I recently revamped my email series. You know, the autoresponder series that people get when they sign up to my email list.
This new email series is an 11 part “mini-course” on how to build a profitable site from beginning to end. Perrin was very instrumental in helping me get this series off the ground. It's not easy to write 20,000 words and divide it into bit-sized emails that people will find interesting.
As part of this “revamping” process, I tried something new. I asked for people to respond to me directly. That's right, in the very first email I asked people about their biggest obstacles.
As a result, I got some VERY interesting responses. Some were expected such as, “I'm having trouble ranking in Google”; while others were less expected such as, “I can't convince my wife that this online business is viable thing”.
I also have to admit that I was TOTALLY overwhelmed by the sheer number of responses that I got…very quickly. Within less than a week I had over 300 responses to that first email. With everything else that I have going on in my business, I was not able to respond to all those emails (so I apologize if I didn't respond to you!).
As a result, I've removed this “poll” from my email series because it quite frankly would take a ton of time to respond to everyone on an ongoing basis. I guess it's a good problem to have…too many email subscribers.
However, I think the findings I gathered from these 300+ email responses is not only highly valuable to me, but can also be highly valuable to you as you seek to get started building a niche site, blog, or other online business.
Because of this, I meticulously went through each email and documented what everyone's biggest roadblocks were. You can see all the data below in a nice chart (I know how you love pretty charts), along with some of my own insights on how people can either overcome some of the obstacles or at least my own opinion.
So, with that, let's jump into the responses!
How the Poll Was Taken
Before I dive directly into the answers that people gave, I think its important to know the exact question so we can keep all of this in perspective.
Here is the exact text from one of my emails asking for people's biggest obstacles:
Before we get started, could you help me with a poll I’m taking? I’m trying to figure out what people’s main stumbling blocks are in this business. So just shoot me a reply and tell me your biggest obstacle so far.
So, I asked them specifically about stumbling blocks “in this business.” I think it's important to point out how I framed this question, because the responses certainly would have been different based on how I ask the question and how I led up to the question.
Here's some of the earlier text in my email to further clarify how the question was framed:
As a thank you, I want to give you a free gift: an 11-part mini-course that teaches you how to set up a profitable blog from scratch.
I also mention a couple of times in the email how I'm focusing on helping them build a successful site or blog.
I wanted to clarify some of this so that you can understand the responses better. I was not just asking what people's biggest obstacles are for any online business or how to start a home-based business or something like that.
The audience I've attracted has a very specific focus of how to build successful websites from scratch. For that reason, the responses below are very much tailored towards people that are hoping to build a profitable website.
I should point out that I suspect that if other people had asked the EXACT same question, the responses would be slightly different because of their audience. For example if Brian Dean from BackLinko.com had asked the question, his audience would have responded that Link Building or Outreach was their biggest problem.
If Cliff Ravenscraft from PodcastAnswerMan.com had asked the same question, his audience would have had more podcasting problems (my audience had none).
In other words, I'm simply saying that the responses of MY blog readers leaned one way simply because of the type of content I produce and how it has attracted them.
Hope that all made sense.
So, with that, here's the biggest obstacles that people have when trying to start a profitable blog or website:
You can see that by far the most common problem that people have is finding the right niche and doing keyword research for their sites. Close behind is content production problems and time/productivity obstacles.
Just in case anyone is curious to see the raw data, here it is:
Now that you have seen all the data, I want to provide my own thoughts on some of these obstacles that many of you are having.
Finding a Niche / Keyword Research
I've talked a lot about keyword research in the past, but apparently not enough! The most common problem that people have when trying to start up a new website is finding the right keywords to target.
Because everyone answered in their own words, some framed the problem as finding a topic for a website, while others specifically have issues finding low competition keywords that they can rank easily for in Google. In reality, these are all basically the same problem.
The issue is complex, I don't have a quick fix because everyone might have a slightly different variation to this problem.
All I can say is that for me it's been practice, practice, practice. The more you do keyword research and put yourself out there, the more results you see and the more comfortable you get with the entire process.
For those having issues with this obstacle, here's a few articles that I've written in the past:
- How to Do Long Tail Keyword Research for Authority Sites
- How to Analyze the Top 10 Google Competition for Your Keyword
- How to Perform Keyword Research – Coaching Call + Video
I've written much more on keyword research, and you can find lots of it in this category here.
I was actually surprised to hear how many people were having issues creating content. These people have found a niche or keyword, but either are unable to produce content themselves or just don't know where to get content.
I do believe that content is king, and so this is a very valid concern to be thinking about with your new website. It's critical that you have valuable content for your readers.
I think people with this content production issue fall into 4 main categories:
- They KNOW what topics to write about, but they are unsure of how to structure their articles or unsure of how to make it interesting.
- They CAN write good content, but they don't have time or are perhaps afraid to put their work out there.
- They CAN'T write good content and don't know where to hire people to get good content.
- The know WHERE to hire content writers, but they don't have the money to do so.
Again, I wish I had simple solutions to these problems. At the end of the day, business involves risk. Oftentimes this includes putting your own content out there for the world to see and investing your own time and money into your website.
Time / Productivity
This is a big one for a lot of people. I also completely understand. Like many of you out there, I also had a full-time job and often found myself completely exhausted after work or simply out of time at the end of the day.
For some of you it's going to be a matter of really prioritizing your tasks and making sure you don't have any wasted time in your day.
For others, you only think you don't have any time in your day. But when you look at how much you play video games or watch TV, you'll realize that it's your own fault that you never have time to work on your business.
Yep, that was kinda harsh…but it's also kinda true for some of you. (You know who you are!).
For me personally, I found while I was working full-time and raising 3 children that the only time I had available to work on my business was from about 9pm to midnight. I worked at my day job, came home and ate dinner with my family, and then got the kids to bed.
Then from 9pm to midnight was GO TIME! I also eventually had to start utilizing outsourced workers to help build out sites and other tasks. But all the hard work paid off big time for me. After struggling with all of this for a few years, I was able to quit my job on March 11th, 2011 (4 years ago).
I've now been full-time in this business ever since and have plenty of time for some of the other things I sacrificed early on.
Again, I don't have a simple answer for this obstacle other than to say: prioritize as much as possible, and get help/outsource if you can.
Learning How to Get Started / Information Overload
Some people also call this “analysis paralysis”. Basically, with all the blogs out there, emails to read, and social media to follow; you can sit and “learn” about building a successful websites for YEARS!
I DO have a solution for this one. Stop. Just stop the analysis.
Take action and get started.
It really is as simple as that.
You will learn so much more from actually building your first website than you will have learned from reading all the blogs out there. Pat Flynn actually wrote an article recently on information overload and how he deals with it.
My solution is always to just start taking action. I did this recently because I've been interested in the Amazon FBA business after hearing about Chris Guthrie's success.
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I honestly didn't have time to read a bunch of blog posts or listen to podcasts or buy products about how to start an Amazon FBA business. So, instead I just contacted some manufactures in China (via Alibaba.com) about a product I wanted manufactured and got started.
I now expect to have a product up and selling on Amazon possibly by the end of this month (it's currently under production).
I simply got started. I've honestly read very little about how others run their Amazon FBA business; I'll learn SO much more from listing and selling my first product than I could have learned in months of die-hard research.
[bctt tweet=”Learning through experience is better than learning from reading blog posts.”]
Staying on Track / Focus / Shiny Object Syndrome
How do you overcome shiny object syndrome? This is a problem that lots of “new” people face because there are so many different options available for starting a business online.
This obstacle is also closely related to the “information overload” problem. So, part of the solution is to just get started on something.
The other part of the solution is to actually set some goals and stick to those goals. If you find a business model that you want to pursue, WRITE IT DOWN!
Write down your goals and your plans and stick to it. The best way to accomplish your goals is to tell others about your plans and possibly even form a group that can help you stay accountable to your plans.
Again, this one topic deserves it's own blog post…or book; but the bottom line is that you need to realize that life is short and that if you keep trying things just a little bit and moving on, you will never accomplish anything great.
How to Get Traffic
I went to the Traffic and Conversion Summit last month and topic of traffic come up oddly enough! Ryan Deiss of DigitalMarketer.com often stated that people do not have a traffic problem. I did a quick search and he's written an article about the fact that you don't have a traffic problem.
This might shock you but you DO NOT have a traffic problem.
You might have a business model problem, an offer problem or a measurement problem.
But you DO NOT have a traffic problem.
From his perspective, you should be able to BUY traffic (from Facebook, Google, or other places) and as long as you make more money from that traffic than you spent, there is no traffic problem.
I KNOW that we all want free traffic from Google and so it may not have crossed your mind that you can get thousands of visitors to your site tomorrow if you wanted by paying for the traffic. However, you may not have a way to make enough money on the traffic.
I'm with you though, I've always been too stingy to just start spending money on traffic, so I've worked like crazy to figure out the “free” traffic solution.
The issue is that this “free” traffic takes time (often many months before you see much traction in Google). The Google traffic problem usually comes down to targeting the right keywords (that are low competition enough) and producing quality content.
Link Building / Outreach
Getting links is not easy. I agree that this can be a big stumbling block. Unfortunately buying “link packages” and using link networks just doesn't work like they did in the good old days.
So, if you are striving to achieve that wonderful free organic traffic, attracting links is usually a necessary evil.
I've covered this topic a few times in the past, including these interviews:
- How Brian Dean Grew a Thriving Blog with Less Content and More Promotion
- Link Building Tactics for 2015 and Beyond
- How Claire Smith Makes Over 5 Figures a Month with NO Link Building
I could try and go through each of these one-by-one to give my opinion on the validity of these road blocks, but that would probably require a short novel. I've covered the top 7 most common obstacles and you can see what the rest are for people trying to create a profitable blog.
I will just say that my favorite issue that someone had is, “convincing spouse”. My advice is to buy her flowers, let her talk to you (and listen) for as long as she wants, and then snuggle while you let her watch her favorite romantic comedy. Perhaps then you can bring up your online business ventures :).
So, now that you've seen me list and discuss some of the biggest obstacles that people face when starting a successful website…where do we go from here?
The problems mentioned are much too in-depth and diverse for me to solve or even respond to effectively in one blog post. I've simply provided some of my own commentary and pointed you to a few resources that might be able to help.
However, just so you know, I'm going to be using the responses to this poll as somewhat of a roadmap for my future blog posts. Now that I know that people are having the most problems around keyword research and writing content, and a few others, I'll be focusing my time and effort trying to help people overcome those obstacles.
Overall, this exercise has been extremely valuable to me in understanding the roadblocks of my audience. I've heard from at least 300 of you directly, and knowing how statistics work, I'm certain that MANY more of you are having the exact same issues.
So, I'll be sharing more of what I've learned from creating my own successful websites and blogs and hopefully we can all learn going forward.
I would love to hear any additional comments or questions that you might have. Do you have any other major stumbling blocks that have not been mentioned already? Let me know in the comments below.