As far as motivation and potential future success goes, you’re actually in a great spot…
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- You’re young. Plenty of time, relatively little responsibility. Certain above average understanding of technology, as well as societal trends.
- You’re asking for advice. Many people have too big an ego to ask for advice; they think they know all the answers already. The truth is, they just speculate. Successful people are humble and frequently inquire about what they do not know.
- You feel desperate. History has shown people show the most progress when they have nothing to lose. Sun Tzu consistently warns of challenging a desperate foe in The Art of War, advising that you always leave them a way out. “If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve.” If you aren’t feeling desperate, it is often good to motivate yourself with make-shift desperation like bets with friends. In your case, you’re already feeling pressure. That’s good; don’t fold.
What I would do…
I too am 22, and since the age of 14, I have started many different entrepreneurial projects. Some went great, many failed or lacked follow-thru. These days I’m doing pretty well for myself and would like to share with you the easiest, most profitable, most fulfilling business model I have pursued yet…
Making Money Online Through Blogging.
Nothing new. It’s been beaten to death quite frankly. But, there’s a ton of misinformation out there about how and why you should be blogging. I first tried to start blogging back when I was 19. I followed the standard prescription: build a WordPress site and try to make content rank well in search engines (SEO).
It was super boring, time consuming, and I never made any money. It didn’t help that my only intention was to make money; my content was quite inauthentic.
A year ago, I started blogging again, accidentally. No intentions of making any money, but it’s now the best paying activity I do, hourly-rate-wise, and the most fulfilling.
I had just discovered Quora, and read so many great answers from so many wonderful people. I figured I should give back, so I started answering some questions about my entrepreneurial experience, specifically in e-commerce, as well as some finance questions (my major).
I remember the first few answers I wrote, my hands and forehead were drenched in sweat. My heart was pumping. Particularly on more ‘honest’ answers about the highs and lows of running businesses. I had written on forums for years, but I knew these answers had the potential to be read by 100x, even 1,000x+ the number of people. I also knew how nasty people could be online.
When would I hit the submit button, the anxiety was particularly intense. I would shut my laptop immediately after, take a deep breath, and walk swiftly to the fridge for some ice water. Later I would edit my answers obsessively (still do, not such a bad habit).
About a month in, one of those answers blew up. Several thousands of views a day, hundreds of upvotes. Many [mostly] very kind comments. I had never felt so appreciated.I kept writing consistently.
That answer was posted on Inc.com, a website I had read for years. I was ecstatic.
Somewhere along the way, I started supplementing my Quora answers with posts on my blog that contained affiliate links. That is, links that paid me a commission when people clicked and purchased the product. Within 30 minutes of doing so, I made one sale. $30 commission.
My heart was racing. I thought, “$30 in 30 minutes? How much will I make the rest of the day?”
But, I did manage to make about $1,000 in the next couple weeks. I also noticed that Quora would reward me with more views for having previous content that people liked, and for answering questions in topics that were followed by more users.
This expanded my reach so much faster than I ever could have with SEO. I realized SEO might be an overrated approach to traffic. It seemed people pushed SEO so heavily because there are so many high-paying SEO affiliate tools out there. Same goes for the discount hosting that I signed up for a few years back.
Discount hosts like BlueHost and SiteGround have been a nightmare for me. (see great hosting for your site). Despite knowing the trouble discount hosts cause, other people would still recommend them because the affiliate commission-to-monthly price ratio is about 25-to-1. $100 commission on a $4/month subscription!
I thought people would be turned off by my affiliate links. I was myself, after some of the things that I bought on others’ recommendations in the past. Plus, I spend a lot of time on reddit, where sponsored content is often seen as the scum of the earth.
I made a point to disclose my affiliate links everywhere I used them, as is required by law, and to strictly promote products and services that were actually good. Products and services that I actually used and enjoyed. Many of those services actually pay me based on the success of my reader. For instance, commissions on advertising agencies that pay a percentage of the user’s spend, which will only be significant if it is driving business for them.
To my surprise, people would actually e-mail me to make sure I received credit for their purchases. They were so thankful for my content, they wanted to make sure I was compensated. What an incredibly positive feedback loop. Plus, many of my readers are really showing me up, performance-wise, which is great to see (and tells me that I am perhaps better at teaching than doing).
For instance, Adam O’Grady started selling some awesome, hand-made, guatemalan headbands at Artisan Habit and made just shy of $1,000 in his first week with his first website ever. Others were profitable off the start just using facebook ads for traffic, without even split testing their ad copy and audiences.
Some readers scored online marketing jobs by telling their story or formed partnerships with awesome people, like Matt Schlenker who partnered with an Optometrist to sell super cool, vintage sunglasses at Rare Sights NYC.
Aside from money, I’ve seen some other major benefits from writing. I’ve gone from the extreme nervousness I described earlier, to loving writing and embracing it as a hobby (I despised writing growing up). It’s been rather therapeutic, too. Plus, I’ve met some amazing people, and had some approach me with incredible opportunities.
It’s amazing what happens when you write about what you love. Opportunities you actually want come to you, as opposed to pushing out resumes to hundreds of places you don’t really care for, and getting little to show for it.
That sounds great, Zach. How can I get started?
I still think Quora is an amazing place to start blogging. Brainstorming content/topics is tough, but on Quora, people tell you exactly what they want to read by asking questions and following them.
Plus, if you don’t feel informed enough to answer a question fully, you can do some research and pass on the info in your own voice. And if you don’t feel comfortable in your ability to write well, you can use tools like Hemingway Editor to write more clearly and concisely. I wasn’t so great to start, but with the it and consistent editing of my answers, I’ve become much better, and continue to grow in that aspect.
Writing on Quora is sufficient for therapeutic aspects, but if you want to grow a legitimate brand for yourself or make money, you need your own separate blog/website.
It strengthens others perceptions of you, gives readers a way to connect, allows you to reconnect with re-targeting ads, and most importantly, monetize.
You see, it is against Quora policy to use affiliate links or ads in your answers. Fortunately, building a blog of your own where you can monetize, is actually quite a simple process. You can have it up and running in about 20–30 minutes, with no previous experience or coding knowledge.
I made a video tutorial specifically for this purpose. Click here to check it out!
Earlier I mentioned that I’ve had really poor experiences with discount hosts. Now I am a huge fan of WPEngine, which I use and recommend. I heard about it from Neil Patel.
It’s very secure (plus they back up your site every 24 hours). It’s also super fast. My site speed tripled when I switched to it. Site speed is super important for sales and credibility. And lastly, they have WordPress experts for support on standby 24/7, which I utilize a lot because I’m not a technical guy.
Cool. What can I sell?
To make any money, you need to have something to sell. AdSense and other display ads simply don’t drive significant revenue (this one is better). With the write strategy, you can make a very healthy, passive living, on less than 10,000 reads a month.
I’ve touched on affiliate marketing a lot in this answer, and I would absolutely recommend selling affiliate products/services to start. Be careful what you recommend. I would venture to say that most affiliate products and services are pure trash. And honestly, a lot of them still sell. But in most cases, no one will buy from you again.
When you introduce readers to great products and services, they will come back for more recommendations and tell their friends. The lifetime value of a reader is 10x+ when you recommend good stuff instead of scummy stuff. Plus, it’s just unethical to promote poor products, which should be plenty enough motivation to stay away.
I recently wrote a post with 6 great, high-paying affiliate products you can start selling today. Several pay $100-$200 per sale. They are each in the e-commerce and web hosting niches. I will cover other high paying offerings in the future, but in the meantime you can use these quality ‘affiliate networks’ to find other things to promote. They give you a link, and you put that link in blog posts that you direct people to. Many products and services you already use and love will have affiliate programs.
I like affiliate marketing as a starting point, because you get to sell established products and services, but don’t have to fulfill orders or manage customer relationships. There are affiliate products/services in any and every category, but some niches are more profitable than others.
There are a few more ways to monetize your blog content…
- Sell e-commerce products. I recommend ‘drop shipping’ the products, which requires no upfront investment and you don’t ever have to touch the product yourself. I explain it in this answer.
- Sell informational products. You can create your own premium content to sell to readers, like ebooks or courses. These are great because the gross margin is usually 100%, or close to it.
- Get creative with your advertising. There are many other tools for monetizing your content. I hate using display ads, so I like VigLink, which will take your text and add hyperlink ads and affiliate links, paying you 100% of the earnings. Whatever you choose to sell, be authentic and stick to high quality offerings. (this one is better than Adsense).
That’s great, but how do I get people to visit and buy?
People often struggle with getting eyeballs on their blog, and I think much of that trouble can be attributed to all of the misinformation out there that I mentioned previously. I’ve stayed away from SEO and used a very, very limited amount of paid advertising to attract eyeballs and it has worked really, really well.
I’m going to explain my exact strategy. Go ahead. Steal it.
Here’s the thing: people aren’t nearly as loyal to blogs as they were 5 to 10 years ago. E-mail subscribers and re-targeting ads are some useful remedies to that problem, but ultimately you are really luck if visitors go to more than 2 pages on your website per session on average.
People consume content on the big 3rd party content hubs now. Those include Quora, for one, but also facebook, reddit, Medium, LinkedIn Pulse, SlideShare, Youtube, you name it…
Much like with SEO, each of these sites have algorithms that decide what content gets seen. Earlier in this article, I briefly mentioned that while writing on Quora, I noticed that answering questions that were tagged with heavily-followed topics almost guaranteed views. This was especially true if other answers of mine had been read, upvoted, shared, and commented on a lot.
I leverage this knowledge to get my content seen for free, and you should too.
The same is true for every other content hub. If you know how the algorithms operate, you can get content noticed. And no one is stopping you from taking your Quora answer and posting it to your blog, then sharing that all over reddit or facebook groups. No one is stopping you from taking your article and turning it into a YouTube video, or vice versa. Taking your Medium post and making it a SlideShare presentation. Leveraging algorithm knowledge on every platform
That’s really all there is to it. Quality content and algorithms. Within that content, you can link to how-to posts on your blog that incorporate affiliate links, reviews that incorporate affiliate links, product lists, etc.
A few other key tools that will maximize your results…
- Collect e-mail subscribers so you can re-engage the most loyal readers. You should use GetResponse or Aweber for that.
- Utilize Google Analytics. Simply install the WordPress plug-in to see what kind of traffic you’re getting, where from, and what type.
- Observe Visitor Behaviour. You can see your visitor engagement with your site and content in real-time by installing this heatmap for free. This will help you increase your users experience and conversion rate.
- Use Perfect Audience to invite previous visitors back from Facebook and other websites. This is my favorite. People usually don’t buy on the first visit. It actually takes 5 exposures on average. so invite them back! You will want to install their plugin right away, so you can target everyone who ever visits.
- Track clicks on every link with http://bit.ly. You will want to know how many clicks a link gets relative to the views, so you can use bit.ly to help you with that.
So, the basic premise is this:
Post great content on third party content hubs like Quora, Youtube, SlideShare, Medium, LinkedIn Pulse. The content you share on such platforms should serve the purpose of gaining the attention and interest of your reader. The better your content, the more interest and attention you will receive.
For more exposure on those answers/posts, play according to the content hub’s algorithm. “What drives eyeballs here?” On Quora, it’s followers, upvotes, shares, comments, but even more so- just how many views the question you’re answering gets. How many views that question gets is a factor of what topics the question is asked under, and how many people follow those topics.
Supplement the engaging content you write on content hubs with cornerstone content on your blog. This is the real meat of the content you give to others; the real value. This is where you add affiliate links. These affiliate links should only link to products or services that (1) supplement and/or enhance your content, and (2) make your readers lives better.
- On (1): It’s not a pushy sales pitch. You’re just recommending something that will help your reader out. A means to their desired ends. James Altucher says the most profitable ‘ends’ to serve are “get paid, get laid, or lose weight.” He’s exactly right, because those are ends in nearly everyone’s lives. But, you can generally make money in any topic.
- On (2): Again, never promote poor products and services. Your reputation is on the line. Plus, introducing someone to something that enhances their life will make them come back for more recommendations and share your content with friends.
That’s truly all there is to it. If you get started, you will undoubtedly get caught up in little knick-knack roadblocks. Little stuff will drive you crazy; you will feel like you can’t move forward.
Best advice I can give: make decisions swiftly and confidently. Don’t stop moving. The little ‘roadblocks’ are simply things you learn from trial & error & success, they rarely impact results significantly. Never sweat them.
Chances are you’ve come up with a reason you can’t do this already. Toss it aside. Successful people understand they go into projects knowing just 5% of available information; yet, they press on regardless. They know from experience the rest will come in due time.
If you really hit it hard, I think you will do really well. Most people will try to talk you out of it. 99%. That’s why we have such a massive wage gap…
Success to you! Any questions- just comment.
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