Week 8: Is This Strategy Genius Or Idiotic?

Hello again,

It’s Week 8 of my $20k -> $500k in 1 Year challenge, which means I’m 15.4% through it.

Beyond the normal progress report, there are several things I want to write about today.

One is Imposter Syndrome. Basically, it’s the continuous feeling of self-doubt and personal incompetence despite all the evidence saying otherwise.

I suffer from this feeling, and it’s getting worse every week. After scheduling this newsletter late last night, I’m up at 4:47am right now editing it again.

No matter what I change, add, or remove, the feeling that it’s not good enough doesn’t go away.

Why am I talking about this? Because a lot of people never get started due to imposter syndrome.

It can be a paralyzing feeling.

But it’s not all bad.

While I’m not a psychologist who can comment on the mental health effects of imposter syndrome, those of us who never feel like we’re good enough tend to put out the best work and find the most success once we push through.

Continuously striving for perfection – and a feeling of satisfaction – is frustrating but leads to the highest quality product in the end.

I debated whether to share the thoughts above quite a bit (surprise), but I’ve met too many people who never do anything because of these feelings. It happens to a lot of people, you’re not alone, and you are certainly good enough.

Anyway, let’s get this started. As always, past weeks can be read here to see everything I’ve done leading up to this week.

In this email:

  • All the latest numbers.
  • How I hired a writer.
  • Turning on the money faucet.
  • I was failing (and how I fixed it).
  • Distractions (and how I eliminate them).
  • Fb posts bombing (and how I handle it).
  • My secret backlink strategy: genius or idiotic?
  • I’m starting a side challenge with AI.
  • I sold a site for six figures on Monday.

This week’s numbers are in.

  • Facebook Page likes: 106,438 (6% weekly increase)
  • Email subscribers: 3,176 (6.2% increase)
  • October total traffic: 37,333 (half the month)
  • Total articles: 20 (42.8% increase)
  • Money remaining: $9,384 (gulp)

As I said in the last two weeks, I decreased my daily spend significantly. Page Likes are still coming in at around 3 cents each and email leads are between 20 and 30 cents.

Since there’s not much more to report as far as metrics go, and the ad campaigns are just doing their thing, my focus is on two things.

Paying for more content and monetization.

I hired a writer.

(mildly useless section if you’re doing all the content yourself)

I’m writing this on Thursday night, and I just officially hired a writer this morning at $1,500/month.

It took a while to find the right person, but it was (hopefully) worth the wait. I’m not paying them per word or per hour – their job will simply be to create a ton of great content with me.

Here’s a condensed review of places I looked before finding someone:

Upwork: I don’t know why but I just don’t like Upwork. It feels too systematic and impersonal. Everyone just copies and pastes the same response and it’s really hard to differentiate who has promise. Never had luck here.

Craigslist: I’ve hired nearly 100 contractors through Craigslist, and this is perhaps my favorite source. If you do it right, you can find great people. I’ll detail this at a later point.

Onlinejobs.ph: There’s promise here, but it just didn’t work out. The premise is that you can hire a Filipino for a fraction of the cost. There are lots of people who have mastered this, but my experience fell short. Candidates were either fraudulent, severely underqualified, or pretty much the same price as someone in my time zone. The site does offer a service to help you find someone (for an additional fee), which I did not try.

Copywriting agencies: I tried 3 of them, and one was great. The other two were OK. I’m currently working with the great one on a potential deal to scale content. More on this in future emails.

If you go down the path of hiring a writer, here’s some advice:

  • Always require a test article. Pay them for it afterwards (even if it’s bad).
  • Zoom with them to make sure they’re not just part of a larger operation putting a fake face forward.
  • Hire them for one week at a time (paid at the end of the week) for the first few weeks.
  • Once you’re comfortable, give them a bonus for being amazing. They earned it.

There’s a lot of BS out there, so always err on the side of “this is a scam” when in doubt.

Anyway, this is a new and significant expense (in the context of a $20k budget), so I need a solution.

And that’s to start monetizing my site.

With 33,000 visits in October and hopefully 50,000-100,000 in November, there’s legitimate potential here.

Not to mention I’ve spent over $10,000 of the $20,000 budget, so I need to start adding to the balance.

If you’re new to building websites, I highly recommend you read my beginner’s guide to monetizing.

While the guide keeps it really simple, I’m going to be trying some new things that I’m excited to test and report back. I will be using Adsense out of the gate along with some experimental affiliate links and, maybe, eventually a digital product.

My expectation is an $8-12 RPM from Adsense. It’s all about placements and layout.

Hopefully if I string together a couple months of 50,000+ visits, I can give Mediavine or Adthrive a try. Many sites in their networks are getting a $20+ RPM.

At $20 on 75,000 visits a month, that’s $1,500 (75,000/1000 * 20 = $1,500).

And it’s no coincidence that $1,500 is also the writer expense. I’m just trying to break even on content expenses in the short term.

Scaling content and monetizing are going to give some new life to this challenge. Future emails should get exciting.

Note: macro-economic issues (inflation, war, etc) are definitely affecting RPMs. My first website in 2008 started hitting its stride after the housing crisis. Don’t get discouraged – if you find success during the downtimes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when things recover and you get a hefty raise without changing anything.

Some problems I’ve faced… and how I handled them.

1. I’m a failure (according to CWV)

The Astra Pro WordPress theme is generally touted as pretty fast and friendly to Core Web Vitals (basically the metrics that gauge how good your user experience is).

So I was surprised to find this when I ran my URL through PageSpeed Insights:

I’m not going to go into detail about each of these, but you can clearly see FAILED like this is a 9th grade Biology Exam.

Long story short: I finally gave WP Rocket a try. It costs $49 and that is not an affiliate link.

If you’re having troubles with your Core Web Vitals, try it out. It automates a whole bunch of technical fixes that make your site look a lot cleaner in the eyes of Google. Usually I just use WP-Optimize, but this worked far better.

Thought I’d share in case anyone else has problems. Here are the results after setting up:

2. Holy distractions

Between being a new dad, other businesses, selling a business, having a social life, leaving town twice, and just simply not wanting to work sometimes, it’s been difficult to find undistracted times to focus.

The most straightforward hack – which you probably won’t like – is just get up earlier. I’m waking up between 4 and 5am now, which has given me 1-2 extra hours of life.

I’ve discovered that my newfound excitement due to this challenge, along with some stiff coffee, has offset any tiredness I expected to feel. I usually can’t sleep anyway because I start thinking about the site, so I just get up and start now.

The other thing I make sure I do is continue using lists and notes. I’m at a point where everything would take me literally twice as long without using lists. They’re massively time saving, and I wrote an article about it.

And last, to pimp another article I wrote, use the 20 second rule. Basically, it means you make unproductive activities 20 seconds more difficult (ex: keep the TV remote upstairs) and productive activities 20 seconds easier (ex: automated alerts) to break bad habits and form new ones.

If you feel distracted, I get you. Finding time requires efficiency down to the minute. Continue optimizing it where you can.

3. Content totally bombing

A few times now I’ve posted something to Facebook and expected the magic to happen.

I figured I’d check an hour later, see thousands of likes or clicks, and consider it a successful day.

Then I check and it’s a complete dud. Very frustrating.

Here’s what I’ve been doing, and it works:

  1. Start checking the performance of your post after about 20 minutes.
  2. Make a note of how many likes or clicks you’ve gotten.
  3. Do this for about 7 days and see how much engagement each post ended up with. Not always, but usually, the ones with the most engagement at 20 minutes went on to be the most successful ones.
  4. After 7 days, when a post has lackluster engagement at the 20 minute mark, just delete it.
  5. For real, just delete it.
  6. Do a 30 second mental evaluation of why it was trash so you can better understand.
  7. Post something new about 30 minutes later.

For example, on my Facebook Page with 106,000 followers, I know that if a photo has 1,000 likes in 20 minutes, it’s going to be a good one. If it’s over 1,000, it’s going to be incredible. If it’s under 500, I’m not happy.

Much lower than that, and it’s gone. I just remove it and post something new after waiting at least 30 minutes.

Of course, I only do this one time. I don’t recommend continuously deleting posts as it’s hard to tell what signals that’s sending the algorithm.

But to avoid total duds, this is working well and keeping engagement high all the while helping me better understand what works with my audience.

Enough about problems.

Here’s what’s coming soon.

Tyler O’Shea on Twitter described my strategy better than I ever have.

That is essentially the elevator pitch.

And social is doing its job really well.

But for the long-term SEO portion, I need backlinks in addition to great content.

There’s no reason for me to list the backlink strategies that everyone, their brother, their sister, and their hairless cat have talked about.

I’m going to try something very different, and it will not work for every niche.

But I feel good about it.

I’m going to send physical, branded letters in the real-life mail to targeted businesses offering help in return for a link.

It probably sounds crazy, and it might be, but for around a dollar each, I can go far beyond the digital inbox where it takes half a second to delete my email.

There’s something very real about getting a letter in the mail. Especially a personal one.

If this works, it could lead to the most inexpensive backlink campaign ever. Otherwise, it’ll be a fun experiment we can all learn from and laugh about.

In the coming weeks, I’ll show you examples of what I send and how well it works.

2. Another challenge is born.

I’ve decided not to use AI on my site. That doesn’t mean I’m against AI – it’s just not effective enough in its current state to save time on this particular project.

But since I already have the Boss Mode Jasper subscription (100k words a month), I’m going to put it to use.

Let’s find out if one inexpensive content person can use Jasper and some light editing to crank out content that ranks well.

Once they’re set up, this is going to be completely hands-off for me. I’m just curious to see what happens, and I’ll be sure to share the detailed results along the way.

This is basically a bonus challenge for all of us to learn from.

And it’s going to be poetic if the AI site outperforms the main one. 🙂

3. Micro-consulting update.

Last week, I asked if anybody would be interested in micro-consulting. I received dozens of emails, so I’m going to try to figure out what that looks like in the near future.

And finally… I sold a site for (low) 6 figures.

Out of respect for the buyers, I won’t go into all the details, but I had the site for 8 years. It was generating around $150k/yr in revenue (not profit), and I was personally spending about an hour a month on it.

So why sell? Two reasons:

  • My good friend runs it and was becoming burnt out on certain aspects.
  • The buyers were a fantastic fit and will take it to another level.

It’s actually the perfect scenario to sell because both sides win.

An acquisition – or any deal – is the same thing as a partnership. Just because you aren’t going to be working together doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated as a commitment and promise to the other person that they’ll be happy with their decision.

Too many buyers and sellers treat deals and agreements like they’re a battle against each other to see who gets the most.

Always work toward mutually beneficial outcomes because when both sides win, good things usually happen.

This can be applied to just about everything in life.

Nonetheless, I hope you have a great weekend. I expect a lot more twists, turns, breakthroughs, letdowns, and ideas in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned.

As always, feel free to reply and let me know what you thought of the email and how things are going on your end.

Thanks for reading,

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Scott DeLong

I'm an introvert who has built and sold multiple companies for millions of dollars - without funding or employees. I've been featured in BusinessWeek, Business Insider, Fortune, Inc, and more. I hope you find my site helpful to your own entrepreneurial journey.