Episode #6 – Jon Dykstra Interview – 38K Monthly From Display Ads

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  • In this episode, we interview Jon Dysktra from Fat Stacks Blog who makes nearly $40,000 a month mainly using display ads on his blog sites.
  • In the interview, we talk about a ton of interesting stuff like keyword modifiers, SEO gurus, outsourcing and much more.

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Introduction: You’re listening to the build assets online podcast. Get ready to learn proven strategies on how you can build an online business portfolio from the ground up from two guys who actually do it. Now let’s get to the show.

Joe: Hey everyone, this is Joe from buildassetsonline.com here with Mike and our very good friend Jon Dykstra. Jon Dykstra is I’ve mentioned him quite a few times on our show. So he’s one of the people where when we were first starting to learn SEO, we started with the authority hacker course back in 2017. I think, you know, we really didn’t grasp the full picture of what was possible with SEO from there. And we’re going to get into that and how we applied that, how we had kind of applied Jon’s strategies later in the show. But Jon, kind of, when we took his course and his coaching program, he kind of opened up the world a little bit for us in terms of what was possible with SEO. So Jon, why don’t you tell people a little bit about what you do straight from the horse’s mouth?

Jon: Hey, thank you Joe. Hey Mike, thanks for having me guys. Yeah, we focus on content. So basically I’m more of an online publisher then you would say like online marketer. I really just focus on publishing mostly informational content. I equated to an online magazine type of website. So I don’t do anything print like some of your major magazine publications, but I focus with similar type of articles and content online across a number of topics or we call them niches. So a website would be dedicated toward a particular vertical or niche. And over the years have added several sites and in them, and some are small and some are bigger now and I just keep working on growing the readership for all of them. Readership generally stems from Google search. I would say, well, 80% 85% of the traffic is from Google search. A good chunk will be from Pinterest, used to be Facebook, not so much anymore. I think a lot of publishers relate to that. That would pretty much be up. I surprised surprisingly the amount of direct traffic to my sites and for me I really like direct traffic. For me that’s a really good signal because that means people are actually going out and seeking your site specifically to visit it for whatever reason. And I do publish pretty much daily on several of the sites, so there is a reason to return. But in a nutshell, lots of content as for monetization, just like a lot of other big online magazine sites, mostly display ads, some affiliate relationships with big merchants like Amazon and that’s pretty much it, pretty much across the board.

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Mike: Yeah, and I think you know whether you have just a content site, a niche blog or even a drop shipping website, Jon’s specialty in creating content and becoming really an authority on the subject just through informational content and through mastering the skill of publishing is useful no matter what you’re doing. Because like you were saying, if you’re getting direct traffic back to your website, that means people are building a relationship with your brand. So whether you’re monetizing that through simple display ads or you actually have like we do a drop shipping site on the backend of that, it’s I think a really great way to add free and passive income sometimes to whatever you’re doing. And of course having, you know, a lot of traffic, having repeat visitors, it boosts how much your website is going to be worth in the end. So yeah, I think what you’ve taught to us has been super valuable and definitely something that we do every day. And yeah, I think while you’re known for your content creation, like one of the biggest takeaways we’ve gotten from you has been how to actually like build a team and outsource your time. So I think it’d be good to talk about that.

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Jon: Yeah, you bet. Do you want me to jump into that right now and the outsource third?

Joe: Yeah, I do want to add one quick thing and then get into that because one of the, we just did an SEO interview with Kyle Ruff and he’s like an SEO by trade. And I think there’s like a very distinct difference between someone who is really, really deep in the technical aspects of SEO versus like a publisher like yourself. And I think in many ways your perspective is, I don’t know which one is more valuable, but I think your perspective is very, very valuable because it allows you almost to circumvent the SEO process that a lot of people think about when you’re just focused on like, okay, this is my money keyword, I’m going to rank for this. So it’s something that I think is very, very important. And I think people are too, they end up on one side of the fence way too often. So we’ll circle back to that in a sec. So but I do want to talk about outsourcing because I mean it’s one of the most important things. So tell us, what is your team looking like nowadays?

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Jon: Well, I have a few full time people that work on all the sites focusing on a few usually. They help out with a lot of just general admin work, which involves a lot of image management. I do use a lot of images across my sites, so anybody who uses images, there are a lot more work than you think because you’ve got to optimize them, you’ve got to name files, you’ve got to input alternative texts and so on and so forth. You got to place them and all of this while it doesn’t take long for one, it takes a while when you add 20 to a post. Finding them is also very time consuming and I use various photo subscription stock, subscription sites. I take my own photos when I can. And so they do a lot of photo management. They also will deal with a lot of formatting of content that’s delivered by, whether I’m working directly with freelance writers or working with a writing agency and there I use both and so there’s a lot of formatting there. So that’s sort of the in house team, a student call them or just generally referred to as virtual assistants. Huge industry as you guys probably know. Then in terms of getting content, I deal with a number of sources. I use a couple of writing agencies where they’ll have a huge pool of writers who simply pick up the article topics that you input into your back end. They pick it up, they write it to deliver. I either prove it or request revisions and then I also work with a couple of freelancers right now and that’s worked out really well. Sort of accidentally stumbled on them, reaching out to me and liking their work and been working with them and they’re doing some really good work. It’s a little bit higher end work. They cost quite a bit more and so that’s essentially it. It really boils down to content, getting the content order, figuring out what to write about and then getting in the pipeline and get it published. And that’s essentially the system is pretty simple. So I don’t need a lot of people. I don’t need a huge teams or anything like that. But you know, I’m always working to try to get more content published. I mean you read about the huge sites that have millions and millions of page views a month. I mean they pump out content. I create like 50 articles a day. I mean I’m not anywhere near that. But I mean there are sites that are doing it. So maybe in due course.

Mike: So in your opinion, do you think having someone that’s full time, if so full time you’re paying them more because you have to pay them 40 hours a week or a freelancer, which one do you think is kind of better in terms of bang for your buck?

Jon: But that’s a good question. If you have like always 40 hours week of work, it’s probably good to just have someone dedicated to fill that position. And I have that for several people. But if you, let’s say your content needs fluctuate month to month and mine actually do fluctuate and so I’m not keen on committing to somebody for a full 40 hours per week. I like the flexibility a month a month. Gives me a lot of control over my costs. So you know, if I need to make an investment into something else, I can cool it on content and deploy funds elsewhere. So yeah. You know, in terms of the VA’s, I’ve got more than enough work so they’re dedicated 40 hours. But in terms of writers, so another reason I like the agencies as well. I mean it’s very easy to adjust my orders every month and just place them monthly or weekly and I can do a little over a lot. So I really do prefer to have as much flexibility built in as possible.

Joe: Yeah, one of the things that I really liked about your course, Jon, and that we’ve implemented in a lot of different ways is that you seem to have like a lot of tools in your tool chest for doing different things on your site. For example, one of the things was like you’ll use like a quiz to keep people on the site a little bit longer. The way you do your affiliate stuff is a little different because you’re leveraging, you’re able to use thousands of affiliate networks with how you use like skim links and stuff like that. So are you like always researching and like how do you figure out what to do, how to do that stuff?

Jon: I do spend a lot of time researching. I, because you know I’m fortunate enough have been able to outsource most of the day to day work, the writing and the content and all that. So I mean that is essentially what my sites are about. But because I’ve been able to sort of step out of that leaves me a lot of time for testing and trying new things. And I do spend quite a bit of time doing that. I constantly testing display ads, different networks, different types of ads, different locations, but also different ways to make a better user experience. So you mentioned quizzes or surveys. I love using them and I used them on several websites and people like taking them and they’re fun. And in some cases the resulting data that’s collected like the stats, you know, like do you like A or do you like B better? And then you know, it shows you a 30% out of a thousand people like gay and 70% like B. Well that’s an interesting piece of information, right, that I can then use in publish in the content as well. And so that’s a big win win, right? So anytime I think I can improve user experience with various tools and gadgets on a website, I’m all for it. It doesn’t even necessarily have to earn more money. I really do like to make these sites as good as possible for people. So I’m always just sort of paying attention and reading various websites. I pay a lot attention. You sort of never step out of the publisher brain when you’re surfing, you know, reading the sites that I read just for outside of work, various news sites and so forth, I pay attention to see what they’re doing. And I’ve gathered a lot of good ideas from other sites. Just thinking of that as well.

Mike: Cool. Cool. Back to the topic of having someone like full time, you know, I think for us like, oh, what I was going to say was just a tidbit that like how important quizzes are. If you ever go on Buzz feed, it’s flooded with quizzes and so I think it’s played a part in how big Buzz feed has become as a publication. But the thing is a lot of Buzz feed quizzes are like user generated. So basically they have a huge influx of people creating like this user generated quizzes for them for free and they’ve been able to make millions of dollars off the backs of their own users because of that. But yeah, so I think along the lines of having a big team, you know, at least for our content business, you definitely pushed us towards that. And I think it has kind of carried over to our drop shipping businesses as well. Because you know, you said that you don’t like having someone full time if you don’t have 40 hours of work for them to do. But I think once you get to a certain point, there’s like always work to do if you’re looking hard enough. So you know, we had a full time writer and so you know, she was writing for our content sites and then we decided, okay, let’s just have her start writing stuff for our stores. And that wound up being, you know, a huge win for us just because we already had someone in place. And I think when you have someone that’s just there full time and you can message and say, hey, do this, it takes so much resistance out of the equation because if you’re just using freelancers, then every time you want a new task to be done, you have to put out a new job. You have to kind of, you know, you have to start from the ground up every time. Or when you have someone that’s there just kind of willing to do stuff for you. I think that flexibility is super valuable. So yeah, I agree.

Jon: There’s always something to be done in his or there never ends. Right. So he’s worked to be done on one site or another. So yeah, it just, sometimes you’ve got to make decisions and there’s a lot of stuff on my two lists that I’m not going to do for a few months, but I’m okay with that. It’s, let’s try to try to focus on the stuff that’s performing best and well, I have to get to things down the road. I really do try to stay lean. I’m not a one person show at all, but I really don’t like to get inflated overhead. I try to keep it as lean as possible. It gives me a lot of options, gives me more capital to invest where I think it’ll work and I typically always operated that way and I prefer to continue staying lean.

Mike: Do you have any like task management software that you use?

Jon: No, I don’t even bother. I don’t know. I’ve looked at a couple and it’s like I go into the dashboard and the back end. I always give you a free trial. Right. And I just like, people say, Oh, this stuff’s so great. I’m not going to name any cause. I mean, I’m sure they’re great for the people, but I get more confused. I go on the back end, like I got to spend like two days just trying to figure out how to use this stuff. I can only imagine how complicated it actually is. Now I use two things, really. Email and Google sheets. Essentially everything’s managed between those two things.

Mike: So when you go to train a new freelancer or a new employee, are you like, how are you handling that then without some sort of,

Jon: Well fortunately I have a VA that trains everyone and hires everyone. So okay. They handle every, I no longer if I need to train anyone, I just train her. I blasted her a quick video. I almost do all training with videos rather than written because I mean what I can cover in amount of training information in a format of video, trying to type that out and then make it clear so that the other person understands what I’m doing. It’s almost impossible. It’s not even close. So I just crank out like screen share videos of me quickly explaining something and it works really well. So it’s just video.

Joe: Cool. I have the fun question for you Jon. So say something happened tomorrow, all your current sites were deleted, you lost all your VA’s and you’re starting from the zero. What do you do if you had no choice but to build an internet based business based on what you know, like I guess just take us through the first few steps of the process of what you would do because like you and cause like you say in your newsletters, which I really enjoy reading by the way, they’re kind of funny, but you always say, you know, making a publishing business is hard work. But once you have the traffic and once everything’s flowing, then it’s fantastic, but it takes a while. So say all this happened tomorrow, what do you do?

Jon: Well, I would have to start writing again, which I’m okay with because actually I enjoy writing. I still write quite a bit and I do write for a couple of my niche sites here and there. So it’d be back to, you know, type into the bone again. But I just crank it out content. So what I would start with, and this is why I suggest to most people is I would look for topics, article topics, whichever Niche decided to cover for the new site, and I would look for the easiest to rank for keywords and topics. All right? I’m not going to swing for the fences to try to get that, you know, Kip for that keyword that’s going to bring in 200,000 visitors a month because this is never going to happen with a new site. So I would look for really obscure stuff and really cover it well, do a top notch article on that and start getting those out there and now it’s not going to create a lot of traffic ever for any of that, but that’s okay. I’m not too worried about that. What I want to do is start just getting some traffic to the site because that’s when things happen. Traffic helps everything and it makes it so much easier because what’s going to happen is you can get traffic, people are going to stay on your site, the site’s going to climb in the Google rankings. Other sites are going to link to it. Those links are going to help your site, right? Other content that you publish and it builds up this overall authority. And while unfortunately it takes a long time that’s the approach I would do now. I would probably go out and do some link building as well. Some guest posts, especially in the first six to 12 months that definitely speeds things up. I wouldn’t get too crazy with it, but you know, you go out and get 30 35 links from other sites, submitting a very good article to them and they like back. The DOT’s going to help things tremendously. So I would do that and then probably years one through three, that’s when, you know, hopefully the traffic’s growing really nicely at that point and I’m able to go after the better topics that are going to be more popular and bring in more traffic and that’s what I would do. That’s what I know. That’s what I’ve always done and that’s what I would do starting tomorrow.

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Joe: I liked that because it’s so straightforward. Like I think sometimes, and we’re definitely victims of this as well, is it’s easy to get caught up in something that’s not straight forward. Like there’s always something new to try. There’s always this shiny new tactics to do. But I mean everything you said is, I think especially From our experience of publishing that low competition stuff, you get a little bit of traffic, it grows into more traffic and people say, obviously we can’t say how the Google algorithm works, but I hear people debate whether traffic causes more traffic or links cause more traffic. And obviously links cause more traffic and then everyone knows that backlinks, that’s what they do. But I swear that when you put out an article for a low competition keyword, it’ll start ranking for those higher competition keywords after the low competition ones especially if you targeted low competition, whether that’s very specific. So yeah, I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s a good one.

Mike: Yeah, I think that was one of the earlier things that we learned from Jon that we really took to heart was that sort of traffic gets you more traffic. And we’ve had a couple of circumstances say, you know, creating a content site for our drop shipping store or having an email list and sending traffic to the blog, we were able to basically get rankings way quicker than some of our other sites because of this. And so, yeah, and going back to the podcast, Joe and I did the other day, we were saying how important it is just to go after these small keywords. Cause it’s like you’re building up a, you know, it’s a snowball effect. So you can’t just create this giant snowball out of nothing. You have to start with a tiny competition keyword and then you make another one, you make another one, and now all of a sudden this tiny competition keyword, this article is ranking for bigger terms. Right? And so that’s how it builds and builds. Everyone wants to just go after these huge terms kind of out of the gate. And I think that’s what’s popularized in certain courses and certain SEO gurus out there. And I don’t think that’s the right approach for most people. And it’s just, it’s too complicated because there’s so much technical SEO that goes into ranking for big keywords that everyone else, you know, all the big players are also trying to rank for. And so I think most of the time it’s easier to just take a step back and go after something low competition and then you can learn from that, get a result and most of the time a reward out of that and then you can build from there.

Jon: Yeah, I like flying under the radar because even if you get to position one in Google, you’re not going to have a lot of people coming after ya. Whereas if you get to number one for 50,000 per month search keyword that’s sending you mountains of traffic, not only was it hard to get there, but you got to defend it after that forever. And defending it means just keep doing more link building or something to secure that ranking and that’s no fun either. It always sore or overlooking your shoulder and I don’t really do that. I did lose, this was interesting. I had a, I ranked for a very good keyword and that was actually kind of accidental. I do think it was as good as it turned out to be and it was a lot of traffic and I had it a year or two and then I lost it. Some bigger sites discovered it and they so I think it was pushed down to two or three or three. I think I’m sitting at number four now, but I mean I noticed it, I mean the traffic definitely dropped but the decision I was faced with is like, all right, are we going to have what I call a link building arms race over position one here or do I accept the fact that I lost it and just carry on and pursue other topics? And I chose not to enter into the link building arms or is because I knew the sites that were outranking me, they were actually merchants. They were selling something. So they had more at stake over that keyword than I did because I don’t sell anything. Right. I’m just content display ad monetization. But they were selling some pretty high priced products related to that, kind of like what you guys do with the content marketing to drive your drop shipping sales. So they had a lot at stake over that keyword because I suspect it actually generated sales for them. So I realized pretty quickly like they’re prepared to outspend me no matter what to maintain their top rankings. So I was just accepted and moved on and that’s all right. But anyways, the point is it’s nice to fly under the radar if you’re number one for a keyword that you’re getting like 400 visits per month, you’re not really on the radar of a lot of sites. Most sites are going to get too excited over that, which is great because then you just sit there and you don’t really have to do anything else.

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Joe: Yeah, definitely. In the spirit of low competition keywords, I want to talk about something that, this is where a little bit of the art and the creativity of SEO comes in. I want to talk about modifiers. So one of the things that we took from your course was that there are lots and lots of different modifiers out there. How many modifiers would you say there are? And are you still discovering new modifiers to this day?

Jon: Always discovering new ones. And I suspect, you know, I’ve got a personal list of about 125 of them or so that I can reference and try for various topics. I mean the potential just with that list of modifiers, with all the potential topics, seed topics within a website. Like it’s almost an unlimited potential of topics to write about. So, and I do find more and I usually find them accidentally. I don’t really set out to find, I don’t really need them anymore, but I will, I don’t know, I’d be doing keyword research or checking out other websites or I actually pay attention to what I naturally will search for some times. Cause sometimes we just search, you know, whatever for personal entertainment, whatever, or for work and yeah. And then it’s like, oh wow, that’s an interesting search term I just use. I wonder how that could apply to my own sites and that sort of thing. So yeah, the list builds up, but I’m not really spending any time adding to it because it’s pretty extensive already. But I mean you don’t need a lot of modifiers to find a lot of good keywords.

Joe: My personal favorites, and I’ll ask you to maybe share a few interesting ones. One of the ones I like is why I think, why is it very Interesting modifier or can they just, I think very simple questions are fantastic.

Jon: Yeah, I definitely do that. All the questions can make for great ways to find good topics to cover for sure.

Mike: Yeah, I think a lot of times this is like something people get hung up on all the time because they want to make a content site or they want to make you know, a niche site and they’re going to make a juicer site and then they’re like, okay, best juicer for salary, best juicer for cranberries. And so it’s like the, you get stuck so quickly. But again, if you just have these modifiers and it just gives you the ability to not think and just keep pumping out content, then again allows you to kind of build that snowball. And it’s, I think when it comes to publishing content for us, a lot of it has been about just not thinking too much.

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Jon: Oh yeah. Just crank it out. Like, and I say that in the spirit of what you do choose to publish on, make it good. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t know what perfect would be, but make it good, but crank it out. Like don’t overthink it. And it is a numbers game because I don’t rank and I don’t get traffic for everything. I publish in fact far from it, but the ones that work out more than make up for everything else. So you know, don’t overthink this stuff. You’re not going to knock it out of the park. Every article you publish, it’s just not going to happen. So get it out there and the more you put out there, you know, the better chance you have at something to work out. Well, the other approach, you know, when you asked about me starting over, if I had to start over, one thing I have found that’s been helpful at this stage of the game with some of my more, or my bigger sites I should say, or more established sites, is that I’ve often done sort of a shotgun approach to topics within a vertical. Right? So like I publish it pretty broad websites broaden that. They do actually cover quite a few topics. They’re all related versus something that’s very, very narrow, like a website strictly about Nike sneakers. I would consider that a fairly narrow website. Okay. I don’t do that kind of go much broader. Mine would be perhaps a shoe, an entire shoe about shoes generally, which is so many topics in there. Right? So what I do is I will actually just sort of shotgun publish on a variety of different topics within that sector or vertical. And then I wait a while and then I start noticing patterns or a few topics actually seem to be working really, really well. And that helps me choose how to, the direction to take the site, because it’s like, Oh, okay, well I kind of covered in a shotgun approach, you know, 30 40 different sub topics, but these five are actually performing really well. Okay. I can really go in depth on those five topics and really build them up because the site’s already kind of working for those. So why not really go into there. And that’s been really helpful. And I would suggest anybody starting out though that that’s actually a pretty good strategy. It just takes a while to get there because the shotgun approach isn’t, I mean you just sort of guessing you’re just throwing stuff out there, but once you get result in data, it helps choosing which direction to go a lot easier.

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Mike: And to kind of relate that back to what we do with our drop shipping sites, that’s what we liked so much about Google product listing ads, Google shopping ads is because they’ll kind of shotgun your products for you, you know, you upload your product and then they’ll say, okay, we’re going to show it for these keywords. And it would probably be amongst thousands of keywords. Right? And so once you actually put it up and you start advertising and start bidding, then you start saying, okay, this is what people are searching for. And they like this product as a result of that search. Or it kind of opens you up to a whole other side of product types that you didn’t think existed or you didn’t think people cared about. And so yeah, you can use that data to then go and get more suppliers for that type of product or just increase your bids and kind of go more narrow once you figure out what actually the market is responding to. Yup. And so, Joe, you go ahead.

Joe: I was going to ask, so you say that you don’t swing for the, by the way, it’s easier when we’re in person to like no when the other one’s going to talk as like, Oh, he’s like a bit of a delay here. So it could be slightly like offbeat a little bit. But anyway, you say that you don’t, you’re not swinging for the fences when you put out content, are you working, and a lot of the stuff you said kind of doesn’t take off, but then the ones that do take off, you kind of narrowed down from there. Are you putting any effort into figuring out like any more specific data points on what’s going to take off and what’s not? I think something that’s been really helpful to us was that the keyword golden ratio that Doug kind didn’t talks about. Yeah, that rings pretty true to us. Are you doing any deeper analysis or you just put it out there?

Jon: Not at this stage. I may would do that if I were starting over because I think there’s merit to it and I think it can help, especially with newer sites. But you know, I’m in a fortunate position to where my sites have thousands and thousands of inbound links from all many different types of sites. The authority has grown. There’s lots of content fairly well trenched within the topics and so I don’t have to be quite so careful or precise. Again, that’s not to say everything I publish is going to rank, but quite a bit of it does. It’s still fairly low competition stuff, but I don’t have to get that about it. And, and that’s a good thing too, cause I’m not extremely detailed person. I don’t think I would take that extra. It really is an extra step or going a level deeper when you’re applying something like the keyword golden ratio. Because I mean that’s, you know, you’re now applying formulas to a batch of different keywords, which is not a step I typically take. But I’m very familiar with his approach and, and I think it’s sound, and I’ve talked to lots of other people who have benefited from it quite a bit, especially when starting out.

Mike: So earlier you talked about how for your sites you get people that are coming back and it seems like they’re following your content. Are you doing anything in particular to kind of reinforce your brand or planning content in a way that it would be relatable to a reader to make them want to keep coming back? Because I know actually it’s a preface that you said in that email how you deleted a 55,000 person email list. So it doesn’t seem like you found driving them back to the site from email to be valuable. So yeah. What are your thoughts there?

Jon: I do. I am mindful just with my bigger sites where I publish daily about, or I should say a couple times a week, topics I cover in a particular order in terms of serving direct visitors and so that there are reasons for them to come back. I’m starting to do some more like opinion type work, which is kind of fun. It’s not even really SEO oriented but more just, I don’t want to say controversial, but it’s putting a strong opinions within the niche and that seems to be somewhat effective. So yes, the direct traffic is very good and I’m mindful of it. I don’t know how much I can engineer it, but with the focus toward trying to create a site that people like that helps and I don’t really know beyond that. What else I do in terms of the email newsletter I’m all about email marketing I think is tremendous. I’m not knocking it, but it’s not for every niche and it’s not for every website. And for one of my sites, I built up a 55,000 reader email newsletter and it’s not cheap to have 55,000 subscribers in an auto responder for starters, let’s vote, I don’t know, I break 400 5,500 bucks a month and the email newsletter never made much money. Now, yeah, I could send readers back to the website and it did that a little bit. It wasn’t that great. The whole thing wasn’t that great because it’s a very broad niche and there wasn’t sort of any real tight alignment among the readers. Was it like they were all hobby enthusiast about one particular aspect of the niche or the niche isn’t really like a problem solving niche where everyone’s aligned seeking solution to a particular problem that they have? So without the alignment, it was just this random massive list of readers. And so the open rates were low, the click rate to new articles was low. I mean it would still be several hundred or even a thousand or something like that, but that’s pretty low given there’s 55,000. But what really got me to just sort of put, stop using this or stop doing it was while the cost was definitely a consideration, but because there wasn’t that tight alignment, I was getting more and more complaints. Like people were marking it in a spam email and I don’t blame them because it’s a very broad site and they signed up for something specific. And here the emails address something that they’re not really interested in at all. So it’s like bam spam, right? They Mark as spam. And the problem with that is depending on your email auto responder service, but the one I use is they’re very protective about spam and complaints from the email. It helps everybody else. So I don’t blame them for this, but the complaint rate got to a point where the email auto responder service sent me and warning, and I’ve heard people lose their entire account just outright without warning. So I was fortunate to get a warning and they had suggested the complaint rate was a little too high. I didn’t really actually think it was that high, but you know, so yeah, I’m not going to argue with them about it. So when that happened, that was, you know, I spent a couple of weeks thinking about it and I just decided ultimately why put the whole account at risk. And because I have other very valuable email databases and newsletters within that account, now I could go and just take this whole list. I did export, I didn’t just delete them. I exported it, I have it. I could go open up an account with another service and carry on. And I may consider that because that wouldn’t be so risky if I lost the account. Well, so, but yet, you know, I don’t lose any other news subscribers for any other business. So, so yeah, I could do that. But at the end of the day, I mean, it’s worked to put together an email newsletter if you want it good, and you’re going to send out three times a week, let’s say. And it just didn’t really make that much money. It didn’t drive all that much traffic and it’s just frankly, I don’t think it was really worth it, so that’s why I did that.

Mike: So how would you strike a balance between sort of the shotgun approach at just putting out a lot of content and being a bit broad within that vertical versus trying to create content that will garner a similar reader base to where you can start to build a list and keep marketing to that same sort of base?

Jon: Right. Those are two very different business models in many ways and I think you have to be intentional about that. If you’re starting out and you want to build up an email newsletter with dedicated readers, you’re going to have to focus on a much narrower niche for the website where there’s alignment and that your audience are generally interested in the same thing. They’re going to read your emails and you’re going to create a business that way. I do have two of those websites and they’re still ongoing email newsletters that go out and it works just really well. The other sites though I tend to prefer to go broad. It’s just a preference. I think you can build amazing ad supported websites that are focused in one or two fairly narrow topics and still get lots of traffic. And in fact, I think one of the nice things about doing one of those types of sites, like let’s say you wanted to write about well let’s go back to Nike sneakers, right? You’re a big Nike sneaker fan and you’re just, I want to say it about Nike sneakers and here’s everything I know about it and what I like about it, the history of it, everything else, you can essentially more or less build the site out and kind of be done now, not so much without, because I think you’re going to have new products that are always coming out, but generally speaking, when it’s narrow like that, you can build it and then it doesn’t require as much work to carry it on. Whereas let’s go to the opposite end of the spectrum. When you look at something like Huff Post, not that my sites are anywhere near that size, but that’s a never ending endeavor. I mean it’s news, it’s evergreen articles, they cover everything under the sun and it’s never done. And it’s broad and the audience is broad and they just simply go for as much traffic as it possibly can get. And they do a very good job at it. And so that’s an entirely different thing. And I don’t think, I’m not sure if Huff Post has an email newsletter. They probably do. I’m not sure what the engagement would be on something like that. Maybe they have different newsletters for each topic, so there might be alignment there, but I just, you know, it’s very broad and their readers are all going to be interested in very, very different things.

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Mike: I agree. And I think, you know, that was kind of, I agree you really do need to start with one or the other in mind. And even I think starting out taking a broader approach is better because I don’t think you have the skills yet to run like a tight knit ship of being able to monetize off of, you know, one particular subject matter. Because you need to know that you can, if you’re making content, you can know that you can rank it. You need to know how to do email marketing well. You need to know sort of how to sell people on higher priced things to really get it to work. Whereas if you just say, you know, I’m not going to focus on building an email list. I’m not going to care about having this core audience that I think you’re going against what a lot of bigger names preach. But it does give you a lot more room to sort of strike golden and figure things out on your own. And I think that’s definitely what happened to us with drop shipping and with content. And so that’s kind of what we lean towards now.

Joe: Yeah. You know, you hear a lot of the big names. If you’re just getting started, like in internet marketing and you know you’re reading a little bit about the subject, it just gets hammered into email, email, email. You got to have the email list, like you should be getting a dollar per subscriber. But really in reality is like Jon says, it depends highly on your niche. And I agree with you that going broad is just a fantastic way to kind of dip your feet in because if you’re trying to make a tight niche site, you have very little margin of error. Exactly. And the fact is in a lot of cases, if you’re going to have to probably build links, like if you have a business and your business is that business or you’re, I shouldn’t say, well that’s true also, but if you’re very, very intent on ranking for a certain topic or building a certain business, then if that niche is saturated, then you’re going to have to build links like period. So yeah.

Mike: You run the risk of something being too saturated. You run the risk of not planning it out well enough. Like you know, Jon, I know one of your smaller site that is sort of catered around to a specific demographic and it’s an awesome site and you know it generates revenue and I think it’s a great idea, but I think to get to that point to where you can figure out how to make a site like that, it’s not something a beginner can do. Because I think when you’re starting out, there’s so much at stake. Like if you go in and you fail, then that’s it. You’re probably not going to try again. It’s going to be a lot harder to make a new site. Whereas yeah, again, if you just do something broader, then it sort of gives you the opportunity to fail and just keep making content and keep making content and then you learn along the way. But yeah, I guess like you said, sometimes email marketing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Jon: Well, no question. I mean the old straight up publishing content and monetizing with display ads, it really doesn’t get simpler than that. That’s the simple as a gap. And it’s also interesting that most of the internet, really most content that people like they consume is essentially that display ad supported content. And it is a simple model and it’s definitely a great model for anyone getting started. I think I caveat that with you need to be able to write or instruct writers or have the resource to hire good writers. That is important. But beyond that there really are no barriers to entry. And I think also when starting on it, it takes a little while to figure out what topics to look for and to cover and start getting into traffic. But once you get that pinned down, it’s pretty simple business. It’s just something you’ve just got to be patient with. Stick with it and rinse and repeat. But like you say, when you start doing, I guess what we could call it, the jargon in this business is the funnels, right? So a tight audience website, you’ve got your email sign up for the newsletter and then the final begins. And so the website’s really designed strictly as a mechanism to attract subscribers and everything’s done through the email newsletter. And that is a long, well established model, but there are more moving parts there. You become a copywriter, you become, well, you must dig into the data and the analytics more and it’s a different beast altogether. But

Mike: Yeah, I don’t think people are prepared for that skillset. You know, I becoming a good copywriter is like one of the harder things about all of internet marketing, you know, because it’s kind of, it’s learning persuasion, it’s learning just, yeah, it’s learning how to captivate people with words. I mean, not everyone is a natural writer and so it’s not something you can really outsource either.

Jon: No, it’s hard to outsource. And I am not a copywriter. I don’t hire a copywriter either and maybe I should, but I certainly am not and I’ve never held myself out to be one. It is a very difficult thing to learn. I’m not even sure if not everyone could learn it. I don’t know. If I dedicated a year to learning it, I’d probably be better than I am, but I’m not sure I would ever be to the level where I can like sell services as a copywriter. It’s just one of those things that people seem to really have a knack for it or not.

Joe: One thing with the funnel, and it ties back to this whole copywriting thing, is that for people who are getting introduced to online business to start with something like that, like doing this YouTube channel and creating like whatever content we have around build assets online, and then I’m sure it’s the same with you. With fat stacks it’s easy because like we actually do this stuff, like if you’re going to start with building like a complicated funnel, like unless you have to actually be like an expert or like very experienced in something to even begin that all the analytics and all that stuff aside, how are you going to do it if you don’t know about the topic.

Mike: Yeah. That makes it way harder too. And it’s like, yeah, like so much of that side of the business is around, you know, get clients, get leads, the, you know, do this copywriting stuff and it’s not, unless you’ve built, I think, yeah, unless you have some sort of expertise, which you probably don’t have if you’re trying to buy, you know, a course or create a website that’s making money with funnels. Like you’re just trying to make money online at that point. So yeah, you just don’t have what is necessary to execute that at a good level.

Jon: No, and I think it, well I think in all of our cases is I don’t really do copywriting. I suspect things could improve if I were willing to hire a very good one. But things have been effective Focusing more on the information itself and supporting it with evidence and screenshots and demonstrating a certain level of expertise to be able to talk about it at that level. And then you get a lot of cases that also sells effectively. I think you guys have experienced that as well. Big time, right? I mean, you guys know drop shipping inside and out. That’s what you do. You talk about it, it doesn’t take long talking to you guys about that to realize like, yeah, they really know how to go about this in a number of verticals and so, okay, well I want to hear or read or watch more of what you say.

Mike: Hmm. Well, so I think yeah, that’s like the big thing is that if you’re an on something then you can just talk about it and so running, you know, running an email list where you can just speak in your own voice and just talk about things as you know them. That kind of, I mean, that’s a major like principle of copywriting. People will gravitate to it because it sounds authentic, but if you don’t have a skill in something and you’re trying to build a list and you’re trying to act like, you know, you know about candida and your sell on this candida cleanse. Right, right. Like I think people can see through that because you don’t, you don’t have the skills to sell something authentically. You don’t have the skills to kind of just share information on a topic. And so yeah, it kind of shows through and that’s why I think it’s just important to master the actual skills of making money online first and then you can go and apply that to your own personal brand or you know, a more complicated email situation.

Joe: What I find super fascinating, and we’re not going to mention any names here and Jon, you could let me know if you agree with this, but I find that the people that I think get pushed the most, like in the podcasting world or in like the business world in general, I feel like they give the most generic advice and I feel like they don’t actually like do a lot of the stuff that they’re telling people to do. But what I don’t understand is if that’s the case, how did they reach that level of where they’re at? Does that make sense?

Jon: Well, I think I know what you’re asking. I think what some people have done is the information they provide, which I think they know well, but they only talk about how to do things for the site on which they’re telling you about how to do things, right? It’s not like they have an independent business, be it online or offline or anything else. Not even clients per se that they could talk about and say, okay, well here’s my main business is business A and that’s over here. Here’s business B in, which I’m telling you about business A, right? And they just have a business A and business A tells you how to do things based on running business A, right? And so what happens is it’s a B2B business. Okay. And a B2B is a business to business. So it’s, let’s say a how to do online marketing is a B2B site in that it’s talking to other business owners and that’s contrasted with what I call B to C, which is business to consumer, which is your typical Huff Post is a B to B, B to C site, I should say. It’s Joe blow reader out there just wanting the news every day. Right? They’re not business owners per se. They may be, but that’s not why they’re going to the site. And so your B2B sites are typically are often, you know, that’s what they have. That’s all they’re doing. The question how they became so popular within the space. Well they got a lot of time to put toward it because they don’t have business B right or I’m probably getting my A’s and B’s mixed up. But the business that’s being run because everything is focused on the one and I think also they are good at what they do. I poke a little bit of fun at the whole thing. Alright. I don’t name names or anything, but I do poke a little bit of fun at the whole sort of concept of it because it doesn’t make any sense to me. But I will preface it with this. I think there’s some value in what they do teach because they are very good at marketing. Even if it’s one site and the entire business is based on telling you how they built the business that tells you how to run a business. They’re very good at doing it. And so I think there’s value there. I mean, if they’d get a very successful podcast, there’s value in seeing how they built up a successful podcast. Same with the YouTube channel, Instagram account, I guess it’s called and so on and so forth. So there is some value and they are very good usually at marketing. So there’s some value there. I just struggle with the concept of somebody telling me how to do something when their entire business is based on them how to tell, you know, how telling me how to do right. And so it gets confusing but I think you get the point. But I don’t completely discredit because I follow several of them and I find them to be very good at some things. There’s no question about it. They are very, very good. And I think also it depends on how long you fall in it. Some of them did have other businesses back in the day, right? And but it’s sort of like those have not really gone anywhere. They still may be there, I don’t know. But this business about telling you how to build the business is now huge. So what do you focus on? Right? You focus on the thing that’s making you the most money and so that’s what happens.

Joe: Yeah. I think to get to that point like yeah, the advice that they’re giving may be generic and their content may not be that great, but I think they do have some sort of, they have a good amount of experience with it, but they’re also at that point so good at marketing and you know, you can tell someone, you know, they give people what they want to hear, I think. Like we can go on this podcast and we can talk about our travels and how much money we’re making and all these things that I think are, it wouldn’t be too much fun for us to talk about, but more people would probably gravitate to it because it’s just, I think people are just drawn to that type of content and they’re drawn to easy solutions and if you can pitch that, then people will just think it’s how you get a big audience.

Jon: Yeah. The only thing is their audience will start the exact same type of website.

Mike: There are a few YouTube channels that I see like that where I don’t even know what it is. They’re just, they’re talking as if they’re like Pat Flynn or something, but they’re not Pat Flynn and they’re just like regular people, but they’re trying to like mirror. To me it just becomes totally obvious and I actually like Pat Flynn, because if it wasn’t for Pat Flynn, I never would have got started with online business because the way got started was I listened To a podcast of his, where he had Jessica LaRue on, which was, she does Amazon retail arbitrage. So shout out to Pat Flynn.

Jon: Yeah, that’s awesome.

Joe: Yeah. Yeah. So these things do help eventually I think. Yeah. I think when you’re early on, sometimes maybe you need something more generic that you can understand to sort of cling to. Yeah. Well we’re past the hour point at this point guys, I don’t want to keep dragging it on, so unless you guys have something else you want to cover, we can wrap it up. Must be cool.

Jon: Thank you guys for having me. I’ve enjoyed it. Awesome. I appreciate it.

Joe: Well, before we sign off, Jon, why don’t you just tell people, you know, where they could find you, kind of what you’re doing now in terms of the stuff you’re putting out and you know, let people know where to yeah.

Jon: Oh thanks. Yeah. I also as one of about nine sites now, one of them’s fast stacks, faststacksblog.com. Basically I write about being an online publisher, cross various niches that encompasses for me mostly I talk about, you know, SEO from a publisher standpoint, not a real high tech SEO perspective, producing content, building up websites. I delve a little bit me and my marketing, but really it’s my personal business blog where I just write about what it is I’m doing with my main business, which is publishing a variety of niche sites.

Joe: Fantastic. Yeah, we’ll leave links in the description on YouTube as well as the show notes when it gets syndicated to the podcast. So thanks a lot guys. It’s been a lot of fun. And we’ll see you all next time.

Jon: Thank you guys.

Joe: Thanks for listening to the build assets online podcast. Don’t forget to visit buildassetsonline.com/playbook where we give you our free blueprint to building $1 million in online assets from home, even if you have no prior experience.

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