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How the Lessons I Learned Playing Video Games Helped Me to Build a Profitable Website

How the Lessons I Learned Playing Video Games Helped Me to Build a Profitable Website

Today's post is a guest post from Kyle McFarlane.  Kyle recently shared in a comment some of the success he was having with Long Tail Pro and building his niche site, and I decided that it would be interesting for the Niche Pursuits community to hear more of his story.

I love Kyle's story because it truly illustrates his journey from knowing basically nothing about building a successful website, to owning a successful site.

So, with that brief introduction, here's Kyle…

I love video games.

I’ve been a gamer since Atari 2600 came out and the first game I ever played was Donkey Kong.

Yes I’m that old.

The premise of the game was simple, use your controller to run up some ramps, climb some ladders, jump over some barrels and rescue a princess from a large gorilla named Donkey Kong.

The first time I played, I barely made it up the first ramp, the controls were slow, my timing was off and those barrels kept coming down.

Eventually you get comfortable, learn some tricks, your friends come over and you all take turns taking a go a Donkey Kong.

Then one day you do it!  You rescue the princess and that’s it, you’re hooked!

Then you spend the next 30 years of your life playing game after game trying to rescue the princess, save humanity from the alien covenant or win the superbowl.

In all cases it’s you against technology and when you win, it’s addicting.

I found that starting a niche site had a lot of similarities to video games.

Setting Up The Console

It was early August 2014, my wife and I were eagerly waiting for our second child to arrive.

If you have young children you'll recall those first 6 months after baby arrives, there is an awful lot of sitting, watching, and waiting.

So why not start a hobby, I thought.

Then one night just after 7pm, my wife and I were sitting on the couch watching TV as we typically did each night after our oldest son went to bed.

I said to my wife…

“I think I want to start a website and make some money” (Yeah, I thought it was that easy).

I don’t think she really knew how to respond.

“Why and about what” she asked.

Those were pretty valid questions considering I didn’t have the answers, but I knew I wanted to try.

Below is my best attempt to share all the ups and downs and the one thing that changed it all for me.

Level 1 – First Time Playing.

So there I was sitting in front of a dark, empty computer screen with absolutely no experience or knowledge about blogging, html code, SEO or how to even start a website.

I really knew nothing at all.

In fact, I’m actually pretty useless when it comes to technology, I didn’t even have a Facebook account and to be honest I still don’t.

So what did I do, how did I get started?

I did what most people do when they want to learn something. I went to YouTube and entered….

Yup, you guessed it…

“How to Start a Blog and Make Money”

Little did I know that was probably the worst thing I could have done. If you have done this you know what I’m talking about.

Here is a screen shot from YouTube of the top results when I enter that search.

How_To_Start_A_Blog_And_Make_Money

Video after video of people trying to make a quick buck. I’m sure some of these videos might be helpful, but knowing what I know now – no one showing up for this search is someone I would consider an “Authority”.

However, at the time I thought these videos were gold. I watched what felt like a hundred. I clicked on some links, bought a domain, got some hosting and downloaded WordPress.

Boom! I now have a website, now what?

After a few days of getting familiar with WordPress, I started writing posts about what I “thought” my niche wanted to hear.

If you didn’t already see this coming, there were a few problems with what I did and didn’t do.

Here they are in no particular order;

  • I picked a random niche with no thought about demand, search volume or competitiveness.
  • I picked a rather long exact match domain because that’s what the videos told me would help.
  • I started to write what I thought people wanted to hear, not what they actually wanted.
  • I copied articles from other sites and used a spinner because I was lazy.
  • I used google images to find pictures and used them on my site without credit.
  • I didn’t do any keyword research I didn’t even know what that was.
  • I didn’t structure my site, pages or posts to be SEO friendly.
  • I didn’t get educated, I just trusted some random videos on YouTube.

If you have read this far, PLEASE don’t be like me.  Avoid all of these mistakes if you can. I’m sure I made hundreds more, but this is just what I can recall.

Those Stupid Barrels – Game Over?

So after about nine months of writing over 50 posts, some copied and some of my own. I saw very little traffic and ZERO sales.

Below is a screen shot of the traffic to my site during August 1, 2014 – April 30, 2015.

You can see the most visitors occurred in March where I had almost 20 visits in one day. (Please hold your applause)

Site Visitors Aug 2014 - April 2015.
Site Visitors Aug 2014 – April 2015.

You’ll also notice in April my traffic fell off the map, I’m guessing due to a google algorithm change or something.

This was the exact point I decided to quit.

My Extra Life

So here I was 9 months into my niche site with no sales, no rankings and no traffic. I was officially the owner of a failed site.

Look at my traffic from April 30, 2015 – Aug 30, 2015. Absolutely pathetic, what is that four visitors in 5 months?

Site Visitors April 2015 - August 2015 OUCH!
Site Visitors April 2015 – August 2015 OUCH!

But Wait There’s more!

In a desperate attempt to see some success I decided to check my Amazon Associates account and this is what I found.

Amazon Earnings July 2015.
Amazon Earnings July 2015. I actually made $13.10!

So here's the funny thing.

If you're just starting out this may seem a little odd to you. But making $13.10 felt like winning the lottery. For those of you that have felt this you know what I mean.

I ran with the laptop to show my wife. It was only $13.10 but it validated me, I wasn’t a failure, I can do this.

So here’s what I did next.

Climbing The Ladders.

Now that I knew I could actually do this, I went to google researching everything I could consume;

  • Website structure
  • SEO
  • Email marketing
  • Social marketing

You get the idea.

But, the thing that changed everything was when I found a video by Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income, he was showing how he used a tool called Long Tail Pro to do keyword research.

After watching the video, I was intrigued and checked out the Long Tail Pro site and downloaded the 10 day free trial on Aug 9, 2015.

Here is a copy of my receipt:

I decided to try out Long Tail Pro for 10 days.
I decided to try out Long Tail Pro for 10 days.

I got right to work and found as many keywords as I could find, I must have been researching keywords for days. It was actually addicting in a weird way.

The one thing I was disappointed about was that the trial didn’t have the KC score, which is what I really wanted to test out.

Moving on…

(Spencer's Note: A $1 Trial of Long Tail Pro now includes the KC calculation during the trial period…)

So what I did instead was found high traffic keywords in my niche with as many words as possible, the longer the tail the better, in my opinion.

I understand now that this is not the most reliable way to use the tool, but I only had it for 10 days and didn’t have access to KC score.

Once I selected my keywords, I wrote articles about each topic, posted them to my site and waited.

And waited….Then this happened.

It's Working!
It's Working!

On Sept 7, 2015 almost one month after using the trial version I got 34 visitors from Google in one day!

In fact in the month of Sept 2015 I saw 1,435 visitors to my site, which was more than my entire first year struggling by myself.

I also saw another month of sales, here is what my income looked like for Sept 2015.

Almost $50.00 Now I'm really startin to get excited.
Almost $50.00 Now I'm really starting to get excited.

So, of course I did what anyone would do in this situation, I bought the platinum package on November 27, 2015, here is my reciept.

My Long Tail Pro receipt Nov 27, 2015.
My Long Tail Pro receipt Nov 27, 2015.

Well done Spencer, well done!

Cheat Codes – Using KC Scores and Modifiers to My Advantage.

Now that I have the platinum version of Long Tail Pro with access to the KC numbers I really started to target buyer intent keywords and added modifiers like;

  • Best (keyword)
  • Best (keyword) For
  • Top Rated (keyword)
  • (keyword) Review

I followed Spencer’s recommendation and only targeted keywords with a KC of less than 30, then I added the modifiers shown above.

To be very honest, I didn’t follow Spencer’s guidelines exactly, I only paid attention to the KC score.

Spencer recommends a few other metrics you should follow when selecting your keywords. Such as, ensuring the keyword isn’t in your competitor’s page title tag or checking the age of the site, among others.

The key takeaway here is,

  • I only targeted keywords with a KC 30 or under.
  • Added some modifiers.

That is honestly all I did and I still saw success!

By the end of December I saw significant growth in traffic to my site. From less than 10 visits a day to approx. 75 visits a day, which translates to a 750% increase.

I’ll tell you how much I made with Amazon in a moment.

I Rescued The Princess

As the year went on, I continued to post articles targeting buyer keywords exactly as I described above, no more, no less.

As I approach my one year anniversary using Long Tail Pro I’m very pleased to say I’m no longer the owner of a failed site.

Here are some highlights followed by screen shots;

  • 300-500 visitors per day from organic search
  • 35,000 monthly page views
  • 2% bounce rate
  • Ranked number 1 in google for many of my target buyer keywords in my niche.
  • 2015-2016 Amazon sales $33,000.000 my commissions $2,300.00 (Avg $200/mth)
  • Over 300 email subscribers (still trying to monetize this)

My traffic has been increasing month over month until present day and currently just under 300-500 visits a day (including some social referrals).

I’m seeing approx. 35,000 page views per month with a bounce rate of 2%, see below;

My first year using Long Tail Pro.
My first year using Long Tail Pro.
Current_Monthly_Stats
My Current Monthly Stats. 35,000 pageviews!!!

My Amazon commissions have also increased month over month with the last three months earning over $400.

Amzon earinings after one year with Long Tail Pro.
Amazon earnings after one year with Long Tail Pro.

Other key highlights:

  • Created a few lead magnets for giveaways, started building my email list to over 300 subscribers
  • Created a $7 eBook.
  • I have reinvested $200 to outsource some content to be written. Don't judge I have two youg children 😉
  • I have not done any form of link building or promotion, so I’m thinking I need to start some outreach ASAP

Final thoughts.

I didn’t write this post to brag or show off, my intention is to prove that anyone can succeed given the right tools.

When I first started I was led astray by others trying to make a quick buck. This was a blessing in disguise because I learned quickly who I shouldn’t trust.

Then, after I made those first sales I was motivated enough to seek out valuable, useful and actionable information, which led me to where I am now.

If you read between the lines of this story, you’ll see the process that many of us go through in our journey to succeed. In fact this story could apply to anyone with a problem they need solved.

Here are a few things I hope you keep close as you develop you niche sites.

  • Be honest.
  • Provide Value.
  • Solve your reader’s problems.
  • Help people succeed and you will succeed.
  • Don’t chase the money, it will come, be patient.

If someone would have been there for me from the start, not only would I be further along with my success, but they would also have a customer for life.

P.S – And if you're wondering about the baby? We had our second baby boy on Aug 13, 2014 and now I have no time for a niche site 😉

39 Comments for this Post

  1. Kyle McFarlane

    Kyle McFarlane

    Hey Spencer,
    Thanks for posting this!

    I hope this helps motivate some of your readers that might be struggling and encourages them to stick with it.

    Take care

    • Colin Ma

      Colin Ma

      Hey Kyle,

      Awesome post! I actually think playing video games has helped me in my life because it helped me to iteratively build on a goal and focus on the long term (especially when I had to spend hours grinding and training my character / getting money).

      Do you have a blog or some social media that we can connect with? If you don’t want to put it publicly you can email me at colinlma (at) gmail (dot) com

      Thanks!
      -Colin

    • Andrej Buday

      Andrej Buday

      Hi Kyle
      Very nice and inspiring article. It is very interesting how things fit together after the time. I really like your “game” explanation. Good luck

  2. Marouane

    Marouane

    Wow!
    What a success …
    Few questions if you don’t mind:
    Your articles length ?
    Your DA ?

    • Kyle McFarlane

      Kyle McFarlane

      No problem, my articles are typically 500-750 words. My DA is pretty low, haven’t checked lately.

  3. john

    john

    hahhaah $13 …… yup way back 2011 i was amazed i earned $11 from amazon but ive been earnig more than that from Adsense so i was not that happy.. then 2014 came i visited this site nichepursuits and my first earning is somewhere $2 to $5 … but it jumped really fast…. so yes no matter how small the first money is as long as you are here in Spencer’s guidance and is using long tail pro ( with KC ) you’ll be making money really fast… Glad you made it.. congratulations..

    • Kyle McFarlane

      Kyle McFarlane

      Thanks

  4. Mizan Ahmed

    Mizan Ahmed

    Hey, Spencer!! Awesome post once again. Really highly motivated post for the beginners and those who are still struggling. Thanks Kyle McFarlane for the wonderful and informative share.

  5. Swaraj Nandedkar

    Swaraj Nandedkar

    Hello Kyle,

    It’s wonderful to know about your progress with Affiliate site. The Long Tail Pro is a fantastic tool to find LongTail keywords.

    Keep Going!

    Happy Blogging!

  6. Sandy Taylor

    Sandy Taylor

    Thanks for the post! I was wondering, did you do any back linking to your site?

    • Kyle McFarlane

      Kyle McFarlane

      I have never done any link building or outreach, although I’m sure I’ve received a few.

  7. Dave Chesson

    Dave Chesson

    That’s awesome! It’s funny because I had a similar story and in 2014 found Pat Flynn’s discussion on LTP and Market Samurai. I bought both, and realized…MS was a waste. I’ve been a LTP user ever since and just got to a point now that from niche website, books, and my authority site, I can now do it full time and no longer need to work for the military. It was great seeing your progression – onwards to better things!

  8. Todd Connelly

    Todd Connelly

    Hey Kyle… Awesome guest post! I know exactly how you feel, went down the same path. We didn’t fail, we just learned a million ways NOT to build a website. 😉 I truly feel that hard road helped me in the long run… to ensure a proper foundation of keyword research, LTP helps BIG TIME. Thanks for the share, you’ve help motivate me to let me know that I’m not alone in roads less travelled.

    Spencer… great job with having Kyle do this guest post!

  9. Chris

    Chris

    What a great story and what a great way to write it!! I can completely relate and LOVE me a good video game!
    Love the cheat codes – sometimes you just need that little extra to defeat the boss – haha

  10. Dan W

    Dan W

    Really appreciated this article.

    Between watching the current steady growth of Niche project 3 students(Samara and the other 2-sorry but my time is limited so I concentrate on Samara for now, mostly) and now a journey description by Kyle McFarlane, is very motivating. Proof that hard, persistent work following the path guidelines of Spencer Hawes aka NichePursuits is a path to success for niche websites.

    Yes Spencer, this is a great choice for a guest post! Thank you!

  11. Dickson Sarpong

    Dickson Sarpong

    I am a regular reader of this site but have never commented on any post but its time l let the cat out.

    I’m not a fun of video games but really enjoyed how your addict to games helped you gain financial freedom.

    l embarked on similar journey in June,2015 after series of attempt to secure a job in my country (Ghana) fell on death ears. I need to survive l said!

    So l decided to find a genuine way to earn an income online. I read a post about affiliate marketing from Pat Flyn which inspired me to join the train to the affiliate world.

    That was my first time of hearing about niche market.

    Well l gave it a try,bought a domain & hosting from the videos l watched on “how to build a website” from youtube,built a niche site without any prior experience (SEO,Keyword research,content,link building,…) and never made a sale.

    I nearly gave up until l stumble upon a youtube video from Pat on keyword research tool LTP.

    Followed his link and purchased the tool $ 47(one time fee) straight away from clickbank, read a lot about the importance of keyword research from Spencer.

    After appreciating the concept and gaining addiction to the tool l lost my licensing key contacted support but never had it back.
    But with the knowledge gain on this blog l have started a new project 2 months old and very excited to say l have made my first $4 commission as an affiliate yesterday. I no with LTP the sky is the limit

    I have failed on several attempts to buy LTP but they no longer accept Pre Paid Cards. The same card l used for the initial purchase.

    Now that l needed the tool most l cannot have access to it. I still have the old tool installed on my PC without activation code.

    Spencer kindly do something about it since not all your readers are in the States, a number of us are in the 3rd world trying to have a taste of the juice links.

    I encourage all newbies to keep their spirit high because quitters never win. follow your passion and be determined. Thank You!

  12. Romell

    Romell

    I just wanted to say thank you for the honesty in this post! It’s very refreshing to see someone not only talk about their process but use screenshots so you can see the progress as well.

    I’m motivated to keep building my site and learning and trying LTP. Thank you so much for the inspiration!!!

  13. ADRIAN

    ADRIAN

    do you cover a broad niche by example writing in home and improvement or very specific niche like kitchen remodel?

    • Kyle McFarlane

      Kyle McFarlane

      Hey Adrian
      It is a broad niche, but I try to target specific areas/products of the niche with each post.

      • ADRIAN

        ADRIAN

        Thanks, I have a website with 200 posts, most of them are product reviews and I target a very specific niche in cooktops. I think I need to change the style as you can’t find easy keywords in a very specific niche. Maybe I should go with the kitchen niche, I would had more oportunities.
        Even so my website is hitting 12000 UV this month and 20000 page views but still lower then half of your earnings.

        Good luck

  14. Robert V

    Robert V

    Hi, Kyle.
    I really think that for a guy without any niche site building background you’re doing FANTASTIC!!!!
    Such stories really motivate beginners like me.
    I also have several questions if you do not mind:
    1. Is this topic something you’re passionate about?
    2. How many pages do you have on your site at the moment?
    3. Could you share any tips or tricks regarding writing the right content for your visitors?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Kyle McFarlane

      Kyle McFarlane

      Hey Robert,
      Thanks for the comments, great questions.

      To answer your questions

      1. Yes it is a passion of mine, but I don’t think your niche needs to be a passion, success hopefully motivates.
      2. I have somewhere between 75-90 of actual content pages.
      3. It’s tough to share any tips in the comments, but I can say that creating a silo of relevant pages/posts seems to give them a boost in Google.

      As an example; if I have a page about coffee machines, then I would set my main menu to link to popular pages/post about coffee machines, types of coffe machines or best coffee machines. Then in my side bar I do the same.

      I do this because when someone arrives on a page that is about coffee machines, chances are they are interested in coffee machines, so give them what they want. I wouldn’t link to something like coffee filters or coffee beans.

      I hope that makes sense.

      • Brian

        Brian

        Hey Kyle….is there an example site (not yours of course) that you could point to that is doing the silo thing exactly how you’re referring? I’m a visual guy…..I do so much better when I see examples and possibly others do to. Appreciate your time and the post as its been extremely helpful.

  15. Joe Watson

    Joe Watson

    Hi Kyle

    Can you tell me how you built a list of subscibers via email. If you are making money with Amazon I thought the main objective is to get visitors onto Amazon as soon as you can. So, how can you build a list as well.

    • Kyle McFarlane

      Kyle McFarlane

      Hey Joe,

      I do have a few “info” type posts which is where I place my opt in or content upgrades to build my list. I’m learning monetizing my list is difficult.

      For posts where I am linking to Amazon I don’t include any opt in because my goal is to get them through to Amazon.

  16. Vincent

    Vincent

    I am inspired by this story. I will take all advises to improve my blog.

  17. Brandon

    Brandon

    Though I saw no applied lessons whatsoever from gaming, I still enjoyed this–especially the early failures. I’m not happy with getting a few clicks here and there and never getting enough traffic to be worth mentioning. Some days it feels great to get some links built or some new content up, but other days it just feels like my site is on the same isolated island as my last site (God rest it’s soul). Still, knowledge is power in this field and I’ll keep studying and tweaking until the money begins to flow and I can leave my full time job.

  18. EKANT PURI

    EKANT PURI

    Even i learned blogging from playing games 🙂

  19. Edgar

    Edgar

    Great story. Your never to old for video games or building websites.

  20. ADRIAN

    ADRIAN

    Kyle,

    What plugins do you use to create the silo structure?

    Thanks

  21. Varun

    Varun

    Thanks Kyle and Spencer, I am also planning to buy Ltp first then one day surely I will write a post like this.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  22. Shally

    Shally

    Motivating stories! Great sales article for LTP though LOL 🙂

  23. Adam

    Adam

    Hi Kyle, thanks for sharing your experience. I like the video game comparison. Sometimes it feels like you can play that same level over and over and over without success and finally, with a little luck and preparation you make it.

    I was just wondering, when you write your posts for the Amazon site are they product specific posts or are they more broad covering a product category, or do you write other things too? Thanks!

  24. Gabe Walker

    Gabe Walker

    I am in the exact same position you are in! This article was what i needed to see. Thank you so much!

  25. Brian

    Brian

    Kyle, question about your KW’s. You said you target KW’s that have a KC of less than 30 and then you add the modifiers. Does that mean that if the KW “blue widgets” has a KC of say 25 for example, you’ll write an article targeting “Best Blue Widgets For Whoever”? Does it matter what the KC is for the KW INCLUDING the modifiers?

    • Kyle McFarlane

      Kyle McFarlane

      Hey Brian,
      I actually do both….

      Sometimes I just add the modifier and sometimes I find low KC words then just add modifiers.

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