I think we can all agree:
Starting a blog is hard work.
And it gets worse:
Because starting a blog that actually makes money is even harder!
But you are not the only one! Many struggle to build a profitable blog.
However, it’s not impossible and many people have been able to do it – including me!
That’s why I wrote this post:
I am going to show you how I launched my blog and made $73,334.09
And not only that:
The blog also won 5 major awards!
So I invite you to continue reading and join me on my journey to learn how to start a blog and make money over my shoulder.
What Will I Learn?
While this post is a look back at the previous year, I’m going to show you precisely what I did and how I did it from day 1 to the current day.
You’re going to see ‘behind the curtains’ of how I planned the blog and promoted it, along with everything I have done to get it where it is today.
So let’s start at the very beginning.
I started the blog for a few reasons…
But behind each of these reasons is the passion for what I do.
I’ve had a love for websites, marketing, business & sales for more than half of my life.
Last year I had a eureka moment.
The blogosphere used to have some really good internet marketing & SEO blogs but over the past few years these have decayed.
What popped up in their place were a bunch of sites that just posted guest posts in the great guest post link building gold rush.
All that was getting published were regurgitated rehashed low quality no meat on the bone posts over and over and over.
This spilt out into forums as well when people would ask for help and were just offered general flakey advice that didn’t actually help anyone.
I then came to realise I was not leveraging my most valuable asset…
My own personal internet marketing knowledge and experience.
And so the idea of my blog was born, my own digital playground where I could share my passion with the world.
It is that passion that has led to the success of the blog.
If the only reason you are reading this to learn how to start a blog and make money…
I guarantee you are going to fail.
I see it time and time again, people learn how to start a blog and make money and after a couple of months when there is no money – they quit.
So whatever you do, forget about the money and focus on helping other people that share your passion.
This doesn’t really flow or fit in with the post but it’s an important point so I’m making it.
I’ve spoken to a lot of old geezers in pubs and I always ask them what 1 piece of advice they have for a younger guy.
You usually get the same advice from most old men – fuck everything while you still can.
But the best advice I have ever had was simple – try harder.
Try harder at everything. So I did.
For anyone that has followed the blogs growth it is very easy to be dazzled with the illusion of the blogging lifestyle.
On the surface it appears that I make a bunch of money, travelling the world having a jolly ole time!
That is not the reality.
The reality is starting work at 6am and finishing at 10pm.
By a Wednesday lunch time I’ve already knocked out a standard full time 40 hour week.
It’s physically & mentally impossible for me to keep that pace everyday (trust me I tried) but an average working week consists of 70-80 hours across 7 days.
Quite often I’ll snap out of work mode a starving quivering mess about to piss my pants. Just seem to get locked in and forget about the real world!
While I have managed to travel a lot this year and hit a different country each month, let me tell you – they are the most stressful times for me.
Every day I don’t work around 3-4 hours work builds up. So if I go away for a week, I’ve got around 25 hours work to catch up on when I return. On top of the existing work load.
So don’t be fooled the illusion of the blogging lifestyle it might look like ‘the life’ on the surface but the reality is gruelling hard work with great personal sacrifice.
Before launching the blog I put thought into the execution. Lot’s of people want to learn how to start a successful blog but not many people are willing to spend time preparing it.
Having passion is all well & good…
But there’s got to be some sort of method to the madness!
When I first launched the blog I wasn’t expecting it to be as popular as it was. Its initial purpose was just to ‘publish high quality internet marketing tutorials’.
However I soon changed the purpose to be…
‘When people ask for help on a forum, my tutorials will be shared to help’.
That is a much more developed purpose over and above just publishing stuff.
Achieving that would be pretty tough; I would have to become highly visible in what is considered a competitive niche.
But we all need a purpose and goal to work towards right?
To spice things up a little and introduce a bit of a challenge, I decided I would attack this goal by not using one of my strongest areas of knowledge.
I have spent a lot of time experimenting with the technical side of SEO and link building is something I’m very comfortable with on large scales.
But I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and see if I could achieve my goal without link building.
So the SEO without link building challenge was born.
Was it possible to rank an SEO blog without using SEO?
Not only would that develop my skills in other areas I also knew that had the potential to be a great post in the future if I pulled it off.
I guess writing this annual report means I managed to pull it off?
To make sure people remember me I put a strong emphasis on branding. I spent a bunch of time playing with colour combinations to see what worked best.
I eventually settled on the black, blue & pink combination that you see today.
It was bright, didn’t really go together but sort of did and stuck in my mind throughout the day when choosing the brand colours.
With the colours in mind I then started to create a logo. I didn’t want an anonymous business corporatey type logo – I wanted it to represent me, be personal, friendly & inviting.
So I decided to go with a smiley cartoon version of me which looked like this-
At this stage it is important to note that I suck at design and have since hired a pro!
Anyway I had a purpose, a brand and a logo!
When it came to the content I knew it needed to be something special.
Especially given my overall goal and the fact I had forced myself down the zero link building avenue.
That Matt Cutt’s bloke has always said the best way to get links is by creating great content.
In this video he explains what great content is-
In summary: find out what people want, give it to them.
So that’s what I did – I started to browse forums/blogs looking for peoples problems and making notes every time there was something I could help with.
After doing that for a day I saw the same common problems coming up over and over.
With my notes in hand I created possible tutorial titles and then bullet pointed the areas each tutorial should include.
So I knew what my audience wanted and how I could help them.
I also had the mindset that each piece of content I produced would be the best piece of content on that topic period.
The content strategy was born!
Pro tips: I particularly like writing listicles because not only they are easy and fast to write but they also are very popular and can break down complicated topics into easy to digest information!
Want to speed up your content production process? Check out my Frase review to see how you can use it to write high-quality content quickly.
Quite often you will see bloggers say you need to set a tone of voice with your writing. But what does that actually mean?
I have had a lot of great feedback about my style of writing and straight to the point approach and that is because I set a tone of voice.
I know for the most part the internet marketing niche is full of false claims, glitzy sales pitches, rehashed advice & general bull shit to separate you from your money.
On top of that I also know internet marketers are busy people and time is not on our side!
All of that creates a great opportunity not just with the content I create but also to set a tone of voice that cuts through the bullshit.
So I decided my tone of voice would-
Setting that tone of voice means I can have fun when I’m writing – which hopefully makes it fun to read as you learn!
After writing a post I always go back through it and shorten sentences where possible.
When I was planning how to drive traffic to the blog and promote it things started getting a bit complicated.
In the end, I decided to sack it all off and just keep things simple.
Quite literally as simple as finding people that need help on forums/social media and helping them.
I made a list of popular internet marketing forums and my plan was to just help people out, linking to my tutorials where relevant.
I also set up some Google Alerts for a range of terms that would alert me to other conversations online where people needed help.
That was it – nothing more.
Just good old fashioned human interaction.
There are real people behind metrics & usernames don’t ya know!
That plan probably took you 10 minutes to read. But let me be clear, that was the culmination of months of passive thinking and mulling things over.
I eventually put it all on paper in less than a day but I had spent months thinking about the best way to skin the cat so to speak.
This planning was critical to the success of the blog. It is amazing how many people do not plan out how they are going to attack something.
Keyword research is not planning.
I didn’t do ANY keyword research until 6 months after the blog launched.
What are you waiting for? Learn how to start a blog today!
So I had a purpose, a brand, I knew what my audience wanted & was ready to create great content.
Setting up the blog itself though was a whole different kettle of fish!
One of the biggest mistakes a lot of internet marketers make is not taking care of the user experience and the overall ‘flow’ of things.
I spent a lot of time working out the best way to setup the blog to not only deliver the most value, but extract the most value from visitors as well.
So I started to think about what ‘value’ actually is and what ‘value’ each and every visitor can actually offer me.
This is what I came up with-
The obvious two are people clicking on affiliate links and buying stuff.
This is the goal of every internet marketer right?
But when you think about it, that is not actually the most important goal and that’s a very backwards way to look at things.
So I decided to shift the focus in this order of priority and setup the blog based on that-
Not everyone is going to agree with that. But no one agrees that the primary purpose of an ecommerce site isn’t to sell things either.
There is method to the madness though and it relies on the basics of human relationships rather than the constant quest to separate people from their money.
Relationships make it easier to separate more people from more of their money and be happy about it.
Having a great design can make or break a blog. If it is too busy and cluttered it will turn users off and convert badly.
So I wanted a theme that was clean, simple & easy to read.
I found a free theme and I spent the next week tinkering with it and customising it to meet the goals above.
As you can probably see, it looks very different than the original.
HOWEVER: In hindsight this was one of my biggest mistakes and I highly recommend reading this post about choosing the best Wordpress theme.
You can also download a copy of my blogs theme here.
The ultimate relationship online comes in the form of a full time subscription.
They are explicitly stating I want to hear more of what you have to say. I give you permission to invade my personal life with an email or status update.
Each and every subscriber is a real person that has built trust with you.
Treat them like a real person & do not abuse that trust for a quick buck.
The blog makes it really easy for people to subscribe-
As you can see – it’s pretty hard not to subscribe which aligns with the primary goal of the blog!
As I couldn’t build links and was aware of Google’s shift to introduce social signals into the ranking algorithm I thought about how I could take advantage of that.
I did the usual tried and tested technique of adding social share buttons to the end of my posts, but I added a big ugly arrow to make it OBVIOUS!
But that is pretty boring right?
So I started to look at other ways I could encourage social signals.
I came across a sweet plugin that would hide content until the user shared the page on a social network.
So with each tutorial I created I tried to put together an exclusive pack of resources or make the video downloadable in exchange for a social share which used to look like this-
I have since upgraded to the OnePress Social Locker which is much more robust and compatible with caching systems.
I also decided to try and drive a social following by asking people to connect with me on Twitter & Google+ in key conversion areas.
So when someone submits a comment for the first time, they get taken to a page like this asking them to subscribe and follow me on Twitter-
That is a really effective page and really helps to drive subscribers.
Equally when someone subscribes they get taken to a page which asks them to circle me on Google+
What all of this creates is a self-supporting eco system of social signals.
It offers multiple opportunities to extract value from users over and above affiliate clicks and sales.
User generated content is a great way to keep the blog fresh and people engaged.
When the blog first launched the only form of user generated content on the site came in the form of comments.
I encouraged comments by just telling people to post if they had any questions or problems that I could help with.
Later on I used BBPress which was a huge success and helped drive the blog forward in a number of ways, but more on that later 🙂
When I started out I was just focused on blog comments themselves which I knew would help me not only create relationships with people but also please the search engines with new and fresh content with natural long tail keywords.
I also figured that every visitor had the potential to bring more visitors.
I found the most effective way to make that happen is by asking people. At the end of emails/tutorials/posts I simply ask people to share them with their friends.
Over 80,000 visitors came to the blog via referrals from other people & sites in the past 12 months.
Looking back this was particularly effective because of the huge amount of value my content provided upfront – people were more than happy to share it with others!
Although I did get a complaint that is was too good to share in case competitors saw it =/
This also aligned with my overall goal and purpose of the blog to get people sharing and talking about the tutorials in forums.
One of the best examples is with the controversial Ahrefs vs Majestic post which says-
Next time you see this topic in a forum – feel free to use this post to instantly win the argument.
It’s amazing to see how many people use that post every time the which is best Ahrefs or Majestic question comes up.
So with everything else taken care of…
How was I going to drive affiliate clicks and sales?
Well it turns out you don’t actually have to do anything. With everything else put in place this area takes care of itself for the most part.
Keeping my problem solving high quality content strategy in mind, affiliate sales just happen naturally without any sneaky tricks.
However some tutorials do lend themselves to affiliate promotions more than others.
One example of this is when I was trying to track & manage huge volumes of backlinks; spreadsheets just weren’t cutting it anymore.
It turned out a lot of people had this problem and there wasn’t really a publicised solution. I eventually came across Inspyder Backlink Monitor and after trialling it for a few weeks it became an essential tool in my arsenal.
That gave me the opportunity to create a tutorial that teaches people how to organise and manage their backlinks properly. It showed people how I was doing it and the problems that created.
It then introduced Inspyder Backlink Monitor and taught people how to use it properly to make things really easy saving a bunch of time & money.
You could break it down like this-
Not only do people click the affiliate links and buy the product, they also thank me for helping them resolve a major problem that was taking up huge amounts of time.
In this specific example I also went the extra step to haggle a $10 discount for my readers to sweeten the deal.
It takes a bit more effort and sometimes you take a hit on commission but then again you get emails like this-
So I had a solid plan, I spent time setting up the blog and put some thought into the overall user experience.
But what good is a blog with no content or traffic!
I decided that my first few posts needed to make the biggest bang possible that would hopefully set off an avalanche.
I looked though my content strategy and quickly decided that link building and more specifically tiered link building was an area that had a lot of misinformation.
There were no real nitty gritty detailed tutorials…
And just so happened to be an area I excelled in.
The tiered link building series took a total of 100-120 hours to produce. Then I gave away all of the hard work free of charge to anyone that would watch it!
In the past 12 months that series has had a total of 99,882 visitors watching them for a total of 284,253 minutes generating nearly $15,000 in affiliate commission.
I have had so many people tell me I was stupid to give them away and if I launched the videos as a product I would of made a lot more money.
That is probably true but what you can’t measure is the bang and impact these videos made as people began to watch and share them.
As people watched and learnt, they formed a relationship with me – you cannot put a monetary value on that.
When I was younger I edited gaming videos and created animations in Adobe After Effects so I was pretty comfortable with that side of things.
What I wasn’t comfortable with though was teaching others or even having the confidence to record myself speak.
So with a cheap Sennheisser headset in hand I started to plan out the videos and how I would give them a bang!
I also wanted to ensure the videos were branded, memorable and gave people a reason to stick around quickly.
So I created a set of ‘video resources’ that I could use throughout my videos-
Giving people a reason to stick around quickly was also important, so every video dives straight into telling people ‘What They Will Learn’.
With all of those resources created I used Camtasia Studio to record and edit everything!
When it came to publishing the videos on the blog I put some thought into the best way to present them.
Videos offer a couple of problems from an internet marketing stand point.
Firstly, Google bots can’t understand video so how will these tutorials attract search traffic?
Secondly, how do I get people to ‘convert’ after watching a video, whether that is subscribing to the blog, sharing the tutorial on a social network or clicking an affiliate link?
The first problem I solved by publishing a transcript under each video that could be shown/hidden by the user.
It turns out that these are actually very helpful to readers with disabilities or struggle to understand my voice and I get a lot of praise for providing them.
The second problem I solved with a plugin that would show a custom HTML splash screen at the end of the video and let me make certain parts of the video clickable which looked like this-
I have since ditched that plugin and moved over to the much more robust LeadPlayer to drive video conversion.
Then I needed a mechanic to drive social sharing to bring more traffic and better rankings.
By using a social locker plugin I was able to offer the videos for download along with exclusive resources.
Finally I tried to keep the posts brief and to the point, internet marketers are busy people so I quickly tell people what they will learn and present the video.
So that’s great content, that offers multiple points of conversion through email sign up/affiliate clicks, set up to drive social sharing & user engagement taken care of.
Promoting the videos was actually the easiest bit
And it all started with a little forum called TrafficPlanet.
I updated my signature to include a link to the videos with a catchy call to action driving initial trickles of traffic.
Then I created this thread to share them with everyone and answer peoples questions.
I also updated my signature on forums like DigitalPoint, BlackHatWorld & WarriorForum and started to take part in conversations helping people out.
Not all forums like you sharing your own stuff and I have had my fair share of bans but even 1 year later, this is still a key method of promotion and driving traffic to the blog along with BuzzBundle.
Because I have put so much time and thought into the user journey, the value each user can offer and how to extract that while providing consistent quality – all of the cogs are turning in my direction.
Each and every visitor becomes a planted seed in one way or another.
This is something I feel a lot of people overlook that are purely focused on keyword research, link building and affiliate clicks.
At this point I have launched the blog and it is starting to get initial trickles of traffic, nothing fancy just growing from 20-30 a day to 40-50 a day in less than a week.
I spent considerable time laying down the basic foundations for the blog to be a success.
But what did I do next?
I publish a series of income reports that details what I’ve done each month so lets take a look at the best bits month by month!
I officially launched the blog, the first 4 parts of the tiered link building tutorial & wrote about my zero link building case study experiment.
The tiered link building series featured a piece of software called Kontent Machine. Those guys were so impressed with it they sent me an email and we got to talking.
They agreed to give me a lifetime license worth $37 per month in exchange for creating a dedicated video tutorial about the product.
I decided to turn this into a competition with the goals of-
The competition was a huge a success bringing 274 new subscribers & generated nearly $1,200 in affiliate commission.
Competitions & giveaways quickly became a core part of the blogs strategy moving forward.
I didn’t do anything special to promote the blog. All I did was post regularly on forums with links to my tutorials in my signature.
I also had a few web monitoring tools setup to monitor link building related keywords so I could engage people with my tutorials where possible.
With a great start in August and some fantastic feedback coming in I really pushed forward in September.
I finished up the tiered link building series & showed you how to do guest posting the right way.
To try and shine some light on the blog I decided to create a guest post which ended up getting published on SearchEngineJournal.com.
That post was shared over 800 times and was one of the most popular posts on SearchEngineJournal.com in 2012.
It was great to see my tutorial be so well received on one of the biggest search engine blogs on the planet.
He had a weekly video series called SundaySEO and he invited me to produce a video for his audience last minute.
I jumped at the opportunity and created a tutorial that taught people how to manage their backlinks and hooked up an exclusive discount for the featured software.
That opportunity brought me 467 visitors, a whole bunch of new subscribers & delivered $675.46 in affiliate commission.
Thanks to Terry for the opportunity at such an early stage. In fact he has helped me a bunch of times as you’ll see throughout this post!
As the blog became more popular I was getting more and more emails and private messages.
This started to become a problem with the sheer volume of them coming in. However answering them was critical as it allowed me to form relationships with people that might just return the favour by sharing my tutorials.
So previously when time was purely spent on content creation and promotion, I now had to factor in the increasing volume of messages from people.
The main problem was I was putting so much time into answering all of these messages, the answers were just getting locked away in someone’s private inbox somewhere.
So I knew something needed to change and I started to think about a possible solution that would allow me to extract more value from the time invested.
This was the first month where Google started to pay attention to the blog.
It had moved onto the front page for the term ‘Buy SEO’ completely by accident.
I hadn’t targeted the term or even tried to rank for it, but Google decided it was worthy of the front page for a competitive term.
Google was also kind enough to move me up to the #1 spot when you searched for my name-
It was great to see the zero link building experiment slowly start to pay off!
Again I didn’t do anything special here however I did start to post on Blackhatworld alongside TrafficPlanet, WarriorForum & DigitalPoint.
I made a total of 456 posts across the 4 forums which in turn sent me 3,929 unique visitors.
Although I did get banned from DigitalPoint ^^
The blog quickly went from not earning much, to earning quite a lot in a short amount of time.
Oddly that is one of the least popular posts on the blog but is the post that offers the most value in my opinion.
Google had just announced the Disavow tool which caused a bit of the stir in the SEO world.
I took a stab at it and highlighted why the Disavow Tool is bad news for SEO and not the saving grace everyone thought it would be.
This post ended up going viral (see the big spike in the graph above) to a degree and sparked discussions in a few places including this post which has nearly 5,000 views.
When I was trying to get my guest post published I sent it to both Search Engine Journal & John Chow. After not hearing back from John Chow, it was published on Search Engine Journal.
6 weeks later it magically appeared on John Chows blog, he still hadn’t replied to my email to even acknowledge receipt never mind let me know it was going live.
Either way this not only exposed me to his audience but also gave me the opportunity to create the John Chow vs Search Engine Journal case study.
I also launched the second competition, this time it was for the Inspyder team offering up prizes worth a total of $715.
I actually cheated a little bit here and repurposed the video from last month’s Sunday SEO and posted it on the blog.
Although it didn’t quite perform as well as the previous competition, it still helped to bring $654.38 in affiliate commission.
In the previous month I was having a hard time keeping up with emails and messages from readers.
I was getting overloaded and I spent a lot of time replying which ended up just been hidden away in someones inbox.
So my solution to this was to install a Wordpress forum plugin into the site and get people to post questions there.
This had a number of benefits-
Learn how to do the same with my BBPress tutorial.
I also introduced the OIOPublisher plugin to the blog that would allow banner and text link adverting across the blog.
The plugin makes things really easy and allows advertisers to buy advertising, check statistics and so on.
It is a fully automated setup – all I have to do is approve or reject ads as they come in. The plugin handles everything else automatically.
OIOPublisher costs $47 but has earnt $2,931 in advertising revenue serving over 2,985,328 banner views since its introduction.
It took less than an hour for me to learn and integrate & across the past year this is one of changes I have made that has had the biggest impact on my business.
If you don’t use any kind of GTD or organisation system check it out. Its a small change with huge benefits for anyone.
Remember that guest post I published on SearchEngineJournal last month?
Well it was so well received it ended up winning…
The Best Of SearchEngineJournal.com 2012 award!
The post attracted huge amounts of social shares and comments making it one of the most popular posts of the year.
I continued with my mantra of posting on forums, still banned from DigitalPoint my focus was purely on TrafficPlanet, WarriorForum & Blackhatworld.
This brought a total of 4,521 visitors from just 328 posts across the 3 forums.
I’m not going to include the traffic & promotion section again because well, you get the jist – this is what I did every month. I’ll detail anything I did differently 🙂
In the previous month I hadn’t published an awful lot of content so I put a huge focus on this in November.
I also decided to introduce 2 regular features to the blog that would be posted every month.
What I Have Read This Month – Quite simply this is just a roundup of posts that I have found interesting across the last month.
Income Report Roundup – Quite a few blogs publish income reports, so I decided to round them up and rank them every month!
Both of these regular features were well received and have been a part of the blog every month ever since!
I was struggling to keep up with rendering and uploading tutorials. It was taking around 5-8 hours to render each one which made the computer unusable for long periods of time.
So I decided to upgrade my PC from a shoddy 2.5Ghz dual core/4GB ram to a 3.4Ghz quad core/16GB ram & an SSD drive.
This was a huge benefit and I was able to render tutorials in less than an hour and still be able to use the computer!
At the same time I upgraded my broadband line from 24MB ADSL to 76MB Fibre which helped with uploading tutorials often weighing in at ~500MB a piece.
Both changes combined saved me a bunch of time and helped me to get more done in less time!
With the whole John Chow vs Search Engine Journal showdown, John followed up with a post on his own blog!
This sent a new wave of traffic and subscribers allowing me to squeeze even more value out of a guest post that got published on 2 major sites, allowed me to create a case study, get a dedicated feature from John Chow AND won an award.
I also got invited to publish an article in the Internet Marketing Magazine which had a readership of 26,000 people around the world.
In an effort to squeeze even more value out of that one guest post, they republished it along with a pretty picture of me!
As you can probably tell – I like getting as much value out of things as possible, that guest post got abused hard.
I also launched the 3rd competition on the blog – the biggest yet with a total prize fund worth $1,497.00!
Winners could win either an enterprise license ($999) or pro license ($399) of SEO Powersuite with a third winner choosing from any one of the standalone products worth $99.75.
I was invited to try the beta of a new piece of software at the time called BuzzBundle.
In essence it listened to forums, blogs, answer sites & social media for any keyword you wanted.
I started to use it to monitor keywords that were relevant to tutorials I had produced.
When it found a match, I could get involved with the conversation directly and introduce my tutorial all without leaving BuzzBundle.
So over the coming months my traffic strategy consisted of posting on TrafficPlanet, WarriorForum, BlackhatWorld along with using BuzzBundle for 1 hour each day.
Traffic from Google had grown steadily since the start of August and this month saw the ‘Buy SEO’ keyword move up to the #1 spot.
Again I hadn’t targeted this keyword or even tried to rank for it, but for one reason or another Google thought my post was the most relevant result.
What this did show though was that Google was starting to trust the site and give it more and more weight in the search results.
Already the blog had come along way and as I entered the 5th month I decided to take some time off.
I had spent the last 3 years developing my online business working stupid hour’s day in day out.
So I decided to try and take as much time off as possible in December and published just 1 post – free SEO tools.
Although I knew I would probably end up doing something.
I launched the blog on cheap $1 a month hosting which was fine for a while but overtime the site became slower and slower.
Did you know a 1 second delay in load time causes 11% less page views and a 7% drop off in conversion.
Personally I don’t like burning money so I spent some of my time off improving site speed.
I managed to do this by moving my hosting over to WPEngine and a bunch of other things which made a huge difference to my website speed.
During my ‘time off’ I started to use BuzzBundle more and more.
The software really aligned well with the blogs traffic strategy and allowed me to reach new audiences with ease.
I was previously hacking together a few services with a bit of manual processing to do this but BuzzBundle delivered a very clean solution.
It is available for a onetime fee and quickly became a key part of my traffic strategy.
The Kontent Machine team got in touch with me to let me know that I was their #1 affiliate!
They had been so impressed with the performance of the competition they decided to give me a 50% bonus.
That was greatly appreciated and a nice pre-xmas bump during my month off!
After taking a month off I was refreshed and ready to kick some blogging ass!
Well that was the plan – I actually spent the first couple of weeks playing catch up but once that was done… I kicked ass.
I published 5 posts including the successful people vs unsuccessful people poster (read the testimonials at the end of this post to see how that changed someones life o_O), website speed is money along with the regular income report roundup & what I have read this month features.
In January I decided to try and increase the amount of email subscribers I was getting by introducing an inline opt in form that I could place in blog posts.
While I had been collecting email subscribers since day 1 – I hadn’t written any kind of auto responder series to keep people engaged with the blog.
One of the main problems with blogs is that your best content often gets buried away.
So I decided to kill 2 birds with 1 stone and create an email engagement autoresponder series in Aweber breathing new life into old posts keeping new subscribers engaged on auto pilot!
This is the sequence I setup-
Take a look at my full Aweber review to learn more.
If you look closely messages number 2, 7 & 17 are actually designed to engage the user.
First off I ask new subscribers how I can help them in email number 2 which always gets some interesting replys.
In message number 7 I ask people which tutorial they would like to see me produce next – this provides a steady flow of content ideas.
And finally in message number 17 I ask people to tell me 1 thing they like about the blog, 1 thing they don’t like about the blog and 1 thing they would change immediately.
These 3 emails are critical and help me build relationships with people while getting critical feedback on how to drive the blog forward.
A lot of the tutorials and changes I have made to the site were born out of responses to these emails.
I made a bunch of improvements to the blog in January including-
Upgraded About Page – I changed the about me page to be more about you adding testimonials and opt in forms.
Income Reports Page – I added a page to display summaries of all of the income reports.
Advertise Page – Although I had setup the OIOPublisher plugin I hadn’t created a dedicated page with all the information advertisers needed.
Top Social Share Widget – I added this widget to the sidebar so people could see the most popular posts based on social shares.
I completely stopped client work for a while as I wanted to focus on growing the blog. This came at the cost of upfront profits but was a good decision long term.
As the blog was becoming more popular I decided it was time to get a professional logo.
So I created a logo contest and was spoilt for choice!
I then setup a logo test to measure if having a professional logo actually made a difference or not!
Unfortunately it did which meant I had to go through a complete rebranding process across social media, PowerPoint templates, my video intro and more!
I had identified that YouTube was consistently sending the highest quality traffic in terms of subscriber conversion, time on site and pages per visit.
During the rebrand I decided to optimise all of my YouTube videos – but the problem is you can’t just make changes to a video. You have to upload it again which means you lose all your views, comments and ratings.
But it was totally worth it.
First of all I created a branded outro and edited this into every single tutorial. This means I can keep people moving around my videos instead of YouTube’s related recommendations.
I added watermarks throughout each video and also took advantage of the new option to upload custom thumbnails for your videos.
If you take a look at my YouTube channel you can see how eye catching they are!
After a bit of a break from competitions I launched the 4th competition.
This time with 2 BuzzBundle licenses worth a total of $432.95.
The income reports get published on the 1st of every month and are one of the most popular posts on the blog.
I started to look for ways to present the data better and integrated Google Charts.
You can see in action for yourself in this income report.
Terry Kyle was kind enough to make my tiered link building tutorial thread a sticky in the SEO forum.
This means it is always stuck to the top of the forum no matter what so it gets maximum exposure!
Thanks again to Terry for hooking that up =D
I was also listed as one of ProBloggers One To Watch 2013.
I’ve been reading ProBlogger for longer than I can remember so to pick up an award from them is a huge honour!
Thanks to all of those that helped to make that possible!
I also took the opportunity to sly off to Amsterdam for a few days with a friend!
It would be rude not to given it’s an hour flight from the UK!
I had slacked off on content the previous month so stepped it up a gear with a total of 8 posts.
I posted a full review of WPEngine along with the 2 regular features.
I also launched the fifth competiton with WPEngine.
Although this competition had an added twist of combining a review, case study & competition into one massive orgy!
There was 12 months of hosting up for grabs worth a total of $348!
I wanted a way to monetise the forum by automatically replacing keywords with affiliate links.
I tried a number of solutions and eventually came across the Thirsty Affiliates plugin.
The developer helped me out a bit with the integration to ensure it only replaced keywords with links on the forum and nowhere else on the blog.
I now use the plugin to create and track all of my affiliate links across the site and it has been a great help.
Jason Acidre published this awesome post teaching people how to increase traffic with a Google Analytics Keyword audit.
So I followed his tutorial to the letter and conducted my own audit on the blog making a bunch of changes!
As I was starting to travel a lot I wanted to make sure I had access to everything no matter where I was in the world using any device.
So I moved to the cloud setting up Google Apps to control email & calendar synchronisation and Google Drive to store key business files.
I also setup Google Chrome to sync all of my tabs, bookmarks, extensions and history between devices.
Password sync is handled by LastPass with an annual $12 subscription.
I setup remote access with no-ip.com and forwarded the remote desktop ports on my router and I also installed TeamViewer as a backup.
Music sync is taken care of by Google Music.
The end result is as long as I have access to a web browser I can run my entire business from anywhere in the world using any device that has a web browser and an internet connection.
I also bought an ultra-light powerful laptop to take with me on my travels.
It turned out that Terry Kyle was in the UK for a while so I shot down to London to meet him.
At this point I was still continuing with my back to basics traffic generation techniques.
I was still active on TrafficPlanet, Blackhatworld & WarriorForum as well as using BuzzBundle on a daily basis to build traffic gently.
I shot over to Iceland for a few days to see the Northern Lights, along with some close encounter whale watching, a look at the famous Geyser and hit the geothermal blue lagoon.
With things progressing nicely on the blog I decided to push forward on content creation and promotion.
I created 6 posts including the monster Ahrefs vs Majestic SEO post.
One of the best bits of this month was the publication of the Ahrefs vs Majestic SEO 1 million domain showdown.
Dixon Jones, the Majestic SEO marketing director had tried his best to blindly discredit my best backlink checker case study claiming bias and a bunch of other things without checking his facts first.
So you can be sure my follow up was more than entertaining to read putting him under the microscope – after checking my facts and backing up my test with a huge dataset drawn from Majestic themselves.
They posted this response clutching at straws saying the data size didn’t provide a realistic comparison even though they said the data set for my initial test was too small.
In short, Ahrefs knows more about Majestics top 1 million domains than Majestic does.
A big shout out to Dixon Jones for handing me this on a plate – I couldn’t of done it without you!
In an effort to solidify branding and grow my social followings I upgraded my email signature with WiseStamp.
It even pulls in my latest post automagically!
I have been a long time reader of Zac Johnson’s blog so I was pretty excited when asked if I would be willing to give an interview!
So I decided to try and flip the interview model on his head and try to produce more of a tutorial than a review.
I wanted people to walk away from it feeling like they had learnt something they could implement immediately.
Check out the interview here – it took me a full day to write!
At the start of the month an interesting email landed in my inbox.
You can probably guess what I chose to do 😛
I didn’t know it at the time but that email was the start of something special that has had a fundamental impact on my life.
I went to the Snowbombing music festival which is set in the mountains of Mayrhofen, Austria.
The problem with this was I had to leave for Snowbombing on the 1st of April at 9:30am and I have to publish the income report on the 1st.
I can’t actually get the final numbers for the income report until 00:01am on the 1st.
So I had to work through the night to prepare the report and hit the publish button minutes before walking out the door into a 21 hour journey.
I didn’t have time to proof read it or check if links were working.
I even got to meet part of Rudimental & Breach!
I later found out that one of my readers was there and not only that – I had actually taken a picture of him in fancy dress!
We only realised this after we both got home – but I’ve already booked it again for next year so I’ll see you there!
Snowbombing was 7 days of skiing all day and partying all night into the early hours of the morning. After 7 days of that my schedule looked like this.
While it might look like fun travelling the world the cold hard reality of this is for every day I have off, 3-4 hours work builds up which all needs catching up on when I get home.
May was a fairly plain sailing month still focused on content creation while working promotion daily across the 3 forums and BuzzBundle.
I created a how to blog & work on the road (written from a plane), how to use social media to destroy your business (Epic lulz don’t miss this!) along with the 2 regular features.
The SEOMoz affiliate program was one of the best converting at 10%!
So I decided to send more traffic that way and create a dedicated tutorial showing people how to use the tools properly.
The only problems were-
So the tutorial was instantly out of date and even if it wasn’t, couldn’t have earnt any affiliate commission anyway.
I can see that I sent them 300 clicks and at previous conversion levels that was worth $750 to me!
You can’t win them all huh!
Now let me be 100% clear – I am not a designer, I suck at design.
However since I had launched the blog a number of social networks had updated layouts and changed things around.
Twitter introduced the header image, YouTube changed to the one channel and so forth.
So I decided to update them all in one clean sweep and added my pretty little award symbols where possible to add social proof.
Prepare to envy my design skillz.
One of my readers got in touch and sent me a custom cover for my new phone!
Great quality case and an unexpected surprise!
This month also saw the launch of the Licorne AIO competition giving readers a chance to win 1 of 5 lifetime licenses.
This was one of the most successful competition promotions generating $2,120.00 in affiliate commission!
The Unbounce team announced the Top 75 Internet Marketing Blogs and it was great to see me featured amongst them!
The only problem is they didn’t rank them in any particular order – hopefully they publish an update in the future with a more competitive spirit ^^
In the previous month a reader had invited me out to Costa Rica for a beer. So this month I went to Costa Rica for a beer to meet Andrea & Yeison.
We also spent a good few days working together and I shared my mind-set/approach to internet marketing and helped them out.
My visit to Costa Rica really opened my eyes to a lot of things, mostly to do with quality of life and the pura vida lifestyle.
While Andrea & Yeison was showing me around the neighbourhood Yeison grew up in, he decided to quickly drop into the local high school.
Long story short I ended up teaching internet marketing to an IT class with Yeisons help translating.
Certainly wasn’t expecting that to happen!
June is always an awesome month, mostly because it is my birthday!
I had planned to have a wicked sick fun month but had to cancel most plans including my trip to the Download Festival as I was swamped with work.
Half way through creating the how to start a blog tutorial I decided to take a quick break and grab a drink.
Upon returning I had blue screen of deaths all round and the lovely smell of burning electronics.
My primary hard disk which was an SSD drive had somehow overheated and died.
Luckily I had previously moved to working in the cloud so there was no data loss and I was back up and running in a couple of hours after swapping the drive out.
A lot of my tutorials are video based so I’m always looking for the best way to squeeze more value out of them.
I had previously created a case study on increasing video conversion but wanted to improve this further.
So I decided to try LeadPlayer out which allows you to place opt ins and call to actions at key points of the video.
I tested it with a couple of videos initially which saw 1,577 opt in displays and 64 email subscribers in 28 days.
Previously it had taken a few months to get 1,922 opt in displays and 111 email subscribers.
Based on that small test I rolled out LeadPlayer to every single video across the blog at the end of June.
If you look to your right hand side you will see a red opt in box that follows you down the page.
That is the plugin that I use to do that with =D
Although I introduced a forum and changed the copy on the contact page to reduce the amount of email coming in, I knew there was more value to be had.
What I wanted to happen, is every time someone submit the contact form – they get added to the blogs newsletter.
I eventually found the solution with a simple Contact Form 7 addon!
I also launched the Link Emperor competition this month which had the biggest single prize fund yet!
The prize was worth a total of $1,800 and was snapped up by one lucky reader!
The BuzzBundle team got in touch with me to let me know that I was their #1 affiliate and sent me this-
I had to laugh at the slogan when you consider the Kontent Machine team gave me a 50% bonus ^^
I went to Costa Rica and met Yeison at the start of May. When I met him he had no previous web knowledge, didn’t know how to bold text, how to setup a blog, very little money and poor written English skills.
We spent a few days together in Costa Rica and I was totally blown away to find out that 6 weeks later he had built a blog that had been featured in 2 newspapers, earning him 3 all expenses trips including staying in a $375/night hotel.
His blog is all about Costa Rica but take a look around and look at what he has achieved in such a short amount of time.
So if Yeison can do it with all of those challenges, you have no excuse! Start your blog now!
Former competition winner Stuart Jewson invited me out to the south of spain for a few days!
We spent a few days forming a plan of attack for his new blog putting together target audience definitions and a solid content strategy!
Although we did spend most of our time working out of bars and on beaches we got an awful lot done!
But that’s why the planning stage is the best bit ^^
We are now entering month 12 since I launched the blog and as you can see it has been a wild ride so far!
I slacked of a little bit on content creation this month but did publish a my favourite TED marketing talks as well as the Blackhatworld vs TrafficPlanet vs Warriorforum case study along with the 2 regular features.
One of the things I had been trying to do is dominate the Google search results for my own name.
A year on this is what the search results look like-
I even managed to hack them with a big red start button for a while ^^
I also felt like it was a good time to reveal how the recent Google update had affected my zero link building experiment.
Here is a graph showing organic search traffic with each algorithm update overlaid-
It’s pretty safe to conclude the experiment was a success!
I started the year with a bang and I’m finishing it with a bang!
Technorati are one of the biggest blog search engines in the world tracking millions of blogs and billions of links. They rank blogs in order of influence across a range of categories.
In July 2013 I picked up 2 Technorati Awards-
I had planned to spend the last few days of the month with Dave & Vicky from ACoupleTravelers.com in Poland but had to cancel it after finding out my cat was up the duff.
That’s when she was little & cute instead of the whore she is today though.
Even though I had to cancel the trip, I more than made up for it in August! But you’ll have to wait for next month’s income reports for that.
If your still with me – you now know everything you need to know to start a blog & follow my success.
Whether its a blog about internet marketing, finance or travel you have all of the tools & knowledge you need to start your journey today.
Don’t know how to setup a blog? I’ve got you covered.
Start your journey today. You can do a lot in a year.
Let’s take a look at all of the important numbers and metrics across the past year.
A grand total of 113,170 unique visitors (310/day) with a total of 632,452 page views!
In July 2013 the blog was pushing 601 unique visitors per day so it’s great to see that’s currently double the annual average.
I’ve published a whole lot of content across the year, a grand total of 82 posts made up of video and text based tutorials.
But what was the most popular content this year?
The tiered link building tutorial series, link building forum, backlink checkers compared posts take up the top spots!
Given my fairly basic traffic strategy the traffic sources below should come as no surprise!
Google sends the most traffic with the forums and social networks bringing up the rear!
As you probably know by now this blog is a zero backlink experiment so looking at how search traffic has performed across the year will be interesting!
As you can see traffic has increased steadily and Google has sent a total of 80,650 visitors across 7,463 keywords!
YouTube has been a critical part of the blogs growth. Not only has it helped with the delivery of videos, it has also delivered the highest quality traffic consistently.
What is interesting though is that discovery of the videos only occurred 34.9% of the time on other websites (eg my blog) and 58.5% of the views happened directly on YouTube after a search or clicking on a related video.
Note: You can use a Youtube tracker tool to check the rankings of your Youtube videos.
The blog has seen a total of 16,559 shares across Facebook, Twitter and Google+
The forum has seen steady growth since its introduction and claimed 2 of the top 10 spots in the most popular content category.
If you haven’t joined the forum yet, get involved!
I’ll personally answer any internet marketing questions you have!
The most important metric on the entire blog – earning a subscription from someone is the ultimate form of commitment and conversion.
There are now a total of 8,949 subscribers across all of the different channels.
I made a total of 3,335 posts across 4 forums in the year which averages out to roughly 9-10 per day.
Here are the numbers you really want to see-
I separate out my SEO consultant earnings from the affiliate earnings. The blog drives affiliate sales directly and whilst it does generate SEO consultation leads these are separate projects in their own right.
This year I generated $27,910.03 / £17,844.14 in consultation earnings.
Grand Total: $73,334.09 / £46,885.78
Over the past year I’ve collected feedback from people through emails, forum posts and so on.
Some of the feedback I get from people is truly staggering and I wanted to share some of that with you.
I never thought I would create something that could touch people’s lives in the ways you are about to read.
It’s been a few years since I have done any serious seo, but with your help I have doubled turnover month on month every month for the since October when I started promoting an ecommerce site I have a financial interest in. Feb already looks on trend to double Jan sales again.
I have not even really started any of the tiered link building but your blog has enabled me to get back up to speed with SEO and understand the fundamentals that work which have been a massive help.
Take a look at our ecommerce SEO guide to see what they are talking about!
I watched this video a while back and really liked it.
I actually used this strategy on an SEO job interview. I applied for an entry level SEO job for an SEO division of a major corporation that was tasked with the SEO a large website (about a million pages). I had little experience but I decided to make up for it by doing a presentation.
So I analyzed the website the company was supporting using the techniques you discuss in this video. My interviewer absolutely loved it. I followed up this with “my link building strategy” where I basically walked them through your multi-tier link building strategy presentation. At this point my manager’s jaw dropped.
I went into the interview thinking that I would be super under-qualified for the job, but from what I saw the techniques you talk about are like 4-5 years ahead of what some SEO companies are doing. I won’t say the name of this company, but their SEO division has at least 75 people working to support one major website. Kind of crazy.
So thank you again, you have really made a difference for me.
Few months ago i discussed some issues of Think and grow rich with you and how it opened my eyes about life and people in it.
Now it’s 6 months later and i started my own webdesign/marketing agency in Belgium.
We are serving clients (me and 2 other php, design, and engineers experts as my mastermind group, all three age 20-23).
One of our clients is who is a sales coach in europe who’s really succesfull with his self-help books. He contacted us to do his entire online marketing + webdesign and product branding.
We are launching him for a series of seminars in the U.S. (website under construction ). And we get payed over 150$ per sign-up for his 3 day seminar. The youngest of us is going with them so we can live stream webinars for his clients.
Another project he trusted us with is his . We can launch it in Dutch, English, and 6 other languages.
We also launched a exhibition . We launched his website 2 nights ago and currently i’m active as international relation manager and head-marketing for getting 5% commission on the annual turnover.
Other than that we already made 7 people happy with a website that’s locally ranked paying me for their SEO on a budget they can decide for themself.
This happened 6 months after reading Successful People Vs Unsuccessful People – Which One Are You? And after reading Think and Grow rich. I still got that image of successful vs unsuccessfull hanging above my computer screen.
I know that your site serves as your income and you get financial reward through it, but I just wanted to say a sincere thank you for your content.
I’m currently an agency based SEO that specialises in technical SEO for large companies, typically the sites I am working with have massive authority (PR 7-8) and I just need to restructure and improve content to achieve rankings.
Your site has opened another side of SEO to me that I knew existed but looked down upon. Because of your content I have begun exploring and experimenting at ranking fresh sites. Through building links and creating fantastic unique content. I now have Adsense and Amazon focused sites that are supplementing my income nicely.
My plan is to keep this process going until I can work for myself full time. The best part is that I am helping people out as I go and this is even leading to out of hours consultation work and recommendations.
Thanks again, your website that I came across by chance and enabled me to build upon my technical knowledge gained through my career and given me the opportunity to work for myself.
Your videos. Your attitude. The fact that you respond.
The way you show you care.
You sir, you rock. Have a nice day
and I wish you the best.
I dont want to ask anything right now, maybe in the future.
But right now I am just sending you and email to thank you and send you my wishes.
Keep up the fantastic work.
Really i mean it.
I stumbled across one of your YouTube vids on back linking. Good grief! It was incredible! Thank you SO much for your kindness in sharing some of the most amazing training on the Internet. And free??? Amazing. For such a young guy your IQ is obviously through the roof and yet you have a heart that shares such genius. Bless you for that.
I am an old great grandfather (who loves technology) and have been working toward an online business for several years and it is so rare to find such generosity that I simply wanted to say thank you.
My only regret is I just found this site and am excited to dig into the wealth of knowledge here and my wife is calling me to come to bed. Drat. Oh well. I’ll be back first thing in the morning. Thank you so much for the kindness Matt. This is a wonderful gift you are providing.
You can’t put a price on feedback like that!
If my tutorials have helped you like those above – then I want to know!
I have no idea what I will do with them but one thing is for sure – reading things like that is a great inspiration.
It makes all my gruelling hours’ worth it and provides great motivation to push forward.
I’ve come a little long way in a little long time but really I feel like I’m only just scratching the surface.
There’s still an awful lot to explore and given the dynamic pace of the web it’s likely I’ll never explore it all.
But I’ve got a good idea of what I want to do over the next few months – if you have any suggestions, please let me know!
It’s been a very hectic year to say the least. I’ve never worked so hard in my life and after a while that begins to catch up with you.
I had planned not to work at all in August but well, I kind of suck at not working and this post has taken around 30 hours to put together alone.
But I’m off to Costa Rica for nearly 3 weeks except this time it’s all pleasure.
Hopefully I can spend the next few days preparing some posts so I don’t have to do much while I’m there.
I’ll return refreshed & ready to rock – as long as the pura vida lifestyle hasn’t set in too hard.
As the blog has grown it has started to become a little bit messy.
So I’m going to give it an annual spring clean going through the entire blog fixing & improving things where necessary.
I suspect there’s a lot of internal linking opportunity I’m missing out on and a bunch of stuff that doesn’t work as it should anymore.
I’ve also got a few upgrades for the blog planned that should help make it more useful to people in general.
I’m going to improve the navigation and also change the category/structure of the site which currently sucks.
I will also be adding a few things to keep you guys coming back but that’s more of a master plan that will turn into a case study at some point ^^
The theme also needs some work, I have hacked it an awful lot so I would like someone to rewrite it from the ground up so it’s fast, agile & responsive.
If that sounds like something you can do – get in touch.
As I complete the site audit I’m sure some other ideas will spring up along the way, either way the blog will be much better than it is right now.
If you have any ideas then please let me know. A few on the list have come directly from readers!
About 10 months ago I started to tease people with a free piece of software in the income reports.
This all started by me trying to automate a manual process, which turned into a product I could give away to my readers.
Which then needed a squeeze page, which needed a video, then the software needed to be upgradable & a bunch of other stuff.
Along with pushing the blog forward & creating content this has dragged out an awful lot.
So I know I suck and it’s taken a whole lot longer than anticipated but all the pieces of the puzzle are now done!
AND I’ve nearly finished putting all the pieces together.
Trust me the wait will be worth it – you will have a robust reliable piece of SEO software that will stand the test of time.
It takes one of the most aged SEO tactics that has survived 15 years of updates & automates it.
I could easily sell it for $97 a pop but I’m just going to give ya’ll for free! It’s what I do.
I will take $100 and show you how to build a business online from the ground up.
I get lots of tutorial requests for very specific tutorials focusing on different parts of the internet marketing puzzle.
So instead of creating tutorials about individual pieces of the puzzle – I’m just going to create the entire puzzle step by step over my shoulder.
I will publish a highly detailed video tutorial every week documenting everything I’ve done that week and everything I intend to do the following week.
You will be able to create your own site and follow along week by week.
One of the main pieces of feedback I get is you guys want more content, more often.
After reading this post I hope you can see why that is a problem.
But every problem has a solution so I’m going to explore new types of media & ways I can deliver content.
I’ve already got a good idea of how I’ll do that – whether its technically possible or not is a different question.
When I started writing this post I wanted to give people all of the information & knowledge they need to succeed online or improve their current position.
So I’m hoping the 30 hours I have put into this post over the weekend will help you in some way!
Looking back it’s been a crazy year and the next year is looking to be just as crazy if all goes to plan ^^
I would like to personally thank every single reader that has helped to support the blog from day 1 – without you guys I wouldn’t be writing this post, so THANK YOU!
If you want to say thanks & help me out, then I only ask one thing.
Please share this post with others. On forums, on your blog, with your email list – anywhere & everywhere you can post it =D
If it helped you – it will help others, share the love folks!