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How Nick Musica Managed To Grow a Site to 185 Million Pageviews a Year

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How Nick Musica Managed To Grow a Site to 185 Million Pageviews a Year

Curious to learn how a site grew to 185 million pageviews a year and why it lost 40% of traffic within a week?

In the latest episode of the Niche Pursuits podcast, Nick Musica, the former SEO and Content Director of DMV.org joins us to discuss the site’s incredible rise (and subsequent fall).

Nick joined when the site was generating 85 million pageviews a year. And over the next several years, he continuously helped to avoid plateaus with the strategies and tactics he shares today.

The talk is wide-ranging and goes in-depth into many things owners and managers of small and large sites need to consider.

Topics include:

  • The importance of building a brand
  • Site architecture
  • Canonical tags
  • How to handle Google Search Console errors
  • Crawl budget
  • And more…

So if you’re planning to grow an authority site and want to avoid some common mistakes, you’ll definitely want to give this a listen!

Topics Nick Musica Covers

  • Nick’s background in SEO
  • What DMV.org is
  • Pros and Cons of using a .org domain
  • Sub-domains vs. sub-directories
  • How to manage tons of content
  • Thin content
  • Technical and content updates
  • Your page speed vs. your competition
  • The importance of technical audits
  • Crawled not indexed pages
  • Focusing all content through an ‘aboutness’ framework
  • Affiliate strategies
  • Why they lost 40% of their traffic overnight
  • And more…

Links & Resources

Sponsored by: Stan Ventures

Watch The Interview

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Read The Transcription

Jared: Welcome back to the Niche Pursuits Podcast. My name is Jared Bauman. Today we’re joined by Nick Musica with the let’s see, founder and c e o of Optics Inn, which is a small s e o agency. But we are talking today about your time as formerly as the s e o and the content [email protected] Welcome Nick.

Nick: Thank you, Jared. Yep. Yep. Excited to chat with you and, and and the audience today. 

Jared: Oh, we have such a good story today. It’s gonna be, it’s gonna be really fun if, if you like to nerd out on some crazy growth, some crazy website growth in the back of seo, and then some some, some real drama perks, pitfalls along the way.

Some great success along the way. This is a. Really fun story we have in front of us. Why don’t you give us a little, little bit, bit, bit of background on you. I know you’re doing an SEO agency right now, but maybe catch us up to your background and, and obviously we’ll pick up the story for your time at at, at the D M V 

Nick: website.

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. So I, I’ve been working in SEO since 2003. I co-authored a book with Sherry Throw in 2009, mapping usability and SEO together. Spent a, a brief semester at nyu teaching at the graduate level. Mm-hmm. , but most, most folks, most folks know me for the work at D org because of, because of the conversation we’re gonna have here.

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But, but I started my own agency in 2019, right before the pandemic. Yep. I found myself sitting alone talking to myself a. With the exception of talking to cats just before everyone else 

Jared: was you. Yeah, we, we, the thing about starting a business is it’s often very lonely and then Covid is often very lonely as well.

You kind of double down on it. . 

Nick: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, so when, when I saw Covid hitting, my first thought was, oh great, everyone’s gonna have to adjust like I did. Let’s see how that works out. Yeah. And, and we have . That’s a good point. 

Jared: I, I I work, I worked from home prior to that, and so when everybody was this whole work from home craze, I was like, if you need any tips, I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I’m a, I am a professional work at Homer

Nick: Yeah. Yeah. We sounds like we both suffered through it, before everyone else 

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Jared: did. So we did. So we did well, you, you got a story background. Why don’t you launch us off and, and again, if you haven’t, haven’t been the site we’re talking about today is dmv.org and your time there, you were there quite a while.

When did you start with them and why don’t we pick up the conversation there? 

Nick: Yeah, for sure. So even before I started, the site was registered in 1999. Wow. Right. So it’s been, it’s been out for more than a minute. I got there in 2012, so there are multiple iterations between 1999 and 2012. So when I got there, the site was getting approximately 85 million visits a year via seo.

No paid social. I mean, there’s not a whole lot of social activity around . Yeah. Getting your license, right? Like there’s just not a 

Jared: lot. So not a lot of selfies being taken in the DMV line. At least not good 

Nick: ones. Right, right. Got my license today, like not so much. Even kids say just sort of don’t really want to get their license like I did minimally.

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So when I joined the company, there was about seven full-time employees, W twos, 10 90 nines, whatever it was, but about seven of us. Okay. And fast forward six years later. We went from 85 million to 185 million visits a year, largely through seo. Wow. And, and, and literally the week after I left, I got a text from my former manager saying, so you’ve been gone for a week and overnight we lost 40% of our traffic, 

Jared: which quantifies in the tens of, tens of tens of millions gone overnight.

Nick: Yes. So there were multiple rounds of layoffs. And so from the perspective of employment growth, and so Spokes can do their own math around how much the company was making. Right. So imagine if you will, we went from seven employees to 40, lost 40%. And I can’t confirm or deny this next statistic. But if you go on LinkedIn and start searching around for who’s working where, there’s probably about three full-time employees.

Jared: Do you know anything about where the site is today? Is it still, you know, in the millions of page 

Nick: views? I’m making a guess based on third party data. I’m making a guess about 12 cm rush, let, let’s say 12 to 15 million. 

Jared: Yep. Okay. Okay. So a rise in a fall. And we’ll get into the fall as well if you want.

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Sure. Some interesting storylines , I, there’s some fun screenshots you shared with me that I, I think a lot of people will be interested in, but we’ll get to that. I mean, when you arrived there 85 million pages a year. I just did some math on my phone. It’s about 7 million pages a month, so that’s some serious traffic.

Before we get into some of the things that you were a part of that grew the site so dramatically, help us understand the dmv.org website and then its relation, its relationship to the D M V. And if you’re, if you’re listening across the globe, the D M V is the United States Department of Motor Vehicles.

I think I have that right. Like you said, it’s, it’s not exactly well loved not necessarily their fault, but nobody likes to go and, you know, re-register their license or, you know, and they’re, they’re known for long lines and these sorts of things. What’s the website’s relationship to the D M V itself, the actual government institution or whatever.

Nick: Zero relationship. If you go to the website there is, or at least minimally used to be a big banner at the top where you would typically find a display ad. But on this website it was, we have no relationship with the government at all. This is a privately owned company. 

Jared: Yep. Okay. So none. Okay. So what was the goal of this website?

Just to help people out with their D M V questions or what, what, you know, what was the foundation of it? 

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Nick: Yeah. The, my understanding from my time being there, it, the origin story is there was a family that registered, the domain brothers worked together to get traffic. One brother made a bet with another one that he could meet certain metrics.

And, and so he did within some period of time, which I think it was half of what they agreed to. Wow. And, and then it took off from there. And, and to your, to your point, right. So the DMV is sort of the, the general term for things these days. In New Jersey for example, it’s, it used to be the dmv, now it’s the b c Motor Vehicle Commission.

Oh. And, and every state has. An agency, maybe two agencies. In California, where I am there is the dmv. It manages your car and the driver in Texas, I forget the name of the agencies, but there’s one agency for the driver. There’s one agency for the car. So it’s different. So if you were to move to another state, don’t assume it’s the dmv, it could be a different agency, but largely folks search for DMV or an equivalent of that.

And we aggregated 50 states together on one website. The idea was make it easier for folks to navigate the things they need to do when they go to the dmv. And arguably we did that. Regardless of the traffic drop, we, we did that. I worked with the content folks. We had a great process. We did what we had to do.

It was easier to do research and distill the important information down for states such as California, New York, New Jersey, Texas, where there’s a budget for the D M V, shall we say, right there. All the information’s largely there, most of it. Other states with less of a budget, Alabama, Mississippi, et cetera, don’t have as much of a robust, robust website.

So, so we were able to answer the questions better, faster, better organized on the page as much as we were able to by looking at the other websites and rewriting the content and, and structuring in a way where it was more findable and easy to, to 

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Jared: underst. So I guess maybe the first question that comes to my mind as we’re talking about this, and maybe you’re gonna talk about it later, so, so tell me if, if you are, but I, I guess they surround the proverbial legalities of using D M V, for example, in the U R L and as the name of the website, and kind of answering these government related queries, if you will, like how we talk about trademarks every now and then again in websites and, and, and how that can come back to bite you.

How it is often very confusing to be quite honest with you. What is an act of trademark? What is it? So it, it kind of just all relates to that big, that bigger question. And how did you guys kind of manage that and, and, and talk about that? 

Nick: Yeah, so I, I can answer from the perspective during the timeframe that I was there, right?

And, and keep in mind I got there 2012 and, and it started in 20 1999. So a, as far as I know, there was no issue with any lawsuits around the domain name. Not a lawyer also. Totally. It’s all public. It’s all public domain information. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s the government, right? So if you go to census.gov, all that information can be used on your website, structured any way you want to.

Yep. Create a fun graph because it’s typically a big table, right. So it, it’s the same spirit as that. However, this is a little different because dmv.org, even today, if you were to say blah, blah blah.org with something that sounds official, there’s a whole lot of confusion around that. If you were to take a look at the backing profile of this website, you can make an argument, and this is one of the conversations internally was while we try to be clear, we have the banner at the top.

We’re very clear of who we are from our perspective at the time. We benefited from the confusion. Mm-hmm. . There’s, there’s at least one news clip that I can remember where abc, N B C, whatever it was, and the anchor says, blah, blah, blah. The government website [email protected] . Yep. Okay. All right. And this is how it happened.

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Okay. At le, at least from a backlink 

Jared: perspective. Yeah. Well, I mean, I would probably be a bit confused. You know, especially if you are, you talked about it, you have a different budget, you have different people on your team than the state D M V does, and you can probably over time as we are seeing outrank them for a lot of their queries.

And one very easily might assume that if they’re ranking number one, you got d DMV in the name, that’s the source. 

Nick: Yeah. Yeah. And, and if you were to break down the query types, navigational, informational, and transactional, but some folks call a navigational branded query. Same, same. We were outranking the state DMV websites On the daily, yeah, on the daily.

Jared: It’s so amazing. Well, let’s talk about let’s talk about when you got there and you know, I, I just, I want to hear some of the nitty gritty on the, on the, how you grew this site, how you Yeah. Worked with the team. You had a healthy supply of content writers when you arrived. I think you said you had five or five or 10 when you, when you got there.

And again, it’s October, 2012 was when you got there doing about 85 million page views a year at that point. Let’s talk about, you know, what it looks like to manage a site like that and kind of what you did to get a, a handle on what a site like that was doing, because you probably had a, a period of time where you had to really better understand what that traffic was doing on a site before you could kinda come with a plan of attack.

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Nick: For sure, for sure. So I, I got there now. I was, I was focusing on seo. There was a content director at the time, so I was just the SEO guy. And we had, we had three websites, but they were called the website. So there was www dmv.org. There was local.dv.org and there was search.dv.org, but they were all the website right in, in SEO land.

Those are three different websites. Yep. But, but when you’re technical and managing the domain, it, it turned into the website. And so that’s how it was referred to in some circles for some period of time. And I fully understood what that meant when I made a request for the DubDubDub site for the canonical tag and somehow it landed on my request, landed on the local.website.

Oh, what? I didn’t. Right. So here’s, here’s what I understood after the fact was the robot’s txt file and some other like a site map, were, were shared files across quote unquote the website going between the sub domains, correct? Yeah. So the same robots txt on dub dub dub dot. Local dot and search dot dean org.

So if you said, exclude this directory on one one, we’ll call ’em a subdomain. It exclude the same directory from the other two. 

Jared: But Google’s crawl bot loved that confusion. . Yeah. 

Nick: So here’s, here’s how that presented. So I made a request for an adjustment to the canonical tag on dub dub dub I can’t remember what it was, but the result of it was on local is essentially every page got canonized to local.tv.org.

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Oh, okay. Right. So within Not good not 

Jared: good. Yeah. You’re new to seo. That’s, that’s bad. . 

Nick: Yes. We, we, we essentially said, take these a thousand pages and attribute all of their equity to one page on the website. That was essentially, The non-directive, right? Cuz canonical tech should not be a directive because people screw up their website, enter exhibit A, we screw up the website, right?

and oh boy, we, we lost, we lost traffic overnight. So it goes up and then it goes down. And then it took a while to find, because I didn’t make the request. So what am I looking for in the changes, you know, week over week on the push it wa it wasn’t the canonical tag. I finally found it and then I got to learn, oh, this is what we mean collectively as the website.

Got it. Now I’m understanding it. So that was, that was a humbling moment. , what did you do 

Jared: that, I mean, that’s amazing you found it because you’re right. Like that’s like looking for a needle and a haystack to some degree. Especially when you don’t even know what the needle you’re looking for is. 

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Nick: Yeah, so there was a big conversation with Dev around what were the shared files across the websites, what does that mean?

Let’s get ’em parsed out between the different sub domains. Because DM, www dv.org needs its own robots txt, local dot needs its own t robots txt, et cetera. So once we’re able to detangle that, we had more solid technical architecture. And so that was, that was step one. Step two was fix the canon canonical tag on local dot, which, which wasn’t a whole lot of traffic relative to dub Do, do however you still want your traffic back.

So it took about two weeks at the time, once we fixed the canonical tag on local dot for the traffic to start to come back and it did. 

Jared: Taking a brief step back, just so people can learn from this, sure. Most people aren’t managing websites that are getting millions and millions of page views. It, there’s a, a healthy use case here to learn from.

I think we all understand to some degree why a site might use architecture where you folder different content or different spaces of the website. So you might have dmv.org/local/you know, the rest of your URL string, and that can be done to help Crawlability help navigability help, you know, with dividing the content accurately.

Talk about why a website would benefit from having these sub-domains. Versus maybe the approach I 

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Nick: just outlined. Yeah. So for, and, and let’s take it in the context of dmb.org and then we can apply it to anything else we want, right? So and, and there’s also a, a, a third piece in there, which is search dot, which we had search results in this search results, which as, as per Google, not a great idea, right?

And, 

Jared: and, sorry, I, I keep laughing, but , 

Nick: there were multiple things to fix, which is why we went from 85 to 185 million visits a, a year, right? It was, it was, it was very good. And we solely sort of bullied the algorithm to some degree because of 50 states collapsed into one and because of the confusion with all the links, right?

So all that was at play. However, going back to the original question, what’s the benefit of a subdomain versus a sub folder, et cetera? For this website, for the size of the website, the cleaner, the architecture is, The, the more thought I would argue you have to give into, is it gonna be a sub-domain or is it gonna be a sub directory?

Also for, for www d.org, there was a lot of questions, how do I get my license? How do I renew my license? How do I sell a car, whatever. It’s, how do we get a title? Very information centric. Local DOT was focused on very specific locations of DMV offices of insurance agents, things like that. So they were, they were, other than the technical, technical concern around the size of the website and the cleanliness of the technical architecture, there was also a question of the audience.

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Where, where do these people want to go? Right? If you have everything you need and you wanna go to the dmv, here’s a website. You can go do that. So, so you have size of website and cleanliness. You have, who are these people? What are they trying to accomplish? And then you have the different types of websites.

One’s an informational website, one’s a directory website, 

Jared: right? Yeah. And that’s, that’s a great point to bring up. You’ll see that a lot where I suppose you kind of hit to nail on the head. It’s, it’s, it’s intent-based and, and when they intent, it’s so wildly different and the size of the site is justifies it.

That can be why you would go sub-domain versus sub-folder. 

Nick: For sure, for sure. I, and, and based on what I’ve seen, we’ll say in the past five-ish years, folks who are first come to their domain, Be it take a look at weed maps. They do some amount of work in cannabis and related topics. If you take a look at weed maps, they started as a directory.

They piled on products, they piled on information. If you take a look at healing maps, which is more psychedelic in nature, they started with directory information, right? So it can be done. You don’t need to separate those two things out, however, coming in late into the game, but there’s, if there’s more than three players in this space, it’s, it’s gonna be a harder time.

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Or if you’re not Yelp, it’s gonna be a harder time. Yeah, that’s a good point. 

Jared: So these are some of the technical challenges that you were up against. And you know, I mean, I’m just curious, what other tips could you share with us about managing. Large volumes of traffic and, and URLs at scale that, you know, all of us can learn from.

Obviously the majority of us aren’t touching websites that size, but I’ve already, I already feel like you’ve shared some really amazing little insights about how big small technical things can turn into . 

Nick: For sure. For sure. So I, I would say this, what my first year, year and a half there was just cleaning up the technical, that’s all it was.

3 0 1 s were getting cleaned up. If there were 3 0 1 loops or, or chains, they were getting cleaned up. We had interstitial pages when folks were clicking on a link and they were about to go offsite. That was a 3 0 1. We had, we made a lot of money on car insurance. We also had a lot of car insurance in state result pages.

Those were all available to Google. It wasn’t necessary. Hmm. We, we had my, my favorite page on the website was snowmobile insurance in Hawaii. Right, because what would ha We had some logic. It was very smart, it was very well done, but also not perfect. So, you know, there was, there was logic where we would have the same topic.

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Then you molted out by 51 states. We included DC as a state, but what that meant was snowmobile insurance in all states, including Hawaii. And so my job was not only cleaning up technically, but also trim out this thin content. My, my nickname by a gentleman who I used to work with for a couple years was Choppy Chop.

You would have project meetings and I would come in there and he is like, what are we deleting today, Nick? I’m like, we’re gonna find out. And I probably deleted 500 pages. I don’t know. I’m making it up at this point. It’s been a while, but 500 pages over a year and 

Jared: a half. What type of content approach had been taken when you, when you got there?

You talked about thin pages. Yeah. And the fact that you guys earned a lot from car insurance, which I want to get into your monetization. Yeah. Angles in a little bit. I mean, was this a, a website that relied on a lot of informational content to drive its traffic more transactional pages or some of these almost programmatically created pages?

I’m curious about how this site was almost built from a content structure 

Nick: standpoint. Yeah, it was one part programmatic in terms of creating topics out. So a topic was driver’s license in state, for example, or snowmobile insurance in state, state, state, and bracket state is a variable. And, and then we would write content around it.

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When I got there, all the content was written. It wasn’t great. It was, it would, but it didn’t need to be great at the time. There was no website like this that existed and there was enough of good enough content that the results came in. However, however, this is the right, this is the type of content where, because of the programmatic, there was snowmobile insurance in, in Hawaii.

That had to get taken out of the, off the website. There was also a lot of content that was at a date. Things change. Agency names change. Like I said in the top of the conversation, New Jersey used to be D M V, now it’s N V C license ages change. There was not a quote unquote graduated license 20 years ago.

Now, there is, there were, there weren’t times where you couldn’t drive your license at nine o’clock with kids in the car with a permit. Now there is. Right? Right. So, so it had to be maintained, which is part of this whole Skip. Fast forwarding to today, this quality content perspective. Are you maintaining your content?

If you’re not maintaining your content? That’s a quality score issue. 

Jared: A lot of the updating, it sounds like, wasn’t happening until you arrived, so you were also kind of championing not just technical updates, but content updates along 

Nick: the way. Yeah, so at, at, at one point, I, I became the, the director of Content and seo.

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So when I first got to the company, there were two or three writers who were going through the content. When I went downstairs in our office and, and started to manage both content and seo, there were somewhere depending on the day, seven to 10 folks in content, and, and we went through every page of the website.

Wow. The most important pages. A k a, the ones that were getting traffic, the ones that were getting revenue and just kept on going down the. 

Jared: What does it look like to manage a site that has that much traffic? What are some things that happen on a site that size that maybe smaller sites don’t run into?

And I’m thinking in terms of, you know, optimizing for, for page speed when you have so much content on the server. I’m talking about images and all the internal linking and just some of these things that we probably don’t even consider at scale. 

Nick: Yeah. So, and we talked about this before we start to record, and the problems you see with a hundred page website are not the ones you’re gonna see with a hundred thousand page website.

They’re, they’re just not, you can have a ton of inefficiencies at a hundred pages and it’s sort of okay. You can sort of, Google can modelle through your website and, and figure out what the best pages are as per its algorithm and, and rank them accordingly. However, at some point your technical gets to be very, very important.

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You want that thing streamlined as best as possible because the time that Google takes to go to. A hundred, hundred thousand pages or whatever the magic number is, it’s gonna have to pick and choose where it spent its time. And if you waste your crawl budget, you just may have taken out 50% of your pages that Google didn’t even get to a hundred pages.

Not so much. Google’s gonna through, gonna get through all of them. But that’s one of the issues when we talk about, when we talk about page speed, one of the conversations that we used to have internally, but I don’t hear out in the world, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it, is yes, page p page speed is important.

It’s one of, are, are we still saying 200 signals for, for argument sake? Say two. I’ve heard 300 lately. . Okay, alright. One of 300 signals. Right? So what? But it has to be contextualized. It’s you versus your competitors, right? So it’s not me versus Amazon. I, I’m not in the business of Amazon. So when we took a look at our site compared to the California D M V, Texas, dmv, et cetera, et cetera, that’s how we start to understand how we ranked against those sites from a paid speed perspective.

And it was late in the game. It was probably 2018 or 2017 when display ads first got on the website. And that’s a big hit to page speed. Yep. Big hit, right? So we, we, we, we were a, we were a private company. We, we made a lot of money on on partnerships and with plugins, with JavaScript, for example.

State agencies did not, that that wasn’t their business model, their page fee was always going to be better, always. So we did what we had to do to make our site the best version of what it was, and ideally it was close to the page fee that those other websites. 

Jared: The largest site I’ve ever worked on, I think was about 60,000 page views.

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I, I have an agency as well, and we don’t normally work on, you know, sites larger than maybe five to 10,000. Not page views, sorry URLs I, I, sorry. 60,000 URLs. And I, you know, man, you hit the nail on the head. Like even just going from a 5,000 URL site to a 60,000 URL site, there’s just so many different things you have to pay attention to.

I can only imagine on a site the size you are working on. 

Nick: It’s yeah. So we, I, I use Screaming Frog as a, as a desktop tool. Yeah, right. But I would it would fail , it would fail on this website, I’m sure. And, and I love the tool. I, I use it today. I, I use it with, with a bunch of my clients in my own work.

However, with this website, we used Deep Crawl, which was fantastic. You can set it up, you can create the you know, weekly, monthly, whatever was gonna be crawls. You can see the, the crawl up crawl. You can see where things broke. And for a website like this, and this is true of any website anywhere, there’s, there’s no, there’s no owner of the seo.

There. There may be someone who talks a lot at a lot about it at nauseum, right? Like this guy. But the, the idea of doing that is to get everyone to understand their place in terms of this thing that we call seo. And did you SEO it, right? Like, it’s such a terrible phrase, but did you SEO it? Well, how that relates to images is, did you, did you just grab it off of iStock and dump it up?

Well, that’s a, that’s an image for print. What does that mean? What’s that gonna do to your website in terms of file size? You do it that five times you’re gonna kill Google. So you need to be able to learn SEO from your own perspective. And so we had a wonderful technical team. They, they knew the value of seo, the entire company knew the value of seo, so everyone was well aware of what it meant.

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And, and we had a very cross-functional company where if folks would. Get educated on everything everyone was doing. It was really quite fantastic. 

Jared: Couldn’t agree with you more, man, I, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve, you know, delivered a site audit and, and the subsequent repairs we did. But the first thing is, okay, we’ve, we’ve fixed all the images and gotten them to the proper size, but mark by words, this problem will literally happen tomorrow if you don’t deploy these changes to your standard operating procedures for how your whole content team does images or else you are gonna call me in a month and say that we have images that are, you know, too large or something like that.

So that buy-in, I mean, otherwise you’re just fighting uphill battle. 

Nick: Yeah, I, I had a client tell me once, well, can you QA the changes. I don’t, I don’t understand. I, I, everything is laid out clearly. Is the document not clear? Oh, no, the document’s really clear, but my problem is I don’t trust the people who got us into this situation to q they qa their own work to get us outta the situation.

Oh, oh, okay. Well that makes sense, , 

Jared: thanks. Hey, you mentioned crawl budget earlier, and it was on my list of things I wanted to ask you about. What sort of tips can you share with us about crawl budget, optimizing crawl budget, again at the size you were at? I’m sure some things don’t apply to smaller sites, but nonetheless, you’ve gotta have some great insights into how to maximize the, the amount of pages Google can crawl at a time, you know?

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Yeah. 

Nick: Yeah. So I, I, I would start with this was, this was the biggest site I worked on up until that point in my career and, and it still is. And so I had a lot of working theories. You know, I studied, I went to the conferences took all the notes. Applied them as, as per my websites at the time, whatever, what, whichever website I was working on.

This was the first website where I could work on it and actually apply my theories. So, and, and see what would happen. Because I would say, well, chances are if we do this, this is what’s gonna happen. So the reason I bring that up is it’s a play, right? I was just able to prove those things out on this website.

But they are at play with other smaller websites. Mm-hmm. , right? They may not be as critical, but they’re absolutely at play. So in terms of crawl budget, think about it this way. If you have a hundred pages on your website and you have some amount of duplicate pages because you’re your URL string, because mixed cases, because there’s another sub domain out in the world, whatever the reason is, Google’s only gonna get to so many of those url.

and some of those URLs are gonna be duplicate pages, which means it doesn’t get to all the other good pages. So you need to keep your, your technical extremely clean. Make sure you, your 3 0 1 s are one to one. Make sure you limit your 4 0 1, your 400 s. Make sure you’re, you only have one website. Is it H C T P?

Is it a c TPSs? Is it dub dub dub? Is it nonw Dub Dub? It doesn’t happen a lot these days, but I do find, and this is part of the technical audits that we do, I, I do find that there’s more, more of these older items that typically don’t show up. They, they do find they’re way into the system. So folks, and, and a lot of it’s the server you choose today.

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Mm, mm-hmm. . So a lot of folks should, should take a look to see what’s going on, to make sure that they have one u r l to host one piece of content. And that’s an over overly simplified statement, but that’s, that’s the idea. 

Jared: There’s a lot of, we’ll call it, you know, errors that get reported in Google search console.

Smaller sites don’t tend to flag quite as many, but as your site gets larger, even into just maybe 500 to a thousand pages and above. And while we’re talking, I just pulled up Google Search Console for one of the larger sites we work on, and I’m seeing, you know, and this is a site that you know is is not being ignored, right?

But I’m seeing redirect errors excluded by no index tag page with redirects not found. 4 0 4 alternate page with proper canonical tag, crawled, not indexed, discovered, not index, et cetera, et cetera, which are the big ones that people should be paying attention to, smaller or large site. 

Nick: Yeah. It’s a, it’s a terrible answer.

It’s a, it’s a trick question and a terrible answer. Right. So it’s, it is a bit of a trick 

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Jared: question. , you caught 

Nick: me. Yeah. It, it depends, right? So, so I’ll, I’ll bring up a couple examples that I’ve seen re more recently. I think it’s more relevant to folks who are gonna be listening. So we, we’ve been producing a lot of content for one of our clients, and the first 30 pages were great.

Next 30 pages less, less great. The next 30 pages not as, not as great. Digging into search console, seeing some of their old pages on the website. They’re, they’re not great. They’re, they have not been crawled, they’ve not been indexed, or maybe they’ve been crawled or indexed. E either way, they’re, they’re, they’re not getting traffic.

Mm-hmm. it, it’s not, I’m sorry. It’s not, not indexed. It’s been crawled, not indexed. Crawled, 

Jared: not indexed. Yeah. And that’s one of ’em. 

Nick: Yeah. Thank you. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And, and what it is, is it’s, it’s a bunch of terrible content. It’s not good. It’s, it’s duplicative. It’s, it’s, it doesn’t serve. The intent of the page.

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And so what that does, it, it, it essentially drags down the value of the other pages we’ve been creating. So you have this, you have this imbalance of quality where a little bit of good pages was great, but if you want, if you wanna get the, the credit for these new pages, you’re, you’re producing after the original bunch, you gotta do something about this thing over here, cuz it’s bringing down the weight of things.

So that’s take, take a look If you’re gonna see a, a bunch of, there’s some natural lag and everyone has it with very good websites. From what I’ve seen there, there’s a lag of some amount of pages, not just not getting into the index. I don’t know what it’s about, but there’s, but it seems natural.

However, if you start to see patterns, if you start to see things in bulk from this perspective, crawled, not indexed, most likely a quality issue or there’s some type of redirect at play there, there could be something that’s not ideal. The, the other thing that. Google Search Console is good for, but also not good for is it gives you a sample and search Con, Google’s trying to show you patterns.

So while something will show up in Search Console, it may not be an issue. It just happens to fit a pattern from their perspective. So Software Fours used to be one of those things before, before they had the actual category for software oh four s, right? There would be pages that show up as 4 0 4 s. I’m like, it’s not a 4 0 4.

Mm-hmm. , why is it right? And so it would be, well, because it’s a thin page, it thinks it’s a 4 0 4 in some way or another. So E, even if it’s, even if it’s a pattern and it doesn’t map to what Google is saying, chances are you should fix it because it’s a problem for Google. So take it seriously. See what you can.

And, and just make sure you, you, you get it outta that Google, Google universe and then, and, and make your site healthier. 

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Jared: Yeah. Great. Great tips. Okay back to the website, back to DMV org. We, we’ve talked a lot about your first year or two there and, and really what you were focusing on. What did you, what did you guys do to get the growth and maybe in subsequent years to get it to where it was when, when you, when you did leave, I, I think you said 185 million, which is, yeah, I mean, that’s approaching, you know, 13, 14 million p page views a month.

Nick: It was pretty fantastic. And it took a while to kick in, right? So for the first year-ish it, it was only up a little bit. You know, going, going through the archives, I’m just gonna refer to my notes here. We went from roughly 85 million visits to 95 million visits year over year. The first year, 10 12.

It’s not a lot of growth. I mean, it, it is, it’s also not, and, and from that, that point, it starts to really increase. Cuz, cuz the technical, it’s, it’s really what it came down the first couple years. I attribute the technical to, to being the growth. However, after that, literally every page on the website was scrutinized, was rewritten and, and, and just simply made better.

We also, and I mentioned it earlier, we, we took search.db.org out of the equation. So search dot db org essentially crawled and scraped everything on dub dub dub as its own website. Mm-hmm. . And it would be found for very strange things. So I’m, I’m, I’m gonna make a terrible example cuz I’m good at mixed metaphors and terrible examples.

If one page had blue and another page had giraffe on it and you search for DMV blue giraffe, it would, this website would show up. Search dmv.org would show. Right. However, so other than just a bunch of nonsense that it could rank for, the only thing that it would rank for was by default because of how it was created, was anything on dub dub dub, which means it was competing with dub, dub dub.

Right. It was just a weaker version of it. So we took it outta the equation. 

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Jared: This is the type of cannibalization that is bad, you know? Yes. I mean, there’s theories about whether cannibalization really actually is bad or not. This is an example where I think no matter which side of the fence you sit on that argument.

This is a bad example of where, because you have one page that’s clearly weaker than the other. For sure. Yeah. 

Nick: If, if you’re, if you’re dilemma today around cannibalization is I have two pages that rank for the same term. Enjoy it while it last. Great. Fix the problem when it shows up. Yeah. Right. But, but for this, this was clearly scrape our own content.

And create a website out of it. We, what are we doing? We’re computing with ourselves. So we took it outta the equation and that gave us a huge pump as well. Hmm, 

Jared: okay. Okay. You talked about how you went back and just every page was heavily scrutinized. What were, what were the type of things you guys were doing to take it from a, you know, thin page?

I’m using air quotes for those people who are listening from a thin page that wasn’t of high quality and, and improving it. I’m just, I’m just interested, like, what were the things you guys were paying attention to? What were the things you were doing to bring the page quality up? 

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Nick: Yeah. It fell into a, a few categories.

One were one was simply pages that didn’t exist. Like they keep, I keep bringing up the Hawaii snowmobile insurance. Like, it, it’s not a thing. So if, if, if it’s really just not a thing in the world, remove it. Just take it off the website. There were also a bunch of articles that weren’t relevant, one of which was, and I kid you not, was about.

How to how to cheat the h o v lane and cheat, let me rephrase, . We weren’t encouraging people to cheat the, the H O V lane, however, we reported on folks using a dummy in the seats, ah, in the, in the passenger seat to cheat the h o b lane . 

Jared: Right. , I’m guessing that might’ve been heavily searched term. 

Nick: Yeah.

And if you could, if you could imagine the the blow up dummy from the movie airplane , that, that was the image in the article. So we’re, we’re gonna take that out. Right. So, so there was a lot of thinning out content, just that just wasn’t applicable. And we had a process for doing that. So this, this, this may be helpful to dig in, to dig into a little bit.

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So we had, we had a concept that we kicked around. It was called Bowness, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. What is the site about? So we, we had to determine what we were gonna write about and what we weren’t gonna write about. We’re gonna maintain certain content, we know it’s cords of the company, how to get your license, how to get your, your registration, et cetera, et cetera.

But then there was a bunch of all good ideas in the spirit of brainstorming that would show up and people expected their act, their, their ideas to be acted on. Well, it has to fit a certain framework. So we created, we, we created a, an about this framework. So our definition of about this was an engagement with the DMV before, 30 days before and 30 days after it, it was, it was a visit, but sometimes in some states, people get a piece of mail, right?

That’s what happens in California. Did you want your registration for your car? You bet. Here’s, here’s the, here’s the check and I get in the mail. So it was an engagement with the dmv. So if it mapped two 30 days before, 30 days after engagement with the dmv, it was part of our about this. And then it would still have to be scrutinized smart.

But what, but what we weren’t gonna do and if you can imagine a bullseye, right? This is the focus of the website. It’s about you and your car, and then a balloon’s out from there. You could, because you and your car, you could argue driving gloves were part of that equation. Yep. Well, it’s not, it’s too far out.

It’s too far out, right? So what are, what are the, you need to def define? We defined the rings and then went further out from there to understand what was in scope and what was outta scope for us. So for folks building their website today, like not every good idea is a good idea. You, you, you should have a theme.

You should be known for something and using dv.org as the example here. If you take, if you were to run that website through the three query types, navigational, transactional, and informational. Well, as soon as we got hit by an algorithm update, because we are not the D M V, we lost all navigational searches.

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They were just gone. We, we outranked the California DV and a bunch of other DMVs on the daily, and then we didn’t, and that was the, that was the 40% drop overnight. So if you don’t wanna lose navigational slash branded queries, you need a brand. You need to stand for something. You need to be the guy or the company behind X, Y, and Z.

If you dilute yourself too much or if you use generic terminology, chances are you’re not gonna be known for anything and you don’t have a brand. So it’s a long-term play versus we’ll say SEO tactics. 

Jared: Hmm. It’s great insights. I think that applies to almost every website at every level as you are mapping out where you’re going.

I I really want to get into this story of what happened a week after you left, but I have one more topic I wanna ask you about. Okay. Then, then we’ll, we’ll get to, then we’ll get to the, the crazy drop in traffic monetization. We haven’t talked monetization and I’ve been holding off on it. On purpose, I want to, I want to hear about how you guys monetize this site and any insights that you learned through, I mean, my goodness, the testing that you must have been able to pull off with that kind of traffic you Yeah.

I’m just sure that you guys really had some great monetization going on. We, 

Nick: we had a very talented team and so we, we did a lot of things. Well monetization was one of them. We had a gentleman who was running our AB testing, conversion optimization. Did a great job, fantastic job. But here’s an important thing to note with this website.

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We never took a single credit card, not once. It was all through partners. We had, it was a, it was a content play. It was an information play. We wanted to help people with their, with their task. Also, sometimes helping people with their task is giving them the chance to transact with something as it relates to their tasks.

So there are companies out there who will sell you cheat sheets around practice tests. So you, you, you can download their cheat sheets, you can take the practice tests, and we, we partner with those folks. Those other folks will help you get your, your passport when you’re in a pinch. Other folks will help you get your license when you’re in a pinch I’m sorry, your registration when you’re in a pinch.

We partner with those folks. So e everything was a conversion off, off the site and we just partnered with a bunch of folks who had good products. So a 

Jared: lot of affiliates basically. I mean, to put it in a brass tack, 

Nick: that was it. We, we were, we were essentially a super affiliate because of the amount of traffic.

You know, we, we could, we could broker deals with folks who really wanted to be in our universe because the amount of traffic that we got and we had a vetting process, and if we had a partner come in, On a Monday and they stayed 30 days, whatever it was, we weren’t shy to challenge them with someone else who said, I bet I can beat them.

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Okay. Well let, let’s see if you can, we had the traffic to get to typical significance to see what it would look like. Yeah. Was was it partner A or partner B or ad A with, right. With versus Ad B, whatever it was. We were able to do that pretty well. 

Jared: Any tips on things you learned from running these tests at scale?

I mean, I’m, I’m, I know comparing two different vendors is just a standard AB test, but more practical, kind of high level insights that you might have learned from anything from call to actions to placement to locations to that design. I, I’m just thinking out loud here. I’m not trying to yeah, I mean, tho 

Nick: tell you which ones.

Yeah. Tho those are all relevant 100%. The, the biggest, one of the biggest battles that I recall internally was wanting to call it too early. because you, that the lines would start to go in certain directions and people were like, it’s obviously clear. Take a look. It’s been a week. We have it. And the conversation was it, the time doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re significant.

You’re seeing the timeline. That’s not, that’s not hitting the math we want, so let’s give it another week, another two weeks. We need to hit this number. And so once we hit significance, then we had our answer. But there was, there was always a gut reaction to, if it was, you know, a huge delta between the results to, to call it early.

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And that’s just that’s just not how it’s done. You shouldn’t do that. 

Jared: The I have an undergraduate degree in econometrics, so the nerd in me wants to spend the next three hours talking about this, but it would just be me and you at the end of that too. . That’s great though. That’s really good. I, I think that, I mean, y you guys obviously had a, had a strong affiliate play.

You mentioned the car insurance. You mentioned all the different opportunities you had to partner with people. You also mentioned earlier that you started lacing ads into that. When did you guys put ads in the site, and was that a pretty big win or was that kind of a sub, a subservient to the, to the affiliate income that you earned?

Nick: Yeah, you know it, it was late in the game, I wanna say 20 17, 20 18, something like that. My recollection at the time was, it was, it was mixed because there were some partners that would take a hit, but overall we would have more. It. I think the biggest benefit was that it, it diversified our traffic or our revenue sources.

However, I, I don’t know exactly how much it Cannibalized or minimized partner relationships. I, I, that wasn’t my department and I, I would be speaking outta school to give a firm opinion on it. That’s 

Jared: fair. That’s fair. Yeah. I mean, there’s that debate that that lives on, but I mean, I’m sure that, like you said, the diversification was, was probably a, a big win even with some of the drawbacks.

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Nick: Yeah. I, I do know, like if you’re working with AdThrive, one of these companies and you, and you go to put ads on your pages, they, they want to know cuz they want the, they want the, the prime positions, right? That like ad above the fold right here, you know, where all the eyes go. We want, we want our ad there.

We’re gonna make a lot of money. You’re gonna make a lot of money. What’s the value of this call to action? You should know the value of that call to ECMO before you replace it or challenge it with a, with a banner ad display ad, because those guys should be able to tell you out of the gate, we can’t meet a hundred dollars for, for whatever the, whatever the, the metrics are.

Like our math does not beat up your math. We, we know that it’s never going to. Or you should know that maybe the math will beat up your math and then, and then test your website. Well, let’s 

Jared: talk about what happened the week after you left and I mean, you left the site in twenty eighteen, a hundred eighty 5 million page views a month a year at that time.

I keep, yeah, going back and forth 185 million pages views a year. But but, but things changed about a week later. 

Nick: Yeah. So we, we got early signals, I think it was in July of 2019, I’m sorry, j July of 2018 where we were doing some amount of paid search and our ads stopped getting approved. We couldn’t.

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We weren’t, we weren’t able to work as efficiently as we could with, with Google paid search. We talked to our rep, didn’t really have any good answers, but it, it became a constant issue. Ads would show, things would get approved. They would not then, they were not, they were paused. It, it wasn’t working out.

I believe it was September of 2018 where we got a, we got about a 15% demotion in seo. So that was noticeable for us. When we started to dig into Word Out came from, it was largely around the agencies that had good sites, the agencies that had budgets, California, New York, et cetera. So a better website beat.

Our website in that scenario. I remember talking to one of the executives and he said, well, well what do you think? And I said, well, it’s either an algorithm change where Google is deciding that we are fundamentally not the DM B and we shouldn’t be out ranking them. It’s, it’s one of the two, we just don’t know.

Yeah. One, one something we write out and, and the other is potentially catastrophic. So , right. I 

Jared: was gonna say you can’t change, I guess we’ll put that under the Google’s bucket of, I guess search intent. I, in that, in that if they, if they decide that search intent is for them not to land on your page, there’s, you can’t SEO your way out of that.

Nick: Well, I mean, I shouldn’t have a website called Ask Jared if people want to talk to you, . Right? Like it does, it doesn’t, it fundamentally doesn’t make any sense. Mm-hmm. , it doesn’t make sense. And, and I, and I say that firmly believing what we did was a service. We did, we did make things easier for people to navigate.

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100%. I, I was wearing my little badge at one of the conferences one day and they’re like, I’d love your website. You were able to help me register my car. I had no idea. But then I read your website, fantastic. We did help people. And we are also not the dmv. We shouldn’t be out ranking them. So come January of 2019, I got the phone call, or, or the text from my former manager and he says, yeah, so it’s been, it’s been less than a week.

You’ve been gone and we lost 40% over. And I, I picked up the phone. I called him. I said, so like, are you, are you kidding? Or what, what’s going on? No, no, I’m not kidding. This is not something I would kid about 40% overnight. Okay. Well, let’s take a look. Did you, did you push something and it didn’t work out?

Like 

Jared: what’s, is this that darn canonical issue again? . Yeah. Right, 

Nick: right. Who doesn’t know the technical? But when it comes right down to it, it was, it was Google saying you should not be outranking the state agencies with navigational or branded terms. 

Jared: And so you lost all navigational queries? Yes.

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And that was the 40%. Was there any effect on the informational queries? Did Google still want to reward you as a helpful result when people clearly weren’t trying to go to the dmv, but were trying to learn about DMV topic? 

Nick: Yes. So, so think about it this way. And, and things changed over a couple years, right?

But it took a couple rounds for Google to really kick this website outta the algorithm because of the history, because of all the links, right? They sort of had to do something with their own algorithm to target. This is my theory. Yeah. Right? So when this, when this change came through, I was taking, I was taking a [email protected], dv.com, social security.org, right?

So all of these government agency names, not with.gov at the end of it, so.org, dot net, dot info, dot, whatever it is with agency sounding name. And they all got demoted to page two. So somewhere, I think is, is a line of code that says, if sounds like government and doesn’t sound like and doesn’t end in.gov, get out the way.

Right? Get out of the way. And so if it was a navigational query, California dmv, at least at the time it was California dmv 1, 2, 3, 4, et cetera, they intentionally took up the space. They wanted to push everyone down, which they’ve said. At least once or twice. We want diversity in the search results. We don’t want the same site showing up more than once.

Yeah. Well, except sometimes yeah, sometimes that’s true and sometimes that’s not true. So we were able to rank better for they were, at this point, they, they were able to rank better for informational queries. And things sort of normalized out. But over time, based on what I’m seeing there, there’s this long tail of losing traffic.

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It, it doesn’t mean it’s not a still a viable business, it just means it’s not the business that I, that I knew that I worked in. 

Jared: You sent over a screenshot in our back and forth Yeah. A dubious honor of sorts to be included in the I believe it was the quality radar guidelines for Google, right?

Nick: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that was sort of funny to see that. And, and it wasn’t explicit around a, a website per se. It was in the context of local, but. The Quality Raider guides, to my knowledge, had never anything about the DMV before then. And magically after this website gets chopped off at the knees, there’s, you know, a sort, sort of a subtle cue 

Jared: to it.

It was subtle. It was subtle. But after the hour we’ve spent talking, I’m not sure how subtle it really was. . 

Nick: Well, anyone else will look at that and go, eh, okay. But when you’re, when you’re in it, you go, oh, oh yeah, that makes 

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Jared: sense, . Yeah, now I get it. Yeah. It was basically an inclusion of, of, of talking about intent, I believe was the best way.

You know, Google’s addressing how a qual a quality rate would understand search intent. And they happened to use D M V as an example, which ironically, that example showed up subsequently, right after a lot of this demotion happened. , 

Nick: it’s, it’s some funny timing, that’s for sure. . 

Jared: Yeah. I mean, At one point, this site, I think you said was in the top 200 websites on the web in terms of traffic.

It was, yeah. Yeah, it was, yeah, absolutely killing it. It’s you haven’t been involved since 20 18 20 19, so, so obviously not a lot of insights since then, but. From a high level. I mean, it’s, it sounds like this site did so many things right. And not really by a fault of its own kind of got put back into where the new Google landscape has them.

Right. And I think if we just take that story as an aside or as a high level, I think a lot of site owners might be in a similar situation with so many Google updates. Right. And it’s hard to understand if you got penalized in an update versus maybe Google just taking away traffic from you that they no longer think applies to you.

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They can feel the same, but maybe speak into that a little bit if you could your thoughts on if there are any differences there and how site owners can kind of process through a lot of these algorithm changes that are, that are happening thick and fast now. 

Nick: Yeah. I mean, there’s, there’s so much going on at this point.

One way to take a look at it is do you have a brand or do you not have a brand? Right? You, you should be known for something. You, you, you should have an identity tied to yourself. If, if you’re going to, I’m, I’m gonna be harsh, and it’s not entirely inaccurate. But from one perspective, I think it is, given the 40% drop, if you’re gonna masquerade a round is something that you are not, then you can, you should expect the consequences of that, right?

Just that’s what this evidence speaks to. So if, if your website is best car insurance.org or something like that, it’s a query. It’s not a website. That’s not a company, it’s, it’s what’s some, right? It’s not a brand. So if you wanna do that, I mean, maybe it’s a short term thing, maybe you’re learning from your experiment, but I would not, I would not hang my hat on it at, at, at all.

Fa fast forward to just a couple weeks ago. AI content is looks really good, looks really intimidating from a content per production perspective. So what’s gonna happen with that? And there, then there’s gonna be some checks and balances around how do we sniff that out? What does it mean is equality, et cetera.

And even before that, part of the strategy of ranking in the top 10 is what did they do? How do I do what they’ve done better? And how do I add, here’s the most important part. How do I own my own? How do I add my own specific take on it? How do you actually make it better? Not just grab the five subcategories they mentioned on the one page, rewrite it better, no typos.

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I mean, sometimes, sometimes a little bit better is actually a lot better. Mm-hmm. sometimes. It’s a crowded space and you better have a brand or else you’re not gonna be found next week. You need to stand for something. You, there needs to be a reason why someone has an affinity towards you and your website or else you are just playing the the Me Too game.

You’re just another candy bar on the shelf and you just may not get chosen at some point. 

Jared: Woo. Those are good words though. It’s, it’s, it’s a lot to unpack there. It’s very true though. Nick, this has been amazing. We could, we could we could have gone down a lot of rabbit trails and, and learned a lot, but I think that your story is just fascinating.

There’s so many gold nuggets there, and congrats on that. I didn’t say it earlier, but congrats on the growth. I mean, if you look at it percentage wise, it’s one thing, but if you look at it in terms of the millions of page views that you added, that is just an insane number. So congrats on 

Nick: that. Thank you.

It was a ton. It was a ton of fun. We had an awesome team. Yeah. What a 

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Jared: fun, what a fun ride. Hey, where you, you’re doing Atco nowadays. Where can people fall along with what you’re doing? And if they want, maybe get in. 

Nick: Yeah, for sure. And thank you. Optics in.com is my agency. We’re a small SEO agency.

We provide content, technical audits, links you know, we do all the SEO things. Also provide some coaching around folks who wanna do it for themselves. And the most recent thing that that’s exciting, assuming I actually do it, is I’m gonna produce an SEO class in 2023 with the learnings from things like this, from dean db.org to help folks who are managing a mature website.

And for folks who are coming out with their own website, their first website, second website, whatever it is, to avoid those pitfalls, to fast track the learning so they’re not swimming through a bunch of content. There’s a lot of good content out there. There’s also a lot of confusing content around seo.

So the idea is help folks get to their destination faster with this. 

Jared: Great. Okay. We’ll get a link to that in the show notes. Nick, thanks so much for coming by telling your story. It’s been really fascinating to hear about the site and about all the things that you did on it. Thank you again. Pleasure, Jared.

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AFFILIATE MARKETING

Affiliate marketing and retail media: The opportunities for retailers and brands.

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Affiliate marketing and retail media: The opportunities for retailers and brands.

Global retail media ad-spend will surge to €153bn by 2027. Learn about the opportunities that exist for retailers and how the affiliate channel, and Awin, can support.

Retail media has undergone significant evolution since Amazon pioneered its retail media network in 2012. Over the years, a diverse array of retailers, spanning from Walmart and Tesco to Boots and Instacart, have established their own retail media networks. 

This proliferation has fueled substantial growth, with projections from eMarketer’s Insider Intelligence indicating that global retail media ad spending will surge to €153bn by 2027.

What is retail media?

At Awin, we define retail media as an advertisement strategically placed on a retailer’s e-commerce site to positively influence customers precisely at the point of sale. This form of advertising empowers brands to enhance their visibility within the online shopping environment.

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Traditionally, retail media placements were primarily acquired by advertisers already selling products on the retailer’s e-commerce platform. These placements served various purposes, from driving awareness and consideration to, notably, boosting the sales of their products on the retailer’s site. An approach commonly known as endemic retail media.

More recently, a trend has emerged in non-endemic retail media, where advertising placements are secured by advertisers seeking to target specific consumer segments. In this context, retail media placements are bought by advertisers in the exact same way as they would with other paid-media outlets. According to research from Merkle, 63% of retailers have non-endemic advertisers actively leveraging their retail media networks.

Retail media networks are the dedicated advertising platforms crafted by retailers to provide advertisers with access to promotional inventory across their various channels. These platforms enable advertisers to leverage the retailer’s first-party data, tailoring advertisements to target shoppers with precision and relevance. 

The growth of retail media

After a sustained period of explosive growth, the enthusiasm surrounding retail media is unlikely to wane anytime soon. McKinsey research indicates that 73% of advertisers anticipate increased spending on retail media networks in the next 12 months, with 70% reporting superior performance compared to other marketing channels.

The remarkable growth in retail media is propelled by a concentration of three key drivers:

1. Revenue pressue on retailers

The pressure on retailers to identify new revenue streams and enhance margins is a primary driver. Rising inflation, weak customer demand, and intensified competition from low-margin retailers have forced retailers to seek new avenues for revenue generation. According to BCG, retail media networks can achieve robust profits ranging from 70% to 90%, a significant appeal for those operating on slim margins.

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2. Cost effective acquisition for advertisers

The ‘dash to digital’ shift triggered by the pandemic has made online e-commerce more challenging, intensifying the need for advertisers to explore new avenues for driving sales. With increased digital adoption comes heightened competition. A study from IAB Europe and Microsoft found that 92% of advertisers are currently partnering with retailers to reach new customers.

3. Third-party demise

The diminishing value and use of third-party cookies in customer targeting and advertising serve as a catalyst for retail media growth. While third-party data is on the decline, the importance of first-party data collected by retailers is rising. The ability to leverage first-party transactional and behavioral data offers advertisers a significant opportunity to target potential customers effectively. 

As third-party cookies fade away, 91% of advertisers foresee retail media playing a key role in their advertising strategy.

Retail media opportunities

Retail giants like Walmart leverage endemic retail media placements to offer their brands a targeted approach to reach in-market audiences throughout the customer journey. This could involve sponsored search listings, prominent product features, or other strategies to enhance visibility and drive conversions.

More retail media networks are embracing innovative approaches, such as shoppable TV. A noteworthy 57% of marketers anticipate shoppable video content to be the next frontier in retail media. For instance, Coca-Cola collaborated with Roku to introduce a holiday-themed screensaver on users’ devices. Users could then purchase Coca-Cola products straight to their home via DoorDash.

Non-endemic retail media opportunities present an underexplored landscape within the retail media space. Strikingly, 58% of advertisers express their interest in leveraging non-endemic data to target qualified audience segments.

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At Awin, we have supported brands like The Hut Group and Currys to establish their own retail media networks, enabling them to promote complementary advertiser offers during the checkout process. The concept of checkout marketing is powerful, as it not only creates a sellable ad-placement for retailers but also enhances the shopping journey. Numerous case studies demonstrate that retailers can improve their conversion rates by offering customers value-added rewards at checkout.

Beyond checkout marketing strategies, we have also assisted retailers in launching digital reward platforms. To foster customer loyalty and sustained engagement, personalized rewards are key. Notably, we have observed diverse industries, including network operators, banks, and utility providers, embedding third-party advertiser offers into their reward programs. 

Overcoming the challenges of retail media

Despite the continued growth of retail media, it is not without its challenges. The lack of standardization in measurement and the walled garden environments of retail media networks, pose obstacles for advertisers looking to increase their ad spend. According to a report by Epsilon, 42% of advertisers do not plan to change their retail media ad spend through to 2026. The hesitation is largely attributed to the difficulties associated with measuring performance.

Here is where the affiliate marketing channel can play a crucial role in supporting retail media. The affiliate marketing industry is founded on the foundations of robust and transparent tracking, providing advertisers and partners with real-time reporting insights.

Given the expansive nature of the retail media landscape, advertisers also face the challenge of selecting the right retailer to align with their objectives. Awin has developed a carefully curated discovery matrix that offers key information about each retail media network and the opportunities they provide. This resource aids advertisers in making informed decisions about which retailer to partner with.

Whether you’re looking to create your own retail media network or promote your products through retail media, Awin provides the tools and support needed.

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Visit Awin to find out more.

By Lee Metters, client partner, Awin

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How This 45-Year-Old Sold 2 Sites for Mid Six-Figures Thanks to SEO and Email Marketing

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How This 45-Year-Old Sold 2 Sites for Mid Six-Figures Thanks to SEO and Email Marketing

She started off with a homeschool e-commerce store, followed by a blog to drive traffic to her store. Much to her surprise and delight, her blog income quickly surpassed her e-commerce income.

Carrie went on to create two more sites from scratch: one to sell homeschool bundles and one to sell homeschool resources that she created and self-published, called Daily Skill Building .

Last year, she also took over the blog of a late friend of hers in the healthy eating and living space called My Big Fat Grain Free Life.

Along the way, she used unique approaches to grow her traffic and increase her revenue, and she perfected the art of email marketing, nurturing a very lucrative list to 200k subscribers.

Carrie sold 3 of her sites, 2 of them for mid-six figures each. She has developed a passion for flipping businesses and, over the last 20 years as an entrepreneur, she has gained a wealth of knowledge.

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Keep reading to find out:

  • What type of e-commerce store she originally opened
  • How she grew her homeschool blog
  • How she grew her bundles website
  • How she created her store with her own homeschool resources
  • How she has progressed with her healthy living and recipe site
  • What happened when she sold her first e-commerce site
  • How the sales of her bundle site and homeschool blog went
  • Her main marketing strategies
  • Her thoughts on SEO
  • Her approach to keyword research and link building
  • How she creates content
  • How she grows her email lists
  • The resources and tools she uses in her business
  • Her main challenge
  • Her greatest accomplishment
  • Her biggest mistake
  • Her advice for other entrepreneurs

Meet Carrie Fernandez

In 2004, I made the decision to leave behind my corporate life after years of working in the real world since the age of 14. My motivation for this change was to care for our toddler while helping my husband with his web design and programming business. 

During this time, I took on the challenge of learning how to design websites and all the related skills to assist him, which unexpectedly sparked my interest in starting an online business.

With a strong background in retail management and a genuine passion for that type of work, I ventured into the world of e-commerce in 2009. 

This marked the beginning of my journey as an entrepreneur, creating opportunities to combine my skills and interests into a thriving online venture.

Why She Created Her Sites

Armed with my newly acquired web design skills, I set up an e-commerce store in 2009 where I offered homeschool curriculum as a dropshipper.

I created an e-commerce store for homeschooling curriculum because it provided me with the opportunity to purchase curriculum at a discounted rate through a distributor. As a homeschooling mom myself, this was quite advantageous. 

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Initially, I had no expectations of profitability; my primary goal was simply to establish an online presence in order to become a retailer.

At that time, there existed a prominent distributor who allowed me to purchase products at wholesale prices and handle direct shipping to my customers. Regrettably, this distributor has since ceased its operations.

This all led me to create a blog specifically focused on the homeschooling community in 2011. This blog served as a powerful marketing tool for my curriculum store.

To my surprise and delight, within just two years, the income generated from my blog surpassed that of my e-commerce store. Pinterest was my #1 traffic source during this period. 

My First E-commerce Store: 2009-2013

In order to obtain discounted curriculum for my own personal use, I established my first e-commerce store and secured a wholesale account with a large distributor. To my surprise, this e-commerce store turned out to be profitable!

Despite having no marketing budget, I employed creative strategies such as giveaways and leveraging social media platforms to promote my store. My primary focus was on expanding my newsletter subscriber base and nurturing those relationships with customers. 

In 2011, I made the decision to launch a homeschool blog solely for the purpose of marketing my curriculum store.

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The success of my e-commerce store can largely be attributed to offering lower prices compared to competitors. 

However, this came at the expense of thin profit margins due to the manual processing required for each order. It became evident that I found greater fulfillment in investing time into my blog instead.

My Homeschool Blog: 2011-2023

When I first started my homeschool blog, it was initially intended as a marketing tool for my e-commerce site. I would write reviews of the curriculum that I sold and host giveaways to grow my newsletter list. 

As someone who had experience with various homeschool publishers through my e-commerce store, I decided to collaborate with them to offer reviews and giveaways on my blog. 

It was during this time that I came up with the idea of providing exclusive sponsored freebies to my subscribers, which I sourced through my connections in the homeschool industry. At that point, my subscriber list had grown to 200,000! 

At that point in time, as I hadn’t started creating my own products yet, but I collaborated with other publishers and bloggers who did. 

For a fee, I would provide their resources to my subscribers for free, but only for a brief period of time, never exceeding a week. It was made clear to the subscribers that by opting in for the free download, they would be added to both the sponsor’s list and mine if they weren’t already subscribed. 

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This proved to be highly beneficial for my sponsors as it resulted in up to 10,000 people opting in for the free offer and expanding their subscriber base. For me, it served as an effective method of driving traffic and increasing ad earnings.

At its peak, my homeschool blog had a team of eight writers. It evolved into a platform similar to a daily deals site for homeschoolers where we shared freebies, giveaways, and special offers related to homeschooling. 

Initially, our main source of traffic was Pinterest as it sent us most of our visitors. However, when Pinterest made changes that caused many bloggers to lose a significant portion of their traffic overnight, including myself, I realized the importance of learning about SEO. 

From that point onwards (mid-2021), I made it my mission to learn SEO strategies and became completely absorbed in mastering them.

I switched to an SEO focus in July of 2021, at which time my homeschool blog was indexed for around 35,000 keywords. By spring of 2023, my homeschool blog was indexed for over 115,000 keywords.

How This 45 Year Old Sold 2 Sites for Mid Six Figures Thanks
1708997164 208 How This 45 Year Old Sold 2 Sites for Mid Six Figures Thanks1708997164 208 How This 45 Year Old Sold 2 Sites for Mid Six Figures Thanks

Build Your Bundle: 2014-2018

In 2014, I decided it was time to start another business in the homeschool space, and Build Your Bundle was born. This was during a time when bundle sales were very popular for customers and profitable for business owners. 

There was only one homeschool bundle sale at the time and they wouldn’t allow me to participate as an affiliate because I wasn’t a part of their network, so this was my response to them.

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To create a unique offering in the homeschool market, I developed Build Your Bundle with a different approach compared to other bundle sales. 

Recognizing that homeschooling is a distinct niche, I wanted to provide customers with more flexibility and choice. With Build Your Bundle, individuals could hand-pick the resources they want included in their personalized bundle.

Daily Skill Building 2019-Current

In 2018, I introduced my first product on my homeschool blog and continued to develop and self-publish additional resources.

With the goal of eventually selling my homeschool blog, I made the decision to move my shop from the blog onto its own dedicated website, an e-commerce store. This led to the establishment of Daily Skill Building in 2019.

How This 45 Year Old Sold 2 Sites for Mid Six Figures ThanksHow This 45 Year Old Sold 2 Sites for Mid Six Figures Thanks

At that time, my primary method of marketing was through my homeschool blog, which received between 300,000-500,000 monthly page views, depending on the season. 

Additionally, I had built a large newsletter list consisting of homeschooling families, providing me with a significant audience for marketing purposes.

Fast forward to today, we now offer over 100 different resources that we self-publish. The majority of our products are available in digital format only; however, we do have nine titles that are also available in print.

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My Big Fat Grain Free Life 2023-Current

In April 2023, I had the opportunity to take over my late friend Jen’s blog, My Big Fat Grain Free Life. Previously a personal project for Jen to share recipes and life updates with loved ones, I saw potential in transforming it into something more. 

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With a focus on SEO, my goal was to make the blog a valuable resource in the realm of healthy living through nutritious foods.

Upon taking over, the blog had 2,000 monthly sessions but required significant updates and improvements. 

To start, I saved the entire site in PDF format as a keepsake for Jen’s family. Then, I conducted a thorough site audit and removed any personal stories that did not rank for keywords or have backlinks. 

In order to track progress effectively, I created a spreadsheet that documented each URL’s indexed keywords, backlinks, and best keyword positions. Posts without backlinks or indexed keywords were deleted while recipes were saved for future use.

With the blog now cleaned up and streamlined, I focused on the design and page speed and changed the logo and theme. Since April 2023, I have updated 57 posts and published an additional 125 new ones.

Much to my delight, just nine months after taking over the blog, its monthly sessions went from 2,000 to over 60,000! 

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1708997164 563 How This 45 Year Old Sold 2 Sites for Mid Six Figures Thanks1708997164 563 How This 45 Year Old Sold 2 Sites for Mid Six Figures Thanks
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I applied to Mediavine and went live with ads in February.

Timeline of events:

  • In 2009, I started my first online company. It was an e-commerce drop-shipping company selling homeschool curricula.
  • In 2011, I started my homeschool blog. Within two years it exceeded the income of my e-commerce site.
  • In 2013, I sold my e-commerce site.
  • In 2014, I started Build Your Bundle with a business partner. This company was a once-per-year, week-long bundle sale in the homeschool space.
  • In 2018, we sold Build Your Bundle.
  • In 2019, I started Daily Skill Building and moved the products off my homeschool blog. This site grew fast and was catching up to the income I made from my homeschool blog.
  • In April of 2023, I acquired my deceased friend’s food blog from her husband (My Big Fat Grain Free Life) which had been sitting for several years.
  • In July of 2023, I sold my homeschool blog.

When it comes to working on my sites, I work Monday to Friday for about 6 to 8 hours a day.

Selling My First E-commerce Store (2013)

In 2013, I made the decision to sell my ecommerce store, which was generating a profit of around $40,000 per year. The reason behind this choice was that the business lacked automated order processing and every order had to be manually handled. 

It required a significant amount of effort, especially considering our low profit margins ranging from 5-7%. To alleviate some of the workload, I hired a homeschool mom friend to process the orders. 

However, due to the low profit margins, it became more burdensome than it was worth, especially when compared to the higher earnings from my homeschool blog, which required less effort.

Eventually, I sold the ecommerce store for $150,000 to another company within the homeschool industry. Looking back, there were a couple of mistakes I made during this process. 

The first mistake I made was not using a broker to handle the sale. Secondly, we allowed owner financing. We received a deposit of $40,000 and agreed on monthly installments of $3,055 for three years to complete the payment. 

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Unfortunately, things took an unfortunate turn when the purchasing company not only defrauded our wholesaler by almost $30,000, but also stopped making their monthly payments altogether. This left us with an outstanding balance of $50,000.

To assess our options and potential recourse in this situation, we sought legal advice and had an assets check performed on the new owners of our company. 

It turned out that they were heavily in debt and had no means of repayment or assets that could be recovered. Consequently, we had no choice but to write off this loss and move forward.

Selling Build Your Bundle (2018)

Build Your Bundle was established as an exclusive annual sale, available for just one week. Crafting this event to maximize profitability within that limited timeframe was an immense undertaking, requiring our dedicated team of six to invest approximately six months of the year working on it. 

The magnitude and stress associated with operating a website with such a short sales window took a toll on my personal health.

However, despite the challenges, Build Your Bundle proved to be highly profitable. Keep in mind that all revenue was generated during the single week of our sale.

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In our first year, we made a net profit of $45,290; in the second year, it rose to $109,689; in the third year, it reached $123,717; and in our final year, we achieved a profit of $148,100.

Having learned from the disaster we faced during our first sale, we decided to enlist the services of Quiet Light Brokerage to handle the sale of Build Your Bundle. This process was thorough and involved expert guidance every step of the way. 

Chuck Mullins served as our dedicated representative and did an exceptional job. As far as I know, he is still with the company, and I highly recommend his services. 

Quiet Light Brokerage provided a concierge-like experience throughout the entire process and even participated in calls alongside us when engaging with potential buyers.

Ultimately, after approximately one month on the market, we successfully sold the website for a substantial six-figure sum. Specific details are subject to contractual confidentiality.

Selling the Homeschool Blog (2023)

My blog generated a diverse range of income streams. One of my main sources was through the sale of dedicated eblasts to my large subscriber list, which ranged from 150,000 to 200,000 subscribers. 

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Each send of these eblasts made $3,000! 

Additionally, I sold banner ads, reviews, sponsored posts, giveaways, and social media marketing to further monetize my blog.

I booked sponsored eblasts on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the frequency varied based on the season. Homeschooling has quite a bit of seasonality. 

Sponsors would provide the HTML content for their campaign, and I added a disclaimer to the top and bottom of the emails.  

Initially, I partnered with AdThrive (now Raptive), but after a few years, I transitioned to Mediavine and experienced increased RPMs.

The last five years of owning my blog, I earned an average monthly income of $18,000. This revenue breakdown is as follows:

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  • Advertising packages: 35% (combination of sponsored posts, dedicated eblasts, web banners, reviews, etc.)
  • Dedicated eblasts: 31%
  • Ad earnings: 25%
  • Affiliate income: 5%
  • Website banners: 2%
  • Miscellaneous: 2% (social media marketing, sponsored posts, giveaways, sponsored freebies, etc).

I decided to sell the blog at the beginning of the year in 2023 and started the process of preparing the site for a new owner. 

This time I used Motion Invest, since I was such a fan of Spencer’s, and he recommended it. It was a much different process than using Quiet Light, and I was a bit surprised at the lack of involvement from them. 

I will admit, it was a much easier process to get listed, and since I had sold two sites previously, I wasn’t very concerned about doing the negotiations on my own.

In less than 30 days I had found the perfect buyer! My homeschool blog sold for mid-six-figures.

Right now I’m working on my new-to-me food/healthy living blog, My Big Fat Grain Free Life, and my homeschool curriculum publishing company, Daily Skill Building.

At the time of writing this, my food blog gets around 60k monthly sessions. I haven’t focused much on SEO for Daily Skill Building, mostly because I haven’t quite figured out how to nail SEO for product descriptions yet. 

My blog posts on that site rank well though!

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Her Top Marketing Strategies

My number one marketing strategy is my list! 

Newsletter lists can be very lucrative, and building relationships with your subscribers is key. 

I currently have around 20,000 subscribers for Daily Skill Building and just under 1,000 for My Big Fat Grain Free Life, for which the list is about 6 months old. I also utilize Facebook ads for Daily Skill Building.

As for my success with my other lists, I made it a point to send emails to my subscribers every Monday and Wednesday, featuring free homeschool resources. 

In each email, I would share a personal story or message at the beginning, creating a sense of connection and relatability. 

I also encouraged my subscribers to engage with me by inviting them to reply with any questions they had. By doing so, my subscribers felt like they knew me on a personal level.

To further encourage engagement, I offered monthly rewards based on engagement. Those who remained actively engaged throughout the month by opening emails and clicking links were eligible to receive an exclusive freebie. 

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To streamline the process, I used automation to tag and identify engaged subscribers easily.

Her Thoughts on SEO

I have focused 100% on SEO for My Big Fat Grain Free Life. I write about what interests me, but I heavily research the keywords before writing. 

I use the RankIQ keyword library for low-competition, high-volume keywords and do my own research to find keywords that I want to write about. 

I tend to also fly by the seat of my pants, so if I get in the mood to write a specific type of post, I may veer off my content calendar and just go for it.

Keyword Research

I start out by searching the term I’m interested in and looking at the domain authority of the blog posts that show up on page one of the SERPs. 

If the DAs are in range of mine, or there is at least one lower-range DA in the results, I grab the URL of the top-ranking, non-sponsored post and analyze it using Ahrefs.

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I glance through the keywords and look at the traffic it’s bringing in. If the keyword difficulty score is in the green and there is good enough traffic potential, I then look at the comprehensiveness of the top ten posts in the SERPs to see if I can write something better or from a different angle. 

If I would only be regurgitating all the exact same info as the other posts that already rank, I skip it and move on.

If I determine that information is lacking for the posts that show up in the SERPs, I run a report in RankIQ for my chosen keyword.

It’s important to note that the Ahrefs keyword difficulty score is not a metric that I really trust; instead, I rely on what RankIQ tells me. 

If I run the report and the difficulty score is out of my range, I do not proceed. If the RankIQ report shows acceptable keyword difficulty, I begin the next step, which is outlining the post for the target keyword.

Link Building

I have never spent time or money on acquiring backlinks, I’ve just let them happen naturally, but I am huge on internal linking! 

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As I’m writing posts or approving pending posts from an author, I add links into the content naturally. 

Before I sold my homeschool blog, there were several thousand posts, so Link Whisper was helpful with that. I still use Link Whisper for my food blog, but I don’t have to rely on it as much since I know my content.

Another thing I do is make sure that all new posts have at least one internal link going to them, but usually a few, right after being published. 

I keep a spreadsheet of all my new and updated posts and include the target keyword for each. After I publish a new post, I open the spreadsheet and glance at my list and pick the ones that are good to include a link to my newest post. 

I use a plugin to prevent the date from updating when I add links, so Google doesn’t see it as an updated post.

Carrie’s Content Creation Process

Each month I plan my content for the next month and use Trello to assign posts to authors. Trello includes the blog post title, RankIQ keyword, and an outline of all the headings. 

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My authors know how to format the post properly and use RankIQ. They save completed posts as pending and then I go in and read, tweak, and add internal links

I currently have about 250 articles on My Big Fat Grain Free Life. Half of those are new posts I have published since taking over the site, 57 have been updated, and the rest are still in need of an update or redirection.

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Her Email List

I am huge on newsletter list building! It was the bread and butter of my homeschool blog, bringing in an average annual income of $126,775 for the last 5 years I owned it. 

I grew that list to over 200,000 and even kept it heavily pruned, using automation to remove unengaged subscribers. 

My homeschool blog was built around freebies, and we had a subscriber library with hundreds of free downloads. This was a key factor in building the list. 

In the early days, it happened through giveaways and sponsored subscriber freebies before we started creating our own products.

My food blog’s newsletter list is growing much slower because my main focus has been pumping out content. 

I have a few free opt-ins that have gained me just under 1,000 subscribers so far, and I have plans to create a free library like what I had on my homeschool blog, since it was so successful. 

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It’s just that this space is quite a bit different than homeschooling, so I have to get creative.

Her Favorite Resources and Tools

The first SEO course I took was Adventures in SEO by Lena Gott. She teaches SEO in a way that those who have limited chunks of time can easily manage the course. I learned a lot about SEO through this course but didn’t stop there! 

I follow Brandon Gaille, The Blogging Millionaire, and listen to all his podcasts. I use his tool RankIQ and trust what he says. 

I also listen to Spencer and Jared with Niche Pursuits (love those guys!) and keep an eye on what Mike says at SSEO. I also enjoy listening to Shane and Jocelyn at Flipped Lifestyle.

The main tools I use to run my business are RankIQ, Ahrefs, and Trello.

Her Biggest Challenge

One of the most difficult things for me is when I must rein in my new business ideas

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I have often found myself spread too thin between multiple projects, which is usually when I decide to sell something. 

Over the years, I have had a team of up to 8, but I still struggle with delegating the big things, like content planning and keyword research, which take up a lot of my time. 

I tend to be of the mindset that nobody can do it better than me, so I just do it myself. That has hindered me from growing faster.

Her Greatest Accomplishment

Flipping businesses has been a huge accomplishment for me. 

Watching your idea come to fruition and become successful is a huge accomplishment, and it’s extremely rewarding when you sell something you thought up for mid-six-figures.

What She Wishes She Knew When She Started

I wish so much I would have learned SEO in the beginning instead of depending on Pinterest for traffic. 

I have zero doubt my homeschool blog would have been so much more profitable had we done things right from the beginning.

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Her Main Mistake

The biggest mistake I have made was selling my first company with owner financing. I will never sell a business and take payments again.

Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs

The best advice I can give is to start out doing things the right way. Learn everything you can about SEO and apply the best practices from the start. 

Be patient and learn from professionals who have a proven track record of success, like Spencer Haws from Niche Pursuits and Brandon Gaille with The Blogging Millionaire.



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16 Passive Income Side Gigs To Make More Money in 2024

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16 Passive Income Side Gigs To Make More Money in 2024

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In a recent article, Ramit Sethi shared his top 16 passive income ideas if you want to earn more money in 2024. These ideas range from investing in the stock market or real estate to starting a podcast.

Read More: How I Make $5,000 a Month in Passive Income Doing Just 10 Hours of Work a Year
Check Out: 6 Unusual Ways To Make Extra Money (That Actually Work)

If you’re looking for ways to boost your income this year, here’s what Sethi suggested — in no particular order — and how to make them work for you.

Ridofranz / Getty Images/iStockphotoRidofranz / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ridofranz / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Write and Publish eBooks

Writing a successful eBook requires knowing and understanding your audience and what they need.

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Some audiences might look for how-to guides or self-help books, while others simply want a good story. Whatever the case may be, knowing is the first step to making this a lucrative side gig for you.

It’s also important to be knowledgeable about the topic or niche you’re writing about. That way, you can become an expert and build your own brand, thus increasing your reach and sales.

You can publish eBooks on platforms like Amazon.

For You: 30 Best Games That Pay Real Money in 2024
Trending Now: 26 Ways To Make $1,000 Fast — In a Week or Less

Sponsored: Owe the IRS $10K or more? Schedule a FREE consultation to see if you qualify for tax relief.

blackCAT / Getty Images/iStockphotoblackCAT / Getty Images/iStockphoto

blackCAT / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Creating Online Courses

If you’re skilled in a specific niche, you could create and sell courses related to it online. You’ll need to understand your audience and what they want. It also helps to be skilled at marketing and social media.

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Sethi suggested creating a “learning journey,” which starts your audience on the path from complete novice to becoming experts themselves. Over time, yours could become the go-to course for people all over the world.

Try This: 10 Proven Ways To Get Paid for Amazon Reviews in 2023

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mixetto / Getty Images

Create Exclusive Membership Sites or Content Communities

For this one, you’ll need to create a platform or online presence where you can reach and connect with your ideal audience. From there, you can start building members-only sites that individuals must pay a small fee to access.

They get exclusive content, while you earn extra cash. Resources or information on those exclusive sites could include videos, forums, eBooks, and more.

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FabrikaCr / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Start a Podcast

Do you have a great voice and something worth talking about? If so, you might want to start a podcast.

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With a podcast, you can generate income through speaking and sharing what you know with your audience. To become successful takes time and a lot of commitment. You’ll need to regularly come up with episode ideas, record them, edit them and promote them.

But once you’re off the ground, you can build a loyal fanbase and make reliable income. You can increase your earnings potential by adding exclusive content to sell to your premium followers, as well as via advertisements and sponsorships.

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AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing entails recommending products you believe in to your audience. You can do this in many different ways, such as through blogs, videos or social media platforms. Every time someone in your audience uses your referral link to buy a product, you’ll receive a commission.

Be authentic when using affiliate marketing, though. Make sure your audience knows about your partnerships and only recommend products you personally stand behind.

By doing this, you can build even more trust with your audience, while establishing a lucrative system for affiliate marketing.

Explore More: Get Paid To Listen to Music: 10 Proven Ways

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Sell Stock Videos and Photos

If you enjoy taking photos or making videos, then consider selling your creations on platforms like Adobe Stock and Shutterstock.

The competition can be tough, especially at first, so be persistent and only put out the highest quality of goods. Try to make everything a little bit your own, a little unique, so that it stands out.

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Nattakorn Maneerat / Getty Images

Low-Yield Savings Accounts

A traditional savings account, or low-yield savings account, is a low-risk way of growing your money. It’s slow, yes, but steady. And if you contribute regularly to your account, you can boost your savings more quickly over time.

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pressureUA / Getty Images

Make a YouTube Channel

Creating a YouTube channel is another way to general passive income. It takes a lot of time and persistence to get started, but it can be worth it in the end.

Start by deciding which niche, field, or topics you want to film or stream and stick with them. You can earn money from advertisements, affiliate marketing and sponsorships.

Discover More: 7 Creative Sources of Passive Income To Consider in 2024

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Dropshipping

Dropshipping involves selling goods you don’t currently have. You can do it through an online platform or store, like Etsy.

Every time a customer buys something you’re selling, their order goes to a third-party supplier that makes that item and ships it to them. All you need to do is maintain your online shop and market the products.

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mtlapcevic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rent Out Your Things

If you have a lot of useful items that you don’t often use, such as power tools or bicycles, you can rent them out to others for a price. You can do this on platforms like PeerRenters or Fat Llama.

To get started, you’ll need to determine the price and list your item so others can find it.

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sommart / iStock.com

Use High-Yield Savings Accounts or CDs

High-yield savings accounts (HYSAs) are savings accounts with a higher than usual yield, or rate of return. As with traditional savings accounts, you can access your money at any time. The more you contribute to the account and the longer it remains there, the more money it can generate.

Certificates of deposits (CDs) are similar to HYSAs, but they often have an even higher yield. The trade-off is that your cash is wrapped up in the account until the CD matures, or the term is up.

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Both options are low-risk and can help you build small amounts of passive side income.

Read Next: 10 Ways To Double Your Income With ChatGPT

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natrot / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Invest in Dividend Stocks

Investing in dividend stocks is riskier than HYSAs or CDs, but it can also have greater returns. With these, you buy shares of a specific company and receive a portion of that company’s earnings at regular intervals.

Choose companies with a good track record of dividend payouts and growth potential. Diversify your investments to minimize risk, too.

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gopixa / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Get Into Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

If you don’t want to purchase property yourself, you can still invest in REITs and generate passive income that way.

REITs let you invest in real estate without having to manage your properties yourself. They still generate income in the form of regular dividend payments, but they’re more liquid than buying property.

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Use Money Market Accounts

A money market account is similar to a savings account, but it generally has a higher interest rate. In exchange, you may have to maintain a higher minimum balance or face more withdrawal limits or restrictions.

The good news is that these accounts are very low risk, making them a good option for building small amounts of passive income.

Discover More: I’m a Financial Advisor: These 5 Index Funds Are All You Really Need

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jetcityimage / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Purchase Bonds and Bond Index Funds

You can also generate money in the form of bonds and bond index funds.

A bond is essentially a loan that you give to a corporation or the government. In return, you receive steady interest payments.

With a bond index fund, you essentially give investors a set amount of cash that they use to invest in different bonds. These funds offer you more portfolio diversification and can reduce the overall risk.

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Since bonds are generally less volatile than, say, stocks, they’re a good option for more conservative investors looking to earn money passively.

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monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Buy Real Estate

If you don’t mind the process of buying, maintaining, and selling or renting out property, you can always get into real estate investing. You can flip homes or rent out buildings for a profit.

Do your due diligence before getting into real estate, though. Research different areas, current market trends, interest rates (unless you’re buying in cash) and property types to ensure you’re getting the best return on your investment.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Ramit Sethi: 16 Passive Income Side Gigs To Make More Money in 2024

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