Hopefully you’ve had a good week. This is Week 7 of my $20k -> $500k in 1 Year Challenge.
I would say I’m in an impossibly perfect pattern of hating this challenge one day and loving it the next.
One reason is because I kinda hate the niche/topic I chose for the site. Later in this email, I’ll get into more details and exactly why you should avoid that mistake.
Also, a lot of the day to day work has already been covered in previous weeks. You can always reference those to catch up on where I am, what I’m doing, and how I got here. I don’t want to bore you by repeating myself.
Fortunately, I hit a couple of huge milestones this week that I’d like to cover.
Beyond that, the second half of this email is going to get somewhat random and mildly rant-y.
What’s in today’s email:
- Facebook Page hits 6 figures.
- A record traffic day.
- Other important numbers.
- Love-hate relationship with this challenge.
- Why I hate KW research.
- Updated view on AI writing.
- A good idea for a site you can start.
The Facebook page crossed 100,000 likes.
As of this writing, I have spent $4,546 to get to 101,137 likes. You can see the effects of new creatives and budget changes on this graph showing new Page Likes per day:
At a certain point, you’ll see Unlikes increase. This is totally normal as you get bigger.
I’ve now cut the budget back to $20/day since reaching 100k. That has consequently lowered my cost per like to around 3.5 cents.
While I have no hard evidence to support this, I’m a believer that keeping some small amount of new Likes coming in helps in two ways:
- It sends a positive signal to Facebook because you’re spending money (to apparently fund the Metaverse nobody cares about).
- It offsets user fatigue. Lots of people are naturally seeing your posts less because they don’t interact or they hit Unlike, so fresh faces keep things stable.
Assuming growth of around 500 Likes a day moving forward, I’m pretty happy with where it’s heading.
There was also a new record for post engagement three days ago:
As I’ve described in the past (week 4 in particular), this was a photo post that spoke to my audience’s very core of who they are. It’s easy to get engagement when you do it correctly.
There was also a record traffic day.
That image is important because it shows the nature of Facebook. There was once a time when you could somewhat predict traffic from the platform.
Those days are largely over. Now you can only predict their stock will fall.
After several days of flat traffic (200-800 visits), you can see that a piece finally took off.
In the last 10 days, I’ve had this happen twice. So from there, I ask myself:
- Why did these two do so well?
- What are people saying in the comments?
- How was the article formatted?
- Which part of it really spoke to the audience enough to actually click and share?
- Was this headline better than the others?
- What did the thumbnail convey?
My job is simply to study those two winning pieces and double down on exactly why they worked.
Conversely, looking at the pieces that performed poorly, I need to understand why… and never post it again.
Here are other important numbers.
I’m still mildly disappointed with the newsletter, but it’s not bad. It’s still growing by around 100 subscribers per day, but I haven’t put a lot of energy into converting website visitors yet.
As of right now, it’s just a little under 3,000 subscribers.
Open rate is still 25-30%. I’ve also adjusted the format of the email to get more clicks to the site.
There are still only 14 articles on the site. Of these articles, 11 were created with social media and email in mind.
I’m still behind on producing the high quality guides I’ve talked about because I’ve bitten off way more than I can chew.
Having a baby and then deciding to publicly challenge yourself – while operating existing businesses – is not something I can advise in good conscience.
Nonetheless, I’ve spent a lot of time strategizing how to do it correctly.
Once it starts, it’ll hopefully be a well-oiled machine that I can talk more about in future emails.
But there’s an elephant in this email.
In the intro, I mentioned my love-hate relationship with this challenge. And there’s one primary reason:
I hate the topic.
Seriously, choose a topic you love.
While passion is the first thing I mention in my guide, I may revise it to say it should be absolutely mandatory.
At least when it comes to building a one-person operation.
I really, really do not like my topic. I chose it because I felt it was the best one to actually succeed at this challenge, which is sort of an odd paradox.
Now I’m in this weird one year hell where I need to live and breathe content I don’t enjoy so that one day I can say “yay I did it!” and then go back into Twitter obscurity.
Which is sad because I could’ve spent time on what I truly enjoy and had something after 1 year worth even more than $500k that I don’t even want to sell.
So heed my words: stick to your passion when it comes to a website idea. Yes, you can still succeed otherwise, but is it really success if you don’t enjoy it?
And now for the second half of this email.
I can only say so much about my site’s progress, and a lot of the ongoing work is more of the same stuff I’ve already talked about.
But there are a lot of random, but important, things I’d like to say if you’ll indulge me.
The problem I have with keyword research.
I get a lot of questions about keyword research. I always answer them by saying I don’t do (much) keyword research.
The last large site I owned and sold in 2019 received 100,000 visits per day from Google. And I spent 0 time on SEO.
That isn’t to say keyword research isn’t effective. But it’s a massive deterrent to me getting started on a project, and I’m sure it is to many other people too.
Getting overwhelmed by numbers and data might work for some people, but it turns me off.
BIG BOLD LETTERS: I am not saying keyword research is dumb, unethical, black hat, bad, ineffective, or anything like that. This is my view of where it’s all heading based on two decades of seeing history repeat itself.
Using keyword research to better understand your audience is great. Using keyword research for article ideas is great.
But “keyword research” as a must-do, first-of-order strategy is clouding creativity, authenticity, and longterm success for some people.
Here’s why in two parts:
Part 1: It leads to bad content.
Using keyword research tools to find low competition keywords is effective on the surface.
But just because you’ve identified those keywords, it doesn’t mean your content around it will be great.
In fact, it breeds bad content. When (some) keyword researchers find low hanging fruit, they bang out a garbage article that easily ranks because the competition is weak.
Then they rise to the top, proving that it works, and, like a junkie needing his fix, repeat it over and over. This, in turn, convinces them to cut corners to quadruple down on it.
It creates a pattern of bad content.
A lot of sites have perfected this hack, and they’re doing really well. I don’t blame them for doing it.
But it’s a strategy that’s on borrowed time if your content isn’t great. Because:
Part 2: Google won’t need your keyword.
Since Google was started, it has gotten smarter every year.
- If you’ve been around a while, you remember you could stuff keywords in the title and meta descriptions.
- You could even hide text at the bottom of the page.
- Then you could just buy backlinks from terrible sites.
- Then you could crank out hundreds of thousands of articles per year with very little substance and cheap labor.
The list goes on and on, and they all end the same way: Google releases a game-changing update and bad sites die.
Again, this isn’t a problem in itself. Short term success can be fun and profitable.
The reason I think the keyword research method is naturally going to fade is because Google is getting better all the time at ranking quality content that doesn’t even use those keywords at all.
The other day, even Yoast, the ultimate oversimplification of SEO, sent an email basically saying, “yeah you really don’t need to put your keyword in the title, in the first paragraph, and force it.”
Their own plugin still gives you a big red ugly frown face if you aren’t doing it, but they clearly realize it doesn’t matter.
Even I find myself striving for the green happy face from their plugin, which makes no sense at all.
Then you go over to Surfer SEO, another great tool. But it’s also game-ified. Using a really cool looking meter to assign your score based on how many words, paragraphs, and images you’re using in your article is pushing all the wrong things.
Helpful tools and services are trying to simplify things so much that writers, marketers, and entrepreneurs are forgetting they’re supposed to simply be creating the absolute best content possible.
So what’s my point?
The writing is on the wall when it comes to what Google wants. The perfect result for any query is a clear, thorough answer from an expert who can be trusted.
This is what Google’s engineers work toward every single day. The Helpful Content update is not even the tip of the iceberg.
Keyword research opens up this entire sea of people just looking for hidden gems they can write about (and rank) because the true experts don’t understand SEO or even know keyword research tools exist.
Even when it comes to creating a site about something you love, you’ll find yourself writing articles based on KW research like you’re some sort of robot.
It robs you, and it robs the visitor. It’s not authentic and authenticity will always shine in the end.
And since Google is going to continue getting better at ranking websites for keywords not even mentioned on the page, the trend will further go toward what it’s always been from the start: better content.
The future of search and social belongs to original content creators.
The algorithms will catch up, so either be poised to drop 45% because you created bad content based around an SEO tool… or to rise 45% because you passionately wrote content you love and understand.
And speaking of tools, let’s talk AI.
I genuinely believe the “magic” of watching custom text be written in front of your very eyes has created the illusion that AI is more powerful than it actually is (at least right now).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m impressed with Jasper AI.
But if you’re a writer at heart focusing on content covering a topic you love, just stay away from it.
It’s much worse than you. And you’ll find yourself spending more time trying to make it do what you could have just simply done.
It’s also feeding the keyword research “problem” above.
It’s essentially a hack that just about anyone can do:
- Use SEMRush or Ahrefs to find low competition keywords
- Use Jasper and Surfer SEO to generate thousands of words of text
- Rank and profit
And it works. In fact, you should go do it if you can. Why not? I like money too.
But it’s not sustainable. I’ve been in the game too long and have seen so many “anyone can do it” moments to think this method will work long term.
Note: I didn’t give Jasper $1000 for an annual subscription because it’s useless. It has benefits without a doubt. But much like KW research tools, they’re just simply tools that are only as good as you make them.
Create amazing, useful content. That’s it. Don’t buy into services that claim to give you the easy path to certain success.
Bottom line: I want you to build your business so it can last the rest of your life.
And that leads me to a question.
Should I offer micro-consulting?
I receive a lot of emails with a lot of questions. I try to reply to everything, but there’s no way I can do your questions justice in the little time I have for it.
I’ve been asked to consult several times, and I always say no. I did it once, and it felt way too much like an actual job.
But a reader emailed me a few weeks ago, suggesting something called micro-consulting.
I had never heard of it, but basically it means spending a much shorter amount of time (for much less money) going through your site, facebook page, campaigns, etc and providing quick feedback that packs a punch.
It caught my attention because this actually sounds like a lot of fun, it would be affordable for smaller sites, and I could make the time to do it.
If it’s something you’d be interested in, reply and let me know. I’m just gauging interest before I spend much more time thinking about it.
And finally, let’s end with an idea.
This idea, as a business model, isn’t even remotely new. But I really love it and have seen a lot of opportunity while building recently. So many plugins, tools, and services have almost nothing out there that helps me use them more effectively.
The official documentation is always even pretty basic.
So here’s the idea:
- Pick a piece of software or other tool that you always use. Something you couldn’t live without.
- See if it has some sort of affiliate program. If it does, that’s a huge bonus.
- Make the best website on the Internet about that tool. Cover everything about it: tips, tricks, templates, tutorials, and perhaps other things that don’t begin with the letter T. Provide an absurd amount of value.
There are people making millions per year doing this with Photoshop and Excel. I recommend something smaller and perhaps newer with a growing base.
Engineers are generally not marketers. Fill in the gap by basically creating content around their product… and profit through their affiliate program and/or display advertising (tech tutorials yield a massive RPM).
That’s it for this week. Apologies for an email that is sort of all over the place.
Thanks for reading,