(Please note that this post was written in February 2011, so while some of the information is dated, a lot of it is not. I recommend you read the article and then read the more updated articles.)
Two years ago I sat on this exact black, office chair. I was doing something I no longer liked, and I dreaded every hour of it.
I was playing online poker, and I craved to do something else.
I had the desire to write, but I didn’t believe in myself, and the idea of continuing with my website education hadn’t occurred to me yet.
It all started back in 2007, when I signed up for SBI (or sitesell) and created my first website. I worked hard, and I hoped for the best, but it didn’t turn out well.
It wasn’t until one day, sitting on this black office chair of mine, I started my second SBI site. I got serious about following the instructions.
I learned how to really find a niche, the right keywords, and make sure it had a good chance of being profitable.
It’s 2011 and I cannot do anything but look in the rearview mirror with my eyes wide-open and my jaw hanging loose, because in 2010 I did what I loved, and I made $46,305.38.
Now, that number is probably a little bit higher in reality, but it’s still very accurate. This is gross income, so before expenses and taxes.
My goal is not to brag here, but to show you that this is possible. It takes work, and it took me several years but I got there.
Setting the Record Straight
I’m sure you’re eager to get started, but before you read further, I just want to make something clear.
Most of the income that I made in 2010 did not come from this blog. In fact, this blog contributed a very small amount to the overall pie (a bit over 10% if I remember correctly).
That will most likely change in the future because right now I’m not concerned about aggressively monetizing Wake Up Cloud.
I will go through the breakdown of each of my income streams later in this article, but for now, just keep that in mind as you read and enjoy the content.
I’ve never been someone who’ve said that you have to blog about making money. In fact, the Wake Up Cloud is the only website/blog that even comes close to that topic.
Luck Vs. Hard Work
“You’re lucky to have the talent for poker” was something I heard frequently in the five years I was a professional online poker player.
And it has just kept going as I’ve built up my online income through websites and blogs. It seems like a perfectly plausible explanation for why I can do this, but you can’t, right?
I feel a bit sad whenever someone tells me I’m lucky, because I know the truth, but I also know that they won’t believe anything I have to say. It is something each one of us has to discover.
It’s an excuse that lets you dwell in mediocrity. Maybe you’re not good enough to do this. Perhaps you should just stay at your 9-to-5 job, because that’s where you belong.
That’s bullshit. It’s just an excuse. It’s a figment of your imagination.
That is something you create, and if you choose to believe it, then that’s cool, but most people want something better, and I think you do too.
I worked hard to learn poker, and I’ve wasted many hours and over $8,000 learning how to make money online.
Ever since I was 18, I’ve gone after what I was passionate about. At one point I was passionate about poker. Now I am passionate about websites, blogging, and writing.
It fascinates me, it energizes me, and it brings joy to my life.
This positive energy keeps me going when the going gets rough.
How I Reached This Point
After my first failed SBI website in 2007, I came back with a vengeance in 2009 after receiving some feedback in the SBI forums.
I wanted to make this work, and I was determined to succeed. I knew others were doing this, so I knew I could do it too.
There had to be a way.
And there was.
There always is for those willing to go the extra mile.
I decided to start another website after I received the death sentence on my first website. I got in touch with a mentor who nudged me in the right direction, and I read the instructions without getting distracted by the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side thinking.
I soon realized that my first website was a learning experience. It was where I honed my chops. I learned how I failed and what I had to change.
My First Successful Niche Website
Building a money-making website is simple, but it’s all too easy to get distracted, overwhelmed, and frustrated, which will happen if you’re new.
It’s easy for me to say that it’s simple, because I have been through the process multiple times, and I have the experience of knowing what works in real life.
But truth of the matters is that beginners tend to overcomplicate everything. It can feel uncomfortable committing yourself to a “system” and following the instructions.
However, that is the easiest way to success when you’re new at something. I’ve applied this way of thinking in many different fields, and it works.
It allows your mind to release the thought of trying to find something better, and it gives you the opportunity to focus on taking massive action.
It gives you the space to ask “what do I do now?”
And that is how progress is made.
How I Found A Profitable Niche
Since becoming a member of SBI in 2007, I’ve used their keyword tool almost exclusively because of its sheer simplicity.
You can also use the free Google Keyword Planner if you don’t have SBI, or don’t like their tool.
I started by thinking about what topics I was interested in. Where was my passion? What would I want to write about for years to come?
This doesn’t have to be your absolute passion, as long as it is something that you’re okay writing about the topic.
From there on I drilled down and looked at specific niches. I looked at the keywords, the profitability, and the opportunities that existed.
I like to aim for at least 100 good keywords in any niche before I start. I enjoy building large websites instead of smaller ones.
What I mean by good keywords is high demand, low competition, and high profitability.
My Keyword Blueprint Process
Once I had a niche and my keywords, I created a site blueprint out of those keywords, organizing them into a three tiered structure, like this (using muscle building as an example):
So I knew what I was going to write and where it was supposed to go. This is a fantastic way to build websites, and if you’re building a normal website, then this is the way to go.
However, if you’re building a blog, you can be a bit looser as to how you do this, but the important parts are the links and how they flow throughout your blog.
How I Wrote Content
Writing an article around a keyword is not just about filling the page with text, at least not for me.
I think about what the person using that keyword is thinking about. I consider what they’re searching for, what would make them happy, and how I can over-deliver.
That is what builds loyal readers.
Let’s say someone is searching for “fastest way to build muscle.”
That’s a pretty easy one, isn’t it?
They’re looking for a shortcut to building muscle, which means you should focus on one thing and one thing only, which in this case would be diet.
Everyone who knows how to build muscle knows that a well-chiseled body is built in the kitchen. Sure you need to lift stuff, but it is secondary to the nutrition.
All in all, the keywords serve as a signpost pointing me in the right direction. I probably won’t nail every keyword with every visitor, but that’s okay.
How I Acquired Links
When I have about 30-50 articles up, I start building links.
The reason I wait until I have 30-50 pages of content up is because I do not want people to come to my site and think that it’s still under construction.
With a few articles up, it looks like a solid site that’s ready to roll and serve. As I build links, I also keep adding more and more content.
k like a solid site that’s ready to roll. As I build links, I also keep writing content.
The links I start with are:
- Paid directory links (3-5 strongest directories)
- Article marketing (5-10 top article directories)
- Web 2.0 (HubPages, Squidoo etc…)
- Commenting (just here and there)
- Guest posts (this is where the gold is at)
- YouTube (if you’re into making videos)
- Ask (simple, boring, yet oddly powerful)
When you build links, remember to use proper anchor text when you link back to your site. This is what tells Google what your site is all about.
If your site is about building muscle, and your keyword is “building muscle”, make sure you use it with slight variations.
Why slight variations?
Because it’s natural, and it will happen in time as you start getting more and more links naturally, but until then, vary your anchor text a bit.
A good measure to go by is 80% building muscle and 20% variations, such as how to build muscle, gaining muscle, and so on.
How I Started Making Money
As I wrote more content, and got more links: more and more people found my site, which lead to more links and even more traffic.
I’ve received many questions about how long it takes to build a money-making website, and I honestly can’t answer that.
It depends on the niche and keywords you choose, and how hard you work.
You can conquer a competitive niche, but it will take more time than if you went after an easier-to-win niche. If you’re passionate, it shouldn’t be a problem, unless you go into one of the impossible markets (like poker, gambling, supplements).
Once I had my content in place, and I’d started building links, I didn’t monetize right away. I like to wait until I have somewhere between 200-500 visitors per day, because anything earlier won’t make me much and it will be harder to get links.
Once I reached that threshold, I put up AdSense, and I went through affiliate offers and found something that I could put my reputation behind.
I worked on this website full-time for 3-4 months in early 2009. I then left it on its own and it grew from a humble 500 visitors a day to over 2,500 at the moment of writing this. It earns close to $2,000/month and keeps on earning.
That’s the magic of doing things right. Many bloggers shun SEO, but it’s a way to get traffic coming to your website so you don’t become a slave to posting forever.
I won’t reveal what site this is publicly, so don’t ask.
Once my niche site was making money and growing on its own, I became interested in article marketing.
I had the taste of success in my mouth.
I knew what I needed to do. I knew the power of massive action coupled with a powerful program.
I bumped into a testimonial from a guy in England who went from living in a caravan and being dead-broke to earning thousands each month in passive income.
I think of myself as an open-minded skeptic, so I was weary of if this was true, but since this testimonial was on a third-party newsletter and from someone who had no affiliation with the training program itself, I was intrigued.
So I thought why not.
I joined, the program looked good, so I decided to commit 100% and start taking massive action. I followed the instructions and I wrote up to 20 articles a day.
The program went out on writing articles for mainly EzineArticles, sending that traffic to a single-page presell that then linked to the affiliate program we were promoting.
I liked the sheer simplicity of it. I got my first sale within a week because I wrote so much, and once I started making a few hundred dollars a month, I started reinvest that money into writers.
In May of 2010 I stopped writing, because I had other projects I wanted to work on, and my income has grown over 50% since then, because the company I am promoting has high-quality products and runs a lifetime affiliate program.
If you want to learn more about this, you may be interested in reading how my girlfriend makes $300/month writing articles.
Reviving My “Unsuccessful” Website
After years of leaving my first SBI site in the dust, I realized that I could sell direct advertising on it.
This meant getting in touch with companies that were interested in increasing their exposure. Luckily, most of them found me once I put up a contact form.
Since then, I’ve made a solid few hundred dollars a month from it. It’s nothing big, but it helps keep the site alive and make me a small income.
I write, a lot.
I’m not going to turn down a freelance writing gig (if it pays enough), since I write all day long anyway.
I didn’t make a lot of money writing for others this year, but it definitely showed me that it’s possible to make a living writing on a per article basis if you want to.
In fact, it’s a great way to get started online, because you can literally get a solid part-time income up and running almost overnight.
However, like with anything else, it takes work to get to higher rates, so don’t go dreaming about quick riches, okay? 😉
Creating My Own Products and Consulting
And finally, with the Wake Up Cloud, I started creating my own products and offering mentoring.
I had never done that before, because it scared the living daylights out of me, but I now see that it’s an extremely valuable skill to have.
Creating your own products and services is an amazing way to monetize niche websites, and it’s something most people don’t have the guts to do.
There’s always that fear there of “am I good enough?” and “will anyone buy this?”
But they are largely unfounded, and they can be overcome if you build up a readership and ask them what their problems are.
Income Breakdown for 2010
Now that we’ve gone through how I got here, I’m sure you’re eager to find out what the income breakdown for 2010 looks like.
I was surprised to see the results myself.
In 2011, I’m sure my affiliate marketing income will keep growing, but I wouldn’t discount Adsense, as it works well in many niches.
Here we go:
- Google AdSense: $11,127.61
- Affiliate: $25,380.07
- Advertising: $6,171.16
- Own Products+Consulting: $2,726.21
- Freelance Writing: $900.33
- Total Gross Income: $46,305.38
The Truth About Earning Money Online (Without Selling Your Soul)
With each passing day, I become more and more humble, because creating anything online – or offline – takes a lot of time, and it excites me in a way, because it completely takes the pressure off.
I know that creating a successful online business isn’t going to happen fast. It might, but it probably won’t. You will have to spend at least a year doing this, probably more, and you have to love or at least like what you’re doing.
There will be obstacles thrown at you, and you will have to overcome them.
You will feel like you cannot go another day. You will feel angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, and you will feel like there is no hope.
But there is, and it’s usually just around the corner.
Image by Linus