Matt and I spent the majority of our free time in December setting up the blog and creating content for it.
In January, we promoted the content that we had written with limited success (more on that below).
Here are our stats:
$13.87 – domain name cost and privacy protection
$13.00 – one month of hosting
$16.00 – keyword research tool Keyword Keg for December and January
We encountered several questions during the blog creation process. These were the main ones we grappled with:
- Is it possible to avoid blog promotion entirely and instead try to generate traffic by solely putting out consistent content?? We know people who claim to have had success with this method, like Victor Pride.
- Should we aim to produce only long-form content on a less frequent basis or should we produce short-form posts on a frequent basis?
Our difficulty with promotion (see below) as well as our desire to focus on content creation lead us to ask the first question. Along those lines, Victor Pride, the creator of boldanddetermined.com, really rocked our world as we consider ourselves to be blog artists, not blog marketers.
Regardless, we’ll do whatever we need to do for success, especially if that means serious marketing.
We don’t know the answer to either of these questions yet, but we will update you with what we find as time goes on.
Despite telling ourselves over and over again to dismiss the “if you build it they will come” mentality, we were still disappointed with the overall lack of interest our blog seemed to generate when we launched.
Here’s a list of the promotional outlets we used and their results.
We relied primarily on email outreach using Brian Dean’s Skyscraper technique, along with some other email outreach best practices and achieved a 2% success rate after sending ~150 custom emails.
Why was our conversion rate so low compared to rates like Dean’s at 11% or Patel’s at 5%?
We’re not entirely sure.
But here are our guesses:
- I (Harrison) have noticed that our content isn’t always a perfect substitute for the links/content we are attempting to replace. As a result, I think people are more hesitant to update their post since it might require tweaking the wording of the anchor text instead of a simple hyperlink update. Here’s an example. The current number 1 spot for the search term “how to make money online” is this article: www.savethestudent.org/make-money/10-quick-cash-injections.html. At first glance, our article about ways to make money online seems like the perfect skyscraper substitute for that article. However, many of the links we attempted to replace had anchor text like: “ways college students make money online.” Though our article covers the same content topically, the anchor text and sometimes even the article as a whole aren’t a perfect substitute for our article, given that it doesn’t really take a student focus. This hasn’t just happened with our make money online post. I’ve noticed this for numerous links we’ve tried to poach.
- Neil Patel uses email outreach templates that might be more effective at convincing the recipient to open but they don’t reflect our brand and aren’t templates I feel comfortable using. As such, I expected a lower conversion rate.
We believe that white-hat link building through email outreach provides the greatest ROI in terms of recurring traffic.
However, as you can tell by our limited success, it’s hard to build links when your blog lacks content.
In light of the efforts necessary to craft these emails, we stopped creating content in January and spent all of our time promoting the content already on our blog.
We also applied to guest post for a few industry blogs but haven’t heard anything back from them.
Guest posting, like everything else, is a numbers game where the more places you apply, the more likely you will get the opportunity to be featured.
In total, we applied to guest post in four different web magazines, which isn’t enough given our no-name status.
Moving forward, my guess is that we’ll need to apply to guest post in probably at least 20 publications in order to have success.
Also, we over-estimated our likelihood of success with big name brands and applied exclusively to guest post for major publications like Entrepreneur, Inc, Fast Company, and Forbes.
In hindsight, I think we should have begun applying to guest post for smaller and perhaps more niche publications before attempting to write for the bigger publications.
Quora, GrowthHackers, and Inbound.org
Matt and I have read about and witnessed niche forums driving massive traffic to blogs. But we have yet to duplicate this success.
None of the above mentioned forums have driven much traffic to our blog, with the exception of maybe Growth Hackers.
I think they haven’t sent us much traffic because we aren’t active forum users, and typically the active users are the ones with genuine authority who can drive significant traffic to referring links.
Although we have diligently attempted to add value in all of these platforms, none of them were places we frequently contributed to online until recently.
As such, we don’t have the body of answers or content other “super users” have and our posts can get lost in the shuffle.
Amazingly enough, despite thousands of views on our answers on Quora, not a single visitor from Quora has clicked through to our site.
The extent of our social media marketing has been limited to Facebook because we’re currently prioritizing organic search traffic and backlinks over social traffic.
Matt has been investigating Pinterest more because of the viral potential and strong commercial intent users exhibit on the platform, but we’re currently unsure if our brand appeals to the Pinterest demographic.
Our Plan Moving Forward
As you can see, our marketing tactics are scattered in part because we’re not sure what will work and in part due to a lack of discipline and laziness. It’s hard to come home from work and tackle a new set of problems.
But ultimately, we know that proper marketing will determine our success.
To that end, our biggest strategic change has been to shift our immediate monetization focus and marketing efforts to selling Kindle e-books on Amazon.
Though this might sound like it requires a big change to how we produce content, we actually feel like it’s not far off from what we’re currently doing.
So far, we’ve written several pieces of Skyscraper content, like our 100+ ways to make money online article that’s over 15,000 words long, and shorter-form blog posts like 10 ways to save money and pay off student debt, which clock in at around 2,500 words.
Without too much extra effort, we have fleshed out our 15,000 word post into a legitimate long-form ebook at over 25,000 words.
We figure we can use the shorter form content to promote and provide a preview of longer form content in the form of e-books that we sell.
This will (hopefully) enable us to monetize more quickly than waiting for traffic to increase through increased organic search rankings from backlinks.
The catalyst for this change was us discovering James Altucher’s podcast with Amazon Kindle author S.J. Scott, who makes more than $40,000 per month on kindle sales alone.
For Scott and many other “kindlepreneurs,” Amazon is their sole promotional outlet.
Likewise, we hope to rely largely on Amazon to drive traffic to our site and sales for our e-books.
Unlike Google’s business model, where an increase in organic search rankings doesn’t result in revenue, Amazon has a vested interest in promoting e-books that sell well, since they share in the profit.
So in essence, we plan to enter into a profit-sharing strategy with Amazon where they profit from our content and we receive traffic to our blog, as well as a portion of book profits.
We made this decision because we know that for us, monetization is the only thing that will provide the incentive we need to keep producing content of exceptional quality.
It is our understanding that Amazon e-book marketing efforts are a sprint instead of a marathon.
If you obtain a good number of reviews in the first few weeks of publishing, Amazon will continue the promotion of your book.
This sprint method of promotion appeals to our personalities more than the marathon method of continuous promotion, which ranking in organic search results seems to require.
Despite our slow start, we’re extremely satisfied with our decision to start a blog.
Because a blog/website is such a critical component to any business and having one enables you to pivot easily when necessary.
For instance, all the kindlepreneurs we know (as well as established authors selling physical books) recommend using blogs to cultivate your audience and build email lists (the true money-maker).
Our blog also gives us a level of credibility that many kindle authors don’t have.
So whatever online business you plan to start, consider starting with a blog.
We’re nearly certain you won’t regret it.
We plan to launch our book in February and are excited to update you with the results in next month’s income report.