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How This Financial Planner Built a Six-Figure Blog

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How This Financial Planner Built a Six-Figure Blog

Starting a blog or content-based website is an excellent way to monetize your expertise. R.J. Weiss leveraged his career in finance by starting and growing a personal finance blog, The Ways to Wealth.

In this interview, R.J. shares how he used Pinterest to begin making money with the site and how he’s used search engine optimization (SEO) to grow it to $20,000 per month in revenue.

Overview

Business Name: The Ways To Wealth
Website URL: thewaystowealth.com
Founder: R.J. Weiss
Business Location: Online (US)
Year Started: 2016
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 5

Tell us about yourself and your business.

My background has been primarily in financial services, where I’ve held various roles, from insurance planning to financial planning. I am a Certified Financial Planner and have always been passionate about helping people with their finances.

In 2016, I decided to start something outside of my job. The idea of an SEO-based content site resonated with me, so I created The Ways To Wealth

Initially, I had no plans for it to become a main source of income. I simply wanted to post various reading lists from famous investors as I was collecting them independently.  However, as I continued to work on the site, I saw the opportunity to turn it into a successful business.

Today, The Ways To Wealth is a financial content site that generates most of its revenue from search. We write content such as best-of lists, reviews, and general personal finance advice. 

Our revenue model is split about 50/50 between advertising and affiliate partnerships. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far and look forward to continuing to grow and help people with their finances.

The Ways to Wealth

How much revenue does the business generate?

On average, the revenue generated is over $20,000 per month. However, the amount may vary depending on the seasonality of the business. During Q4, the advertising revenue is at its peak, but the affiliate revenue may not be as high. On the other hand, Q1 is great for affiliate revenue but not so much for advertising revenue. 

How much profit does the business earn?

Averages above $15,000/month net profit. 

How does your business make money?

The Ways To Wealth generates revenue through affiliate marketing and advertising. Currently, the revenue is pretty evenly split between the two. In the past, the revenue was more heavily reliant on affiliate marketing, but this year, RPMs have been high, so it’s fairly split. 

We also create a lot of supporting content around our affiliate posts, much of which doesn’t include affiliate links but is monetized with ads. The objective is to help people make wise decisions when they’re making any type of financial decision, and often, that requires a lot of supporting content.

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

The initial drive was another source of income. The financial services firm I was at when I started was in the initial stages of being acquired. So, the idea was that if I could diversify my income, I’d have more options. I highly value being in control over my time, which I had at the time, so the idea of working full-time for another company was what motivated me.

But, why I chose to create a personal finance site, was that I worked with a lot of high-net-worth individuals. I wanted to bring this knowledge I was learning to everyday people to help them improve their lives.

How and when did you launch the business?

I registered the domain in August of 2016. At first, it was just a side project that I worked on for a few hours a week. However, the reading lists started gaining traction and even got some links from bigger-name sites.

In December 2016, while doing freelance work as a copywriter, I had a terrible experience with a client who was overly demanding and showed little sympathy when my entire family got sick with the flu. This was my ‘aha’ moment when I realized I didn’t want my time to be controlled by someone else ever again.

After that experience, I decided to go all in on The Ways To Wealth. I started waking up early every morning and treating it like a real business that I wanted to earn a full-time income from.

How much money did you invest to start the business?

Initially, I started with very little start-up capital. It purchased a domain name and hosting (around $100). I spent around $100 to buy a solid WordPress theme shortly after. After a few months, I also invested in a keyword research tool as well for under $50/month. 

How did you find your first few clients or customers?

I don’t have clients, but as far as traffic, the site’s first visitors came from search. I did some very light link-building at the time and landed some links on sites that curate personal finance content. 

What was your first year in business like?

For the first six months, it was just a casual side project. But around the sixth month, I decided to go all-in and try to earn a full-time income before the firm I was working for was acquired in October 2017. 

Although I had a job, I used to work on the website early in the morning for a few hours before work and tried to squeeze in some time at lunch and on weekends. Thankfully, I never had trouble waking up early, and I still do to this day to get some work done before my kids leave for school. 

What really inspired me to take the leap was reading income reports from other bloggers. At that time, people like Pat Flynn were posting income reports that motivated me greatly. 

In the personal finance space, I saw bloggers posting income reports and getting hundreds of thousands of page views from Pinterest, which surprised me. But I had the attitude of “If they can, why can’t I?” so I started building up the site on Pinterest. 

While Pinterest has changed a lot since then, what was unique about Pinterest traffic was that I was able to drive a significant amount of traffic from Pinterest in a short period for a new site. While Google was and is a slog, Pinterest was like a rocket ship. 

By committing to the platform and learning everything I could, by the middle of 2017, I was consistently driving over 100,000 visitors to the platform and reached my goal of earning enough to run the business full-time once I left my job.

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

I started to figure out long-term that the best strategy to grow was organic search. However, I knew that would take some time to build. So, I started to build a profile on Pinterest to get traffic. 

In addition, I saw how other sites used Facebook advertising to drive traffic. So, I leveraged that as well to start growing my audience, with the benefit that these didn’t take as long as organic search did to scale up. In the background, I had my eyes set on long-term organic search as the main revenue driver, which we eventually achieved in 2019. 

Tell us about your team.

I have a managing editor and four writers contributing articles. Additionally, I recently hired a virtual assistant to help with data organization, among other various tasks. 

What are your future plans for the business?

I really enjoy my work of creating content and learning about cutting-edge FinTech products, and I plan to continue doing so for a long time. While I fully expect AI to impact my business and the world of search in general, I’m a bit more bullish than most on independent sites that have something meaningful and valuable to say. 

Do you target organic search traffic? 

Yes, as it accounts for the majority of the site’s revenue. 

We use many forms of keyword research. There’s the typical approach with Ahrefs of finding high-volume but low-competition keywords. However, we’ve recently tried to take that a step further with efforts to be the first to an emerging trend. 

New trends may not always show up in keyword tools, but we’re betting on future growth. With a lot of domain expertise on the team, we’ve gotten better at spotting these trends, but we’re by no means batting 1,000%. 

We then try to cover the entire topical map of many subjects. For example, the reward site Swagbucks is one of our top affiliate partners. So, we’ve written a review of Swagbucks, an article on the best ways to earn on Swagbucks, a list of top alternatives to Swagbucks, and much more around the topic. 

In addition, we’ve been publishing a lot of what we call our promo vertical, which talks about deals and offers. These often get the last click in terms of affiliate revenue. So, instead of someone coming to our site, reading a Swagbucks review, and then going back to Google to search for the Swagbucks bonus, we have a page all about the Swagbucks sign-up bonus

The whole idea is to anticipate the next search so they never have to click back to Google, and of course, provide them with a great experience while on our site so they trust us enough not to have to click away.

How did you make the transition from side hustle to full-time?

I had the forcing function of the firm I worked at was selling and not wanting to go work for someone else, so I made every decision I could to get to a full-time income by that certain date. I also had to get my finances in order as much as I could, so I prioritized saving instead of investing for the year or so leading up to the sale.  I had about six months of living expenses saved.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned growing the business?

It’s always better to make decisions based on hands-on experience rather than just theorizing about something without actually trying it yourself. 

Personally, I never would have thought that using Pinterest for my personal finance blog would be the key to feeling comfortable enough to quit my job and support my family, but that’s exactly what happened. Of course, it wasn’t an overnight success – I had to commit myself to it and try out different marketing strategies to see what worked and what didn’t. 

There are many ways to grow your business, but often the best way to make an educated decision is to give your ideas a good test, commit to them, and see what happens.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

The most significant challenge I faced was getting hit by multiple Google updates. The first one came in late 2019, and the second one in early 2020. Unfortunately, this happened as the pandemic started, making it even more difficult to navigate. 

However, looking back, I realize that the challenges helped me build a stronger business. I had the opportunity to rethink my approach and focus on building a brand that stood for something. I realized that I was too focused on short-term goals and needed to build something that had real durability.

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

I’m a big fan of the books Traction and Profit First. They helped me answer the question of how you actually operate a business and manage its cash flow. 

One of my favorite podcasts is Founders. I’m actually going through the entire archive right now, starting with episode #1. It’s so good, and it’s eye-opening to see what someone who is at the top of the podcast game right now, sounded like in episode #1.

I love to travel, and one podcast I make sure to catch every episode of Frequent Miler. 

The Clearscope webinars, which are also available as podcasts, are a valuable resource for SEO marketing.

What is your favorite quote?

Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.

Jerzy Gregorek

I first heard this on Tim Ferriss’ podcast years ago, and it really resonated with me. 

What really hit home was the idea of making a few good decisions, which may seem hard on the onset, but how do these have such a profound impact on your life. 

For me, it’s staying off of social media/email, until I get my creative work in. While these things contain short-term dopamine hits, e.g. someone just shared my post or a commission just posted, it’s the deep creative work that allowed me to earn these things in the first place. 

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Use This Code to Get 1TB of Cloud Storage for $120

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Use This Code to Get 1TB of Cloud Storage for $120

Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Whether it’s important PDFs, presentations that you made for ongoing clients, or important contracts that would be detrimental to ongoing relationships if ever lost — there’s a lot of data your business needs to protect. That’s why it’s simply common practice for modern companies to have a number of verified and reliable cloud storage solutions.

If your team is in need of some space, here’s a great deal worth checking out. For a limited time only, you can get a lifetime subscription to 1TB of Koofr Cloud Storage for $119.97 (reg. $810) with code KOOFR. This single-payment deal features helpful access to a lot of space. A terabyte can hold roughly a quarter-million photos, 500 hours of HD video, and more than 6 million smaller file types like PDFs.

You can count on top-notch security when using Koofr because of advanced file encryption practices, the company says. They also have a zero-tracking policy, so you can rest assured that sensitive documents saved on Koofr will still remain private to your team or whoever you want to provide access to.

Koofr’s also great for companies because it’s compatible with other popular cloud accounts like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive, so adding it to the mix should be easy.

For those who want a little more reassurance, just take a look at Koofr’s scores among the most reputable tech review sites out there, including a 4.6/5-star average on G2, Capterra, and GetApp.

Make sure to do your business a favor and secure this lifetime subscription to 1TB of Koofr Cloud Storage for $119.97 (reg. $810) with code KOOFR.

StackSocial prices subject to change.

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ChatGPT is Becoming More Human-Like. Here’s How The Tool is Getting Smarter at Replicating Your Voice, Brand and Personality.

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ChatGPT is Becoming More Human-Like. Here's How The Tool is Getting Smarter at Replicating Your Voice, Brand and Personality.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Unless you’ve been living under that proverbial rock, you’ve heard of ChatGPT and its creator, OpenAI. Part of the generative AI explosion, ChatGPT is revolutionizing entire industries, including branding and brand positioning. But it’s not without its drawbacks.

Some of the milder criticisms include creating generic content, not supporting brand voice or tone and failing to connect with audiences. Those are pretty dramatic disadvantages for a technology that’s supposed to be such a game changer, and they’re stumbling blocks you’ve probably encountered in your own use of AI.

There’s good news. A custom GPT lets you take AI to the next level. You can say goodbye to generic, boring copy and hello to brand-aligned, customized content that engages from the start.

Related: 5 Ways ChatGPT Can Help Your Business

What is a Custom GPT?

A custom GPT is the next step in AI evolution, at least for individuals and organizations looking to build their brand and enhance brand awareness with their audience. It’s a free option available for anyone who subscribes to ChatGPT Plus and essentially allows you to create a customized AI that knows everything about you and your business.

Rather than using conventional training materials, the OpenAI team uses your branding information to train the AI. The result? A customized version of ChatGPT that’s unique to your brand.

Related: How Generative AI Will Revolutionize The Future of Your Brand

The proof is in real-world experience

In the ever-evolving entrepreneurship landscape, I recently had the privilege of incorporating a custom ChatGPT into my toolkit. Created by a skilled team, this AI marvel was trained with insights from my articles and branding advice and attuned to my unique tone of voice. I was thrilled to discover that it could perfectly emulate my style (professional yet approachable and friendly) and provide branding advice that I would have given myself.

Why would I want to let AI replace me? Am I planning for my own obsolescence? Not in the least.

The goal here is to create an ally in sharing my expertise — an AI-powered alter ego capable of responding to questions, comments, and requests in the same way I would. It’s also an important tool for providing potential new clients with a preview of what working with me is like.

How did the experiment pan out? What benefits did I achieve, and how might you apply them to your own needs? Here’s a quick rundown of my experience.

Improved brand consistency

A custom GPT’s primary advantage is its ability to ensure brand consistency across different touchpoints. Whether people seek advice, ask questions or want to engage in another way, a custom GPT mirrors your brand’s unique voice and identity. These are not generic robots; they’re tailored allies designed to respond in the same tone of voice and style, aligning seamlessly with your brand. This not only strengthens your brand image but also cultivates a deeper connection with your audience.

Effortless communication

With my custom GPT taking care of everyday questions, I’ve gained valuable time to focus on the core aspects of my business. That’s something any business owner can appreciate. It has also become instrumental in smoothing out communication and enhancing overall efficiency.

When it comes to client relationships, the custom ChatGPT handles routine inquiries, allowing me to concentrate on building stronger connections. It’s not just about answering questions; it’s about providing a personal touch that goes beyond the basics, ensuring clients feel genuinely attended to.

Instant expertise at scale

Scaling my entrepreneurial efforts became seamless as my custom ChatGPT effortlessly shares branding advice derived from and consistent with my body of work across platforms. Whether interacting with one client or a hundred, the AI manages to deliver advice and guidance consistent with my goals in terms of professionalism and expertise. That’s good news for business owners, entrepreneurs and others trying to scale their brands without burning out.

Dynamic adaptability to trends

The world is evolving faster than ever. It feels impossible to keep up with trends and shifting market dynamics. However, my custom GPT can be retrained with new data and instructions so I can keep ahead of the curve. That’s an important benefit for anyone hoping to stay relevant today.

Related: How ChatGPT Will Dramatically Change the Influencer Space

Time-saving creative sparks

ChatGPT doesn’t just answer questions; it sparks creativity. Whether you’re stuck on a branding concept or seeking inspiration to name your new business venture, the AI’s unique insights and suggestions serve as a springboard for creative endeavors, accelerating the ideation process. This can be an important advantage when it comes to creating marketing collateral, content for your audience and even writing a business plan to get your idea off the ground.

The team you’ve been missing

Entrepreneurs and solopreneurs often try to do it all. Chances are good that you handle your own marketing, market research, customer support, email correspondence, and more. That leaves little time to focus on other aspects, like spending time with family and friends. A custom GPT can become the team you’ve been missing and handle those tasks for you in many cases, saving you time, cutting costs and protecting your sanity.

In essence, a custom GPT acts as a force multiplier. It allows you to do more, from engaging with your audience to building a stronger brand without burning out. From streamlining communication to answering questions and providing guidance to interacting with leads at different touchpoints within your funnel, a custom GPT could be just what you need to jumpstart your success.

Related: What Does ChatGPT Mean for the Future of Business?

A global solution for leaders in the spotlight

For prominent figures like business leaders and public figures, managing a constant influx of inquiries can be overwhelming. A prime example is MarcGPT, tailored for Marc Randolph, the co-founder and first CEO of Netflix. Drawing from his wealth of experience, this custom GPT delivers inspiring and actionable advice for entrepreneurs, showcasing its potency as a valuable tool for leaders. It extends mentorship and offers insights on a global scale, reaching a diverse audience without the limitations of time zones or physical presence. Since it incorporates information from various sources, including a copy of his book, interviews, podcast episodes and other writings, it becomes a versatile asset for sharing expertise on various topics.

Embracing the AI revolution with caution

While the benefits of custom GPTs are evident, it’s essential to approach AI integration cautiously. Human-to-human interaction is always the preferred option. And while AI continues to evolve, it should be seen as an ally working alongside you, not a replacement for you. Maintaining the human touch within your business remains vital.

My recommendation? Use a custom GPT to help you carve out more time to do what you do best and to provide much-needed human interaction at key touchpoints. Let your AI handle mundane but important tasks that would not be a wise use of your own time and expertise.

Ultimately, a custom GPT can provide critical automation, reduce costs, improve efficiency, save you time, improve your customer or client experience and increase the accuracy of interactions. Creating one tailored to your business is the first step toward building a stronger, more resilient brand and achieving a better balance in your own professional life.

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How to Build Trust and Transparency With Your Customers While Taking Their Data

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How to Build Trust and Transparency With Your Customers While Taking Their Data

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Innovation starts with identifying the outcomes customers want to achieve — which is why most companies rely on modern tools and technologies to acquire vast amounts of customer information for creating personalized customer experiences.

You need your customers to share their details, including preferences, to ensure you create a seamless, engaging and personalized customer journey. However, this need is at odds with the growing concerns surrounding customer privacy. Now, more than ever, customers are growing increasingly protective of their personal data.

According to a survey conducted by Gartner, consumers are less comfortable with brands collecting other types of data, including browsing history. Only 27% of respondents feel comfortable sharing information pertaining to their employment, financial data and personal health.

Users know the risks associated with their personal information fueled by various privacy breaches, data thefts and increasing regulatory scrutiny. Hence, businesses striving to innovate and meet customer demands must navigate the complexities of privacy protection since customers trust brands that value their privacy security.

On the other hand, the stringent privacy regulations, including the GDPR and CCPA, are even more concerning. These regulations demand businesses to collect, store, and manage customer data securely. Failing to adhere may entitle the business to pay hefty fines and even reputational damages.

In a nutshell, if a business wishes to jump on the innovation bandwagon, it can’t ignore the inherent privacy risks, especially when collecting vast amounts of customer data. Let’s unpack why businesses must be more vigilant about customer data security and privacy when innovating and learn how to navigate this complex landscape.

Related: Why Your Company Needs to Rethink Its Purpose to Acquire Loyal Customers — And Drive More Sales.

Why you need to innovate with privacy on top of mind

Delivering seamless user experiences is vital, but ignoring privacy security wouldn’t please your users. Stats reveal that users worldwide are more concerned about their privacy than ever and wish to do more to protect it.

On the other hand, when we see things from an organization’s perspective, they have a typical mindset of invoking technology’s true potential to innovate for improving user experiences. However, ignoring privacy and security could be the worst strategy in today’s business landscape, especially when your customers know the importance of their privacy.

No matter how unreasonable it may seem to prioritize privacy in today’s world, where data-driven decisions dominate, embracing privacy protection can eventually open up new avenues for growth and innovation.

Users are more likely to engage with digital platforms and applications when they trust that their privacy is respected and their personal data is secure. They love to share personal information, along with their preferences and participate in innovative initiatives.

Consequently, a deeper understanding of user preferences and needs helps businesses develop effective and targeted innovations.

Why ignoring privacy regulations will spell trouble for your business

The relationship between innovation and privacy is quite evident. As organizations navigate their technological advancement journey, privacy regulations guide them toward a sustainable future where innovation does not affect or compromise users’ fundamental rights.

Whether it’s CCPA or GDPR, every regulation guards privacy rights and protects organizations from legal obligations. Furthermore, organizations that cater to customers across the globe shouldn’t ignore the importance of adhering to various data privacy regulations, as failing to do so may entitle them to pay hefty fines.

What’s worrisome is that if your organization’s reputation is tarnished for not adhering to global privacy compliances, your potential customers won’t trust you and will inch toward your competitors with all the necessary compliances in place.

And regarding innovation, you can freely collect essential information about users, and they won’t mind if you adhere to the latest data privacy and security regulations.

Strategies for privacy-driven innovation

1. Prioritizing a privacy-first mindset

Organizations that don’t prioritize privacy at every stage of their product development and innovation initiatives will not be able to win customer trust.

Hence, it’s essential to lay the foundation of your product by equally emphasizing privacy along with other aspects, including user experience, usability, compliance and marketing. Collaborating development, security, user experience and marketing teams to emphasize privacy security is perhaps the need of the hour for every business striving for success.

2. Prioritize transparency tactics — communicate clearly, win trust

If you establish clear communication with your customers regarding data collection, usage and protection, you can quickly win customer trust and loyalty. Most customers are reluctant to share their personal information just because they aren’t sure why an organization is demanding it in the first place.

Once they’re comfortable sharing essential information, you can use this data to drive meaningful innovation, such as offering personalized recommendations, suggesting products/services based on their preferences, and more.

3. Tap the potential of technology

Embracing cutting-edge privacy-enhancing tools and technologies can help you navigate your innovation journey seamlessly. Using robust privacy management tools, identity management platforms and multi-factor authentication can eventually help build lasting customer trust and loyalty.

Furthermore, using cloud platforms to scale rapidly would further enhance user experience without compromising security.

4. Optimize data collection

A data-minimization approach in which organizations collect only essential data and maximize its value helps deliver impactful results. Admit it: No innovation is possible without knowing what your customers want and their pain points. Effectively analyzing essential data can help boost targeted innovation efforts, ensuring impactful outcomes.

5. Skyrocket innovation with powerful partnerships

Last but not least, collaborating with privacy experts, regulatory bodies, and industry peers to exchange knowledge and best practices can accelerate your innovation efforts. Businesses can embark on an innovation journey flawlessly through collective support and expertise.

Related: This Unique Marketing Strategy Is Winning in 2024 — Here’s Why (and How You Can Implement It Successfully)

Navigating the nexus of innovation and privacy

While navigating the innovation landscape, organizations shouldn’t overlook the undeniable nexus between innovation and privacy. Hence, ignoring privacy while pursuing innovation could hamper customer trust and lead to legal obligations.

Emphasizing a privacy-first mindset, coupled with transparent communication and technological advancement, are undoubtedly pivotal strategies for unlocking the true potential of innovation while safeguarding customer privacy.

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