Ben Aston chats with Jon Dykstra, internet media publishing sensation and founder of JGD Media Group about building and scaling successful revenue-generating websites.
- Apply to join the Indie Media Club
- Check out Fat Stacks Blog
- Follow Fat Stacks on LinkedIn
- Connect with Jon on LinkedIn
Related articles and podcasts:
- Podcast: How To Build Thriving Online Communities (with Richard Millington from FeverBee)
- Podcast: How To Develop A Content Strategy That Actually Works (with Jeff Coyle from Market Muse)
- Podcast: How To Diversify Revenue And Monetization Models (with Deacon Hayes from Well Kept Wallet)
- Podcast: How To Drive More Organic Traffic To Your Website (with Bernard Huang from Clearscope)
- Podcast: How To Acquire Websites & Build A Successful Paid Newsletter Subscription Model (with Richard Patey from Website Investing)
- Podcast: How To Build Niche Affiliate Websites (with Doug Cunnington from Niche Site Project)
- Intro Episode: Welcome to the Indie Media Club
- About the Indie Media Club podcast
We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.
So today I’m joined by Don Jon. Okay. I’ll start that again. Today. I’m joined by Jon Dykstra and he is a criminal defense lawyer turns online magazine, publisher and entrepreneur. He’s also the author of, uh, the best blogging newsletter around by his own admission. Now, Jon published it’s informational and entertaining content on niche sites.
The generate revenue from ads and product promotion. And so we’re going to talk about that today. He’s a guide that’s written more than 5 million words. He’s the owner operator of 16 niche sites, including what we’re going to talk about today, which is CycleBar.com. He’s got no clients. He’s got no customers.
And yet from just. Less than half of his portfolio. He makes more than three quarters of a million a year with nearly 90% profit. So he is a one man internet media publishing sensation, and you can follow his journey on fatstacksblog.com. But keep listening to today’s podcast to learn about how to build and scale successful revenue generating websites.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Jon.
Thanks a lot for having me Ben. Nice intro.
Yeah, I did my, did my research. I was interested in this journey of a criminal defense lawyer, uh, that transformed somehow into an online media entrepreneur, uh, like having gone to school to be a lawyer. How did you kind of make that transition in your, I guess, maybe in your head about, Hey, I’m not going to be a lawyer anymore. I’m going to be a media guy. How did that happen?
Yeah, it was accident, totally by accident. Really? Um, I was quite happy practicing law actually. And, um, yeah. Well, I was, I was a young lawyer at the time and I needed a website.
So, you know, I, I didn’t have a lot of money to do it, but I managed to hire a company to build a site. And the one thing they said, this is way back, pretty early SEO. And they suggested that they had this built in CMS. So, which is basically like what word presses? And he said, you know, we found that our lawyer clients, they serve as just lawyers.
And they said, you know, we find that those who blog regularly, Add a lot of content to the sites are doing really well for search. And I thought like, yeah, sure. I can totally do that. I didn’t have a lot of money for advertising. Whereas a lot of lawyers established had, you know, I mean they advertised a ton, right.
I couldn’t compete with that. So, I thought, well, you know, on weekends and nights I could blog. And if that works and, and usher did work and that’s, that’s how I fell into the whole blogging thing. I mean, you know, once you go down this rabbit hole, Uh, blogging. It’s, uh, you know, you start learning about SEO and you start learning about niches and you just start learning like the whole world of online publishing just kind of opened up over the subsequent years. Once I started doing that.
That was cool. And so, your monetization model, um, It’s primarily display ads and, um, affiliate as well, uh, which is different from a lot of people out there who are running, um, content sites who may be focused more purely on affiliates or purely on, you know, Amazon FBA or something like that.
They’re creating content, not for the purpose of just creating content, uh, and then monetizing it. But they’re doing it. It’s kind of like a necessary evil. Talk to me about why you kind of have hung your hat on display ads and affiliate in kind of in conjunction with that in terms of the monetization model that you think is kind of best suits you.
Well, the display ads also was an accident, uh, and I’ll get into that. But I started originally with the affiliate stuff. That was my first sort of introduction to monetizing general content aside from, I mean, originally, I started monetizing because I was supporting art legal services and wanting to sell legal services.
But so, once I discovered other niches than that, uh, affiliate marketing was like, Talked about a lot display ads on so much. So that’s what I did. I did it for quite a while, but the reason I didn’t really want to go into the whole e-commerce side of things right off again, I’ve never appealed to me one bit.
I, if that were the only option, I would still be a lawyer to this day. Uh, I liked practicing law. It was good. I, what I really like about what I do is Publishing Content. And I recognize that because I’m not actually selling the where’s the physical products and all of that, that I’m leaving lots of money on the table, but I’m not interested in selling that’s a whole other type of business.
And I think it’s a great business for people who like it, but that never appealed to me one bit. I’ve never even really gone in that direction, but I’ve really loved the idea of writing about any topic I want and monetizing it with. Uh, affiliate links. And while these States are particularly like monetizing with display ads, because it even gives me a lot more latitude for the type of content that I can publish.
And I can, I can turn that content into a revenue stream. And, and that’s the concept that appealed to me. And that’s why I’m doing this.
Cool. And I mean, let’s talk about this. Like, uh, yeah, you can write content I know on your fat stacks blog, and you should check this out. If you’re at the beginning stages of, uh, deciding what to write about, you know, you’re passionate about writing and you’re looking for ideas, then you should check out a post on the fat stacks blog.
In it, Jon goes through a whole bunch of different niches and talks about the pros and cons of writing about those different niches. Um, So, there’s this element where you could write about anything you wanted to, but in terms of the ease of doing that and the monetization potential, that’s going to vary.
Based on the news that you’re writing about. So can you talk us through a bit about your evaluation process when you’re working out, you’ve got stacks of different sites. Now writing about a whole host of different things. Talk us through the process that you go through when you are trying to decide whether or not this is a site you want to start or not.
Yeah, actually, I, I take a different approach in a lot of people. I mean, I do look at the commercial viability of it there. You know, there’s got to be advertisers there, but most niches these days will have that. So, I’m not too worried about that. Um, really, I, I launched sites where I think I could actually personally write for it.
Not that I write all the content, I don’t write actually most of them content, but, um, like for instance, this year I launched travel blog and now travel blogs are not performing all that hot right now. I don’t really care. I think it will. I think they’ve got a definitely long-term good outlook. So, I launch it.
But the reason when I launch it is, I go on trips. I take vacations. Here and there. And so, I can come back and I can post the images where we stay and do reviews of the various things that we do. And, uh, it, it makes for the like really good content. Cause I, I actually experienced it. I get the photos up there.
I enjoy writing about it. Got it. And so I thought, well, it’s a no brainer travel blog now, is it going to grow super-fast based on, you know, the few trips that I’ve taken. Right, right. Probably not, but that’s okay. It’s still gonna, it’s still gonna grow in value over time. And I do add other content and I got another auto blog.
I own a couple of cars. Uh, Lisa’s coming up for one and you know, I’m going to get another car and right about the car. I, I like my car and I can ride a bike and do photos of it. And it becomes really good content. So, so my approach really is, it’s sort of like one in my life and that I’m interested in, that I have experienced with that.
I know about that I can put. Fit it in, within a particular niche and write about that. Now I do hire other writers to add a lot of additional content, but really that’s the sort of main impetus of, of how I go about choosing new niches. So, my biggest niche site is an area that I’ve been interested in since I was, since I was a kid.
And it’s just, I never went into a professionally. But, uh, I do enjoy it and it’s, it’s been a fun niche to be in. So, and I have a law blog, which is probably never really going to go anywhere. But, uh, I mean, it’s a, it’s a good fit for somebody who went to law school. So that’s how I choose niches. And so, far it’s been great.
Um, you know, I’ve got, I’ve got a, this is a weird one, actually, uh, a fashion apparel, niche site that I watch is doing really well. That’s a great niche, by the way. I was surprised I never do, but it’s like. I buy clothes, you know, a few times a year, I go buy clothes. I can write about it. Right. I can take photos of the stuff and shoes and, and athletic gear and all this stuff.
I can put it on there. This is really good content. It’s really easy to write when you have your own photos and you wear the stuff like you can bang out like really good articles, really fast. And so, I put it on there and this, this sites almost, you know, do 80,000 visitors a month. And I haven’t really, you know, I’ve outsourced some content, whether I put my own on and it’s making great money and it was pretty easy to do.
Yeah. So, I mean, of all the sites that you have, which have been the most successful, um, why do you think they have been the most successful? I mean, I mean, let’s talk about actually what success look like for you, but then which have been the most that have met that criteria?
I’m not going to mention the niche of my most successful niche site because I don’t want a whole bunch of people going into it.
Okay. These are still my bread and butter. I mentioned the other ones. They’re smaller sites. I plan to take the, take a long time to grow them. And I do them 50% for personal interest, but I would say what makes them successful is, you know, it boils down to keyword research. A lot of the time, like. Like for instance, with the fashion site, I think this one’s going to be really successful looking at early numbers, like it’s growing like crazy, the ad revenue per thousand visitors really high there’s literally unlimited keywords in, in the niche.
Like it’s, it’s, it’s really good. I’m surprised I miss this one for so long anyways, you know, like for instance, I wrote, um, You know, I could go buy a particular shirt at, let’s say J crew for men, right. A particular stuff I could review that. Let’s say, let’s say it’s a v-neck t-shirt by J crew for men review kind of word it a little bit better than them, but that’s a really, really long tail.
I suspect I would rank for that fairly quickly. I could probably write that. In forty-five minutes, snap, a couple of photos of the actual shirt I would own. And boom, I’ve got a good review. That’s going to rank probably almost instantly because nobody’s written that particular article at all yet people are looking for.
Lots of men are looking to buy v-neck t-shirts throughout the year. And some are actually want to find out if the ones that J Crew and you got, so there you go. That’s the approach and it works.
And so in terms of your process, kind of big picture to grow your search visibility, to grow the number of views.
I mean, you’ve just. Started a few months ago, the cycle Bar blog. Um, what is, is your process? It sounds like your process is find something that interests you about the topic. Um, right. It, if the, if the keyword is long tail enough and there’s limited competition, it will just rank if the content is good enough.
Um, but talk to me about growing visibility, growing your readership, how, how systematic you are with that process. Or how much you’re following your hearts, which we just kind of talking about. Kind of sounds like a lot of that as well.
Yeah. It’s, it’s definitely a mix. Um, when I write about the stuff that I write about, I do it because of, I’m just interested in it and that’ll get traffic.
Uh, but you know, here’s, here’s like here’s our you in the first six months, six, six to 12 months. This is a really long-term business. You’re not going to get a lot of results in 12 months. So, you know, you’ve got to keep that in mind. Okay. So ,here’s what I do. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll sort of do just like cover all types of topics and articles within the niche or the vertical in the first 12 months I throw it all kinds of stuff.
So if we’re not going to fashion site for men, I covered t-shirts scarves, wallets, pens, whatever, all these things, right. That would be for men. And then I would. Watch and see what particular articles are performing well in search, I, this would be primarily for Google search traffic and a watch. And every time there’s always a handful, one at least, but usually a handful of articles out of say a hundred or 200 that are going to come totally outperform the other ones.
Despite the same keyword research approach and processes that I use for some reason. And it seems to me to be random, a few will do really well. And then what I do is the next phase of growing that site. As I focus on those few topics that are outperforming and I’ll really drill down deep on that. So, if it was V-neck t-shirts was like the biggest article on that site.
I would plan out as many articles around V-neck t-shirts for men, as I possibly could. Now, I don’t know how many I would get. We’re using it as an example. That’s a pretty limited topic, but we might, I’m sure you could. I’m sure you could go pretty, pretty deep on that. Like give you an example, but how deep you could go. And this is how I like to think about my sites, but if we start talking about t-shirts, we started talking about different materials that t-shirts are made.
We can talk about how they’re made. We can talk about the companies that make them well, we know about the history of t-shirts. We could talk about. Um, okay, well, there’s cotton T-shirts probably the most common there’s synthetics as well. I could actually do articles dedicated to different types of cotton that go into making the t-shirt, how the cotton is grown.
So you can, you can almost go down the entire chain of how a t-shirt is made. And before you know it, you’ve got 50 articles on V-neck. T-shirts and what happens then is Google. In my view, I’m not lying. I talk to the people at Google or anything, but my theory is, is who Google’s going to recognize your site as well.
They’ve got really good, informative content all about V-neck t-shirts we’re going to rank the whole series really well. And that’s, that’s my approach. And it works. Does it work every time? No, it doesn’t. It is a numbers game. A lot of stuff. I published debts, but somethings work out way better than I ever expected.
But I, this is, this has taken a lot of the guesswork out of it.
Cool. So you’ll start with a pillar piece of content. You’re seeing what ranks and then developing a topic cluster around that. Um, Keyword or that, that idea, uh, within the blogs.
Uh, yeah, almost. I don’t really start with the pillar. I usually start with pretty obscure keywords because a younger site, six months old is going to have no authority to rank really for much.
So, yeah. I it’s not like I go for a seat keyword, cause I’ll never rank for that keyword. Right. I go for something really, really obscure, but I’ll do it on a number of different topics within the niche. And hopefully, you know, in my experience, always something seems to outperform the others and then that’s where it’s zone in.
Cool. And in terms of your, I mean, it’s one thing getting. Uh, eyes on eyes on the site, eyeballs on the pages, we’re developing these content areas, you’re testing and learning, and then building out more content to develop the clusters of content. Um, as you’re doing that, you’re seeing your readership grow because you’re appearing, uh, in more SERPs and you’re getting visibility.
But in terms of, Uh, seeing that traffic become, repeat visitors or seeing your, um, you’re seeing your site is more than just, uh, you know, a one hit wonder. Do you, what do you do, or do you do anything to try and encourage repeat visitors or, um, using email or anything else?
Yeah, not so much. I would say my biggest niche site has a half decent repeat visitor, just because there’s so much content I actually have.
Uh, various tools that I’ve put on there, like software tools and stuff, and that, that, you know, I’ve been really dedicated outside for six years. So that’s got to that point where I do a lot of people actually search out the site. You could see the keyword search volume in Ahrefs for the site domain and so forth.
So definitely an indicator of I’m doing things right with that site. For my smaller sites, not so much yet. They’re really, they’re really the one hit wonders. As you say, uh, at this stage, you’re just trying to get the search traffic, but. You, you know, five years goes by fast. Uh, but it’s also enough time to really sort of hopefully move a site in a particular direction.
My fashion site isn’t going to move directly, you know, strictly toward by, just men’s apparel. It might maybe I’ll even narrow it down further. Uh, depending on what’s working, it’s still fairly new. So. Uh, most of these sites, aren’t really audience building sites like quick Life In Fun Size blogs definitely knows kind of email readership, podcasts and all that.
But these don’t, they don’t have a podcast I’ve, I’ve tried that. It didn’t really work in, in these types of niches. I even did email built up a huge email list. Engagement was, was pretty weak. Um, these are big broad niches. Um, so they they’ve kind of worked pretty well on social media and Pinterest. But, um, yeah, they’re, they’re really organic search engine plays at the end of the day.
Yeah. I mean, let’s dive into your new project, which you kind of publicizing on your fat stacks blog. So, you started it three months ago now. Um, how is it going? Where are you at in this process of writing a bunch of stuff? And is any of it ranking yet? How’s that going?
Yeah, I think some organic search traffic, not a whole lot, I think 20, 30 visitors a day.
So, so nothing to write home about. Um, I it’s a good site that site actually probably could build somewhat of an audience because it’s more of a hobby sport type site, which is. Not something I normally do, but I mean, people who are into mountain biking or cycling, you know, it’s a, it’s an ongoing interest.
Uh, I started that site with no intention of growing it. Um, I had a lot of questions from people who are, who read my blog and the fence, email newsletter asking what can we just see an example of what one of your new sites look like? And they didn’t even require condo. They just want to see how I set it up and then the ads and all that I thought, well, yeah, that’s an easy thing I could do.
Yeah. And so, when you, I mean, you’re saying you started at three months ago, you’re not getting a whole bunch of organic traffic yet.
Yeah, sure. Well, yeah, it’s been a progression, just like so many other people started with that since moved on to a few other ad networks. Uh Zoellick I got to eventually, I think they required 10,000 page views per month, which is a fairly low threshold to hit. And then I moved to add thrive right now.
All my sites are on add thriving and even the small ones are on there. And the whole reason I was able to do that is because of the. The large site has so much traffic. They gave me an exception, which was pretty nice of them. So, I do actually monetize cycle bearing with display ads, but normally that would not be possible just because of traffic so low.
So yeah, I got lucky there for sure. Um, but essentially now, any site that I would. Put ads on just strictly. I would just add them to my ad thrive account without hesitation. I wouldn’t try anything else. I’ve been very pleased with them. I was pleased with the zone for a long time. I just sort of like more of the hands-off, uh, aspect of AdThrive.
And I moved all my sites to infinite scroll this year as well. And AdThrive works perfectly with, with infinite scroll, the ads, keep displaying as new posts come into view and so forth. So, so it’s, it’s been great working with them.
That’s cool. And as, I mean, obviously technology changes. Um, but since you started blogging, uh, and started realizing that you could monetize it through just and affiliate, um, what, how do you think your approach or technique has changed?
Um, since you started however many years ago, uh, blogging, like what of, what are the, some of the things that you’ve noticed changing?
A big change as well. I started before 2012, which was the year Google rolled out the first penguin. So, between then and now huge changes. I mean, I used to do a lot of the spammy link building to rank.
I mean, it was a no-brainer it was so easy. You could just like build piles and piles of link with software, to your site and rank for so much stuff. It was really easy SEO, but. You know, it was, it was boring work. I mean, doing all those links and stuff, but you kind of had to, because everybody else was doing it, it was sorta like, who could like blast out more links than the next person.
It was Google penguin came along, wiped that out, was able to check more or less, most spammy links. So that was the end of that party. And so I realized, you know, I mean, Google had always been saying, we want to rank good content. I don’t think their tech was quite up to snuff at that point to do so because their ranking.
You know, and, you know, not the best content was ranking was who got the most links. Right? So that, that was what I think now Google’s quite good. Not ranking the best content. It’s not, it’s not infallible, but I think they’re pretty good at it. So, so really now I do like the fact that it’s, it’s, it really, it boils down to publishing good content.
And I do focus on that. I don’t do any link building at all. I attract lots of links from other sites with my content, trying to incorporate linked, you know, um, Well, we’d call it link Bay or linkable assets, but I don’t go out and build links anymore. I just focus on the good content. That’s what, that’s what I like to do at work.
So I stick with it. That’s definitely a big change. I think, uh, you know, there’s been these huge upsets in industry overall over the years. I mean, you think about Facebook, Facebook used to be a pretty big traffic driver for me, organic Facebook, I built up a big Facebook page and it would consistently drive a lot of organic reach visitors.
I mean, most publishers were doing it. Facebook was like an amazing traffic source for about five years. And then. I think it was 2016 or something, you know, they pulled the plug on that and organic reaches is terrible for most pages. Um, so, so that ended, um, so you have, you have these big changes along the way, and you’ve got to adjust with it.
Uh, I think the one constant since always been though is, is generally good. Content will tend to perform generally. There’s always exceptions, but even penguin, I mean Google’s intention was to rank good content. It’s just a got muddled in with a lot of the spammy link building.
Yeah. So, and over the half of any years you’ve been doing this. How many years is it now?
A full time? 2012, eight years.
Yeah. So can you share perhaps one of your biggest screw ups and what you learned through that?
Well, I would, I would think the, uh, the, the spammy link building was because, you know, I, I actually publish pretty good content, but back then I wrote most of it myself.
In fact, I think I wrote all of it. Back then myself. And, you know, it was four months after I went full time. So, and it definitely impacted some of my bigger arching sites. So it was, it was scary, but my sites were actually half decent, but I, I, you know, I powered them up with spammy link building. So, when penguin came along, that wiped those sites out.
So I would say the biggest mistake was. You know, had I not built all those lousy likes and just let the content do its thing. Um, I, those sites would still be around today and they’d probably be quite something, but, you know, I say that with a grain of salt, because those sites made money because of the spammy link.
Right? Like they wouldn’t have probably done anything without it, because everybody was doing it. I mean, the sites were getting like millions of back links from just software and that, and you kind of had to play ball in order to get somewhere with that.
Yeah. Um, so let’s talk about, I mean, dive into a bit more about your tech stack now.
I mean, you, um, you talked about, you know, in the old days you’d be an, a building PBNs or creating, um, this spammy links. Um, but what’s. You know, apart from, uh, WordPress, which you’ve mentioned and just writing content, what else is in your stack to help you develop content that ranks, um, just independently of link building?
Yeah. Yeah, my, well, my three favorite keyword research tools would be Ahrefs, answerthepublic.com and. Keywordsheeter.com. Those three are instrumental. Uh, generally Google auto suggest Google itself is good. You know, you start typing and you see suggested phrases. That can be very, very good as well. So that’s for the research side of it in terms of my favorite theme right now would be Beamer theme, which is available on theme forest.
Uh, I tested a lot of themes. The infinite scroll on there is just absolutely seamless and works really, really well. So, I like it. I use that on every new site except for a fat stacks. Which doesn’t have infinite scroll. Uh, it doesn’t, I don’t, I think users prefer it. Not for that particular site. I use Grammarly.
Uh, I’m a horrendous speller and my, you know, my grammar, like I just type, type, type, type type. And, you know, it’s just like red, everywhere. I still miss stuff, which it boggles my mind. I’ll send an email out. I’m just like, I mean, how do, how do you miss it? It’s, it’s underlined in a big, full line. I still miss this stuff.
So I use Grammarly and it does actually help me out. Cause if they didn’t have it, it’d be, it’d be atrocious. Well, what else would I use? Kinsta for hosting. Best hosting I’ve ever. I’ve tried so many over the years. Like it’s expensive. Don’t go there until you have some pretty good traffic, but once you get good traffic look, nowhere else go to kids.
It’s awesome. Support there is amazing, uh, performance. Excellent. Well, what else am I use? And, um, Link Whisper, Spencer Hawes. That thing is really awesome plugin. Uh, I got to say, uh, it helps with internal linking it. Doesn’t do. It all for me, I still do a lot of manual internal linking. I think internal linking is really important part.
Like when we talk about those article clusters, I like to interlink them. I think that is very important in terms of helping them along. Link whisper is a great tool to help speed up in your internal linking. Cause it is one boring, tedious task. And so that does help, but I still do manual on the side as well.
And so, and let’s talk about your process in terms of, I mean, you’re running a bunch of different sites, uh, you’re producing hundreds of pieces of content a month. I’m guessing. How do you manage the firstly, I guess the, the editorial or content strategy, um, identifying what to write about and then through to doing that keyword research, getting the articles published on the site, um, Talk us through that process of how you manage and prioritize and manage the process of content development.
Yeah, Sure. Uh, well, my, my, my smaller sites do get a lot less content in my bigger sites. I tend to the more money it makes the more resources again. So, there are sites I may only publish four, six articles a month. I’m not really like. Realistically, I’m not going to grow them that fast. I’m just sort of kicking along because down the road they might have potential.
And when I have a personal thing to write about that, I can add to it, then it’s there for that. So, um, it’s not as much content as you would think each month. My biggest new site, which is where I dedicate most of my time to still to this day, because it earns out, earns everything else by quite a bit, uh, that will publish anywhere from one to four articles per day on that site.
So, yeah, that is a lot of content. And because I am really involved in that, I do the keyword research and come up with the topics. So, I’ve got a pretty good workflow in terms of. The topics go on a spreadsheet and then whichever content source, whether it’s an in-house writer or a writing agency, I have spreadsheets for all writers sources.
They’ll pick up the topics. They write the content, they deliver it back. Uh, either I will take a look at it if it’s not an important, terribly important topic, there’s different sort of caliber of articles. And I put on the site, um, sometimes then, um, I have a. Uh, uh, I had VA or a VA manager who helped, uh, works with three or four VA’s and they, they get all the content formatted on the site.
So, so the process is like that. If it’s a more of an important article, I will review it and then send it off for it to get format. And you put on the site, uh, that’s pretty much the workflow I’m, I’m involved in it daily. Maybe not everyday, but fairly regularly, but really once the keywords are added to spreadsheets that sort of works more or less on its own, which is quite nice.
And where, where have you found those writers wherever you source them from?
problogger.com/jobs, like, wow, amazing, great. We’re 70 bucks, much better than Upwork. I’ve used Upwork, not to knock them. I’ve used them for hiring for other things. But I got to say in terms of finding writers, like I think a lot of really good freelance writers or are looking for work they’re actively all the time.
Cause like I got tons of applicants and a lot of them were really good. It was really hard to narrow it down. I had a hard time with that.
Cool. And in terms of, I mean, you, you talked about outsourcing some of that content development as well. Are there any, uh, content or writing agencies that you found to be particularly good?
Yeah. Well, I particularly like writeraccess right now. Um, huge pool of really talented writers.
The whole platform, the backend works it’s really, really well set up and, um, you can get good content for reasonable rates on there. You know, I think the big difference is when you’re looking at these things is like, if you can hire directly or in house, like the big advantages is you’ve got rid of the middle person, right?
So the writer is probably going to take a little bit less than they might want on writer’s access. Cause the writer access to something like 30%, right? So, it’s kind of a win-win. If you can hire directly, it’ll probably work for a little bit less, but make more than they would there. And you get a high caliber writer, talented person.
Paying a little bit less than you would on writer access, but right. Writer access definitely has like, I, I still order on there regularly weekly. Um, you know, I’ve got some writers who I work with directly on there that I found them there. So I continue with them there. Sometimes I have a huge order that I need content back quickly.
You know, an in-house writer could only do so much in, in a day or a week. Right. It’s one person. Uh, or if you have two or three and even then, but like there have been instances where I’ll order 50, fairly long articles for a full cluster at one go. And I kind of want them all within a week or two that’s possible. Writer access or wouldn’t like that.
Yeah. That’s cool. How much does, I mean, how much does content costs? Um, so in terms of say a thousand-word blog post, do you know how much it costs you to produce?
Yeah. Anywhere from, uh, between 30 bucks on the low, very, very low end, up to a hundred dollars.
And in terms of the ROI on that. So, you spent a hundred bucks on a post.
What’s your, what’s your kind of lead time to seeing the ROI. So thing it pay for itself. And do you factor that in or do you, you just see, see this as a big picture investment and a big picture return on that investment?
Yeah, I’d say the second list. I have colleagues who are way better at tracking the ROI and the numbers, and they pay a lot more attention to that stuff.
I I’m, I’m sort of really big picture and it’s pretty sloppy. It really is. Uh, but, uh, I’m at the point now where it’s like, I’m going to invest this much every month in the content and things are going to grow X amount some years it’s better, some years it’s worse, but that’s what I’m doing. I’m sort of looking like, well, right now, I just want to get these sites up to such and such a point, and I’m not going to like, try to analyze it to death, to every nickel.
It’s just not the way I do things. So yeah, I kind of already give you an ROI on any of that. Like. Yeah. I’ve published articles that have generated tens of thousands of dollars over the years. And I publish articles I thought were sure wins that would do really well and never made an echo. You never really know.
You just try to get better and better with it as time goes on.
Would you say there’s like a typical amount of time though, that you would work on a site, um, before you see that it paid for itself. Because obviously big picture. When we look at your numbers, cause, you mean you published it on the fast text blog.
We see you have incredible amounts of profitability. Um, as you know, and that’s the nature of content sites is that they can be incredibly profitable. So, when you’re, yeah, when you’re deciding to launch a new site, do you have a timeline in your mind? Hey, this is going to be a 24-month investment. I’m going to spend $15,000 probably, but in year three, I’ll probably make 30,000.
Roughly I do. I mean, several of my sites I’m kicking along and I’m not really putting much into them and I don’t expect that they’re going to really do anything in two years, but there’s a handful. I sort sorta did the spray and pray with like all these sites where I launched. And because I knew that a couple would probably outperform the others.
And that was right. I have, I have three additional sites to my, to my really big new site that are like, for some reason. Really doing really well. So, I’m going to put more into them and I put less than the others. And so, you know, that experiment worked out really well. Um, I, I sort of, kind of like this, my, the first big milestone for any new site and I want to usually get there within 18 months.
Is that they break even, and that they can be self-financing. So usually that’s around the 500 or a thousand dollars a month mark. And that means they can actually pay for a good chunk of content every month. And when you get to that, that you can grow them without being out of pocket and, and you’re growing the value of the asset itself.
Eventually you’d get the actual monthly revenue into the black, and that’s obviously the next great milestone. Um, but you know, The big mistake. I see a lot of people make with this is they start their second, third and fourth sites far, far, too quickly. It’s a lot of work to manage one site well and grow one site and fight.
I have colleagues who get millions and millions of visitors a month and they are one site outfit. They would never think about starting another site to them. They see it’s like, this is the, this is the business. The one site, I tend to like the idea of being diversified, but I didn’t diversify until I was making like quite a bit of money from the first niche site, which has got to like pay my salary.
It’s got to self-finance itself, which is a fair amount of content every month. And then it’s got to kick off additional amount of revenue to finance the second site, because I’m too busy to really put a lot into the second site.
So if you have a site that’s making a few hundred bucks and it’s not even self-financing. You know, that’s way too early to think about starting another site. That that’s my opinion.
Yeah. And yeah. Thinking about that. Uh, yeah, the process, I mean, what you’re doing is you’re building cash, flowing assets. Um, have you, have you exited any, have you sold any of your sites?
No! I should. I probably should I kicked around sometimes about doing it, but you know, I’m a, I’m an optimist and I always think, well, myself, it’s too early and you know, I can keep growing and there’ll be worth more down the road. So, No.
And how many of your sites have you like abandoned along the way?
Oh lots. Lots of probably abandoned and a couple of that. I got an error anyway, too. Um, that just happens, uh, You, know, but I abandoned a bunch after the Google penguin as well, because those are write-offs. There was no, there was no redeeming those sites. They were toast. So, I abandoned those I’ve had false starts over the years.
I thought ideas were good. They weren’t. Um, but you know, I would say in the last five years, pretty much everything I’ve started, I’ve kind of stuck with and have thrown money into them regularly.
And when you made that choice of that kind of, um, go no-go anymore on these, I mean, you’ve invested time, you’ve invested money.
How did you, how do you decide when that’s yeah. It’s, you know, it’s curtains for the site.
Okay. Well probably like the one site I have that is probably curtains cause, um, at a loss as the law niche site. Um, I liked the topic and I write occasionally, but you know, writing a really good law blog is almost like a full-time job in itself.
It’s a very technical area, right. You can, you know, and, and I have the legal background. I could probably do a good job. I just don’t have the time for it. So, what else can I do with that site? I’m sort of at a loss and I’m kicking around. So that’s one of those sites where it’s like, well, I don’t really know if it has much of a future.
It makes three bucks a day now. So, it has some value. I could sell it for something. Um, but I haven’t, you know what, the other thing, you know, another reason I don’t sell my sites is because it’s a real drag settlement site. Uh, unless, unless you get a buyer who’s like just basically gonna look quickly at your, at your revenue numbers and your analytics and be like, yeah, I’ll take it.
You know, maybe negotiate a little bit, but I tell ya I’ve done it once I listed a site and. It was a three-month process. And every, every, like every other day the buyer would want new stuff. And I’m like, I spent, it was became a full-time job, providing details to, to a buyer. And I’m like, this sucks. I’m not, I’m not doing that.
So now I would, uh, there’s an outfit called motion invest, uh, run by Spencer Haws and John, uh, John, uh, Gillham, I think. And, um, they’ll, they’ll, they’ll buy sites fairly efficiently. And, but, but they’re going to pay you less for it. You have to accept less, but it’s this service to fill that problem. And for a lot of my smaller sites, I’d probably be the route I go, because I really don’t want to sit there for three weeks or a month having some buyers say, I need this and I need that.
And I want this and I want that. And it’s like, you know, That’s no fun. So that is actually a big barrier to me actually pulling the trigger. And then you got to migrate the site over. I don’t even know how to do that. Huh? So, it’s probably like all these hassles and gone there. I know a lot of people who may be eliciting who have sold there’s some people sell tons of sites and they probably sell them at the right time and all that.
And they’re thinking, well, I mean, it’s really not that big of a deal, but for me, I guess it kind of is. It’s just none of that stuff I like doing, but yeah. Um, yeah,
I mean, I think that’s the challenge with that when it’s a lifestyle business, right? It’s like this is cast flowing. I’m happy. Um, I mean, why?
Yeah. Like, I don’t want a headache. This is why I’m doing this. I’m doing this so, I don’t have a headache.
Exactly. I mean, if it was a, you know, the $12 million payoff, I’ll, I’ll jump through some hoops for somebody. Right. But, you know, for, for a $4,000 purchase, I mean, do I really want to spend two weeks and swinging some guy’s email asking a whole, but not really. I’m not going to do that.
So. Yeah. I mean, let’s talk about, so you, and I mean, we’ve been talking about, this is a lifestyle business. You’re doing this because I mean, you enjoy writing and it’s fun, but like where, what do you see as your goals? Where are you, where are you headed? What’s what are you trying to achieve?
I would like, I have one fairly successful new site. And I, I think that has room to grow. I would like five of those right now to be diversified because I’m one algorithm away from losing a lot. Like I acknowledge that. I recognize that. We’ve also gotten Chrome. I think it is getting rid of the cookie for advertising coming down the road.
I don’t know what that’s going to mean. I don’t know. I do have faith that I think the whole advertising industry, as a general, there’s so much money tied up with online advertising. Probably some solution will materialize. That’s the optimism in me thinking that, but you know, it may be really bad. I don’t know right?
And I’m an algo update away from losing a lot of monthly revenue. So yeah, that these are the risks you sort of live with daily. So, I would love to have three to five sites that are like sizable, like really big and are really profitable. And I’m working pretty hard to get there. It’s going to take a little while.
But that’s sort of for me right now, the next, the next phase.
Yeah. And what’s, and what’s tough. What’s what are the barriers to that? What are your biggest challenges in making that happen?
Oh, time, time and content, really? Um, you know, my, my biggest niche site, I, I spend a decent amount of time on that still every day.
And so trying to grow, so looking like the fashion site might be a contender. I’ve got a smartwatch site. I’m, I’m not about smart watches already like it. So, I started a site on that, that’s like a with some good potential. Um, and then there’s two others with potential it, but you know, it’s a lot of time and it take to take them from, you know, the 50 bucks a day now to grow them to where they’re, you know, doing, you know, a thousand bucks a day, um, requires quite a bit of a thought, like, like a cycle bear.
And I haven’t put categories on there. I haven’t planned out my tags. I don’t even, I did get a logo though. That’s pretty early. I often don’t even get a logo for the first six months on a new site. I mean, I just, just get them going. I think a lot of people spend too much time messing around with the wrong stuff.
Like I’ve had a lot of people email me with cycle barn. It’s like, you, you know, you don’t have categories on your site and, and, and that, that, that you, if you get categories, it might do better, you know? And it’s like, thanks. Yeah, I know. I know. It’s I don’t have patio. He said, and they’re calming. But I don’t really know what direction the site is going to take.
So I don’t really know what should be the categories and what should be the tech. So, I’m just going to wait. Rather than change way. It’s not going to make a difference when I have 25 visitors a day from Google search. Right. So, it doesn’t really matter. So, my point is, I think a lot of people spend time on like making their website all fancy and spending a lot of time and money on design and all these planning out your categories and tags.
This is sort of like really far down the line secondary stuff. The really key thing is just like, let’s get the content out there. So, um, but, but that takes a lot of time and money.
Yeah. What are you trying to get better at as you kind of look back on your journey and you think about, you know, the goals you’re trying to achieve and getting three to five serious revenue generating sites, what are you, what are you trying to get better at?
What are you trying to develop in terms of your skillset or the way that you, the way that you manage this
Better content. Just get published. Like. You know, we talked about building an audience before building a brand. I would love for the three of my sites or five of my sites to actually be like recognized brands in the space.
I think I got one getting there. It’s not there, but it’s getting there. It gets several thousand searches a month by its, by its name. So, there’s some brand recognition going. People want to go back. I would love for, to build up several brands. I don’t think you’re Bulletproof. I think you’re Big branded sites are still highly dependent on Google search traffic.
You know, let’s not kid ourselves, but I think if you could be recognized as a brand, it means you’re really doing something right. The content is good. People are liking it. You’re doing the right thing. You’re doing, you’re putting out a good publication. That’s where I would like to get to.
Yeah. Cool. Well, let’s finish off by doing a lightning round and, uh, I want to know what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Best advice was get started. And I know how trite that sounds, but like, you don’t know how many emails I get from people whose talk, say I started a site five years. I quit and now I’d like to get started again.
I actually just pushed out that first article, hip hop. I still remember the first time I press publish on WordPress for the first time.
That’s cool. Which of your personal habits do you think has most contributed to your success?
Publish one article a day, no matter what, usually it’s more, but you know what?
If I do nothing, if I sit around and do nothing all day except publish one good article, that’s a good day.
And can you share an internet resource or tool that you use regularly that you love?
Uh, what book would you recommend that you’ve read recently?
Fiction. Any fiction. Got it. You got to step away from this stuff, man.
You got to, you got to zone out, love fiction. I don’t read non-fiction like business helps not fight it. You know fiction, relax. Take a break.
And for someone at the start of their digital media journey, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give them?
Ahh. what that is always a tough one. I’ve published one article a day.
If, if you, if you like the idea of writing, okay, if you like writing and you want to do this model that I’m doing, where it’s a lot of content with display ads, you got to focus on the publishing and you got to publish an article once a day. If you got a full-time job, you set a goal. I’m going to publish two articles a week, whatever it is, stick to it. That’s what it takes.
Awesome. And yeah, Jon tell us where people can find out more about you and what you’re up to?
Yeah. It’s fatstackblog.com, that’s where I just write fairly regularly about what I’m doing in this. Basically covering a lot of stuff we talked about today. That’s the place to go to. Awesome.
Well, Jon, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been great having you with us.
Thanks for having me, Ben. Appreciate it.
And if you like what you heard, please subscribe and stay in touch on indiemedia.club. But until next time, thanks so much for listening.