David contributes to SME Pals, a blog aimed at helping startups and online businesses.
Here's what I learned growing an online side hustle from $0 to $800 per month in 3 months: Growing an online side-hustle is not easy. Content, in particular, is a risky marketing proposition because of a steep learning curve, high labor and input costs, with very uncertain returns. Yet content forms the basis of pretty much any online marketing strategy — from email to blogging to social. It’s vital for online growth.
Anyone who’s tried their hand at making money online probably knows just how hard it is to grow a profitable, sustainable business. So the question I asked myself was this,
Which marketing strategy, or combination of strategies, delivers the highest growth for an online business with the lowest investment of time, skill, and cost?
Turns out I couldn’t find a single marketing strategy, on its own, that delivered satisfactory results, so I had to experiment with a few different combos.
To cut a long story short, I ended up using three relatively cheap and easy marketing strategies (based on content) to grow a new online side-hustle from nothing to nearly $800 in monthly revenue — within 3 months.
To be clear, that’s $800 in revenue, not all of which is profit . I also only worked on this in my spare time, as a side hustle, which is why it took a few months.
In a nutshell, they are:
When used together, these three strategies work in synergy for faster growth. In other words,
The return of all three strategies working together is greater than the sum of their individual returns.
Before I explain my approach and its benefits, it’s worth noting a few caveats.
I realized quite some time ago that it’s no longer sufficient to write great content and expect to drive valuable organic search traffic from Google.
The vast majority of content will not make any revenue whatsoever. In short,
The days of easy, free organic traffic from Google search are over!
Without any reasonable prospects of organic traffic from Google (at least to begin with) it becomes a lot harder to survive long enough to become profitable.
Instead of wasting time and effort trying to write great content that would, in all likelihood, never see page one of Google regardless of quality, I started treating a single blog post like a startup business in its own right.
Yup, you read that correctly.
Treat a single piece of content (i.e. a blog post) as if it were an entirely new business venture, complete with a blog post business plan.
Blogging redefined as a startup business.
I’m not suggesting that a quick blog update about an interesting bug you saw the other day requires a business plan. I’m talking about content that forms a key part of your business (or is your business in its entirety).
The second you start creating content with clear-cut business and marketing objectives, things start to change.
Creating a business plan helps you:
With all this new research, data and information at your fingertips, a whole new world of opportunity opens up. All before a single word has been typed.
In fact, getting to the point where you actually start writing ends up being quite an advanced stage in the new process.
Once you have spent a bit of time researching, gathering data and analyzing, this is what you end up wanting to know:
Is there sufficient value in the market for this content?Will this content work to drive revenue?Will this content ultimately become profitable?
With a piece of content that ticks all the boxes, it’s time to put everything together.
Working with content means ongoing competitor analysis.
Competitor analysis provides information and insights about a niche industry that can be used to gain a competitive advantage, improve marketing campaigns and drive growth.
What you learn about competitors (and from them) doesn’t only help you make better decision about the type of content to create.
You might discover:
All of this information helps you focus and tailor the best possible content in order to generate the best possible returns.
But will it work?
There’s no way to know for sure unless you try. The trick is to reach a result as quickly as possible. Fail or succeed, at least you won’t waste time.
Time is your most precious asset; not money.
Fortunately, PPC keyword research and conversion optimization can deliver the results you need quickly.
Google PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising (that’s just an example, not the only PPC option available) doesn’t necessarily need to be profitable (although it is a bonus) to provide a great deal of valuable insight.
Be smart about how you use PPC keywords. Here are a few tips to help out.
Paying to drive traffic using search keywords doesn’t only tell you whether or not content is viable. Use PPC to:
Monitor performance and use this information to analyze and improve conversions quickly.
Hopefully, if you’ve done enough research and a great job at creating high converting, high value content, you’ll generate a profit directly off PPC ads.
If not, you’ll need to decide on acceptable losses. In other words, if you spend $50 in advertising and generate $45 in revenue the losses may be acceptable for the time being.
The goal is to create content profitable enough to sustain your business using paid traffic until such time as it can be replaced by free, organic traffic.
Here are a few additional things to bear in mind:
Ultimately, combing and integrating keyword research, competitor analysis, conversion optimization and proper content research and planning does something more than simply drive revenue. It:
Hopefully you’ll find plenty of value in exploring this 3-in-1 synergy marketing strategy — it may help reduce costs, better direct your marketing efforts, or help boost conversions.
Don’t be afraid to personalize your campaigns. Find a mix that works best for you.
When it comes to getting the most bang for your marketing buck, it’s all about synergy. Look for strategies that work together (like the ones I used here) to generate more value than the sum of their parts.
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