Do as I say, not what I do.
Or in this case, don’t do what I don’t do.
This is a bit of a self-righteous rant.
The impetus for it came from my wanting to blog about why I don’t charge for publishing guest posts on my sites. From there, it spiraled (or degenerated) into what it is.
Table of Contents
- 1. Sell dofollow links under the guise of publishing guest posts
- 2. Paginate for “cash grab” page views
- 3. Use Pretstitial ads
- 4. Badmouth display ads
- 5. Waste big bucks on website design
- 6. Waste time on custom page builders for blog post content
- 7. Format any content
- 8. Strive for perfection
- 9. Focus on building an email list
- Do you disagree with me?
Many bloggers and website publishers, including top-tier sites, charge hundreds of dollars for guest posts. This is a sneaky way of selling links. Whether it’s an “admin” fee or some other “fee”, it’s selling links.
I’m not morally opposed to the practice. If I thought it a good business practice, I’d do it as much as I could.
I don’t do it because Google doesn’t like it.
How will Google catch you?
It’s not likely a Google algo will catch you unless you’re an idiot and sell links to online casinos daily. Having 30% of your content about gambling when you’re in the Christianity niche is a bit of a giveaway, don’t you think? Ha ha, it’s a dead giveaway in any niche except gambling.
The real threat you need to worry about when schlepping links as guest posts is your competition. When your competition gets your email response “hey, awesome to hear from you. Send me $300 USD and I’ll get your guest post published immediately” they’ll send it on over to Larry Page, Sergey Brin and the gang.
I could sell links like those all day long on my bigger niche sites, but who needs the risk? A few thou a month isn’t worth getting chopped at the knees in search. It’s a classic case of penny wise, pound stupid.
If not your competition, some jealous wanna-be blogger will sabotage you.
The practice is risky.
Is it ever worth charging big bucks for guest posts?
If you have a high DA site with traffic but you don’t care what happens to it, sell the links. Turn it into a cash cow and milk it for links.
I don’t have such a site, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to end up with such a site. For example, if no matter what you throw at a DA 40 site, it can’t earn more than $500/mo., you could quadruple that revenue selling guest posts instantly.
2. Paginate for “cash grab” page views
Three days ago I couldn’t resist a native ad on CNN promising to show me the most dangerous roads in the world. The image was awesome. It was some insane road carved into a cliff thousands of feet high. You’d have to a have a death wish to drive it.
Like any 44-year-old guy, I just had to click to see these roads. I knew it would be some time-suck gallery where I’d have to click “next page” for each photo. It took my powers of keen observation to avoid hitting an ad that would take to me an even more obnoxious piece of content.
This is what I call “cash grab pagination.” It’s done to get more page views which equal more money.
They work. I click into them out of curiosity. But I don’t set them up on my sites. I’m organic search guy these days so I stick to the long-form content.
Again, I’m not morally opposed to this stuff. I just don’t want to manage the paid traffic margins day-in and day out. I’d rather focus on building passive income streams (which is a bit of a misnomer itself because organic search traffic requires ongoing work too).
3. Use Pretstitial ads
Some time ago I read something about Google not liking sites that deploy prestitial ads. They’re the super annoying full-screen ads that prevent access to a site. You have to wait for a countdown timer until the site loads.
Forbes.com is renowned for these. I like Forbes.com but won’t click into the site because the prestitial drives me nuts.
I’m all for using ads in clever ways to rake in cash, but prestitials are too much. Now that Google hinted it doesn’t like them, I steer clear.
4. Badmouth display ads
You have to love the “how to get rich online” bloggers who tell everyone only idiots would monetize their site with AdSense. I agree that anyone yammering on about telling people how to get rich online can do better than Adsense. There are high paying affiliate products, courses to sell, coaching to sell, etc. AdSense can’t come close to earning what those options haul in.
What they don’t tell you, because they don’t publish content in other niches (which really begs the question of how they can be taken seriously about their “how to get rich online blog”), is that in some niches, AdSense is the only option (and can be a great option).
I earn a good chunk of revenue from display ads. I’m all for them.
Have you ever tried to sell an online course in the baseball news niche? Ain’t gonna happen. Give it a shot if you like, but your Cubs fan only cares about reading about the Cubs.
Also, do you think sites like Forbes hasn’t tried to monetize beyond display ads? It’s part of a multi-billion dollar company with the best minds in the business. Of course, they’ve tried everything. They show ads because it makes a lot of money.
5. Waste big bucks on website design
I lie. I wasted big bucks on one of my first sites. It was a joke and a big waste of money.
I spent $6K on custom graphics and a site design. It’s laughable. I had no sales. No revenue and here I was spending $6K so my site would look great.
I’m not so obtuse that I failed to learn from that mistake.
I haven’t spent anywhere near that on any website design or branding graphics since then. When I need a logo, I pay $20 to $30 at Fiverr.
For website design, I stick with a theme’s design. Most premium themes look good. More to the point, there are so many options, surely you can find one that’s good enough out of the box.
A content site needs to clean-cut, load fast and deliver good content. That’s it. It’s not rocket science.
Don’t waste money on custom branding graphics, website design or business cards. Use that money for content. Remember, content pays the bills, not $6,000 logos.
After I sent this blog post to my email readers, one guy asked whether non-custom designs would be considered unprofessional by visitors.
I understand where the question is coming from. I was dumb enough back in the day to blow $6K on a custom design. Guess how much that site ended up earning me? $0. Yup, it was a bomb from the get-go.
Guess how much my sites using default theme designs earned? Millions (over the years).
Unprofessional? Not a chance IMO. Besides, themes look great . It’s not as if they look like some HTML site circa 2002.
Visitors want good content. They don’t care about fancy design.
Hey, if you’re pulling in thousands and want to invest in a custom design, go to it. Just don’t waste precious resources in the beginning on it.
6. Waste time on custom page builders for blog post content
Hey, if you’re a perfectionist and don’t care about getting ‘er done, go ahead and spend all your time making your posts beautiful and perfect with page builders.
Me? Ain’t got time for that.
I mucked around with that for a while and realized I’ll never build up my site adding all these little design features.
Those tools have their place. Sales pages, landing pages, etc. are worth pouring time into.
Regular blogs posts, no way. At least not for me.
I’d rather publish 4 articles and start banking some cash than tinkering my days away.
Do you think visitors care? Do you see the biggest websites in the world doing all that fancy stuff? No way (to both questions).
I’m not pointing fingers. I don’t care what you do. I’m just telling you what I don’t do.
7. Format any content
I used to order just articles.
Every week, in came .docx files by the truckload. I love getting content, but the avalanche of articles was accompanied with dread for endless formatting work.
Formatting one article, not a big deal. Formatting 50 articles; that’s a tough ask. I’ll do it. I’ve done it. But I’m not doing it anymore.
VA’s are great for this work.
Have a content agency that formats is better. Why? Because it’s fluid. The agency writes and gets the article all pretty on the site. I go in and click “publish”.
Clicking “publish” 50 times is something I can do.
8. Strive for perfection
I publish articles that aren’t finished. Yup, do it all the time. I want that content out there lickity split.
I go back and finish those articles eventually.
Most of the stuff I publish, I do so knowing it’s not perfect. Once in a while, I go the extra mile, but usually not. I put in an 80% effort.
Around here, I put in much less effort. But then you can probably tell. Sorry, but again, ain’t got no time for that. 80% good enough is a heck of a lot better than achieving nothing for fear it’s not perfect.
Nowhere do I exhibit my imperfectionist tendencies more than on social media. And yet I have hundreds of thousands of followers across my niches driving over 100K monthly visitors to my sites. I just blast it out there and call it a day. Actually, I handle one to two weeks’ worth of social media in about 1 hour these days with Tailwind and MeetEdgar.
Let me ask you a question.
Have you ever sat and done nothing because you didn’t know how to do it perfect?
I have. It’s not often, but I’ve been paralyzed by the fear of getting it wrong.
That’s when I snap out of it and just do it without second-guessing whether it’s right. I’d rather bad results that I can learn from than no results.
Don’t forget to not take this stuff too seriously either. They’re just websites. It’s not surgery.
9. Focus on building an email list
“The money is in the list dude. Everybody knows that. Sign up to my list and I’ll show you.”
Classic IM blogger stuff. You know the type; they publish one blog only and it’s all about teaching people to make money online. Problem is, they only make money from that blog. They think every niche is the same.
Nobody is arguing with them that email is the bomb for make money online niches.
The thing is, the money isn’t in the list for many other niches.
The money is made on the site. Pure and simple. I know; I publish 8 sites. Some make money via email, most make money on the site.
No amount of email copywriting skill can turn all email lists into goldmines.
At best, your list will be an okay source of traffic to new articles. That’s worth it, but it won’t be your bread and butter. Not even gravy. It’s the kumquat garnish (which I’ll eat anyway).
Hey Jon, this is like the 10th time you’ve yammered on about email not being all that in various niches. Enough, already!
I hear ya, but there’s a reason I harp on this and that’s because I listened to the “money is in the list” chorus for way too long.
While you may not believe me, and you have good reason not to, I actually hope this blog helps a person or two along the way.
I’m not saying to avoid building a list. I’m saying that it’s not the be all and end all for all niches and that display ads can be a very good way to monetize.
Do you disagree with me?
You might. Maybe you should. You decide.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.