7 Things I Was Baffled By When I Started Online

Baffled By BusinessI’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

A biggy.

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.

29 Responses to 7 Things I Was Baffled By When I Started Online

  1. JohnTheJock March 29, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Hi Rob,

    I think you had the same journey that most of us had. Amazing how fast you learn though, isn’t it? I have become ruthless as far as the emails go. My pet hate?

    You buy a product from “Jim” and over the next 3 days “Jim” has sent you 3 emails promoting other people’s products, when you’ve not even had a chance to fully test “Jim’s” product.

    Where’s that unsubscribe link??

    Silly, isn’t it, when all you have to do is build trust and rapport with your subscribers. And the great thing is, we can all learn from each other, even from the new guys.

    Have a great weekend,


    • Rob March 29, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      Hi John,

      Spot on and I think you make some excellent points here.

      It’s very easy to abuse the power of having an email list. Of course, we all make mistakes but I think the best strategy (both for the best interests of your subscribers and your own profitability) is to look long term and imagine how YOU would feel if you were on the receiving end!



    • Trevor Denning March 29, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

      Hi John,
      Whilst in total agreement with your comments, there’s just one thing that pushes up my blood pressure even further …
      You buy a copy of whatever Joe Bloggs is flogging, then for days after that you receive his promo emails for the same item!.



      • Rob March 29, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

        Hi Trevor,

        Ah yes I know what you mean if it’s their own product then any email system should all them to exclude existing buyers from further promotions. Much harder with an affiliate product though (although there are systems like InfusionSoft or Office Autopilot) which can do it I believe!

        Good to hear from you 🙂

        Cheers, Rob

  2. Kevin March 29, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    Great article Rob. It’s nice to know that I am not the only one who has made some of these mistakes.

    • Rob March 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      You’re definitely not the only one Kevin, I think we’ve all mean through this “rite of passage” to a greater or lesser extent. There IS light at the end of the tunnel though for anyone reading this who feels overwhelmed right now 🙂

      Cheers -Rob

  3. John Banks March 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Hi Rob,

    I think traffic is still the biggy for me, I have peaks and then lows, for example this week I was on holiday so I was not as “social” on my blog and the traffic dipped a bit. JohnTheJock makes a great point though about learning from newbies as well as the “gurus” – I am in a FB group with like-minded bloggers and I have learnt tons in there – in some cases more than the “gurus” because there are no secrets….

    Great post – have a great weekend.

    • Rob March 29, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

      Thanks John, always great to get your input 🙂

      Yes, JohnTheJock is definitely right there. I always think it’s BETTER in some ways to learn from someone who has achieved success more recently because the know what it takes to get there in today’s environment. A lot of the people who’ve been around for 10 years+ rely on methods which are pretty difficult to use straight away for a newbie starting out.

      Cheers – Rob.

  4. Christopher John Payne March 29, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    This is a terrific read, Rob. There are some excellent insights here.

    In the light of the above, what I tell my clients is to get started TODAY on one task which will move them forward towards internet marketing success.
    This could be to write at least 3 or more ideas for a potential money-making website.
    Or choosing one of your ideas for a site and taking the first step to setting it up.
    Or if you have a site, writing one post or email.
    Or finding a great article on the web, writing a comment, and adding a link back to your own site to generate traffic. 😉

    I created a short video about getting started here…
    …which you watched and commented on: thanks for that, Rob!

    Bottom line: think of one thing you can do right now which may take as little as 5 minutes to get started on, and just do it.

    Don’t put it off because you need to do more research, make more notes, etc: there is only NOW. And NOW is where all the fun, aliveness and energy is.

    Chances are that, once you’ve started this tiny task, you’ll be delighted with yourself, feel more confident, and be eager to take another step forward very soon afterwards!

    • Rob March 29, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your input and glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      Cheers, Rob.

  5. Mike March 29, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    Hi Rob,
    I think you just covered my “online life story” in that blog. Just taken me longer to learn what was rubbish and focus on doing things the right way – or as I refer to as the “Rob Cornish Way”.
    Enjoy the break. Mike

    • Rob March 29, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

      Hi Mike,

      Well thank you! I think most people are the same really. It’s easy to look at others who are where you want to be and think it was all plain sailing for them but of course the truth is that everyone had failures and difficulties. The only trick is laugh it off and press on!

      Cheers, Rob.

  6. Arnold March 29, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Great article as I would expect from you. I suffer from all of them as well as age (71). I try not to let my natural antipathy to all things electronic get in the way but I still trust the pencil more than the Byte (my Virgin Broadband went down again yesterday). I was about to get a website up on WordPress when a disaster befell my storage garage which had a bad roof leak in December. It has taken until today to successfully get everything out and into the Conservatory to dry slowly (paper and books). Now all I have to do is pack it all up in new containers and put it back. THEN I shall get back to earning a little money on my 1st niche .
    site. I too hate being flooded with emails so if he is reading this would DH pull his horns in.
    Have a nice break everyone.

    • Rob March 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

      Hi Arnold,

      Great to see you here on the blog and I think you win the prize for the most creative comment here!

      I hope both your floods get sorted soon 🙂

      Cheers, Rob

  7. David March 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    Hi Rob
    Again a very motivating blog. My first book is now written, available on Kindle and very soon to be printed to be promoted on my web page. My promise to myself is to re do your course and by the time Easter is over to have a site up and running. it has taken far longer than imagined but so what?
    Maybe some others do not fully grasp that they can refresh on knowledge as you said from the beginning and it is important. You are there to help and you stick to your promise.
    Happy Easter to all.

    • Rob March 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      Brilliant David – I love that action taking!

      Sounds like your positive attitude is paying off well.

      Cheers, Rob.

  8. Ken March 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Hi Rob
    Yes this plethora of emails is a menace since you are scared of missing a diamond!
    2 things… I thought your blog on filtering was great and could certainly solve the above problem and…
    I think you should always try to build relationships by emailing VALUE to your subscribees but most are just after pushing a product.
    This smacks of total INSINCERITY so I dis this lot straight away and hope that the next won’t just treat me like a gullible cretin

    Thanks Rob for all you do

    • Rob March 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

      Hi Ken,

      Thank you for your comment and I totally agree with the emphasis on relationship and value. Ultimately, that’s a more profitable path in the long run as well.

      Cheers, Rob

  9. Yvonne Ralph March 29, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    This is a great post Rob and I think the most important thing is to focus on one strategy at a time. This often means hitting the ‘unsubscribe’ button on most emails to limit the distractions and ‘bright shiny things’ that promise the world.

    I know I suffered from bright shiny object syndrome which meant that i never allowed enough time to focus and follow through on one strategy before being sucked into the next great thing.

    Focusing on one thing at a time is the path to results – thanks for your great posts


    • Rob March 30, 2013 at 9:57 am #

      Hi Yvonne,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences with this – they are great to hear!

      I appreciate your kind words too 🙂

      All the best, Rob

  10. TJ Greene March 30, 2013 at 9:58 pm #


    Regarding your point #1 – My very first site was an HTML/CSS concoction designed in Dreamweaver. While attractive and successful, my goodness was it a lot of work to maintain. Adding features and functionality was a nightmare. Then I discovered and fell in love with WordPress! Hands down the best website platform around. I now make my living helping others become successful bloggers using WordPress.

    Point #2 – Generating traffic is no mystery, just lots of hard work and dedication applied in the right areas. You covered them well in your other posts linked to in this article.

    As for SEO, I always recommend that WordPress users install and use Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-seo/. It’s free, easy to use, and guides you through all of the important SEO elements on each post.

    Point #5 – It may seem like a tired refrain, but choosing a niche must, first and foremost, be something you enjoy doing. The majority of new sites take months, or years, to become financially successful, if ever. If you don’t enjoy the subject matter, you are in for a painful road filled with drudgery and misery.

    I suggest people do some soul searching and make a list of things they can see themselves doing even under the most difficult of conditions (no income, no personal life, writer’s block, etc.). If you can see yourself being able to stick it out through those tough times, you’ve got a good potential niche. Then go do some research to see what kind of money can be made at it and what your competition looks like.

    The standard niche formula looks something like this:

    Your passion + good profit potential + low competition = excellent niche for you!

    Easier said than done, but that’s the general rule.

    Point #6 – Distractions and information overload are problems we all face on a daily basis. My only advice here is to be diligent about staying focused on only those tasks that move you closer to your end goal. Don’t open up your email, for instance, or go onto any of the social networks, until you have completed at least one of your primary, income producing chores for the day.

    There is no way around it, an internet business is a lot of hard work that requires consistent effort and dedication. I think one of the greatest disservices done to someone just starting out in this business is to fill their heads with the fantasy that IM is sunshine and roses, and anyone can make a gazillion dollars overnight with no effort. It is complete nonsense and contributes to more internet failures than is necessary.

    More common sense advice, like you provide here, is what’s needed in this business. It’s one of the reasons I like you Rob, you keep it real.

    Best regards,
    TJ Greene

    • Rob April 2, 2013 at 6:45 am #

      HI TJ,

      Brilliant comment there and thank you for taking the time to write so extensively 🙂



  11. jerry April 3, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    Hi Rob, reference Mikes comment ” Rob Cornish Way” cannot find on google maps but definately a great road to follow…heh heh
    Have a great break


    • Rob April 4, 2013 at 8:07 am #

      Hi Jerry,

      Yes, Mike makes a great point – thanks for your comment and great to see you here!



  12. Mike April 6, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Hello Rob,
    I was interested to read item 1) ‘How To Create Web Pages’ and while I agree that WordPress sites are relatively easy to set up, I’ve always been under the impression that adding a Paypal button is difficult (something to do with coding??). I’d be interested on any views or experiences on this.


    • Rob April 6, 2013 at 10:09 am #

      Hi Mike,

      It’s pretty easy actually to work with PayPal buttons. Just copy the code from PayPal to your web page!



  13. igor Griffiths April 15, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    Well Hello Rob, great advice about pretending to be a consultant for our own business, all too often the care we give when someone else asks us for advice is missing when we consider our own position and we end up just winging it with all too common poor results.

    It will take time to figure out who you can trust and more importantly work with, I have been burned by big name marketers that others rave about and yet for me the experience was one I will never repeat.

  14. Graham April 18, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    Hi Rob,

    You talk a lot of sense!
    What i’ve started noticing about the email lists I’m on, infact its a plague, I have over 2000 unread emails from marketers, I’m sorry to say a lot of your are lost in the unread category.
    Because I do buy stuff on the Warrior Forum, I get on there list, and get bombarded with sales emails, I have tried to unsubscribe, it will then inform me that I would also be unsubscribing from any future upgrades or support.

    PS If I buy the WP Connect, through your link, Will you get a commission?
    PS I’m already on your list via another email address.

    • Rob April 24, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      Hi Graham,

      I’m sure a lot of people can relate to your experience here so thank you for sharing. It’s definitely all to easy for email subscriptions to get out of control!

      Yes, I will receive a commission on that product if you purchase. If you are on another list just unsubscribe from one of them is my best recommendation.



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