34 Lessons Learned From Running NicheHacks For 18 Months (And Turning It Into A $6,250 p/m Business)
I think you'll agree with me when I say:
There's some (a lot) of things you wish people had told you before you got started with online marketing so that you could avoid making so many mistakes.
Not to mention avoid wasting so much time and money on things that don't work.
When I first launched NicheHacks 18 months ago I never envisaged it would come this far.
I've ran a few blogs in the past across different niches (dating, travel, and kitchen gadgets to name a few) but none had been more than mildly successful and I quickly lost interest in them, whereas NicheHacks has been my true passion.
In the past 18 months I've spent tens of thousands of dollars on the blog, had some great successes, and some total failures too.
Now NicheHacks receives over 50,000 visitors a month, has an email subscriber list of over 10,000, and makes me a full time income of around $6,250 profit per month (on average over the last 6 months).
I've learned a lot in this time but there's also a lot of things I wish other people told me BEFORE I started the blog...things that no bloggers or online marketers EVER seem to talk about.
And in this post I'm going to share with you 34 of the most important things I've learned from running NicheHacks for the past 18 months.
So that you can avoid making the same mistakes and copy the things I did that worked to fast track your success as a niche blogger.
(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 1,781 profitable niches click here or the image below)
This post is broken up into 7 different sections....
- Getting Started
- List Building
- Other (because some stuff just doesn't fit nicely under 1 label)
Let's do this....
Getting started is something that most people really struggle with.
Yet it's the easiest part.
The hard work starts after you've started and continues for a long time.
Learn from my mistakes and successes...
1. When Choosing A Niche Go REALLY Super Focused As It Will Grow Your Traffic And Earnings Much Quicker...
So for example an “internet marketing” blog is FAR too vague. A blog that covers “SEO” or “blogging” or “affiliate marketing” too vague still.
Examples of specific and focused niches:
SEO could become...
“SEO for eCommerce sites in the pet industry”
“SEO for small businesses in CITY NAME”
“SEO for lawyers”
Blogging could become...
“Content marketing for bloggers in the weight loss niche”
“List building for bloggers in the travel niche”
“How to use Facebook Ads to drive traffic to your blog in the online marketing niche”
Affiliate marketing could become....
“Affiliate marketing for bloggers who have an email list but are struggling to sell affiliate products”
“Affiliate marketing for digital product creators who want to supplement their income in the dating niche”
“Affiliate marketing advice for Amazon affiliates creating product review sites and relying on Google for traffic”
Or examples away from the online marketing niche...
Weight loss into “Weight loss for women who have recently gave birth and want to get back into shape”
Or “weight loss for men aged 50+ who have recently had a heart attack”
Health and fitness into “Body building for men over 50 who have recently divorced and want to get back into the dating game (and date younger women)”
Pet care into “Dog training for French Bulldog Owners who want to house train their new pet”
I think you get the idea, right?
The more specific your niche is and focused at one specific type of person the more you can gear all your content, optin forms, product recommendations and everything else you do at them.
And that will make you grow faster and make more money (quicker)
2. Build The Business From Back To Front – Have The End Goal In Mind
Nearly all of us start out online by throwing up a website or product and hoping for the best.
No plan. No strategy. No idea what will happen next.
I did it.
Even with NicheHacks I hadn't thought much beyond “start a blog in the online marketing niche and focus on niche ideas”
It's so totally wrong and it makes things more difficult and less profitable for us.
What you need to do BEFORE you launch your first blog, website, product or business is...
Work out the end goal; i.e. what you want your business to look like and achieve further down the line when it's at it's peak.
A stand alone blog doesn't make much if any money, it's just a collection of blog posts on the internet.
No one gives you money for writing blog posts.
A single product usually doesn't make much money.
You need other products to sell further down the line or you're just getting 1 time customers and nothing more.
You need to figure out what your business will look like as the end result.
And then build it from the back to the front.
If you don't you'll struggle to do it later trust me...this is the very struggle I'm having with NicheHacks now as everyone comes to my site for totally different things.
We've got people looking for blogging advice, Amazon marketers, wanna-be digital product creators, those looking for niches from everything from Kindle books to eCommerce.
They all need and want very different advice and products and I can't possibly provide it all!
The first step is to REALLY define your niche before you start.
Go super focused and target a very specific sub-niche and type of person.
Saying “I'm going to start an online marketing blog and reveal niche ideas” isn't specific enough?
What type of internet marketers are going you going to target? Niche ideas for who?
More specific would have been...
“A blog in the IM niche that reveals profitable blogging niches for those who want to monetize via affiliate marketing” would have been much more specific.
Then work out your end goal and work back from that.
So at the very top of your business you want something that is high end, expensive, and preferably recurring income (passive, recurring, monthly income is the best!)
Then below that you'd have a series of different products in different price ranges from the moderately expensive (but cheaper than your high end recurring product) right all the way down to the front end, cheap, anyone can afford it product.
Then below your products you've got your website / blog / squeeze page i.e. the first point of contact.
It might look like this:
Blog / Website / Opt in Page > $7 front end product > $19.99 upsell product > $49 upsell product > $199 high end course / $49 per month membership > $2,000 high end training
Work from the back to the front and you've a far better chance of having a successful business and making (lots of) money quicker.
You can make everything you do (from content, to optins, to products) focused on pushing people towards your high end product / end goal.
I wish I had known this before I started NicheHacks because now it's complicated to implement.
3. Make Sure You Position Yourself Correctly Otherwise You'll Attract The Wrong People Or Give The Wrong Message.
If you're a newbie you can't try and market to the experts, they'll see right through you.
If you're an expert marketer and want to cater to the mid-experience to advanced market then you can't put out basic content aimed at newcomers as it won't interest them.
Think about how your content, brand name, logo, terminology and marketing message comes across.
For example featuring “Niches” on my blog is obviously likely to attract newcomers to internet marketer.
And “Hacks” is another word for “shortcut” and could be interpreted as a “way to get things done quickly and easily” which is a potential problem as it could lead to attracting lazy people with no desire to put hard work in.
Not to mention the fact the term “niche marketing” typically has come to mean “creating small affiliate review sites and ranking in Google” which isn't what NicheHacks is about at all.
Every website has a niche (it's essentially just a specific “topic”). A site can be both an authority site AND have a niche.
For example SurvivalLife.com (which we featured on the blog here: SurvivalLife Case Study) has the niche of Survival / Preppers.
It's the #1 site in its niche, making over $1 million in sales per month.
So it's both “niche” and “authority”.
I've never said NicheHacks was all about small affiliate review sites, we've got very few topics on the blog about that, and have more posts about blogging than anything else.
Yet a lot of people, even long term fans of the site, think that's what it's primarily about.
Be very careful with your domain name and branding.
Think about what OTHER PEOPLE think your name means and get a wide range of opinions on it BEFORE you start a site.
If there's a particular type of person you don't want to appeal to (say newcomers) then be sure to target your content and message at more advanced users and take steps to eliminate those you don't want in your business through your message and branding.
4. Pick A Tried And Tested Premium Theme That's Fast And Built To Convert
When it comes to theme most of us make the mistake of choosing one that “looks good” but really that's not that important at all.
Sure you'd prefer if your site doesn't look like shit
What's most important is that your site converts into email subscribers who make you money.
And that isn't necessarily the best looking theme. Ugly themes often convert better.
Your theme should be fast, responsive and built with email conversions in mind.
Plus stick with a tried and tested theme because if you pick one that's not widely used you might struggle to get advice or support about it.
I picked a random theme on the internet that I liked the look of. It turned out to be slow, problematic and have bad support.
I'm moving over to Thrive Themes as they are built with speed in mind and have a lot of cool features for the serious online marketer.
5. Running A Blog Isn't Free
A blog is free to visit, free to read the content, free to learn from.
It seems like it “should” be free. I mean it's just some articles posted to the internet.
But it might shock you to know it isn't...
My average monthly expenses to run NicheHacks is upwards of $5K
I have 17 freelance staff including a team of writers, a VA, 2 designers and 4 researchers not to include some others from time to time.
Then there's hosting, domain, premium tools and plugins, autoresponders and more.
Oh and not to mention paid traffic.
If you want to run a serious blog that makes serious full time income you need to treat it like a business and businesses require investment.
The quicker you learn to treat your blog like a real business the more likely it is you'll make money from it.
That doesn't mean that if you throw cash at without any aim you'll profit.
You have to know WHAT to spend on and WHY you are spending and a clear path to profit from it in return otherwise you'll be wasting money.
Be warned that even without all these stuff in place it's still not free.
You WILL have expenses.
Ah content...it's a struggle to keep creating fresh content isn't it?
Trust me I know.
And without good content no one will pay attention to ANYTHING you do as it's the first thing they see.
So make it a priority.
Learn from my content catastrophes here...
6. Create Popular Content Using The Skyscraper Technique
Sometimes you can write something you're interested in and it really works.
Other times you “guess” or have a “gut feeling” and it goes well too.
Other times it totally bombs.
Why guess? Why rely on “gut feelings”?
Why not just create proven, viral, content that gets tons of social shares, comments and links EVERY time?
The Skyscraper Technique (thanks Brian Dean!) involves sourcing out popular content in your niche (Using tools like BuzzSumo, Topsy, Ahrefs or good old manual searches on Google for your keywords).
Then creating something bigger and better.
You can simply make it more in-depth, add in any unanswered questions or points missing, make it more beautiful, expand on basic posts that didn't go into detail.
And then you've got a guaranteed viral post IF you promote it and outreach to people who will be interested in it.
Since we started using the skyscraper technique on our posts we went from under 50 social shares per post to over 150+ on average even though we're not doing that much promotion or outreach.
7. Have Editorial Guidelines And Standard Formatting Otherwise Your Website Will Look Shit.
If you look at the content on NicheHacks it’s all over the place with formatting.
Different use of images at the start of posts (some big, some small)
Different layouts and formatting (some big paragraphs and some short sentences)
Headlines all different sizes.
It's because we had no editorial guidelines from day 1. We didn't until recently actually.
Makes things look unprofessional and a mess.
Define your editorial guidelines from day 1 and stick to them
It also helps when you are accepting guest posts and hiring writers – you cans simply send them your guidelines so they know what to do.
Do it from the start, it's daunting to go through later and change it when you've hundreds of posts on the site....trust me!
8. Your Early Content Will Mostly Suck
Yep, mines does.
A lot of the early content on NicheHacks is super basic and not well written.
It takes time to figure out what your audience want and what you want to deliver...especially if you don't think about it in advance.
Lessons to be learned?
Work out in ADVANCE what your content will look like and make a content calendar so you know what you'll write about.
Make sure it's epic, see the point above about the Skyscraper technique.
Without traffic you have NOTHING.
No website can exist without it.
Yet it's something so many of us struggle with.
Learn from my traffic mistakes and successes....
9. Promote That Content HARD (I Fail At This)
Myself and the NicheHacks writing team mostly use the "skyscraper technique" to create content, basically taking a proven viral piece of content then creating something better.
You MUST promote that content otherwise how will anyone know?
Great content is not enough.
Great content must be seen by the authorities and major players in your niche who then share and link to it for it to have any effect.
Spend 20% of your time creating content then 80% promoting it otherwise you aren't doing all that hard work you put in justice.
This is sadly something we haven't been very great at, especially recently, at NicheHacks.
We have no strategy in place for promoting content other than what individual writers do with their own posts.
Get a strategy in place for promoting every post after publish. I will be hiring someone who's job this is soon.
10. Network – The Competition Is Not Your Enemy.
Networking is vital for growth.
The competition is not your enemy in the blogging world but people you can work with.
The opportunities for joint ventures, traffic, guest posting, product promos are endless.
Make sure you know and are on good terms with almost all the major players in your niche.
It's led to links to NicheHacks from some major blogs in the niche like Matthew Woodward, HubSpot, BoostBlogTraffic and even Entrepreneur.com.
As well as being featured or interviewed on tons of top blogs as an expert.
And plenty of top bloggers sending guest posts to NicheHacks.
Even having experts like Neil Patel, Zac Johnson, Brian Dean and Glen Allsop coming out to check the blog and give feedback and advice.
Don't assume others aren't interested in you or your website. Bloggers are by nature friendly and open people looking to network.
(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 1,781 profitable niches click here or the image below)
11. Master Paid Traffic ASAP – It's Sustainable And Can Be Scaled Up
Free traffic is nice and all but it's not REALLY free.
It takes a lot of time or is unpredictable
SEO has no guarantee and takes too long to see effect when it does work.
Guest blogging, social media marketing, forum marketing etc is great but takes a lot of work and time.
Paid traffic however is instant and when you figure it out, create high converting ads and have a sales funnel in place to turn that traffic into customers then you can just scale up indefinitely with no additional work.
It's hands off after the initial work and with the correct funnel in place your costs can be recouped or even profited from instantly.
Only earlier in this year did I get around to trying paid traffic for the first time and I'm kicking myself for not doing it earlier.
I've not got everything 100% perfect yet (far from it) but I am collecting data and numbers and getting sales funnels in place – eventually the site can run on near auto-pilot.
Don't be afraid of paid traffic but don't throw your life savings at it straight away either. Test small, get data, build up over time.
12. Don't Make These Mistakes With Paid traffic
Before you spend anything on paid traffic work out how much you can afford to spend.
This is a mistake I see all the time.
People decide they'll get into Facebook Ads and start throwing money at it. They get no return and then suddenly they are moaning they “wasted” money.
Well firstly you didn't “waste” money you bought data and you use data to make decisions going forward and improve on your campaigns.
Few people get it spot on first time round.
The reason you lost money is because you had no plan (i.e. no sales funnel) in place to recoup that money and had no idea how much each customer is worth to you.
Before you spend a dime on paid traffic / marketing you have to know your average customer worth over a month and their lifetime.
Without those numbers you are guessing and have no idea if what you are paying for a visitor is a profitable campaign or a way of going bankrupt.
It would be like a company saying “we're going to spend $10K on marketing this year to get new customers” despite the fact they've no idea how much those new customers are worth to them or going to give back.
If you spend $10K on 100 customers and those customers only make you $5K back you've just lost $5k....that's a quick way to go broke.
Know your numbers BEFORE you spend. If you already have customers from paid traffic you can easily get this data.
If not then either wait until you have enough free traffic to test it OR test it quickly with paid traffic to get the data instantly and make decisions going forward from there.
Start small and build up over time if paying for it.
Making money....that's why you started your blog, right?
If you don't have a strategy for making money from your blog from day 1 you might find it's tricky later when you try because your audience is used to everything being free.
Learn from the mistakes I've made and the success I've had when it comes to generating income through NicheHacks.
13. Sell Your Own Products As The Income Is huge
If your audience likes you and they obviously do or they wouldn't visit your site or join your list.
They will LOVE to buy your products. More than they love to buy products which you recommend as an affiliate.
Even as a newbie I could much more easily sell my own products than affiliate ones.
You know your product better than anyone. You understand why it's good and what problem it solves.
Your audience see you as an authority and want to tap into your very own knowledge.
Since May of this year, I've started launching digital products again.
I've released just 2 so far – from the launch periods, flash sales, and sales funnels working on auto-pilot they have generated over $13,000 in revenue without any help from affiliates.
This is all from existing blog traffic. Traffic that was already there and ready to spend money if I just gave them something to spend money on.
It doesn't have to be hard. Work out your audiences main problem(s) create a simple word document that solves that problem and turn it into a PDF.
No need for it to be fancy, lengthy, in-depth or anything else.
People pay for convenience. If you can solve my problem in 1 page rather than 100 even better because it saves me time reading 100 pages.
If you already have a website / blog you have a ton of content that can be turned into simple digital info-products and PDFs.
And don't forget to add in upsells, one time offers, and downsells.
When I initially launched the original version of Find Your Perfect Niche In 7 Easy Steps last year it failed to make even $1,000 over 4 months because it was just a stand alone product.
When I re-released it 2 months ago I had a series of upsells and downsells in place and I've made over $8,000 and counting from it.
The difference is staggering....can you afford not to have a sales funnel in place with upsells and downsells?
14. Affiliate Marketing Income Is Great But Launches Are Potentially Unsustainable
For most of the time NicheHacks has been live I've been relying on affiliate commissions to make the sites income.
Mostly from getting involved in new product launches.
It's worked well and I've made decent income from it BUT the sites income is all over the place.
One month you can do really well and the next not so. It depends on what launches are available to promote and how well they convert.
I was very reliant on winning affiliate promotions too to get bonus cash which is good but you can't guarantee that, it depends who else is on the launch.
Sometimes there's just no decent products available or nothing that's a great fit for your audience.
And you're sending all your traffic over to another marketers list and you've no control what they do next.
If they have poor customer support, spam them, sell their email address or other annoying things then it reflects badly on you.
Have evergreen sales funnels in place on your blog (either your own products or affiliate products) that as soon as people opt in they go through your funnel.
That way a certain percentage (depending on how good your funnel and offer is) of your new subscribers instantly become paying customers and you're not reliant on having to get involved with new product launches.
15. Have A Sales Funnel In Place Means Income On Auto-Pilot
A sales funnel is basically an process people go through when they opt in to your site / buy a product where they are sent through a series of related offers to what they just opted in for / bought.
It's how to turn a prospect into a paying customer or a paying customer into someone who buys more basically increasing your revenue.
A percentage of your traffic / customers will always be able and willing to spend (more) money with you
Until recently I didn't have my own products or sales funnels in place.
You opted in to the blog and were just added to a list.
At some point, if you didn't unsubscribe already, you'd get an affiliate offer sent from me.
You may never get that far or not take me up on it.
It's kinda unpredictable.
When someone opts in, they are pretty engaged with you and your site.
People don't give their personal emails away lightly so you know that when they do they are liking what they've seen from you.
They've just said “YES” to letting you invade their email inbox with emails...what else might they say yes to?
A RELATED product you're selling IF you offer it and it solves their most pressing problem.
So now when you request one of my free lead magnets (as mentioned above) you're instantly sent to the sales page of a super related product offer that solves your most pressing problem even better.
So far on average 3.5% of subscribers who opt in are taking me up on that initial offer then there's also upsells and membership site monthly recurring income offers show to them too.
This is pretty new (and I've yet to implement it on all the lead magnets as waiting for sales copy to be written) but so far it's increased my income by over $1,000 a month and growing without me needing to send any promotional emails, it's all done on auto-pilot.
When it's in place across all the lead magnets I estimate that will grow to $5,000 additional income per month without any extra work.
If you don't yet have your own products you have 2 options...
Option 1: Create them using content from your site – it's essentially what I did.
Compiled a series of different posts together, gave them structure, added some extra bits in and made it look nice.
Option 2: Use affiliate offers until you have your own products – find closely related products that complement your lead magnet and solve your audience members biggest problems and offer that to them.
The lesson to be learned here...
Don't just add people to a mailing list.
That's the first (and very important part) of the puzzle.
The second (and most important part yet something no one talks about?) is turning that prospect / email subscriber into a paying customer.
It increases your bottom line and makes you money.
Your product takes your audience member one step closer to solving their problems and getting them to where they want to be in life (i.e. more financially secure, thinner and healthier, dating or whatever you niche is).
It's a win win situation. This is what online marketing is all about.
Do this from day 1 and you will grow your income faster than you ever thought possible.
16. Do Launch Promotions To Go From $150pm To $2K In 4 Days
When I first launched a digital product to NicheHacks I didn't have a “launch formula” in place.
I just added the products to the blog. Sent out 1 email saying I had some products and then that was that.
No building up a buzz. No promotion.
The products made no more than $150 a month.
Then when I read The Launch Bible by Alex Jeffreys, a blueprint for product launches, and put it into action on the next launch I made over $2,200 in 4 days.
Even though that product was the most basic I'd put out to date.
The lesson to be learned....
Product launches work.
They build up excitement. They get a buzz going.
They make people want to take action and get something new.
If the price is going up after the launch it spurs people on to take action quickly for fear of paying more later.
They flat out work – so use them.
Everything you need to know is in The Launch Bible 2.0
17. Have A Recurring Income Product Or Membership Site
What's the best type of income?
Passive, recurring, monthly income!
The quicker you implement a membership site, digital monthly newsletter or monthly course into your business the better.
It doesn't have to be complicated and it's not as daunting as it sounds.
I remember before I launched the NH membership site I was convinced no one would pay me money every month to join.
I gave the first 165 memberships away for a one time, lifetime fee, of $39.99 because I was so convinced that no one would be interested.
That was a big mistake.
Now the membership site is $9.99 a month and people are falling over themselves to buy it.
I looked at what people come to my site for (niche ideas) and then offered them those every month (6 done for you niche reports) and access to all the niche ideas already on there (50+ and counting)
Adam Nolans' “The Passive Print” system is a great product on how to create simple digital monthly subscription newsletters every month.
You should have your monthly recurring income in place BEFORE you even launch your website or business.
This should be where you are funneling ALL your visitors to from day 1 and be the end goal of your site, content, and email list.
NicheHacks now has 380 members and counting. Over 239 of those are monthly paying subscribers who signed up in the past 3 months to pay $9.99 a month.
Assuming each member stays for just 3 months before cancelling that's worth $7162.83 to my bottom line.
When are you going to implement a monthly recurring income stream into your business?
18. Test And Track Everything – Helps Figure Out What Works And What Doesn't And Do More Of Good Stuff
You need to be testing and tracking everything if you REALLY want to be a marketer.
Otherwise you're just throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks...this isn't marketing it's hope and pray stuff.
Test what content performs the best and gets the most traffic, social shares, optins sales and links and then do more of it.
What email types send the most traffic back to your blog or sell the most products and ramp it up.
What optin boxes or offers convert the best and implement similar site wide.
I focus a lot on email opt ins and sales.
For example: what gets me the most subscribers and makes me the most money
90% of my income comes from my email list so it's vital to get as many as possible onto my list.
Then from there I have to do as much of what works as possible to make income.
So I track what type of emails, formatting, layouts, copywriting etc gets the most income.
So should you so take a note of everything you do and test everything.
Your autoresponder lets you split test your email headlines and body, your optin plugin SHOULD let you split test your opt in boxes, your affiliate network will allow you to add tracking Ids to your links.
Know what works so you can do more of it.
19. Don't Be Afraid To Sell Just Remember WHY You Are Selling.
Once massive problem most of us have especially to begin with and often even after a long time of being in the business is...
We are afraid to sell stuff or feel guilty about doing it.
This is actually a dangerous mindset.
You definitely shouldn't should NOT be selling something for the sake of selling it if you don't believe in it.
But if you're selling high quality products that solve your audiences problems and will take them closer to their end goal (making online income, loosing weight, getting a girlfriend or whatever your niche is)
It's your DUTY to get this product into their hands and using it.
It's your job as a marketer to do it.
They came to you for help. They NEED your help. This is serious for them.
Show them why they desperately need the product you are recommending and why they need it NOW.
They get the help they need and you benefit from it too (the sale)
Do not feel guilty to sell. Do not be scared to sell.
You owe it to yourself and most importantly your audience member to get them this potentially life changing product.
20. Don't Promote Products Just Because They Make Good Money.
It's easy to get caught up in the money.
I have been guilty in the past of assuming that because a product had high conversion rates, good EPCs, and a lot of top marketers promoting it that it must be a good product.
Not at all.
Many products sell well because of the huge incentives offered to affiliates to promote and the well written sales page
So you jump on board to promote and later find out that you've just recommended a junk product that doesn't work as advertised, is scammy or that has a huge refund rate and bad support.
Do thorough research on everything you promote and ideally make sure you've used it yourself.
Over a year ago now I promoted an SEO tool that seemed great on the surface, my small test with it showed that it worked as advertised (or so I thought), and there was a HUGE buzz about how revolutionary it was.
I went all in on it. Within a few days of it launching it was outed that there was a major flaw in this software that made it a terrible tool for SEO's.
It was all over the internet how bad it was and there was something like a 25% refund rate.
It takes forever to build your reputation but it can be lost in an instant with one bad product recommendation.
Think long term and reap long term rewards. I know you want money NOW but don't you also want money in 6 months or a years time?
(P.S. If you'd like to download a free list of 1,781 profitable niches click here or the image below)
21. Learn Some Basic Copywriting And Watch Your Profit Soar.
If you want to sell anything online whether it be your own products, affiliate products or services you need to learn to sell.
And one of the easiest ways to do that online is to learn copywriting.
Aside from copywriting you also need to make people trust and value your advice but some basic copywriting skills can go a long way.
The best places to start is using these templates / formulas..
These formulas are used in every promotion I do via email and they make me bucket loads of sales without fail every time.
22. If People Are To Buy From You They Must Trust You
You are a stranger on the internet. No one knows you and people are skeptical online.
You have to build up trust and a reputation.
Always be open and honest. Be transparent.
Everything you do must have the best interests of your audience in mind and solve their problems.
Never do anything solely so you can make money or because it benefits you (always put your audience first)
Sell products only which help them.
Be contactable and approachable. Interact with them.
If before you do anything you think “will this benefit my audience” you can't go wrong.
It can take a lifetime to build up your trust and reputation but a split second to lose it forever.
23. Free Subscribers Don't Necessarily Equal “Freebie Seekers”.
Marketers are always telling us to focus on attracting buyers and not freebie seekers.
Don't give away anything for free because free just attracts freebie seekers, they say.
True to an extent.
NicheHacks, with the hundreds of posts of content on it (which cost me both hundreds of hours of my time and / or tens of thousands of dollars to create) and incentives and freebies is free.
It's free to join my email list. You even get a free lead magnet in return (which again cost me money to create)
So technically these subscribers are “freebie seekers” right?
These free subscribers didn't pay anything to join my list.
And up until recently I wasn't selling any products of my own either
But I could still win affiliate contests and sell hundreds of products and make thousands of dollars in affiliate commission and cash bonuses.
Without any of these people being “proven buyers”
Just because someone joined your list through a free method as opposed to paying to get on it does NOT mean they are a freebie seeker who has no ability to buy and will never spend money with you.
A blog is a fantastic way to build up an engaged audience who trust you enough to buy en mass.
Consider a blog if you want to sell a lot of products online as it's a great way to build up trust, reputation, value and be seen as an authority.
Without growth your blog cannot progress.
And you can't grow unless you make some critical decisions.
Learn from some of my mistakes...
24. Hire A Team Of Experienced Writers – Fresh Ideas, Great Content, More Shares, More Links
When you first start a blog especially if you are new to the online business game the last thing you think about is hiring staff.
I wish I'd done this sooner.
I now have a full team of writers. This is the first post I've personally wrote in months.
- Fresh ideas.
- Better content.
- More social shares.
- More links.
- A happy blog audience.
If I was still writing by myself for NicheHacks I'm not sure there would be a NicheHacks, I'd be burnt out.
At best the content would be mediocre and samey.
Quickly thrown together and put out for the sake of putting something out.
Content creation is not my strong point.
Don't believe you need a team of writers?
Look at all the most popular and profitable blogs on the net..
The Huffington Posts, Life Hacker, Entrepreneur.com. Forbes, Gawker, TechCrunch etc.
All have full teams of writers. No one man blogs.
SurvivalLife.com run by the DigitalMarketer team has a full team of experienced writers in the Survival Niche and they do $1 million a month in sales.
Look at Copyblogger.com – it's run like a media outlet and again has a full team of staff – they make a fortune.
One man blogs are very rarely the most popular or profitable blogs online, it's just too much work for one person.
Hire as soon as you can afford to – if you hire the correct people (those with experience, their own following, and good writers) you'll make that money back (assuming you are selling stuff)
25. Outsource Where Possible If You Want To Grow.
You cannot do everything. It's impossible time wise and you're not good at everything.
Hire people who are and focus on working towards the bigger picture.
You're supposed to be the boss not the person doing every tiny little detail.
Hire people to deal with the tech, design, content, day to day tasks and other small issues and focus on what's most important – making the decisions which grow your site and make money.
I now have 17 freelancers creating content, as well as a VA, designer, researcher and more.
If you are short on time or there's something you cannot do or even it's not your strong point then hire someone who can.
26. Automate And Template-ize Stuff Where Possible
Manual work sucks. Automating is great.
There's so many tools out there now we can use to automate most parts of our business from autoresponder for email marketing to social media posting to plugins for WordPress.
Use them where possible.
Where not possible systematize everything so you have a process in place (that you've tested and know it works) for doing each task.
That way you can just follow the process each time and save guessing or working from scratch.
Ideally you will create “templates” or checklists for each task that you can follow and can eventually pass on to a freelancer or your VA to do for you.
It's a huge time saver and something I've been working on recently.
Now I have a VA who has a series of set instructions to follow for each of the most common tasks that need done to run the blog.
I have templates for all my emails including promotions that I just use time and time again, basically filling in the blanks each time.
I've gone from spending a whole day (say 8hrs) writing a series of promo emails for a launch to down to around 1hr filling in some blanks and following some formulas.
Look at things taking up a lot of your time, can they be systematized, automated, or turned into templates to follow?
If not then outsource them where possible. It needn't even be expensive.
27. Be Patient With People You Hire.
When I first started hiring freelancers, especially to do research on niches, I'd just tell them “OK, I need this information” and send them on their way.
The people I was hiring weren't professional marketers or researchers and I wasn't paying much but then I'd be surprised and frustrated when the work I received back was low quality.
I often thought “this is common sense” why aren't they getting this right?
When in fact it wasn't common sense so much but more the fact I have knowledge about my business and what I'm trying to achieve that they don't.
So if you want a good job done make sure you lay everything out step by step, give them a process to follow, clear instructions, tell them WHERE and HOW to find the information and show them examples.
Otherwise you'll likely be disappointed.
And be patient. Many people seem to get off to a slow start but once they learn it they do a perfect job every time and quick too.
Now I have a good team in place who consistently put out good work because of the guidelines and systems we've worked to refine over the months.
The money is in the list....you've heard it 100x before, right?
But there's more to it than that. It's not just about creating a random list of people and you'll instantly make money.
See what I did right and what not so right so you don't make the same mistakes...
28. REALLY Focus On Building An Email List – Subscribe To Blog Updates And After Content Boxes Is NOT Enough
When NicheHacks first started I WAS collecting emails but I wasn't doing it hard enough.
I had a cute little sidebar and after content boxes waaaaay down at the bottom of posts .
My optin rate was understandably low at just 2%
Later I added in more optin types using the incredible OptinMonster – pop ups, exit intent pop ups, in content boxes, footer bars and more.
Optins skyrocket up to around 5% from the initial 2% instantly and then when I REALLY focused on up to around 10%.
5% is considered VERY good for a blog so I'm doing well.
Make collecting emails your main focus. This is where you will make all your money from – your email list.
It will drive traffic back to your blog on demand and you will sell more from your email list than from anywhere else.
29. Offer Specific Category Based Lead Magnets That Solve Problems – Higher Optin Rates
At first I just asked people to “subscribe for updates”, to “join the NicheHacks tribe” and “get more great content” sent to them.
How boring, right?
People can just come to the blog and read the content here they don't need their inbox cluttered up by it.
So not many people opted in, what a surprise.
Later I created category specific “lead magnets” (a bribe which attracts leads / optins like a magnet) for the main categories on my site.
Each of these solved the most major problem a subscriber is likely to have who is viewing this category of post.
And promises to solve that problem instantly.
Overnight opt ins shot up again from 5% to around 10%.
Every blog needs problem solving, category based, lead magnets.
One generic lead magnet being offered on every page of your site doesn't work especially if you have multiple categories.
People reading a post about list building are far more likely to opt in to get a lead magnet about list building than on video marketing.
So look at the main categories on your blog and then figure out the main problem people visiting this type of post have.
Then solve it with an instant download they can put into action straight away.
30. Segment Your Email List From Day 1 – Higher Open And Click Rates And More Sales
This is something I've only implemented recently.
And I wish I had done it sooner.
The results have been amazing.
Until not so long ago whatever lead magnet or opt in box you entered your email into you were added to the same general list.
I had one list for all optin boxes.
Then you all got the same email messages (a mix of blog content and email exclusives) regardless.
So it didn't matter if you'd just opted in for an SEO or affiliate marketing or blogging lead magnet...you got the same content.
Can you see the problem here?
It's not relevant.
If you opted in for an SEO related piece of content chances are you'd like to see more SEO content....and perhaps not blogging content.
So each lead magnet should have it's own separate list with relevant content to what the subscriber requested.
SEO lead magnet gets SEO based content. Blogging traffic lead magnet gets blogging traffic content. And so on.
Less spam complains and unsubscribes.
More traffic back to your site.
And if you sprinkle in relevant offers then more sales.
Previous to segmenting my list my open and click rates were as follows...
- Open: 18.6%
- Click: 7.15%
And now on average across all segmented lists they are...
- Open: 27.14%
- Click: 9%
Over a 9% increase on opens and a 2% on clicks. That is impressive.
This will improve over time as I figure out exactly which content and emails my segmented lists respond to and split test message formats and layouts to get more clicks.
Before segmentation I was also relying on promoting the same products to everyone on the list regardless of what they were interested in.
Now with segmentation I have a mix of my own and affiliate offers mixed in with my follow up messages making me sales on auto-pilot.
I put this into place just last month.
Over the past 30 days I've made an extra $1133.15 on auto-pilot just from people opting into my list and going through my follow up series because of it.
So if you aren't already segment your list by interest on optin.
Make sure everyone who opts in for a specific lead magnet is added to a list where they get more content closely related to that subject and offers closely related to it too.
Aside from higher open and click rates you'll increase your revenue too especially if you add in related sales funnels or affiliate offers.
31. Content Upgrades – They Convert BUT...
Right now everyone is talking about content upgrades to grow your list.
They work, no doubt.
An upgrade super related to the post someone just read is far more likely to convert compared to a generic offer across all posts as we talked about above in the lead magnets section.
Content upgrades take time to create – additional time than to what you've already spent creating a post.
Unless every post on your blog gets crazy levels of traffic the number of optins each individual content upgrades gets might be pretty low and not worth the time you spent on creating the upgrade.
If yours is like most blogs, NicheHacks included, your content is a bit “all over the place” and covers lots of different topics (we cover niche ideas, traffic, blogging, amazon, affiliate marketing and more, headache just thinking about it!)...
...then you might be creating content upgrades that get subscribers but then doesn't really have a follow up sequence of related emails that targets them.
Remember above we talked about segmentation?
Well that only works effectively if you've a series of related content to show them after opt in.
If they optin for a guide on YouTube marketing but you've only 1 post on video marketing/ YT what are you going to show them next?
It makes the whole exercise of collecting that subscriber almost pointless.
Sure 'some' will be interested in other content on your site but many not.
An email subscriber for an email subscriber sake is a bit worthless.
Especially if you have nothing related to sell to them – you are spending your own time and money to collect a subscriber that has no purpose and probably won't spend any money with you.
It's fine if all the content on your blog is closely related to one very specific topic and one very specific type of person.
That way all your content, upgrades, email messages and products will appeal to them.
Most blogs just aren't set up like that (again NicheHacks included) even though they probably should be.
So think about whether you want to offer content upgrades on every post or would rather have category based lead magnets instead.
Furthermore (and this is the most important part, so pay attention)....
Make sure that before you create any content upgrades, blog posts or even your blog...
...that you have a very super specific and focused niche with a very targeted person in mind and that EVERYTHING you do from content creation to list building is geared around them.
This will make your life much easier in the long run and your site far more profitable
There are things which just don't fit into a specific category.
But they are important.
I cover them here...
32. No Matter What You Do Or How Much Effort You Put In People Will Get Pissed Off At You
You'll pour your heart and soul into some of your blog posts, products and other ventures and someone will always get pissed off or not appreciate it.
Don't get pissed off back.
You can't please everyone all of the time and people will always be angry about something.
Just let it fly over your head and move on.
Remove problem customers or those who demand too much for too little from your businesses immediately.
You'll be less stressed about it if you do.
33. You Might Be Your Own Boss But You're Going To Work More Than Ever
You thought being your own boss was going to be easy, right?
Especially when living the laptop lifestyle.
Lots of free time, an easy life, maybe even sipping mojitos by the beach whilst you check a few emails?
18 months in, with 17 freelance staff, a hell a load of automation, templates and systems for much of what I do...
...and I'm still working 6 days a week and often 12 hours or more a day.
I'm not really complaining (well kinda I guess...)
I enjoy much of what I do and it give me satisfaction to see my hard work pay off.
But be ready for a lot of hard work and long hours.
This isn't a quick and easy way to make fast cash.
You DO have to work a lot in the beginning and especially if you're short on cash as you'll have to do everything yourself.
So be prepared for it.
34. Spending So Much Time On Design & Logos Is A Waste Of Time
It's so easy to get caught up in how things look.
Sure, we all want our website to look beautiful and professional (and it should to an extent look professional and be easy to navigate)
But the fact is people like a website because of its content not because it looks pretty.
It's so easy to get caught up for weeks or months on end trying out different themes, color schemes, logos and layout.
Just making little tweaks here and there trying to get everything “perfect”
It never will be.
SurvivalLife.com (run by the millionaire marketer Ryan Deiss and his team) started out with a beautiful, modern and clean, theme.
But their bounce rate, time spent on site, and number of pages visited was terrible.
So they changed to a messy, cluttered, ugly theme instead.
Bounce rate slashed dramatically, time spent on page increased and people visited more pages.
Beautiful is not always best. It's a vanity metric.
No one ever made money from having a pretty website.
Focus on the things that matter. The things that make money. CONVERSIONS AND SALES.
Point in case....
I planned to re-design NicheHacks a few months back.
Bought the ThriveThemes package (great themes BTW!), had a logo designed for a few hundred bucks, got custom images made for blog posts.
And then when it came to putting it all together it didn't work out.
The logo looked like shit. It didn't fit in with the colour scheme.
The blog images I'd paid for were the wrong sizes and looked terrible.
Instead of just throwing it up or leaving things as they were I spent weeks on end trying to get it right.
Those were weeks on end where I wasn't working on making money and increasing my income.
I became too focused on the wrong things.
Eventually I snapped out of it, scrapped the re-design for now, stuck with the current them and went back to focusing on growing my income.
Don't spend forever on your design, theme, logo or color scheme. You can change it all later if need be.
Just get something out there and focus on what matters – selling stuff.
Here Ends The Lesson:
These are my 34 biggest lessons from running NicheHacks for the past 18 months.
The things I've learned from the successes and failures.
From building up NicheHacks from a new blog where I had no connections in the niche and no one knew my name...
...to a 50,000+ visitors per month and growing blog, with an email list of 10,000+ subscribers, that makes me a full time income.
I hope you can take a lot away from this post by “hacking” your way to success by copying my successful parts.
And by avoiding the “failures” and hurdles that I encountered.
It's time for you to take action and the first step is to leave a comment below telling me what your biggest takeaway or favorite lesson was from this post...