If there was an Internet mountain top and I had a megaphone, here are 21 truths I would shout out…
1) There Is No Step By Step Guide to Success
Sure, there are guidelines and principles you can follow, but everyone has to find their own way and no journey is exactly the same.
Because not everyone is building the same kind of site or selling the same kinds of products. You also may be better or worse at certain things than others (social media, video, podcasting, blogging, etc.)
Find the avenue that caters to YOUR strengths and aim to be helpful. If you’re a good speaker, start a podcast. If you like to write, start a blog.
Also, TIMING plays a major role. When someone is one of the first to successfully implement a site concept, it’s harder for others to duplicate it because they’ve captured that market.
So don’t try to copy what someone started 10 years ago. Work on developing YOUR individual angle and use your personality and uniqueness to set your site apart. This is where so many go wrong.
I can provide a road map or an ebook that will point you in a general direction, but you ultimately have to find your own way there. And it starts with you carving out your own approach and defining a market that NEEDS your information and perspective.
And expect bumps and detours along the way. It’s all part of the process.
2) The “Write Quality Content” Buzz Phrase Needs Redefining
Every Internet Marketing blog preaches about the importance of writing quality content. I know, I know. I’m guilty of repeating this phrase a lot myself.
But what does quality content really mean?
Here’s the real deal…
Your content is probably very helpful, but the Web has evolved and it’s flooded with so much information now.
A lot of what was considered quality content in 2007 is now mediocre at best in 2014 because of redundancy and our internal bar for quality Web content has been raised.
Here are some ideas to kick things up a notch…
- Use video to publish more creative content. I love creating screencasts with draw tablets like this and using Powtoon to create fast-moving, animated presentations. These kinds of videos have a MUCH better audience retention rate than my talking-head videos.
- Create thought-provoking articles that challenge your perspective the way Mark Schaefer always does on his blog.
- Develop incredibly in-depth, how-to information like Ana Hoffman that goes above and beyond your average how-to article.
- Get more eyeballs on your social media content using fun, eye-catching images the way Rebekah Radice does often.
- Write revealing posts backed by mounds of research and proof like Glen of Viper Chill. Glen doesn’t just make claims, he always backs up his content with evidence — making many of his posts super juicy! He doesn’t blog a lot, but when he does, people pay attention!
- Use the storytelling technique to draw people in. There are some great tips on how to do that here.
The point is that the Web has evolved, so we all have to work harder at producing content that is more interesting. It’s an on-going challenge for everyone.
As a matter of fact, I’m going to make a conscious effort to stop saying “write quality content” without showing concrete examples like the links above.
The phrase is overused and very subjective. Maybe I should start using “engaging content” instead because it implies creating content that will elicit a response.
3) You Can’t Tell Everyone What You’re Up To!
I guarantee you have some naysayers in your life who are overly skeptical and don’t believe anyone makes money online.
A lot of these people have no point of reference, meaning they don’t know of anyone who is successful. So they assume it doesn’t work.
You have to learn who you can tell and who you can’t. Do yourself a favor and keep your plans quiet around certain people because they can be awfully discouraging.
Wait until you get that first check, then tell them what you’ve been up to. That’s what I did!
4) Having No Background or Web Experience is Not an Excuse
I hear people say all the time that they can’t do this because they aren’t good with computers or social media, building websites, writing, you name it!
This is the Internet — where anything you want to learn is literally a Google search away. All it takes is a bit of desire, hard work and resourcefulness on your part.
You want to be a better writer? Take a trip over to Copyblogger.com, become a member and digest every word.
You want to become a pro with WordPress? Check out WPBeginner.
I totally get that this can be overwhelming at first, but you can learn. Remember, everyone starts out with little or no knowledge, but the great news is the information is out here if you want it.
Now go get it!
5) Don’t Do This Just For The Money
There are people who will swear that the need for money was the sole motivation before they ultimately found success. That may be true, but I guarantee they discovered something else they love about this process along the way.
You may think the motivation to make money is all you need, but it won’t take you long to realize you need a second motivator.
If this was ONLY about the money for me, I would have quit 13 years ago when the first dot com crash hit in 2001 and my site earnings dropped by more than 70%. Given that setback, I never once thought of quitting.
I have an extreme passion for teaching, I love computers, making videos and writing. That is what drives me. The money is a wonderful byproduct of this enjoyment.
When you find that one thing that keeps you going when things are slow or get tough, it’s a nice motivator as you go along.
6) SEO Plugins Are Grossly Overrated and Often Misunderstood
Search engine optimization (SEO) plugins are great for ensuring you’re using the right markup, and they can help you learn what the engines look for.
But installing one isn’t going to skyrocket your traffic. Discover why I disabled mine on this site.
If you want Google to rank your site well, the best way is to prove that people like your site by earning natural backlinks and having a strong social media presence.
7) Free Can Cost You
No doubt we all love free stuff, and some free things are extremely valuable and useful. Even though I absolutely love Photoshop, I totally understand why people choose GIMP or Canva over such an expensive program — especially if these tools get the job done.
However, I don’t get why people build their business sites on free platforms. If you want people to take your site seriously and you want full control, you’ve got to own your piece of real estate on the web.
If money is the issue, everyone understands that, but save up until you can afford hosting for a couple of years and then start your site. You’ll prevent the headache of moving your site later.
Ironically, choosing free can cost you more time and money in the long run.
8) Your Knowledge is More Valuable Than You Think
People often sell themselves short because they underestimate their own knowledge.
You don’t have to know everything about a certain subject to build a successful site. You just have to know more than your targeted audience.
I guarantee you know enough about at least one subject to help someone else and build an awesome website. That’s why I wrote this article years ago and I think it’s still relevant today.
Don’t sell yourself short. You are an expert to someone. Embrace it and build upon it.
9) Building Quality Traffic is Hard Work
I’ve never been one to sugarcoat anything so why start now? If building targeted traffic was easy, everyone would be filthy rich in no time. But no, it takes time build up a following.
Whoever said build and they will come was clearly not talking about websites because that just isn’t true for most people.
One way to make it easier on yourself is to take time developing your own voice and angle so you don’t get lost in the sea of redundant websites and blogs.
If you think about people who have success online, I guarantee you can think of one or two things that makes them stand out over other people. That is often a big key to their success and traffic.
10) All Traffic is NOT Created Equal
I’d rather have 100 visits from people who were truly interested in my niche than 1,000 visits from low-quality traffic.
For example, Stumbleupon may send you thousands of visitors per day, but if that traffic yields a 96% bounce rate (means only 4% read more than one page) and people stay an average of 10 seconds, that is not quality traffic.
Also stay away from those sleazy traffic programs and Fiverr gigs that promise oodles of visitors for cheap. They are banking on you not understanding that low quality traffic is worthless.
What’s even worse, the traffic may not even be real. They can simulate it by using bots.
The reason these shady services stay alive is people are so focused on quantity, they don’t realize that it’s the quality of traffic that matters more.
11) Vulnerability Rocks!
When I first started blogging I would never write about things I did wrong because I feared people would be disappointed or would no longer find me credible.
Ultimately, I had to check myself and realize this was fear of rejection.
But I reminded myself that we are all human and no one is perfect. Some of my most commented posts are ones where I talk about things I struggle with. I quickly realized the power of being vulnerable.
People want to know your niche-relevant struggles because it reminds them you are human and helps them relate. This is how you build a connection with your followers.
12) AdSense Doesn’t Work Well For Every Site
As great as AdSense can be for certain sites, let’s face it. Some niches simply outperform others because of ad competition and higher-priced ads.
The better the ad competition, the more it drives up the ad cost. That means YOU earn more as a publisher. If you’re in a niche with not as many relevant ads, the ad cost goes down and your potential earnings go down.
Some people feel if their AdSense earnings are very low, they are doing something wrong. Sometimes it’s just your niche.
Relax, there’s more to the monetizing game than just AdSense. You can make money so many different ways: affiliate programs, sponsored posts, 3rd party ads, selling your own products, and AdSense alternatives such as Media.net and Chitika, etc.
13) You May Need a Spending Habit Adjustment
If you are serious about doing this full time, be prepared for fluctuating income. That can be an adjustment if you are used to a set salary.
Not only should you have at least 2 years of savings in the bank (YES, TWO!), but it’s important to develop a lifestyle that allows you to save more than you spend.
And please don’t quit your job and rely on your AdSense income alone!! Yikes!
Entrepreneurship requires discipline and being smart with your money. If you’re one who likes to spend before you get it, you need to seriously think about adjusting your habits before considering this as a full-time gig.
14) No Niche Worth Diving Into Is Completely Untapped
Some people drive themselves nuts trying to find a niche no one has ever tackled.
C’mon, it’s 2014.
While there are certainly topics that are far more saturated than others, almost every niche worth going after is going to have SOME competition. If there isn’t, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth tackling in the first place.
Don’t be afraid of niches with some competition. The key is finding a way to stand out.
15) Don’t Get Blinded By The Shiny-Object Syndrome
That’s when you feel like you must join or try every new social site, program or app that comes out.
Stay focused. Ask yourself, “Do I have a strategy that I will implement here or am I just joining because everyone else is?”
It’s so easy to waste countless hours on sites that are bringing you little value. Trust me! I know from experience.
16) Surround Yourself With Successful People
If you want success online, it’s good to surround yourself with people who have what you want. That’s one of the reasons I started my forum in 2007.
I wanted people to be able to share their success and help others find their way.
Check out the Success Stories sub forum for a dose of inspiration.
You can also gain some inspiration from this post I did last year on four successful sites in different niches.
Also consider going to relevant events in your city. It’s a great way to meet other like-minded people. I joined MeetUp.com in 2011 and have attended a handful of meetups that are flooded with successful people.
17) Study Successful People Across All Niches
When you first try to make money online, it’s logical to follow successful people who have websites on blogging and making money online.
Makes sense, right?
But the problem is, some of their tips may not be as relevant for you and your site. Plus, people in the same niche often tend to use and recommend all the same resources and people.
So make a habit of seeking out successful people across many different topics.
Follow and subscribe to Unmistakable Creative, where Srinivas interviews successful entrepreneurs across all niches. That way you can get ideas from many different kinds of people and sites.
18) Try, Try Again
So? You setup a site and no one came. You made a YouTube channel and no one is watching but your mom and uncle Henry.
You aren’t the first person to experience a setback online. Do you think every site I’ve created has been a success? Noooooo way!
The great thing about the Internet is that it’s very forgiving. If you take a misstep you can always adjust and move in another direction.
Now that you know it’s more than just “build and they will come”, it’s time to dust yourself off and try again.
- Maybe the niche wasn’t for you
- Are you setting yourself apart from the competition? Re-read Truth #2!
- Perhaps you can work harder at putting more personality into your writing or presentation
- Could it be that the platform you were using to promote your site doesn’t fit your skill set? (For example, YouTube isn’t for everyone.)
Reset and change directions. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
My new podcast could end up being a complete waste of time in the long run, but I really enjoy creating the shows and want to see how it pans out.
19) It’s Hard(er) to Do it Alone Today
This doesn’t mean you can’t build a successful site without the help of social media and social networks, but it is more challenging today.
Lots of people are getting a boost by joining blogging networks like Triberr and actually creating genuine relationships. Not only can it help your site get more exposure, but you’ll build relationships in the process.
By the way, I’m one of the contributors on that new site. Check out my latest article here.
20) You Can’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
I don’t know a single person online who has had success and didn’t stumble first.
Sure, some stumble harder than others, but everyone takes a misstep now and then. If they told you they didn’t, they’re lying.
It’s absolutely impossible to do everything right the first time.
It’s not about what you do wrong, but how you handle setbacks.
21) The Only Constant is Change
I could write a book outlining everything that’s changed online since I started.
Five years ago, no one imagined Facebook limiting their reach to force ad spend, or how much Google’s algorithm would negatively impact some small businesses.
If you can’t stomach the ebbs and flows of the Internet, you’re in the wrong industry.
Keep your seat belt fastened at all times because the Web will continue to evolve.
Don’t ever get too comfy out here.