2006 was the absolute best year of my professional- as well as my online- career for many reasons; the main reason also being the most measurable one: Money earned.
But there were many factors that contributed to my success, and here are a few key learnings from 2006 – stuff that you should know, in case you don’t already.
#10: Content Syndication through RSS/Atom Feeds
In 2006, RSS, in spite of it’s name, suddenly became common-place, and was no longer a 3-lettered word. Thanks to an explosion in RSS/Atom/XML based content aggregator sites and software like Google Reader, the popularity of RSS feed syndication became so popular to the extent of feeds being abused, and sites were built for tracking feed usage. Another main factor for this was the availability of free, easy to use, powerful feed-publishing software like Magpie RSS, which let anyone publish any feed in real time within minutes on their web pages.
#9: You Gotta Spend Money To Make Money
I spent many years (like almost every one else who is new to owning their own web sites) trying to make-do with free or low-cost software and services. Finally, I woke up in time to realize that you (almost) always get what you paid for. “Free stuff” can only go so far. You have to invest at least some money, to make more than some money.
You’ve got to set aside some money for best-of-breed software and services – like a fully integrated e-commerce service that can handle all of your ebusiness needs like shopping cart, recurring billing, autoresponders, mailing lists, affiliate program, or services like hiring a copy writer who can get you much higher conversions on your leads than the average “do-it-yourself” copywriter can, or hiring folks to work remotely to do the more trivial jobs like data entry and responding to emails.
You simply cannot afford to spend every waking minute trying to install, integrate and manage 20 different open-source scripts that can probably do the same for free. You pay money so that you don’t pay in terms of time lost which could have been better used for creating relationships with your list members, affiliates, customers, site visitors and joint venture partners.
#8: Don’t try to be a hero – use outsourcing
Very similar to point #9. Loosely put, if a task doesn’t result in an increase in revenue, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Find someone else to do it, and focus on what will make you more money.
You simply cannot afford to do everything yourself. Yes, if you did it yourself, you can probably save some money because you won’t have to pay yourself. But guess what, you will always pay for it in terms of time spent. Even if you don’t realize the value of time lost now, over a period of time, it will bog you down, and will prevent you from doing everything you really need to be doing.
As a web site owner, there is always something to do: update your web site, create new content, post to your blog, write your next edition of your newsletter, write articles, do SEO, create new products, update your existing products… And then there’s the “managing” stuff – manage your site, manage your database, manage your lists, manage your tech support requests…
If you are trying to do everything on your own, and on top of that trying to do it all with a host of free or inexpensive software patched together, you are just setting yourself up for failure.
#7: Online Video Finally Grows Up
It is a great marketing tool, which is why YouTube sold for $1.65 Billion!
With broadband becoming extremely affordable and available at speeds exponentially faster than ever before, online video finally took off, like everyone predicted it would. So what does that mean for you? Other than putting out all kinds of silly personal videos, it still means a great deal for your business. You can create viral videos with your product or service subtly woven in, and get a lot of traffic. If your video gets to the home page of the big video sites, you can get a lot of face-time and publicity for whatever it is that you are promoting. And anyone can just copy a few lines of code and publish your video directly on their site – this is huge for popularizing your brand (especially, individual brands).
With software like Camtasia and Captivate, you can now publish professional-looking videos for training, how-to tutorials, and even home-made videos. There are no limits no more – not technology, not your computer, not bandwidth, not hosting services, and certainly not the audience. Just imagine: You can write, shoot, edit and be live with your own video show in a couple of hours from now (quality not withstanding, of course).
#6: The Playground is “Level-er” (if that’s even word)
- Publish your own book and launch it on Amazon (screw the big-name publishers who won’t even read your manuscript)
- Record your song in your bedroom and sell it on iTunes (screw the recording companies who take almost all of the profits leaving you with nothing)
- Record a home made video, publish on YouTube and other video sites, and get world-wide publicity. Heck, start your own TV show in 2 hours! (screw the TV executives who won’t look at your script unless you have connections)
- Register a domain name, get multi-site hosting for about 5 bucks, and launch 5 sites and 3 blogs all in 1 hour.
- Launch a full-blown product site in 1 minute using the power of web services
- Sign up for an online blog account, name, sign up for an Adsense account, and be making money within a couple of days (delay in approving new Adsense accounts notwithstanding) (screw traditional big name ad networks who won’t approve your pretty good site even when it is getting half-a-million pageviews a month
#5: The Bubble Has Burst – Long Live The Bubble!
As long as the world goes around, bubbles will form, they will burst, and they will re-form again. That is the nature of human beings – to forgive and forget. We forget all kinds of crimes, misdemeanors, slights, insults and mistakes. We forgot about what OJ did and were ready to publish (and even buy!) his book, we have forgiven what Kobe did, we have forgotten what Firestone did, we forgot how people lost their life savings during the amazing dot-bomb stock frenzy, and we will continue to buy up sites that have never earned a profit, for ridiculous amounts of money just based on speculated potential.
Web 2.0 became the most nauseating term of 2006. Sites added a few lines of Ajax, created a way for the site’s users to interact, and claimed to be a “web 2.0” site. Reeking of what happened in 2000, sites like Netvibes and Filmloop (sorry, Guy Kawasaki) are still being created just because they can, have no business model, have no way of ever making a profit, but continue to attract venture capital. Most sites being created started with the premise that they want to bought out by a Google or Yahoo, which is the first step towards failure. They forgot that the most successful sites that make a lot of money, or ended up getting bought out, were started with the intention of creating a remarkable product that scratched someone’s itch, and the buyout was only an after-effect of creating a purple cow, not the entire foundation of the product.
#4: Optimize, Optimize and Optimize Some More
SEO became a huge factor in getting free traffic. With Google, Yahoo and MSN handling almost all of the world’s searches, it became insanely obvious that if you’re not in the top page of a search for your keywords, leave alone in the top 3 listings, you are pretty much dead in terms of getting free traffic. But with more PPC ad networks available, it became a no-brainer to have traffic coming to a web site (or page) published barely minutes ago.
Also, with the search engines getting better with their ranking algorithms (mostly just Google), it became even more important to create legitimate content and do white-hat stuff to make money (and keep making it).
So whether it was optimizing your keywords to trigger better Adsense ads, or optimizing your Adwords ads to find the winners and drop the losers, or whether it was On-page optimization (tweaking page URL’s, internal linking structure, meta tags and content to increase PageRank), or Off-page optimization (link exchanges, one-way links, blogging, blog and ping, tag and ping, and trackbacks), it all came down to optimizing your efforts with everything, every day.
#3: Blogging became mainstream – in many ways
With ad networks like Adsense, Yahoo Publisher Network, MSN AdCenter and TextAds, monetizing your blog became easier than ever. Just blog about your favorite topics, get the word out on Digg, Reddit and Technorati, and have folks coming to your blog and (hopefully) clicking on ads within minutes. Try to game communities like Digg, and you
could will get burned.
Free software like WordPress (and its online counterpart) simply turned blogging on its head, where you could install a new blog and be posting to it in like 5 minutes. This was even better than the 3 minutes it took to create a free blogger account, because your stuff was still on Google’s servers, not on your own.
#2: Death of “Pimpernet Marketing”
It was the same BS every time – get your email address in exchange for a report or free bonus, and then flood you with total nonsense, with every email having an offer to buy something.
I unsubscribed from about 100+ mailing lists last year. You probably did the same. Product pimping reached an all time high last year – to a nauseating, record-setting level where a “New, Amazing, Must-have, Life-changing, World-changing, <
Luckily, people wised up to it quickly. What is that saying about how you can’t fool all the people all the time? There was that inevitable “market correction”, and it will take some time before people start trusting Internet marketers again.
And the #1 factor in my success last year? Drum rolls please….
#1: The Google Factor
Google helped me make a lot of money with Adsense, helped me market my products with Adwords, gave me tools like SiteMaps and Analytics to keep on top of the SEO game, helped me save money when I used Google Checkout (both as a merchant and a customer), let me create a customized search engine, made big improvements to Google Reader, integrated and improved docs and spreadsheets, announced that they have a CPA (cost per action) service coming up which I really look forward to, and purchased YouTube (though this last one hasn’t really improved my life or my earnings yet).
Humans are the only animals capable of change. So, based on what I learned in 2006, and the years before that, I look forward to a even bigger and better 2007.
So, here’s my mantra for 2007:
Do, track, optimize, change, rinse, repeat.
Good luck, and God bless!