Welcome to Week 9 of my $20k -> $500k in 1 Year Challenge. Past weeks can be read here.
I am writing this on Tuesday because I’ll be out of town the rest of the week, which means the numbers in this email unfortunately aren’t up-to-date when you read it.
That said, I’m really excited about this one.
One of the most common requests I get is to show examples of everything I’m covering: Facebook ads, articles, content, etc. Since I’m not revealing the main site (yet), this is difficult.
But today, I’m going to back up much of what I’m talking about with a real life example from a side project I created two years ago.
I have written often about how important building a newsletter is in order to have a chance at completing this challenge. I think it’s vital to any website’s success and longevity.
So let’s get into what I’m planning to do along with screenshots and details showing what I’ve done.
In Today’s Email:
- The (partial) numbers for the (half) week.
- Adapting. I’m sick of tools and algorithms.
- Newsletters have made me life-changing money.
- Here’s a real one I built.
- And here are screenshots of the campaigns.
- And here’s what I sent to subscribers.
- The takeaways for you to build your own.
- The exact point you shouldn’t give up.
- See ya.
Here are the latest boring numbers.
As I’m writing this, I have Real Time (Google Analytics) up on my other monitor, and it’s about the only impressive number I have to show you.
Today should be a good traffic day.
But since I haven’t touched campaigns at all and this is a partial week, the other numbers aren’t going to blow anyone’s mind:
- Facebook Page likes: 109,323 (2.7% increase)
- Email subscribers: 3,432 (8% increase)
- November traffic (through the 8th): 12,115 visits
- Total articles: 27 (35% increase)
- Money remaining: $8,839
With the writer expense ($1,500/mo) kicking in soon, I’m getting nervous about that last number.
Like I said last week, beginning to monetize will be absolutely crucial. I’m more or less writing November off as far as income, but bringing in revenue will help swing things the other way.
And adapting is part of the plan.
Part of operating a website is adapting. As you create content, you not only understand your topic and the business better, but you also understand what you enjoy the most.
I’ve said before – if your approach bores you or makes you dread working on it, then pick something new. Or just get a job somewhere.
Even though I repeatedly share my thoughts on keyword research (it’s boring) and Facebook posts (it’s unpredictable), I still was finding myself too far down both of those rabbit holes.
After talking to my new writer (who, in some ways, feels more like an unofficial partner), I had an obvious wake up call:
Practice what I preach!
So here’s what that looks like:
- Focus on the content I love. Forget the boring stuff; some other site can have it.
- Keyword research tools will only be used to generate article ideas.
- I’ll continue to learn from Facebook posts, but that traffic is gravy. Hopefully delicious gravy.
- And most importantly, I’m going completely all-in on building the email list.
I found myself somewhat paralyzed about what content to create because I was overthinking both Google and Facebook’s algorithms.
When I shook the “digital marketing stench” off, it was liberating.
We can now just think about exactly what our audience would want to read – and write it. That’s it.
And this approach particularly shines through in email, the most personal and effective way to reach your audience.
So let’s talk all about email.
My Past Experiences
I have built several email lists over the years:
- GodVine: from 2010-2012, I grew the email to 750,000 subscribers. It was a crucial reason the $4.2 million acquisition closed.
- ViralNova: from 2013-2014, this grew to 250,000 subscribers. It was an afterthought and only grew because of the sheer volume of traffic.
- PawMyGosh: from 2014-present. At its peak, it had over 100,000 subscribers. Over the years, I wasn’t acquiring new subscribers so it’s been purged significantly to only retain high quality subs.
- Travel Site [under NDA]: from 2016-2019, the newsletter reached over 750,000 subscribers. I sold in 2019 – it’s now in the millions of subscribers.
My point is that I know what I’m doing when it comes to email.
The good news is, most other people don’t.
The even better news is, it’s not that difficult.
Speaking of Good News:
When the pandemic began in 2020, I pretty much wasn’t leaving my house anyway. It was about a year after I had sold the site mentioned above and I just got engaged.
Since the world seemed to stop and then absolutely lose its mind, I wanted to do something better with my time.
So I started a newsletter to basically make people smile all the while nurturing my writing skills.
Hence, The Good News Letter was born: a morning email that, yes, shared nothing but good news.
I didn’t care about the money (making it or spending it), so I aggressively grew it to nearly 50,000 subscribers in around 3 months.
How I Did It
I’m going to show you exactly how I did it. As in exactly.
First, I launched lead generation ads on Facebook – and spent plenty of money on them:
As you can see, one particular ad stood out above the rest. This is why it’s important to continue testing.
It depends on your niche and copy but, generally speaking, anything in the 20-50 cent range is acceptable. In the past, I’ve gotten them as low as 5-10 cents.
Right now, leading up to the holidays, prices will be at their peak. Just something to keep in mind.
Now let’s take a look at the ads in the campaign:
Granted, these were launched in August of 2020 when a lot of people were completely burnt out on seeing death counts, fighting with their cousins over masks, and being completely manipulated by media companies from all sides.
Good timing helped it grow, but you can see the simplicity.
[Call out an emotion the target user is feeling] + [offer unity and understanding] + [give them the remedy]
Appeal to what someone wants and then give it to them without any BS.
But what do you give them?
Upon signing up (FYI, I used Zapier to automatically move Facebook leads over to GetResponse), they would receive a simple welcome email but there are some important components:
Ignore that some images are broken. That’s because they no longer exist on the server.
A few things:
- I chose happy@thegoodnewsletter instead of something bland like contact@ or newsletter@. It might seem insignificant but it goes a long way.
- Replying (much like this email you’re reading) went directly to me. None of this no-reply garbage… is this 1998?
- The email purposely re-emphasizes why they signed up. It’s an extension of the Facebook ad’s copy.
- The “Promotions” folder in Gmail is the bane of my existence. When you go to Promotions, your open rate is generally about 30% lower. By asking users to manually move you, it helps. It’s by no means a cure, but it helps.
- Ending with something friendly and nice. Be a human! No matter what your topic is, just be friendly and real.
You’ll notice it did not require double opt-in (the subscribers to confirm their subscription).
In my experience, this has never been a problem. As long as you’re telling them exactly what they’re going to get – and then you give it to them – it seems to be fine.
That said, there are risks that come with it. I do *officially* recommend double opt-in. I’m just being real with you.
Okay, now I had a subscriber. What did I send them every day and what takeaways are there for you?
Here’s what a typical morning email looked like:
In the middle, I would write more paragraphs of good news, then end like this:
Some parts that I find important and why:
- Under the logo, I would change the data and wording every single day. I have done things like this on my websites and emails for 15 years. The little things go a long way. People notice your extra effort.
- The opening paragraph should always be friendly. I don’t care what your topic is – it should be something real. Unless it’s wildly against your business image, I also think writing in the first person is important.
- Ending with a “Did You Know?” and a quote are just fun bonuses. People actually like to learn new things and they like to feel good (shocker). Throw in bonus bits and don’t limit yourself to my examples here. There are likely many ways to do the same thing in a way specific to your topic.
- Perhaps most importantly, it has always been a staple of my newsletters to have enough content in the email itself that they can enjoy it even if they never click away to your site. Pay attention to the emails you get and actually enjoy the most. I’m guessing the ones that are just a digest of article links or a bunch of products to purchase are the ones you insta-delete.
Take the email you’re reading right now for example. When I heavily and naturally use a lot of links to tools and other sites, it generates a ton of clicks.
Provide an enjoyable reading experience first – make money second.
So what happened to The Good News Letter?
I stopped sending it about one year after starting it. But toward the end I wanted to see what it could make if I monetized it.
By that point, the subscribers had pretty much gotten to know me “personally” so I put a Buy Me a Coffee link through Ko-Fi in each email.
I had around $1,000 a month in coffee-based donations coming in (the coffee part is just the gimmick; it’s basically Patreon in a mug). Then I launched a website to host some of the good news myself. This was on pace to make another $1,000 simply by sharing links in the email.
I even had a mug made with the logo that I was planning to sell. I decided not to, but I still drink copious amounts of coffee from it:
In the end, I felt confident it would’ve made around $2,000/month on what was essentially a $10k investment. And that’s without even touching Facebook or Google. Without any affiliate programs, merchandise, or sponsorships.
But personally, I just didn’t feel like taking it to another level. It was a different time in my life. I’ll spare you the details but I was really just focused on my personal life: getting married, learning things way outside of digital marketing, and so on.
Honestly, if I didn’t become a father recently, I almost certainly wouldn’t be back to building things.
Whereas money used to be my driving force, now it’s her. I want to impress her when she’s old enough to understand. And then I look forward to her surpassing all of my achievements tenfold.
As for The Good News Letter, I still own the email list. That’s part of the beauty of a newsletter: no algorithm can infiltrate your computer and delete an excel database.
So there’s a chance I’ll bring it back – this entire section made me miss it a little.
So what’s the takeaway?
In a lot of ways, The Good News Letter hit so many important aspects without me even realizing it.
- It was created out of passion.
- A lot of people wanted it (or a break from bad news).
- It was extremely personal and real.
- There’s no shortage of content.
- There was a clear path to something bigger: a website, a charity, whatever it might be.
And best of all, going through it all for this email was the reminder I needed to get my head out of digital marketing tools and just make people happy, interested, excited, intrigued, or smarter.
When you understand your topic, you don’t need a game-ified tool to tell you it’s good. You’ll know it’s good.
And that’s about it this week.
I know I have several ideas floating out there: a Jasper-created website, micro-consulting, and other random thoughts.
They haven’t been forgotten. Life gets in the way.
This, at least in all of my experiences, is part of the process. You can sometimes feel all over the place, unsure if you’re putting efforts in the right place.
Usually, that’s when people wash out and pull the plug. It happens.
But it usually all does go back to this graph I always steal from Joe Speiser’s twitter:
There’s a point where your self-confidence is at a low and there’s no evidence that it shouldn’t be.
It feels pointless.
That’s the most important time to not quit.
As always, my entire purpose for creating my website (and ultimately this challenge) is to help fast track you so you can save the thousands and thousands of hours it takes to even get to the point of understanding how this entire website business thing works.
I hope it’s doing that. If it is, let me know by replying.
Thank you and have a good weekend.