What follows is a compilation of ideas, case studies, business models, things we’ve done ourselves, as well as amazing things that other people have put together. Each of these can give you more than 10 years of work; each of these can become your sole occupation for years to come. I intentionally varied the examples, so many of you can find something unique and specific to taste.
First thing first, thanks for the dollars. In the online world, this is the ultimate compliment for your work. I appreciate it, truly. However, you are not wrong to be skeptical most of the time. Let me, in all fairness, warn you against my fellow colleagues – shit happens – be that failing to deliver on a promise, unprofessionally handled credit card, your email address spammed… But why am I telling you this?
Two reasons come to mind:
1. As you start your online journey, it is fairly common to jump from one venue to another until you gather enough skills, or find your place of comfort. For many, it means tinkering some with design, before they launch a product; poking SEO riddles before learning what a content strategy is; experimenting with different platforms before even coming up with a business model of their own.
Somewhere in the middle, you will come across easy fixes, short-cuts, or to put it squarely not the noblest of tactics – shady practices, promising quick buck. And while there is a living to be made there, I agree, it is mostly short-sighted, not sharing the characteristics of anything I described in the previous guide. Building a business takes time and effort, most of which accumulates in value. The other path – according to my own experience – very hard to scale, likely to break, not even half as fun.
2. The other reason, statistically more obvious, is you spending money in vain. So allow me to save you some dollars by connecting dots.
- People starting online are hungry for knowledge
- Internet marketers who sell snake oil know this
Drawing a connection between these two dots, there is high probability of regret down the line. This is a very unusual introduction, I’m aware, but here is a caveat – not only that people lose their money in vain, but they lose a nice chunk of their time too. Some would say a critical mistake in the early stage of a business, and I won’t argue otherwise.
I cannot save you from bad decisions, granted, but I can tell you a couple of facts straight. There is enough knowledge available on the net, for free or very cheap, that you can make millions out of it. Don’t try to look for it under a rock.
Plus, knowledge is useful only if you apply it at one point. In the spirit of this, we cannot be friends unless you actually start something after finishing this guide. A single exercise, a Facebook page, a search for a designer on Behance… anything.
I want to show you that paying a few dollars and doing something is going to take you further than buying informational products in the thousands and waiting forever.
Now back to what you came here for in the first place. Ready?
Thirteen different examples, plus more tactics that you will ever need in the first couple of years. Each model is carefully presented from myriad of different angles, the total of which sums up to dozens of businesses you can try your luck with. Let me now pause my rant, and be as specific as I can. Time is of an essence.
Riding on Amazon’s success
If you would have to prepare the soft sell on this business model, it will read something like this:
Amazon is a marketplace with billions (that’s billions, with a B) of annual revenue. Most of this is produced by people selling their merchandise via Fulfillment by Amazon – a program they have allowing you to use their warehouse, shipping, and everything in between. It means, in short, that you can sell products of your own with almost no hustle at all. Welcome to the internet. But let us focus our attention elsewhere for now, and leave this option for later.
What is also cool about Amazon, as mentioned in the previous guide, is how its affiliate program works.
The more you spike the numbers, the higher the percentage. (there is now a different model, see their program for more details). Moreover, once you send someone to Amazon’s marketplace, whatever he ends up buying, you are being paid a percentage for.
To illustrate this with an example, if I now send you to amazon via a link to a bike magazine or book, and you somehow end up buying hydraulic disc brakes, I’m getting a slice of that pie.
And Amazon, having invested millions upon millions of dollars in user experience, conversion optimization and clever design, will make sure that you find what you need, or maybe something similar that is highly relevant to your taste. Operating on some of the most advanced algorithms, this is becoming more and more accurate, and much more likely to trigger a buying decision.
So, knowing this, the business model kind of molds itself into existence.
I figured, mostly by observing other folks who are doing it already, that bringing more and more people through the doors of Amazon, is frankly all that you have to do. And to bring those people in, you will need nothing other than, you guessed it – content of some kind.
The edges of it look fairly simple and straightforward, but let me paint you a more vivid and specific sketch. While you can create your own Amazon store, what I propose is substantially different, and for some a lot easier. Here is the deal – you will have to create no more than a single WordPress website, and invest in content that is targeted at consumerism above anything else.
So, returning back to the previous guide, or to be more specific within the section about content creation – there are a couple of facts I will not mind repeating again.
- People love list articles
- People love quality pictures
- People love curation
Here is where these three facts merge and combine incredibly well with selling stuff on Amazon. They create a perfect doorway to the marketplace – overly simple, when you think about it. So, you create articles about curated lists. Allow me:
- 10 perfect DSLR’s for the semi-professional photographer
- 15 sneakers that are trending this summer
- 7 most popular Nautica watches of all time
- 11 of the only gardening tools you will need
- 21 cool games so you never get bored
- 10 gifts for Christmas this season
So, easy as that, the frame is being set. You can tinker with the format – play with titles (maybe keep to a specific number), niche down (target a specific interest – but one that has potential to sell), even use Amazon in the angle (10 shoes that sell best on Amazon – this type of content is easier to create for you already have ideas one search away).
Note that I suck at writing titles. It is, however, one of the most important skills to have for this business model to work.
Here comes the second step – research.
The more you do it, the better this will play down the line. Sending someone to Amazon to a product that has poor seller’s rating, or not the best of review count, is not that likely to result in sales. And you will have to go deeper, in fact – research shipping; take a moment to think about your targeted audience and what are their preferences, their budget, their needs; make sure that listings feel relevant even at a glance.
You can then preoccupy yourself with the minutia – design changes, inserting nicer pictures in the articles, developing a voice that is appealing to your targeted audience or maybe even hiring a content creator. As much as I’d love to do this thinking for you, it is better that I don’t. You will have to invest your own thoughts so you can make a brand out of it.
The hard part, for most who decide to go down this road, is getting traffic to the site. In light of saving you from reading the previous guide every time I reference it here – some tactics for traffic generation:
Feels awkward starting from the least productive channel when it comes to this model, but I do it to emphasize a point – if you invest enough thought into it you can really make this tactic a success.
With all the amateur consumerism videos out there it is easy to set yourself apart. Pay someone to design you an intro, or some graphic elements to insert into the video; chose music that will make easily recognizable that it’s the same brand throughout the videos (have this in mind for everything that you make – it’s branding 101); make slides; images, name of the product, and price… list them in each slide. Make a video ad and put a description bellow the video – that’s all it needs to bring people to your site.
You can convert them on the spot as well, but it is far better if you bring them on your side (more content, more chances of success).
SEO, so we meet again.
This is a somewhat more demanding route. After all, it is hard ranking products in industries where someone else is already making a killing with it. To begin with, it is wiser to try and rank less popular products, or try and compete in less popular niches altogether. You will still be able to direct visitors to your other content once they are on the site.
The great thing about this type of content is that it tends to rank somewhat easier. Google has a preference in their algorithm, to vary the type of content it shows on the first page – meaning – if someone searches for a Nissan car, in some cases Google doesn’t know what exactly he is searching for, and the results tend to serve a broad set of intents.
So, to take our model for example, if someone is looking for a Canon DSLR, Google will often show a curated list of Canon DSLR’s among the top 10 results – or to paraphrase again, take curated lists into consideration nearly all of the time for most buy-oriented queries.
Another reason I listed YouTube first – all the videos that you make pointing to your site – needless to say, they will make it a lot easier to rank your content on Google once they gain traction.
An additional tactic to consider – making content that aims to entertain, in the same format in which you produce your main content. Then, publishing it on other sites as guest articles, thus earning mentions and links. For example – “10 models of dictatorship that were trending last century”. Add pictures; maybe even rank them in some way etc. You hear that? Yes, that’s the sound of social shares going up in a whirl.
Probably the least time consuming process for generating traffic for this type of content. You will set up a Facebook page, or try and bring visitors directly to your site – depending on the niche and angle you chose. There is a lot of testing to be made here, and it is mostly specific to circumstances.
Make sure you check at the bottom of this guide for some kick ass Facebook advertising tactics and tips. A word was given that you will buy value from this guide, and I intend to keep it.
Opening your eyes to possibilities, let me just remind you of this channel as well. You can make topic specific boards, and be as relevant as you can. Pinterest allows you to market the other angle of products that tends to stick better with people and trigger a more of an emotional response – a vision of a person using the product, or what it feels like to own it. Thanks Pinterest. And thanks consumerism too.
Here is the other side of this business model, that takes a minute to explain, but doubles, if not triples your market. Ever heard of AliExpress? Allow me, AliExpress is part of AliBaba. A Chinese online giant that lists suppliers. Of what, I hear you asking? Of a needle, and a locomotive, and everything in between – starting from single item shipping, all the way to tens of thousands of items per week.
Having in mind the cost of labor in China, and technologies like 3D printing exploding over the last few years, you can guess that AliBaba is the cheapest place to buy in bulk from. Amazon sellers know this, and well, they are taking full advantage of it. The western market feeds AliBaba more than it can chew. A fact that is turning around even as I write this.
AliExpress is, without choosing words very carefully, the cheaper and less operational Amazon. And guess what – being low on prices, allows shipping to go up.
The quality is subpar when compared to Amazon, but there is decent merchandise to be found. Eastern markets, especially eastern European are mostly satisfied by the goods.
So, to put it more squarely, changing your marketplace from Amazon to AliExpress, you reach countries that are in the middle of an online shopping renaissance. Hire translators of your content, and enter ten different markets at once.
The word is scalable, and you are welcome.
Though, items that are to be found on Amazon are not really easy to find on AliExpress. So you will need to change some of your content and of course do additional research prior.
Paid premium content
Let me free the cat out of the bag. We made this guide as a strategic way of making more buck. There, it’s out, I’ve said it.
And while you already know this, be honest and tell me how much attention you paid? Probably not that much. For a long while I didn’t believe that people can earn a living by simply sharing information or different types of content on the net. Sounded too good to be true (which it still does, by the way).
However, many people are doing it. So here is an interesting model. The one you’ve just bought into. Again, it is a publishing business (below there are many that aren’t, I promise).
All you need to do is create informational quality content. And text is cheaper, to save you the suspense. The more you invest, the more it pays off.
This content needs to be free of charge – like the guide you’ve read before coming here. It needs to be massive, valuable. It goes as a rule of thumb, to know a topic well before writing about it in such detail. Or, you can hire someone or make a partnership.
What you do next, is creating an extension of that content, where you deliver twice as much – or as I would love to believe, more. Pricing is always a science on its own, but here is a success story I’m eager to share – set the price low. Asymmetrically low for the value. Here is why.
If I ask you where you are coming from, before stumbling upon the first guide, chances are that you will say Facebook. That’s right, most of our traffic on this model comes from Facebook ads. The price argument already creates itself. If someone gets to know you for the first time, he is less likely to trust you with a lot of money. Heck, you probably hesitated a bit for the 7 dollars as well. No harm, I understand.
The thing is, to deliver so much value in the free version of the content, and open yourself so much that people are feeling comfortable making the small transaction. Then simply deliver the goods.
I advise you to create this model on a new site, thus creating a brand and start from there. Though, as you can see, this model can be attached to an already existing site as well, merely as a supplement.
Here is the fun math that you probably love to hear – A guide like this one, can easily make ten or more thousand dollars if marketed correctly. Meaning, smart Facebook targeting (will share few tactics bellow); maybe even ranking it in search. Free traffic channels can work as well (think Reddit).
Now, before you say to yourself that it is a small amount of money for such an investment, think again – this model can be resold massively every six months or so to new people. The cost of doing it is zero every time. It just sits there, as a commodity.
Now open your horizons and imagine ten or more such guides. Now we are talking. Video can come as a next step, but I’ve personally discovered that text resonates far better with newcomers. They, probably like yourself, are mesmerized by the size of the free version. We were as well, the first time we read it after finishing.
Reverse engineer our approach with the free guide, and you will have pretty solid conversion rate numbers. Include pictures, exercises, be informal, add case studies, and talk real numbers… The size and price will do the rest.
Oh, and don’t forget to include something else for free there at the end again. People are kind of skeptical when they feel cornered – with purchase being their only option, they are fast to close the tab. Add something else, like the free tools section, and deliver value there as well. Then, you can pitch the paid version again after they finish that as well. (with more guides, you can redirect them to another, boosting the relationship).
Experiment with opt-in forms and emails. Or maybe even tie this with the next model.
The email list content model
The email list, as you already know, is valuable beyond words. Giving you a mail address, what a person actually does, is saying – Go on, I trust you, send me cool stuff. The gravity of this, I’m sure, you can understand.
The model described here, though not rocket science, is somewhat rare on the net. I’ve first became familiar with it a year ago. Guess who is behind it. Remember Glen from ViperChill? Well, he’s been keeping himself rather busy.
Before explaining how this model can be tied with the previous one, or even other already established businesses, allow me to draw a sketch of how it works.
In its essence, it is a publishing business once again. What you are actually doing is creating a large email list to which you are sending free content updates. The setting is simple – a landing page that sells the idea, so you can gather more e-mails. The tradeoff is a series of free content updates, for a email address in return.
Then, you send them the free updates for a couple of weeks, only to fit a paid one in between. The free versions continue again and the cycle repeats itself once in a while. Obviously, you must offer great content, and tie it thematically relevant.
You know what Glen does? He offers niche ideas. That’s right – he offers an online business idea each week, and then sells a premium one after a while. Somewhat similar to what I’m doing here. Though why am I considering it to be more efficient?
- First, once you retrieve a email address, you have already established the base of trust in the relationship with the user. And there is hardly any reason for him not to leave an address. After all, you are promising free content that is of his interest. The more you invest in the landing page (copywriting, design, user experience…) the higher the base is being established. The conversion rate too.
- Each email update only reinforces your relationship with the user, potentially buyer. You are, after all, sending valuable content that solves some of his problems, or entertains or whatever. Each week, the bond grows stronger.
- Once the paid update comes, you introduce it to the audience a week prior. The selling angle is up to you, but what I personally advise, is setting some kind of expiring offer, and not overselling it.
Note that it is important to mention that the free updates will continue after the paid version regardless of whether or not your visitor makes the purchase. Having said this, you create the impression that it is not all for the money – that you are willing to provide more value even without it. This, right here, creates more trust that you will ever earn trying otherwise.
What Glen does, is setting the price high for the paying updates. I myself though, am more comfortable with single digits. This math rests heavily on the different style of selling, your copywriting abilities, and your personality.
So, what do you need in order to make this model humming non-stop?
Let’s start from the beginning.
- 1. A beautifully designed landing page. Something that resonates with the targeted audience. Browse themes and layouts for days if need be – this is important.
- 2. Copywriting that sells the idea. Can you make a person trust you after coming straight from Facebook ads? Can you offer content that sounds so appealing that there is no chance they won’t jump in?
- 3. Sticking with the free angle, not a mention of paid updates or paid anything.
- 4. Delivering the first update no later than a day after they sign. And guess what, it should rock their boat. Pay as much attention to the design of the content, as you would to the content itself. A WordPress setup is, as always, pretty much anything you will need.
- 5. Optional – creating a channel that reminds them about the next update. Maybe a sneak peak or a simple reminder that will keep them fired up for what’s coming next. (Think Facebook)
- 6. The following updates flow once every week.
- 7. Then, you announce and launch the sale, making sure that people know free versions will continue the following week. If you have a channel on the side for engagement, now is the time to use it and keep your audience reminded about the next free version.
What is missing from this chain of events is the way in which you generate traffic. I’ve mentioned Facebook ads, but feel free to tap into your creativity and come up with something else entirely.
Facebook, I’ve seen, is very useful especially because it allows you to keep the engagement up. If people visited your landing page through Facebook, it makes sense to later redirect them, or ask them politely to like your page so you can keep in touch for other cool updates.
If you have a site, you can easily connect this model with it. The previous example that I’ve shared? Supplementing it with this one can go a long way. Besides, you can have a different mail list for different topics. Which brings about variety and other possibilities.
- You can switch to video content. Teach poker skills with each update, or reveal magic tricks (there is a huge market there, believe me, I know that it sounds amateurish, but hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the table). You can also center it on comedy and humor, and send video updates of stand-up gigs. The possibilities are more than we can come up with.
- Once you crack the model (discover what converts best), you can scale up by adding new niches, new topics not necessarily relevant to the first one. They can be separated, or tied together into a brand. Whatever rubs you the best.
Online services team
I’ve talked a lot about hiring people on the net. Hiring for design, copywriting, research, content creation of any kind… Obviously, with a demand so high, there is a market waiting to be served. You interested?
Thinking about it at first, I understand how it can seem next to impossible for a beginner to dominate this field, or even break the ice.
This is a business model that we’ve investigated personally, and for reasons not worth mentioning decided not to pursue it. Nonetheless, it is a sound proposition, and one you might want to give a thought yourself.
Right now, the market of virtual assistants is a booming. And to no surprise. Freelancers are doing more than great as well. Just visit sites like UpWork, People per Hour, freelancer.com and similar marketplaces and browse for a while.
Go ahead, I can wait…
What you will probably discover, is a demand so high that it surpasses many offline industries. Or will do so in the very near future. So I figured.
Research for a while, and decide for an angle you want to enter this industry from. Designers, copywriters, WordPress artists… Moreover – infographic designers, logo designers, poster designers… You can go an inch wide and a mile deep; or enter a broad playfield and figure your specialty later on. Virtual assistants are game as well, though this market is harder to enter since there are few known marketplaces where you can publish your offer.
The great thing about sites like UpWork (formerly Odesk), Freelancer.com and People per Hour, is that they already did the marketing part for you. Guess what – millions of users are already browsing their marketplace for hire. If you can gather an agile team, offer a great service, make yourself distinguishable from other freelancers, be superb in communication… great things will happen.
Here is how to start.
Browse for people who have skills that are on demand. Shuffle through their work, read the feedback. Hire some if need be (like for example low paying gigs).
You can also browse through blogs (find a great copywriter or content creator), design or coding forums, anywhere you can think off. Then, put together a mail with a proposition. The early deals are going to be tough to arrange, so you will have to start small (low paying gigs, aspiring but otherwise not that popular freelancers). Have two or three on board, and start selling services.
Be the one who arranges deals, and let your team work their magic. Remember, customer service and communication is sometimes more important than the service itself. Keep that always in mind.
Once the gigs start coming, make sure you get positive feedback. Pay your team on a fix salary if need be, and make sure that customers are satisfied. The more money you initially invest, the better the team, the higher the rate of satisfaction, more gigs and profit in the end. Most people I’ve seen so far, rarely dare to enter on a more professional level, and are rather comfortable with a team for article writing, or translation services. Regardless of how this looks on the outside, decent numbers are being earned. The better you evaluate the market and demand, the more success you will eventually have.
Take this fellow for example – his team has earned nearly 20.000 dollars, only on this platform.
Other freelancers are doing great on their own as well. Imagine teaming up a couple of them together.
You can create a profile of your team on each of these marketplaces (UpWork, People per Hour, Freelancer, Fiver and many more). Then, be very dedicated to customer service, and numbers will inevitably start to rise.
Add video description in the offer if possible, and hone your copy to perfection. Experiment with pricing as well. Lower doesn’t necessarily mean better.
The niche specific marketplace
Hands joined together, rather than fists apart – that’s how you create a marketplace and demand. Think about this for a second using the previous model.
If I were about to search the whole net in order to find a freelancer for design chores, I would be shit out of luck. Without marketplaces like those mentioned above, the market shrinks. So it got me thinking.
Why not unite service providers in a certain niche, and create a marketplace of your own? Think carpenters, dentists, psychologist, fitness coaches, dog walkers… And think local.
Pick a niche, any niche, and list all the people willing to meet demand.
This, my friends, is a story from experience. Two years ago, me and my partner decided to get a third person on board for a project that seemed very promising. Allow me do describe it in a second.
It was a site where you can find labor for your home – carpenters, cleaning companies, plumbers, electricians, handymen of all kinds. The idea was to create a filter, so people can chose rankings, price, feedback count, location, trade…
The Fiver of handyman in our country, what it was.
The idea was simple – while Yellow Pages were just listing folks, we were going to provide feedback, reviews, ratings, filters, and a design and UX angle that surpasses that of similar directories. In all humbleness, we managed to do exactly that.
We even filmed a video commercial that turned out very well, made a blog section within the site and hired a content creator who wrote about DIY projects and home décor. The project, at this stage was pure joy to work with.
What happened though, came quickly and out of nowhere – the government passed a law, which prohibited tradesman without license to be advertised. And guess what – in the location that we picked, almost 90% of them weren’t licensed.
What remained from the site is the blog section as an internet relic of the past, that we decided to leave as it is.
But don’t let this story scare you off. This is a decent model, very profitable if you play it right. US laws, as far as I know, won’t mind people being advertised for whatever they please. Many other countries fit here as well.
So, without further ado, these are the steps.
- The filter within the site is not that easy to make. That being said, you will need to hire a good programmer. The design is very important too, mostly with branding but overall UX as well. So, a design and UX guy is to be hired too. Or you can save yourself some buck by returning to the previous guide, on section conversion optimization. Conversion XL, remember?
- The homepage should explain it all. Above the fold, all you need to place is a large image, with header on top (logo, and menu), and one or two fields for search. Then, as the scroll goes, you can explain the site concept in two or three easy steps. Or, as we did, you can include a video as well (the video can explain in a minute, more than you can with thousand words).
- A few more pages are about to be placed (located in the navigation header, as well as throughout the homepage), like for example the about page, contact and maybe the blog section.
Wondering why the blog section at all? Well, it turns out that there is a large audience interested in DIY articles and home décor. Write interesting ones, place pictures, and head straight to Facebook for promotion.
In the case of building an online marketplace for dentists, the blog can discuss dental care or something very relevant to that.
The ability for users to generate content and create their profiles. Here is what this actually means – allowing users to have full control over their profile (the more customizable you make it the better – ability to include pictures, change layout, colors…) so it makes easier for them to sign, gives them more incentive, and leaves you out of the hustle early on in the game.
Another great thing is that you can give users the chance to create blog articles and have your content creator review them before posting. User generated content – don’t get me started on how great that is. And know this – when people are writing, creating, for the purpose of improving their visibility, they try really hard (sharing the content on their social networks, generating buzz, links, whatnot… Think about LinkedIn)
Though have this in mind – certain demographic groups are not really happy with this option. Take ours for example, it turns out that middle age tradesman are not so comfortable with a computer – go figure, right?
The monetization model is entirely up to you. Depending on the group that you’ve decided to target, many options vary. You can ask for membership fees, which go either monthly or yearly, or give the service for free and experiment with ads. Remember, contextual ads can go a long way here.
Think about it – what do you guess a pet shop owner might pay when you have a marketplace about dog walkers, visited by tens of thousands of people who are dog owners?
Other groups, which are easier to work with, and have a higher ROI on their listing, can be asked for membership fees. Think therapists. They can promote your marketplace far better – imagine a couple of dozen therapists writing few informative articles monthly. They will promote their business, hence promoting yours. You own the platform in which they compete. You are the Amazon and Google of their niche. That pays off.
Between users generating reviews in the hundreds and then thousands, and service providers generating content on their profiles, what do you think ranking in Google will be like?
Oh, and one more thing. What is described in this step by step approach is my humble understanding of how such a marketplace should look like. You can go over the board with new and innovative ideas. Heck, it doesn’t need to be a classic website either, it can be an app.
Payment processing for an industry
Before delving into this business model, know that it can be perfectly supplemented to the previous one.
A friend of mine, one who joined our team for a different project which I will later explain, created something of his own that is quite worth of praise.
Having a site that listed all tourism companies and all of their offers (a lot of data entered manually), he decided to start asking for affiliate fees on each purchase of an arrangement. Only thing was, these companies didn’t have an online payment processing system integrated (understandable situation having in mind the country in which he operates).
This was a perfect opportunity to offer B2B service, and he seized it completely. What he did was hiring a programing firm, outsourcing the job, and paying them to create a system that allows online order processing. Software that costs north of 20,000 bucks he gave them for free. With one condition – he managed to arrange a deal that makes him four to seven percent richer on every holiday arrangement purchased through these companies.
7% if the visitor is sent as a referral from his site (the platform for listing vacation arrangements), and 4% if he buys an arrangement from the companies, regardless of where he came from.
That’s right, this person I’m talking about, managed to seize the opportunity, and is now netting 4-7 percent on nearly all tourism arrangements coming from a small Eastern European country.
And while the tourism niche is very profitable, there are many licenses to file for and a very high barrier of entry money wise. Without finding an investor, his journey, hard as it was, would have been significantly harder.
But, to your surprise, there are many other industries where you can make a similar move.
Let me tell you a story involving hair stylists for example. Many people call to make an arrangement, and pay on the spot. Here is how you can revolutionize an industry.
Since going to a hairstylist is not the equivalent of deciding for a vocation arrangement, it is very unlikely that people would visit websites and go over the same process. However, if you manage to create an application with minimal and functional user interface, you can – the same way my friend did – convince hair stylists in your area to cut you a percentage for letting them use your app (customizing it for their own brand). Making arrangements via smartphone, and paying online, is up to everyone’s interest.
This was only to illustrate a point – that you are not confined within the limits of what is already out there. You can try this with masseurs, wedding photographers, nannies… you get the picture.
Tying this with the previous model, it is easy to integrate the payment processing system within the online marketplace that you control – like UpWork and Freelancer are already doing. The examples I gave above seem trivial to look at, but there are many other industries that can benefit from this model while requiring a little convincing.
Enough thinking outside the box – let us see what’s inside instead.
If you have a habit of browsing entrepreneurial subreddits, you already know what I’m talking about. Subscription boxes are everywhere. Food and beverage, grooming, style, memorabilia, toys, curated items… Expand the list so it includes almost anything that can fit within a small to medium size box.
The concept is simple. You pick a niche, pack some physical goods that are relevant to the niche within a shipping box, and sell them to people who visit your site. The subscription model of monetizing, thus far, works best for this type of business.
Here are some examples:
Wet Shave Club
A site that sells grooming equipment subscriptions. They are netting crazy numbers, and the chart is growing at a steady rate.
This is one of the best examples you can use, in order to duplicate the model. The guys behind it are so cool; they took time to explain their business down to the letter. It stirred massive attention on Reddit, and has since made this model popular among entrepreneurs.
Think of it like this – the seven dollars that you gave us are the best bargain you’ve made, only for this link alone. Read the whole case study, you will find a massive number of marketing tactics done right, that can be implemented with other models as well.
Baltimore in a box
A very lucrative angle of this model, which includes a local approach – meaning – it can be duplicated to infinity.
What Baltimore in a Box does, is sending you items from the city of Baltimore. A souvenir box if you so prefer. There are three options: 3, 5 and 10 items per box; priced 20, 35 and 60 dollars respectively.
The potential of this angle is huge – simply pick a place round the world, buy your items in bulk and start shipping boxes. Take a moment and think about places that tend to shrink in citizens due to economical migration. Nostalgia is a powerful drive to leverage.
You can, in some cases, discover migration numbers by only doing a Google search. US citizens move a lot during their lifetime too (college, different jobs, lots of mobility when you think about it…) but you can target European countries that often send citizens abroad.
Also, how about attractive tourism locations round the world? People love to smell good memories a couple of years later.
Again, search for locations that are visited the most and start from there. Hawaii comes to mind – Oh how much I would love to trigger my memories by seeing a Hawaiian shirt, or a Tiki souvenir, or a SPAM can… But I digress.
Powerful model if you take the numbers in mind – the girl behind Baltimore in a Box is netting close to 50 large or so in just a few months. 50k dollars for shipping boxes only, sounds sweet enough to me.
Quarterly – a different beast altogether
The service allows celebrities, influencers and the likes to curate a list of items every few months. Their fan base subscribes under each profile, and Quarterly ships the boxes filled with the curated item mix once the time comes. The profit they are making, though I didn’t take the time to check, is probably ridiculous.
Think about duplicating this same model on an international level. How about Spain, Germany, Russia, UK, France… Even far smaller countries can provide you with a surprisingly large market.
A subscription box company that sells mystery boxes full of themed nerd gear. See, add the mystery element and you have a whole new angle altogether.
How about music retro boxes? 50’s 60’s 70’ 80’s and 90’s… There is a lot of potential in this.
Check Graze as well. Or Bacon Freak. They both ship food. And with all the trends currently circulating within the food industry – paleo, vegetarian, organic, and all types of diets… what can I tell you, this space is a mouthful.
Check CrateJoy, a company that was created for the purpose of listing all subscription packages available out there. Reviews, feedback, rankings… This is the Amazon of subscription boxes. Told you that owning the marketplace always makes sense.
There, you will find ideas that can be duplicated locally. Ever think about how many dog owners there are in a single small European city? Pick a western European country (more money for spending to begin with), do a little research on where there is a greater probability for a higher number of dog owners, and start your subscription box model.
I mentioned European countries since subscription box businesses are already well established in US so there is more room on the other side of the ocean. Though it can go both ways – more competition means that the market is far more likely to adopt your idea. Simply put- Americans are more eager to buy a box subscription than their European palls. Numbers are already changing though.
How to start building the box?
Before I start explaining the process from my angle of understanding, let me first confess something. No matter how much I try explaining things, and describing tactics, the Reddit case study will still hold more answers. An easy fact to understand when you consider their experience. My mouth can go on for hours ahead, but they’ve actually went through the process. Comparison, thus, between what is listed here and what is written there, is pointless to say the least.
I promised knowledge in this guide, and I intend to deliver every expectation. However, this doesn’t prevent me from pointing out in other directions that exhaust the topic tenfold. Especially when they are free.
For every peculiar detail that I list, there is much more to learn through the link. I only hope that what I provide here for this model adds up to what is already shared, and by doing so opens new doors.
Bearing in mind all the angles available for entry, shared above, here are few steps which you would like to consider.
- The site is really the most important key in this model. The better you sell it, the more boxes will eventually ship. Make it so that the visitor can easily connect with the vision of him using the products. How the items would affect his lifestyle, what they would feel like in front of him.
- Pricing, design, copy, layout… everything can undergo split testing. The more you test, the better it converts.
- Pick a name that sticks, and then build a brand. There are really no shortcuts around it.
- Services like Shopify and Stripe, delivery companies and their requirements and pricing models, ways of getting the items and the container box… The more research you do, and the more knowledgeable you are, the better this will develop. Storage and buying in bulk are a preferable option for some niches, while working on a smaller scale appeals to others. Find your end of the middle. Remember AliBaba from the first model? Do a search, see what comes up. Just saying, it can give you a palate of ideas to work with.
- Hone everything to perfection. It is pointless bringing people in and converting them into subscribers (customers in this case) only to lose them after the first box arrives in front of their door. The product, as much as the site matters, is equally important as well.
- Experiment with everything from the design of the box, the items inside (their quality, thematic relevancy, number…), and the feeling people get when opening it (adding perfume, hay, grass, flower leaves, napkins, or textile wrap…)
- When everything is ready to roll, start investing some time (not necessarily money) in marketing. Give boxes to relevant bloggers and YouTube celebrities for review; organize giveaways to visitors via social channels. You can experiment with Facebook advertising as well. Politely ask customers to take pictures while unpacking and share them on Instagram.
My buddy Glen has also shared this model a couple of months back, and some of the tips shared here originate from his writings. He has something to emphasize though – Be a perfectionist or forget it!
Creative Video Content
Looking over YouTube’s stats, a thought will cross your mind – people love video. And where is a demand, you can bet that there is an industry to be created. So how can you cut through the noise and develop a business model?
Irrespective of YouTube, you already know that people who specialize in certain topics are those who take the brownie points home. YouTube only emphasizes this fact – channels that are topic relevant always have decent numbers. Views and money wise.
I have a couple of angles to go through, nearly all covering the same idea. Bear with me.
Being a video publishing business, though structurally similar to article-content publishing, gives a number of advantages. Some of them being better visitor retention, which in turn elevates engagement, trust, conversion…
Here are two examples from the previous guide that perfectly align with what I’m trying to explain here:
On the surface, not knowing the numbers, these two examples don’t speak loud and clear of what I’m trying to point at. But knowing the statistics it’s a different tune altogether.
Not only that the video format touches new audiences, and brings visitors to your brand for the first time, but it makes them stay far longer when compared to other types of content.
And following the mantra of an inch wide and a mile deep, here is what I propose.
A web site with a video delivery oriented layout, and niche specific content that speaks to a specific audience. And then you use the premium content type of monetization. Easy peasy…
Fitness is the new black
What we currently have our hands busy with is a fitness videos subscription model. Our goal is to put together a number of video workouts, and deliver them, as a package, via monthly subscription.
Logical move, when you consider our fitness section on the site, and the traction that our reviews have made over the years. Once it’s out, since there are many innovative elements brewing inside (example: customized programs for each individual – solved with coding and some algorithms), we can send you a complete case study of the production, as well as the delivery process. In other words I will sit down and write another massive article. Free of charge, as a thank you gesture for being a pal and reading this (told you about the surprises).
The way other people already go about this model is somewhat different than what we have in mind. Maybe harder some, but much more effective.
They would create a couple of dozen videos, and post them on YouTube for free. Once visitors are hocked, there is a paid content down the pipe. And it works like a charm. Let the other examples bellow talk you into this.
Back when I was playing the violin in college, the internet had yet to invent the creative content that it offers nowadays. Looking back now, there was a gold mine sitting there in the open.
How about digging some, huh?
If you have the picture of what instrument playing is like, you might know that music schools all over the world prefer to favor a definite number of pieces from music literature. In short, there is in music learning the equivalent of what is assigned reading in other schools. For example, pianists will, in large numbers, meet with the pieces of Rachmaninoff once they get to a certain grade. Violinists will most definitely encounter the Bruch concerto, or Mendelson’s concerto in e-minor. And on and on this list goes.
What you can do in order to offer value to students, and earn money in the process, is actually very simple. Though quite a few people are doing it at this moment.
People studying music, and this is true for most of them, would kill to see a masterclass where someone is playing the piece they are currently working on. The bigger your archive of music, the larger the audience. Greatest thing of all – these pieces never change, nor does the curriculum in most schools for hundredths of years. Which makes your content very evergreen, and equipped to endure the test of time.
Here is what I will do – hire a couple of music professors, and record them for a dozens of seminars. Each seminar includes a different piece, and preferably a different student playing (professors you would have to pay, students are likely to agree free of charge). I know this doesn’t need mentioning, but the better the professors and students, the better the quality of your content. The ways it can be delivered are numerous at least. The monetization possibilities are colorful too.
You can offer free videos and then paid premium content down the road, or monetize by having visitors sign up for live music seminars with the professors who are being featured. English is preferable so this can speak to a larger audience, but you can very well try this model in Russian, Spanish, French, German, Japanese and so on.
As for marketing, you can tie in something that I will explain in detail below, but is basically a niche specific Facebook page.
Say you create videos featuring hairdressers; your Facebook page will include cool pictures of haircuts and maybe beard and grooming.
Then you can use another Facebook tactic that I will explain below that is perfect for this model where you target a very precise demographic group.
YouTube marketing is a given, so you might want to set up a channel and start with free material there. Either free videos or tiny bits cropped from the beginning of each, which end with a call to action (in order to watch the full seminar, follow this link yada yada…)
Streaming video lessons (AKA teach me some Photoshop)
If you have the habit of browsing YouTube quite often, chances are that you’ve stumbled across such videos. You know, the ones where there is the dude’s monitor in the frame, and you see his cursor moving. Some include text, others voiceovers or speaking in real time, or what have you…
Pay attention to the number of views though.
It turns out that this kind of streaming is preferable when learning things like Photoshop and Illustrator, or other programs and hacks. Just as you would expect to learn karate by mirroring the instructor, some try their luck with design skills and the like in this fashion. By far, this model is the easiest to duplicate.
You will need someone who is fluent in a certain digital skill, and eloquent enough or with sense of methodology in order to put things together. Add a software solution for capturing the videos at first and you can start selling. Skills (using the lasso on Adobe Photoshop) or specific projects (designing some specific elements on Illustrator), or one and then the other… It’s up to you.
If you struggle to understand what I’m describing here, just look at Lynda.com – they earn millions.
When it comes to marketing, the options from above apply here as well. You can even promote pictures on Instagram or Pinterest, as to emphasize the final result of the lectures.
This model can also include gaming as well – teaching people certain game tactics, or simply covering broader selection of games and offering gameplay intro (many people are already doing this to great extent).
Live streaming events
Slightly different, and much harder, this is another trend that keeps spiking on the net. You can report local news from your area, or concentrate on specific topics tied with your niche – say news from the gaming industry.
Protests are best covered this way. The ones in Brazil, where a government was pressured to resign, in combination with this model, gave birth to one of the best forms of journalism.
You can even allow users to upload content, and then implement a more sophisticated voting system in order to separate quality from noise.
Throw a libertarian against a socialist, and have them argue about things like subsidies, minimum wage and a welfare state… I can watch that shit for hours. Same goes for a scientific debate on artificial intelligence.
You see, people love to watch other folks argue over something that resonates with themselves. And this can be a superb business model.
Prepare a studio, use 3-4 cameras, and start small with the lightning. Then, you can increase the space in size, use more cameras, add more LED panels or even invite an audience.
As far as post-production goes, you will need an intro, and maybe even a number of reportages. Think John Stossel from Fox and go that direction. Or head to YouTube and watch a few videos on What The Flick’s channel.
Debates can be supplemented with two or more text articles – each favoring a different side of the issue, with a call to action to watch the debate. Which can be free of charge at first. Also, you can design posters and fill in the guests names, and have them shared on social media.
Another cool idea is to have the debates live, so people can ask questions from Facebook and Twitter and keep the debate rolling.
Yet another cool thing is to make events on Facebook, so people can invite their friends and spread the whole thing, thus increasing the chances of it going viral.
Vegetarian cuisine, Moroccan, Japanese, healthy meals for people who work out… Baking cookies, pastry, pizza, pies, homemade peanut butter, cocktails, smoothies… Choose your niche and start filming.
The setting can be simple; you can do voiceovers once the video reaches post-production, use a single camera and shoot from different angles. Little experience is required, and you can scale once on your feet.
Again, it can be supplemented with a blog or pictures on Pinterest or what have you.
MMA fighting skills, bodybuilding, poker, magic tricks, dog training, TV shows and movie reviews, history or sci-fi topics… The list is broad indeed. Remember the interview on ViperChill about the poker membership site? Read it again if interested.
Hey, even adult video producers use a similar monetization method. Independent productions will film dozens of videos, and use the free platforms (adult sites) to distribute some of them – either publish few of the videos for free, or only a short version of each. I always joke with my girlfriend that if we were to go broke one day, this is the ticket out of poverty.
Jokes aside though, such a publishing business can be supplemented by a blog, and include everything from juicy stories, to tips and answers to some questions, or maybe even condoms and toys reviews.
In all seriousness now, I’m leaving this model for someone else to explore. Moral issues – they stopped me from getting richer time and again. But I digress.
Niche Consulting and Marketing
Consulting services throughout the years have grown along with the expansion of the internet. So many trends arising in the digital world, equals the need for more professional advice. Be that marketing, advertising, learning different platforms and so on.
For the dedicated individual, who happens to know a thing or two about some trend on the net, this model is a gift. But let me be less lyrical and start explaining the opportunities.
I’ve found that the more niche specific you are, the more likely it is for your consulting brand to stand out. And there are two verticals in which you can expand. Either chose by the platform, or by the niche (maybe even a combination of the two, but I will get to that later).
When you chose your niche under the platform vertical, we are essentially talking about the following:
The list is not finite and, in addition, each platform allows for more angles to explore. Like for example, you can consult people on Facebook advertising, or you can consult them on how to structure their content campaigns on the platform as well.
The other vertical is niche:
- Food Trucks
- Musicians or bands
The list can stretch to infinity, and the multiple angles of entry are here as well. For example, you can offer the hotel industry a consulting service in the field of SEO, or conversion optimization in regards to their site. But, you can also offer them unique marketing services- create their web site, specialize in SEO campaigns for hotels only, and create their whole inbound marketing strategy…
Take carpenters for example – always aim to target groups that are likely to net a boatload of money from a single client (plastic surgeons, hotels, lawyers…)
You can create a site that explains what service you provide, and include a portfolio of all the services you’ve done thus far. Behind each project, you can write an extensive case study and highlight all the steps and the ROI, so future buyers feel more comfortable due to the level of transparency.
You can also include design templates, show testimonials from satisfied customers and so forth. There is rarely a company that specializes in, say, SEO for carpenters. And since most of the groups that you target are having their business on a local level (aim to cut a deal with local businesses for the most part), you will have easier job ranking them and strengthening their brand as well.
The more niche you are, the higher the perceived value of your service becomes. Think about it, if you were to have a business in the health industry in Seattle – say a dentist – what would be your first choice?
- Company X that promotes marketing services
- Company Y that promotes marketing services for dentists in Seattle
Easy decision if you ask me. The niche distinction does the job of promoting your brand more than marketing can in quite a while. But this is about when it comes to the marketing industry. Platform consulting is different.
You can use your knowledge of a certain platform – say Facebook advertising- and sell it as a package. A smart move would be to improve your knowledge first, by spending a couple of hundreds dollars on informational products (choosing which can be a drag) and then sell your consulting services.
Why is this a profitable model? Allow me.
When a person is willing to invest in understanding how Facebook advertising works, the intent alone conveys much wisdom. It means that he understands how such small of a change can have such huge of an impact on his profit.
Tell me one thing I don’t know about SEO, which I can put to use, and I’m willing to pay you a few hundred dollars. The same thing goes for understanding a platform like Facebook. People, who are already investing time and money in the process of advertising, are willing to spend a hundred or so more, so they can learn about tactics which save them a lot of time and money down the road. Instead of having to learn what works from experience, trial and error, and a lot of money invested, they almost always chose the easy road.
And here is where you capitalize. A simple website explaining the importance of the platform (reinforce their decision of buying consulting services), how your knowledge can help them a lot, and few testimonials or case studies via numbers.
Then market your services on the same platform.
Will show you how to target a very specific group bellow. Patience young Skywalker.
This is a model that scales easily and can bring a lot of profit. Comes next year, and it might be our playfield as well. Remember those Whiteboard Friday videos over at MOZ? Well, it turns out that most of them can be packaged and sold as a video course. The Photoshop tutorials I spoke about above? They too can sell very fast as a package.
This is a model not so distinctly different from the one above. In its essence it can be a video course product. Or, you can add text within, interactive material to test knowledge, voiceovers, written content and so forth. Remember Headspace? Think in those lines.
The great thing is that you can start by selling a single course. Once the sales reach a certain number, you can then expand to another, and another, and another. Bring them thematically relevant (Photoshop, illustrator, Google Sketch…), or divide them in levels (Photoshop beginner, Photoshop intermediate, Photoshop advanced).
Similar informational products are sold on Grouper as well – in the hundreds, and then thousands. The thing is that you can sell a certain course, and then invest the money in producing two or three more. Once buying your product you can make users interested in your other products as well.
Besides, note how courses that improve a valuable skill (one that you can sell later) are way more popular. Others tend to fare good as well, especially if they are targeted at children (you can always easily justify spending money on your kid).
This is probably one of the best models in the whole of this list. So how come I’m not explaining it in more detail. Well, simply put, it doesn’t need much explaining. Everything that you do with this model is to improve the quality of it. The core of it is pretty simple.
You can invest time and money in figuring out what converts the best. Split testing to the lengths of infinity, and then some. Or, you can follow your intuition and some knowledge that I shared in the previous guide and start putting pieces together.
Design, layout, branding, marketing, social channels, and so forth… The more you scratch your head the better the product. Besides, this model has a component unlike any other. Namely, if you manage to put together a decent product, and make your site look professional, you can approach business platforms like Grouper or Amazon, and secure a listing there. And once you enter their platform… Well, the pictures above describe it better than I ever will.
The more money flow in the piggy bank, the better courses you can make. Eventually, it might come to a point where you can allow yourself to pay someone very influential to do the courses, or structure them at least. This can spike publicity since influencers can share your work via their already well established social channels.
This model can be duplicated in other languages as well. Or, sold via other platforms (Many countries have something similar to Grouper). You can then use the same product and not change the language. Having in mind how hard it can be to enter Grouper’s tight selection, you can start by listing your courses in other countries right away.
In my country, where English is not an official language, English courses still sell in decent numbers on Grouper.
Niche auctions marketplace
The auctions of the past were always appreciated for the buzz they created. They still are, by the way. Returning vast amounts of money for each separate event, there lays a business model perfectly defined.
An object – or extend it if you will – a service or event, scarce in its nature and description, is always going to generate multiple times its value when put on display for bidding.
And while offline events are much harder to manage, and far pricier to organize, the online variety oversteps serious obstacles. So how can you build a business out of bidding? Do I hear the gentleman in the back? That’s going once, twice…
While marketplaces like ebay are definitely doing well, there is an opportunity hidden elsewhere. Instead of displaying anything and everything, you can specialize in a certain set of items; or services and events (will describe this briefly in moments); or even try to bring things together thematically.
As far as items go, there is not much to add other than – pick something of value and display it the best that you can. Memorabilia and antique items tend to do well, but you can broaden your scope and include everything from a locomotive to a needle.
Services and events are a separate category. Like for example – how many people are running with their wallets open, just to listen to Tim Ferriss talk at a seminar? The seats are sold within minutes. Add a bidding element to the sale, and profit can skyrocket multiple times. As far as services go, how much do you think a music band can charge for a wedding? Infinite much, if you add the bidding element. How about renting property? All the cabins in the area can be sold and reserved for Christmas – how far do you think a bidding auction might raise the profits?
This business is fairly hard to materialize, and requires multiple elements of online expertise.
First thing first, you will need to do a lot of research. Once satisfied with the numbers, you can go ahead and choose your niche. How about a nerd heaven? Toy models, limited edition comics, tickets to cool events… Just an example to have in mind, as you go ahead and do the visualization.
Or you can specialize in movies, and everything Hollywood related. Limited edition blu ray and DVD boxes, autographs, unique posters of movies, toys, movie scripts, tickets to premiers etc. Just painting a more vivid picture.
What follows next is searching for a supplier – namely, a place from where you can draw infinite number of items to sell. At this point you can do the legwork and buy items locally, or visit online shops, but you can also structure the marketplace so it is open to users to sell their own stuff as well. Choosing the model is all up to you and your niche.
Next on the line is design, branding, and more importantly programing the marketplace. You will need a payment processing system, filters in the dozens, and a site architecture that allows technical advantage. Don’t look for loops in my words, for you will find plenty- you need a programmer who knows his trade. I’m mute when it comes to it.
Later, a blog section can be added, just so you can bring visitors to the site easier at the beginning.
You can do this model on a scalable level, renewing your stash over and over or, as a single project in order to clear the collection of stamps or Magic the Gathering cards sitting in your basement (what type of person are you? Keeping MTG cards no place else but in your basement. Jeez…)
Jokes aside though, making the platform user friendly, and allowing users to adopt it as their own- a place where they can grow their business- can go a long way.
Location-specific travel website
Listening to my rant for more than two dozen thousand words, I think it’s safe to assume that we are kinda getting close. As in – I can now be completely and somewhat awkwardly transparent.
Cause why not, right?
What I’m about to share includes a project we’ve been working on for some while. It is largely set aside, with most of our effort being directed on other pursuits. Thing is – this model is as evergreen as they come, which is partially the reason why we can afford such luxury as putting it on hold for indefinite periods of time.
All started when a friend of ours (remember the guy with the tourism marketplace model from above?) came up with a very cool idea. He thought that it would be really smart to try and capture the incoming tourism traction that is coming from outside to a certain area.
For most people are browsing Google before they book a flight and a hotel, so the assuming went crystal clear- why not rank really high, like really high, for a certain set of keywords connected to a geographical area (a city, an island, a small country…)
This is harder than it sounds, but when you pick a place that sits somewhere between cool and tourist friendly but relatively unknown, and popular worldwide, you capture the golden middle.
We teamed up, the three of us, and decided to give it a go.
The plan was simple – create a site that presents the location at its best – and drive massive amounts of traffic via Google primarily. Then, once they enter the site, use content in order to convert them into buying an affiliate offer (booking a hotel, flight, rent a car, a local tour…)
And so we started creating. Word by word, pixel by pixel, piece by piece… the puzzle was slowly revealing itself.
And before I lose myself with the story and go for a happily ever after, let me just say that we learned lessons that can be of value to our respected reader – yourself. What follows is me drawing lines between what works and why is that so. But first…
This model is freakishly cool because… c’mon, you can guess right away…
Let me put it plain and simple – it can be duplicated nearly thousands of times. How so?
Well, as you decide to go location specific, the choice broadens beyond your finger count. Far beyond – think more like all the cool places in the entire (yes entire) world.
The more specific you go, the better the chance for ranking high, and ranking easy.
Now, with that out of the way, let me highlight few remarkable facts.
These sites are fairly easy to put together. And scalable to your hearth’s content. Idea boner fact ahead- you don’t even need to visit the place.
I’ve long felt the need to put this model into words and give it the extended treatment it deserves. So first things first.
Choosing the location is the pillar of your success
Remember, think somewhere in the lines of cool, but not that popular. We decided to go with Macedonia – a small country in the Balkans. Much to offer in terms of hospitality and attractions, though shy on the look-at-me-I-am-popular end. Google searches are what we were building this model on, so when a trip to Google Keyword tool returned sweet numbers, our minds were set.
Choosing the location might as well be the most difficult part. There is much to take into consideration. On-site knowledge, doing research about the culture and the people, examining everything between prices in local stores and geopolitical turmoil… Finding this out was easy-peasy since we managed to put our foot on the ground.
Start by searching for booking listings. Look carefully at the prices, and more importantly on how many listings are per location. In addition, pay close attention on how easy it is to book a stay, i.e. are there any available units. If it is very easy to reserve, there is probably not so much buzz going on about this specific location.
Irrespective of the fact, do some research on Google about the place and see whether or not it has the potential to attract tourists. This is highly subjective, so try to be realistic here. Besides, other forms of marketing are also important. When we decided to go with our location – Macedonia, the government already marketed heavily on CNN. Thanks government.
Macedonia, it turns out, has a tremendous heritage to offer, as well as impeccable and very scenic nature. Stack that with great food, music, and nice people and you get a golden ticket.
Gather the info
The next step that you are about to take, partially verifies whether you’ve made the right location choice. If it proves hard to gather info in order to create content, pack your bags and move along (sometimes literal bags, if you decide to do the research by yourself).
Most of the info I was interested in, was already floating on other websites, so in order to start creating the content I scavenged almost all websites ranking at the first 10-15 positions on Google. I’m good at doing that, though it’s a skill you can easily acquire over time. On-site knowledge helped a ton, and my girlfriend was thrilled to participate for a handful of mountain bike rides across the country, where we used a Go-Pro for video material, and a camera for taking pictures. The other partner enjoyed himself as well, taking turns with the equipment.
If you cannot manage to participate in all the leg-work, pay someone to gather local info instead. Bonus tip- students are perfect candidates for the job- often versed in digital photography, English level decent enough for you to be able to communicate your terms, and the spare time and enthusiasm to go and travel around.
Create the website
This is the fun part – we made Discovering Macedonia in less than a month, including putting all the design, content and useful information together. Here are the things you would like to know.
The first order of business is to design the homepage. It stands for your branding, and determines the site’s architecture which in turn makes everything else fall into place easily. We are lucky that a WordPress wiz is in our team, so this task was fairly easy to cross off the list.
The next step is to design the about page, and the article page. The article page will include every topic related to the location. In our case, having a country as our location, we first decided to fit entire cities within the article design template.
If you happen to choose an island, you can, for example, go over every beach or small location instead.
Entertainment, food and dining, cultural peculiarities… Everything can fit into this design template.
Tip – try to ship your work as soon as you can, and improve upon content and design later. You can rewrite articles, redesign particular pages, add more content over time.
For now, as we are slowly acquiring links in order to rank the place, the site stays dormant- only dozens of articles inside, design and content that can be acceptable to change later, when conversion optimization methods are being introduced.
The next step is to interlink the pages within the website. User-friendly, that’s everything you have to think about when doing this.
Put interesting pictures, video, and a lot of text describing the place. The lingo you use, if you cover everything in detail, would create relevancy to the subject semantic-wise. Google will understand what you are writing about, so there is no much need for stuffing keywords. Use keyword variations, but don’t get carried away with it.
Keyword research, before you start creating the content is a crucial step to cross off the list. The previous guide redirects you to resources that exhaust this topic.
Another technical aspect you would like to address is site speed. Given the competitors in most of the industries we tried entering, a small change will set you apart by a huge margin. Guys from Google, when referring to which sites rank better, have mentioned site speed in a very positive context over and over (would usually link to an outside article, but let’s keep things quiet. Besides, it is not important to reference this at the moment).
Link building content
Once these steps are being addressed, start your link building campaign. Facebook ads can work well too, but this is an industry where search predominates.
For Discovering Macedonia we started to map what visitors are likely to enjoy while on their stay. Things like food, outdoor activities, culture and tradition. Create some evergreen content within those parameters, and voila, you have your link bait. So we set out to create:
- A Guide for traditional Macedonian meals
- An extensive guide for mountain biking in Macedonia
- An extensive guide for all the nightlife fun and where to go
- An article delving deep into everything there is to know about Macedonian wines.
- As article describing a rare event (annual village wedding that unites traditional and cultural values)
- A guide for mountain biking enthusiasts
Some of these are still in the process of creation (either the text is done and we need extra pictures, or everything we need is neatly gathered and I need to put my ass down and write).
Make these resources more in-depth than those of any competitor out there (you will be surprised of the lack of effort being put into already existing sites in these verticals). The wedding event I wrote about ranked high days after publishing.
Once you have the content make sure to share with every social contact you can think off, and find local sites and pitch to them too. Locals usually wet their pants when you show them what you’ve created about their place, so they tend to share it- a lot.
Then, and this is the frosting of the cake, find bloggers within similar verticals and do your outreach via mail, twitter, or Facebook. For here is the thing – creating those resources, you now have a rather wide spectrum of outreach opportunities. Remember, you wrote about mountain biking, dinning, nightlife, winery, and whatnot… This gives you an entry point to almost as many niches as you are creative enough to think off. For example, the wedding event I mentioned above- now created, it gives us the opportunity to go ahead and pitch wedding bloggers for links.
You can offer them to write a similar article (paraphrasing your initial one), in exchange for a link. Guess what, the link will be very relevant since it will include a very semantically-relevant jargon within the article.
The outreach process is very simple. If you are skilled enough to create the content, and make those connections, gathering outreach opportunities is a no-brainer. Simply find all the people that are likely to pay attention to the content which you created, and ask them about their opinion on it.
Repeated just enough, this process will generate a decent amount of mentions around the web. It is a repetitive, dull work, but guess what- it pays off.
The previous guide has a very cool URL, hidden somewhere within the mail outreach section. It will give you tons of clues.
Here are more than dozen ideas that will separate your site from those of competitors, both in terms of content, as well as link opportunities. Pay attention, this is golden.
The first thing you will have to do is create link baits. In short, this refers to content that has the potential to attract links without you even bothering. Having travel sites in mind here is the full scope of what it consists of.
This is a no-brainer really, since people always double check before packing their bags. Bring a sweater- don’t bring a sweater… the one question that has tormented travelers for centuries.
Here is how to go about answering this concern.
The weather forecast, in real time, is the number one thing you will have to include. And this usually takes an aggregation of some kind, for which a programmer will be required. But instead of settling with a simple forecast, there is more to it than you think.
Include historical data (for several years back) and allow people to browse climate info in retrospect as well.
This helped me a ton when booking our vacation last summer, when I was thoroughly reassured by checking sea water temperature in the Ionian island of Corfu for the last five years. Given the date- September- I needed this info so badly for fear of this year’s forecast being a temporary and weekly flux. Reassured that water in September is just fine five years back, I opened up my wallet.
Another thing you can also include on the page is general info. How the mornings usually feel during summer, how the air humidity levels feel like for visitors… You can include charts of info showing rain percentages over the years, or number of sunny days throughout the year.
Keep the visitors interested – text info, then a chart of some kind, and maybe pictures as well. The more you reveal the better. And remember, contextual as this all is, it will rank far better on search engines. Both in terms of relevancy, but links as well (people love linking to pages as the one I just described).
The all-inclusive map
Before explaining what this one is, let me share some happy news- people love linking to travel websites. I’ve noticed this handful of times, and I keep witnessing it ever since. Try asking a few site owners to link to your personal blog, or one about lifestyle, fitness, food or whatever… They are overly cautious and very reluctant to share a link. Traveling websites on the other hand, especially those that seem to exist without a person behind the wheel, are more likely to appeal to everyone.
This is a strange example of how people react on the web, but true nonetheless.
These types of websites seem less personal and very useful to an outsider. Referencing to one of them makes everyone to look professional and quite resourceful.
Now back to our content.
The all-inclusive map is one of the most useful pieces of info that someone can put together. Hire a web developer to do a similar version of what we have here- a map where you can chose the items, and they pop-up at different locations around.
Select hospitals, and voila, you get to see where they are on the map; then pharmacies, and watch how the map stays the same, while items are replaced so you can see pharmacies now instead… I hope you don’t need these on your next vacation btw.
Another thing you can do in order to forever seal the value difference you have going on with the competitors, is allowing people to click items on the map. But what happens then, you ask?
Well, once a person clicks on an item, say a restaurant, he is being taken beyond the fold, and shown the restaurant info in a brief (a picture or two, short wall of text, maybe even rankings… Taking this from Foursquare is likely the first step- you can develop your own content later.)
Then a link for further info can be included, so you make this resource even more valuable. Now tell me who wouldn’t link to such a great piece of content?
Note that these link building and content ideas can be implemented in other industries as well. You just have to be creative and scratch your head a little. For example, having a pet shop business, one can benefit from this strategy as well. Instead of restaurants and hospitals and what have you, you will then include parks for dogs, veterinarians, dog shelters, and your chain of stores… Oh, I see the links coming in a group.
Cost of living
Include price of food, entertainment, transport, dining, accommodation, everything and anything… Write few paragraphs about local malls and info specific to locals only (who is allowed to buy alcohol, and what time stores usually close…)
Include pictures of restaurants, malls, everything contextually related with the text you have on page.
As a bonus, allow people to choose in what currency they want the prices to be shown. Helping you on this quest, visit Numbeo for a couple of times.
Write them down, explain what they mean, and even add audio content next to each one (say, a play button and a loudspeaker icon, that once clicked are going to play an audio recording of the phrase in native language).
This is a golden piece of content, believe me.
Food and beverages
A whole guide about food, with pictures, recipes of popular dishes, historical context thrown in there as well… You can cross-reference restaurants, recipe pages and articles about beverages (like for example the one we created in Macedonia).
You can also include video content of recipes with narration as well, or hire someone to put it into an infographic.
If you invest yourself enough, there is no competition that is likely to match. By the way, doing a parallel job at the moment collecting info about Macedonian food, I can tell you this – it is fun with capital letters.
Celebrities love people writing about them
And you should leverage this to the max. Namely, creating resource pages (something like Wikipedia entries) of celebrities is all that you need. Bio, pictures, a few paragraphs of nice words gathered from around the web… Share this with celebrities themselves, and you will see social traction in the high octane.
But what if people don’t link to this content, i.e. cannot find it on the net? Easy-peasy. Search for places where there is a mention of-in our case – weather in Macedonia, Macedonian food, restaurants in Skopje, Macedonian phrases, cost of living in Macedonia, prices in Macedonia etc. Use all keyword variations, and see who is already linking to pages that have similar content. Wherever you think that your resource is far better, simply do an outreach by contacting the site. Then continue with sites that mention the topics but forget to link to them.
Also search for broken links that were once referring to such content. Site owners are delighted when you show them broken links on their sites, and more so when you provide a substitution – in this case an impressive one.
Sites love well designed infographics. And travel sites love them even more. Especially if the infographic you are sending them is presenting content that is hard to come by anywhere else on the web.
Have your articles – some of them – converted into infographics, and start doing some outreach. Provide them with a couple of paragraphs of text if need be, and earn great links. And now you notice how guest posting is not limited to text alone.
- List articles- people love them. Add unique pictures that capture attention, write interesting paragraphs for each, and serve this content to other travel websites. They will eat it through and through.
- Specific interviews. With pictures and whatnot. Interview local musicians about the music in the area, local bar owners about the nightlife, craftsmen about specific cultural heritage- exp. Filigree.
Specific and attention capturing as this can be, you can pitch to more authoritative websites.
Remember how I said that these methods of link building and content creation can be used for other niches as well. Take notes and stay creative, everything is useful. For the example about the pet shop store- you can interview dog trainers or veterinarians in your area, and offer this content to local sites.
A veterinarian giving advice on how to deal with ticks, right before spring comes? Oh that is some great piece of content.
Another fun fact – you can hire a translator, and publish the content on other similar industry related sites in say – Russian, Portuguese, German… Google knows how to translate semantic meaning and keywords, and you end up with a bunch of relevant links for as little as 5 dollars each worth of creating. This right here can sky rocket your link building efforts, regardless of your industry. And oddly enough, no one even talks about it on the net.
News sites, at least for such local areas, kinda suck. They are usually outdated in terms of innovative content, and are typically your local newspaper- run by a fifty year old- transferred on the web. Forgetting to learn the change in style and format of publishing, they can use a hand.
And here is where you come into play. Stick around these sites long enough to see something interesting to report about. Say, in Macedonia, there is this political crisis that threatens to ruin the economy, and potentially the stability of the country.
What you have to do is gather info about it, and pitch to other news sites from abroad. They will all say thanks for the content, especially because you have done enough research and appear to know a lot about the area.
But the far better thing you can do here is to pitch to local news sites. Have this in mind- innovative content is something they have no clue about. So, knowing this, you can proceed by creating an infographic, or a retrospective timeline of events that is nicely designed in graphics, and accompanied with a lot of text and images. If you cannot manage to communicate this through with editors, try pitching to a local journalist, and allow him to use this content under his name exclusively. You are only after the link- no publicity is ever required.
The great thing about publishing on these local sites is the relevancy of the link. Namely, these sites have mentioned, on more than dozens of occasions, all the relevant location specific keywords you try to rank for. They probably have a category on their site named after something you try to rank for. This is very relevant content, and thus a very relevant website to be posting on. Google knows this and rewards you appropriately through its algorithm.
Video material can go a long way
Viral as ever, you only need to find the right topic and engage the spark. Here is something fairly entertaining.
Remember those videos with foreigners trying to pronounce your country’s specific phrases, names and locations? Those are the ones we are after.
And the scope broadens a little bit as well. So you can:
- Film a video with foreigners pronouncing words and names.
- Film a video with foreigners tasting food and beverages (this goes as viral as they come)
- Film a video with foreigners describing their experience (edit footage in a way that is entertaining; add music, some graphic intro or video footage from the place… This can also be offered to other websites dealing with multimedia content)
The thing to remember here, is that such content is relatively easy to create (head straight to a hostel- negotiate things out with the hostel owner- you can include the hostel logo and a short footage of it at the end of the video– and spend an hour filming the footage), and goes viral in an instance (the people included are likely to share, their friends, the hostel staff, the hostel’s fan page, and things kinda take off from there if the video is nicely done).
Remember the example with the pet store from earlier – you can film a video with a bunch of different dogs trying dog food or snacks.
*Note in a note – if you ever decide to make something similar in order to market dog related products or services, I have a bunch of cool-ass ideas floating around. Just saying.
Buy your content, buy your links.
Before you go all but-Google-doesn’t-allow-that on me, let me explain the process.
While link buying has been heavily attacked by Google, there are alternative ways to consider. And don’t worry young Jedi, this is not the dark side.
What I refer to here is going to places like People Per Hour or similar marketplaces like the ones we were discussing way above, and find people who are willing to write and publish content on authoritative websites for a certain fee.
These are folks who over the years have acquired access to sites like The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Lifehacker, Techcrunch and the like.
And now, they are using their access in order to monetize. Since they are writing content for these sites all the same, why not throw a link in there as well? Depending on the site we are talking about here, the price can go between 50 and 500 dollars. But know this, a very relevant link (they write the article with your topic in mind), and one placed on such an authoritative website, is going to improve your domain authority by a huge leap.
There is a short section below, explaining how you can become a publisher on sites like the Huffington post, and earn links as you please. This is, no doubt at all, another golden ticket.
All the way down, and still not a single kitten in sight? You must be disappointed.
Here, kitten for you.
Private blogging networks
The last tactic I will share when it comes to growing your link profile for the travel site is one that manages to bring most SEO’s fists apart. Much has been written about the legitimacy of this tactic, which honestly made me feel skeptical whether or not this is the right place to share such information.
Have you ever heard of private blogging networks? Probably not. Thing is, they are kept in secret.
Here is the full scope of what they do, and how you can leverage them for the best.
A private blogging network is a network of blogs that you own. What for, you ask? In the shady part of the SEO world – links, of course. And people have built them for years before Google decided to hit heavily on this practice and penalize involved sites. There are, at least for now, ways around.
But why am I sharing such a tactic?
Turns out – it works rather well. And that’s the thing about Google- they strive to improve the algorithm, but in the process of doing this some practices manage to slip through fairly undetected if you do them right. This means very unfair advantage against the competition. That is, if you are willing to take the risk.
But here is where things get rather interesting. As shady practices are easy to scale, they are very likely to get easily detected. A private blogging network, when created sloppy, gets your sites penalized.
Here is how to approach this.
While most people building private blog networks (PBN from now on) are lazy, you should pay additional attention. This means:
- Making sure that sites are hosted on different hosting providers or separate packages.
- Making sure that there is variety in the setup (while some of them are free WordPress themes, others are paid or not created in WordPress at all)
- Varying the design from one to the next
- Different domain names, some bought from GoDaddy, others from NameCheap etc.
- Editing the content in different ways for each site of the network
- Updating the content by following a different schedule
- Varying the tone and voice of each site
- Diversify the architecture of each- while some are divided in multiple categories, others have a homepage and a single about page.
- Different mail setup and Ip-addresses as well. Google is getting smarter by the day.
- See to it that you are careful with the anchor text, and patterns in linking to your site (while one link coming from site X includes a matching keyword, other from site Y includes your URL; while some links point to your site from text only, others come from within clickable images; while some links are placed at the very beginning of articles, others are buried within the references; also make sure to keep the link-out ratio to other sites fairly non-suspicious: it is strange that all of these sites point to you and you only. So it goes that you will make some of them pointing to your sites, but to other related sites as well. Some of them link to Wikipedia, others to forums etc.)
And while you shouldn’t worry that much and adopt the same level of paranoia when it comes to your PBN being detected, I advise you to cross at least two thirds of the points above off the list.
See to it that the sites you create within the network resemble random naturally created sites. So it goes that the more useful you make them, the less likely it is to get penalized. A hint would be to put all content that you are hesitant to publish on your main site right here.
Treat them like regular sites, build them like ones too. Add content, invest some time and effort.
But why are they so useful, you ask?
Well, it turns out that they deliver a couple of advantages:
- First, they help in diversifying your link profile. More links coming form more sources. Google, at least in my experience, still places unproportioned value on this one.
- They help in bringing some very, very relevant links. Remember, you control the content from where the link comes, so logic dictates that you can make it as relevant as you please.
- You control the sites. This means changing links, deleting them altogether if a penalty arrives…
The case against them? Risky if done sloppy, not authoritative at all, cost a lot of time and effort to manage. Dollars as well (you will have to pay hosting and domain fees each year, as well as hire a content creator to keep up with the content updates if need be)
If you take the previous tactic where you pay money to a person in order to have a link from a very authoritative website, the case against PBNs suddenly becomes quite stronger. But there, I’ve spelled this one as well coming from both ends.
Fun fact – you’ve just read 5000 words for this model only. Congrats, there were hardly 100 people in the world who knew such info before this guide was published. Imagine the advantage if you weren’t as lazy as I am.
Importing from China and selling online
It took me three years to discover this jewel. And the sheer scope of it mesmerized both me and my partner. It turns out, though majority of folks are ignorant of the fact, that China is supplying large segments of both the Asian, but also American markets as well.
Here is a quote from the first section of this guide:
Ever heard of AliExpress? Allow me… AliExpress is part of AliBaba. A Chinese online giant that lists suppliers. Of what, I hear you asking? Of a needle, and a locomotive, and everything in between- starting from single item shipping, all the way to tens of thousands of items per week.
Having in mind the cost of labor in China, and technologies like 3D printing exploding over the last few years, you can guess that AliBaba is the cheapest place to buy in bulk from. Amazon sellers know this, and well, they are taking full advantage of it. Having in mind the fact that import from China to US doesn’t cost a dime on customs, you can guess another thing as well- The western market feeds AliBaba more than it can chew. A fact that is turning around even as I write this.
Before I start explaining this model, four stories come to mind.
Story #1 – Woodies
There was a guy who posted somewhere far, far away on the internet. The story starts with his journey to China, where his entrepreneurial mind quickly glued together everything I’m trying to explain here.
On his way back, he brought a couple of bamboo watches, and few bamboo sunglasses. Friends in the US loved them.
So, infected with this idea, he decided to buy those glasses in bulk-from China- and try his luck in retail. The online dream was born.
Nowadays, his online store is very successful and he has sold, to this date, more than a couple of thousand pairs.
Story #2 – Standing paddle boards
Another business savvy mind, who decided to share his story on Reddit. And it goes like this:
There was a guy once who after a lot of hustle decided to order few dozen standing paddle boards, and sold them online. He used his store, Amazon, and even craigslist.
He continued to supply demand, and made continual profit happily ever after.
Story #3- Air guns
Another relatively unknown genius of the internet marketing space, who at age 16, after a lot of trial and error with lots and lots of imported products, ordered a huge shipment of air guns from China, and sold them on Amazon.
His stories are available online for free, and if you decide to go down this road, there is much to learn.
Startup Bros- is what you write in Google’s query box.
Story #4 – Cards against humanity
A viral sensation of few years back. Here is what the buzz is all about.
A company that sells a deck of cards. And this is not your usual Tuesday-night-of-Bridge type of deck. It is a kill-boredom and fun type of game, where you combine two cards in order to say something awkward and funny.
Here is the truth- I don’t have a clue on whether or not these cards are made in China. It might as well be that they are produced in the States. But here is why I decided to include them.
While many goods are easy to buy and import from abroad, the guessing goes that something that is made out of paper, is simple enough (cards in black and white) to produce, and hard to go wrong in the process of production, will cost rather low.
China has, as I’ve witnessed myself through extensive research, some of the best factories for paper item production. And they run non-stop, at prices that are simply unimaginable for US companies.
Carton boxes, puzzles, books etc… You can even send them a design sketch of your product, and they will try to match expectations. The card game market is booming, but anything else that comes to mind can be materialized.
Ordering from AliBaba
The great thing about these companies you are trying to reach is their dedication to customer service. In their eyes, there is little difference between a just-checking-around type of person, and someone who buys tens of thousands of items per week. Everyone is a potential client.
Knowing this, they approach each inquiry rather seriously.
So it goes, that before you make a large purchase, you’d be wise to ask them for samples. A serious and dedicated supplier will meet your request nine out of ten. Those who say otherwise, are better to be ignored.
The next thing you have to pay attention to is seller’s rating. Look for customer feedback as well if you can.
Order listed items, or send emails asking about certain design ideas of yours. Know this though – it is less likely for most companies to try and meet such demand. Having an already established relationship with them (you’ve made purchases in bulk, and are coming back time and again) gives reassurance on their end that such an investment is likely to bring sales. Start by selling something that is already out there.
For starters, order an item that is simple enough and usually comes in one part. This is wise for a couple of reasons. First, there is less chance for the item to malfunction, or to be damaged through shipping. Also, it means more durability, and hence better customer satisfaction.
Oh, and avoid products that are to be applied to the skin (fluorescent gels), or to the mouth (flutes or such). Far riskier line of work.
Ask for samples from as many suppliers as you can before making sure which one to go with.
Selling the items
The guy with the wooden glasses, he sold them on his site, mostly by cutting deals with Grouper at the beginning. The other one with the boards used Amazon, craigslist and a website. The air guns went on Amazon too, and the cards both Amazon and a separate site.
This draws the conclusion before I can start typing – have more than one place for selling the items.
Let us first discuss Amazon
This is a marketplace that serves some of the wealthiest countries in the world, and is consumerism’s own advocate. With many billions of annual profit, and customer data skyrocketing each year, they know how to close them deals.
What do you need to know?
First, know the landscape.
Amazon allows participants to send the items to its warehouse, and is more than happy to take care of the rest. That being said, shipping is someone else’s problem and not your own. Even better – they charge you for shipping and handling only after the sale is complete. Meaning that you won’t pay a dime unless you earn your money first. This program – fulfillment by Amazon – is one of the most important aspects of their business.
Hone your description of the product to perfection, use bullet points, clever copywriting, FAQ etc. Add stunning images, and see to it that most of them are large.
Then, make sure to drive sales and up the review count. Incentivize people to jump in and give you a hand. Positive reviews on Amazon stand for almost all of the success you are trying to make.
Deal with negative ones as fast as you can, sending either refunds or amazon gift cards, or replacing the product no questions asked. While this may put a lot of financial burden at the very beginning, it is immensely worthwhile down the road.
Use the add placement by the amazon platform, and gather data on which keywords bring the most of customers and sales (this info is available). Then, refine the ads, and bring even more traffic. Besides, Amazon pages rank fairly easy on Google. Everything else we’ve discussed in regards to link building so far, perfectly applies here, and then some.
Also, try to bundle products where they make sense. Almost all online informational guides point to this fact.
Before heading to the next stop- selling items on your own website- here is another point worth mentioning: You can buy items locally instead of importing them from abroad. Think auctions, garage sales, even scraping local neighborhoods for items they are dispensing and throwing on the sidewalk.
Build your own site
What you instantly notice when analyzing successful projects is that they have websites of their own. While some are honed to perfection, others exist with the sole purpose of making their product seem a tad more credible.
Take the examples above in consideration.
Cards against humanity and Woodies have really well designed websites. Take the first for example.
A minimal, clean designed site, which seems like an extension of their product. The matching colors, the informal and fun tone, and a simplicity so elegant yet able to glue together a number of proven marketing and selling techniques.
Let’s see what is on display.
- The animated slider above the fold does a perfect job in capturing the fun you get to experience while playing. Spend few seconds there (and you will because of the appealing animated movement) and you are hooked.
- The section beyond the fold starts even before you scroll, reaching one third of the screen on the homepage. The contrasting background along with the interrupted image and text, kind of suck you in into further reading. Then, a very informal and appealing style is being used, along three additional useful elements.
- The Buy option which is highlighted in dark yellow, grabbing attention, along with price included so you get as much information as you need a single glance away.
- The download for free option, which still manages to bring on board those who initially decided to bounce. (Kind of a free trial, that later converts them into buyers- nothing to be lost and much to gain)
- The short praises and testimonials sliding one after the other. All from cool and reputable sources (building such a network goes a long way)
- The site continues true to its character, and follows with a section of sliding offers all presented in a similar informal tone.
- Then there is the newsletter for upcoming releases, and a final section of FAQ (marvelously put together), as well as a suggest box for card ideas.
If such a quality website seems hard to develop, at least put efforts in making your product feel like a legit thing. I promised a lot of tactics ahead, now to keep my word.
Starting with giveaways
If your product is of a digital kind, this is the smartest tactic you will ever utilize. Since there is no cost for sharing it, you can literally give it away to millions of visitors. Here is a twist though.
Start by selecting your group – giving it away to anyone out there simply lowers its perceived value.
Make it look like you are selecting among candidates. A simple selection process will do- think mail subscription, or sharing via social channels (both of which pretty useful later on). Make it so that every visitor who gets it for free, is nearby to listen to the upsell that might come months ahead- courtesy of email subscriptions. Or, make visitors who get your product for free, brand advocates by sharing.
If your product is contagious – the cool way – don’t bother with anything from above, and simply give it away.
The example with the deck of cards, and Headspace, if you remember from the previous guide. The subscription model is best served this way- a visitor gets the product for free, hooks up, and is likely to pay the price tag when the next month comes.
All in all, put weight on the giveaway if it is a subscription model, and mention it more than once in your pitch. If it is a product sold via different payment method, make it so that visitors have to do something in order to get it. Make that something fairly easy, and remember that it is simply there in order to increase the perceived value.
Giveaways can produce a lot of mentions around social channels, and a lot of search queries thus creating demand. But it is the next kind of giveaways that drives more mentions around the web, and audience amplification.
Nicely packed, and sent with regards to influencers.
If it is a digital product, use the tools and tips mentioned in the previous guide in the section about e-mail communication and outreach. Make sure you capture the influencer’s attention. A great way to do this is to send a well written e-mail, throw in some praise (don’t cross the line and forget yourself with flattering), and allow him to share your product, for free of course with his audience if he wants to- a giveaway within a giveaway.
This way you are creating a lot of buzz about your product, and it is placed in front of new sets of eyeballs.
Contact other companies as well, and don’t limit yourself to influencers only. For example, you can send an e-mail to the owners behind Cards against humanity and allow them to use your product for free. Do this if you can clearly draw a connection between what you have to share and the nature of their business, company, vision… For example, here are two dots:
- Dot one – Moz is a company that values company culture a lot. They want to do things together- be that challenges, trips around the globe, sharing cool stuff from the net via mail.
- Dot two – the fitness product we are making can be a cool way of socializing, and something they can talk about. Besides it is improving the health of an individual, and this is a company that seems to pay attention to its employees rather much.
Making this connection within your mail pitch, and knowing how to sell the idea can go a long way. Imagine Moz’s crew being part of your brand advocates team. Powerful, right?
Bloggers and YouTube influencers
AKA people who have reach. Again, draw the connections. Figure out a way to pitch these people so it looks like your product or service is somehow related to their brand. Over the years we received emails in the hundreds or more, asking us to promote something, to publish about something, to give mentions…
Some were good, and we seriously gave them a thought, others were a pain to read and instantly landed in the delete folder.
Thing is, you have to pay attention to a couple of principles.
- 1. if there is some sort of connection between what you sell and what the influencer’s audience cares about, then by all means craft the pitch. Otherwise, it is debilitating to both you and he who receives it.
- 2. if there are pros in your pitch, and gain involved for the receiving party, make sure it is nicely highlighted. Nothing overstressed, but go vague and you lose the point of the pitch.
- 3. follow up on your mail. This is probably something you already know, especially if you clicked through the links for assigned reading somewhere in the mail section of the previous chapter. How you do it, and how many times, I won’t repeat myself here- it is a small and separate science- one that is perfectly described in the previous guide, and through the links it points out to.
- 4. Consider two offers (though not limit yourself there)- give them the product for free so they can make a personal review (this makes sense if the product is of higher value); or, allow them to share the product for free with their audience (if the product is lower on the price tag.
Affiliates are cool, but vendors are super-duper-cool
The infinite-scrolls-long section on affiliate marketing back in the previous guide? It delves deep into all the possible pros and cons of being an affiliate marketer. In all fairness, it says nothing in regards to being a vendor.
Quick note – a vendor is a person who allows others to sell his product for a certain percentage. Actually quite the opposite of affiliate marketer.
Whatever you sell, you can become a vendor. You can become a vendor even if you have nothing to sell. Many times people pay affiliates only for acquiring a lead, or even a mail address.
Think of it like this – those religious sects trying to convert people? They don’t sell anything, but will pay those who bring them new followers. Affiliate marketing, even though there is no product or a service in sight.
And why am I saying this? Partially to highlight the flexibility of what affiliate marketing means, but moreover to encourage you to see yourself as vendor even if you have a very small priced item to sell.
All the networks mentioned in the previous guide? You can apply for a vendor status. But that is not where you stop.
See, many bloggers and influencers are searching for the right product to sell. They may have a huge following, but nothing of value to sell. In other words, they are short of a product. If yours is the one suitable for their audience, you can forget affiliate networks (cut the middleman) and pitch an offer directly to them.
Example- we can offer this guide (and will in the following weeks) to many affiliate networks, and pitch bloggers who operate in the earn-money-online field.
This is a powerful trick to leverage. The more people think that others are approving of your product, the higher the conversion rate. This is a technique, though naïve at a glance, that manages to work its charm time and again for decades.
There is a set of socio-psychological elements at play that never fail with this one.
At first, even if you don’t have any actual user feedback, turn to your friends and relatives. Pictures are enticing, and happy faces influence the visitor tenfold.
Later, you can leverage the connections in your industry, and ask fellow product creators, fellow bloggers and entrepreneurs to write something about your work. Drawing a line between this section and the previous one, you can follow up with another mail where you ask for feedback, if you succeeded in convincing them to try or review your product.
Reddit is powerful, use it
People love case studies. Especially influencers and those who create. By some chance, these are the most sought after people in any industry, and capturing a bit of their attention usually goes a long way.
And Reddit is where they are likely to gather.
As an example, consider the case studies mentioned in this and the previous guide. They all managed to create a lot of traction. And to realize that those who are behind the posting had no influence or reach prior is both encouraging and verifying.
You can appear as nobody, and win the affection of all those influencers and passionate people without regard to the industry.
Made a YouTube show about parents dealing with difficulties while raising a child with Autism? Case study the production of the show, the concept, the early stages of delivery and traffic generation, and the feedback, or the entire industry for that matter… Those interested will bite right into it.
And know this- every business model can be translated into a well written case study. You just have to think hard enough. It will appeal to either A-passionate people from your industry or B-entrepreneurs with insatiable hunger for learning. Both of which are very likely to amplify your reach.
Draw visual connections
One of the most powerful tactics of all.
What you do here is creating a visual piece of content that is well researched and surveys an industry by either feedback or chronology or some interesting type of division.
Let me put all of that into context.
Say we are trying to promote our fitness course using this technique only. Pay attention, this is an actual thing we are currently working on.
We take the growth of the fitness industry, all of the prominent figures as well as all of the trends and fads. Put that info into a visual timeline like this one here, and you have your bait. Huge publications would kill for such a piece of content, which means that you will have maximum exposure.
Even without having someone to back you up, you can still publish it on your own website, and use Facebook advertising, Reddit, or try your shot at Google rankings. This is powerful, take my word for it.
Draw contextual connections
A tactic unlike any other when it comes to amplifying your reach.
Here is how it goes.
You gather a bunch of influencers (or your average Joe if you are shy on the networking end) and ask them a simple question. Mash up articles – what they are called.
Once the people who are being surveyed start answering, put all of those answers in a piece of content and edit them nicely. The publishing method is the same described only paragraphs above.
- Make it contextual – meaning, if you are selling basketball shoes, ask basketball players what is their favorite model. Don’t forget to list yours at the end and write something about it. Bret McKay did a great job by composing this article, though he forgot to mention his very similar product at the end (his Art-of-manliness notebook, which he sells in his online store on the site).
- Try to copy what Bret did here – Twitter outreach. There is no way on Earth you can make it easier for a person to answer. Besides, there is the social pressure forcing him to act nice and don’t ignore your pitch. Emails are likely to end up unnoticed, Twitter posts on someone else’s wall, not that much. Aim for a short and specific question though, and one that is answered in the same way- with a short and specific answer.
- Include pictures within the article. You can either place a picture of the person answering, or his logo, or his answer in its entirety. Remember those articles where there are segments of letters being captured and published as they are? That tends to go viral. Once we open our fitness product to the market, we will aim to compose a piece of content that goes like this – how bloggers are keeping fit – and pitch more than few dozen of bloggers with the question. As a thank you gift, we might also give the workout for free or allow them to organize giveaways of their own with it.
Thus connecting this with one of the previous tactics.
Two very cool strategies
Tim Ferriss, a while ago, answered a question about traffic generation on his podcast. In giving a very detailed and lengthy response, a learned something I have never considered before.
And since this guide went noticeably out of control in regards to length, I will try to explain this as short as I can.
He tries to rank for things one or two years from the week he publishes them. Can you imagine that?
His point of view is that very long content always wins. So he makes articles or podcasts that extent far beyond what you would normally expect. In doing so, he creates something of very high value margins. Throughout the weeks and months, this piece of evergreen content earns mentions and links like crazy.
And here is the thing – he tries to write about topics that are going to be relevant even one or two years from now at least. So it goes that when people start searching Google in the future for something related, this piece of content will have a spot reserved among the first 10.
If you paid more attention, this is how Tim Urban is able to generate massive amounts of traffic. The Wait But Why mini case study from the previous guide. Browse the site and look for the Artificial Intelligence revolution article. Or even better, the article he made about Tesla.
This is not a tactic. I repeat, this is a strategy, and takes far more time. Research, creation, outreach, consistency in networking… But it pays off big time.
Educate visitors, so they become customers
Moz does it perfectly well. They educate people about SEO, and later score new customers. And it makes sense. First, having in mind the popularity of their industry and product a while back, you cannot expect a lot of customers in the first place. Luckily, the field of SEO is ever growing, and netting crazy numbers as I write this.
However, they couldn’t anticipate such a growth. So the plan was to educate people about the importance of SEO. Hence the Beginners guide to SEO, and the Whiteboard Friday series respectively.
Here is the trick. Not only they managed to educate visitors and turn them into customers, but people started realizing how important SEO is for their businesses, and one by one millions joined. In short, the effort that Moz has invested in educating their broad audience played a pivotal role in the growth of the industry. And for that I’m forever grateful. But they are as well- the more the industry swelled, the larger the pool of people interested in learning about SEO.
They headed straight to Moz, and in the process of learning connected and started to care. Now tell me something- who do you think these people will eventually end up buying SEO software from?
This is a very lucrative, but very demanding strategy- and it may take years to develop right.
Getting links from the Huffington Post
This one, my friends, is the one link that outweighs thousands. Getting a dofollow link from the Huffington post, boosts your site credibility and rankings like few others can.
Needless to say, it is one of the hardest things a webmaster can aim for. And here is why.
The Huffington post, even if you ignore how strict they are about content guidelines and content quality, receives few thousand submissions on a weekly basis. To say that reading all of this material is hard would be an understatement.
But here is something encouraging that you can wrap your mind around- they are in a desperate need of content. Despite all of the submissions, they are still publishing 1000 stories per day, and north pf 60,000 blog articles per year. Editors there are in a perpetual state of hustle.
And here is how you take advantage of all this.
Instead of submitting your content through the submission form and holding your fingers crossed for the next few weeks, you should try and connect with editors directly. The process then goes something like this:
- Find who is the editor of the section you want to be published into.
- Looking for his mail address can be easy if you use the tools provided in the previous guide, but pitching a cold email out of the blue is likely to get rejected.
Though editors here are in a constant search for good articles (they really don’t have a reason why to reject you), you will need a little bit of networking prior. Follow them on Twitter, or start commenting on most of the articles in their section. Start a conversation on social media, become a familiar face.
- Once you sense there is a weak connection going on, prepare and send your pitch. And here is the deal, ask something like: “hey X, I’d love to send a very cool article to Huff Post travel, where can I send it?” They will usually get back to you with their mail address, but if not, try this process a couple of times more, pitching a different editor of a different section.
- Your pitch should include the article, and this one should be between 800 and 1200 words of content. List articles work well for the first time you pitch. At this stage, you will include no links in there.
- Once your article is accepted, and it should be (maybe with minor changes), you will have an access to their contributor profile- meaning, will be provided with a login and a password. From there forth, every time you write a post, it will be queued for publishing, and reviewed by some of the editors and admins. You will not try to insert links in there as well.
- After a few articles published, you can republish your own articles. There is a feature on the Huff post, which allows you to republish your own content. And guess what, it will be accredited with a link to your homepage. This article first appeared on www.thisisyoursitehere.com. The link is a do-follow one, and boosts your site link profile by a huge leap.
Facebook advertising tricks
I have four of them to share. And they are simple enough to copy right away. So pay attention, we are almost at the end of this guide.
These four simple tactics can soon become responsible for the spike of traffic you start to receive if implemented. Besides, a few more business strategies can be derived from the last one as well.
Facebook tactic #1
Here is a cool piece of information you probably never thought about- If something is shared from more than one source that you like or follow on Facebook, it will end up in your newsfeed. Simple- their algorithm is far less complex than Google’s, and this is as easy of a crack as cracks can get. And with Facebook becoming more and more useful as an advertising platform, and more and more filters are improving the user experience, cracking of their algorithm will become the new trend.
Told you about how teaching people to become fluent in different platforms pays off, didn’t I?
Many sites in many industries have a very large following on Facebook. They invest a lot of money, and spend a lot of time too. No wonder they figured this out way before anyone else ever did.
So you have very popular companies, buying their competitors off, only because they too have a large Facebook activity going on.
The advice here is to create both pages for your industry, and target the same audience. Once in a while, share your most valuable content on both so it gets maximum reach.
Facebook tactic #2
Tag other popular pages in your updates. This increases your reach without question. If someone has liked a popular page- example Roger Federer- often times your updates can appear in his newsfeed, just by tagging Roger Federer’s page within your update.
Noticed how sometimes many status updates appear in your newsfeed, even though the sites posting them have nothing to do with you- never liked them, never followed them…
Well, it turns out that Facebook considers an update relevant to your taste, if it contains a tag from something you already showed interest into.
Figure out what are the similar pages to your industry, draw connections, and start tagging people and brands.
Facebook tactic #3
This one is golden. And is somewhat more complex.
To begin with, just forget all the demographic groups and categories you were concerning yourself with when putting Facebook advertising campaigns in place.
Scratch all that. Off to a fresh start.
What you will have to do is find interests that are contextually similar to your brand. Like for example, if I like to advertise this guide, I will choose Moz’s page as an interest.
But this is where it gets hard. Moz has a Facebook page, but it is not listed as an interest. In order to show up in the interest category, you will have to dig deeper, and see how they categorize their page.
See, right there, it reads software.
Knowing this, you will search for Moz, only this time adding software, or SEO software, or marketing software… After a while, and a bit of luck, there it is.
What happens next is you being able to target people who are interested in Moz.
Note that a page becomes an interest if there is enough activity going on- shares, mentions, hashtags…
To surmise the result, you will be able to advertise to people who no one else is currently targeting. Meaning- the cheapest of clicks, and tons of exposure with minimal budget.
Facebook tactic #4
Individual targeting – have you ever thought about it? What if I tell you that you can target any single person on Facebook with an ad? Sounds cool? Cause that’s exactly what I’m about to share now.
First, you will start with building a custom audience. And Facebook requires that you put minimum 20 people inside.
So, if you’d like to target one person, all you need to do is upload his email, and then add 19 other emails of 19 other people. The thing is- if your target is male, all the other 19 e-mails would be from females. Then, just another filter, by gender, and you have your ad delivered to one person.
Think about all the possibilities.
You can target influencers, people you know have money to spend, and people really interested in your industry. The ideas floating around this one are so many, I can go ahead and write an extended chapter.
Here are some tips:
- If you somehow cannot find the mail address of a specific person, try putting his Facebook ID number (the part between com/ -and- ?) in front of @facebook.com. It should work most of the time
- Look manually for people and target them one by one, or start searching for communities where there are enough people with similar needs. Maybe give them something for free, in exchange for a mail address. Then, they are all yours for targeting.
- Put retargeting cookies, so once they are in, you can follow up with another set of ads.
Try this as well:
Many people can be reached simply by doing a much narrowed search.
Take Pablo for example – he is a male, 27 years old, and graduated from the university of Ljubljana Slovenia. He also lives in Barcelona.
Adding all of these filters might result with a narrow but still larger audience than one. Nothing to worry about- while 40 people might see this ad, 39 of them will ignore it. Pablo will still be exposed to your offer.
One idea around this method – you can create a marketplace by demographic groups.
Simply create a Facebook page, and then select your audience through a series of filters. Say you create a page about searching violinists for paid gigs. Target violin graduates or students, and then, as you release your campaign ads, you will end up with a boatload of targeted likes to the page.
Later, people will end up posting offers on your wall – this always happens, especially with sites like city name-jobs. And you have your marketplace. Then, put together a website, and transfer the demand and offer there. Content, at this point is irrelevant.
And while this is a very narrow angled and specific example, I hope it does the job when it comes to opening horizons.
Here is another one as to give you an extra clue of what this can do for your business.
Head straight to entrepreneurial hubs and groups on Facebook. Look for people who post often. Write their ID’s down. Then, search for people who are running their fan pages (usually more of a high profile guys and gals).
After the ID’s are all gathered, create a site with the sole intent of gathering mastermind group applications – a site about mastermind events. The ads target these folks, who will be led to believe that these are class events, and later submit their application for attending. Voila, after a while, you have an event ready, and a business model developed out of nowhere.
Again, simply putting into perspective the scope of this single powerful tactic.
Time to do something
Ok, so where does this leave us both? Me – a few bucks wealthier, and finally able to look back at something cool that myself and my partner have created, out of all the knowledge accumulated throughout the years. Yourself? Well, you figure it out- either few hours or few bucks short, or a lot of knowledge ahead.
I sincerely hope it is the latter.
And while this knowledge is most useful when put into practice, much of it can serve as a guideline for future projects. You can keep it for later, or start experimenting right away.
Writing this was fun, as I hope reading was as well. For it is nice to be able to chronologically and methodologically list most of the ideas and experience floating within one’s head. Consuming them all at once I hope, though interesting and informative, didn’t overwhelm you.
I don’t particularly fancy pledges, but let us all make one – try to use a single thing from this guide, and see how it can improve your business, or help you to create one. If not, at least put some time aside to review every cool info you stumble across from here on now, and scratch your head trying to find a way to implement it in your project. Every morning, when you browse through sites full of info (you probably do since you managed to arrive here), put an equal time aside to figure out a way how this info can be used. Do this, and exponential growth is within a very foreseeable future.
Here is to businesses booming, and cool things happening ahead. Godspeed!
Additional reading and learning material
- How to create a million dollar business this weekend – Noah Kagan, Tim Ferriss
- Successful startups, millions lost, and everything in Between: Inside the mind of Noah Kagan from AppSumo – Smart Passive Income podcast #071
- A video about independent games provides surprising insights into marketing & the Web – Rand Fishkin, Rand’s blog
- So why do I have the platform and the recognition? – Rand Fishkin, Rand’s blog
- Darren Rowse’s presentation on WDS
- Rapid list building 2.0 – Smart Passive Income podcast #078
- 6 ways to earn higher rankings without investing in content creation and marketing – Whiteboard Friday, Moz
- The ultimate guide to making an affiliate income from your blog – Glen Allsopp, ViperChill
- The future of blogging: I had to tell you this – Glen Allsopp, ViperChill
- What should I put on the Homepage? – Whiteboard Friday, Moz
- Startups, this is how design works.
- Make sure to read as much articles as you can from the sites listed within the guide as well (ConversionXL, QuickSprout, SmartPassiveIncome, ViperChill, Moz…)