I’d like to share some of the problems that prevented me making any money whatsoever for around 7-8 months after I began online almost exactly 3 years ago. I’ll also explain how I overcame them by giving some recommendations for each.
It’s quite interesting for me to see how my thinking and understanding of how to start and build a successful web business has changed over time.
But more importantly I hope you’ll be able to get a lot out of this because from talking to others I’ve learned that most people face the same challenges that I’ve experienced.
Let’s dive in with 7 things I was baffled by when I started out:
1. How To Create Web Pages
Like all of us I visited lots of different websites on a daily basis but I really didn’t understand how to replicate them. Do you have to learn web design and HTML and get involved in the technical side of things?
Luckily, I was introduced to WordPress pretty early on. Although I have built a few pages in other systems (such as the free HTML editor Kompozer) I really never looked back.
What began as a blogging platform has now developed into a fully fledged content management system (CMS) for websites and for running a home business, there are very few cases when it makes sense to not use WordPress.
My Recommendation: If you don’t know WordPress. Learn it. Just create a simple personal blog and get acquainted. It’s time very well spent.
2. How To Get Traffic
I thought the only options were SEO (ranking your web pages high in Google) or Adwords (Google Paid ads).
Like most newcomers I didn’t want to risk any money so I went down the SEO path.
The trouble was by 2010 SEO was already becoming harder, more long term and increasingly uncertain. This didn’t stop me spending a small fortune on SEO software and training courses which resulted in virtually no revenue whatsoever.
My Recommendation: Traffic is a KEY element in your online success. So invest some time in learning about it. There are countless ways to promote your websites and many of them have been discussed on this blog (here and here for example). Also, although I wouldn’t completely ignore SEO, I also highly recommend you don’t rely on it. Less than 10% of my traffic comes from SEO – quite honestly I wouldn’t bother with it much at all!
3. Why The Websites Of Successful Marketers Didn’t Look Like Mine
During my “SEO phase” I followed several “gurus” who were very keen to tell me (and sell me) strategies which could rank my websites high in Google. Most of these involved setting up blogs, choosing the keywords, meta tags, headlines, H1 tags correctly and building backlinks to my site.
So how come when I visited these gurus’ sites they had none of these things? I remember checking the backlinks and wondering why there weren’t any? How could they be making money if they didn’t seem to do the things they were telling me to do?
Also, a lot of their websites just had places for your name and email address (what I later learnt were called “squeeze pages”) and had no content on them at all. Google wouldn’t rank these surely so I was baffled.
I was very naïve really. But it just goes to show if you don’t know something then you just don’t know.
Of course, the reality was the the gurus were using joint ventures (JVs), affiliates and paid traffic to promote their websites. As silly as it might sound it really took me about 10 months to fully recognize this.
My Recommendation: Always ask yourself, “Are the strategies that this person is teaching me what they actually use to make money themselves?”. You can’t always be sure but being aware of this question really helps!
4. Who To Trust
As with any business – online or offline – there are scams and people who just want your money. In the internet marketing area there are definitely these kinds of people but also many very genuine businesses and marketers who provide solid products and services which can help you.
My Recommendation: Rather than expand on this here I will refer to a previous post where we covered this issue in detail.
5. Which Niche To Go Into
Again, usually a problem most of us have, especially at the early stage of our business.
This is partly related to “I’m not an expert in anything” thinking but also because there are literally SO many different niches that it can become difficult to decide!
What I did was go into lots of niches. I don’t recommend this because you end up juggling so many balls that you can’t give the attention each niche deserves.
My Recommendation: Brainstorm niches you are interested in, check for sufficient audience size and profitability. Then pick one and go with it. Later on you can (as I have done) expand it more than one niche but that’s when you’ll have the experience of setting them up and promoting them. Also, understand you don’t need to be an expert: 1) You can learn, 2) You can get another expert to help (e.g., by interviewing them), 3) Many products (e.g., software) don’t rely on you being an expert at all.
6. How Can I Keep Up With The Information Coming At Me
Yes, the old information overload problem here!
What I specifically referring to though is the emails that I received as a result of signing up to people’s lists.
This distraction can manifest in at least 2 ways: 1) You are reading emails instead of implementing and taking action, 2) You get mixed messages and conflicting information which stops you taking action on your current plans by introducing doubt and shiny object syndrome.
My Recommendation: Unsubscribe from any list which just promotes things all the time. Follow the people you trust (or at worst think you trust!) – see above for tips on this. Pick one project and stick with it, emotionally detach (as best you can) and work on your business (imagine you are consulting on someone else’s business which helps) instead of in your business.
7. Sales Funnels
Again I’m admitting naivety here but after coming online I really didn’t understand the importance of having a funnel or even what one was!
Basically, the sales funnel is process people go through after they go up the “on ramp” into your business.
For example, they might sign up at for your squeeze page, get offered a promotion on the thank you page, receive email follow ups which offer free content and promotions which increase in price and value.
My recommendation: Be aware all the time of sales funnels and every time you purchase something or sign up for something watch what happens and take notes. I actually have a Word files called “Other Marketers Swipe” which I take notes on what I see from my journeys around the internet in different niches.
3 Final Tips
Overall, If I could go back in time and speak to myself when I started out I’d give this advice:
- Focus soley on building a list of subscribers in a profitable niche that you are interested in
- Go to live events and meetups
- Invest some time and money in solid training from people who have achieved what you want to achieve
If you can relate to any of my experiences I’ve described in this post then this is the same advice I’d give to you. Regardless of your history and where you are right now with your business the PERFECT time is NOW!
What things have baffled you in terms on setting up a successful web business? Please LIKE/TWEET if you enjoyed this and start some discussion by dropping a comment below. 🙂 Cheers, Rob.