Quick note from Spencer: I'm excited to introduce you to Ron Stefanski from OneHourProfessor.com today! Ron shares his story below about how he's built a website that is now making over $18,000 a month.
I wanted to point out that even though Ron doesn't reveal the website, he has shared his website with me privately. I was able to verify that he owns the site and that the traffic and income stats are accurate. As a result, I want you to feel comfortable knowing that Ron's experience is real and the strategies he shares below do indeed work.
I hope you enjoy reading the success story below! Here's Ron…
First off, I want to state that it’s an honor to be featured on the Niche Pursuits blog. Like many of you reading this, when I first started out with my online business journey, I found Spencer and have followed him for years.
My name is Ron Stefanski and you can find me over at OneHourProfessor.com.
My background prior to being an entrepreneur is the one of a typical office drone.
I worked in sales for seven years at various companies and couldn’t stand my job. But, at the time, I didn’t know what else I wanted to do.
My true journey to online business began when I was laid off from a medical device sales position in 2008. I was a pretty confident 24 yr old salesperson because I always hit my numbers and even though I didn’t like sales, I figured it would be easy to jump right into another sales position.
Unfortunately, for those of you that remember, 2008 was the year of the recession in the USA and it was very difficult for me to get a job. Because of this, I spent eight months on unemployment and though that was a really tough time, it led me down my current path. During my unemployment tenure, I remember creating a website named UnemploymentUnderground.com.
The purpose of the website?
Help people who are unemployed find work. (Ironic…considering I was one of those people)
I built the website, I wrote the content, and I completely failed.
Looking back there are so many different reasons why this failed. But the one thing that this website did when I created it was force me to try to find ways to get traffic to the website.
And for some reason, I really liked the idea of getting people to read all the content that I created. Because I found a passion in this, I ended up making a career change from sales into digital marketing.
The first job I took was a “Internet Marketing Coordinator” at a Vitamin/Supplement company located in Hobart, Indiana making $30,000/year. Funny story, and I don’t tell many people this, but I actually lied on my resume to get the position by saying that I worked in my dad’s company in digital marketing.
Once employed there, I spent about a year learning more about digital marketing and then was able to transition to a digital marketing agency because I earned my MBA. At the agency, I focused a lot on paid search and was pretty good at my job. But, of course, I wanted more and ended up leaving for a marketing manager position at a startup.
Stayed at the marketing manager position for a year, then left that job and ended up as a Digital Marketing Manager at the corporate level of a large private education company and had a pretty cushy job. Solid salary, good benefits, great colleagues. I actually talk a lot about this journey and what I learned on this area of my website.
While the job was okay, the one thing I really couldn’t stand was my boss (I had three while I was there) and the commute to and from work. It was a two hour of commute time each day and frankly, was the bane of my existence.
It was at this time that I stumbled on Smart Passive Income from Pat Flynn and Niche Pursuits from Spencer.
I ended up becoming obsessed with both blogs and their podcasts and spent a solid three to four months absorbing information on those long commutes. I remember that I would listen to podcasts so often that eventually I realized every time somebody asked a question, I gave a very similar answer that the podcast host would.
It was then that I decided to take action and create a website that is the cornerstone of my online business portfolio that I have today.
I currently have 7 websites that I own and I manage and a team of five people (3 writers, 1 editor, and 1 full-time virtual assistant) who help me create content and manage the sites. I also still teach as an online adjunct professor at three different schools and frankly, haven’t stopped doing that because I enjoy it.
For the sake of this post, I’ll be focusing on the largest and most successful website that I own.
I know if I were you right now I’d be thinking, “Why should I listen to this guy?”
Aside from having Spencer’s blessing to write the post, everything I said above doesn’t indicate success.
So, in this area I’m going to prove to you that I’m not so bad at this stuff by showing you my earnings. It’s important to note that I don’t focus on affiliate marketing as much as many other people do.
In fact, I actually prefer creating websites that work with Google AdSense as the primary revenue driver and affiliate income/partnerships as secondary income.
Why do I like to do this? It’s simple.
Because for me, this is what works. There’s nothing wrong with doing it the other way, but in my experience, this has been the most successful business model. And once you find something that works, it’s best to stick with it.
First up, is a screenshot from my Adsense account. As you’ll notice, many of the areas are blocked out as I can’t share this information because it’s against Adsense policies.
In a trailing 12 month period from September 2018 to September 2019, I made $114,254.89 which averages $9,521.24 per month for this website.
Beyond Adsense, I do have multiple other partners and affiliates in place that generate income. For the sake of showing income, I choose my largest partner.
I tried to get a tally of the last 12 months of income, but their reporting mechanism is proprietary and frankly, pretty bad. That all said, the numbers are real and the checks come every month, so they do the most important things correctly.
For these screenshots I choose August and September of 2019, which is the last two months.
As you can see from the screenshots, I average $8541.52 per month from this partner. (Ignore the second line item, that’s a different website)
I would include other earnings screenshots, but it’s pretty scattered beyond this.
I have random partnerships in place, some articles that generate affiliate income for specific providers, and other revenue generating components, but what I included above accounts for about 90% of the income each month.
If you’re really interested in learning more about my income numbers, I’ve been creating income reports every month since I started in September 2014. You can view all of them here.
With all of these earnings, my website obviously has some significant traffic as well. Below is a screenshot showing you what the traffic has been from September 2018 to September 2019 (the same timeline as the Adsense screenshot).
In total I had 3,803,617 pageviews on the website in the last year, which averages out to 361,968 pageviews per month.
Content and Keyword Strategy
Obviously with all of this traffic, I’ve discovered a thing or two about both keyword research and a content strategy.
Below I’ll attempt to break down how I structured the website and what I did to earn traffic at the start, and what I’m doing now to maintain and increase traffic numbers.
- First, I created an informational database. I’d say this was a huge part of the success for the website as I did the same thing with different topics multiple times. When doing this, it’s all about creating a page template and then filling in the information that users would search. Then, doing this over and over until you have hundreds of pages focused on very specific keywords. I’ll typically go for any volume of keywords here as long as something is searched because when you create hundreds of pages at scale, the traffic adds up quick.
As an example, let’s say you have a website focused on helping semi-truck drivers find jobs. You could research to find a list of all of the different truck driving schools by state and then create a unique page for each of them. Each page could include the same information, but specific for each school. Such as job placement rates, number of students, different driver licenses offered, partnerships with employers, etc.
- Second, I focused quite a bit on answering questions for the niche. In this case, I was able to find a couple hundred questions and I answered most of them in a unique blog post. However, when it made sense to combine questions into one post because they were so closely associated, I would do that. In total, I have roughly 500 posts on my website and in most cases, I’m answering a specific question.
- Third, after I created my first informational database and saw success, I then went back and did this same process 11 other times with other database ideas. I focused a lot on geographic modifiers such as “Best Truck Driving Schools in Arizona”, but then I also made pages for cities of the states as well where it made sense. In total, I now have just over 2,200 pages on the website and many of those were a result of the databases I created.
- Fourth, and where I’m currently at with the website, I’ve actually stopped (temporarily) creating new content. Instead, I spend a lot of time using analytics to review pages/posts that have lost rank/traffic over the last year and I have my writer revise the content to make it better. I was one of the biggest naysayers of this strategy, but one day I noticed my traffic was falling and decided I should give it a shot. After doing it, and seeing incredibly positive results, I shifted my strategy and the last 3 months have been focused on revisions.
My future strategy will be focused on writing new content and once a quarter, reviewing the 15 highest traffic lost pages/posts and revising them to try to win the traffic back. This helps maintain current traffic, and will allow me to add new traffic through articles.
Link Building Strategy
Link building with this particular website was actually pretty easy because nearly all of the content is informational and a lot of those posts lead to links. Like I did with the content creation piece, I’ll discuss some of the link building strategies I implemented from the start to be successful.
In the beginning, I leveraged a few of the informational databases I created to build links by simply telling those listed that I had included them on my website. For this particular website, that worked reasonably well and I got roughly 20 links which led to more rankings in the SERPS, which ended up creating more links.
***Something to note, I later did this similar strategy on two other websites. One of the websites it worked, the other website it failed miserably. I never quite figured out why that is, but I want to caution anyone who considers this strategy to not abuse it. It’s reciprocal linking and though I’ve had success at times, I’ve also had significant failure using it. Unfortunately I don’t have a rule of thumb to follow, but it’s important to note too much of a good thing can hurt you.
Next, I tried my hand at guest posting. I can’t recall exactly how many links I got this way, but I believe it was in the range of 10-20. They were in the range of 20-30 domain authority via Ahrefs and these links eventually increased my rankings just a little bit more.
At this point, traffic was pretty good so I began to get somewhere between 20-30 email list signups a day. Then, I tried something that I’ve never heard of anyone doing before for link building. Every month, I would export and scrub my email list to find all emails that were part of a third-party website. It took some excel magic to make this happen, but it resulted in a couple hundred link targets each month.
I would then reach out and see if they were willing to link to us and support our website and this worked reasonably well. Many times they didn’t reply, sometimes they weren’t able to link because they were part of a big organization, but it did result in a lot of links from small/medium sized websites because people already knew who we were and had visited the website/been getting emails from us.
At this point in the lifecycle of the website, I was starting to rank pretty well because (at the time) my niche wasn’t overly competitive and I had high-quality content and enough links to push me to the top of the SERPS. Because I noticed this positive trend, I stopped focusing on link building and just focused on creating high quality content at scale. Since then, all of the links have been received organically.
Other strategies that have lead to success
Here I’ll just list a few rambling thoughts that I think could help anyone who’s starting a new website or is a few years in with limited success. These aren’t in a particular order, but I consider them some good nuggets to review and follow.
- Outsource: I think one of the biggest keys to my success is my willingness to outsource work to others. This is difficult, especially in the beginning when you are just starting and have no idea if a website will ever make money. But, once you start making a very small amount of money and prove a website concept, my biggest piece of advice is to focus on outsourcing the tasks that take the longest and invest in your business.
For this particular website, and basically every website I’ve created since, the first thing I outsource has been writing. Though I’m a good writer and can quickly throw together a 2,000 to 3,000 word article, I realize that it’s not the best use of my time. So, instead I focus on keyword research and deciding the main topics/subtopics for my articles. I then hand it to my writers and they create the content.
- Have Patience: One of the most common things that happens with online entrepreneurs is that they give up too quickly. And it’s understandable, creating a website and seeing absolutely no progress for months on end is not for the weak and weary. That said, if you want to succeed in this industry, you need to be patient with any website you’re creating.
My rule of thumb is to consistently work on a website for a full 12 months before I reevaluate to see if the website is working. This is longer than what most people recommend, but I found that this puts people in the right mindset to understand they’re going to have to be patient. In most cases, you should start to see positive results and momentum prior to this, but it’s definitely good from a mindset perspective.
- Become Obsessed with SOP Documents: For me, looking at everything from the lens of a business owner and making sure that there is a process in place is absolutely crucial to my success. Whenever any task is being done, I try to think how I can replicate it over and over through training without having to be involved. A big part of this is thinking about how it can be made into a process, and then creating a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) document and accompanying video to make the training is clear as can be.
Yes, this does take quite a bit of time to do, but I’d rather do something once and be able to plug any worker into the process as opposed to training new people over and over again on the same task. Because, like it or not, people will leave your organization and if you have everything documented, it’s much easier to plug a new employee in.
- When Hiring, Always Test Three Candidates: After outsourcing tasks for roughly 7 years and spending tens of thousands of dollars, I’ve come to the realization that the only real way to find the best candidates for the job is to test them with a task. Resumes are a good indicator of what their background is and can help you reduce the talent pool, but one of the keys to any great employee is the ability to follow directions.
Whenever I hire for a new task, I usually will hire three different candidates, assign them the same task, and see how each of them handle it. This is especially helpful when it comes to writers. People can tell you how great of a writer they are, but you’ll only know for sure once you see the work that they submit.
- Yes, Link Building is a Requirement: Some people will tell you that you can create a website, never do link building, and have wild success. While it is possible, my experience has shown me that link building is a shortcut to get you to that success much quicker. This doesn’t mean that you need to focus on link building from the start, but after you have a decent amount of content (let’s say at least 20 informational articles), you can start to link building.
Don’t go overboard in the beginning, just get 5-10 links from trusted websites after you have some good content, and then dive right back into content creation. Those links you create will pay dividends in the future months as you create more content. Then after you have a solid base of content, let’s say 50-60 articles, try to find a way to build links slowly at scale and continue publishing great content. Oh, and DO NOT utilize black hat link building. I’m strongly against those practices and being so has proven some longevity to my businesses.
- When Link Building, Get Creative: I’ve found a lot of success with link building and I think one of the main reasons for that is because I get really creative with my tactics. In fact, one of my websites I even used Instagram stories to get links. Thinking outside of the box and finding ways to get people to link to you is a crucial skill of any website owner. When I do consulting with people, the number one thing I tell them to think about before they do any outreach is ‘what’s in it for the other person?’ In other words, before you ever email anyone to try to get a link, figure out a way to make it beneficial for them. And no, just having content that “their readers will enjoy” is not enough. Get creative, think differently than other people, and you’ll usually be successful.
- Squeeze Every Drop of Income out of Success: If you have a website that’s proving to be a success, spend the majority of your time monetizing it (especially before starting something new). Your top 10-15 pages should all be monetized as much as possible. Find affiliates that fit the content, partner with places to sell leads to them, ask for donations, have ads on the page, sell your own info products. Think of every highly visited page on your website as it’s own business and do everything you can to make it as profitable as possible (without destroying the user experience, of course). And if you’re wondering, yes, my main website uses all of these revenue generating components in different areas and that’s one of the reasons it does so well.
Creating an online business seems like the fantasy, until you’ve actually tasted success. I still remember in the beginning of my online journey when I was trying to make $500 a month. It seemed impossible at the time, but now I’m able to make that and more every single day. The only way that you’re going to ever get a taste of success is to take a risk and make the leap.
Then, once you start to see a website getting positive momentum, dig in and push even harder. Continue to reinvest and make sacrifices to grow. Eventually, assuming you picked a niche that’s large enough, it’s very possible that you’ll be able to make job replacing income from that “little hobby” website you had.
I think one of the best parts about this industry is that my earnings are related to how hard I (or others I hire) work. While I had a nice salary and a good job in the corporate world, I’m making more than ever before and have total freedom to work on all projects that I want to.
Even more important, I no longer have to deal with a commute 😊
I have no doubt that this is the best “job” anyone could ever ask for, and I hope all of you reading this are able to find success as well. Again, if you learn more about me you can visit OneHourProfessor.com. Thanks so much for reading!