Over the last year, I’ve experimented with many different online business models on my quest to become truly free and earn a passive income whilst I travel the world.
Today, I’m going to introduce you to my first Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) experiment!
In this post, you will learn…
In early 2017, I noticed that I was repeatedly selling the SAME items through my Amazon affiliate account… I knew that I would continue to sell large amounts of these particular items as I was already ranking on the front page of Google for content about these products.
I figured that this was an exciting opportunity – If I could design and manufacture my own version of these products and get them on Amazon, I could redirect the traffic from my blog to MY products and make some real money rather than just 4% on an affiliate sale.
FBA is a GREAT way to make more money out of your existing amazon affiliate sales – assuming you are selling a decent quantity of the same products month after month.
I teamed up for a joint venture with my friend DJ and together we designed and launched Active Roots.
Active Roots is a travel gear company built on a drop shipping model – we sell hammocks, towels, security belts and other products popular with backpackers and hikers. 10% of all sales goes towards the Elephant Conservation Centre in Laos – something we’re stoked to be a part of.
Active Roots products are manufactured in China and shipped in bulk to an Amazon warehouse where they are stored, packaged and shipped to customers (Amazon charge for these services) – this is known as Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA).
As well as this, we also sell Active Roots products directly through our Shopify store – I’ll talk more about this later.
It took us a while to figure out the Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) model as there are lots of moving parts when you’re setting up but once you have it down – it requires very little work to keep sales rolling.
Right now, Active Roots brings in a passive income of between $4000 and $7000 a month. Of this, about 35% is profit. Our profit margins vary as we sell several different products but on average we make $7.50 profit per sale.
So far this year, we’ve sold over 2000 items for a total of just over $40,000. This made us a profit of around $15,000.
The screenshot below shows our total sales of Active Roots products on Amazon for the year to date.
It took time to get this venture off the ground and to really get sales cranking but we’re now close to selling 300+ items a month and sales continue to grow.
When me and DJ first started looking into drop shipping, we immediately came across a pretty large challenge – would we sell our items on Amazon and let Amazon handle all the logistics, customer support and warehousing or would we ship items directly from suppliers to our customers?
Since neither DJ nor myself wanted to be customer support, we opted to follow the Fulfilled by Amazon model. We didn’t want our customers to have to deal with long delivery times or shoddy packaging so Amazon was the obvious choice.
Fulfilled by Amazon is when you ship your products to an Amazon warehouse. You then list your products on Amazon itself and as your products are sold, Amazon handles packaging and shipping to your customers. If there are returns, Amazon handles those too.
Once you have your products actually on Amazon, you really don’t have to do anything apart from try to drive traffic to your product listings.
→It’s expensive: Amazon charges HEFTY fees and competition amongst retailers is fierce – if you are trying to rank on Amazon itself, you will face a steep and expensive uphill battle.
→ Competing in Amazon search results is all about price: Unless you are selling a truly special product, price is the only thing to set you apart from hundreds of other retailers selling identical items – price wars are common.
→ Avoid price wars: I advise not trying to compete in Amazon search results – instead focus on driving traffic to your landing pages through SEO or Facebook ads.
→ Targeted traffic converts: If you can drive traffic through SEO or Facebook ads to your product listings, it WILL work – even if you are not the cheapest or even the best product available on Amazon. Buyers searching for your product keywords are READY to buy, if you can capture them and throw them at your product landing page, you have a good chance of seeing a conversion.
→ If you have small margins, you have to shift a lot of product: I fucked up in this venture. I chose items that were cheap to make and cheap to sell. The problem is, I just can’t make enough on a sale of these kinds of items to make it worth my time. If you only have a margin of 35% on a product, you need to sell literally thousands and thousands of them to make it work. Instead, I should have chosen much more expensive items – where I can make $100 + per sale – and settled on higher margins, lower sales. It’s easier to sell twenty high value items a month than it is to sell two hundred low value items – there is also usually MUCH more competition with low value items because the barrier to entry is low.
→ To get the best prices, you have to actually GO to China: I know for a fact that some of our competitors are producing identical products to us and are sourcing them for less. This is because we did not actually go to China – we instead sourced our suppliers through Alibaba, and trust me; that leaves you wide open to getting fucked. If you’re serious about setting up an FBA venture, you should go to China to forge proper relationships with your suppliers.
→ Some products are seasonal: Just because you had a great month in July, that doesn’t mean you can expect to see the same numbers in August – Did you know that there is a hammocking season? I didn’t until recently but it turns out there totally is and there are peak times of the year when people are searching for certain products – this can make it difficult to estimate how much inventory you need.
→ Running out of inventory is a crime: This happened to us twice. When you run out of inventory, it can take as long as a month to restock from China – every day that you are out of stock, you are leaving money on the table. We probably lost out on at least $8000 of sales this year when we were out of stock. However, you have to be careful – if you have TOO MUCH stock this will eat into your margins as Amazon will charge you for every day they are warehousing your products.
→ Amazon are out to crush the little guy: Amazon has access to INSANE amounts of data and they use that data to work out what product to release next in their ‘Amazon Basics’ range – as soon as Amazon releases it’s own version of a product, all other retailers trying to sell that product are doomed – they cannot compete on price or brand trust and recognition. Even worse, Amazon manipulates search results so that the Amazon Basics version of the product always appears at the top.
→ Amazon FBA is hard: If I didn’t have a secret weapon – the ability to drive traffic through SEO – we would not have been successful in this venture.
Luckily, we had a secret weapon when it came to driving traffic… The Broke Backpacker and my network of travel blogging allies.
Competing in Amazon search results against other retailers was never part of our plan.
Instead, we focussed on identifying every other outdoor or travel blog who had content that could feature our products. We then reached out to all of these people and bribed them to link directly to our listings on Amazon – this meant that we had a steady flow of reliable traffic to our product listings.
Because we were able to capture relevant Google traffic across multiple sites ranking for keywords related to our products, and then throw that traffic at our product landing pages, we have had some success.
If we had been unable to do that, I honestly do not know how the hell we would have shifted these products… We DID experiment with Facebook ads, Amazon ads and with paying influencers to promote our products on Instagram but we saw marginal results.
Over 95% of our sales come through SEO… We rank in first or second position for all major keywords related to our products and have recruited many of the other sites also ranking for these keywords to help drive traffic to our landing pages on Amazon.
OK, this is a massive topic and I’m just going to scratch the surface right now. I am however working on a huge drop shipping guide which will explore all of this in greater detail so stay tuned for that.
The main advantage of using FBA to get your products to your customers is that Amazon is a huge platform that everybody trusts and Amazon can handle all of the logistics and packaging for you. Amazon delivers your products quickly and efficiently to your customers.
The main disadvantage of using FBA is that Amazon take a percentage of the sale, charges for warehousing, charges for packaging and charges for delivery… This quickly adds up and squeezes profit margins.
But what if you were to sell your products on a different platform?
Whilst FBA is an exciting and profitable business, you can make significantly more if you handle warehousing and logistics yourself – this does of course mean you have to sell on a platform other than Amazon. We are currently experimenting with this by selling items directly through our Shopify store.
Let’s break it down.
The advantage of selling on your own website is that your expenses will be significantly less – you don’t have to pay Amazon anything.
The disadvantage of selling on your own website is that it is unlikely to convert as well as Amazon – people are used to Amazon and don’t think twice about purchasing something on there.
The biggest difference between using FBA and selling products on your own website is that you will now have to figure out how to get your products to your customers.
1. Have stock in place at a local distribution centre who will handle warehousing, packaging and delivery
2. Have stock in place at your house and handle everything yourself or with the help of an employee
3. Have the supplier in China ship the product directly to the customer – this is complex and has many moving parts but is the way to make the most money.
I am currently working on a mammoth guide to drop shipping which will arm you with the info you need to understand the pros and cons of each of these methods and plan out your own drop shipping venture.
SEO is probably one of the most misunderstood parts of blogging.
I’ve been silently observing a lot of the chatter in blogger groups on Facebook for some time now and the general lack of understanding, as well as the use of strategies that are extremely outdated, is shocking.
And it isn’t just new bloggers struggling to get to grips with how SEO works. There are bloggers out there with established and profitable websites who only have a very basic understanding of what they should and shouldn’t be doing to help their content rank in Google search results.
There are many digital entrepreneurs out there who could triple their traffic, and revenue, if they invested in understanding SEO properly.
To many, SEO might seem intimidating. Or perhaps unimportant.
But let me tell you – it’s neither.
This is my mantra for the online world and it’s one that everybody should learn…
If you haven’t got traffic, you haven’t got anything.
When I first started blogging as The Broke Backpacker, I assumed that writing great content would be enough to build me an audience and make some money online.
How wrong I was.
Truth be told, if you want to dive into any online venture, you need to devote some serious time to researching, understanding and implementing SEO.
No matter what online business you are launching, whether you are building an e-commerce site, an Amazon niche site or even a personal blog; it doesn’t matter.
SEO = traffic. If you don’t have traffic, you don’t have anything.
I know how intimidating SEO can seem, which is exactly why I created this truly ultimate guide to help you get to grips with properly understanding SEO.
Don’t skip it, don’t scan it.
Make yourself your favourite hot beverage of choice, settle down with a pen and paper and get ready for some knowledge bombs to be dropped…
In this ultimate guide I simplify SEO and break down implementing SEO into four easy to understand, actionable steps, so you can easily replicate my own SEO strategy on your site.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. The search engine (SE of SEO) in this case is the almighty Google. And optimisation (The O of SEO) means all of the strategies and hacks to get you on the front page of Google search results.
Google has one goal. To provide the best answers to people with questions. Google does this by connecting their searches to the highest quality piece of content available, and to do that, Google uses complex algorithms which have established rules and preferences.
If you follow these rules and meet Google’s preferences, Google will reward you with a slot on their front page. A slot on Google’s front page = lots and lots of free traffic! A slot on Google’s front page for a valuable keyword is the holy grail!
So your mission is to optimise your site, so you can get lots of traffic to your site because at the end of the day, when you are trying to make money online…
It’s fairly simple…
You are probably aware that a lot of people (AKA traffic) use Google. Google is the largest driver of traffic for most websites and if you nail your SEO you can look forward to plenty of free traffic.
The shot above shows that over a four month period, a shocking 87% of my one million unique visitors came to the site through Google – all thanks to the power of SEO.
Whilst social media can be a large driver of traffic, it only accounts for about 2% of my total visitors to The Broke Backpacker (even though I have over 200,000 social media followers).
There are some entrepreneurs who swear that Facebook is the best way to drive traffic but this involves an up-front investment as you will need to design and pay for adverts… Unless you have a background in Facebook marketing, this is usually a waste of money as the learning curve is fairly steep and constructing good Facebook ads which bring in lots of traffic at a reasonable price is an art-form in itself.
And in contrast, where Facebook costs money – SEO can be free.
I’m a big fan of SEO. And, I fucking hate social media.
I don’t believe in social media as a way to drive traffic, the game has changed and now that a pay to play model has been introduced by Facebook, it is becoming increasingly difficult to drive free traffic through social media.
Youtube and Pinterest can still be powerful traffic drivers but in my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before they too start prioritising paying advertisers over us humble content creators.
Google isn’t going anywhere and I believe that learning about and investing in SEO is one of the smartest decisions that any online entrepreneur can make.
Let’s dive into the exciting world (no, really, this shit is awesome) of SEO!
Never before have business owners had access to customers at such a low cost.
The more you learn, the more you earn. You don’t need to learn EVERYTHING but you do need to have a solid understanding of both on-site and off-site SEO (more on what those are in a moment).
The internet is the future, and by learning how to optimise your site, you will be giving yourself tools and knowledge that will give you a competitive edge.
I won’t lie to you, it may be challenging to get your head around SEO at first but it’ll be so worth it.
Consider the learning curve a high-quality investment, because once you properly ‘get’ how SEO works, a whole bunch of new doors will swing open to you and you’ll start to come up with new and imaginative ways to drive traffic and make money out of your online ventures.
Best of all, learning about SEO is free. Improving your SEO can cost nothing – but you do have to be willing to invest a ton of time.
You don’t need to spend money on a fancy course, you can start learning the basics right here, right now, and it won’t cost you anything.
Learning about SEO is a free high-quality investment that will also translate into an immense amount of traffic to your project of choice.
So please, don’t dread SEO. Be stoked that it’s a thing.
It will help you take your business to the next level, and once you start to wrap your head around it, you’ll probably find it fascinating and exciting.
It’s time to get real. If you can’t be bothered to learn about SEO, I can’t help you.
We don’t pamper at Ditch your Desk. We give you real, accurate information and show you the proven ways to unlock your potential and create a life of freedom. We deal with people who are 100% action driven because we at Ditch your Desk are 100% results driven.
And in all of our experiments, in everything that we have tried and done, SEO has been key.
If you want to play in the online game, you have to either learn SEO, figure out Youtube rankings or become a Facebook advertising God. You NEED a way to drive traffic. I firmly believe that SEO is the smarter choice out of these three options and I have no help or guidance to offer you on Facebook or Youtube. For me, it’s SEO all the way…
Here’s a true story – when I first started my travel blog, The Broke Backpacker, I knew nothing about SEO. I didn’t even know what SEO stood for, and so I assumed SEO was not important.
Fast forward two years and I was getting smashed by my competition despite having one of the best engaged social media followings in my niche AND over two hundred and fifty posts of quality content.
Newer sites with significantly less content were bringing in more traffic than my site, which allowed them to make more money than me.
Sites with just ten posts were ranking in Google and bringing in a reliable passive income through affiliate marketing… I was jealous, I wanted that traffic, I wanted that success, I wanted a reliable passive income.
But, due to zero SEO on my site, I was nowhere to be found in the search results. I wasn’t getting much traffic and I was making very little money.
The Broke Backpacker was not performing to even 10% of it’s potential and I knew the reason why: I had hardly any traffic.
I made the decision to totally revamp all of my content. This was a huge game changer but not a decision I could make lightly – it was going to take months and cost thousands. But it needed to happen, and so…
I spent a month learning about the best SEO practices and then hired a team of kick ass VAs who I armed with Standard Operating Procedures (SOP – basically a set of instructions) to help me go through the website and re-write over three hundred pieces of content…
That is not a typo.
It took nearly six months but the end result is even better content that is properly optimised.
Did it make much difference?
See for yourself.
If you notice, a few months after I started taking SEO seriously I began experiencing a steady uptick in traffic. Week after week, I was hitting new all time highs on both traffic and income.
Invest time into SEO, and good things happen.
By following my four-step strategy below, I was able to improve my traffic by a staggering 400% from December 2017 to May 2018.
But it gets better…
More recently, I finished up another huge SEO and content push on The Broke Backpacker. We have been pumping out high quality content all year and focussing on cutting edge SEO techniques to continue to grow our traffic.
Has it been working? Hell yes.
The screenshot below shows our weekly traffic over the last six months. We are now hitting 100,000 users a week on The Broke Backpacker – that’s a ton of traffic.
Let me break this down…
Over the last 12 months, we have gone from less than 40,000 users a month to 400,000 users a month – that’s an increase of 1000%.
This type of increase in traffic is not exclusive to The Broke Backpacker. This is how the internet works. To make money, you need traffic, to get traffic you need to utilise SEO on your content.
Easy as that.
You can do the exact same with your site by following my simple blueprint for success. This is exactly what I did…
With these four easy to understand steps, I was able to shoot my blog traffic through the roof.
This four-step process helps break down SEO so that you can properly understand what you need to do to get your content ranking…
Keyword research refers to finding the keywords you wish to target in your content.
Keyword research is one of the fundamental parts of SEO and if you screw this up it can be tough to get any meaningful traffic. Luckily, it’s getting easier and easier to find kick ass keywords due to increasing search volume and an ever-evolving set of keyword research tools.
There are a TON of keyword research products available – some are free and others cost hundreds of dollars for a subscription.
Let’s start at the beginning…
If you are completely new to the SEO world and want to get a feel for keywords, I recommend starting with a free chrome extension – Keywords Everywhere.
Keywords Everywhere allows you to see search volume, plus the search volume of related keywords, whilst casually Googling.
It’s super insightful and a great place to start tinkering and establishing patterns of what type of keywords have recurring volume.
If you use Keywords Everywhere alongside Moz’s DA checker (which is helpful for gaining a snapshot of the ranking power of competitors) you can quickly figure out if a keyword is going to be worth trying to rank.
Keywords Everywhere is BASIC but it’s still awesome and I keep it turned on at all times. I’ll be publishing a 101 guide to Keywords Everywhere soon 🙂
Another powerful free tool is Google Keyword Planner.
Keyword Planner is a great way for newbies to sink their teeth into keyword research, but the data is pretty limited and it won’t get you very far.
We currently don’t have a guide on Ditch Your Desk, but Brain Dean from Backlinko put together a great piece on doing effective keyword research with Google Keyword Planner.
There are a lot of different keyword research tools out there and over the last twelve months, I’ve experimented with Keyword Tool, Keysearch, Semrush, Ahrefs and Mangools.
These tools are all good at different things and in the travel blogging community, you will see a lot of people talking about Keysearch.
This is fantastic – because Keysearch if fairly basic. The more of my competitors are using Keysearch for their keyword research, the better.
But you guys ain’t my competitors, you’re DYD family, so I’m going to let you guys in on a secret and introduce you to my TWO favourite tools for keyword research.
KWFinder (by Mangools) is by far the best value keyword research tool out there and is very powerful when it comes to longtail keyword research.
KWFinder allows you to check KW volumes and difficulties, see related keywords and view keyword trends.
Best of all, if you buy KWFinder, you get three other quality tools thrown in.
Mangools make some great SEO tools and with packages starting from $30 a month, you get access to four great tools – KWFinder, SERPChecker, SERPWatcher and LinkMiner.
All of these tools are great and together they offer the perfect introduction for newbie bloggers to the awesome world of SEO. Out of the two, we mostly use KWFinder and SERPWatcher.
SERPWatcher is fucking awesome and is the best position tracking program I have found. Check out the video below for a quick introduction to SERPWatcher…
If you are a beginner, check out why we think Mangools is the best all-in-one SEO tool for you
OK, so I mentioned that I use two main tools for keyword research. The most powerful SEO tool out there, and my personal favourite is AHREFS.
The problem with AHREFS is that the AHREFS team KNOW they are the best in the business and the standard subscription will set you back a minimum of $99 a month.
That’s a lot of dough.
But, you get what you pay for. AHREFS is simply the best keyword research tool in terms of index size, staying ahead of the curve and usability.
For my own keyword research and competitor analysis, I use AHREFS.
However, I have a large team – three full time editors and up to a dozen writers depending on projects – and I’ve built a system that means writers take full responsibility for keyword research on their projects.
We’ve trained up my whole team on how to do their research using Mangools KWFinder as AHREFS only allows one login per subscription and Mangools is more than adequate for KW research.
So why do I use AHREFS?
Instead of just seeing the data behind keywords, AHREFS allows you to see behind the scenes of your competitors… You can scrape data on which keywords your competitors are ranking for, which posts are their most valuable posts and where their traffic is coming from.
You can see their link index and, if you know how to dissect this information, you can also break down your competitors’ link building strategies.
A lot of the time, it’s easier to see what is already working for your competitors and then to simply do it better than them than it is to do keyword research yourself.
Now the above might sound like next level shit. It might be the case that you’re not even thinking about what your competitors are up to but trust me… As you learn more about SEO, you are going to want to know how your competitors are ahead of you in the SERPS (search engine result pages) and what you can do to sprint past them into that coveted first place.
Keyword research is the foundation of content creation, and skimping on it will only result in failure. Take your hustle seriously and invest some time into understanding your audience and what they are searching for.
Remember, for every article you publish, you will want to find a primary keyword and a whole bunch of secondary keywords. We cover this in-depth in the Mangools Keyword Research Guide (coming soon!)
If you want to dive in deeper… Check out the best fucking beginners guide to keyword research ever written.
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On-site SEO refers to laying out your content, and site-map, in a way that Google favours, thus increasing your chances of ranking in the SERPS…
Writing for SEO has evolved dramatically over the years.
Back in the day, you could write 500-word blog posts, stuff in your keywords as many times as possible and build a bunch of links with exact keyword anchor text.
If you do that today, Google will blow you out of the water.
Google’s Hummingbird (2013) and Panda (2011) updates changed the way content is ranked, and have ensured that legitimate sources of high-quality content are rewarded with high rankings.
Google’s bots and algorithms have become increasingly intelligent in their ability to filter spam, and reward valuable content with higher positions in the SERPS.
Google values content based on a variety of different things, but most importantly you should make sure that your content…
These algorithms and updates are Google’s way of organising and arranging what was once a lawless web.
On page SEO is about communication and order, ensuring that people searching for information get the highest quality information on the web, laid out in a logical and easy to read format.
First thing’s first – you absolutely, 100%, MUST install the SEO by Yoast plugin. This WordPress plugin (which is free) is universally acknowledged as a must have and for good reason…
Yoast will give you insights into your on-page SEO. It’s very thorough and easy to use. If you use Yoast in unison with my on page SEO checklist below, you’ll be just fine.
So to play in this game, you have to produce content that is laid out in ways which Google favours. Over the past few months, I’ve put together a detailed SEO training guide for my writing team over at The Broke Backpacker.
Here are some of the key points…
For some more of my top tips for on-page SEO, check out this graphic which I spent far too fucking long making…
I didn’t want to dive in TOO deep with on-site SEO today as I’m sure a lot of you guys are relatively new to the concept, the above steps are a good blueprint for your initial steps into on-page SEO.
I’ll be covering the more complex topic of on-site SEO (how to lay out your sitemap) in another blog post.
A crucial part of any SEO plan is building backlinks to your content. Backlinks act as a vote of confidence resulting in improved prioritisation of your content by Google in the SERPS.
Quite simply a backlink is when one website links to another website.
Remember earlier in this article in the keyword section when I linked out to Brian Dean’s Google Keyword Planner article?
That’s a backlink! I backlinked to Backlinko.com.
I did this for two reasons.
And this is how the basics of backlinking work. Brian Dean wrote a high-quality piece of content. I want to share that content with you. I do so via a backlink.
So why does this matter?
Google ranks pages based on two main factors.
You can write the greatest 20,000 word guide ever known to man. It could be tricked out with everything and SEO’d to perfection.
But without backlinks… your content may never make it onto the front page.
This is because of the weight Google puts on backlinks.
Think of backlinks like votes. Let’s say we have two websites.
We have website A that has 1,000 backlinks (1,000 votes).
And we have website B that has 10 backlinks (10 votes).
Which website do you think is going to have more credibility?
Let’s get more specific. Let’s take a look at my travel blog, The Broke Backpacker.
This is via Mangools.
Notice in the top left-hand corner is the total number of backlinks The Broke Backpacker has.
15k+ backlinks is a healthy amount of votes and these links have contributed to an enormous amount of my success with The Broke Backpacker.
Backlinks are Google’s system of reliability. The more backlinks a website gets, the more trustworthy Google will find that website, the more likely that website is to rank in Google’s search results. At Ditch Your Desk, we call this The Circle of Links.
It’s a beautiful cycle. And as you become an authority on a topic, a lot of backlinks will naturally take care of themselves. Look at this.
Circled is the amount of backlinks that NomadicMatt has.
37,000 backlinks is a shit-ton of links.
When you get quality content onto the front page, you will start to organically build backlinks. NomadicMatt has established himself as an authority, and websites naturally want to link out to authority websites.
I know this because as my authority grows, I’m seeing more and more people linking to The Broke Backpacker naturally. Whilst I still actively build links for my other online ventures, I now let The Broke Backpacker links build organically – the site is massive and receives plenty of organic links from sources quoting us.
So this is cool because as your authority grows, your backlinks become evergreen. Links will start to accumulate and grow naturally because peers will want to share your content with their audience providing that you continue to put out high-quality content that answers questions, solves problems and provides value.
So if backlinks are a voting system, you’d think that every vote would have the same value, correct?
Wrong. The backlink voting system is not evenly valued – it’s weighted and heavily weighted.
Websites are ranked based on a number of factors – the main three factors that impact a website’s value in Google’s eyes are age, the number of referring domains (how many other websites are linking to you) and the number of backlinks pointing to the website.
There are many different ranking systems out there which take into account these factors and give websites a score. The most popular ranking system right now is Domain Authority, invented by Moz. Find out more about domain authority in my post: Does DA even matter?
Do yourself a favour and download MozBar. It’s a free extension from Moz which will show you the DA of whichever site you are on when you’re browsing the internet.
Every website has a Domain Authority, which is measured on a scale of 1-100. The higher the number -> the higher the authority -> the more likely that website is to rank in the SERPS.
This is a screenshot from The Broke Backpacker. Notice the number at the top circled in red. That’s the free MozBar extension.
That means that at the time of this screenshot, The Broke Backpackers’ Domain Authority was 43.
Domain Authority is based on a scale of 1-100.
So, when getting backlinks, Google places much more emphasis on links from high authority sites.
On the left is Business Insider which has an absolutely insane DA 0f 93, and on the right is a random WordPress blog with a dismal DA of 1.
At this point, it should be pretty obvious. A backlink from a site with a DA 93 is significantly more valuable than a backlink from a site with a DA of 1.
Again, this goes back to Google wanting to prioritise high authority content.
Think of high quality backlinks as a vote of confidence from a mutual friend.
Let’s say you’re trying to convince Google to rank your page for a competitive keyword…
Google – “I don’t know you dude, why would I put you on the front page?”
You, trembling – “Come on man, I did everything you wanted! I SEO’ed the whole page, it’s perfect! I even compressed all of my images, it took forever!”
Google, sternly – “Yea, but I don’t even kno-“
Google cut off by Business Insider
Business Insider – “Hey Google, whats up!”
Google surprised – “Oh Business Insider, my amigo! How are you buddy?!”
Business Insider – “I’m great man. How are you”
Google – “I’m great, just trying to talk to this guy whom I’ve NEVER MET.”
Business Insider – “This guy?”
Business insider points to you, Google nods.
Google – “Yea, him”
Business Insider turns to you and winks “Don’t worry Google, I know this guy, he’s cool”
Google pointing at you “This guy? You know this guy?”
Business Insider turns to Google – “Yea, he’s cool.”
Google ponders for a moment – “OK! Let’s grab beers!”
Think of Google as somebody with serious trust issues who is totally willing to give you a shot if their friends back you up. Ya feel?
That’s why backlinks are so important.
The more authoritative the link, the greater the link juice (and yes, link juice is the official term). The more link juice you have, the higher Google will rank your site.
The Broke Backpacker has been featured in The BBC, Business Insider, Forbes Magazine, The Daily Mail and dozens of other publications and this has made a massive difference to the site’s metrics, authority, and rank-ability.
As I continue to rack up powerful backlinks to my well optimised content, Google prioritises my content in search results. Link building is an art form and there’s a huge amount to cover, we’re just going to scrape the surface today…
This is one of the biggest challenges for new bloggers. You need backlinks, but no one even knows you exist.
Unfortunately, unless you are going down the travel blogger route you are pretty unlikely to be able to land a backlink from the likes of Business Insider or other websites with great metrics.
Do not despair though, I’ve written a whole post about the best ways to build backlinks right now.
Something you need to understand is that there are many approaches to link building…
Black and grey hat tactics can be very effective when it comes to building links (off-page-SEO). Google is working on ways to eradicate these tactics, but as of right now you have some options…
A crucial first-step for many entrepreneurs wanting to build some links and get the word out about their content. I have probably done over two hundred guest posts to build links and awareness of The Broke Backpacker. The travel blogging world is a relatively friendly place and there are quite a few Facebook groups where you can arrange guest posts with other bloggers.
Even better though; send a personal email to a blogger with a high DA who you think might be interested in your content. This is very much a numbers game and there are various ways you can automate a lot of this.
While guest posts are great, but they can be VERY time-consuming. I no longer take part in guest posts unless I am going to build a really sensationally powerful link to my site.
Although the link juice is pretty much guaranteed you rarely see any traffic through the guest post. That’s not a problem, it’s just important to manage your expectations.
I have recently been working on a system to automate guest posting which I’ll be blogging about later in the year…
Once you start guest posting, you’ll hopefully make some allies in your niche and chances are that some of your new found amigos will be keen to build links of their own.
You will, of course, need to have a domain authority of at least twenty, (use the Moz bar), before anybody takes you seriously and is interested in building links from your site.
Link swaps are 100% against the rules. But there are many ways around this. Avoid direct link swaps and try to arrange three-way-swaps where possible – this drastically reduces the chance of Google catching on and penalising your site for breaking the rules.
If you want to see quick results, one of the more popular options is to buy links from a reputed source. Note that you get what you pay for and spammy links are worse than no links at all. It’s pretty tough to find high quality links for sale at a reasonable price.
I spent $5000 over the last few months, testing out different link buying services. I was unable to find anything that offered the same kind of results as my guest posting hustle.
If you’re serious about getting to the front page of Google quickly, a viable move is to build your own PBN (private blog network). Building a PBN requires some financial investment but it’s possible to do it cheaply if you do most of the work yourself – this involves finding expired domains, web design, content creation and, of course, building links to your PBN sites as well!
Building a PBN is far and away the most effective way to have full control over your link juice but if you get it wrong, Google can discover your entire PBN and take it out in one coordinated ban-hammer attack. I have built my own PBNs in the past but I’ve moved away from this now as I’ve had greater success with guest posting and creating quality content that people naturally want to link to.
I really recommend reading my more detailed post here on how to build links.
The first thing I want to say is – diversification is key.
Make friends with people in your niche, arrange for some tactical three way link swaps.
Work on an outreach system for guest posts and churn, churn, churn those bad boys out.
Work on your pitching… Become a pitching ninja and convert more and more link building prospects into tasty link juice.
I pitch and get pitched, a LOT. I’ll be covering what makes a great guest post pitch soon so stay tuned for that.
If you are keen to smash out a dozen affiliate sites and you don’t care if you lose a couple to Google snipers along the way, Black Hat link building will offer the fastest, and riskiest, results.
There is something to be said for starting with black hat, to get a site ranking fast, and then over time replacing those black hat links with white hat link juice…
So far, we have learned what SEO is and why it’s important. We have learnt the difference between on-site SEO and off-site SEO.
We’ve learnt about our audience and how important it is to enter the mind of the Googler.
We’ve learnt about different keyword research tools and touched on how to do effective keyword research.
We’ve covered how to build links.
In short, we’ve covered a fuck ton and you’re a trooper! Give yourself a self five!
So, what is the next step on your SEO journey?
Getting your website onto the front page of Google is no mean feat but rest assured; it is possible. However, you can’t just give it your all for one page and be like ‘Awesome, I’m done!
The people who are successful with their online ventures are the ones who put the time and effort into implementing proper SEO strategies over their entire site.
You have to understand that SEO is constantly evolving. This is Google’s game to call, and anytime they make an update to their algorithms, you have to be ready to adapt.
Remember; it’s impossible to fully outsource SEO… You are, after all, probably going to produce some or most of the content for your website so if you don’t know how to write good SEO-worthy content, you are constantly going to be playing catch-up.
Anybody who is really good at SEO won’t be available at affordable freelancer rates anyway. Lots of people call themselves SEOs and haven’t got a clue what they are doing.
You can learn how to find quality keywords on Mangools with just a couple of hours playing around if you follow our keyword research guide. Proper keyword research is the foundation for any SEO strategy.
SEO really is a crucial part of the game and to ignore it completely is akin to shooting yourself in the foot.
It doesn’t matter how great your content is, how awesome your website looks or how enticing your product may be; if you haven’t got traffic, you haven’t got anything.
Everybody starts somewhere and, if you follow the steps above, you can build up your traffic month after month… It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
This site is packed with resources expanding on each of the three main parts of the site, and we have plenty of really in-depth guides and videos planned, so now that you’re finished with this post and understand what SEO is… do yourself a favour, scan the site and learn as much as you can about how to implement advanced SEO techniques on your site and explode your traffic and income.
Be one with the hustle…
When you first make the move to working for yourself online, it can be a big change.
On social media you’re going to see plenty of folks raving about their incredible digital nomad lifestyle – photos of gorgeous people on a beach, working on a laptop, cocktails nearby…
Well, spoiler alert, that is not an accurate representation of hustling your ass off.
And if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, if you are determined not to fail, then you must hustle hard and work smart.
It’s no good spending eight hours a day cruising Facebook or designing the perfect pins for Pinterest, that doesn’t actually count as work, you need to sit your ass down and make your dream come true through action.
I’ve been relying on my online ventures as my sole source of income since 2015. It’s been a bumpy road and there were many times when I was nearly bankrupt.
I had no funds to fall back on and this meant that I truly had no choice but to succeed.
It wasn’t just that I wouldn’t be able to afford rent or food, that didn’t bother me, I had been The Broke Backpacker for nearly a decade and I was happy in a tent eating rabbit and nettle stew.
The problem was that if I failed, I would be ripped away from the women I loved.
My Persian Gypsy, who I met whilst hitchhiking across Iran, was also a broke backpacker but unlike me, she had a truly challenging passport and her visa fees were constantly a problem.
If we couldn’t make money online, we wouldn’t be able to travel or be together.
This lit a fire under my ass like I have never experienced before.
I was determined to succeed, despite many telling me that it was impossible and I was a fool for trying to make enough money on the internet, with no training or mentor, to support two people’s travels around the world.
I was constantly assailed by doubts but I pushed forwards anyway and after a year of crippling uncertainty and constant evolution, we made it to the promised land.
We hit an income of $5000 a month in 2017. This allowed me to hire writers, buy better software, invest into new ventures and to scale The Broke Backpacker.
18 months later, in September 2018, I was making $70,000 a month online.
It’s important to note that whilst I do work my ass off, I have only been working ‘full time’ on my online businesses since late 2016. Before then, I was still spending at least nine months of the year backpacking around the world. The other three months of the year, I
sold MDMA at festivals worked in a shop.
For the last two years, I’ve spent about seven to eight months of the year hustling hard and the rest of the time I travel. In 2019, I plan on working less and traveling more.
I’ve learned to make the most out of my working time and to be as efficient as possible with my workflow. But it isn’t all about being efficient… it’s important to foster the right mindset for success.
This may sound hippy dippy but it’s crucial if you want to become a better entrepreneur. You need to believe in yourself, reward yourself and to work on a groove of repetitive actions that allows you to consistently unlock your best performance.
Repetition is a sign of ambition, it shows dedication and nobody ever got good at anything without repeating a process again and again and again.
Over the last couple of years working online, I learnt a few very important lessons which helped me become a better entrepreneur and have allowed me to consistently bash out a productive days work.
These ten zen tips may not work for everybody but they have become a crucial part of my personal process to foster a routine which helps me get the most out of working day…
It’s taken me time to figure out a schedule that works well for me but I now have a set schedule for every day – I open my emails and WhatsApp (which is where I communicate with my team) in the morning and clear them. I then close them both and don’t open my emails again until the next day – I strongly recommend that you keep your inbox closed once you have cleared it or else you will be a slave to your emails.
I then jump into my Trello where I have multiple boards, each one relating to a different project or team, and see what needs my attention. All projects and teams are organised in a way where my input is minimal – I just need to keep assigning workflows and planning projects. Check out the video below for a bit of a walkthrough on how to create a workflow on Trello.
Once I’ve cleared my Trello, I dive into whatever tasks need doing for the day. I have six static whiteboards (check out the link – these are a game changer) in my current apartment and each whiteboard is for a different project, this allows me to keep my workflows separate but visible at the same time.
For myself, I operate a three notebook system – I have a five minute journal I use for recording how I’m feeling and how I am progressing with my fitness and business goals (I’ve made some mods to the classic version), I have a bullet journal which is my master journal and helps me organise my weekly workflow, I have a scrap journal which takes a beating and is replaced frequently, this is where I jot down notes and make lists of things to do that day.
Honestly, coming up with a good workflow is almost entirely trial and error and you’ll need to work out what works for you. I am hyper organised but then again – I’m managing over a dozen people, across multiple ventures and several time zones.
I have set days for taking calls with my partners – Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have set days where I check in on various income streams, email addresses and projects. This allows me to hugely limit procrastination and to ensure that when I’m working, I’m doing something that really needs doing.
I find that planning out my day the night before is invaluable. By planning out my time effectively, I actually have plenty of time to get everything done. I rarely feel rushed or overwhelmed and have plenty of chill time – because I’m not wasting time procrastinating. I’ll be writing in further detail about the tools and systems I use to organise myself and my team, stay tuned for that!
As an entrepreneur, it’s important that you value your time – even if nobody else does, yet! As you start to get some success in your space you may find many people start reaching out to you. If you respond to everybody it will quickly take up a lot of your time.
Personally, I have email signature templates that help me answer a lot of questions and if an email or pitch isn’t written well, I don’t respond at all. Build systems that allow you to make the most of your time and to avoid being distracted.
This really comes down to being able to say no to people. Once you reach a certain level as an online entrepreneur, your inbox will explode… Every day you will receive emails from people wanting help, wanting advise, wanting to partner, wanting backlinks, wanting to guest post, wanting to advertise on your site, wanting you to review their products or services.
Understand that no matter how good the pitch, no matter how compelling the email; 95% of emails you get are probably not a good fit – they aren’t going to help YOU grow your business, they are just going to help somebody else benefit from your knowledge. Learning to say no can be hard but it’s important that you figure out how to do it.
Finding a tribe of people who you can share ideas and expertise with is a great way to grow as an entrepreneur but understand – if you are the only person dropping knowledge bombs and you are not getting anything in return, this is not a good use of your time. That doesn’t mean you should ONLY hang out with people who can teach you things but it means that there has to be a fair share of value going both ways in any business relationship.
Two of my joint-venture partners pitched me wanting to learn how to make money online, I taught them and now we are in business together. They didn’t have anything to teach me at the time but I got great value out of them as they worked for free, as apprentices, in exchange for the knowledge, training and strategy that I could bring to the table.
If you are working for yourself, your time is your most precious resource, do not squander it.
Social media is a huge time-sink and distraction. Download Facebook news eradicator, right now!
I’ll let you in on a not particularly well kept secret, I truly hate social media. I could write a whole post about this but suffice to say, if you are constantly checking Facebook or Instagram (or whatever is your poison), you will be wasting a ton of time.
Be strict with yourself, reward yourself with work breaks for sure but do not log onto social media every time you want a work break.
Check the news instead, I probably check the BBC three or four times a day, find a Youtube channel that can teach you something, don’t waste your time on social media… Or, at least, if you’re going to then be strict and have set times for it – do not allow yourself to just check it whenever you want or you will lose some serious work time.
Whilst we’re on the topic, there’s been a ton of research that shows that starting at brightly lit screens before trying to sleep is one of the worst things you can do for your sleep patterns. If you simply can’t kick the habit, download Flux – this turns your screen light from white to yellow during later hours and plays less havoc with your sleep patterns.
Just as important as getting yourself amped is finding the time to chill the fuck out. You cannot operate consistently in fifth gear, you need to ground yourself every now and again.
I’ve experimented with mediation a lot and have found it isn’t really for me – However, I do get some zen piece of mind when I am doing my yoga or smoking a joint and watching the forest outside my apartment.
Last year, I read Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. This is a very powerful guide and consists of 3-5 page interviews with one hundred world class performers including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Robbins, Chris Sacca and many other leading entrepreneurs and all round awesome people.
These interviews mostly focus on the routines and tactics that these market leaders use in their daily lives. I found one correlation across the vast majority of the interviews – more than 70% of these people had some kind of meditation or mindfulness routine.
I had a pretty good run with Headspace and Aaron uses it daily. It’s definitely worth trying out – it has a free trial and if you apply yourself properly, it can be a game changer. Whatever it is you need to do to land yourself some chill, make sure you build 15 minutes of mindfulness into your day.
Working for yourself online can be pretty lonely and it’s important that you work on training your mind to be optimistic and to focus on the positives. This can be hard but it’s absolutely crucial.
Being a hitchhiker actually gave me a great crash course in this and I would always optimistically think ‘a lift is just around the corner’, even if I had been waiting for hours. Grab yourself a copy of The Secret and settle down to read it over a weekend, it’s pretty short and you could probably finish it in just a few hours but it carries a valuable message and explains the concept of the law of attraction.
The law of attraction is the belief that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts people can bring positive or negative experiences into their life. Honestly, I’m a big believer in this and I always try to remain positive and to focus on my wins when shit isn’t going quite as well as it could. I have a set routine in the morning in which I can check out some guaranteed wins and thus start the day feeling positive.
There is a huge amount of science to support the fact that if you exercise you not only look better, you function better.
I wake up early and get myself to my local Crossfit Box by 7:30 am. I train at least six times a week and when I can, I train twice a day. I also make time for a forty minute yoga routine in the evening which has dramatically improved my flexibility and zen.
Whatever it is that gets you pumped, make sure you find the time to exercise regularly. It is a very worthwhile investment.
Nina recently bought me a TRX system which has been a total game changer and is hands down the best piece of fitness equipment to take traveling.
Whatever exercise works for you – embrace it. If you’re not currently exercising, start.
It’s never too late to begin and you will notice the benefits. Start slow, don’t be overly ambitious, just be consistent in putting the time in and do it for a month, you’ll notice the advantages pretty quickly.
Build your exercise routine into your overall routine – if you can, start the day with stretching, exercise and then a freezing shower – it’ll wake you up and get you pumped.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, this is so important. What is your goal? Where do you want to be in 3 months, in 6 months, in one year? Set yourself ambitious but achievable (through the power of the hustle!) goals and work towards them.
If you don’t set yourself goals, you may struggle to feel as though you have achieved something as you won’t have any point of reference to aim for.
I also tend to set myself some rewards, if you hit Goal X, you reward yourself with epic experience Y.
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Make the effort to constantly be drinking water. Or coconuts… Honestly, coconuts are awesome. It’s amazing how many people are dehydrated, and how easy it is to become dehydrated, without realising. When you are not properly hydrated, you can’t think at full capacity, problem solving becomes harder, you feel tired – it’s not good! Make the effort to hydrate.
This is so important. Look, at the end of the day – you have the opportunity to try an build an online business for yourself. You have a laptop. You can think about traveling around the world. You are one lucky motherfucker but, yeah, I hear ya… It might not always feel like that.
I used to really struggle with being grateful but I’ve made a conscious effort over the last couple of years as I’ve noticed that when I do feel grateful and don’t take my wins for granted, I feel happier.
I have a ‘gratitude whiteboard‘ (seriously, I fucking love whiteboards) on the wall where I keep a running tally of the things that make me happy – whether it’s beers with a friend, a cold coconut or having a successful business. A glance at this board always makes me smile.
I also have ‘the bottle of awesome’ – whenever I have a really epic win, I write it down on a post-it note, fold it over and put it in the bottle. If I’m feeling real down, I open up the bottle and read through a few of my epic wins from the last month.
Starting the day by asking myself which three things I am grateful for, in my journal, is a good way to begin the day on a positive note.
Or read blogs. Or listen to podcasts. Whatever. As long as you are constantly learning, that’s the goal. I read religiously, spending my last fifteen to thirty minutes of every day learning about something new. It’s a much better way to wind down before sleep than being on a screen. If you don’t want to read, listen to audiobooks or podcasts.
I’ll be posting a list of some of the best reads for entrepreneurs, soon!
It took me a very long time to find my tribe of people. I found that by helping others out I was able to build up a strong network of people who could also help me out – whether it was in linking to new products I had launched on Amazon or helping me build links to some of my more obscure niche sites.
There are many great Facebook groups out there where you can meet with other digital nomads and newbie entrepreneurs and exchange info, ideas and resources but here’s the thing… it has to be an exchange. You have to offer value if you want to receive value.
I’ve built up a solid foundation of friends who I can bounce ideas around with. Some of these people were several levels ahead of me when I first met them.
How did I connect with people who were several levels above me? I pitched them and I offered value – I offered to teach them how to invest in cryptocurrency in exchange for some next level SEO knowledge. A few drinks and some cheeky smokes later and we were firm friends.
I’ve never had a mentor and I do think it would have been incredibly valuable… The opportunity has simply not presented itself. I do however have one of the most talented, hard working teams in the travel blogging space…
I don’t know this for sure but I strongly suspect we have the best, and biggest, team out of any of my competitors and I know that we can beat all of my competitors at content output.
I’ve been able to attract real talent to my cause by offering creative deals in which revenue split and equity are offered up alongside, or instead of, a living wage.
I didn’t have the budget to pay some of these guys what they are worth so I incentivised them by offering a cut of whatever increase they could bring to my business. I’ll be talking about this more in another post on how to scale your business and giving you the exact blueprints so that you too can attract talent to help you scale.
I love my team, and I am beyond excited for what 2019 will bring. I do not believe that there are any competitors out there who can match us when it comes to the quality and quantity ratio of the content we are putting out there.
Anyway, I digress! Find your peeps and keep talent close – it takes an army to win a war. And this is what online business is – all out warfare.
To succeed you must build the foundations, you must move fast and you must move efficiently, you must learn to foster a positive mindset so that problems and setbacks roll off you like water.
Put in the groundwork, work smart, get yourself to a point where you can grow and then prepare to scale your business…
There is no time like right now, a few minutes of planning and preparation each day will pay hours worth of dividends in quality work. Make the effort to organise yourself and foster an epic mindset and you will achieve truly epic things…
Did you find these ten zen tips for mastering productivity helpful? Got anything you want to add? Tell me in the comments!
Alright friends, today we are going to explore one of the biggest myths in blogging…
Domain authority (DA) is a metric invented by Moz to estimate a site’s ability to rank in Google search results.
Your ability to rank content is what will make or break your business. If you haven’t got traffic, you haven’t got anything and as discussed many times before, I believe that traffic from Google as opposed to traffic from social media is more sustainable and easier to capture.
Domain authority is one of the best free metrics available for estimating a website’s ability to rank and whenever I’m browsing the web, I always have my DA checker Chrome plugin turned on – go download it now, it’s free.
OK, good! You’re back and you have Moz’s DA checker plugin installed and turned on, excellent…
Let’s do a quick experiment – Make sure Moz’s DA checker is turned on and then Google something related to your niche.
Chances are you’ll find a mix of very high DAs on the front page and then some lower DAs in there also.
DA is a great tool for sizing up your competition and seeing what it’ll take to get on the front page of Google for your target keyword.
One of the initial stages of my keyword research is often to simply Google my target primary keyword and check out the domain authority’s of the search results – if every single result on the front page is from a site with a significantly higher DA than mine, I may need to rethink whether or not I want to go for that keyword.
If however, there are some results from sites with similar or lower DAs than mine, I know that if I produce better content than the competition I will almost certainly take their spot as our sites have a similar ability to rank so it’ll all come down to who can produce the best content and build the most links to that content.
The lower DAs appearing on the front page are the ones that are of more interest to you – these guys have managed to rank despite having been marked as less powerful than the other, higher DA, sites.
This means that these lower DA sites are doing something right – perhaps the content is really great, maybe the on-page SEO is next level or perhaps there are some very powerful links pointing to the content; whatever the reason, this is the kind of content you should aim to emulate.
Moz updates DA scores for sites about once a month and when this happens most sites will move up or down by a few points. Try not to get worked up by these movements, your DA makes no difference to your actual ability to rank.
Moz calculates DA based on several factors, the two most important of these are – the total number of referring domains linking to your domain, the total number of links pointing to your domain. Check out this post for my top tips on how to build links.
Ideally, you want to have as many links from as many different websites as possible… The greater the number and quality of the links that you have pointing to your site, the more trust Google will instil in your website and the more likely it is to rank your content.
But here’s the thing…
DA does NOT take into account several other important factors; namely the length of your content, average dwell time on your site or optimisation for keywords.
I’ve seen a fair bit of confusion in some of the blogger groups I keep an eye on and indeed some folks do misunderstand the concept of DA and think that if they get a high DA, all of their content will instantly jump to the front page of Google.
That isn’t how it works
Whilst it is true that a site with a higher DA is more likely to rank content than a site with a lower DA, I have seen thousands of examples of low DA sites beating high DA sites in the search results pages because the lower DA sites have better off-page SEO or have created better content.
Yes, it is! Let me tell you why…
Domain authority is invaluable as a tool for guesstimating the value of a link from another website.
You don’t have access to that site’s google analytics, you don’t know how much traffic that site is pulling in and it’s therefore pretty difficult to guess how valuable a link is going to be from this website.
DA takes the headache out of all this by providing you with an estimate of the value of the link.
If you’ve had a blog for a while, chances are you will have received plenty of emails from advertisers, SEO agencies and ‘fellow bloggers’ (often SEO companies in disguise) asking to contribute a guest post to your site.
The only reasons to EVER publish guest posts are…
1. Receiving a backlink from a high quality source in return.
2. Receiving some genuinely very high quality copy on a topic that interests you.
3. Can charge for placing the content (i.e. a sponsored post).
I’ll level with you – I probably did $100,000 worth of sponsored posts on The Broke Backpacker between 2014 and 2017. For a while, I was certain that sponsored posts were going to be my golden ticket.
I created a network of thirty other sites, some which I owned and some which I co-owned, to maximise the amount of money I could make out of one client – sometimes I would land deals worth up to $5000 across these sites.
I had a dedicated manager running this network of sites and hitting up hundreds of potential clients every day. We made a lot of money.
I know the sponsored post industry inside out and the single biggest factor that 99% of advertisers are interested in when they are looking for to pay for sponsored content on blogs is domain authority.
The higher your domain authority, the more you can charge.
Many bloggers chase sponsored posts as it’s easy money, bloggers are often obsessed with improving their DA as it means they can charge more for sponsored posts.
Personally – I have now stepped away from sponsored posts altogether and sold my share of the sponsored post network I ran with a partner.
Sponsored posts are like crack – it’s pretty easy to score and the easy money will make you feel great, the problem is that you’ll waste more and more time chasing sponsored posts and won’t actually focus on growing your site’s passive income streams.
It’s the same with press trips – I see a lot of travel bloggers going on tons of press trips.
Sure it sounds like fun – getting paid a couple of grand to go on a trip but at the end of the day, it’s cash in hand, it’s never going to be passive and so you’ll always be chasing the next hit, never certain that you’re going to make any money and never working on actually building something.
I prefer to wake up in the morning having known I will have made at least a few hundred bucks whilst I’m sleeping – that’s real freedom.
Anyways – I digress – my point is that many bloggers have an unhealthy obsession with domain authority because many bloggers are reliant on sponsored posts.
Domain authority CAN however be a useful tool…
As discussed earlier, simply browsing with Moz’s DA checker turned on will allow you to quickly get a feel for the competition on the front page for various keywords – this is invaluable information.
When you pair Moz’s DA checker with the free keyword volume checker – Keywords Everywhere – you can get some pretty powerful insights on potential keywords just by casually Googling and noting volume and potential difficulty – i.e. how many really high DA sites are on the front page versus how many front page slots are occupied by lower DA sites.
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DA is important… It’s a valuable metric that will enable you to quickly ascertain the estimated value of a link and how much to charge if you decide to sell links.
DA changes frequently – don’t stress about it.
DA does not directly affect your ability to rank – it’s simply an estimate of how easily you will be able to rank.
Use competitors DAs to quickly gain a snapshot of the rankability of a keyword. If everybody on the front page of search results for your target keyword has a much higher DA than you, understand that it will be tough to rank and you will need to pull some next level content out of the bag… Or, find an easier keyword to go for.
Remember, great SEO can beat a competitor with a higher DA than you.
Got any questions, hit me up in the comments!
Say it with me now…
Hallelujah! Preach brother preach!
Here’s the thing guys. It doesn’t matter how good your content is, it doesn’t matter how much time you put into niche research or how flashy your website is. “If you don’t have traffic, you won’t make any money.”
And in my opinion, the best way to drive traffic is through SEO.
Let’s break this down real quick and then we’ll get stuck into the many different ways to build backlinks.
SEO has three core components…
1. Keyword research: When you identify which keywords to target. Read more here.
2. On-page SEO: Laying out your content in a way that Google favours. Read more here.
3. Off-page SEO: Building links from relevant websites to your content. This post is about this!
All three of these steps are important but building links can be one of the most challenging steps for new bloggers and online entrepreneurs.
It IS possible to rank really high quality content without building backlinks, especially if your content is so good that it will organically produce it’s own backlinks. However, building backlinks vastly improves your chances of ranking in the SERPS. This is because…
Link building is absolutely crucial to your online strategy. But how can you build links in 2018? What methods do and don’t work? Let’s get stuck in…
One of the most popular ways of building backlinks is by guest posting on another website.
In theory, this sounds simple enough – you provide quality content for another site and in return, you get a tasty backlink or two back to your own site.
However, in reality, there are far more guest post applicants than hosts out there and, depending on your niche, it can be tough to find high-quality guest posting opportunities.
If you want to score a guest post on a really powerful site, you will need to master the art of the pitch…
It is crucial that you put together a really high-quality pitch if you’re emailing around trying to source guest posts. I’ll be unveiling my own pitching templates later this year.
Guest posting is most effective when it’s done at scale. Conversion rates can be low. Typically you will have to send 100 email pitches to be able to score a couple of guest posts – there are software and systems you can use to make this pretty simple.
For the last few months, I’ve been working on an automated guest post outreach system – I have my VA team scour massive amounts of data from Google so we can build a huge databank of sites, complete with metrics, we can then use automated mail rules to pitch, and follow up, to hundreds of potential guest posting opportunities.
Unless you have at least $2000 to invest, building an automated guest posting system is not really an option, however, you can still pitch for guest posts on your own – just be aware that you’ll need to pitch a lot to score a guest post opportunity.
There are some shortcuts out there, especially in friendly niches – like travel blogging – where you can connect with other entrepreneurs in your field and find collaborative groups on Facebook where you can find bloggers who are actively seeking guest posters.
Remember, if you want somebody to publish your guest post – the content better be high quality or else there is nothing in it for the person hosting your content.
Link swaps are very simple. You find somebody in a similar niche to you and you host one of their links in exchange for them hosting one of your links. In general, people only want to swap with sites that have metrics that are similar or better than their own.
Commonly, the metric used to gauge a sites value is Domain Authority – read: Is DA even important? – so say you have a DA of 25, you’ll probably be able to arrange a swap with other sites that have a DA of between 22 and 28. You can only really improve your DA by building links which means that if you’re starting out with your brand new site and have a DA of 1, you will struggle to find other sites to swap with.
Link swaps are against the rules of Google so you should be careful not to go overboard. If your entire link profile consists of links from sites which you are also linking to, Google will know that this is not natural link building and you may get penalised.
You should never link directly between posts – e.g. if you are linking to post A on my site from post B on your site, I should link back to post C on your site from post D on my site.
Three way link swaps are preferable to direct link swaps as Google is less likely to detect an unnatural link profile. For three way swaps, blogger 1 hosts blogger 2’s link, blogger 2 hosts blogger 3’s link and blogger 3 hosts blogger 1’s link.
Three way swaps can be a bit of a logistical nightmare to organise but if you have some high quality allies these are a good way of organising more link juice to your most important posts.
A private blog network (PBN) is a series of sites which are under your control – i.e. sites you either built or bought – which you use to build links to your money sites.
It should be noted – building PBN’s are black hat SEO (which means they are totally against Google’s rules, and you’ll be punished if caught).
Back in the day, PBN’s were an extremely effective form of link building. However, recently things have changed. Google is becoming increasingly sophisticated and site’s that are using PBN’s have been penalised hard.
More often than not, Google can now spot PBN links and it sure as hell doesn’t like them.
In 2017, I built a PBN from scratch, consisting of ten expired domains (which still had great metrics and could therefore pass on link juice), to send links to one of my niche sites. We’ve experimented a lot with PBN sites and I’ve also chatted to my close friend and standup SEO, Lewis at Cloud Income, about what the future holds for PBNs in 2018.
I’ve come to the conclusion that PBNs are not a sustainable way to rank content and whilst PBNs can help you jump to the front page of Google quickly, you are unlikely to stay there long as Google is increasingly catching on. I am not using PBNs for any of my SEO strategy in 2018.
Ben Stiller hunting for links… via GIPHY
This is a fairly old technique where you use software to scrape data on multiple websites at once and find content that has broken links in it. You then reach out to the website owner and helpfully inform them that the link is broken whilst also offering them a couple of alternative links to replace the broken link with. The alternatives are links to your own sites.
I have been on the receiving end of this technique many times but have not yet tried to build links using this method. You can read up about this more in this post by Moz.
In my opinion, this is an outdated method of link building and most website owners have been hit with so many of these pitches that you are very unlikely to be able to build a link this way.
However, if you were to do this at scale using a link outreach system you would eventually get some bites.
Many bloggers have been on the receiving end of a sponsored post where a company, brand or SEO agency asks them to host a link in an existing post or to create a new post around a specific link.
If you have a big budget, it’s possible to buy quite a few links this way and AHREFS put together this fascinating post on the average cost of buying links in 2018.
Paying for links is sometimes justified – especially if you are paying to get on a massive, well established, authority site but paying for links is of course against Google’s rules so be careful not to get caught.
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This is one of my favourite ways to build really powerful, high value, links.
When I first started blogging on The Broke Backpacker, I was interested in becoming a freelance journalist. I pitched to all kinds of media publications all around the world and I scored backlinks from Business Insider, The BBC, Daily Mail, Independent, Al Jazeera, Buzzfeed and dozens of others – you can see a few of the places I managed to score links here.
Getting featured in media publications like this is NOT easy. You need two things – a compelling story and one hell of a pitch. I’ll be talking about how to get published in greater detail soon, stay tuned!
OK, this really doesn’t count for much but there is some evidence that social signals, e.g. likes and shares on Facebook and retweets on Twitter, can have an impact on how Google ranks your content.
My friend Matt Diggity, one of the world’s best known SEOs, did an extensive test and found no strong correlation between social signals and ranking however it is likely that social signals will have more of an impact on ranking in the future.
I have observed how some posts that go viral on social media end up being dragged up through organic search rankings in Google as well so there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that Google has started to place some value on social signals as a ranking factor. However, in my opinion, you need tens of thousands of social signals to really move the needle.
Don’t waste your time doing this… There’s still a lot of bloggers who religiously comment on twenty or so blog posts a week because they think this is a way of gaining backlinks to their own site.
This did once work but it stopped working years ago.
This is a total waste of time as 1. The vast majority of links you are able to build through blog comments are automatically no-follow and 2. Google has known about this technique for a long time and lends very little weight to links built through blog commenting.
The Circle of Links is the promised land… This is where you feature so prominently in search results that other sites naturally link to you as you are in the first position and therefore already the ‘authority’ on that topic. I rely on the circle of links for 90% of my link building on The Broke Backpacker these days. On my other sites, I have to be more aggressive but on TBB we see new organic links popping up daily.
Ultimately, the single best way to build links is to create content that deserves to be linked to. You should aim to inspire, inform and to educate – to answer the questions that your audience have with top-notch information.
Once you have some high quality content ranking, it will likely begin to pick up links naturally as other bloggers and webmasters discover your content and link to it purely because of how informative and awesome it is.
For this to work, you really do need to focus on creating standout content that is ten times better than anything else out there. Earn the reason for the link… provide great value.
The internet is filled with an army of online entrepreneurs looking for allies. Depending on your niche, it may be very easy, or very hard, to find potential colleagues to work with. Travel blogging offers the largest and most supportive community out of any other niche I have explored so far.
Having the right allies will enable you to swap contacts for outreach, discover new guest posting opportunities and potentially to help each other out by hosting links.
Back in the day, it was OK for you to build links with your exact keyword as the phrase. But here’s the thing… Ten links using the anchor text ‘best travel hair dryer’ doesn’t exactly look natural and will lead to you getting penalised by Google.
I recommend only using your keyword in 30% of your link anchor texts. In the rest, go for something super neutral such as ‘this post’ / ‘click here’ / ‘your website name’.
I’ve experimented a LOT with SEO over the last two years and have come to the conclusion that black hat SEO is becoming increasingly dangerous as Google gets better and better at spotting unnatural link building. Personally, I would never link to any of my money sites with PBNs. I’m not saying it doesn’t work but it’s a technique that requires experience and money to do well… As are many black hat techniques; so if you’re new to blogging I would keep
You can get away with linking PBNs to clean sites and then passing the juice from the PBNs through the clean sites to your money site but this is a pretty involved process and requires you to own a large portfolio of sites.
I recommend that you focus on creating content that deserves to be linked to, the occasional three way link swap and plenty of guest posting for your link building strategy.
I would rather have one link from a DA 50 site than ten links from ten different DA 20 sites. Whilst having lots of links is great, it’s better to focus your time on pitching to really established sites with great metrics – these are the backlinks that can really move the needle.
Saying that, you may need to guest post on lower DA sites when you’re still establishing yourself.
It’s much easier to score high value guest posting opportunities when you have some examples of high quality guest posts you have done in the past – a portfolio if you will.
If you can score a link from the BBC, Business Insider or another very high ranking site, this can make a massive difference to how your site ranks overall, this brings me to my next point…
Pitching is 75% of guest posting. Learning how to pitch is incredibly important if guest posting is a big part of your linking strategy. Check back soon for another post on how to pitch.
If you are swapping links, be very careful that you are not continuously swapping with the same people. It’s far better to have two links from two different sites rather than two links from the same website. Google will rank your site based on the number of links built but also on the number of referring domains and sites which have a larger and more diversified link profile consistently rank better in the SERPS.
It’s also worth trying to step outside of your niche when building links – For example, if you’re in the camera niche, try to build links not just from other photography sites but also from tech, wedding, travel and hobby sites…
And so there you have it amigos, now you’re armed with a full breakdown of the best ways to build links in 2018 plus my top tips on what does and doesn’t work.
Got any questions – hit me up in the comments.
Alright friends, today we are going to break down one of the most misunderstood parts of running an online business – Social media!
Truth be told, social media can be a very powerful weapon and using social media correctly can help you drive tons of traffic to your site and help you to earn money online.
But there’s a lot of bullshit out there and a LOT of flukey one-off epic social media wins that have become pretty famous – these are not representative of the average entrepreneur’s experience with social media and are tough to replicate.
Honestly, I don’t really like Social Media and depending on what kind of business model you are following, you may decide you don’t need to be active on social media at all (you should still lock down the relevant account handles though).
Social media CAN be very powerful – I advertised and sold out my first five Pakistan Adventure Tours almost exclusively on Instagram…
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Indeed, selling products on social media IS interesting and is something which I’m going to be experimenting with a lot in 2018 as I try to sell some of my own products through Instagram.
Before you can sell products though, you need to build up an audience. This post will teach you the tips, tricks and hacks used by most influencers to build their social media followings quickly.
Twitter is one of the easiest social media networks to grow rapidly and has been used by many bloggers and entrepreneurs to increase their social authority.
Social authority refers to the amount of trust that followers, brands and colleagues will place in you based purely on the amount of social media followers that you have.
Someone with 2,000 Twitter followers will have substantially less social authority than someone with 20,000 Twitter followers.
Having a ton of social media followers automatically validates your opinions and actions in the eyes of many social media users… Nuts as that may be.
Marketing through Twitter can be challenging and most of the difficulties are due to the nature of Twitter itself. A tweet only really sticks around for about two minutes before it’s banished into the dark abyss of the ever-updating Twitter newsfeed.
This means that from a time-invested point of view, it can be hard to get good value from Twitter. Or if you want to get good value, you need to be very, very active.
I have 103,000 social media followers on Twitter. I don’t think I’ve even logged into Twitter in 2018 yet…
However, I do have posts scheduled to go out every day in an effort to try and drive some traffic to The Broke Backpacker and to get some social shares, which may help with SEO, on those posts.
I want to point out right now that I do not think it’s worth doing this in 2018. But, if you want to, this is how you can do it…
Allow me to introduce you to the dark world of follow-for-follows. In general, if you follow somebody on Twitter, there is a 20 – 30% chance that you will be followed in return. Bloggers were quick to work this out and to start capitalising on it and today there is a whole bunch of software available online to allow you to rapidly follow hundreds of people in a day thus inflating your own number of Twitter followers.
The good news is that it’s fast and cheap to build a Twitter following, the bad news is that even when you have a million followers you may struggle to leverage them and actually direct traffic to your site. In 2016, I used Social Growth Pro to rapidly grow my own Twitter numbers.
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I’m not really interested in Twitter so this is something that I only have a bit of experience with. In 2017, I made $3850 on Twitter through Twitter Talks and the occasional sponsored tweet. I am able to charge up to $1000 for a single Twitter talk but clients are few and far in between.
I suspect that this is because the return on investment for clients paying for exposure on Twitter is not great since, as mentioned before, content drops off Twitter faster than any other network. I do not recommend counting on Twitter as an income stream although hell, maybe it’ll help you run for President.
Twitter is a time-sink and the best tip I can give you if you do decide to build a Twitter following is to create evergreen content which can be recycled indefinitely on Twitter. I use Buffer to mass schedule all of my social media posts – this means that I sit down for an afternoon once every three months and schedule three months of content.
Only if you’re determined to hit all bases and plan on going down the blogging route… It is pretty cheap and time effective to build a Twitter following but that seems to be the main advantage of Twitter!
Twitter is best used for building your social authority and driving traffic to your website but should not be relied upon as a source of income.
Arguably the most important of social media platforms, Facebook isn’t going anywhere. Facebook is a constantly evolving, data-stealing, time-sucking monster used by 1.86 billion people monthly around the globe.
Setting up a Facebook page and building an audience used to be a fantastic way to drive traffic to your website and interact with your audience but the value of Facebook to influencers has nose-dived as you now have to pay to reach your own audience.
Many bloggers and online marketers have used Facebook adverts to artificially inflate their Facebook followings. The typical practice is to choose a picture of a beach, slap a travel quote across it in Picmonkey and market it to the cheapest countries to advertise to; namely India, The Philippines and Indonesia.
I know many travel bloggers who have done this and have built up their Facebook pages to thirty, forty, fifty thousands likes in just a couple of months. Here’s the problem; these guys have screwed up big time.
Whilst it is incredibly cheap to market to the aforementioned countries (a like is going to set you back about 1 cent), you will absolutely kill your engagement level as you are marketing to an audience that is simply not relevant (unless you are from India, Indonesia or The Philippines) and most of your newfound audience will never interact with your page again.
You can get around this by advertising to, for example, Europe, Australia or The USA but a single like may set you back as much as one dollar… That’s pretty damn expensive and even when you have those oh so precious likes upon your page, Facebook will still make you pay to reach your new audience.
There are numerous examples of bloggers who have 50,000 followers on their Facebook page but who struggle to get even ten likes on any content they put up on that page. Since brands are looking for engagement, and since your audience needs to engage if you are to drive them to your website and sales pages, I strongly recommend avoiding paying for likes on Facebook.
The one advantage is that you can put your social authority through the roof but at the end of the day, it’s not real and if you know what to look for it’s easy to spot the fakers on Facebook.
For this reason, I don’t spend any money on likes for my Facebook pages.
The most common way to make money on Facebook as a blogger is by charging brands and advertisers for a sponsored post in which you attempt to drive traffic or raise awareness of a product or service. The problem is, many brands will want you to ‘boost’ the post and pay Facebook to get the status in front of a larger audience… As previously mentioned, once you do this you will be locked into a contract where you will have to do it every week or see your page reach fall drastically.
Once Facebook knows you’re willing to pay, they will change the algorithm for your page and encourage you to pay at every opportunity. In 2016, I used to pay for Facebook boosts and was able to undo the damage after a couple of months of not-paying. My organic reach slowly improved after taking a massive dip following my decision to stop paying to reach my audience. It took time though and was very frustrating. Today, my organic reach on FB is still pretty poor.
I’ve netted a few thousand dollars on The Broke Backpacker Facebook page promoting products or services over the last year but I have discontinued this service in 2018 – I want to have zero reliance on social media as an income stream as I strongly dislike spending any time at all on social media.
Facebook is currently trying to push Facebook Live as much as possible and this means if you jump on the bandwagon and utilise Facebook live you will receive a much larger organic reach.
As the largest social media platform in the world, ignoring Facebook would be foolish if you want to start a personal brand or blog. However, just be sure you don’t get sucked into spending money and wasting too much time on something that is unlikely to provide a reliable income stream.
Facebook is a powerful opportunity to build a real relationship with your audience and this is a crucial part of any blogger’s business plan. Unlike Twitter or Instagram, your audience can get a real feel for who you are and what you are about. For bloggers, Facebook is essential. For niche site owners, it’s not necessary to put time into social media (although you should always lock down the handles).
Crucially, Facebook is the second best social media platform for driving traffic to your website. I’ll talk more about the best social media platform for driving traffic soon!
Instagram is one of my favourite social media networks because it’s a beautiful platform for showcasing gorgeous photography. Instagram is not essential for all online entrepreneurs and it does take a lot of work to grow so think carefully about whether or not it’s worth your time. It is possible to drive large amounts of Traffic through Instagram, so in my opinion it’s more valuable than Facebook or Twitter.
Similar to Twitter, Instagram can be hacked using the follow-for-follow technique. Most professional bloggers were involved in this to some extent and it was one of the industry’s best kept secrets for a couple of years.
Full disclosure, I DID mess around with follow for follow on Instagram in 2016. It is not quite as fast to build an Instagram following as it is to build a Twitter following but you can still expect to build 500 followers a month if you are doing it right.
It’s worth noting that a lot of people don’t like the concept of follow-for-follow and it’s not something I do on any of my accounts these days. Saying that, if you’re starting out, it can be hard to gain traction when so many others are involved in follow for follow schemes.
I sometimes take sponsored content on my IG feed and did once score a $5000 package for sharing a total of 16 photos over a 4 month period… but this is RARE.
I know that some influencers claim to charge thousands to post a single pic. Personally, I call bullshit. People certainly are able to charge a LOT for Instagram exposure but some of the numbers floating around just seem wrong.
Think about it; influencers get interviewed and are asked to disclose their rates. They quote insanely high because they know that this will drive the perceived market price up. In reality though, these influencers will probably take as little as 25% of their opening price.
Quoting such high prices does nobody any favours as influencers are often not able to provide a decent return on investment for advertisers if the advertiser is paying thousands for a single photo.
I did use Instagram to promote my Backpacking Pakistan adventure tour, I didn’t spend a cent and the tour sold out in five days – netting me over twenty grand. If you are selling the right product, Instagram can be extremely powerful and it is worth investing in your Instagram following.
I will also be running experiments over the next couple of months to drive traffic to my Shopify store to sell my Active Roots Adventure Gear so stay tuned as I’ll be blogging about how to sell products on social media later this year.
Advertising on Instagram to fill my first Pakistan Adventure Tour in 2017 – I sold 50% of spots in under 24 hours. The whole tour was sold out in 5 days.
The best tip I can give you for Instagram is to make use of scheduling software (I like Buffer) and to interlink Instagram with your other social media platforms so that when you post a picture it automatically is posted everywhere. I’ll cover this in detail in the resources section of this post.
If you are a photographer or a blogger, go for it… However, if you’re not a blogger or photographer, unless you have some extremely visual content or products to show off, you can probably save yourself some time and skip building a following on Instagram.
One thing that is important to note is that Instagram is owned by Facebook which means that at some point Facebook will probably jump in and try to make more money out of Instagram as well by limiting influencers reach.
Pinterest is the single best social media platform for driving traffic to your website. There are some bloggers and marketers out there who rely on Pinterest for up to 90% of their traffic and hell, I have to tell you – I see why.
Pinterest should NOT be overlooked.
Allow me to introduce you to Tailwind! Tailwind has completely changed the Pinterest game, by allowing you to schedule thousands of pins at a time. This will keep your Pinterest feed up to date and relevant so it can be a traffic driving machine. Tailwind also provides you with intel on the best possible time of day to post your pins based on your Pinterest analytics.
This is the very tip of the iceberg of what Tailwind can do and honestly unless you are going to use Tailwind there is no point in using Pinterest.
It’s early days for The Broke Backpacker on Pinterest but I have recently partnered with a guru on a revshare model – they get 50% of all income from traffic they are able to drive to my site via Pinterest, let’s see what happens!
Pinterest has opened new revenues of income for people interested in making money online… but it’s fairly similar to blogging.
Monetization through Pinterest is mainly done through affiliates sales. After you get a few thousand followers, it’s very likely you’ll be approached by companies in your niche looking to promote products to your audience. As with any affiliate, please ensure that you like and use the products. The best way to rapidly lose an audience is to sell them to the highest bidder!
You can also always make money from consulting/coaching. If you have a large Pinterest following, others will pay you to find out your exact blueprint for success.
I’m still learning how to get the best results with Pinterest and besides using Tailwind I have no other intel at the moment – I’ll update this section at a later date!
Pinterest works as a search engine which means that no matter what online business you are starting, you should consider getting your ass on Pinterest. The amount of followers you have makes very little difference as your pins will come up in search results regardless of whether or not the searcher is following you.
I do not recommend wasting time on building an actual following on Pinterest but you should definitely be creating boards and pinning like crazy using Tailwind, this will help you drive traffic to your site.
As you guys know, I’m all about traffic – if you haven’t got traffic, you haven’t got anything – so I’m most interested in which social media channels can drive traffic.
I have found Facebook and Pinterest to be the two most effective social media networks for driving traffic to The Broke Backpacker. Pinterest certainly has the potential to drive a LOT of traffic and I do know some entrepreneurs who actually drive MOST of their traffic through Pinterest.
The problem with Pinterest, in my opinion, is that at some point in the future they will introduce a pay to play system, just like Facebook and Instagram.
I have not had much luck with driving any meaningful traffic through Pinterest – yet. But, it is totally possible.
As you can see, Facebook is the social platform I have had the most success with, followed by Pinterest. I still dislike Facebook though and as a means to drive traffic have found it largely ineffective – to be fair though I spend very little time on social media in general.
Twitter is disappointing, especially considering I have 103,000 followers but I largely consider Twitter to be a dead social media network now and not worth the time. Once every three months I schedule a bunch of content for Twitter to keep it turning over and to try and generate some social shares, which can help SEO, for that content.
Instagram shows promise and I should probably make more effort to be active. Unfortunately, it’s tough to drive traffic through Instagram as there are limited possibilities to insert links on the platform at the moment. If this changes, Instagram will become far more valuable and I would invest some serious time into trying to drive traffic through Instagram.
It’s worth noting that I am not particularly active on social media and if I made more of a concerted effort to engage and to post regularly, these numbers could be very different. I have found that it’s a much more effective use of my time to focus my energies on SEO (Read: What is SEO).
At the beginning of the year, 10% of TBB traffic was from social media. Now, it’s less than 2%. I am fine with this – I have been focussing all of my efforts on SEO.
You may decide that social media is going to be your bread and butter, this is how you’re going to drive your traffic – I wish you the best of luck amigo but I can’t really offer a huge amount of insight or advice!
If you’re going down the blogger or influencer path on your quest to become a location independent entrepreneur then you are probably wondering…
All across the interwebs, you’ll find stories of bloggers getting paid thousands and thousands of dollars for a single shoutout on Facebook or photo on Instagram. I’m here to blow the lid off this, to reveal some real data on real numbers, and to give you guys the information you need to decide on your own social media strategy.
There’s no denying that social media is an incredibly powerful way to get the word out about products, services and brands. Unfortunately, the golden age of monetising social media through advertising partnerships is well and truly over.
Back in the day, Facebook and Instagram allowed early content creators to build massive audiences, for free. Best of all, if you posted something on your social media channel the majority of your audience would see it in their Newsfeeds. This has now changed, Facebook and Instagram have introduced a pay to play system and if you post something to your Facebook page, you’re lucky if even 5% of your audience see it without you paying out for a Facebook advert.
The truth is that back in the day bloggers and influencers WERE able to provide companies, brands and advertisers with some kind of return on investment. It became very fashionable to work with influencers and many brands threw thousands and thousands of dollars at bloggers. If you were an early blogger, it was a glorious time – although nobody wanted to work with me on account of the word ‘broke’ in my blog name 😉
Bloggers got greedier and greedier, charging more and more for a single social media mention and then, suddenly, that world came crashing down.
Facebook changed the rules and bloggers could no longer hit up their audience for free. This meant that many brands saw a sharp drop off in return on investment – bloggers were still charging a fortune but hardly anybody was even seeing the posts as most bloggers didn’t know how to create a proper Facebook advert or weren’t bothering to create an ad at all. This meant increasingly more brands and marketers got burnt and the market took a massive hit…
Worst of all, sensationalist stories like this mean that anybody with an Instagram account is trying to make money out of Instagram. This floods the market and brings prices down rather than up. Frankly, I question the legitimacy of Instagram stars charging the kind of prices which are thrown around the web in articles such as the above.
At the end of the day, marketers and brands pay for ROI and I doubt that Instagram can provide the kind of ROI on the rates that some of these IG stars are charging.
Don’t get me wrong – every now and again somebody will pitch me at The Broke Backpacker asking for social media exposure. My standard procedure with this is to quote a ridiculous rate, because I don’t want to do it.
Sometimes though these rates will be accepted by bigger brands. I imagine that a lot of the crazy stories regarding IG influencers being paid absurd amounts follow a similar story – with the IG influencer in question not really wanting to do the project so charging an amount which is more than the exposure is worth.
Brands and companies have now wised up and a decreasing number want to pay for social media exposure, partly because the market is incredibly saturated with various people charging far too much.
The biggest change of all came from Facebook.
Once upon a time, building a loyal audience on your Facebook page was a fantastic investment of time and money. These days, Facebook (#FuckYouFacebook) has well and truly sold out and if you want to reach your own audience – you now have to pay to boost your posts. Worst of all, once you have paid to boost your posts, Facebook knows that you will continue to pay and so lowers your organic reach even further – thus trapping you.
Whilst you can generate good results through Facebook ads you are effectively signing a long-term contract where you will have to pay to reach your audience forever.
I do however see a TON of opportunity on Instagram and I know several people who make very little from their site but crush it on Amazon with brand partnerships and promoting their own products such as blogging retreats.
Building a social media following is an important part of many online business models – but not all of them.
Crucially, having a large social media following alone is not enough to make money online and you should be careful about how much time you pour into building your social media following.
There are, of course, multiple advantages once you do have a social media following…
As I am fond of saying, if you ain’t got traffic, you ain’t got nothing.
Social media is a valuable way of driving traffic to your money-site and although I am guilty of not making the most of my own social media audience (which is about 200,000 strong), I still get 2% of my overall traffic through social media. Not all social media platforms are created equal and which to choose hugely depends on your goals and what you want to sell. I think Instagram has the best money making potential and that Pinterest has the greatest ability to drive traffic.
The most sustainable way of making money with social media is to drive traffic to monetised posts on your site. You can, of course, also offer sponsored shout-outs across your social media networks but you risk annoying your audience and devaluing your influence.
If for example, you have a crazy amount of followers on Youtube, then you can tap into this and make money from ads on your posts through the Youtube Partner program (more on Youtube another time).
You can also sell your own products, or somebody else’s products for an affiliate kickback, through your social media channels – check back in a couple of months for a case study on how I got on selling Active Roots products through my Instagram.
SEO is the single most important part of any online business and gaining social shares on posts through Facebook and Twitter may have a small effect on how Google ranks your post.
If you can make a post go viral on Facebook or Twitter, Google has access to this information and will bump you up in search results.
Social Media gives you a unique opportunity to build and strengthen your relationship with your audience; many followers don’t have the time or inclination to read whole blog posts (shame on them) and prefer to just stalk you on social media.
There are a ton of other social media platforms you may want to consider building a following on…
Crucially, we haven’t talked at all about video platforms such as Snapchat, Youtube and Instagram stories.
Video is one of the hardest spaces in social media to break into but hell, if you can do it you can make a fortune and can even rely purely on your social media channels as your source of revenue.
The early adopters of Youtube have done extremely well for themselves and there is definitely something to be said for being an early adopter in general – if you sense that you have stumbled across the next big thing, jump on it.
At one point, I was convinced that Snapchat was going to be the next big thing and I worked my ass off building a large, loyal and engaged snapchat following – unfortunately I made under $2000 on Snapchat and I have now stopped using the platform as it does not provide a good ROTE (return on time invested).
Honestly, I’m pretty happy to be able to step away from Snapchat as being glued to my phone all the time was a constant sap on my energy and caused me to miss out on the joys of travelling the world – there’s a big difference between appreciating and capturing a special moment.
For some video inspiration, check out my travels in Pakistan, back in the day when I was trying to make it on Snapchat…
Youtube is poised to become the second biggest search engine after Google and I intend on re-visiting Youtube this year to see how producing and embedding videos can lead to improved page rankings and more traffic driven to my affiliate partners…
The best tip I can give you for building and using a social media following properly is to be time efficient. I am a big fan of Buffer for scheduling my social media updates and linking all the various platforms together; this means I simply upload a photo and it is then shared across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Hashtags might be an effective way of gaining a little extra exposure for your posts and I recommend checking out which relevant hashtags are trending so you can jump on the bandwagon when posting social media updates.
Be sure to make your posts look attractive as ultimately social media is a very visual space, I recommend Picmonkey (fast, cheap, online) for editing photos and creating attractive graphics.
To really dominate social media and to grow your following quickly, these are the tools I recommend…
PicMonkey: Create attractive graphics and edit your photos into awesome masterpieces.
TailWind: Absolutely essential if you are to drive large amounts of traffic through Pinterest.
Buffer: My go-to scheduling software
In my opinion, social media is not necessary to be successful online but it can, of course, be a valuable tool to drive traffic, build your brand and connect with your audience!
Don’t fall into the trap of investing a disproportionate amount of time and energy into social media as you will not get the same kind of results you would with putting that time and energy into SEO.
Crucially, being on social media is a distraction in itself and you are likely to get sucked into just browsing social media rather than actually working on your site and income streams.
If you are going to proceed with social media, be smart about it – choose one or two platforms and hit them with a targeted plan for growth and monetisation.
Got any questions? Hit me up in the comments!
I wrote my first blog post in September 2014.
I had no idea at the time but this was the first step on what was to be a very long journey, a journey which would truly change my life forever.
Starting my travel blog was one of the most important moments in my life so far.
Starting a blog is easy, you can do it in under an hour.
Turning a blog into a fully functioning business that can support your lifestyle, now that takes significantly longer than an hour.
I’m never going to lie to you guys about the difficulty and challenges of turning a blog into your sole source of income. The truth is that it’s hard and you’re unlikely to succeed if your concept of working hard is throwing twenty uncoordinated hours at your blog a week.
However, if you’re willing to work hard, to plan for your success and to actively focus on being in the top 5% in your niche, you can succeed.
And let me tell you amigos, success is fucking sweet.
Running a successful blog opens up numerous opportunities and truly does allow you to live the dream – to earn money whilst you travel the world.
I honestly believe that starting a blog is one of the best moves that any aspiring digital nomad can make and this is because nothing offers a crash course in online entrepreneurship like blogging.
If you start a blog, you will learn about so many different things and these lessons are powerful. In many ways, blogging is the best introduction to trying to earn money online, here are ten reasons why you should start a blog…
There’s nothing like taking ownership of something for yourself.
Before I started blogging, I had no idea that it could actually be fun to work! I had worked so many truly terrible jobs that the idea of looking forward to work was totally alien to me.
Now, I actually love waking up each morning and throwing myself back into the fray!
There is always something new to learn and having a blog allows you to network with many cool and inspiring people and to find your tribe.
I enjoy helping others grow their online ventures, I love writing and checking my passive income streams and I like managing my own time, setting my own goals and incentivising myself with rewards I actually want (rather than the $20 gift card offered to employee of the week in my last shit job).
Did you know that the number of Google searches is increasing every day? That’s right – every single day Google processes 500 million new searches that it has never seen before.
And that’s pretty damn exciting…
As bloggers, you have an amazing opportunity to share whatever the hell you want with the world.
But let me tell you a secret…
It’s the blogs that solve problems, answer questions, offer walkthroughs and provide mad value that succeed and ultimately stick around.
The internet is like the universe itself, it’s constantly expanding – this means there is no shortage of opportunities for you to write posts that matter, for you to inspire, to inform and to educate your audience on whatever it is they are searching for.
As bloggers, we have an amazing opportunity to help people! And that’s a good thing…
It is often a kind email or comment from one of my readers, telling me that I have helped them, that spurs me on to continue working my ass off and to provide my audience with the best possible resources that I am able to put together.
You can start a blog for less than $100 a year.
Blogging has one of the lowest barriers to entry out of any online entrepreneur path and if you’re looking to Ditch Your Desk and work for yourself but you have very limited funds with which to take the plunge, blogging is your most accessible option.
You can host your blog for just $2.95 a month on Bluehost (exclusive for DYD readers) and if you buy 12 months of hosting at once you’ll receive your domain name (which is worth $15 a year) for free.
Get started by checking out this post all about how to start your first website.
I’ve made a lot of amigos through The Broke Backpacker.
My best friend and Ditch Your Desk Co-Founder Aaron, first reached out to me at The Broke Backpacker a couple of years back and we never would have met if we had not been in the same space and looking for others to crush it with.
You’ll meet a lot of cool people through your blog, both readers or colleagues.
To start a blog is to embark on the ultimate crash course into what does and doesn’t work online. You’ll learn how to get a website up and running, how to write content that converts, how to network, pitch, negotiate and hustle.
You’ll learn how to move around the backend of a website, how to monetise your content, how to write email newsletters, how to drive traffic through social media, how to optimise your website for Google, how to build links, how to hire and how to fire.
These are all the things you’ll learn by starting a blog anyway! As you scale and grow your business, you will get to a point where you can focus purely on two or three aspects of your blog but until you get there, you will have to learn about and implement many different parts of blogging yourself.
Blogging IS the ultimate crash course in how to many money online and many bloggers take the skills they learn and repurpose them for other online ventures.
Working for yourself is awesome. Personally, I would rather hustle hard and make $30,000 for myself a year than make $120,000 working for somebody else.
Whatever your dream, whether it’s to travel the world or build a tiny house in the woods and fill it with a dozen children (why!?), blogging gives you the ability to earn money from anywhere, at any time, in the world.
I often work early in the morning, sometimes just in my birthday suit.
Now THAT my friends is freedom.
Best of all, because much of my income streams is focussed on affiliate marketing I can earn money even without working. It’s not like a standard job where you have to turn up to get paid, if I wanted to take the next year off I could and I would continue to earn… However, I want to continue to build my business so I’ll continue working for now!
I’ll let you guys in on a little secret… I couldn’t read or write until I was seven.
I am dyslexic and as a kid at school my parents would frequently be told by teachers that I was just slow (basically, they thought I was stupid).
This ‘slowness’ coupled with my love of lightsabers and hatred of sitting still, meant that I didn’t learn much in school and I probably spent at least 30% of my time skipping school and building forts in the woods.
My Mum sat me down one day and asked me if I couldn’t read, how would I cope in life. I asked her to help me learn.
And she did. My Mum is a hero and she worked tirelessly to whip me into shape, I was a difficult kid and a troublesome teenager and I owe a lot to her.
I never thought that I would end up doing any kind of job that involved a lot of writing but it turns out I love writing (and reading too).
Blogging definitely opens up the most doors when it comes to expanding into other opportunities.
Unlike running a series of niche sites, blogging gives you access to a proper audience and if you make a name for yourself whilst blogging you will get interview requests, sponsorship offers and brand partnership deals.
Blogging is a great platform for freelancers and allows you to show off your work so that potential clients can see what you can do… Often, when I am hiring writers for TBB the first thing I do is check their blogs. More often than not, the candidates with the best blogs get the gigs.
Want to take your business to the next level?
Ditch Your Desk subscribers get access to our best content. Period.
Here’s the kicker… It’s totally possible to make a comfortable living from blogging.
And the best part is that it’s possible to absolutely knock it out of the park and earn a fortune…
Some bloggers are earning seven figures a year and I personally know quite a few folks who are pulling in six figures a year – that’s a lot of money for a job you can do naked!
Got any thoughts or questions? Hit me up in the comments!
Here at Ditch you Desk we use a lot of terminologies and we acknowledge that some of these terms might get confusing!
So we created our ultimate jargon buster (glossary) to help you get to grips with the terms in use on this website and in other top-notch SEO resources around the web...
PS - Have we not included a term you don't understand? Comment below and we'll get it added to the list 🙂
One of the most popular ways to earn money online in which an online retailer, such as Amazon, pays a commission for sales generated through traffic which you send to the retailer.
Affiliate marketing effectively allows you to be a middleman in the sales process and to get a sweet, tasty kickback from Amazon (or another retailer) whenever someone purchases after visiting the retailer through your links. While Amazon is the most popular affiliate program, there are countless other affiliate opportunities.
Further reading: Affiliate Marketing 101
Drop shipping is where you sell products to customers without ever handling the actual products. The customer order is passed on to a third party who handles shipping and delivery and the merchant (you) makes a profit by marking up the value of the product.
The most popular drop shipping method, in which you arrange for your products to be shipped en-masse to an Amazon warehouse and then sell the products on Amazon. Amazon handles packaging and delivery of your products, for a fee.
Further reading: What I learnt selling 2000 of my own products on FBA
A digital product is a product that is delivered and consumed online, for example an ebook or video course. Digital products cost nothing to deliver and once they are set up are an excellent source of passive income.
An income stream which you will earn without having to do anything - for example, once you have set up a digital product and this product is being sold through a landing page and delivered by email, you will earn a passive income from it without having to take any further action.
Further reading: Affiliate Marketing 101
A landing page is a page on a website that has a single goal. The goal can vary from having a user make a purchase, give their email address, fill out a form, or anything in between.
A lead-mag is a free resource which you give away, e.g. a PDF, checklist, infographic, or some top tips delivered by email, in exchange for an email signup or other action.
Search Engine Optimisation. This is the process of optimizing your website to ensure it performs better in search engines (mainly Google).
The most important part of any online business is traffic. The more traffic you have, the more money you can make. SEO refers to following a strategy to ensure that your content ranks higher in the SERPS so that you receive more traffic.
Further reading: SEO 101 (The Ultimate Guide)
On-page SEO refers to how your content is laid out on an individual page on your site and making sure you have laid out your content correctly.
By doing this, Google will reward you with higher rankings, which results in more traffic. There are lots of different steps you can take to improve your on-page SEO.
On-Site SEO refers to the steps on your site to improve it's rankability, for example improving the website load time, web map, mobile responsiveness, and many other things.
Strategies that are NOT on your website that will help improve your site's rankings. This usually refers to building backlinks to your website from other sites.
A backlink is a hyperlink from one site to another. Backlinks are one of the most crucial aspects of SEO as they act as votes of authenticity for your website and the more votes (links) your site has, the easier it will rank in search results.
Not all backlinks are created equal. A backlink from a website with a high DA will be exponentially more valuable than a backlink from a domain with a low DA.
Further reading:The ABSOLUTE Best Ways to Build Backlinks
Backlinks are Google's system of reliability. The more backlinks a website gets, the more trustworthy Google will find that website, the more likely that website is to rank in Google's search results and therefore the more likely that site is to accrue organic backlinks.... thus making this beautiful circle go round and round.
Domain Authority is a metric created by Moz to estimate how easy a site will be able to rank content. 1 is the lowest DA score whereas 100 is the highest. While the score is not extremely important, it can offer a quick insight into the ranking power of a website.
Further reading: Is DA Even Important?
SERPS stands for search engine results pages. If I was to say to you 'where are you showing up in the SERPS man', I'm basically asking you where your content is ranking on Google, it is on the first page or the second? What position?
SEO keywords are the keywords and phrases in your content that make it possible for people to find your site via search engines.
Keywords are, in a nutshell, the phrases that users are punching into Google searches to bring them to content. The more keywords you rank for, the more traffic your site will receive. A keyword may be a single word (e.g. Peru), a few words (e.g. best ceviche Peru) or it could be a long tail keyword (e.g. best ceviche near Machu Picchu in Peru).
A search query is a keyword that is actually typed into Google. While there is some discrepancy between the two, the terms 'search query' and 'keywords' basically mean the same thing.
A Long-tail keyword is a phrase that contains at least three words. Long-tail keywords make up the majority of Google's traffic and are used by marketers to target specific niches and interests, as opposed to more generic, and more competitive, keyword terms.
Searchers want specific answers to specific questions, and are less likely to type in "New York Pizza" and more likely to type in "best Pepperoni Pizza in south Brooklyn". Long-tail keywords offer some of the best opportunities to rank content quickly and easily; there are millions of untapped long-tail keywords out there.
Keyword Research refers to the process of SEO-research. Keyword Research allows you to analyse the SERPs and gauge whether you can rank for terms you want to rank for.
You can also discover alternative search terms that people enter into Google while looking for a similar subject. Keyword research is the foundation of SEO as it allows for you to evaluate the competition and discover keywords that you can rank for.
Further reading: The Ultimate Guide to Keyword Research
The domain name (or simply the 'domain') is the address of a site. Our domain name is Ditchyourdesk.com
If you want space on the internet, you have to pay rent - this is the gist of hosting. A host acts as a landlord, giving you a place to live in the world wide web, enabling anyone in the world to visit your website. If you are looking for hosting, we highly recommend BlueHost.
Further reading - 7 Simple Steps to Start Your First Website
A free blogging platform. WordPress comes SEO-ready right out the box and doesn't require any technical or coding knowledge. If you are starting a website, WordPress should be your ONLY choice (do not use Weebly, Wix or Square Space).
An authority site focuses on becoming an authority in a space, rather than just focussing on a niche. For example, a niche site may focus on ultralight camping tents whereas an authority site would focus on the entire camping and outdoor space.
Niche sites focus on locking down long-tail keywords and catering to a specific niche of people. Often, niche sites are built around just one or two high-value long-tail keywords. Niche sites usually follow a churn and burn model and are losing ground against more popular authority sites in the SERPS.
Every year, millions of websites fail to renew their hosting. When this happens the domain name itself goes up for auction to the highest bidder. Domains maintain their link profiles and it's possible to pick up a domain with a high DA and a good backlink profile in these auctions.
A PBN is a network of sites which you control and can use to rapidly build links to your money sites.
Typically, PBN sites are made up of expired domains which have been bought on the cheap and had a new cookie cutter site with some basic content dropped onto the domain. This is black hat SEO and used to be a very popular technique but is losing ground against white hat techniques on account of PBNs being hit with increasing accuracy by Google.
Black hat SEO is any link building technique which goes against Googles' rules - for example, using PBNs to build links or buying links through sponsored posts.
White hat SEO is any link building technique which does not go against Googles' rules - for example, free/natural guest posting.
The SEO title is the title of your post as it will appear in the SERPS (not necessarily the same as the title of your post as it appears on your site). You can test different Seo titles to see which gives you the best CTR (click through rate).
The meta description is the 150-300 characters of content found in the search results that is displayed underneath the SEO title giving a preview of what the post is about. Well-Written meta descriptions can result in lots more clicks.
Coined and measured by Majestic (a Goliath company in SEO), the Citation Flow is the prediction of the total number of backlinks a website has.
Trust Flow indicates the quality of backlinks pointing to a website. If two websites each have 100 backlinks, but website A's backlinks were from reputable sources, and website B's backlinks were spammy, website A would have a significantly higher TF.
The practise of selling a do-follow link, usually in a post, to improve the buyer's offsite SEO.