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 🙂