It seems crazy to think that I’ve been involved (in some way or another) in this insane online world for 8 years now.. And I know if you don’t know me, and you read the sidebar to your right that you may be asking what the hell a 12 year old was doing in internet marketing, but I’ve always wanted to earn money and I recently stumbled across a post I made in 2008 when I was selling Nintendo DS and DS Lite card readers on eBay.. Yes, I would of been 12 and just 2 years later I was a highly recognized freelancer on oDesk, so much so I started a company that helped freelancers learn new skills, you can look it up on Twitter: @OwebHelp – I managed to somehow pull off partnerships with DevelopPHP (which was owned by FlashBuilding at the time) and oDesk themselves.. Whilst pretending to be a 20-something freelancer from the UK… Seriously, people were hiring me to do projects for them, I managed to find this project I did which was a trailer for a Spanish social media conference.
It all sounds a bit bizarre and surreal remembering back to those days, but I was a kid, and my parents did wonder where I was getting the money to buy thousand dollar gaming laptops, keyboards, mouses and rather expensive adobe and sony software licenses.
I could write a rather interesting biography, and I’m only 20… But this is a blog post, and not a biography.
This post is a compilation of 8 years experience, and the tips I WISH I knew before starting out. They’re in no particular order, and could be anything from E-Commerce to blogging to SEO to social media. They could be advanced, hidden in plain sight or super basic things you wish you’d thought of before. I’ve tried, tested and read my way to this knowledge over the last 3,000 days in IM and learned a lot along the way.
So, without further ado, let’s give you some insider info.
Table of Contents
I know, the TOC is MASSIVE.. That’s because I got a hella lot of tips.
Tip #1 – ALWAYS Have An Email List
Email lists are like freakin gold dust, a well put together follow-up series and regular updates can make a list be your blog/companies most valueable asset.
On average, the email list for my blog and my previous blog has done around $8,000/month revenue over the cause of 3 years.
That’s a cool quarter of a million dollars.
Lead magnets are by far the best way to gain email subscribers, though setting up a good converting list/follow-up series takes some serious dedication.
Tip #1.5 – Always Retarget
If you’ve gone to the not-so-great length of creating lead magnets, then there is absolutely no excuse for you to not be using retargeting to gain a ton more email subscribers. I spend about $350/month on retargeting visitors to my blog to join my email list, this works out to around 200 new email subscribers per month. That’s $1.75/email sub. If you work out the average earnings from my list in comparison to the number of subscribers, each subscriber is worth about $11.75 – That’s a 1,000% return.
I would like to note that previously to Facebook’s recent Ad updates, I would get retargeted email subs at more like $0.20 – $0.50 per sub.
Tip #2 – Put CTAs on Your 404s
You’d be surprised at the number of visitors on your site that hit 404s, and especially if you’re on a large site.
It makes sense to be putting a call to action on your 404.. I haven’t (yet) done it on my blog, that’s purely because I’m waiting on the design for it to be complete, and I have about 6 other design projects ahead of the queue for this site first.
We tested it on an E-Commerce clients site with over 8,000 pages. We saw a 4.7% conversion rate as a direct result, on a site that averages over £19,000/week – That’s an extra £46,436/year increase in revenue, from a 25 minute change.
Digital Marketer do a fantastic job of CTAs on their 404s, with consistently new ideas, here’s their latest:
Both buttons go to their blog regardless, but it still does it’s job by lowering bounce rate (which can effect rank) and increasing visitor’s time on site. As well as possibly converting them into email subscribers or even paying customers.
Tip #3 – Don’t Buy Into The Hype
Generally, if you’ve gotten 20 email from different lists about an internet marketing product, it’s almost always BS.
Realistically, you only need a small amount of tools, and if you’re just getting started out then there are tons of free tools & courses out there so you don’t have to spend a dime.. Except on the domain & hosting.
It very much depends on your internet marketing industry, but given SEO as a great example, you can have a really effective toolkit for extremely cheap:
- Google Drive Sheets – Free alternative to Excel, and great for formatting site data/plans.
- ScrapeBox – For a one time fee of $67 you can have a desktop based scraper, rank tracker, live link checker & a TON of other things too.
- Majestic – £30 ($40) a month for one of the best link checkers in the world, you can work very reliably off just Majestic’s data.
- Xenu Link Sleuth – Free OnPage crawler, perfect for auditing.
Those 4 tools alone (with some serious elbow grease) can compete with serious niches. I know, because when I first started out all I would use is free tools and data, I hated spending my hard earned money.
Equally, don’t spend money you don’t have.. Class every spend as if you were gambling, what’s the risk to reward like?
I covered this in significantly more detail in this post:
Tip #4 – Link Building Isn’t The Be-All & End-All (of SEO)
I’m not saying great content will rank you on it’s own, I’m not a Moz’er.
I have however seen time and time again, people spending insane money on link profiles that’ll never rank because the site itself is so poorly built.
Why on earth would you build a site, build links and then “work on the conversions/OnPage/design” once it’s ranked?!
You want all that in place as soon as possible, because even trickles of traffic can help your business and generally the better a website is, the easier it is to rank. OnPage SEO isn’t dead, despite what a lot of people have talked about.
Tip #4.5 – You Don’t Need Crazy Budgets For A Solid Link Profile
I know you’ve probably seen case studies and webinars about all of these paid link options or expensive softwares to build the only links that’ll ever rank you.
Well that’s simply false. There are TONS of quick win link opportunities out there, and all it takes is a bit of time/digging to find them.
On top of that, about 90% of those paid/software required links you see will being built are 10x better if you build them manually yourself. Guest posting may seem like a chore, but if you work out a good flow you’ll have 25+ contextual referring domains from real sites, within a matter of weeks.. That’d normally cost into the thousands.
Tip #5 – Online Isn’t The Only Market
There is a world behind your computer screen, and it’s a market for the taking.
- Freelancer? Create postcards for a free audit/analysis of X and send it to local businesses.
- Agency? Create a local business group on Facebook or Meetup.com and become an influencer for your community.
- Affiliate? Hire graduates to hand out leaflets with cleverly designed affiliate promotions.
There’s a ton of ways to do things offline, those 3 took me less than 2 minutes to come up with.
Tip #6 – Be A Middle Man Where Possible
If you don’t actually have to provide anything, but still get paid.. That’s the best way to do business and you’ll see the most profit.
It can be hard to pull off, but if you want a truly passive lifestyle then it’s the best way to go.
I wrote a blog post in May last year on one of my affiliate sites, I haven’t updated it since and it happened to rank very well for brand/coupon/review style keywords (Top #3) using a few PBN links and a well written post. The result speaks for itself:
It’s probably the most money I’ve ever made for 4 hours of work… And it’s still going strong. This is exactly what I talk about in tip #7.
Tip #6.5 – Partnerships Are The Way Forward
Partner with people and companies that’ll improve your business or life.. Make sure they’re the right fit, and can do things you cannot in the business.
A partner is a lot more focused than an employee.
Tip #7 – Build Assets
Your time is always valuable, anything you build in internet marketing should be perceived as long term and to build value.. It’s a very competitive industry, and getting slapped over night because you put all your eggs in one basket is a sickening feeling.
Continually ask yourself if what you’re working on is going to be an asset, and make sure you have a priority list.
Sometimes, you’ll just get flat out lucky.. And that happens once in a thousand times… So do it ten thousand times, and you’ll be rich.
Tip #8 – Try Not To Burn Bridges
It may be a common occurrence, but enemies aren’t good for anyone and though you may have those that hate you for no apparent reason.. The majority of your enemies made in life will be because of poor decision choices, unless you get super famous.
Just because you don’t agree with someone, or they’ve “done something” doesn’t mean you have to create an enemy out of them. Ignoring them is the best solution, even if they’re really getting on your nerves.
This may be a little bit of an odd tip, but it’s an important one.
Tip #9 – Get A Mentor
This will likely only apply to those in the beginner to intermediate stages of IM, though that being said, there’s always someone better than yourself.
If you can find someone who’s willing to help you then take it.. It might take some ego stroking or a bit of free help with their business, but learning new things and having access to new tools/information will take you to your next step a lot faster.
My main mentor has been Todd, who’s business was recently valued at over $7 million.. Though I’ve learned from many people throughout, and never turned down help from those who’re better at specific topics than myself.
Shout outs to:
- Kennan Clark (Black Hat / Sales)
- Matthew Barby (White Hat SEO / Content Marketing)
- Ryan Deiss (Email Marketing)
- Kyler Patterson (Social PPC / Landing Pages)
Tip #10 – Routinely Audit Everything
Just because you did an audit 6 months ago of your OnPage SEO, doesn’t mean it’s time for another fresh look.. This applies to all sectors of IM.
Audit yourself and the assets/projects you have to make sure they’re in the best possible position – Whether it be optimization, profitability or people. I try to audit and analyze everything I am doing.
Tip #11 – Procrastination Is An Entrepreneurial Killer
I know, I used to play video games all day.. I wish I’d put that time into building up my business, instead of building up my PvP rank, I’m Diamond in League of Legends by the way:
Just thought I’d put that out there for the gamers to get jealous.
Don’t get me wrong, relaxation is required, but you need to be on top of everything you’re doing and make sure you keep your life organized and busy, so you’re not wasting precious time to improve that life.
Tip #12 – Keeping Learning, Keep Testing
Don’t ever think you know enough.. There’s always new avenues to go down and always new techniques to work with.
Keep bettering yourself, and your business will show this as well.
If you’re into SEO/IM, then you might like my What I Read page:
It covers everything I read, whenever I actually get round to reading and updating the page.. Though plenty of great resources already listed to catch up on.
Tip #13 – Automated Scheduling Is Your Best Friend
You wouldn’t believe the traffic / view increases I’ve had by timing my emails, video uploads and social shares, in comparison to how I used to go about it several years ago.
- VidIQ & Tube Buddy both have “Best Time to Upload” analysis for YouTube.
- Buffer has built-in best time analysis/scheduling for the 4 major social networks.
Though email lists are extremely hard to analyze without bulk amounts of data, and depend heavily on the title, MailChimp & WordStream have done extensive experiments –
Best Day / Email Opens:
Best Time by Opens:
It’s not too much work, and if you have a medium to large sized audience, can benefit you immensely.
Tip #14 – Get Involved ASAP
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a clue what half the words in an industry forum or blog post mean.
Getting involved, finding like minded people and putting yourself out there straight off the bat will help you years into your career, and put your name on the map from the start. You never know, it could be a great link asset for your Forbes interview 5 years from now.
I (and many others) went down the wrong route of first trying to learn completely solo and it left me really confused at what to believe, what worked and where to begin.. A simple introduction post on one of the biggest forums in your industry could help you find your next mentor, remember Tip #9?
Tip #15 – Test & Plan
Listening to the big boy blogs out there made me want to continually jump from idea to idea, whenever I learned something new I wanted to test it, but this never resulted in any actual accomplishments and more so related in the opposite effects of what I wanted.
Equally, starting a project without a proper plan in place left me feeling anxious about and even more confused because I got somewhere and then didn’t know what direction I was going in.
If I’d set out a clear plan from the beginning, a lot of my initial projects would of likely made me 10x the money they ended up making. It may be confusing to try and put together a plan based on little knowledge, but firing up some recent case studies (You can simply use Google’s search tools to find recent ones) and an industry glossary will start formulating a plan in your head of what direction you should go for.
At the end of the day though, just test what works and what doesn’t, whilst trying to be as cost effective as possible.
Tip #16 – Enjoy Your Work & Money Will Come
We all want to be professional chocolate testers or video game players for a living, but it’s often not possible.
That doesn’t mean we have to suck it up and accept our work be boring.. And I understand that a lot of people have families and bills to pay, but that doesn’t mean you should lose any sort of joy out of your work because of it.
Creating a business that you actually enjoy should be your #1 priority, I love SEO.. I’m an SEO nerd and I love messing with a billion dollar corporation and helping people. Believe it or not, but I didn’t write this blog post to make a million dollars, it’s because I’d much rather be writing this massive post (as I actually enjoy writing and the feedback it gets) than building some $10k/mo affiliate site that’ll bore me to death.
If you’re just starting out, I HIGHLY recommend you build something around your hobby, it becomes a lot easier to work on something you actually enjoy and you’ll end up benefiting from it hugely – I setup a fashion affiliate site that got pretty big a few years back, and ended up getting a few thousand bucks worth of clothes for a bit of love towards the company. I’d much rather get that, then have some diet pill company try and send weight loss pills & a much bigger cheque to my skinny ass.
Tip #17 – Reddit Is Your Idea Source Every Damn Time
Seriously, if you want to go into an industry, find a subreddit and go to the “Top” posts. A quick overview of the types of headlines, comments and content that industry respect will give you a massive advantage over those inexperienced marketers in that niche/industry.
Here’s what the “Top” posts look like for /r/bigseo –
You won’t get a much better insight into a community than one that can be (almost) completely anonymous.
It’s also a fantastic way to:
A) Steal Ideas – People promote epic ideas all the time on the site, and you’ll find someone you can copy very easily.
B) Find New Niches – The Business, Entrepreneur and various other Sub-Reddits have a wealth of niches you probably never thought of before, and it’ll take you less than a few minutes of browsing.
C) Finding Partners – SubReddits are packed with those who visit because they have an interest/expertise in that topic, and finding users who know their stuff in that SubReddit could be your next business partner, or mentor.
Tip #18 – Don’t Be Afraid To Outsource
Trust can be very difficult for some people, especially if you’re handing the keys to the kingdom to some random internet username.
That being said, if you want to truly scale and get past that initial set of earnings, you need to look at employing others to take on tasks that simply aren’t worthy of your time anymore. This is also exactly how you’ll end up getting the most freedom possible.
Tip #18.5 – Automation
Alternatively, automating tasks can be the most effective way to build a business.
For both tips, I highly suggest picking up a book called “Rework” by Jason Fried & David Heinermeier Hansson – They built BaseCamp, have millions of customers, are valued into the billions and all with a handful of employees.
Tip #19 – You Can Manipulate The Internet With Ease
I learnt this from another one of my favourite books, “Trust Me, I’m Lying” by VERY famous marketer, Ryan Holiday – Probably my highest book recommendation for all marketers, I read it cover to cover, in a day:
The internet is essentially based on references. If you can edit references, or create references yourself as a foundation, then it becomes extremely easy to build those references into accepted fact and as such, profit MASSIVELY off of it. Whether you’re looking to crash stocks from false news to short, build up hype around a product/brand or simply create a name for yourself online.. Media manipulation is an art form that every marketer should at the very least look into.
Ryan teaches about his uses of media manipulation (mostly via the internet) to work for billionaire clients, and even held the position of director of marketing for American Apparel ($600 Mil Revenue) at age 25. Most would be finishing university at that age.
Tip #20 – Use The Right Platform
This should be pretty basic stuff for those that do proper industry/niche research, but I’ve seen a LOT of people overlook this, and lose potentially huge amounts of revenue because of it.
People wanting to know how to complete a level in a video game aren’t going to read a 3,000 word blog post, and those wanting a complete introduction to a topic aren’t going to want a 10 minute video.. Choosing where you promote and finding where your target audience hangs out online is one of the most important factors of growing a solid revenue base.
This comes back to my point I made in tip #16, if you are interested in the topic you’re making money from, you’ll likely know where YOU hang out and what YOU like, so it becomes 100x easier to market, because your target audience is yourself.
Obviously, if you’re doing client work or projects that aren’t based on your own interests, then it can be a bit harder finding out where the majority of your userbase would be. Researching communities and influencers in that niche is where you’ll find those places to promote to.
Tip #21 – Split Test
It may seem like the last thing on your list to do, but A/B and split testing can be the most effective way to increase your revenue in a very short amount of time.
Things like button colour, title wording, product imagery and a whole heap of other factors can have a serious influence on if someone gives you money, their email or closes the tab.
Understanding people, the way they work and the way they click will also massively help any future projects you do online. It’s extremely easy to do if you use landing page builders like Instapage or Thrive, as well.
If you want to get super advanced, you can start looking into the psychology of purchasing and online purchases.. It gets really interesting, a bit disturbing, and quite confusing.
Tip #22 – Don’t Ignore Because You Don’t Understand
Just because you never played Pokemon games as a child, and have no idea about mobile game apps.. Doesn’t mean you can’t make money off it.
You’re a marketer, you can’t afford to ignore things just because you think they’re stupid or a “fad” – You’re a freakin marketer, stop going on about fads, and start freakin exploiting them!
I hate Google+, I never use it (and I know a lot of SEOs love it, but I’m not sorry, because I don’t) but I still jumped on the authorship hype, exploited the hell out of that for bigger SERP listings.
Tip #22.5 – Technology Is Always The Future
I see this on an almost daily basis with bloggers out there who do a ton of work on their SEO, but don’t make their blog responsive in an industry where half of the searches are coming from mobile.
Keep up to date with what you can use in your campaigns to better them, and help increase your revenue even more.
Tip #23 – Search Intent Is More Important Than Search Volume
As SEOs, it’s our job to analyze what’ll make us more money..
I guarantee (and these stats are not accurate) if I was to:
Rank for “buy a black hat” which had 5,000 MS, in comparison to “a black hat” that had 50,000 MS.. I’d make a hell of a lot more money with my hat business on the 5k MS. That’s because search intent is the most important factor of keyword/topical research, and so many SEOs forget this, instead opting for comparisons between search volume and competition.
Tip #24 – Infographics Are The SH*T! (For SEO)
As an SEO that runs an agency, the best thing I love seeing when a client comes to me is a bunch of great assets I can use to acquire links.
My favourite asset being infographics.. Not only can you use these in almost any guest post you do in an industry, but there immediate value to build links to is immense.. There are SO many infographic submission sites out there that have really strong link profiles, a ton of authority and require about 5 minutes of work to gain a link from, whilst either being an image link or a branded/generic anchor – I’ve added over 80 referring domains from DA30+ sites in a matter of 2 hours doing a single infographic submission run.
You can also use infographics for traffic bait, sites like Reddit and Imgur respond very well to visual information, Ahrefs did a great case study on this last year –
Tip #25 – Learn To Code
I don’t care if you have an inhouse development team, learning to code so you can make basic edits to HTML or CSS files is REALLY important.
- It gives you a sense of scale, in terms of future coding projects.
- It will help you a LOT when you come to produce your own content/sites, due to the quality increase. (If you don’t have a developer)
- It teaches you to learn for free – Just Google’ing basic CSS code changes can give you a strong mentality to learn to find information for free, rather than paying for it. (Tip #4)
These are just a few benefits of learning to code, if most 5 year olds are getting taught it.. You should too.
Tip #25.5 – Learn Design
This isn’t much so a requirement, but having a basic understanding of even a low level graphic design tool like Gimp can help improve your content, ads or just about anything you use to promote with.
Considering the amount of YouTube videos there are on these kinds of software, it’s really not hard to learn how to create decent graphics and designs.
You can tell the featured images on my blog are done professionally, and they boost the overall trust of users (including you) visiting my site as a reputable/professional authority. Poorly done graphics & design can be a complete turn off for OCD-type customers.
Tip #26 – F*CK Pop Ups
I know the likes of Matthew Woodward and Neil Patel love those super intrusive and overbearing full screen pop ups, or the exit pop ups you see when leaving a page.. Well guess what? You’re going to mess up your bounce rate even more, lose return visitors and intrude on people’s user experience with your site.
Is all that really worth it to gain an extra hundred email subs a month? No, it isn’t.
I do a huge amount of new email subscribers every month, in comparison to my new users/mo – As I said in Tip #1, Lead Magnets & ReTargeting are the best way to do these, I’ve learnt from experience.
Note: Google (last week) released an update that penalizes these kinds of pop-ups that show for mobile sites. They actually hurt your rankings in mobile searches if you use them.
Tip #27 – Ego’s Can Make You A LOT of Money
Baiting people via mentions, interviews, comments and just about anything that makes them feel important can make you a TON of money.
I’ve previously done round-ups, interviews etc.. with influencers that have 20,000 Twitter followers, tweeted my post 3 times and sent over 400 visits each. You can use those hyper-targeted audiences of other influences that visit your site to retarget, signup to your list or just about anything else that can make you money because of an hour spent quoting experts in a blog post and scheduling tweets to them all.
If you’re doing video content, then mentioning brands and calling people out can gain you a lot of exposure due to the love for drama in the video community.
There’s a reason DramaAlert has nearly 1.5 million subscribers –
Even with the man behind it being a very strange one indeed. #TeamLeafy
Tip #28 – The Customer Isn’t Always Right
I’ve learned over the years that sometimes you need to be extremely blunt with customers, and even potential leads – Their reaction also shows how good of a potential client or customer they are.
If a customer has something wrong, or is getting worked up about something they needn’t be, then put them in their place.. This is business, and you need to have balls or you’ll just end up dealing with sh*t and getting stressed over the littlest of things. Telling a customer how it is from the beginning, saves them from being a future pain in the ass – If you explain everything properly at the start, they can’t complain half way through when you’re doing exactly as you planned all along.
Tip #28.5 – Be Honest
There’s enough cowboys and freeloaders in this industry to start a lazy rodeo. If your product isn’t going to revolutionize the face of their campaign, then don’t say it is..
You’ll get a lot more respect, a lot higher return customer rate and a lot less refund/chargeback requests if you be honest about it all – I’ve sold over 300 copies of my course now, without a single refund, because I was honest about the information inside from the start.
Tip #29 – Try To Limit Captcha Use
It sounds really bizarre (and I know I use captcha’s in my comments section) but though they can help your security, they can cause a lot of users to back out of doing a lot of things.
Most users will be used to signing up with a captcha, but things like comments, contact forms and other non-registration based site interactions shouldn’t have a captcha on the site. This can wildly lower your conversion rate, with some studies going as far 27% less conversions.
Note: The only reason I use a captcha in my comments is I know the majority of people visiting won’t mind them (and if you do, tell me in the comments!) and to be able to use the commenting system I do without a captcha causes a lot of spam problems, I just love my Reddit style comment section so much!
Tip #30 – SeriouSSLy
I know, my puns are horrific, but so is running an E-Commerce store without a secure site.
Even a $10/year SSL bar can help significantly increase your customers safety, as well as install trust in your site – Though that generally comes more with the EV style SSLs you see which include the padlock, and they tend to be a minimum of a few hundred bucks a month.
Google have also recently said you do not lose any link juice for changing to SSL, and they’re starting to favour more sites with them.
Note: A lot of payment processing providers have SSL/Encryption requirements in their small print, and can actually ban you for not running one on your website.
Tip #31 – Be So Good, They Hate You For It
My final tip is something that I’ve tried to be myself.. Be so good, they hate you for it.
What I mean by this, is that you consistently show that you’re either striving to be the best, or you flat out are the best.. This means every piece of work you do, you do to the best extent of your ability, because even 8 years down the line, people will still reference things I did as a very young teenager, and it’s a good idea to invalidate their point by being better than they ever could be.
Thanks For Reading
This blog post meant quite a bit to me, it’s sort of my 8th anniversary in SEO celebration, and I wanted it to be something everyone could benefit from.
Like I said at the beginning, I really wish I knew all of this stuff when I was first starting out, and even years into my knowledge.. I would of been a lot better marketer because of it.
If you have any tips you wish you could tell yourself when you first started, drop them in the comments section below, I’d love to hear them!
I may try and routinely update this post with more tips as they come to me/I grow, if it gets enough love.