How we make $20,000 per month blogging business

blogging business

By Tiny love bug

Would you like to make more than $20,000 a month with a blogging business? We have achieved financial freedom in our early thirties by blogging about personal finance.

Having the freedom to work anywhere in the world and being your own boss sounds like a dream come true, right? Many people love the idea of blogging from the comfort of their own home and earning over 6-figures a year online.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

A few years ago, we set out to achieve the goal of financial freedom. I had developed crippling depression, partly from working for an abusive boss. I was working 80 hours a week as a physicist, but barely making ends meet. We were just accumulating more and more debt. I knew something had to change!

We started trading stocks online as a way to make extra money. We signed up for many different stock trading educational services that helped us learn how to trade profitably. We were even able to pay off our student loans with the extra money we made from stock trading.

However, stock trading is an extremely stressful way to make money. We started a blog to talk about our experience with stocks. We started to sell stock trading educational products on our blog and make a few hundred dollars a month on the side.

We also started working on freelance businesses (like proofreading online) and even real-estate investing. We made quite a bit of money doing these side hustles, but we decided that we were most passionate about blogging. We started our blogging career as a part-time side hustle and transitioned to full-time a couple of years ago.

Over the next few years, we were able to grow our blogging business to over $20,000 per month. The goal of this article is to give you some insight into our relatively unusual blogging strategy.

WHY WE FELL IN LOVE WITH BLOGGING

Blogging is one of the best businesses that you can start. Here are some of the advantages of starting a blogging business:

  • The cost of starting a blog is extremely low (less than $100)
  • The earning potential is unlimited
  • You can work from anywhere in the world
  • Spend more time with your family and be your own boss
  • Blogging can make an impact and help other people
  • Potential for passive income

Blogging is the ideal business! However, it is not a get rich quick scheme. You have to be passionate about what you are writing about and put in many months or even years of hard work before you will earn a significant income from your blog.

HOW DO WE MAKE $20,000 A MONTH FROM OUR BLOGGING BUSINESS?

Many people believe that you need to have millions of visitors a month to your blog to make a significant income. But we have less than 50,000 visitors a month to our blogs and still make a great income!

Our blogging strategy is a bit unusual because we don’t use some of the popular blogging tactics, for example:

  • We don’t have an email list
  • We barely have any blog subscribers
  • We don’t sell our own products

So, if you are interested in learning our secrets to earning $20,000 a month from our blogging business then read on!

Affiliate marketing to make money blogging

The first part of our strategy is that we rely on affiliate marketing to generate the majority of our blogging revenue.

When a visitor comes to our website and clicks on a unique tracking link to a product or service, we receive a commission if they purchase anything. We are affiliates for many different companies, but we focus on products that we have had experience with and that we really think will add value to our readers.

Affiliate marketing is WAY more lucrative than other monetization strategies like putting display ads on your site. We focus on selling high-cost services that cost anywhere from $300 to $10,000. You can imagine how quickly our commissions add up when we receive 50% of every sale that is made through our sites!

Selling high-cost products to make $20,000 a month blogging

Many bloggers are intimidated by the idea of selling an expensive product to their audience. This might seem like a difficult thing to do, but if the product offers amazing value, people will invest in it. Selling an expensive product is almost as easy as selling a low-cost one! So why work for $10 per sale when you could make $1000 per sale!?

That being said, we had to overcome the mental hurdles that people would actually spend thousands of dollars based on our recommendation. The thing to remember is that even if you are not inclined to spend $1000 on a stock alerts service, there are many people that are! This is especially true for products that will help the customer to make more money or learn a valuable new skill.

WHAT WE CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING AN EXPENSIVE PRODUCT TO PROMOTE

It is so important when choosing a product to promote that it has a GREAT sales funnel. Selling expensive products online is much easier if the company that you are selling for has a very high-quality funnel.

This is so important because people are unlikely to spend large amounts of money if they are not familiar with the company. The level of trust that has to be built is quite high before they will part with large amounts of money.

A high-quality sales funnel provides a ‘courting’ like process with a potential customer. For example, a funnel starts by offering a high-value freebie to show that the company is legit and helpful. This usually involves the potential customer submitting an email address to get access to the freebie.

The company then follows up with an email marketing sequence that offers attractive discounts, more information and builds a relationship with the potential customer.

We have found it best to let the company that owns the product do this part! They have all the expertise and resources to do the heavy lifting. This reduces our workload and massively increases the products conversion rate.

We actually consider the quality of the sales funnel when selecting a product to promote. We also look at some other criteria:

  1. The first thing that we consider is if the product is ‘life-changing’ for the customer. We only want to promote amazing products.
  2. We want large commissions so the product must sell for more than a few hundred dollars and pay a commission rate of 30% or more. Ideally, we would like to earn $500 or more per sale.
  3. We look for companies that will ‘upsell’ other great products to customers. This will often increase how much we earn per customer that we refer.
  4. A free webinar or masterclass often get customers interested in the products.

We usually invest in the product before we promote it to our audience. This is a good investment because we can genuinely review and discuss the product. We want to be 100% sure that the product is high quality and will actually help our audience with their goal of making more money.

Other considerations include:

  • Popularity and longevity
  • Do we trust the company?

We want to partner with companies that have popular products that are well-established. We put in a lot of effort and money when promoting these expensive products, so we can’t afford a company to go bankrupt or just stop paying us.

Our core strategy for promoting high ticket products

Writing product reviews is one of the best ways to sell higher priced products. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Product reviews are extremely helpful with helping people make up their mind about a product. We try to offer them an exclusive discount (often possible if you ask the company!) to help them to make the purchase. People that spend $5000 on a course will usually do extensive due diligence before purchasing and a big part of that is reading helpful reviews.
  2. Reviews offer social proof. If the review is positive, it can help the reader to make the decision to purchase.
  3. Reviews often rank well in Google which is the highest quality traffic. The reason is that people who find your page from Google search are usually serious buyers or ‘warm leads’. This means that the conversion rate is much higher for these visitors.

Here is a real example of what we do to sell high priced products

We attempt to provide real value and insight into the products that we are recommending. An example of an educational course and service that we promote.

Here is a review post (Kyle Dennis FDA Insider Alerts Review) that we make a lot of money from. It is a post about an expensive ($2,997) stock alerts and educational service run by a millionaire stock trader called Kyle Dennis. We earn 40% commission on every sale and it is an amazing stock alerts service!

We have included a lot of valuable information, including examples of stock trades we made on Kyle’s advice. We show real evidence that the service is high quality and discuss it in detail. We try to provide as many links as possible to helpful resources, especially at the start of the article. If the visitor signs up for the free webinar and later purchases one of Kyle’s services – we get paid the commission! It is a win-win for the customer and for us.

We also have an aggressive exit popup that entices people to signup for a related free webinar that is another affiliate link for us. Many bloggers do not recommend this, but we have found it to massively increase our conversion rate.

Website traffic sources that convert well

We regularly test different social media sites to see which source performs the best for our different affiliate products. We have found that:

  1. Twitter works really well for stock trading services but does not work for much else!
  2. Pinterest traffic converts very well for freelance business courses but not for stock trading courses.
  3. Google traffic performs better than all social media for all products.

It makes a big difference in how much money you can make if you can just get your site seen by your ideal audience. When you have the ideal audience, you don’t need as many visitors as you might think. We make more money with the strategy that we have outlined above than some bloggers with 10 times our traffic.

I hope, you like this article about making money online. To stay up to date. Just like my Facebook Fanpage: The Doan’s Blog. If you want to know, how to get sustainable traffic, read this: What is SEO? My most popular blog article: International money.

How to rank for thousands of keywords

keywords

By She means blogging

Are you looking to create topics that rank for thousands of keywords?

To be able to get organic traffic.

To rank higher on search engines.

To improve your domain authority.

But, how?

You may wonder if there’s an SEO strategy or not.

Well, there’s a lot more into this.

Today, Leanne Wong is going to teach you a process to create topic clusters to rank for thousands of keywords. She is a guru when it comes to SEO so this post has got golden nuggets for anyone who wants an SEO approach.

Guest post

With 3.5 billion searches done everyday, organic search traffic is one of the largest and most valuable traffic sources to grow your blog and business.

Content is the foundation of search engine optimization – articles that serve users’ queries tend to rank better on search results.

But how do you optimize your article for SEO?

By targeting specific keywords?

Not anymore.

To rank in Google today, we have to create contextually rich content.

how to create topic clusters to rank for thousands of keywords, seo strategy, find thousands of keywords

After Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update, it was able to understand the relationship between words and topics.

Google doesn’t just crawl billions of web pages for individual keywords. It’s ranking algorithm is looking for words with related meaning – semantic context.

In this post, I’ll share with you a high-value approach to creating content that’s optimized for search results.

We’ll learn a step-by-step process to create semantically rich content through topic clusters so you can rank for thousands of keywords in your niche.

Using topic clusters, we can create contextually rich content optimized for Google’s semantic search, and rank for thousands of keywords in a single piece of content.

So you no longer have to create individual posts for each target keyword you want to rank for. Instead, you can create one post targeting various sub-topics and keywords in the same topic.

It’s an SEO strategy that optimizes content for semantic search. This shifts the focus on topics instead of keywords to get more blog traffic. I got the idea of topic clusters from Hubspot’s research article and started to simplify the concept further in order to apply it.

HOW DOES SEMANTIC SEARCH WORK?

In layman terms, semantic search is Google’s attempt to understand searcher intent. Google wants to provide users with more accurate results by understanding what they meant when they typed in a search query.

A single query can be searched for in many different variations. You can’t guess it all.

But you can create a huge piece of article that answers every possible question in that topic.

Imagine this:

When Google finds your site, it will crawl and analyze your page content – looking for a thematic relationship within your body content and then evaluate how well it can answer a search query.

The more comprehensive your content is, the more keyword variations and sub-topics you write in that single post will help build that thematic relevance.

Related : SEO-Demystified : How To Improve SEO strategy and Keyword Ranking

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT BLOGGING?

This meant that Google would rank pages that best matched the user’s intent and context, instead of pages that have the highest density of individual keywords.

Content has now shifted from targeting exact-match individual keywords to a focus on topic relevance and semantic context.

The more comprehensive and semantically rich your content is, the more contextually relevant your content is to answer a given search query.

To shift your content focus from keywords to topics, you can use the concept of topic clusters.

Related : The ultimate guide to get organic traffic from Google

WHAT IS A TOPIC CLUSTER?

Refresh: A topic cluster is an SEO strategy that focuses on topics instead of keywords. By optimizing your blog post around a topic, you’re essentially creating contextually rich content.

The concept of topic clusters originated from Hubspot, which used the concept of pillar and cluster pages to organize content.

First, create a pillar page that will cover a big topic comprehensively. Think about it as a gigantic blog post, like an ultimate guide that can umbrella 15-20 mini-topics.

Second, create those 15-20 cluster pages that will each be about 1 mini topic.

Simply put, pillar pages are your ‘trophy’ pages that you want Google to notice. You want to give them the best chance to rank. The topic cluster pages are the cheerleaders that all point to the trophy page.

For example, if you want to own the term, “Pinterest marketing”

create topic clusters for thousands of keywords

Cisco - Service Provider

STEP 1: CREATE BIG TOPICS FOR YOUR PILLAR PAGES

  • Pinterest for business
  • Pinterest analytics
  • Pinterest visual strategy

Big topics are gigantic pieces of content. (e.g, ‘The Ultimate Guide to using Pinterest to grow your business).

This pillar page should be able to answer every possible question when somebody searches for X keyword.

Ask yourself, can you create 15-20 smaller blog posts under that pillar page?

Related: The Pinterest SEO Guide For Bloggers

create topic clusters to find thousands of keywords, find keywords, seo strategy

STEP 2: CREATE AN UMBRELLA OF CLUSTER TOPICS FROM YOUR PILLAR PAGE

Pinterest for business

  • Brand building with pinterest
  • Find client leads with pinterest
  • Email list growth with pinterest

Pinterest analytics

  • Analyze traffic performance
  • Measure pin performance
  • Analytics tools

Pinterest visual strategy

  • Color & font combination
  • Pinterest graphic dimensions
  • Pinterest graphic templates

STEP 3: INTERNALLY LINK ALL CLUSTER TOPICS TO THE PILLAR PAGES

 

how to create topic clusters to find thousands of keywords

The last step touches a bit on technical SEO – internal linking.

All your cluster pages (under same pillar page) will link to that pillar page. This chain of clusters tells search engines your content pages are related to each other.

Related : How to build free high quality backlinks to your blog

How does this help with rankings?

The more internal links a page has, the more link juice it acquires. In the eyes of search engines, the pillar page with tons of link juice via internal links will be considered more important, and that pillar page will perform better on search results.

<<CHECKOUT SEO DEMYSTIFIED COURSE>>

Essentially, by linking all individual topic clusters to your big pillar page, it boosts the strength of that pillar page.

When you have a group of 15-20 cluster pages linking to a pillar page all in the same big topic, this builds a semantic relationship between content pages through links.

Voila!

I hope, you like this article about making money online. To stay up to date. Just like my Facebook Fanpage: The Doan’s Blog. If you want to know, how to get sustainable traffic, read this: What is SEO? My most popular blog article: International money.

Website Flippers: $300K/Month Helping People Buy And Sell Websites

website

By Starter Story

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Gregory Elfrink and I’m the director of marketing with Empire Flippers. We’re a three-time winner of the INC 5,000 award for being one of the fastest growing companies in America and we help people buy and sell online businesses.

In the last few years, we have become the thought leader and one of the largest M&A advisory businesses for digital assets in the sub $10 million range. Though, I am pretty certain we will soon be selling businesses above that $10 million mark as well.

We have brokered over $50 million worth of deals, and since we’re a big believer in transparency we also created a scoreboard that details most of our stats – from the hundreds of thousands of website visitors we get to our pool of potential buyers that grow by the hundreds every month.

empire-flippers-20m-year-helping-people-buy-and-sell-websites

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

We originally started out as an outsourcing company in the Philippines that helped businesses in the USA with various administrative tasks, but when we lost one of our main clients we had to find a way to fill our team’s hours.

If you are committed to systems and process, then failure holds no meaning because it’s simply you learning the systems and processes better.

So, we heard about this whole niche site thing and had our staff start creating micro niche sites monetized with Adsense. If you’re not familiar with the term, niche sites are usually just small sites that are talking about a specific thing. Usually, they’re heavily informational based (Ex: How do you stop snoring?) but can also include product reviews. Most of them are monetized either through Google Adsense or Amazon’s affiliate program, or a mixture of both. We blogged about the whole journey and soon started selling the sites we made.

Though we had a lot of success with this, not all of our sites turned into successes and we had our fair share of failureas well. Overall, we succeeded more than we failed and when we started selling the websites our team was making, we ran into something VERY interesting to us.

A lot of people in our audience who also had sites came to us asking if we could sell THEIR website in exchange for a commission.

We thought… well isn’t that an interesting idea?

Soon we rebranded completely to Empire Flippers and went into the brokering field full time.

As far as me personally, I came on board with the company in 2016. My background is pretty varied but most of my career before Empire Flippers was in the oil fields in Alaska.

However, I’ve always been obsessed with internet marketing and I saw in Empire Flippers something truly exciting – a product that could literally change someone’s life forever whether they ended up buying or selling a business through us.

This is still at the core of my enthusiasm for the company. I’ve seen so many stories, met so many people, whose lives have changed dramatically because of our service. It’s really inspiring.

Take us through the process of getting started and launching.

Our launch was pretty simple in many ways – we started off initially as just a blog. We blogged about building up these micro niche sites for a few months, then we started blogging about how we had sold other peoples niche sites for them. Soon, we added a very rudimentary marketplace to our blog where we would publicly list deals for sell.

This has grown significantly since the initial days. Where before we were a blog that happened to have a marketplace, we are definitely more in the category of a marketplace that happens to have a blog.

Initially, all of our promotion was pure content. That remains true up to today. The majority of our leads still comes through organic traffic, and our audience loves sharing our empirical research and case studies we produce based off real data in the marketplace.

Our business model’s core became connecting people with an online business they wanted to sell with people that wanted to buy an online business. When people submit their business with us, we charge them a $297 first time listing fee.

This is really just to weed out potential tire kickers, but it also covers some of the manhours that goes into vetting the businesses as we make sure every business on our marketplace really is earning the money and the traffic the seller states it does. Once the business is live on our marketplace, we start marketing that business and our team of business analysts begin negotiating with potential buyers. It is only after the business is successfully sold that we get cut of the sales price of that business.

That commission cut ranges from 8% to 15% depending on the size of the business, and again we only take that if the business is successfully sold. We’re pretty buyer-centric despite often giving sellers the best price possible for their business.

We have an entire department devoted to migrating a business over from the seller to the buyer, and we include a revenue verification period for the buyer so the buyer can confirm everything is as stated by the seller. As far as I know, we’re the only broker that offers so many safety nets for both the seller and the buyer to make sure everyone is getting what they want.

Our secret weapon – transparency

It’s helpful that other brokers are often secretive with their actual numbers, so one way our promotion has become effective is just how transparent we are. People find it refreshing and they can relate to you better when you’re sharing both your success and failures and just the reality of the situation instead of always trying to sell them on something.

As far as financing goes, we’re entirely self-funded. We’ve looked at the possibility of taking on outside money but turned away from the idea. While we could grow much faster (potentially) with that capital, we like the fact that we’re the captains of our own ship at the end of the day.

While we want to become the biggest and the best, we still also want to be building a business that represents us and our values. A big part of that value system is being able to live a life by design rather than forced into doing things because you have to meet shareholder expectations or other similar concepts.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

The most important aspect of retaining our customers and really our brand evangelists has always been being able to listen to feedback. Sometimes that feedback is painful to hear. You hear about good friends selling their business with someone else and you get it, they had a better opportunity to do it with someone else than us.

Yet, it is exactly that kind of feedback that ultimately makes us better. We are always tweaking the way we work to make sure that everyone feels like the best deal they’re going to get is with us.

My best advice is you shouldn’t care if you fail and you shouldn’t care if you succeed. The only thing that matters is you simply do.

Over the years, this has become truer and truer. We’re not perfect, but we often can get the best price and the most buyers looking at a deal than anyone else.

When it comes to marketing, much of our marketing remains the same: content. We published case studies, do polished testimonial videos, success stories with our buyers and create original research on various business models.

While we produce a lot of content for SEO, a lot of our content is also middle of funnel content for people that are already aware of what we do. This is something most content marketers just don’t do, but it can be incredibly powerful.

A good example of this power is the blog post we wrote called Winning the Wire Race. This blog post was written because people wanting to buy businesses would send in the wire to us but then not get the business because someone else’s bank wire would hit our account first. Obviously, the other buyers that sent in the wire didn’t like this.

We used to joke about the wire race internally, but then I created this blog post that explained how the wire race works and how buyers can leave credit on file with us by wiring us money before they find a business they want to buy. That way when they do find a business, they can instantly acquire that asset without worrying about the wire race.

Now, no one is searching for how to win the wire race on Google, or if they are than they are most likely not googling for what we’re talking about.

empire-flippers-20m-year-helping-people-buy-and-sell-websites

As you can see below, middle of funnel content does not produce a lot of pageviews.

But it also not really supposed to do that.

It exists purely to move people along the buyer’s journey and into your funnel on a deeper level by providing “inside knowledge”.

You can see our analytics on this post here:

empire-flippers-20m-year-helping-people-buy-and-sell-websites

A little over 1,000 page views since we published it and placed it into our marketing automation has led to some of our most voracious buyers leaving money on file with us and buying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of assets from us.

That is why we’re so passionate about content. It’s a long game for sure, but it’s a long game that just plain works and can you set you completely apart from the competition.

While we’ve remained closely tied to our blog as the main gateway for this, we are starting to expand into other powerful media channels like Youtube so we can expand our content bases to audiences that prefer other types of media, such as video.

We’re also working on a much more robust email automation funnel that will help people personalize their entrepreneur’s journey regardless of where they are or what kind of business they’re working on.

While we do everything you might expect such as paid ads, conferences, webinars etc., it is still content that remains our strength. In fact, content fuels every aspect of all our marketing whether it’s organic, a paid ad, or a conference sponsorship.

I think one mistake people make often when it comes to being content marketing focused is they focus too much on the SEO style content. While SEO is great for getting new eyes on your products, it is not the end all be all of the content.

Content exists at every stage in the marketing funnel. What I find is most content marketers have almost zero content speaking to their leads that are in the middle and bottom of the funnel of their buyer’s journey.

If you can focus on this section the most with your content, you’ll often get the best bang for your buck. It is this kind of “insider knowledge” that people crave and is the reason why they’ll join your newsletter in the first place.

When I first came on board, we didn’t have an editorial calendar at all. This was the first thing we changed when I was still the content manager. Initially, we did two blog posts per week, every week and kept that up for a little over a year.

Initially, I would just use Ahrefs.com to analyze competitor websites and “shoulder niche” websites. A shoulder niche website is just a website that talks about something that is very similar to what your business is talking about, and this can open up the floodgates of potential SEO traffic that your competitors aren’t going after.

An example of this would be me putting a website like Moz.com into Ahrefs. Usually, you’ll want to go after a shoulder niche website that has a similar or lesser domain rating (DR) than you in hopes to outranking them. Moz, in general, is an SEO SaaS tool but they also talk a ton about internet marketing in general. That is the content crossover that both of our businesses share. So I would look through Moz’s Ahrefs data and see what kind of keywords could I possibly turn into an article for the Empire Flipper’s blog.

You can Moz’s overall stats here:

empire-flippers-20m-year-helping-people-buy-and-sell-websites

And here is ours at EmpireFlippers.com:

empire-flippers-20m-year-helping-people-buy-and-sell-websites

One day we’ll hit the legendary DR of 90+! 🙂

There is likely a plethora of websites in your niche or slightly broader than your niche that talks about similar topics that your audience would love as well. Plus, if you aim your SEO efforts at going after keywords that are ranking on a lower DR website than yours, then there is a good chance you’ll eventually outrank them with some SEO efforts and start reaping the benefits of that keyword’s traffic.

If you want to make content a big focus like us, then here are some of the best kind of topics we have done that has worked well for us:

  • Controversial topics specific to your industry (Example: Our post on private blog networks)
  • “Breaking news” articles, which helps you feel on the bleeding edge of the industry for your audience. (Example: When Amazon cut their affiliate commissions)
  • Data-driven studies using your own original research (Example: A blog post we did on people selling Amazon FBA businesses using real sales data from our marketplace)
  • And of course… case studies of people that have used your product and created an interesting story because of using your product.

Right now, we’re working on making a content production system so we can produce even MORE high-quality content. For now, until we get the system done, we’re keeping to a blog post every two weeks.

The only reason why we have pushed our editorial back so long is it gives us time to write more in-depth pieces, plus we have so much content now that we are working on updating every piece and implementing them throughout our marketing funnel.

Ideally, in the future, we’ll have been producing enough high-quality content about buying and selling online businesses to rival any media company out there.

My best advice is to consider your company as a media company. It doesn’t matter if you’re a local plumber, a furniture store owner, or a SaaS founder. Almost every niche can benefit from having a media mindset with their content marketing.

In my opinion, content is the future of marketing and that future is being laid down right now. It is the one kind of marketing you can do effectively that even the most well-funded competitor will struggle to just “throw money at” and usurp your position.

What’s the business model and how you do make money?

We’re an online business broker, specializing specifically in online businesses. What this means is if you have an affiliate site, an ecommerce store or a SaaS business that you want to sell, you can come to us and we will help you find a buyer or investor to take over the business.

Our business model as a broker means we will help sellers build out respectable Profit & Loss (P&L) statements, help them get all of their documentation in order and ultimately market their business for sale.

We handle everything from helping both the seller and buyer on negotiations, to actually migrating the business over to the new owner. As far as I’m aware, we’re the only broker that has a consistent vetting and migration department. While other brokers will do a one-off vetting for an influential seller, we vet all of the businesses that come to our marketplace to make sure they’re legitimate opportunities that are making the money the seller says they’re making.

Our average traffic to our site sits between 80,000-120,000 visitors per month. We have seen way bigger spikes than this though, like when we got onto the front page of Reddit for an AMA we did.

We usually have between 80-100+ businesses live on our marketplace at any given time (89 at the time of this writing), and we’ve sold just under a 1,000 businesses at 949. With over $61 million of businesses sold and a buyer pool of 105,000+ buyers, we’re the largest curated marketplace in the world.

This is all in alignment with our big vision to become the #1 place for helping people buy and sell online businesses.

Our operations have grown from a small five-man team to having full blown departments and department heads, including sub-departments. Right now our departments are:

  • Sales
  • Operations (Vetting, Customer Service, Migrations)
  • Marketing
  • Engineering
  • HR

Considering we grew so fast into a 50+ person company, our plans for 2019 is going to be focused on increasing our process and efficiency. When a company grows so fast, it is not uncommon for its entire dynamic to change. It really is like reinventing yourself over and over.

So, we’re going to be making our processes even better and our customers even happier as we create better workflows.

There are a couple BIG things we’re planning which will likely happen at the end of 2019 or early 2020, but…. I can’t exactly say what those are just yet 🙂

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Personally, as an employee and someone that hangs out with entrepreneurs day in and day out, I have found one thing the most surprising and helpful to me.

You know all those books about business that you read that always say the same thing about how having a vision statement and a core values document is important?

I used to think this was just some nice feel-good fluff years ago. But as your company grows bigger, even as your department gets bigger and more complicated, I realize more and more just how VALUABLE these concepts really are.

If you are ever going to build systems in your business that work whether you’re there or not, that means you also need to bake into the system the ability to make decisions. Sometimes, the system is going to need to make really hard decisions where there is not any data on what the system should or shouldn’t do. Even if you tried obsessively to be present for all these decisions, there is just no way you can be once you get big enough.

That means you need to rely on your team making decisions from the right “operating system”.

That operating system is your mission, core values, and vision statement. It should be bred throughout your culture whether it is the entry-level worker or the VP of your company.

It gives them a valuable document of principles to base their decisions from and is invaluable to you as a founder.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

At the marketing department at Empire Flippers, my favorite three tools are:

Hubspot Enterprise

Marketing automation and sales CRM in one, having all of our tools live in the same place is incredibly effective for us gathering correct data. Something that is quite a complicated thing for us since we’re a marketplace dealing with both buyers and sellers as our customers.

Monday.com (project management software)

Marketing is filled with endless projects, so it is important to have something that can truly organize everything. I’ve looked at Asana and other tools but I just never could get behind them. Monday is super flexible, great UI and is geared as a project management tool for creatives like a marketing team.

Ahrefs.com (competitor analysis tool)

While we don’t use this constantly, at the start of an SEO campaign it is a fantastic tool to do research on your competitors. It also has a lot of great features they’ve added over the years that replaces several other tools. Similar to Hubspot, I prefer tools that have multiple tools all in one to reduce the learning curve and keep things simple.

While not a marketing tool, I think there is a system of goal setting that is important for companies as they mature. This applies mainly if you have a sales department.

Rather than having marketing project goals, look to bind sales and marketing goals together. If sales need to hit a certain revenue goal, break down that revenue goal into how that looks like from a lead perspective. Now your marketing team has a real tangible numerical goal to hit.

This model used by many companies, including Hubspot and is called MQLs or Marketing Qualified Leads. We’re still new at testing this model out, but so far it has given us something to really shoot for and aligns marketing and sales together more.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

My favorite podcasts are not actually business podcasts, at least not in the normal respects. I love Freakonomics by Steve Dubner and Making Sense by Sam Harris (formerly called Waking Up). I think both of these podcasts often analyze things we take for granted in a critical fashion that makes you think. It opens up all kinds of doors for creativity and just in general thinking deeper about the world.

For the same reasons as above, I also used to read the Wait But Why blog religiously when he was posting more consistently.

As far as helpful business books, I still love the classics like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The first one is great for the inspiration and motivation and the second one is a pragmatic way to build out your Rolodex.

At the end of the day, I think wealth is truly measured in the relationships you keep rather than your bank account. That makes Dale’s book one of my favorite reads and I’ll read it every couple years again to refresh myself.

I would also recommend The Richest Man in Babylon as a pragmatic view on personal finance, and most things related to Stoic philosophy (Marcus Aurelius, Seneca etc.)

These books are very much principles first rather than tactics.

There are tons of awesome business books on tactics, but they become outdated. If you study the core principles of things, then you can apply those principles to the ever-changing global marketplace.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

My best advice is you shouldn’t care if you fail and you shouldn’t care if you succeed. The only thing that matters is you simply do. Fall in love not with the product or the niche, but in love with the systems and the processes.

If you are committed to learning the systems and processes, success is an inevitability for most of us. Likewise, if you are committed to the process, then failure holds no meaning because it’s simply you learning the systems better.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Right now we’re not looking to hire in 2019. This could change but it is unlikely. We want to systemize our departments and workflows better before bringing on more people.

However, there is a good chance we’ll be hiring a content manager for the marketing team in early 2020.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can learn more about us at EmpireFlippers.com.

You can stay updated on most of what we’re up to at our blog EmpireFlippers.com/blog

And if you want practical business insights and fantastic interviews with other amazing entrepreneurs, check out the Empire Flippers Podcast on the podcast platform of your choice.

Justin Cooke,   Founder of Empire Flippers

Want to start your own business?

Hey! 👋I’m Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.

We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help others get started.

If you liked this story, join our mailing list for new interviews every Tuesday.

Interested in sharing your own story? Shoot me an email!

Pat Walls,   Founder of Starter Story

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This woman earns $13,000 a month writing YouTube jingles on Fiverr


freelancer

By Business Insider

SarahFiverr freelancer Sarah Hughes.

  • Fiverr, the freelancer marketplace, has opened an office in the UK and is hiring marketing staff as part of an international expansion push.
  • CEO Micha Kaufman won’t comment on rumours that Fiverr is looking to float, but the firm has bulked out its finance and accounting teams in the last year.
  • Business Insider spoke to one British freelancer on Fiverr who currently makes $13,000 a month writing and selling original jingles and tunes.
  • The company has raised $111 million to date.

Even the most talented musicians struggle to turn their skills into a regular income, but 28-year-old Sarah Hughes has already bought her own house and paid for a wedding in the last year.

Hughes, like most of us, works between the hours of 9am to 5pm every weekday. But unlike the average commuter she also takes time out of her day to potter around the house, do chores, meet friends, or go shopping. She never works after 5pm, or on weekends.

And she makes $13,000 a month, before tax, or about ten times higher than the UK national average.

Hughes is a freelancer on Fiverr, a marketplace where anyone can buy freelance services for as little as $5.

She has been using the platform since 2013 and charges up to $300 a time to create original jingles. She can play the ukulele and sing but, she says, her real talent is with Apple’s recording software, Logic Pro X.

Her Fiverr page advertises original ballads for Valentine’s Day, voiceover work, and nursery rhymes. More recently, she told Business Insider, there’s been a lot of demand from YouTube creators who want cutesy backing music for videos designed to entertain kids.

Without Fiverr, Hughes said, her finances „wouldn’t be good.“

„I got married in November, and just exchanged on a house,“ she told Business Insider. „We’ve saved up for huge things.“

SarahHughes gets demand from kid-focused YouTubers asking for original backing tunes and jingles.Sarah Hughes

Hughes isn’t the only person to make decent money through Fiverr. One US dad coined $1 million and got himself out of debt doing voiceover work.

Fiverr is a marketplace for freelancer to sell their wares, and has been around since 2010.

While Fiverr has strong associations with that $5 price point, popular freelancers like Hughes can charge considerably more for their services and after winning loyal customers and good reviews.

The company has raised $111 million to date and, according to Bloomberg, is mulling a public float at a valuation of around $800 million.

Fiverr may be worth almost $1 billion

Chief executive Misha Kaufman says there has been 50 million transactions in total on the platform, although he wouldn’t share details of revenue, user numbers or active sellers.

He wouldn’t comment on the possibility of a float either, saying it’s „just a rumour.“ Still, LinkedIn postings analysed by Business Insider show that Fiverr has bulked out its finance and accounting teams with at least three new hires in 2018, suggesting the firm may well be prepping for an IPO.

This is Kaufman’s fourth company, he told Business Insider. His previous startups included encryption software firm Keynesis and user ratings service Spotback.com.

„What really drove me to start this company was that I’ve been an entrepreneur for many years, and I’ve worked with a lot of freelancers,“ Kaufman said. „I’ve worked a lot with freelancers, and that usually involves a lot of friction. The way most freelancers‘ work is done to this day is very old-fashioned. You usually get your freelancer through references, then you get in touch, meet in coffee shops, figure out if you want to work together, then there’s all the contracting that has to take place.“

The process, Kaufman said, is highly inefficient, even as the number of freelancers is set to rise. According to Morgan Stanley, freelancers represent about a third of the US workforce.

„What we wanted to do was increase the efficiency of this market,“ Kaufman said, likening Fiverr to Airbnb and Uber, and other big marketplace companies. „We make purchasing a service online as easy as buying a product on Amazon.“

Fiverr made negative headlines after PewDiePie hired freelance workers to hold up a sign saying ‚Death to all Jews‘

PewdiepiePewDiePie hired two Indian freelancers through Fiverr to hold up an offensive sign, earning instant blowback.YouTube

Buying another human’s skills „frictionlessly“ has some drawbacks, as the company discovered in 2017.

Felix Kjellberg, the Swedish YouTube star better known as PewDiePie, hired a couple of Indian comedians through Fiverr to hold up a sign that read: „Death to all Jews.“ The two comics, who call themselves Fiverr Funny Guys, have been banned from the service since, and Kjellberg was widely criticised for the anti-Semitic stunt.

Kaufman is stoic. „Everybody needs to remember Fiverr is a marketplace, it offers services that are offered by people,“ he said. „It’s user-generated content. You might come across things you find offensive or inappropriate. Much like YouTube, we give you the option to report these things and we have a zero-tolerance policy.

„As much as we put technology and marketplace integrity in place, it’s the internet, you’re never going to field everything 100%. That’s why we encourage our community to report anything inappropriate.“

With a possible IPO on the way, would Kaufman consider raising the base price above $5, in order to boost Fiverr’s own earnings?

„We won’t be encouraging that for many years,“ he said. „The $5 is a tiny fraction of our business. Historically it’s what we were associated with, but it’s a very small part.“

The $5 price tag, he added, has caused journalists and commentators to hold Fiverr up as an example of a race to the bottom for freelancers, in a world where struggling workers are turning to unstable „gig economy“ work like driving for Uber to supplement their income.

„Fiverr has tried to do the opposite,“ said Kaufman, noting that Fiverr freelancers are free raise their prices as they build up loyalty and regular customers. „We’re trying to allow people to price in the right way in terms of what they’re offering and experience.“

The US is Fiverr’s biggest market, Kaufman said, but the firm is making its first major push in the UK. It already has a chunk of freelancers and customers here, but the platform has hired dedicated staff to support its users. The idea is to run meetups for freelancers, offer tips and tutorials to help people win more business.

Fiverr points to Hughes as an inspiration, as someone who has managed to build up a steady income and enjoys the freedom of working from home. „I don’t think I would have got anywhere without Fiverr,“ she said. „I’d have been stuck in a job I didn’t want to do.“

I hope, you like this article about making money online is a good inspiration for you. To stay up to date. Just like my Facebook Fanpage: The Doan’s Blog. If you want to know, how to get sustainable traffic, read this: What is SEO? My most popular blog article: International money.

How Jeff Bezos Became the World’s Richest Man

Jeff Bezos

By Investopedia

Jeff Bezos is now the richest person on earth, with his personal fortune eclipsing the wealth amassed by legendary investor Warren Buffet and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates. Bezos made the top spot of Forbes magazine’s 2018 400 Richest in America list with a net worth of $160 billion.

The founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of global e-commerce behemoth Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) is responsible for running a platform that accounted for 4% of all U.S. retail sales in 2017 and a whopping 44% of digital spending. As digitalization reshapes human behavior and the cloud computing revolution does the same to enterprise, the leader in online retail, with its high-flying cloud computing platform Amazon Web Services (AWS) is only forecasted to propel higher — spelling more good news for its CEO.

When Bezos had his idea for „the everything store,“ his well-intentioned friends and family tried to talk him out of quitting his „stable job“ in finance. Yet Bezos, raised by his teen mom and later his Cuban immigrant stepfather, always dreamed of creating something different, once telling his school teacher that „the future of mankind is not on this planet.“

Beyond Books

The tech visionary graduated from Princeton with a major in computer science and electrical engineering. Upon graduating, he turned down job offers from companies such as Intel and Bell Labs to join a startup called Fitel. He went on to launch a news-by-fax service company with Halsey Minor, the founder of CNET. After the venture failed, Bezos became the youngest senior vice president at a hedge fund called D.E. Shaw, working his way up the ranks in just four years.

Bezos could have stayed on Wall Street for the rest of his career if he hadn’t been enthralled by the knowledge that by 1994, the internet was growing at the rate of 2,300% annually. Soon enough, his idea for Amazon was born, and the CEO began making a list of 20 possible product categories to sell online.

Amazon.com, then a platform for selling books, grew in its early stages out of a garage with a pot-belly stove. Bezos, who put his own $10,000 in the company comprised of himself, his wife and two programmers, ironically conducted most of his meetings at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble. Within its first month after launch in July 1995, Amazon sold books in every state in the U.S. and 45 countries around the world.

Beating Expectations

During Amazon’s first year, Bezos tried to raise money by predicting $74 million in sales by 2000, far underestimating the reality: $1.64 billion. He managed to gather $1 million in seed funding from angel investors after using up investment from his family, primarily from his parents, who chipped into a significant portion of their life savings. According to the CEO, the first 20 or so outside investors in Amazon put in about $50,000 each for a stake of less than 1%. Each investment would now be worth around $6 billion, representing a 120,000 times return, given the investors held onto their entire stakes and that they had never been diluted by later investors. In June 1996, Amazon raised another $8 million in Series A from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. (See also: Amazon Forces Suppliers to Play By Its Rules.)

Amazon went public in May 1997 and turned out to be one of the few startups that survived the dot-com bust. As the platform diversified its product offerings and solidified itself as a market leader and pioneer, annual sales skyrocketed from $510,000 in 1995 to over $17 billion in 2001. In 2013, Bezos revealed his first plans for the company’s revolutionary Amazon Prime subscription business, with Amazon Prime Air, which would use drones to deliver to customers.

In 1998, Bezos also became an early investor in Google. While he has not revealed what he has kept of the stock after its initial public offering in 2004, his $250,000 investment would be worth well over $6 billion today. In August 2013, the business mogul bought The Washington Post for $250 million. Since then, its audience and traffic has exploded, surpassing The New York Times in terms of U.S. unique web viewers in October 2015.

The company’s share price reflects this phenomenal growth. The stock has given an over 523% return over the past 5 years and is up 67.7% year-to-date as of October 3, 2018. Bezos owns about 16.3% of the 24-year-old company, making it the biggest source of his wealth. A Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing in November 2017 showed that the CEO sold 1 million shares of his company for $1.1 billion. The last filing, dated August 2018, shows Bezos owning 78.8 million shares.

Rocket Man

With his booming wealth, Bezos is now able to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a space entrepreneur. Each year, he commits $1 billion to his space-exploration company, Blue Origin, which, in 2016 became one of the first commercial companies to launch a reusable rocket. on July 18, 2018, Blue Origin sent spacecraft „New Shepard“ into high altitude order to test its safety systems, which worked.

Amazon boasted of $52.9 billion in net sales in Q2 2018.

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How A Developer Earns $8000 Per Month Through His Blog

business

By Starter Story

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m Barron and I run Effortless Gent, a men’s style publication focused on helping guys feel confident and look sharp in the clothes they wear.

Through our written articles and video content, we teach guys how to build a Lean Wardrobe, which essentially is a versatile set of clothes unique to every guy’s situation that easily mix and match and make dressing well much easier.

EG generates on average $8,000/mo through a combination of ad revenue (display ads, brand sponsorships), affiliate revenue, digital products (an eBook and self-guided style improvement program), and 1-on-1 online or in-person styling consultations.

how-a-developer-grew-his-blog-to-150-000-visitors-per-month

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Growing up, I’ve always been interested in my own personal style.

I loved being experimental and trying new trends. I learned through experimentation that how you dress can change the way you feel about yourself, as well as how other people perceive you.

I’d advise to start small and be consistent. So if you’re going to be a content creator, focus on producing content regularly, whether that’s 1x a week or 1x a day.

Because of this, I was usually who my guy friends turned to when it came to questions on matters of style.

Throughout high school and college, I noticed the same questions were being asked over and over, and I remember thinking that I should start a simple website with all the answers to these questions so I wouldn’t have to repeat myself over and over… I could just point them to my website.

So in 2009, I was looking for a side hustle project where I could combine my love of design, clothing, and my coding skills, and Effortless Gent was the result.

At the time, I was working as a front-end developer at a San Francisco-based technology company. I was in my mid-20s and still at the beginning of my career, but I’ve always had an entrepreneurial side. I didn’t love the limitations and restrictions that came from working at a job.

I knew I wanted Effortless Gent to be my full-time business one day but I wasn’t entirely sure how I would make that happen in the beginning; I just remained open to any and all possibilities.

I worked at my job during the day, and in the evenings, after dinner until 1 or 2 am every night, I would work on my site.

At first, it was just planning and strategizing, then actually designing and building the site, and finally, creating content regularly.

I remember keeping up this routine almost nightly for a long while… at least the first 2 years. I never felt forced to work on this; I loved it, enjoyed it, and found it both exciting and challenging. Exciting because of the possibilities, and challenging because of my limited time to work on it.

Take us through the process of getting started and launching.

I should mention I have a web design and development background, and back in 2009 it definitely came in handy, but nowadays it’s so much easier to put together a website that actually looks good.

Back in 09, most people used Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress.com sites, and even WordPress themes weren’t as robust and easily customizable as they are today.

When I officially launched, it was literally me just flipping the switch and making my site live on effortlessgent.com. I double-checked everything and made sure my first post was already published before I made the site live.

how-a-developer-grew-his-blog-to-150-000-visitors-per-month (screenshot of the site in the very early days, via Wayback Machine)

My main goal back then was to create content consistently, week after week. Since it was a brand new site with no readership, I didn’t know what would resonate and what wouldn’t, so I covered a wide range of topics within the realm of men’s style.

Experimenting allowed me to figure out what worked and what didn’t, and helped me hone in on both what I wanted to write and what resonated with my readers.

I started with 3 shorter articles per week, and eventually moved to 2, then 1 longer piece per week tackling a specific topic. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong amount of content to produce when you’re first starting out, though consistency is definitely key.

In those days, I promoted the site mostly through Twitter. I believe Gary Vaynerchuk once talked about how back in the Wine Library TV days, he would use Twitter’s search functionality to find conversations related to wine and engage with people. I did the same thing, but for men’s style… like if guys were tweeting about outfit- or style-related things, I’d jump in on the conversation (assuming I had something relevant and useful to add), maybe I’d send them a link to an article I wrote, and repeat. I would do this over and over.

I also used my Facebook page to promote new content. It’s a little different nowadays since organic reach is practically nonexistent and you have to pay to boost your posts to your own audience. Back then, there were no restrictions and everyone who followed your page could see what you posted to it within their own feed.

Today, I continue to promote new articles and YouTube videos through Twitter, our Facebook page and smaller group, as well as via our email list.

As far as effectiveness, social as a whole is our smallest traffic source, accounting for maybe 12%. Google search is our largest, at around 82%, so because of this, we focus on optimizing SEO as much as possible. I wasn’t always the best at this, and admittedly have only taken an active approach these past few years, so my editor and I are constantly going back to older articles and adding focus keywords, optimizing titles, updating the content, and so on.

One piece of advice is, if your business is reliant on good content, make sure you optimize your SEO for everything you publish. In fact, I suggest doing keyword research before even writing down your first word. Doing keyword research will influence the direction you take the article or video, and it’s much easier designing a piece of content around a good keyword or phrase people actually search for, than it is to retrofit a keyword to an existing piece of content.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Consistently creating helpful, entertaining articles with actionable advice, as well as working to build relationships with my readers.

Currently I’m producing one piece of new content per week, either a written article or a video for the YouTube channel. And the rest of the week is spent either promoting it, brainstorming a new piece of content, or updating and republishing old content.

I’m a bit smarter with my approach to SEO nowadays, but I still keep it really simple. First, I think of some ideas I’d like to create content for. Then, I dive into keyword and keyphrase research.

I use the webapp AHREFs for my keyword research–this tool is $99/mo but is incredibly detailed and granular with data. It helps me nail the perfect keywords to target. A good free option is Keywords Everywhere, which I also use… as well plain ol’ Google Keyword Planner.

After gathering my target keyword or phrase plus a few related keywords, I can then write the article, the message and takeaways will be clear, and there’s a much better chance that Google will know what my article is about.

A lot of the SEO best practices and strategies I picked up from sites like Moz, or friends who know a bunch more than I do. One course I do recommend because it’s super simple to follow along and implement is called SEO For Bloggers. My friend Matt (course creator) has built a number of successful niche sites and he’s all about white hat, long-lasting, Google-friendly SEO practices, no shady practices or tactics that try to game the system.

I do most of my communicating with readers via my email list. Every week I send out a note. I keep it very simple and casual in tone, text only, and include a link to the content I want them to check out.

how-a-developer-grew-his-blog-to-150-000-visitors-per-month (Example of a weekly email I send out)

Usually I’m letting them know about a new article or video, or perhaps a big sale at one of our recommended stores, or I’m doing a digital product launch for our eGuides and course.

To grow my list and attract subscribers, I created a eGuide called The Lean Wardrobe, a PDF all about putting together a no-nonsense wardrobe, that’s sent directly to them once they subscribe. My thinking behind this is that no one wants another email newsletter subscription, but my target reader has a specific problem he’s trying to solve (he wants to dress better) and this free guide will get them started on the right path.

What’s the business model and how you do make money?

I knew I wanted to create digital products, so in the beginning, as my audience grew, I would talk to them constantly, either through email, Twitter, or within the comments section of each article.

I needed to learn what their struggles with clothing were.

Diversifying income streams definitely helps, but can also distract (insert analogy about spinning plates here), and I’m learning the longer I do this, the better it is to focus on 2-3 streams and really dedicate time and effort into both maximizing and refining those.

I also wanted to understand how they thought and the words they used to describe their struggles. I knew that speaking their language, using the phrases they did, would be helpful when describing what my product was and how it would help them.

I discovered my audience was mainly guys my age (at the time, mid-20s), usually coastal, and either in school or getting their first jobs. They knew dressing well wasn’t their strong suit, and they felt the pressure of adulthood and the necessity to dress the part.

So I took what I learned over the first 2 years of writing style articles regularly and getting feedback from my readers and put together my first eGuide which was called Graduating Your Style. In it, I laid out the basics for leveling up your wardrobe from a college kid to a young adult man heading to his first serious job.

I took my readers along for the ride during the whole process of building out the eGuide. I got their feedback with titles and content, and in general, updated them regularly leading up to the launch. I did this, of course, to let my readers know I did have a product coming out, and that I wanted them to buy it.

Graduating Your Style launched for $26. I gave a $10 off code to the first batch of buyers, and in the first month, made $6,100 in sales. I can’t remember exactly what my list size was at the time, but I’m almost certain it was no more than 1,000 people.

So not a ton of money, but selling my first product validated the idea and I knew I could continue to evolve, create more products, and monetize in other ways as well.

I created several other products since then—a few other eGuides, a membership site, a style improvement course—and diversified the income streams with display ad revenue, as well as brand partnerships, affiliate relationships with brands, and personal styling both in-person and online.

As far as traffic growth, it’s been slow but steady. SEO is one area I regret not being more strategic about earlier. In 2016, after 7 years of consistent growth, I saw traffic plateau and even dip a little. I did a bit of research and realized I lost ranking and referral traffic on a few keywords that were bringing significant traffic.

So in early 2017, wanting to prevent any more loss of traffic and knowing I could be much more proactive, I started taking SEO very seriously and formed a strategy to optimize every piece of content I created. I’m also going back to old content and consolidating posts around a strong keyword or phrase, or simply updating and re-publishing articles that are already good, but just needed to be refreshed a bit.

how-a-developer-grew-his-blog-to-150-000-visitors-per-month (traffic from the day I started the site up to Jan 2019)

There’s still a lot of work for me to do here, but I’m hoping that with these improvements to the content and my overall on-page SEO strategy, traffic will break out of that plateau and continue its upward climb.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

So diversifying income streams definitely helps, but can also distract (insert analogy about spinning plates here), and I’m learning the longer I do this, the better it is to focus on 2-3 streams and really dedicate time and effort into both maximizing and refining those.

For example, one of my largest revenue generators over the past 2 years has been brand partnerships. This is when I create a piece of content and a brand or product sponsors it (the sponsor has no say over the content).

But recently I’ve taken a step back to consider where I want the business to be in the next 1-2 years, and what I want to spend most of my time on, and I decided it wasn’t brand sponsorships.

So for 2019 I’m actively scaling back on those types of projects, and instead re-focusing my energy on selling my own products as well as continuing to create great content for my readers and viewers. Coincidentally, my display ad and affiliate revenue grows the more I create and promote good style content that brings readers to the site.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use so many different tools to run the site and business. A few of note:

Effortless Gent is built on WordPress and hosted by WP Engine.

For our sales pages and opt-ins, I use LeadPages. For affiliate link management within WordPress, we use Earnist (which recently has become free, the founder is launching a new affiliate link management WordPress plugin called Lasso).

I use ConvertKit for email and Asana for tasks and communicating with my editor and writers.

For drafts and edits, we work within Google Docs before moving the whole article into a WordPress draft.

For keyword research, I use AHREFS and a Chrome plugin called Keywords Everywhere.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

When I was first starting out, the two books that influenced me the most were The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, and Crush It! By Gary Vaynerchuk.

The 4-Hour Workweek introduced me to the idea of location independence and the possibilities with an online business, and Crush It! teaches you how to become a brand, choose a medium for your message, and focus on authenticity in everything you do.

I feel like the messages of both books are still very much applicable today, and are a good place to start if you’re still toying with the idea of starting a business, a brand, a blog, anything.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I think the most common advice would be to just start, but I’d say doing your research, establishing both your point of view and your target reader/customer avatar before writing and publishing your first piece of content is really important. I really like Donald Miller’s body of work that teaches you how to build a story brand, if you need a framework for how to do so.

And that’s not to say your avatar or point of view won’t change, but knowing what you stand for (or against) and who you’re trying to reach is monumentally important, otherwise, what are you even doing?

I’d also advise to start small and be consistent. So if you’re going to be a content creator, focus on producing content regularly, whether that’s 1x a week or 1x a day. This is especially important in the beginning because if it’s something like a YouTube video or a blog post, your fans will tune in regularly on those days you commit to publishing. Also, it helps to establish that habit in your own routine.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I’m currently looking for more freelance writers to join the team. This is a paid position, and I’m looking specifically for writers whose focus is solely within the men’s style and lifestyle vertical, or who have experience writing these types of articles.

Where can we go to learn more?

Our homebase is always at https://effortlessgent.com, but we’re also a few other places online:

Want to start your own business?

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Pat Walls,   Founder of Starter Story

I hope, you like this article about blogging. To stay up to date. Just like my Facebook Fanpage: The Doan’s Blog. If you want to know, how to get sustainable traffic, read this: What is SEO? My most popular blog article: International money.

What is local SEO?

Local seo

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is SEO in local places. For example you can be ranked for best bars in Los Angeles. Why is it important? Because almost half the search are local search. People want to know, where the events, tutor, bars etc. in their area are. So if you have a local business selling e.g. walking tours for tourists, you should do local SEO. Same like doctors, attorneys, accountants etc.

Onpage SEO. If you don’t know, what it is, read this! What is onpage SEO? In terms of local SEO the location should also be in the domain name. Subdomain name is also fine. Besides, the location for example Los Angeles should also be mentioned on the title, header and meta tags.

Offpage SEO. If you don’t know, what it is, read this! What is offsite SEO? Register your business on Google My Business, so that you can be seen on Google Maps too! The more positive ratings you will get, the higher you will get ranked locally. Additionally, you can use directory sites like yellow pages, yelp, tripadvisor etc. Then use geotagging in social platforms and e.g. business facebook fanpage. Location. The closer you are to downtown, the better it will be for your ranking. Furthermore getting mentioned on local newspapers, institutions, authority sites like commercial chamber etc. is definitely helpful too. The contact details of your contact page should be the same like on the Google My Business listing.

That’s basically it. Quick and easy. I hope, you like this article about local SEO. To stay up to date. Just like my Facebook Fanpage: The Doan’s Blog. If you want to know, how to get sustainable traffic, read this: What is SEO? My most popular blog article: International money.

How an Editor’s Career Crisis Led to a $500 Million Dollar Startup

Editor

By Tony Jing

How an Editor’s Career Crisis Led to a $500 Million Dollar Startup

Recently a YouTube channel and a Facebook page caught my eye. It’s called Yitiao — meaning “One Article” or “One Piece” in Chinese. For the past three years, Yitiao published one or two highly produced short videos everyday, showcasing well-designed homes, architecture, crafts, photography and art. These videos are mostly narrated in Mandarin Chinese, although subjects range from China to around the world.

Well designed homes are the most subject in Yitiao videos [0]

It was clear that these were made deliberately for the web, and more specifically for mobile, as the length of videos ranged from 3 to 5 minutes. I knew this was an expensive operation to maintain, based on the consistent production quality and release schedule. There had to be a disciplined full-time team dedicated to sourcing stories, travelling to sites, shooting the footage, and doing post-production. These are not trivial tasks, definitely not the feat of amateurs.

Yitiao’s videos on Facebook, Youtube, and WeChat

Two questions gnawed at me as I watched more videos. Who was behind this company? How did they make money? I pondered. These two questions later led me to discover a new business model and the story of Yitiao — a startup that is currently valued at 500 million (USD).

The more I researched, the more I found its origin story fascinating. This is my telling of how Yitiao came to be.


The Story Began in 2013

The then 40 year-old Xu Husheng sat in his office, located in the former French Concession neighbourhood of Shanghai. As he gazed at the plane tree leaves just below his fifth-floor window, he felt a sense of anxiety.

That feeling was quite unfamiliar to him, because life was predicable and well-off. His job was stable, his salary was good, and everyday he pedalled his vintage bike to work, in a mere 15 minutes — a real luxury for most Shanghainese. At 40, he had become the editor of a popular magazine, a dream job that afforded him abundant time to be with his 5 year old daughter, to read whatever books he wanted , and even to play with family cat. [1]

The last real anxiety he felt was eight years ago. Back in 2005, he took over as the acting chief editor of the Bund magazine. His ascension was a last ditch effort by the executives and the board of directors to save the company — it was losing subscribers and hemorrhaging money.

A 2003 cover of the Bund magazine — it focused on social issues and current events

According to many retellings of the same story, Xu’s timely pivots turned things around. Before his arrival, the magazine focused on social issues and current events. While this positioning had its audience, Xu realized that for most young city dwelling Chinese professionals, an audience that was rapidly growing in size and affluence, these subjects were utterly uninteresting.

To them, the world of entertainment, fashion, and culture were way more interesting. Xu tapped into this insight and revised the Bund to be more international , while working hard to land timely interviews with big name celebrities. Adding a dash of glamour and a clean graphic design, the magazine pulled away from its pack. [2] In a few years, the Bund became one of China’s most circulated periodicals. In 2013 alone, it raked in close to 200 million RMB (30 million USD) in advertising revenue. [3]

Later covers of the Bund magazine

On this warm spring day in 2013, Xu noticed a sharp decline in sales numbers. This was the reason behind his sudden anxiety. Little did Xu know then that 2013 would become the worst years in history for China’s magazine and newspaper industry. Magazine and newspaper booths in most cities would generate less than $20 (USD) a day in sales. Even at the best locations, with heavy foot traffic, daily revenue hovered around $50 by the end of 2013. [4]

Looking back with today’s knowledge, the reason for this couldn’t be more obvious. 2013 marked the inflection point in the adoption of the smartphone in China. The number of smartphone users had surpassed the US for the first time, and at the same time WeChat announced that it had reached 300 million monthly active users. [5]

China overtaking the US in smartphone users [6]

Xu had always considered himself a traditional media person. He did not use WeChat, nor did he dabble in desktop social apps such as QQ or Renren, both of which had gained popularity among China’s youth, years before the smartphone’s arrival. However as 2013 progressed from spring to summer, he couldn’t help but to notice the correlation between the rise of smartphone and decline of the magazine and newspaper industry. [7]

WeChat Public Accounts

Soon after that day, Xu decided to see for himself — replacing his feature phone with a smartphone. First thing he did was to install WeChat. It was on WeChat that he noticed the existence of public accounts, which are accounts that any individual, business, or organization can setup. These accounts can publish content and communicate with their followers, similar to Facebook Pages.

Image result for public accounts wechat
The type of accounts on WeChat [8]

Any WeChat users could follow these accounts by searching keyword or by scanning a QR code.

QR codes examples to public accounts

When WeChat first launched public accounts in 2012, mainstream media were still oblivious to its later powers and simply ignored it. However as its functionalities improved, and as the number of WeChat users skyrocketed, public accounts became the main way news spread in China.

Xu’s office also caught the Public Accounts bug by mid 2013 — every department had created their own public account. However, as time progressed, it became apparent to Xu that traditional media simply couldn’t move fast enough to come out on top of this storm. He had to make a move.[9]

Two is Less Than Five

In November 2013, Xu found himself talking with the New Media executive at Southern Weekend, arguable the most popular weekly newspaper in China. They conversed for hours. Xu came out feeling dazed. But he was not confused.

That same night, Xu downloaded several hundred media and information apps on his iPhone and followed several hundred public accounts on WeChat— staying up until 4am, browsing, clicking and reading. He lamented before finally sleeping, saying “my rice bowl is really going to be broken” — a Chinese idiom describing one’s livelihood being eradicated.[10]

Xu started downloading apps on his new iPhone

Seeing that it would be impossible to retire early, as he had hoped when he turned 40, he decided to do something about this right away. [11]

Finding That ‘Something’

Software is eating the world. The web is eating software.

Xu realized that videos are eating the web. He looked to the premier video sharing platform of the world — YouTube, for inspiration.

Hopping over the Great Firewall with VPN, he watched the most viewed videos on YouTube. But due faulty VPN connections, he had to first download the videos, then watch them offline. In a few months, he had amassed over 6000 clips with a combined size of 60GB.

On YouTube, as Xu put it, “over half of the most popular video were about lifestyle, there are many popular videos about teaching how to make clothes, how to cook, how to fix things”. [12] While in China, the overwhelming majority of content was still about entertainment, memes and celebrity gossip.

He gave the example of Michelle Phan, a YouTuber with millions of subscribers, whose videos were mostly of herself facing her camera, next to a mirror, explaining and showcasing fashion, cosmetics and other lifestyle tips. Xu noted that she eventually was able to use her success to launch a cosmetics company with a valuation in the hundreds of millions.

A cover thumbnail of one of Michelle Phan’s Youtube videos

To Xu, there was no reason why lifestyle videos couldn’t succeed in China.

Armed with this discovery, he returned to work. His proposal was to setup a video team. To his surprise, this was met with strong resistance immediately. One his superiors responded by saying that they were in the magazine business, not the video production business, and that he should leave that to Shanghai’s various TV stations.

They simply didn’t see what he saw. But Xu felt a dire need to capture the opportunity and redefine what a media company should be. He later described that period like this:

It was very difficult to transform from within. I felt as if a huge tsunami was about to overtake a village, yet the villagers were still talking about how to fix the broken windows. [13]

The debates eventually took its toll. Xu handed in his resignation two months later. He talked about it like this: “The decision was simple. At the worst, I’ll just be a small Shanghai-based video production company making short promos for different companies. I was confident that I could still make ends meet.” [14] [15]

Show Me the Money

Because of his previous life as a leading editor, he was able to secure meetings with many angel investors. But few were interested to invest after hearing the pitch. His proposal didn’t have a clear path to revenue and the media business had its own baggages in China, given the political environment.

Despite the odds, one VC firm — Whales Capital did invest, however, with a final test. In the final round of negotiations, the investors at Whales asked Xu to commit $160,000 USD of his personal money into the business as a sign of conviction. Xu agreed without hesitation, despite it being a sizeable chunk of his savings.

And because of this, the deal closed quickly. [16] With the money in the bank, Xu went about renting an office and hired a group of six, then ten, mostly fresh-out-of-school college graduates from various programs and started learning and making videos together.

Copying YouTubers?

They initially tried to make their videos just like the ones on YouTube, adopting similar speaking, lighting, editing techniques and styles.

The resulting videos felt lively and fast-paced, and in many ways indistinguishable from those of the YouTubers who inspired them. Yet something didn’t feel right.

The Yitiao team working hard in 2014 [17]

It was very costly to source subject matter experts in topics such as fashion, makeup, or cooking, who also wanted to be in front of the camera, essentially acting and teaching. When they did find the right content creators, it didn’t make much sense for them to work with Yitiao, as they could simply work directly with the video platforms, and shoot less high produced by still engaging videos on their own. [18]

What made matters worse was that China didn’t have a de facto video distribution / subscription platform like YouTube. The video audience was scattered across sites like Youku, iQiYi, Sohu, and Tencent Videos. It was impossible to gather them all.

Xu and team realized that they had to make breakthroughs in both content and distribution in order to succeed. “Why are we trying to make videos like these kids on YouTube? They are doing their thing, but that’s not us.” One team member calmly expressed her frustrations at a company all hands.

The team shooting a magazine style profile about a local craftsperson

They didn’t have an answer to her question.

But they decided then that they should learn their craft regardless of their direction. The team kept going. They focused on improving their skills for twelve hours days, 100 days straight, by shooting and editing a few dozen videos without ever releasing them publicly.

It Should Feel Like a Magazine

In hindsight, this 100 days was the team’s learning curve. And surprisingly the process actually allowed them to find their direction.

They realized that they didn’t want the videos to feel amateurish or funny, as China’s internet had plenty of content like that already. What was interesting to them were those shot in a magazine style, that showed interesting stories and lifestyles. [19]

Seeing that there was something interesting there, they quickly ditched tutorials to focus on stories, with topics that range from architecture, design, art, to craft — all subjects that Xu was already familiar with. On September 8th, 2014, they released their first public video on the various video platforms. It was a four minute clip about a Shanghai antique shop named Brocantic.

The difference was apparent from the first scene.

The shop owner Camille stood in front of an old neighbourhood alley as a long exposure shot captured cars passing by in a blur. The entire video featured her narration to accompany the moving images, as it documented item to item in the shop. The video ended with a still of the shop’s address and hours info.

The shop owner narrated the video, showcasing various items from her store

Before releasing the video publicly, Xu showed it and other a few other similar clips to his investors. He received this comment:

We really like these videos, but they won’t get any traction online.

This was the typical response Xu got when he showed these videos to people. Their experience gave them the impression that these are niche content, suitable for only a small audience. They were right in that these videos were not going to go viral, but Xu knew two things they didn’t:

1People who enjoy magazines, like them for their content, not their form factor. Fundamentally the shift was not in people’s taste but in their preferred medium — from paper to mobile / digital. The type of content that people liked were largely the same. So if an audience existed for the Bund on paperit also should exist online.

What was clear to Xu was that the techniques of arranging imagery and text on paper (aka graphic design), no longer engaged the audience of WeChat and other social media. The Magazine spread simply could not exist on a small screen. The hunch that Xu had was that video was the form factor that could capture attention on digital / mobile. Compared to texts and images, videos are much harder to create — good video skills were not as proliferate as good graphic design skills.[20]

2What the critics overlooked was the size of China’s population. Even a niche audience could be in the size of tens of millions. What was emerging as a theme was that people who would be interested in Yitiao’s content was China’s growing middle class — same as the customers of the Bund magazine. When a reporter later ask about the size of China’s middle class, Xu smiled and said simply:

I think Jack Ma said it was 300 million.

He continued. “It’s actually very difficult to discuss the middle class of China. What are the differences between China’s middle class and those of Japan, US, and Europe? I’d like to simply think of the middle class as a group of people with higher education, with more disposable incomes, and perhaps an aspiration to a higher quality of living. This is what I would define as the target audience of Yitiao.” [21]

Along with the growth of the smartphone and WeChat users, is the number of affluent and middle income households. [22]

1 Million Followers in 15 Days

By the fall of 2014, WeChat has emerged as the messaging platform for China. Many WeChat public accounts have gained tens of millions of followers. Riding these two waves, Yitiao decided to focus growing their audience on WeChat.

They decided to act on this new product called GuangDianTong (GDT or 广点通) . It’s a targeted advertising platform developed by WeChat’s parent company, Tencent. Like the advertising platforms from Google and Facebook, GDT also advertised based on bids for a specific audience.

Yitiao only had 1.25 million dollars available, yet they still put in $315,000 into GDT in the first week. [23] This was a calculated gamble by Xu.

They had planned to release a dozen videos in the first two weeks of launching on WeChat. If it was possible to gain one million followers within that time, that news in itself would become a spectacle. The effect of such an event would be a long-tail of new followers weeks and months down the road, based on the media coverage alone.

Xu reflected on that decision: “based on the metrics we were seeing (from GDT), it was probable to assume that the money will translate into exposure as well as followers. We just didn’t know how many. What we were confident in was that even if even we only captured a small audience based on the wide exposure, we can still survive on native advertising, and overtime the money can be recuperated. So even though the decision was risky, the risks were actually calculated.”

Spending big on GDT proved to be an effective strategy — in two weeks time, they gained nearly one million followers on WeChat. Xu later compared to his decision-making process to crossing a deep crevasse:

If you look down, it is very scary, and few dare to make that leap. But if you ignore the depth and just look across it, you’ll realize it could be less than a meter wide — a distance that you can easily jump across. [24]

Aside from GDT, influencers also provided valuable fuel for subscriber growth in the first two weeks. First, because of Xu’s connections, several celebrities shared Yitiao videos on their own social feeds. Second, despite the none of the dozen videos going viral , each was niche enough to turn heads on its own, because they appeal to influencers within specific industries to share among their own followers.

Three videos of first twelve videos on WeChat. They’re about architecture, tea and boutique hotels

For example, the video titled “Architectures’ New Wave” circulated in the architecture enthusiasts scene; Another video about tea was viewed among the fans and lovers of tea; The one about a boutique hotel was widely shared among hotel industry.

Yitiao’s first food video was about a wonton shop.

The reason for this was that not only were the videos highly produced, the protagonists in each video were all individuals who were doing very interesting work in a particular industry. Xu’s decades of editorials work showed its strength in the effective sourcing of these stories.

What became clear was that most of China’s top sites aimed for the mass public audience. Audiences who preferred editorial and highly produced content, although perhaps that group only accounted for 10% of the total, were always overlooked and even ignored. But given the scale of China, that audience alone could be in the tens, if not hundreds of millions.

Mobile Video Growth

Yitiao grew to six million followers in seven months. In three years time, China’s mobile video audience as a whole would grow from 56 million to 353 million.

The number of mobile video viewers in China (in 100 millions), with growth rates from 2014 to 2017 [25]

This hawk like ability to pinpoint social, economic, and population trends before they hit mainstream was what led to the pivot at the Bund nine years earlier. And it seemed that Xu managed to pull off the same transformation once again. His former colleague Dai Guo Feng noted. “In terms of positioning and taste, there isn’t another person like Xu in China.” [26]

How to Retain Followers

To retain followers, the videos’ quality and released schedule both needed to be maintained. Xu thought that the best way to do that was to codify the production process.

They key is to make the sourcing of story, shooting, editing and distributing of content repeatable and efficient. The team analyzed their previous work and iterated on a template.

The level of details that ended up in the final template was extremely meticulous. For example, for cinematography alone, the number of long, tracking, panning, and dollying shots were spelled out.

Common camera movements [27]

For narration, a 950-word template was created to establish a logical order of storytelling. It could be used to tell any story in no more than ten points. In terms of timing, every minute and half, as the audience got bored, a new thread of points were revealed to refresh their attention. Another example was to show the most interesting footage at the beginning, because if the first 5–10 seconds weren’t interesting, many viewers would churn immediately.

Despite not having directors, producers, or scripts, the quality of the videos was kept consistent as a result. But this method did create some tensions among the team. Xu spoke candidly about how there is a constant struggle between artistic freedom and product discipline. [28]

“Often I have to remind people that they are not here to create art, they are here to build a product. If their goal is to to create art, which is a noble goal, they should pursue that, but not at Yitiao.”

What is the Product?

Revenue soon became the elephant in the room as their audience grew. Naturally, the team turned to advertising.

Given the coarse and ineffective styles of popup advertising, and blocker videos, the team decided against that early on. They initially focused on native advertising.

Xu pointed out that content and marketing have always been intertwined. He gave the example of Michelin, a tire manufacturer that publishes the renowned restaurant guides. The guides were initially created to helped drive demand for automobiles, back at a time when the auto-industry industry was still nascent.

The first Michelin guidebook [29]

That model seemed to be a perfect match. Yitiao had attracted a group of viewers who had, by pressing the follow button, informed Yitiao of their desire to keep up with content that showcased more ways of living with quality.

In this sense Yitiao could be the “Michelin Guide” of lifestyle products — a media platform that connects people with products and brands that match their tastes. In order to do that, Yitiao must first discover products, then present them, and then connect the audience to them.

The team began working on this idea after reach six million followers in mid 2015. However, soon after, Xu realized just connecting the audience with products wasn’t enough — many of these shop had little to no online presence and many more simply couldn’t figure out how to do ecommerce. This meant that there was no way for them to expand beyond one city.

Unless Yitiao Pivots to Ecommerce

The need to for Yitiao to venture into ecommerce was apparent.

Rather than linking videos to shops and websites, Yitiao could integrate both the marketing and selling portions of the whole experience and allow their supplier companies to focus on creating great products. This way customers can truly enjoy the benefit of buying directly on Yitiao.

As the team pondered this idea without fulling committing to it, they soon reached ten million subscribers. It was clear then that there existed a bigger opportunity than advertising. The hypothesis they came up with was this: “Users love our content, because we showcase interesting products, designers, and indie brands. Why don’t we allow them to place orders right there?” [30]

In late 2015, the Yitiao created a lean test. The first item available for sale on Yitiao’s WeChat public account was a series of reprinted vintage style textbooks from the Republic of China era (1912–1949). This is a niche item with a relatively high price tag — 120 USD, but it tapped into the buzz around retro books and furnitures — people often acquired them as furnishings and collectibles. [31]

First items sold on Yitiao: vintage books

From a business perspective, the risk was minimum. Having these orders placed in advance would help book publishers budget their prints and eliminate stockpiled inventory. To test the profitability of this model, Yitiao even charged a hefty commission — 30% percent of the sale price. As Xu later put it, “this would be the cost to access to the aggregated high-intent target audience that individual Taobao shops would not able to reach on their own.”

The experiment was a surprise for everyone. In only two days, over 430 copies were sold, grossing $47,000 USD. A week later, the publisher not only cleared their inventory, they had to add more prints to match the influx of new orders. [32] By mid 2016, this book series alone would gross over $300,000 in sales. [33]

This proves their hypothesis and gave them the confidence to proceed. Content aside, Yitiao began selling products.

Don’t Sell Products, Sell Stories

With the newly hired technical staff, Yitiao built up a robust shopping experience inside their WeChat public account by early 2016.

They named it “Living Hall”. Two weeks after launch, Living Hall would gross over $1.5 million USD.

They continued the technical efforts and launched a stand alone iOS app seven months later. The app and the public account had the same interface so that users can access Yitiao wherever they preferred.

Yitiao’s app in August 2016

The difference between Yitiao and traditional ecommerce is that Yitiao treated ecommerce content like media content. Instead of showcasing a product’s specifications and features, Yitiao focused on what the story behind the object was.

They typically chose well designed products, and told stories about the inspirations and the craft behind those designs. “We called this adding warmth to cold objects. The value was not just in the products, the value was in how people used the products. A lot of that can be conveyed through storytelling — by revealing inspirations, problems and successes behind each object.” Xu explained later. [34]

A screenshot from the Yitiao promo video for the book “S”.

One of their most interesting cases was the novel S. It had an innovative format for a novel. The printed text formed its own complete story, but added to it were scribbles in the book margins from two people . These marks and annotations by these two voices were done throughout the book. Included in the book package were also photos, maps, and documents. Altogether these artifacts added a story on top of a story.

Translated copy of the book S [35]

This book sold only 20,000 copies in America. Yitiao contacted the publisher and secured presale rights for 25,000 copies in China. Again the results astonished everyone. In two days, the presale copies were all gone. Over the subsequent years, the book grossed over $656,000 USD. For someone who came out of the publishing industry, Xu realized that this was unprecedented.

Screenshots from Yitiao’s video on Mao Wang Radios

The next case even further solidified Yitiao’s belief in this model.

Mao Wang Radio was a brand that designed and manufactured a retro style radio. It had were many sales channels, but its Yitiao presence was the fastest growing. By the end of 2016, they’ve grossed over $1.1 million on the platform.

Reflecting on Growth

Yitiao was growing at a rate of two million followers per month for the year 2016. By 2017, it had reached 30 million followers. Fast forward to the end of 2017, with more than 500 suppliers and tens of thousands of SKUs ranging from cosmetics to furnitures, the company’s ecommerce business netted more than 234 million USD in revenue. [36]

They’ve also raised three more rounds of financing and amassed a war chest of several hundreds of million. Through this process their valuation also grew north of $500 million USD. [37]

Xu reflected on why their business grew so quickly.

“If you look at our videos, they are all about people, whether they are designers, artists, authors or just someone with an unique perspective. It is very natural to discuss their lifestyles, objects in their lives, and their products. This is something that audiences feel acceptable. When a story’s angle is about a person, how that person tells their story, and their challenges, the details of their lives become much closer. The objects, spaces, and products behind that person become much more interconnected with us.”

He continued. “Many of the small yet beautiful brands struggle to survive because they cannot reach their audience, and many of the larger and more banal platforms such as Taobao and JD.com cannot easily good products that match the tastes of the middle class. I think Yitiao has created a path in that middle space. That’s why we’ve been successful.”

“For people who don’t mind spending a little extra, the cost of searching and browsing is actually very high. It is almost impossible to compare the various items on their functions and utilities. Yitiao aims to be that trusted platform where quality has been vetted and where shopping is more about feeling rightthan comparing right.” [38]

Challenges Ahead

The effect of Yitiao’s success has reshaped China’s media and ecommerce landscape. More and more startups are creating videos, some are directly copying Yitiao’s model. Content-to-Ecommerce has become the new buzzword of the day. [39] Also as the proliferation of content and ecommerce ramps up, Yitiao’s user growth has plateaued.[40]

We want to be better than MUJI.

One of the executives said in an interview in 2016. But how? The executive didn’t elaborate. Making such a bold statement made Yitiao appear arrogant in hindsight.

Indeed, there are many challenges ahead. Their current bottleneck revolves around the need to vet tens of thousands of products and they enter the platform. Judging from user feedback online, the process is somewhat flawed and has not been able to scale well, now that their SKU is in the tens of thousands.

Yitiao’s current executive team

Perhaps another Achilles’ heel is its inconsistent customer experience, which is indicative of a bigger problem, that aside from product curation, a fantastic ecommerce experience requires quality assurance, operational excellence, efficiency in logistics, and above and beyond customer support — a whole slew of efforts that Yitiao’s model doesn’t account for. [41]

It’s impossible to know how big the issues are in aggregate, but online reviews reveal that issues are common. One user wrote about her experience and went on to speculate that the product she bought was not in fact an original import, as claimed on Yitiao. This was a serious accusation for a platform that prides itself on quality and trustworthiness.

There was no follow-up to that thread, so it’s impossible to know what happened. Another user claimed that out of three dozens of products she ordered on Yitiao, only about a dozen were satisfactory. [42] She explained that it was impossible to return most of those items, because they were labelled as “rare” and “sourced with great difficulty”, which are euphemisms for “no returns”.

Aside from these reviews, there has also been pushback on Yitiao’s content. This Weibo post illustrates that sentiment.

The protagonists in ‘Yitiao’ videos, either own hotels, or built houses by hand for their loved ones, or bought islands, or spent $400k renovating rented residences in the center of Beijing. Rather than calling it Yitiao, it should be called The Rich.

— BaoZhaTaiZi, (V — verified Weibo) [43]

Xu admitted that the content and format of their videos cannot stay the same forever. There is a need to refresh and redesign that is much faster than magazines, he said in an interview in 2016. [44]

However, despite these challenges, Yitiao strives forward. Similar to how Michelin created content to expand the appeal of the entire auto industry, and how IKEA created meticulous showrooms to bring lifestyle and design education to customers, Yitiao is combining content, lifestyle and ecommerce in new and interesting ways. There is a long way to go, but so far it’s been an exciting ride.

I hope, that was an inspring story about an editor’s career change. To stay up to date. Just like my Facebook Fanpage: The Doan’s Blog. If you want to know, how to get sustainable traffic, read this: What is SEO? My most popular blog article: International money.

What is a landing page?

 

landing page

What is a landing page?

Landing page is a special website creating mostly for lead generation. If you don’t know, what lead generation is, read this! Lead Generation. By the way, the picture above is my website. Check it out: SEO Services. Most visitors see it after clicking on an online ads e.g. Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads etc., which is part of digital marketing. This website doesn’t have much information. Only the most necessary information like your advantages you will get by filling out the contact details. In this example it is getting more traffic, leads or sales as an offer. Other landing pages offer free ebooks, podcasts, courses, guides, cheat sheets, webinars, trial software etc. Another feature is, that it has a call to action button. In this example, it is „Get a quote“. Other call to action buttons can be „Submit your property“, „Get started“, „Subscribe“, „Make an appointment“ etc.

So all in all a website is to inform for example about their services, how many staffs they have, about their history, testimonials etc. So it is more about information. A landing page is specially designed for lead generation. To get contact details from you in exchange for nice incentives.

Conversion rate

The number one key performance indicator is the conversion rate. Conversions mean, that someone clicked on the call to action button for example to request a quote, to sign for the newsletter etc. The conversion rate is the percentage of the amount of the web visitor clicking on the CTA button out of the total number of web visitors. A typical conversion rate is about 2% to 5%. A low conversion rate can mean, that what you offer is not appealing enough. The design of the landing page is not intuitive or just simply you didn’t target the right group.

A/B test

One of the best way to increase your conversion rate, is to do A/B testing also known as split testing. A term from the web development, which is kind of out of topic, because it has nothing to do with marketing, but never mind, it is digital marketing. Don’t forget about that. A/B test is showing your web visitors 2 versions of your landing page to see, which one of them has a higher conversion rate. The 2 version can have different texts, pictures, call to action buttons etc. For example you can find out, whether a red logo converts more than a blue logo or the call to action button should be below the picture or next picture.

The big advantage is, that investing in A/B tests give you more leads than increasing the budget for paid traffic, which is money saving and effective. When you run the A/B test, having a look at the bounce rate is also a good indicator, whether your design is appealing enough. To be able to get a reliable conclusion, you should have enough traffic, which shouldn’t be a problem for ppc campaigns. Besides running the variation with 302 temporary redirect, so that it won’t have impact on SEO. A wine company could increase 200% of conversions! A good A/B test tool is Google Optimize.

That was basically it about landing pages. I hope, you like it. To stay up to date. Just like my Facebook Fanpage: The Doan’s Blog. If you want to know, how to get sustainable traffic, read this: What is SEO? My most popular blog article: International money.

How to Increase Your Traffic by 226% in Just 60 Days

How to increase your traffic fast

How to increase your traffic within 60 days

By 

Let’s face it. Your blog is stagnating. You keep checking your traffic for signs of growth but … none! The chart is as flat as a pancake. You desperately need to do something different, but what? Be honest — you’re baffled by all the options. And the endless stream of advice from the traffic experts only makes things worse. Don’t worry though. You’re not alone. At Canva, we were facing this challenge with our design blog, Design School. So we completely reengineered our blog strategy — and the results blew us away.

Find out exactly what we did. And how you can do it too: How to increase your traffic within 60 days!

Step 1: Reverse Engineer Your Competitors’ Content

If your traffic has stagnated, a common response is to generate more content. Because more content equals more traffic from Google, right? But quantity of content often comes at the expense of quality, so we took some time to consider our content strategy.

How to increase your traffic: First, we revisited our original vision for Design Blog — to teach and inspire people to learn design. And while we still loved that idea, a vision isn’t the same as a goal. We needed something more concrete and actionable that we could implement. So we decided to focus on improving the quality of our content. And our goal became to create the best possible content to teach and inspire people around design.

But to do that, we needed to find out what the best content on our topic actually looked like. So we reverse engineered the most popular content of our competitors to find out what content performs best.

This process is useful for two reasons:

  • It reveals the topics that are most popular among your target audience.
  • It reveals what type of content works well. For instance, are list posts the most effective? Do successful posts use lots of images?

Here’s how we reverse engineered our competitors — and how you can do the same.

If you’re not sure who your competitors are, perform a simple Google search using keywords or phrases common to your topic. Bloggers that rank in Google for those terms are likely to compete for the same audience as you.

Use Buzzsumo to Find Socially Popular Posts

The first tool — Buzzsumo — is indispensable, which is probably why it’s so popular among content strategists. In a nutshell, Buzzsumo shows you which pieces of content performed well on social media for any given topic or website.

Here, for example, is a screenshot of Smart Blogger’s top-three posts in the last year (according to the number of shares each post received):

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Competitor analysis is invaluable because there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for quality content. Different types of content perform best for different audiences. So, from Smart Bloggers’s top-three results, what can we conclude?

First, big lists do well. And if you study Buzzsumo’s results for the rest of Smart Blogger, you’ll see this pattern plays out nicely. Also, if you look at Copyblogger and other popular blogs in this space, you’ll find a similar trend.

Second, people like comprehensive resources. And they would rather be given the answers (e.g., the exact words to cut from their writing) than be given broad principles that require more work to interpret.

This is also true in our space where there’s more demand for free templates, icons and color-combinations than for information on how to create them. Here’s the takeaway. Buzzsumo can quickly give you direction for your content. Not just the popular topics, but the most effective type of content too.

Use Quora to get Fresh Angles on Popular Topics

The second awesome place to do research is Quora. If you’ve noticed from your Buzzsumo research that particular topics perform well, Quora will give you a unique sell for those topics by finding new angles to take.

After all, you don’t want to just copy your competitors. Their top-performing content can point you in the right direction, but tools like Quora can help you add value by covering topics that haven’t yet been fully explored.

For example, in our Buzzsumo research, we found that articles about fonts consistently performed well for other design publications. To double-check our finding, we plugged this keyword into Google Keyword Planner and found that keywords related to “font” received nearly 800K monthly searches as a whole:

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Going back to Quora, here’s an example of the results when I searched for “fonts”:

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After examining these results, we decided to write an article about choosing fonts. But we didn’t stop there.

You’ll notice that the first result has a grey star next to it, which is Quora’s way of determining which questions have high-quality answers. We noticed that lots of the answers in the thread were from design authorities. And such answers had an impressive amount of upvotes.

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So we added this touch, too, by framing the fact that a designer had written the post in the title. (The majority of our writers are designers, too.) This article was the result, and it received over 5k shares.

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Study Blog Archives to Discover Evergreen Topics

In addition to using Buzzsumo and Quora to benchmark the popular content in our space, we studied every post several of our major competitors ever published. It was a lot of work, so why did we do it? Because most content research tools have a flaw — they are biased toward the new.

Due to the sheer amount of content published on the web, many of these tools will only surface the most recent ones. Buzzsumo, for example, only goes back to the past year. That’s a problem because some topics will always be popular. We call this evergreen content. Grammar tips, for example, are useful today and will still be useful 50 years from now. If you don’t look at historical content, you could miss these important topics.

A positive side effect of this exercise is that you also get a clear vision of what your community looks like. The more familiar you become with your community, the better your content will be as a result.

How to increase your traffic. Step 2: Find Out What Your Readers Really Want

Other than your competitors, you have another useful source of content intelligence: your readers. Because while content research can reveal topics that are already popular, it won’t reveal the topics that readers are only just beginning to get excited about. Here are a couple ways to find out what your readers want to read about right now.

Come right out and ask them

It seems obvious, right? Yet not nearly enough blogs do it. If you go to Design School and subscribe to our newsletter, you’ll get a personal thank-you note. In that note, we also ask people about their biggest challenge — even if it has nothing to do with design. And many people tell us! This achieves two useful goals.

How to increase your traffic: First, it shows us the conversations already in their minds. And even though our subscribers often think a particular issue has nothing to do with design — like increasing traffic, for example — in truth, design can help them solve a lot of these issues.

How to increase your traffic: Second, it shows them that we care. It’s easy to get caught up in your own strategy and let blog traffic feed your ego. But in the blogging world, your fans’ success is your success. Content that is genuinely helpful is genuinely engaging — and this principle should drive your editorial process.

Observe their reading and sharing habits

Never assume your readers are only interested in your content. Don’t consider them consuming content elsewhere an insult; instead, learn from what else they like to read. You can do this manually by clicking through the Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook pages of people who’ve shared your posts on these platforms.

Or, use Buzzsumo and select the option to “view sharers” on any of your articles.

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From there, you can investigate further by looking at other links they’ve shared.

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You’d be surprised how many of your readers also frequent this other blog you’ve never heard of. In fact, this was how we discovered a lot of our competitors to begin with!

How to increase your traffic. Step 3: Follow The Data — Not Your Gut

Now that you know what your competitors write about, and what your readers want, you should have a long list of topics you know there’s a demand for. You should also have an idea of the quality you should be striving to meet. That’s the benchmark set by your competitors. But while the research process may already have given you some ideas for what types of content are popular, don’t make any guesses or assumptions without analyzing the data in full.

Below is the checklist we used to determine our new quality standard, along with our findings. The questions evolved naturally from seeing where our existing content differed from our competitors’.

08-competitor-quality-checklist

How to increase your traffic: These research-backed findings replaced our gut-driven approach we had used to determine what our articles should look like. The lesson: make decisions based on hard data — not guesswork. You’d be surprised how many people go through steps 1 and 2 but are reluctant to implement their findings.

They would say things like:

  • “But really, who is going to read 3,000 words online!”
  • “But I don’t want to write about <popular topic>. It’s been written to death!”
  • “These topics are so shallow. I want to write about something deeper.”

But we found that following the data led to significantly improved results.

How to increase your traffic. Step 4: Pick the Best Headline You Can (But Prepare to be Wrong)

The previous three steps will give you the data you need to create the content that realizes your vision for your blog. You won’t be surprised to hear that headlines are crucial. But you may be surprised to learn that you’ll never find the perfect one. Not on the first attempt anyway.

How to increase your traffic. Take this post of ours as an example: Why Everyone From Beethoven, Goethe, Dickens, Darwin To Steve Jobs Took Long Walks and Why You Should Too. The original headline, as reflected in the banner, was simply, “Why Steve Jobs Took Long Walks and Why You Should Too”. But for some reason, that didn’t perform very well. Perhaps it’s because some people don’t like Steve Jobs. We can only guess. And actually, it doesn’t really matter.

How to increase your traffic: We simply decided to change it and repost it — and it’s since received more than 70,000 shares across various social media networks. The point is that by adjusting the title and re-posting it on social media, we made what would be just-another-post into a viral one. You can do this kind of headline evolution manually or invest in a plugin like Kingsumo, that will do it automatically for you.

How to increase your traffic. Step 5: Create Content That’s Concrete and Credible

Having the right headline only gets you so far. We knew we’d never realize our vision unless the content truly helped people learn about design. So another change we made — led by our research — was to use lots of examples and case studies in our articles. And even though this was revealed by a study of our topic — design — a lot of evidence suggests it works great for many other topics too.

How to increase your traffic: For us this meant a shift away from the tutorial based articles we created in house. Although they were already quite popular (many receiving up to 1k shares), that seemed to be the extent of their potential as articles. (They were secondary to our hugely popular interactive design tutorials.)

So we decided to keep our instructional how-to tone, but instead applied it to posts that show specifically how a professional designer would implement a particular design principle. Connecting your content to the real world is far more important than most people realize. For instance, one of the most important things you need to succeed as a blogger is credibility.

And a great way to demonstrate credibility is to publish a case study. Like this one you’re reading right now. I am not a “certified content strategist” — but I’ve created and applied a successful content strategy for Canva, so that gives me credibility, right?

How to increase your traffic: The other trick for grounding your content in the real world? Make your posts concrete. That means include step-by-step instructions — tell people exactly what to do. Instead of saying, “Promote your blog,” do what Brian Dean did with this post. He made liberal use of screenshots and examples — complete with templates you can use right away. Compare that to a generic post about blog promotion and you’ll realize this: concrete advice proves you know what you’re doing.

How to increase your traffic. Step 6: Add Images (No, More Than That)

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Visual content gets shared more. (Jeff Bullas wrote about how articles with images get 94% more views than those without.) Like most bloggers, we thought we understood this, so we always included a featured image with our blog posts to make it more social-friendly. But looking back, we didn’t really understand the power of images. We thought we did, but we didn’t. Not until we conducted our research.

How to increase your traffic: While we were studying our competitors, we noticed how they not only have multiple images in each post, but they also often have many of them. So we decided to systematically increase the number of images in our posts to see the effect. And sure enough, the more images we used, the more traffic increased. Here, for example, is our traffic from Pinterest in the same period:

09-pinterest-traffic

Look what happens when you search for Design School on Pinterest. It’s flooded — not with featured images, but with graphics from our picture list posts.

However, this doesn’t mean you should randomly pepper your posts with stock photography. The images need to make sense in context — and add value to your post. Like the screenshots and charts in this post. Or take this post on Design School as an example. It’s one of our most popular posts on Pinterest, getting over 700 pins. And it wasn’t a particularly lengthy post — but it does contain a lot of relevant images. If you don’t know what type of images to create for your blog posts, Pamela Wilson has a great article about that here.

The Results of our 60-Day Content Experiment

We ran our content experiment on our Design School blog for sixty days — from the end of January to the end of March 2015. Compared to the preceding three-months period, we saw a 226% increase in traffic:

10-increase-in-traffic

Oh and guess what? Our traffic from social during that period increased too — by nearly 500%! Even though we’d all but ignored our social media growth strategy during that time. Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof:

11-increase-in-social

How did we manage it? It was a result of the strategic changes we made to our blog. Not our Facebook page or any other social platform. Our content was higher quality and resonated more strongly with our audience, so they naturally shared it more on social media. Pretty awesome, right?

Stop Stagnating and Start Strategizing

Blog stagnation is a terrifying prospect. Because stagnation is usually followed by decline — and then demise. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. A bold new strategy can jolt your blog out of its rut. But how will you find that strategy? On what will it be based? The latest recommendations from the expert du jour?

An unidentifiable gut feeling about the right direction to take? Or something else altogether? In truth, building a popular blog is not about holding out for the perfect strategy. It’s about relentless testing and knowing that you don’t need to do everything right to succeed. It’s about research, experimentation, and gaining a deep understanding of your readers and your competitors.

At Canva, we shifted our strategy and it made a huge difference to our traffic — in just 60 days. We couldn’t have done it if we skipped any the steps above. We’ve had our breakthrough; now it’s time for you to have yours. Because visions are far more exciting when you can see them made real.

I hope, you like this article about how to increase your traffic. To stay up to date. Just like my Facebook Fanpage: The Doan’s Blog. If you want to know, how to get sustainable traffic, read this: What is SEO? My most popular blog article: International money and Secrets of the Super Rich.