Online Business Advice for a Friend

I just finished with an email to a friend with some advice about creating an online business and I thought I’d include it here – edited slightly. My hope is that you see how important it is to me about what business you decide to create online. You could go any of 1000’s of ways, but there are lots of dead ends.

One thing I’ve stuck to over the last couple years for online business projects I’m involved in is producing content.

My friend Shawn had told me he will start a site that offers a new website to get indexed in Google and 100 backlinks for a price…

Email below:

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Honestly Shawn, and I’ll tell you what I think because I don’t want to see you flounder.

Offering site indexing and backlinks is what half the online businesses are about today. You couldn’t pick a more saturated niche. To say it’s impossibly competitive is understating the situation. Is it worth it to get into it? Not for the last few years – no.

Then you have to look at – are you adding value to anyone’s site by giving them backlinks from the same sites over and over – different clients getting links from same sites? Links coming in are only of value if they are related to the same subject as the site. How many different sites will you have that are ranked PageRank 3 and above to link to these new sites?

I see it as a dead end. Worse than a dead end because you’re climbing a very steep and LONG road. When you get the top there’s no view, no reward, just a dead end… then you have to retrace steps backward to go find something that works.

The reality is that there are not many things entrepreneurs new to web dev and internet marketing can really do. The gurus that sell stuff will tell you 16 ways to get on top in 30 days  but the reality is Рit only works for them because they have 1. Traffic. 2. Connections to other sites with traffic.

The best possible thing you could do in my opinion?

There’s a WHOLE lotta stuff – but, you must produce CONTENT that is unique and needed.

That’s it.

Everything else will come after that.

You can shoot video. You can do podcasts. You can write a content site. You can make ebooks. You can podcast ebooks. You can write music. Create graphics. Make a cartoon. Play music. Sing. Do interviews. Create a product. Create a martial art. Write a book. Make art.

You’ve got to make content that is yours that you can resell over and over and over.

Over the last couple years I focused on a lot of different online business projects for producing content.

1. I started filming myself – to get comfortable in front of the camera. Now I love it. I could definitely do an internet show of some sort. I know now, for me – video is the content I will produce in abundance… it’s fun, easy, and it’s where the internet is going and will be for the next 10+ years – easy.

2. I wrote a book – 130,000 words – about a topic that was personally significant to me, but will never get published – It was great accomplishment to actually finish it.

3. I wrote another book – a bio – over 100,000 words. I talk about a lot of stuff I can’t say here in Thailand yet, so I’ll not offer it for publication until I’m solidly back in the states.

4.  I wrote 2-4 ebooks. Just did another one and a site: www. (editedout) .com Рnot sure I told you.

5. I created www.JoysThaiFood.com where my wife did her videos and recipes.

6. I created Thaipulse.com where I have 400+ posts, over 100 articles, over 3000 images.

7. I joined Dreamstime.com to sell my stock photographs and I put 400 images there that have sold over the past 2 yrs.

8. I joined fotolia and some other stock agencies that sucked – sold some and pulled the photos from there. I trust dreamstime more and went exclusive with them.

9. I tried to create a funny video series on youtube – the Gross Grub Series – me eating bugs – sustainable living style – here in TH.

10. Doing Thai wildlife series videos – snakes and other stuff – also mostly at YouTube.

Notice anything ?

Content man – content!

I worked with a brilliant guy in Hawaii – he was number one at Dean Witter within 3 years of starting work. His name is, Ken Young (name changed). I found him in the state of HI jobs database. I worked for his online greeting card co. which was a front for a MASSIVE spam operation. Legal spam – he always did it by the book – but, we were sending 3 billion spams per month.

Anyway – the guy had already made his millions, retired at 27, and got into online greeting cards with his wife. They made (editedout).com. The site, quite frankly – sucks. The cards? Suck. They are the worst, corniest – most ridiculous drivel I’ve ever had to look at every day of my life. I never told anyone I worked for that company while I did.

I’d suggested updating the site a number of times to make it more contemporary and to compete with the looks of other ecard sites. Ken always rejected the idea because it was working. If it works – don’t mess with it. Sounded ridiculous to me at the time – but, that’s why Ken was on top of the game and I wasn’t yet. Today – his site is still EXACTLY the same! Looking back I realize – yeah, no reason to compete with BlueMountain.com because Ken was targeting a different audience. One that liked big text, corny colors and graphics, and ridiculously simple ecards.

Guess what? Ken’s tiny little company was making bank.

The cards were free to send – 90% of them.

10% were premium cards – extra special JUNK.

If you joined for $2.95 a month – recurring billing on your credit card, you got access to all the extra corny cards.

He had 30,000 subscribers when I joined. That was a drop from what it was previously but I can’t remember how many he was up to at the most.

And, the $100,000 per month on 30,000 subscribers to the premium cards wasn’t where he made his real cash. He made it with spam. As a 4 person company – with Ken and his bro in law doing the admin stuff – and me and another girl doing the hard work – “we” were making 5 million a year minus about 1.5 for expenses.

Not bad. He was paying me 50,000 and the other girl about 30,000. His brother in law? No idea. The almost talentless girl that did the online greeting cards was making in excess of $100,000 per year.

I realized about a month into working with him that he had phenomenal insight into the internet already. I’d been in seo and internet marketing for a number of years already. I knew my stuff.

Ken knew my stuff, his stuff, and everyone else’s stuff.

He was super bright and played with scenarios and testing everything – all kinds of new projects to see what worked. Our routine test was 2-3,000 dollars. We’d try it – if it worked – we’d put some effort into it – see if it really worked. If it really worked we’d be pumping hours into it until it got big.

I wrote down a number of things that lead to business success from my hundreds of hours talking on the phone with Ken…

1. Produce content that is hard or impossible to replicate.
2. Focus on the big stuff that makes money, not the little stuff which can suck away your time.
3. Keep a very small group that can change focus fast. 1-3 people is ideal.
4. Test, test, test. Test in small ways – today we can use adwords to bring instant, focused traffic and see if there’s a result. If not – it really doesn’t make sense to build a whole website about it and try to get Google ranking!
5. Best products to sell online are under $30.
6. Know your target market – in his case he knew that his target was nerds and old people that loved the corny cards and were die-hard loyalists!

Having a monopoly was high on Ken’s list. Creating content that is unique gives you a monopoly at least until someone copies it. Create content that fills a need. Brand that content and that’s all you need for the rest of your life.

Content Shawn – please, produce content and I think you’re going to have a much better time of this… don’t chase what others have already done and then overdone and ground into the dirt.

You’re talented as hell – with people, with writing, with what you pick up – like a sponge.

Create something – and get it going. If it’s Thailand focused I can give you links from my sites. If it’s something you need a link from AimforAwesome for – let me know.

If you need help with video anything – let me know.

Please don’t create a site that indexes a web site and promises links to it… unless you know someone doing it now that is very successful and will share everything with you – Thailand is a new market – but, really limited. There are VERY few farangs (foreigners) here that know what they’re doing, or know what is needed.

Choose something to start producing. Start producing content of whatever sort gets you going – that you’ll continue to do.

Best,

Vern