Yaaaaaay Earnings Report Number Two

So I’m actually feeling pretty good about online business and my businesses. After the last post wondering whether to go deep or go broad, I’m happy I decided to follow Pat Flynn’s advice and double down. I doubled my ad spending and lowered my prices somewhat, and…good results so far.

Let’s Get to The Earnings

First, the hilarious news.

Niche Sites – Smart Getaways for Couples – $0.34

That’s right. Adsense on Smart Getaways for Couples made me 34 cents last month. Page views are decent, but I need to go big with this site and find another way to monetize, because the Adsense…not so happening.

Now, some good stuff.

The 80/20 Drummer – $290.88

That’s $240.88 from online sales, and $50 for a private coaching session.

Gross Revenue – $291.22

Of course, I’m spending money for ads and site hosting.

Site Hosting – Bluehost – $9.99/year/12 = $0.83

Site Hosting – Squarespace – $10

Facebook Ads – $114.69

Total Expenses – $125.52

Total Profit – $165.70

Still a pretty modest number. Let’s look for a second at conversion rates though. Site hosting is fixed. For every dollar I spent on ads, I earned $2.53 back. Assuming that rate held, if I increased my ad spending fivefold ($573 give-or-take), could I expect a fivefold return on investment? ($1450, with $877 in profit.) There are, of course, limiting factors.

  • The sample size is still too small to make statistically significant predictions about the conversion rate. It may still be that I “got lucky”.
  • Ultimately the size of the market may also be a limiting factor. If there are 20,000 existing drummers in the universe who might have an interest in my product, and the market self-renews at 100/month, that means at the present conversion rate there’s a definite point of diminishing returns, at which everybody who would have bought under present conditions has bought, and the low replenishment rate means slower sales.

It’s almost so theoretical as to be a waste of time to think about. Luckily, I can test, by increasing my ad exposure and budget incrementally and seeing if the conversion rate holds.

The other side, of course, is increasing the conversion rate. How many people saw the ads, clicked through, and decided “meh, I’m gonna wait”? If I use myself as a case study and my propensity to see what the gist of a new product or service is, then ruminate for a while before I purchase is representative of anybody else’s tendency, there are a least a few folks like that out there.

And here’s how I’m addressing that. Social proof. I’m making a documentary series about my attempts to tackle different drumming challenges, based loosely on Survivorman, except instead of “I’m in the outback with only the clothes on my back. Can I make it?” It’s “I’ve got just three days to learn this or that demanding tune of prepare for an audition.” But pretty much the same in all other respects. (Read: Real Tigers.) For now, I’m doing the Gary Veynerchuk model somewhat backwards – build the product first, then the audience second.

Anyway, I put mailing list opt-ins all over the site, and the good news is I’ve been getting a lot of sign-ups. I know I’ll soon have 1000 facebook “likes”, and my goal is to get my mailing list to 200. These are the folks who will get the “reality show” in their inbox every week. Not for nothing, a funny psychological thing happened – I’m almost as happy to see a mailing list signup as a sale.

The ancillary effect will be lots of videos on Youtube, which to-date has been my highest converter. (People who found my videos while browsing on youtube were most likely to buy my products.)

It’s all a grand experiment. Maybe the videos won’t work, or won’t work well. As long as I’m able to shift and adapt my strategy while maintaining focus on the larger goal, I’ll be okay. As someone once said, “you only loose when you quit,” and as I like to add, “as long as you’re receptive to what works and what doesn’t.”

So let me set a somewhat quixotic goal. I want to do $1000 in sales in the month of March. No idea if I’ll reach that or not, or how, but I’m putting it out there. Better ads, better on-site conversion architecture, more free videos, more mailing list subscribers. Let’s see if we can get there.

Yours (really),

Nate

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New Blog – NYC Hacks Dot Com

Guys, have a brand new blog I want to share. http://nychacks.com.

It’s dedicated to making living in NYC rewarding, not a slog, and I may approach a number of you to help me with articles. (You know who you are.)

For now, there’s an article up on the homepage I’m pretty proud of. Would be honored and flattered (is that how the FB humblebrag begins?) if you would check it out;)

Peace,

Nate

Long Overdue Update – Going Deep with SEO, the Long Game for Niche Sites, and Why the Muse May Yet Live

It’s been almost 3 weeks since I’ve posted in Breaking Ferriss. If I were the excuse-making type I’d say it was because I wanted to have something to actually report, instead of just ideas or feelings to share. Well, the wait is over. I’m happy to report I’ve been deep with the Perry Rosenbloom SEO model, that it works, and that I’m a mere technicality away from monetization.

Also, a “shortcut” I discovered for monetization may have far reaching implications for future business.

Let’s begin at-the-middle and discuss niche-sites-writ-large for a moment. I’ve devoted gallons of imaginary ink to the subject over the last several months, and continue to believe niche sites are a great “entry point” to e-entrepreneurship, requiring minimal investment (at least of money), and next-to-no-risk (especially if you consider the time spent akin to classroom learning, which I do – I truly believe I’m getting my “street MBA” for a song). They’re also about the lowest profit margin of any avenue of e-commerce.

Google Adsense pays a small percentage, but it’s peanuts compared to selling your own product. Ditto affiliate deals. When you “do the math” about dollars-of-profit-per-hour, it’s not great. In today’s search engine environment there are two ways to make a lot of money: scale up, or get lucky. Those success stories you hear on the podcasts about people making $4000 per month from home from niche sites are mostly anomalies: an average niche site with 3500 monthly visitors can expect to net $350-$500-a-month. That’s a great extra passive income stream, but you’re not going to be bumping Zuckerberg off the Forbes list any time soon.

Niche site guru Hayden Miyamoto knows how to scale up. He has a team of virtual assistants trained to trawl the search engines for low-competition keywords and thow up niche sites about them. There are thousands. If a site gets to top 20 in google on-its-own, Miyamoto monetizes, and turns on the SEO juice. Did I mention that Hayden owns several hundred expired domains with high page-ranks? He has a staff of people working on finding and reviving those, as well. Naturally, he runs a side business selling premium domain names.

Not everybody can be Hayden Miyamoto, and his model does something beyond simply scale up his earnings: it engineers luck out of the equation. By launching hundreds of sites in parallel and monetizing only those that pop up naturally in google rankings, he’s taking all the guesswork out of keyword searches. All the metrics – Moz Rank, Juice Links, etc – we use to try to estimate traffic and ease-of-ranking are still shots-in-the-dark. The only real way to find out how golden a keyword is is to launch the site and see.Those of us just starting out can learn a bit from that model – probably launching a few sites at once will give us a picture of which keywords we’ve searched well and which are too high-competition.

But there are a few reasons why we may not want to. There’s an advantage to doing sites one-by-one – the psychological literature is clear that mono-tasking improves productivity and quality – and it’s worth doing Ferriss’ (I guess Paretto’s) trademark 80/20 analysis on the whole venture. Point being – there are much higher leverage ways to make money.

None of this should discourage a reader from launching a niche site as a “gateway drug” to higher-return/more varsity avenues of business, however, and it doesn’t take into account passion. If you can find something you’re really passionate about that’s also monteizable, you can literally earn money while doing what you love. I love travel, and I wanted to do it more. Boom – travel site.

It used to be if you wanted to be a travel blogger you had to find somebody to hire you as a travel blogger. Now (assuming you can write well enough to attract an audience) you can literally just “be” a travel blogger.

Or mom-blogger, or business blogger. It just-so-happens I also love to write, so Smart Getaways for Couples (which I’m not linking to any more from this site for SEO reasons) is checking at least two boxes. If you think passion for your subject, doing it for the right reasons, and being realistic about the ROI of time/fun relative to money (it’s the first in far greater quantity) isn’t related to SEO, you’re wrong – or at least I think you’re wrong.

Ok – The Perry Rosenbloom SEO Model

Perry Rosenbloom of SEO Sherpas pioneered an SEO method for the “google of today” – i.e. a Google you can’t fool or cheat. What does google want us to do in order to build links? Simple – market our content to people who might find it interesting/useful, and it if really is, they’ll link to you. Perry describes using a toolbar to “scrape” google results, dumping it into a spreadsheet, paying a gaggle of freelancers cents-a-site to find contact info of site owners, then using a plugin to mail-merge a metric ton (literally) of emails to prospects. A cumbersome process.

Luckily, enter Buzz Stream, a site that does everything for you. Just type in what you’re searching for – I should back up and say that Perry’s key is to look for clubs or groups that might find your content interesting. For his binocular review site, he marketed to bird-watching and amateur astronomy clubs. No brainer, right? Well, try the same exercise with travel. Chambers-of-Commerce? Meetup groups? Travel Agents?

Nope – it was going to be other travel bloggers, which meant the process was going to be “sniper rifle” rather than “shotgun”. I used Buzz Stream to find about 450 sites, then started going through them”the old fashioned way,” looking at each site individually and assigning it a score that took into account relevancy, page rank, and contactability. (A sort of pre-engineered 80/20 to stop me going down a rabbit hole to get in touch with the owners of a low-page-ranked site, particularly if they had no interest in me.) Anyway, I did about 50 sites-a-day for two days, then used the mail merge feature to send personalized emails to each one. (By the time I filtered down to the highest ranked sites with published email addresses, it ended up being about 35 the first day and 20 the next.) The advantage to having spent all the time reviewing the sites was that I could include details from each in the introductory emails.

As you might expect, my conversion rate was lower than Perry’s. What incentive do other travel bloggers have to link to me, besides good karma? Perry’s birding clubs, by contrast, had an incentive to give good tips to their members. So it’s not surprising that not everyone got back to me. What DID surprise me was how many did!

All-told, I got around ten responses from just over 50 emails. Most were words-of-encouragement, and that’s fine. People shouldn’t link to me unless it’s a win for THEM. I’m not asking for any favors. But some people DID offer me links. And I’m happy to say my first two “juice” page links from high page-authority sites are inked – one is live already and the other hits virtual news stands August 30. And in the process I discovered a quid-pro-quo for link building I hadn’t realized existed – guest-posts-as-outsourced-content-creation. For some bloggers it’s better business sense to offer guest writers links than to pay them. A free link with my own anchor text from a high-PR site whose content I love, and all I have to so is write you a baller article that’s going to bring eyeballs back to my site, and that I would probably write anyway just for fun? Show me where to sign.

In the coming weeks I’m going to be doing some karmic-balancing of my own and finding ways to link to a few sites that impressed me especially (like this one from a fellow blogger going deep in Japan). As I mentioned above, the non-monetary and the subtlely-monetary benefits are what make niche-siteing worth it. If there’s not something you’re passionate about, you’re better off doing it Dane Maxwell style. 

Which brings us to Noah Kagan and the “velocity to one dollar”.

Noah Kagan and the Velocity to One Dollar

Tim Ferriss did an interview with Noah, and it’s about the most epic thing I’ve ever seen.(My anchor text is not doing anybody any good today. Sorry;) Noah, like Tim in Four Hour Work Week, likes to validate business ideas before he invests even a single dollar. “What could you do before you go to bed to see if anybody wants to buy your product?” he asks the audience. Post a facebook status? Open a google group? Tim and Noah welcome two guests as case-studies, and the amount of fat they are able to trim is appalling.

How do we make sure we’re not just playing business?” Kagan asks.

The interview reminded me of Tim’s original muse model in FHWW – dry test several products in parallel using Adwords, then launch once something is validated, using hacks like “net-30 terms” with drop shippers to avoid negative cash flow. The most difficult and off-putting part for me was the choreography of roll-out. I jumped in gamely with two product ideas, and spent around $500 in Adwords discovering one very marketable idea it turned out it was going to cost me a cool $70,000 to make. Not to mention that Adwords is far too expensive to be a viable test platform.

But something else isn’t, and, ironically it was designed by Noah: Facebook Ads.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been experimenting with Facebook Ads to increase “likes” for my travel site’s facebook page. (Yes I did link to that intentionally! Like it, for Pete’s sake!) The experiment was a bust, but in the process I discovered something else. Click-through rates to the articles I was advertising to get “likes” were off-the-charts. I was getting decent traffic to my site without even ranking in Google, and it was only costing me $2.50-a-day.

Hold on – I could monetize right now.

Excited by the idea, but wary of SEO and branding consequences, I emailed Spencer Haws  of Niche Pursuits, and he was nice enough to get back to me.

“Go for it,” he said.

So there we are – I’m in the process of steam-cleaning my site to make sure any hint of copyrighted material is removed and that all the links work and all the pages and articles display cleanly. Monetization will be an experiment, to see what type of ads I’m getting, what types of cost-per-click they’re bidding, and how the conversion rates work. If I even break even on the ads, it’s worth it, considering the value of the exposure the ads are giving me. I did some back-of-the-napkin math, though, and if I have even modest conversion rates and cost-per-click I think this goose might fly.

Then I can get my tattoo.

Not that any of that is stopping me from going full-speed-ahead with SEO. The advantage to being on the first page of google with legitimate links earned “the hard way” is immeasurable.

Two Final Thoughts

This is running long, and hopefully it’s “epic long” and not “rambling long”. But I had a lot to share. The ethos of my travel site is running experiments and reporting back with hard data, and I intend for some of that to rub off on Breaking Ferriss, as I alluded to above, so that this space is not just a confessional, but more like a loose mastermind group for anyone who wants to read.

First, I’m exploring applying the facebook ads to dry-testing actual products. I’m going to be running some experiments in the ensuing weeks, and I’ll report back. A high conversion rate on adsense is still only pennies, but the same rate applied to a product, even one costing a modest $5, might be the ticket.

Second, I’m now actively looking for another day job. The skill set I’ve amassed in the last six months is immense, and includes web copy (obviously), user-level web design with some JV html 5 coding, and some pretty cutting-edge SEO. Not to mention a ton of ground-level, freshly-gleaned social-media-marketing chops from both Smart Getaways and Shed Science, my web show. Because most of the SEO science is being continually re-written, and search engines are nearing the endpoint of being able to discern genuine links from spam links, the Perry Rosenbloom method is the vanguard. If it succeeds for me I can now sit across from any interviewer and say I’ve successfully implemented post-Panda/Penguin SEO campaigns. So I’m searching for a web content creator/SEO guy position. The race – between whether I’ll make money first from my own business or from a new job – is on.

As always, thanks for reading.

The Google Dance – meditations on process

Yesterday morning my site was ranked #31 in google, down 3 from the previous evening, when it was 28. By yesterday afternoon it was 25th. Fist Pump! Checked today and it was 32nd.

This nauseating fugoid is known in the industry as the “google dance.” I’m not sure if my heroes Pat Flynn and Spencer Haws experienced it this way though – the arcs their sites took seemed pretty direct.

Here’s the second-most unsettling part: I’m not exactly sure why my site started ranking so well to begin with (a little while ago it popped onto the radar in the high ’60s), and I’m certainly not any more sure what’s causing it to rise or fall.

Here’s the most unsettling part: I’m not sure even the experts know what’s working.

We’re in the google-update hinterlands: the idea of keyword-anchored niche websites arose in part as a way to exploit a loophole in the search engines. In 2007, they still weren’t that good. At their quintessence, search engines are supposed to determine the difference between sites recognized as “authorities” on the web and those that aren’t. Small problem – it would take human beings far too long to look through all the content on the web and make determinations about its value, so they wrote code, so that robots can do it.

In the beginning, the code was simple. Any site with a lot of links ranked highly. Then it got more discerning. At that point, a small number of links from pages of high perceived authority was enough to raise your rank, but google didn’t look very deeply into what gave sites authority, so it was possible to game the system by submitting “spun” articles to article distribution robots, which those robots would then distribute to hundreds of article directories, all pointing back at your satellite site, from which you would then link back to your central site. It was fraudulent – you were creating the appearance of respected bloggers using your site as a source when it was really just you.

Then came the Panda update. Panda addressed several big things – exact match domains and anchor text. It also refined further page authority. Now you could no longer use spun articles with the same anchor text, because an algorithm compared the frequency of exact match anchor text pointing back at your site to that occurring “in nature,” and the fake identities didn’t pass muster.

Now the game is expired domains, where you buy real domain names with lots of existing links pointing at them, refurbish the sites, and link to your landing page, being careful to keep the exact match anchor text below 20%. (It reminds me of the part of Catch Me If You Can when Frank Abagnale starts printing “real checks”.)

Starting to see a pattern here?

If your layperson SEO meta-analysis is anything like mine, you’re probably thinking “this is a racket not long for this world.” And you’d have online gurus Fraser Cain and Spencer Haws mostly agreeing with you. Then you’ve got people like Hayden Miyamoto and Alex Becker on the other side, proponents of the expired-domain method.

So whom to believe?

The jury’s out. I know expired domains will work now, but I’m not sure about the future. In the end I need to address this on two levels – practical and personal. On the practical level it makes sense to diversify and experiment. If I rank for multiple keywords it’s less consequential if any one falls off the top ten. How to get there and stay there? I can use several small sites to experiment with different SEO strategies. For my primary site, I want to be the most conservative, in case any particular strategy results in a penalty.

Some strategies I know won’t result in penalties are-

Social media profiles like a Facebook and Pinterest page and a slideshare account: While the types of links social media platforms provide are inconsequential in google’s eyes, they do give you eyeballs on your site, and some of those eyeballs may belong to bloggers who may want to link to you.

Start relationships with other bloggers in my niche. Tim Ferriss has a great approach for this – simply asking people questions about their blogs and only volunteering information about my own if asked, and then only in the form of a single article I think they may find interesting. (Just the way I emailed this to you and you’re still reading, if you’re someone I emailed this to;)

Links from blogs I already own, like this one, though multiple links from the same root domain don’t have much more effect than a single link.

Second is the personal level. On that front I have to balance being hungry for success and the motivation that gives me with focusing on process more and short term results less. The mind-hack is to try to view the google rankings like experiment data rather than as a reason to jump up and down or pound the floor.

I’ve seen the summit, folks. (Of this first little hill – breaking the top ten for the first keyword and earning dollar one from Adsense.) I don’t know how much distance lies between here and there – could be two weeks, could be months – but I’ve seen it. Now the challenge is keep calm, keep doing what’s working, and stay in the pocket.

N

By the way, if you’re seeing a video for potato chips below this copy, I’m making no money from it – it’s WordPress.com’s way of covering its expenses, though I’m already paying an annual fee for hosting. Point being, if you like delicious lays chips, click away, but it’s not an affiliate link or my own Adsense.

Reality Check Part Deux – Baby Steps

As my website (hopefully) creeps closer to monetization, it’s useful to keep a few things in mind, and the person who put it more lucidly than anyone I’ve ever heard was Fraser Cain, in a 2012 interview with niche website expert Spencer Haws.

Before I drop the good and bad news of the reality check, it’s worth remembering the original purpose of this blog – to reality-test Tim Ferriss’ assertions in Four Hour Work Week that practically anyone can start a lucrative side business, automate and outsource most of it, and use the passive income to fund his/her ideal lifestyle.

Here’s what I’m now sure of-

1)The first website I’m hoping to monetize has a potential 3600 visitors a month with something like a $2.50 cost per click. That’s 9,000 potential dollars times whatever percentage of viewers click on the ad. Industry standard is 1%. That’s $90 a month. It could end up being more, it could end up being less, or it could end up being $90 for different reasons than I expect (if, for instance, I don’t achieve top ranking, but I get traffic from multiple smaller keywords).

2) As bleak as that looks, I believe I’ve seen far enough over the horizon to say with reasonable certainty that the model is a viable one.

Before I get into the “good news” let’s get the other “bad news” items out there:

-According to Fraser Cain, there’s “no such thing as passive income,” since market conditions change so quickly that you have to continue to innovate,

-Niche websites are actually one of the lowest-leverage ways to earn, since you’re depending on Adwords, which has a pretty low ROI compared to products, and you’re depending on search engines, which can alter their algorithms at the drop of a hat and cost you big.

I want to begin to describe why I don’t think those cold, hard facts (that business and art gurus alike agree everyone who’s going to succeed needs to face) are as damning as they seem by posing a Four Hour Work Week “acid test” in true Tim Ferriss spirit.

What’s the bare minimum Ferrissian “lifestyle design” needs to do in order to be considered a viable alternative to the 9-5, “deferred life” plan?

Well, first is – free your time so that you can use it the way you want.

How am I spending my days now? I’m certainly working more than when I was “punching the clock”. Some days I do indeed go into the office, and on those days I usually work from about 10pm – 1am on my business. Other days I work remotely, and will usually use the first 2-3 hours of the day to work on the business before turning to “work” and hammering out my daily “to do” list.

If passive income, or at least “force multiplied” income were possible, I could view every website I built-then-forgot as an income jump. Build ten sites at an average of $90/month and that’s $900/month. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but remember I’m *still* collecting a paycheck from my day job (and I sleep very well at night too – everything’s above board, and I demonstrate better-than-ever productivity at work). That’s $10,800 extra per year.

Remember, though, Fraser Cain’s assertion that there are no websites you can truly “set and forget.” Ok, so say I have to keep building new sites. But I can probably build new ones quicker than the old ones fall off the indexes, if they do at all. (By the way, is $90/month average overly optimistic? I suspect not, but I’ll explain why in a follow up article.) That means if the only thing I did to make money from now on was niche websites, I could still slow the pace of producing new ones to half or even a quarter of my current pace and keep ahead of the curve, especially considering all the time the efficiency tactics are saving me at work.

Finally, there’s an opportunity cost angle to consider. If I weren’t pursuing passive income, it’s not like I would just be pulling four-hour Arrested Development benders every night. I’d be trying to get into B-school, or taking a class to try to get a raise, or putting extra hours at the office in hope of securing (or after securing) a promotion.

What I’m trying to do is what Tim Ferriss calls “fear setting”, and what Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the great new book Decisive call “bracketing”. I’m trying to establish a realistic range of outcomes that if I’m better than average I’ll hopefully be able to improve upon.

So, have I freed time in this baseline scenario? If you calculate time both in terms of hourly earnings and raw extra hours-per-week, I’d say the answer is “yes.”

Then there’s the qualitative argument. The way I spend my time these days is: banging through office work as efficiently as possible and working on my online biz the way I described, but also:

-becoming great at the drums – putting in about two hours of focused practice every day,

-filming a web show about music, and, lastly,

-traveling around the world, because since two of my websites are dedicated to travel, travel to destinations I’m going to write about is now business travel. (Look for smartasiatravel.com – with info on multiple Asian destinations as well as hacks for airfare, fighting jet lag, getting a global gsm phone for dirt cheap, the fastest way to learn mandarin, getting an international drivers license, and more – early next year.)

When you factor all that in, the $90/month earning potential of a top-ranked website and the need to continue building new sites doesn’t negate the benefits of the lifestyle I’ve begun to embark on.

And here’s what I haven’t even talked about yet – I’m not planning to confine myself to websites, or to confine website work to myself alone. As cash flow increases, so does investment potential. Things like hiring a programmer to design an iPhone app or a software to sell, and even being able to absorb a couple of failures, come into reach. And so does another pivotal Ferrissian device – virtual assistants. The way to make niche websites work in a big way is to scale them up, and when other people can do things like research and article writing for you, your time is free to do more.

I write this all before having made dollar one, and anything could happen with this first site. Still, I’m confident that A site will succeed eventually, and that’s all that matters.

Thanks for reading!

Ranking Update, and Reality Check

So my existing niche site continues to climb in the Google rankings.

Here’s the progression-

June 20 – 64th

June 26th – 39th

June 28th – 38th

June 30th (today) – 29th

A quick search of the existing blogs and sites in the top ten was all the reality I needed to get my feet back on the ground, however.

They clearly have boutique web designers. They have custom made interactive maps, and charts for every article. They have slick sites with custom sidebars.

They review far more destinations than I have (travel niche).

They (to my chargin) have comments disabled, or rerouted through social media (i.e. the url that my name would link to would be my facebook profile).

Getting in the top ten in this niche might be rough, but here’s why I’m not throwing in the towel just yet.

1. This is all a learning experience. When I chose this niche I didn’t have a super firm grasp on keyword research, and part of the motivation for writing a travel blog was to give me an excuse to travel. Which is not to say I’m “moving the goalposts” – I’m still going to go after it 100%.

2. Even if I don’t get in the top 10 for my primary keyword, there’s still reason to monetize. Online biz guru Hayden Miyamoto monetizes every site that cracks the top 20. Sure, the top 20 is daunting, but that seems a more reachable goal. Moreover, I’m already receiving traffic from certain “longtail” keywords semantically related to my niche.

Let me just pause here and mention that if any of these words sound like jargon or cult-speak, as if I were talking about Scientology, you’re not wrong. If you’re crazy enough to still be reading, check out this post for background.

3. My content may not be fancy, but it’s f@#$ing awesome. Many of the competitor sites seem to pick locations and businesses to review either because of affiliations, or totally at random. The result is a fancy looking blog with very little useful information to the user. If every chamber-of-commerce or small-biz association blog were brimming with useful information, there would be no need for Yelp. Yelp isn’t fancy, but it has something far more important – credibility.

How does credibility with users translate into rankings? Not directly, it’s true. The average time people are spending on my site is close to 12 minutes, and most people are viewing multiple articles. This translates in two ways – number one, search engines do take stock of time-on-site and what’s called “bounce rate” (basically the number of people who take one look at your site and go “hup that’s not what I wanted) as a metric to judge whether your content is relevant to the search term, even though it’s not the most important metric.

Second, people liking my content translates into a repeat user base – people who view my site as a go-to for credible information, and who will potentially subscribe to a mailing list and/or check back when new articles/reviews are published.

Anyway, I’m tantalizingly close to being able to monetize my first site. What stands between me and dollar one, as I wrote last Monday, is more content, and SEO. Inspired by some of the blogs in the top 20, I want to create more destinations, and expand still more on those where more depth is available. I’m also working on the next several phases of my SEO – blog comments (easier said-than-done), and social media/gallery sites.

More to come.