Welcome to Week 13 of my $20k to $500k in 1 Year challenge. Past weeks can be read here .
I previously mentioned that December might get pretty boring, at least when it comes to reporting explosive numbers. Ad costs are really high this time of year, and the holidays create a lot of traffic instability.
For that reason, I was originally planning to say I’d be taking three weeks off of writing these weekly updates.
But since I’ll be pausing ad spend and putting my head down to bang out great content, I might as well make this weekly update about exactly that:
Creating great content.
But this is not a technical tutorial. It’s a stream of consciousness email based on my experiences.
It’s also a reminder to myself to stay the course because… it works.
In Today’s Email
- A two second update on the latest numbers.
- 2023 looks exciting.
- Digital marketing tools are stifling your success.
- The real problem with keyword research.
- And AI? Well… I have problems with that too.
- The only tool you really need, and it’s a game-changer.
- The power of creating content people didn’t even know they wanted.
- Do what works for you!
- Offering 10 micro-consulting sessions.
- Wrapping up.
Here are the latest numbers.
I’m not going to waste time on this one because hardly anything changed since last week. The Facebook Page is at 114,000 followers, email list at 8,500, and traffic is averaging about 1,500 a day in the past week.
I haven’t yet worked on my ad layout, didn’t spend much at all, and the site is making ~$20/day from Adsense alone.
Nothing groundbreaking there, but it’s coming…
For the first time in a while, I’m really excited to build. I forget which one, but I was listening to a podcast the other day, and the guest talked about how it’s right around the 3-4 month mark that people give up.
And that it’s at about the 6 month mark that you see the potential and realize you aren’t wasting your time.
I agree completely. Even for this challenge, I felt overwhelming thoughts of giving up.
Now I feel like 2023 is going to be an incredible year of growth.
Even in a niche I didn’t care about, I now care. And I think I can take it to a level it hasn’t been taken to by anybody else.
First things first: eliminate the noise.
I haven’t been shy about my disdain for digital marketing tools.
The problem isn’t simply that they’re never as valuable as touted to be – it’s that they actually stifle your creative freedom which stifles your success.
Before I further explain, I am not saying they’re useless. I am saying they’re the reason that people either 1. don’t start at all or 2. start in all the wrong ways.
Keyword Research Tools
KW research tools present themselves beautifully. They’ve made it really easy to believe you’re getting this insider look at how to beat out competition and find new phrases that are easy. And, they are… kinda.
But they’re wildly inaccurate .
And it’s not even their inaccuracy that bothers me.
Imagine you’re a passionate chef and you want to open your own restaurant.
You finally open one, and then you spend all of your time studying the menus of every other restaurant.
Even more, you loosely poll random people to ask them what they thought about the food. Then you go to Yelp and OpenTable and read reviews.
And finally, you create your own menu based off of all of this feedback because surely you’ll beat the competition with this insightful data, right?
But you just became inauthentic, which not only shines through with the food you forced yourself to serve, but also starts a bad habit of continuing to keep up with every menu change around town.
In the end, you could have just put your heart and soul into your own menu, which likely would’ve won customers.
So while you and the other restaurants were all trying to feed hungry people, they came to you because of your passion for your menu. Not because you copied other restaurant menus, tweaked a few things, and lowered the price by 10%.
Would that work in the short term? Probably. But you should be building a brand (or restaurant) that lasts a lifetime.
Here we go. Bring on the hate. I get it… “AI writing is the future.”
Much like cryptocurrency and NFTs.
Don’t get me wrong – AI is very impressive. Just look how cool it managed to make me look:
But I have serious problems with AI writing tools, and it’s not because “it takes money away from writers!”
If I felt that way, I’d be holding up a sign outside of Wal-Mart demanding they bring back cashiers instead of the self-checkout.
(That seems to be going well btw.)
There are two age-old problems with AI, at least in its current state.
First, it looks like magic. Since the dawn of time, people have been enthralled by what appears to be impossible.
It’s admittedly extremely cool to input something, and a robot spits something back out. Especially something original. And there is absolutely value in these tools.
But this otherworldly “magic” is fresh – there’s a novelty to it much like the first time we saw a magician pull a kangaroo out of a hat.
It skews how valuable it truly is.
When we are no longer impressed with the presentation (think: Amazon Echo, Google, etc), we’ll start to see the flaws much clearer.
And there are plenty.
Second, it plays on “get rich quick,” another intrigue as old as time.
The lottery exists because of the absurd promise of becoming rich without putting in the work.
I mean, if I can make $1,000/month, then surely this tool will lead me to $10,000/month. It says so right there:
It doesn’t work that way. There are certainly people making money by utilizing AI writing tools. And even more people are using it as part of their toolbox, which is great.
But, much like keyword research, if you start your site with the sole strategy of capitalizing on this overhyped phenomenon, your best case scenario is short term success.
So when it comes to digital marketing tools, treat them as such: simple tools that usually over-promise.
Test some out. Use them where it makes sense, but definitely do not build your business strategy around one.
Even if by some wild chance a new tool came along that changed everything when it comes to making money, it would only be temporary. Things tend to work themselves out when saturation comes into play.
And that’s why I believe in using the one tool nobody can copy (yet):
At least two people right now are scrolling down to hit Unsubscribe.
Ugh, another BS pep talk about how smart I am and that I can do it if I just believe in myself. Is this Great Value Tony Robbins?
If that’s you, keep scrolling and do it. You aren’t the person I’m talking to anyway, and you’re clearly looking for a magic button to push that does everything for you. It doesn’t exist.
Let me explain in greater detail and with examples.
You need to move past imposter syndrome.
You do not have to be an expert to start a website on a given topic. You should have an interest in it.
My content for the challenge website targets women older than me, a demographic I’m not exactly in tune with in the real world. As I’ve said before, my passion for the topic is on the very weak side.
But I’m still, just through creating content and learning, becoming somewhat of an expert.
At least an expert on creating content they want to consume.
Your brain is only as powerful as you allow it to be, so let go of the notion that you aren’t good enough or knowledgeable enough.
Now think freely – then create that content.
With the digital marketing cobwebs dusted off, you’re no longer bound to:
- How much search volume an idea has.
- What the competition looks like.
- Whether your AI writing tool is accurate.
- If your Yoast readability is a green dot.
- Whether you’ve included exactly 4 photos.
- Or 3 internal links.
- Or 4 external links.
- Or have the perfect h2s.
- Or an FAQ section based on “People also ask.”
Your site is your domain (literally and figuratively). Create the content you want to see.
Because here’s the best part:
You will, in turn, create content people didn’t even know they wanted.
And that’s how you make a lot of money.
My last company, a travel site that averaged 500,000 visits a day, is the perfect example.
When I first launched it, the content consisted of things like: The 17 Most Beautiful Spots in _________.
To be honest, I was certain that new ideas would run dry after a couple of months.
How much can you really write about one location?
But I had already built some relatively large Facebook Pages around these locations, so I figured I’d just milk it as long as I could.
Fast forward one year, and I had dozens of writers, millions of followers, hundreds of thousands of email subscribers, and thousands of articles. Fast forward to now, and it has hundreds of thousands of articles, millions of subscribers, and several full time employees.
That’s a business that started with, “how am I going to come up with new ideas for more than two months?”
Through constant adaptation, what we ended up doing was creating a market.
If I had used keyword research to dictate what to write next, this would have been a colossal failure.
I’d be chasing other people’s wins rather than making my own.
We had a huge spreadsheet where we’d share ideas: literally just stuff that sounded fun to write, stuff our audience would probably enjoy, and, perhaps most notably, stuff our audience didn’t even know existed.
It’s not always about answering what someone is already searching for. Sometimes it’s about showing people something they didn’t even realize they wanted.
And I’m seeing that on my challenge site.
I thought I knew what my audience wanted based on some initial traffic.
The stuff that was already proven on YouTube and other Facebook Pages.
But I’m already seeing (in email) the stuff I’m writing simply because I feel like my audience will love it is significantly outperforming everything else.
Because I’m not following someone’s course or some digital marketing tool, I’m discovering there’s an avenue of content that my audience has been craving – and nobody’s been delivering.
I would have never known this if I was trying to follow some paint by numbers strategy.
This is only possible when you create from the heart.
Trust your brain, engross yourself with your topic, and deliver the best content you possibly can.
And please, do what works best for you.
I faced my fears recently and was the guest on a podcast. I will share the link here when the host posts it, but something came up that I felt was worth including.
My strategies are just my strategies.
If you’re on Twitter, you’ll see others who have found great success not even touching Facebook or email.
Niche site SEO gurus generally say, “Prepare to write… a lot. Prepare to not make any money for at least 6 months. But push through.”
They’re not wrong, and it works. It doesn’t work for me because I’m far too impatient, which is why I bring Facebook into the equation for instant feedback and then email to make sure I keep the user long-term.
But what I really want to say about all of this: do what works for you.
Much like making sure your content is the product of your passion and your mind, don’t worry if you hate Facebook. Don’t worry if you cannot stomach the idea of sending a daily email.
And, if you’re like me, don’t worry if you hate writing with SEO in mind.
Just like exercise, it’s important to find what works for you. I hate running and hate weight lifting (despite these massive guns), so I walk, hike, and try to eat a balanced diet.
None of those feel like work to me, so I can stick with them.
Find what works for you – and do that, but do it really well.
Okay, time to wrap this up.
I’m finally offering micro-consulting, but I’m only doing 10 of them (maximum).
Basically, if you want a 5-10 minute video where I go through your website, Facebook ads, and anything else you’d like me to go through (short of your sock drawer), submit all your information below and I will do exactly that.
Then I’ll share the video with you via Loom.
I’m charging $99 because I have no idea how much time I’ll have to spend on each one. This is definitely the alpha stage so only do this if the money isn’t a problem.
I do love the idea though and look forward to offering thoughts and ideas.
PS: never used Typeform before. Seems like a cool service, but if anything is whacky, just reply to this email.
And now the real wrap up.
This week’s email was basically a free-flow straight from my mind.
But I can’t give you a paint-by-numbers kit to success. What I can give you are my insights, thoughts, experiences, and best guesses that I hope you’ll take in and consider.
I could be wrong about so many things in this email.
Perhaps I’m a boomer who doesn’t understand where AI is going.
Perhaps someone reading this is a multi-millionaire due to diligent keyword research (this is almost certainly true).
But when we open our minds to the perspectives of others, we learn. And when we learn, our minds strengthen and our businesses grow.
I believe 2023 is going to be a great year for individual website owners.
I’m just getting started on this challenge, and I’m committed to blowing my site up – and revealing it.
Hopefully you’ll join me in the New Year.
Thank you for reading,