I've been doing a lot of thinking about my business lately. The last couple of weeks have been interesting as I decided to no longer use PBNs and I discussed why I made that decision on my last podcast.
I've also been getting a lot of questions that go something like, “Well, if you are not using PBNs…how are you getting links?” First of all, I think this is the wrong question to be asking. But if you must know about link building, I always recommend Jon Cooper as the link building expert. I had him on my podcast, and I've reviewed his link building guide.
In fact, he lists something like over 150 strategies for building links on this massive list here…and none of those strategies involve PBNs. So, you have tons of options for link building if that's what you want to do.
However, the better question in my opinion to be asking is, “How can I build a long term online business that doesn't rely on Google so much?”
This is a question that I've been asking and acting upon for the past 4 years or so. I'll share my story in relation to this question below and discuss how my business has evolved because of it.
I Had Another Blog
I have been blogging since the beginning of 2010. However, what many of you may not know is that I actually had a blog for about a year before I ever started NichePursuits.com. I hesitate to even link to my old blog because all of the advice is outdated; however, my original blog was called NicheAdsenseChallenge.com.
My old blog was all about building churn and burn Adsense sites using whatever tactic I could to rank in Google. Again, this was back in 2010. I did very well and was making about $15k/month from my Adsense sites by mid-2011, and of course quit my job about the same time.
However, I was always asking myself, “Is this business really going to last?” When I was honest with myself, I always knew the answer was no. I needed to form a long term business that didn't rely on Google.
As a direct result of that question and answer, I decided to create a new blog in 2011 that discussed niche business IDEAS rather than just small churn and burn websites. In fact, I wrote this page on NichePursuits.com: Purpose of this Blog on Feb. 24th, 2011.
I basically created NichePursuits.com so I could stop ONLY discussing small niche sites and start discussing and trying other small business ideas. I kept the word, “niche” in my new domain as a hat tip to my old blog and business; but it truly is meant to reference niche businesses not niche websites.
So, in early 2011 I started doing everything I could to diversify my business away from Google in case of something disastrous happening to my niche sites. As a result, I built Long Tail Pro in early 2011, an iPhone app shortly thereafter, a WordPress theme, a WordPress plugin, a software development firm recently, and many other niche businesses.
As a result of building multiple businesses outside of Google traffic, my overall income is still doing very well despite many of my niche sites getting hit with a penalty recently. Yes, I lost $5k/month in revenue; but I also have a few other revenue streams that were not impacted.
I've built a long term business that no longer relies solely on traffic from Google.
I've always felt the pull from my audience to write more and more about small niche sites, and so that's why there is so much content on that subject. But the original idea as you can see from this early about page, was really to try out OTHER business ideas.
I hope to get back to my roots of this blog, and will begin blogging again more about long term businesses that are not solely SEO type businesses.
The Basics of a Long Term Business
One of the things that you learn pretty quickly when building Adsense or Amazon websites is that your customer clicks an ad and is gone forever from your website. This is a terrible way to build a long term business.
So, after all of my thinking and actually running a business for the past few years, the answer to “How do you build a long term online business?”…is actually fairly simple.
Build an audience and offer solutions to that audience.
That really is it.
Another way to think of this is specifically for an online business: Build an email list and sell products to that email list. Although, I agree that sounds a bit more salesy.
Once you have built a loyal readership/user base/fanbase, you can continue to offer products and solutions to that audience hopefully for many years to come.
Sometimes the product creation comes first, but sometimes the audience building comes first. You can do it either way.
For example, Apple has been so successful for so many years because its user-base is so loyal. Apple can continue to come out with new products (like new iPhones, iPads, iWatch, or anything) and because it has such a large user-base, it will continue to be successful.
But Apple is so far removed from anything you or I could create, so lets take a step back and think about how this happens on a small scale.
A great online example is Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com. Back in 2008, he had no readers and no one on an email list. However, now he has probably close to 100k people on his email list and makes a tremendous amount of money each month.
He built his readership through great content, networking, and effort. He did real marketing to build his personal brand.
He's built a long term business, which I think he's just barely tapped into yet. Even if all his affiliate commissions from Bluehost, Long Tail Pro ( 🙂 ), and other places stopped…he still has the kernels of a huge business on his hands. All he has to do is create his own product that offers a solution to the problem of his audience, and he's in business…big time.
He's just begun to do this with his Smart Podcast Player, and I'm sure he'll have other great products in the future.
You can use this formula to build a long term business in any market: Build an Audience (email list) and Offer Solutions (products) to that Audience.
Once you have an email list, you can sell affiliate products or your own products…and you can do it over an over again (within reason).
This is what Ryan Deiss does in all of his businesses; including SurvivalLife.com that makes over $1 million per MONTH! Ryan Deiss is someone that knows how to build online businesses and scale them. His primary focus is building emails lists and selling products to those people.
So, while there is nothing wrong with building small niche sites…and its certainly alot of fun; if you are interested in building a long term business, you need a different approach.
And I believe that approach boiled down to its simplest form is: Build an audience and offer solutions to that audience.
Our Authority Site Project
In relation to this desire to build more long term businesses, Perrin and I started an authority site almost 3 months ago. We have written just briefly about this new project here and here, and have discussed it in a couple of podcasts here and here.
The purpose of this project was for Perrin and I to put our time and effort into a site that we felt like could pay huge dividends for many years to come; instead of just working on sites that might only earn well for a shorter period of time.
Despite the fact that I've built an email list in other markets, this is a new market and a new niche for Perrin and I. We have a lot to learn about building an email list in this niche overall the best marketing strategies in this market.
I'll be sharing much more about this project down the road, but we plan on tapping into all sources of traffic for our site: Google/Yahoo News, Social Media, SEO (of course), paid traffic, and much more. In fact, another source of both traffic and revenue is going to be Kindle ebooks.
We are just about done with our first ebook, and will likely be releasing it to the world in the next few weeks. We hope that this helps us build an email list as people buy and discover us; but will be a source of revenue as well. We plan to do multiple Kindle books each year.
We've been dabbling around with Facebook ads, but haven't found any huge success with it just yet…we'll keep trying.
However, the strategy for this site is exactly as we explained above: We are building an audience of readers and email subscribers and then we will offer our own products and other affiliate products down the road.
Because we will eventually own several products in the niche our profit margins will be much higher. And as we garner traffic from many sources and not just natural search engine traffic through Google, we can feel more confident in the long term success of our business if one traffic source should go away.
Build Your Own Product
I know when I first got started online; part of the draw of affiliate marketing was the fact that you never had to do any customer service…the income was more hands off. However, my mindset has shifted a bit since then.
Yes, owning your own product is more work…but it's worth it!
I created Long Tail Pro over 3 years ago, and its not easy to keep the product updated and stay on top of the customer service. It's caused some headaches for sure. However, after having a business that only generates income from Adsense/niche affiliate sites and one that is a product I sell…owning your own product is the way to go.
One big benefit of owning your own product is that others/websites are more likely to talk about you and send you traffic. I certainly send alot of referral traffic to LongTailPro.com from NichePursuits.com, but MOST of the traffic coming to LongTailPro.com is from other sources.
The traffic to LongTailPro.com comes from many sources: Referral, Direct, Organic, and Social. Referral is the largest source of traffic (just barely), and NichePursuits.com is the highest trafficked referral source. However, NichePursuits.com still only accounts for 6% of the overall traffic.
The point is that even though I was able to give Long Tail Pro a nice jump start with NichePursuits.com because I have a good sized audience here; I get most of my traffic from other places because I've built a great product. Other blogs, affiliates, and users do a lot of my marketing for me…because I own the product.
So, my effort is amplified by enormous magnitudes because I own the product itself. This doesn't happen when you are an affiliate. Marketing and sales is so much easier when you own the product (versus being an affiliate).
So, take it from me, in order to build a long term online business, you really should create and sell your own product.
And if you've built up an audience in your niche, you'll have potential buyers ready and waiting…and eventually THANKING you for creating something that solves their problems.
Are you ready to build a long term online business?
These are the kinds of topics that I will be focusing on much more around here: how to build businesses that can stand the test of time, how to build products, how to build on audience, online marketing tactics, and so much more. I still think a small affiliate site can be an okay starting point; however, I would recommend that you take that small affiliate site and grow it into a true business over time by building an audience and selling a product or two.
When it comes down to it, there has always been a good, better, and best way to build websites; I'm simply ready to only focus on the best strategies for long term success. I'll be diving into these strategies much more in the near future.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment or two…join the discussion!