine for a while you will probably know that I had a pretty rough ride when I began my online journey in 2010. I had lots of failed websites (around 10 in total) and didn’t make any money for a good 7-8 months.
So what was I doing wrong, what should I have done differently and what can YOU learn from this to avoid the mistakes I made?
Here are the answers to those questions:
1. All My Efforts Were Focused On Pleasing Google
When I started: Like many newcomers to this business I was under the impression that the easiest way of making money was to get onto page 1 of Google.
The conventional “wisdom” (and I say that word very much tongue-in-cheek!) is to accomplish this by carefully selecting keywords, setting up a WordPress blog, adding content and working tirelessly to acquire backlinks (links from other websites that point to yours).
If I’m honest, in the back of my mind I was confused: I was doing all this but why was it that nearly all of the other successful websites in most niches did not have carefully selected keyword names and often didn’t even have a blog on them? Often they were just opt in pages or long sales letters.
Have you ever noticed that?
Certainly the websites belonging to the “gurus” that were telling me to get on Page 1 of Google didn’t have sites looking like mine. Plus if Google was so special then how come I found out about these Gurus not by searching Google but by being receiving emails?
Something didn’t smell right, I was confused and certainly didn’t understand the difference between what I was doing and what most successful people were doing.
What I know now: I realise that Google is just ONE way of getting traffic.
With the exception of very small niches and local business marketing (e.g, where you want to get ranked for “hairdresser” in “Flagstaff”) it is one of the most time consuming, uncertain and costly ways of getting traffic. And yes, I did say costly as you need to outsource your link building and/or buy services which help you build links.
With Google traffic you are playing by rules which Google doesn’t properly define and then they periodically change these rules on you as well!
Look at what happened to one of my smaller sites in April this year:
It took a huge amount of effort to get the tiny amount of traffic that I receive to this site and without warning boom, I get dropped by Google. No thanks, this is not a business model that I like. And this is why I don’t build sites like this anymore.
To be clear, yes, publish quality, unique content to your blog which will help you get traffic from Google over time – that’s just a nice bonus. But don’t RELY on Google for your traffic.
Moving away from Google for traffic was one of the best things I’ve ever done and I should have done it sooner.
What are the alternative traffic methods? We have covered them here on the blog (search back through the archives) and in great detail in the members area. They include: interviews, giveaways, guest posts, content syndication, affiliates, JV, solo ads, adswaps, WSOs, forums, The Traffic Escalator, live events and more.
2. I Didn’t Start An Email List From The Beginning
When I started: I wasn’t just focusing on Google for traffic but I was trying to make money by displaying ads on my blog (e.g., Adsense) or affiliate links in review posts or banners on the sidebar.
This can make money but it’s a very hard way to start out. And impossible if you haven’t got any traffic!
To give an example, the click through rate on a sidebar banner is approximately 1-2%. So you need 100 visitors so get 2 clicks. My banners were linked to sales pages and when you consider the average conversion rate of a sales page being 1-2% then is it any wonder I was not making any money?
Plus the worst thing was that people who did arrive on my site clicked around for a bit and went away, never to be seen again!
What I know now: Building an email list solves all of these problems. You retain contact with your audience over time and you can promote and build trust direct via email which has a much higher conversion rate.
So, as I always say, building a list in a profitable area is the key to making money online and should be your number one priority. They money WILL flow if you do this.
3. I Didn’t Manage My Time Very Well
When I Started: I tried to look at every video and email that was sent to me. I was terrified that I’d miss out on the vital piece of “breakthrough” information that I needed.
So I wasted an awful lot of time focusing on bad information and jumping from idea to idea.
What I Know Now: You could take 1 month out from email and to be honest you wouldn’t miss much. There are only a handful of marketers who really give solid advice out there and far too many who just tell you what you want to hear (i.e., “here’s an easy button”) as they know from experience that sells.
It’s a shame and one of the main reasons we all seem to have to go through the information overload rite-of-passage when we start.
The GOOD news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel if you persist:
1. Try to focus on marketers where you can sense they are actually using the same strategies that they are teaching.
2. Unsubscribe from all marketers who just promote to you day after day and offer no value.
3. Go to meetups and events and talk to real people to avoid the cabin fever that can set in when it’s just you can your computer screen.
If you are just starting out then it might seem like a jungle but I felt EXACTLY the same as you for months on end in 2010. I was really pretty bad. But if you keep on, I promise you’ll get through it.
4. Should Have Pushed My Comfort Zone More
When I Started: I had a lack of confidence. I thought…
- I can’t write very well
- I can’t make videos
- I couldn’t possibly make a product
- I’ll never be any good at getting traffic, it’s just TOO hard
- I need to find a way of making money in secret by sitting in a dark room
Saying they are all excuses is a little harsh but of course you CAN do all of these things if you build up to them slowly.
What I Know Now: The more you take steps beyond your comfort zone, they more confidence you’ll get. As Eleanor Roosevelt said:
“Do one thing everyday that scares you.”
Wouldn’t you agree that the simple quotes are usually the best?
5. Should Have Stopped Trying To Be A Perfectionist
When I Started: Here are some things I did which I realise now were me trying to get things too perfect:
- I recorded 10 videos for my stock market project, then record them all again because I thought there were too many “ums” and “ahs” in them.
- I spent 1 month solid recording about 20 videos for my autoresponder
- I spent 5 days deciding on the right WordPress theme for my blog
- I spent some time adjusting the banners on my blog when I had no traffic anyway
What I Know Now: The stock market videos weren’t that bad, I should have just done 2 videos for my autoresponder and then added more later, I should have thrown a dice to pick my WordPress theme (I changed it again anyway after a month!!!), I should have worked on traffic instead of those banners.
In a nutshell, I should have used: Ready, FIRE!, Aim instead of Ready, Aim, FIRE!
These Are Just Some Of My Mistakes
There are many more and here’s the thing: I still make them now!
But think a great exercise it to do exactly what I’ve done here. Stop, look back and be honest with yourself. How would you have played it differently? Don’t get stuck in a cycle of consistency. There’s no shame in admitting you were wrong and it’s really the ultimate way of learning!
What do you wish you’d have done differently? Please drop a comment below (anonymously if you like!) and spread the word if you enjoyed this – Tweet, Like and email are great ways of doing this 🙂
As usual you provide eye-opening, sound and encouraging advice.
My big regret is doing nothing. Like you said, we can all make excuses but excuses aren’t going to achieve anything.
Looking forward to your next letter.
Thanks for being so honest. It doesn’t matter, you can certainly change that going forward 🙂
Cheers – Rob.
As always, your post is refreshingly honest – so rare in the IM circles!
My biggest regret? Wasting £2000 on becoming a member of the University of Internet Marketing in the USA. An absolute con, and I continue to be embarrased whenever I think about my mistake.
Thanks for your post,
That’s a lot of money and it just goes to show that you do not always get what you pay for. Sorry to hear this was the case for you. But there’s always something to learn from it and you can take that forward to be successful in the future.
Thanks for contributing!
Cheers – Rob.
Great (and very candid) post as always Rob.
I love the bit about taking 5 days to choose your WordPress theme – that could have described ME! (Sorry, I meant of course, the ‘old me’ before I joined your Internet Income Funnels course and benefited from the wisdom of your previous mistakes . . . as well as your considerable know-how!)
Enjoy Paris & The Lakes – you deserve a break – but I reckon you’ll be planning your next product launch during all that hiking!!
Thanks for your kind words, we are not the only people who have done this I can assure you! But being aware of the mistake means we don’t have to repeat the mistake.
Will definitely enjoy the week off (my first all year!).
Cheers – Rob.
Yep all good stuff, been there on #3 and a bit of #4. Good time management is vital as it’s all too easy to fritter your days away achieving nothing. If I’d realised that to begin with then I’d have been far more productive.
I was fortunate in that I realised that the best way of learning was not do what I was told by certain marketers, but to instead watch what they were doing. I still do that now and it’s all free learning.
If there’s any one thing that I would have done differently it’s MORE list building and having a good autoresponder sequence. I started from day one building a mailing list because I’d been told that was what I needed to do, but it’s only through experience of communicating with your lists that you evolve a style that you feel comfortable with.
Now I’ve made some decisions that everything I do must be all around list building because the size of my list is absolutely the size of my business. This is especially evident on those occasions when I launch a new product, do a 48 hour special or promote someone else’s product as an affiliate. On the good sellers you start to think “If only I had 10 times as many people on my lists…”
All the best,
You are SPOT ON with watching what people are doing rather than just listening to what they are saying. I couldn’t agree more!
I know what you mean on list size, I’ve felt exactly the same during launches and promotions. You could also say, “If only my current list was twice as attentive”. So it’s not just about size but also quality.
Thanks for taking the time for such an extensive comment 🙂
Cheers – Rob.
Love your honest and open posts- always look forward to your emails exactly because I know it will be such a good read.
By the way – which marketeers do you follow ? Would love to know who you respect ?
Keep up the great work.
Really appreciate that, it’s great to know that you like my content.
Maybe I should do a post on respected marketers but Ryan Lee, Sarah Staar and Martin Avis get votes from me.
Cheers – Rob.
Thanks for a straight talking and informative post. It could have been describing me! I made all of these mistakes with my first blog. I have a new website to which I shall need to drive traffic. Your post has brought home the most important point – that being the essential list. I shall now re focus because of your post. Enjoy the Lakes! All the best, Laurie.
Thanks for your comment. It’s amazing how we tend to make all the same mistakes isn’t it? The list is definitely the key. Work on that above all else is the best advice I can ever give.
Cheers – Rob.
Great and relevant advice at that! Thanks again Rob. All the best, Laurie.
Thanks Rob. As always, good stuff. My biggest struggle has been number 3. I need to take your advice and unsubscribe from everyone else. I spend more time researching ans studying than I do “doing”. It’s hard to manage all of that. I’m sure that you will let us know if there is something new and great out there that we need to help us. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of spam.
Yep, been there myself. Research is essential but too much research can be so counter-productive. Those tips should help you filter the good from the bad!
Cheers – Rob.
Thank you sooo much for this post ( “What I Would do Differently”)!
I’ve been following exactly the same footsteps and self-doubts have been haunting me for a long time. Thank you for helping me to see the light and avoid the overwhelm.
Hope you enjoy rour hiking trip!
My pleasure, you are very welcome and great to see you here on the blog 🙂
I’m sure I’ll get soaked on the trip but that’s all part of the fun and it’s all fine once you get back in the dry at the end of the day!
Hi Rob, great insight … as always, many thanks.
I, like so many I guess, can sadly relate to all-too-many of these!
For me, I regret spending thousands of pounds & countless wasted hours on people, products & services that either did not deliver or where I was not in the place to appreciate & build them into a successful online business!
With so many people out there who are so desperate, so vulnerable & in great need of genuine guidance, help & support, I am so glad to be able to say that you are genuinely one of the good guys. Someone who has the knowledge, the skills & the expertise to help us (no matter what our level) to succeed within Internet Marketing…
So what I now know is that you have helped me to understand that the power of building online residual income streams is in ‘THE LIST’… & also to find a successful model & stick at it!!!
Nice one Rob, I too wish you all the very best on your well earned break.
Nice to hear from you, I hope your projects are progressing well.
I think investment is important but if you take a look at my last post you’ll see that you really don’t need to spend all that much.
“IN THE LIST” is absolutely right and thanks for your kind words, much appreciated 🙂
Great blog post. It is nice to know that successful internet marketers like yourself are human too.
Thanks Brian, I try to stay as human and sane as possible!
Appreciate your comment.
Cheers – Rob.
Hi Rob! I always read your emails because you know what? It is all about honesty. They are sooo!!! helpful.
Thanks very much
Great blog post. Really got me thinking.
My main regret is inconsistent action as a result of information overload. I’ve been going from idea to idea, course to course, never really implementing more than half of the actionable steps before moving on to the next shiny object.
Really being brutally honest with myself here is helping me to see that I need to take consistent action, follow up all of my plans, and work towards my goals in manageable chunks.
Thanks for the insight into myself. Hopefully I’ll continue to look backwards, so that I can create the most success moving forwards.
Great to see you here on the blog. 🙂
You’ve done the right thing there, being brutally honest with ourselves can be a little painful sometimes but overall it’s such a good thing.
Best Blog post ever Rob …
Couldn’t agree with you more on every point.
One thing I learned early on was I spent so much time getting hung up on design and technical issues I forgot all about content for what now seemed like forever.
Without content you have nothing, so don’t even start looking at domain names, hosting, webdesign, squeeze pages until you have something written down to say.
If you haven’t even written 3 or 4 posts / articles / guides don’t get bogged down in all the other stuff or you’ll be treading water for a very long time.
Keep up the great work
Glad you liked this one! Wise words and keep up the good work yourself 🙂
Cheers – Rob.
While I was never as intense as you in the early stages, therefore I did not spend as much time. My mistakes were that I could neer see the end of a project and see results.
I usually got half way through or further and then got stuck and there was no help or because I was part time I could not wait on responses to queries, so I gave up.
With better materials I am able to see a project complete even though as yet the results are patchy, although there are results.
I also try to achieve something new every day on the basis that I will get enough knowledge to increase my speed and confidence.
Thanks for your comment – I recognise that behaviour for sure. The later stages in a project are often where traffic generation becomes and issue and also where doubts can naturally creep in too. It’s good to have been through this though so you know what to expect next time and can push on over those last hundles.
Cheers – Rob.
Thanks for a very candid update on your mistakes, these are great insights into what not to do. Looking back I wish I would of concentrated more on building a list and not buying every shiney object/gadget/software that comes out promising to make you money.
I like you keep trying to please Google rather than pleasing my reader, this probably why I can’t seem to make any money, I have one or two sites ranking No 1 on Google but they’re not making me any money, so frustrating, not sure what’s wrong, maybe I have too much garbage on there and not enough call to action.
I believe this is your first time commenting here so welcome along, it’s great to see you. 🙂
I think you’ve be as candid I have have been with your comment and I really appreciate you sharing that, I know many people reading it will feel the same. It’s a very good thing to identify it and get it out in the open!
You are the smartest, most honest, most refreshing person I’ve come across in IM in a long time!
Thank you so much for all your wonderful advice.
Well thank you Diane – that’s very kind. Glad you are getting value from my blog 🙂
Cheers – Rob.
I have been trying to succeed in IM for about 10 months (haven’t made a penny yet) because I am still in the ‘collecting information’ mode, too, although I know this is a mistake. (But from now on I won’t do this.) That’s why I am glad reading your post and noticing that your approach is similar to the marketers you respect, in terms of communicating with readers.
Regarding listbuilding I (as a beginner marketer) have only one doubt. As I haven’t taken action I haven’t got to much experience what’s actually working in IM. Now with this in mind how can I give my readers valuable information on a regular basis? So what can I tell them all about?
Have a great Friday and enjoy your next week hiking
Thanks for sharing your thoughts here – that’s great to hear!
You just too need seek out a profitable niche that suits you. This way you know money can be made and you’ll be able to get set up and build your list from scratch. There’s lots of information for free on this blog on that and even more of course in the members area.
Cheers – Rob 🙂
Would love to comment but have a couple of pages of emails to get through and don’t want to miss anything.
Busy, busy, busy!
(Hope someone has one of those Google loop-holes
I can jumb through.)
-Sad but true.
Good of you to share your experience and encouragement.
No learning curve is completely efficient and we might all be a
little kinder and gentler with ourselves knowing that understanding
is a process that starts with confusion and uncertainty.
Once you find a method and a trustworthy guide and commit to
following them you are well past the hardest part.
I also think everyone on this thread, by the very fact of exploring
this avenue, has shown courage. Let’s just keep on keepin’ on.
All the Best,
Haha – your introduction made me chuckle Desmond! 🙂
Thanks for your comment and words of encouragement too!
By the time you read this, you will have come back from your holidays I guess, so I hope you had a really enjoyable time!
Thanks for the re-enforcement that all these points provide.
With reference to Point 2, I really do understand now just how vital building an email list is.
Regarding Point 3, I have a ‘feel’ for certain emails and delete them instantly. I also need to ‘unsubscribe’.
In Point 4, you refer to a lack of confidence at the start. I can identify with that. I have had thoughts that I couldn’t possibly make a video or a product and that I would probably really struggle getting traffic. I know that all this is linked to the ‘comfort zone’ concept – the more you take steps beyond your comfort zone, the more confidence you’ll get. I agree with that! As you already know, I have joined a Meetup group in Manchester – that was a big step for me. I thought that I might have felt overwhelmed by being in the company of people with alot more knowledge of Internet Marketing than I possessed. Actually I settled in really well and learnt alot on that occasion – my first Meetup.
Point 5 regarding perfectionism – that’s definitely me! I have a video on my blog from a lady who says to just take action and don’t worry about being perfect. Things will get better with practice! She is so right.
Always nice to hear from you and well done on the meetup I think you’ll find this very fruitful as you move forwards.
Keep up the great work 🙂
All the best – Rob.
I just wanted to add with regard to Point 4 about comfort zones that I have already spoken to two people by way of encouragement with regard to Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement:
“Do one thing every day that scares you”!
I think that’s ‘spot on’!
Thanks, Rob, for an insightful and thought-provoking post. As I said in an earlier PM, one of the things that has appealed to me from the very first time I listened to one of your videos is the candour and transparency that quite literally shines through your presentations, both written and spoken.
There are a number of things I would do differently, pretty much all of them encompassed and reinforced by the structure of what I’m learning in your courses and by exposure to your membership area, and what other members are saying there. I’ll stick with just three:
1 The first thing I would do is to accept the need to *build on what I have in order to progress to what I don’t yet have!*. I think like many of us, I’ve tended to look at what others have achieved in the light of THEIR skills, THEIR experience, and THEIR resources – and then said to myself (even if I haven’t verbalised it) “since I haven’t got what they’ve got there’s no way I can expect to achieve what they’ve achieved”.
And this, of course, is not only nonsense, but it’s also unnecessarily limiting. We all have, in our OWN experience and skills, the base we need on which to build our dreams.
2 My own business experience has been in a traditional, brick and mortar business environment. So an Internet-based business is something very new for me.
The second thing I would do differently is to accept that, while an Internet business offers opportunities that conventional businesses can’t hope to match, like any other business it needs work, application – and PATIENCE! – to get up and running.
Claims of instant wealth really are misleading, and in my view are behind the tendency we all of us seem to have (myself included!) to chase down the next income generator, the next plug-in, the next “magic bullet”.
Knowing what I now do (and in no small measure this comes from working through the “Fifteen Steps to Success”), I would spend more time researching for a niche to match my existing skills, experience and resources, than chasing after one new prospect after another. The good news, of course, as Rob points out, is that working steadily towards a clear goal is not necessarily tedious – it’s FUN.
3 The third thing I would do (and it ties in with the first two) is to accept that the ideal teacher to mentor one through the early stages in moving into a new environment is one who himself/herself has recently been through the same experience.
We’re wooed by the multi-million success stories of the “gurus”, and beguiled by the hype that we, too, can be millionaires like them. True, maybe, but what they conveniently don’t say is that they all of them had to work hard to get there, and none of them was a truly instant millionaire.
One of the things that attracted me (and still attracts me) to Rob is that he is not so far removed from where we are that he doesn’t still relate personally – and sympathetically! – to the doubts and misgivings I, for one, still face from time to time.
These are just a few of the many things I’d do differently, based on the many mistakes I’ve made. I hope I’ve learned from them. And I know from the little experience I’ve had in working through the “Fifteen Steps” that I’m in the right place to be guided around some that I’ve still to experience.
Thanks, again, Rob for your very personal interest in all of us.
What a great comment, thanks so much for sharing and I appreciate your feedback on my stuff too! You are bang on about the “gurus” 🙂
Cheers – Rob.
Hello there, I don’t think I can say much better than Peter has already. It’s just a shame how the IM arena work. Very few people are really true to their words and ready to give genuine help. Thank you so much for this post. Am a newbie myself and for 12 months now am yet to make my first dollar online. It’s so easy to be lost in e-mail over load so much hype out there but am glad I got to your via associate programs. Your approach is such a breath of fresh air.
Thank you and cheers
Ejeke, P. C
Thanks for your input, great to hear from you.
I know what you mean about being a newbie. The most important milestone is that first $1 (or whatever currency you care to count it in).
Appreciate your kind comments, we all want to make money of I do genuinely enjoy sharing what I’ve learnt as well so great to hear that you find it useful 🙂
Perfectionism is the big one for me. Sometimes just getting your work out there and getting feedback from your audience can create better content/products in the future
A friend of mine said to me once; “Hey Barry, why do you spend so much time trying to figure out everything? You need to get stuck in mate. You’re suffering from ‘Analysis-Paralysis’!”
I got the message and now I just get into whatever I’m working on and keep going to overcome hurdles, which I now see as ‘learning opportunities’, NOT obstacles.
Absolutely right! Many things are beyond our control but we can always control how we react to them.
Kind regards, Rob
Great list Rob!
This has opened my eyes to a lot of things I’m doing currently that I need to improve on. I’ve been so focused on finding the best keywords and niches that has taken days just to find one that is semi-decent and I don’t know how it will turn out. Then I spend another few days trying to find “the right” wordpress theme.
I realize I do need to push my comfort zone and attempt making a product. I hate myself on video and my voice on recording! I’m a super-perfectionist.
I’ve been trying to overcome that perfectionist. Practice makes perfect. I will never know if something works until I just put it out there. Rarely is the first thing the best thing. I’m sure I’ll go through many mistakes before I improve to the point of success. I got to start making them.
Very wise words Rachel, well said! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and glad this was post was helpful to you 🙂