My Online Income History and New Business Strategy

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I am at a point with my online business that has me considering what strategy to follow to get me to the next level. Maybe you are at a similar point, maybe you are starting out. Hopefully sharing the details on my journey to making some money online and the directions I am considering for my business now will be useful to others.

I started online working to make money in 2007 while in College and have slowly built up online assets that bring in a modest monthly income, around $5k / month.

For several reasons including the birth of my son, taking 2 months off my online business for my day job and seeing the sites continue to grow it has me thinking about the direction of my online efforts.

To understand what direction to go it is important to understand my background.

 

Here Is My Online History Starting Online in 2007…

  • Pre University – Side Hustles
    • Lawn Cutting
    • Selling Skis on Ebay
  • 2004 Went to University
  • 2005 – Bought International Edition Textbooks from India at 90% Off and Sold for 75% off to friends
  • 2005 Started listening to AudioBooks and a few had significant impacts on how I thought about business.
    • E-Myth Revisited
    • Rich Dad Poor Dad
    • The 4 Hr Work Week
  • 2006 – Started a Bike Parts Company – Never Manufactured a Part
  • 2007 – Started a TextBook Selling Website – Sold One
  • 2008 – Got Engaged
  • 2008 – Started a Small Membership Site That Organized Old Time Radio Shows – Cost $2,000 Made $150
    • Learned about ODesk (blew my mind)
  • 2008 – Built a Sales Page to Sell Excel Templates – Started making a few sales – $100/month
    • Learned about article marketing
  • 2009 – Built some “Feeder” WordPress Sites to Drive Traffic to Sales Page – $200/month
    • Learned about SEO
    • Learned about wordpress
  • 2009 – Graduated with a Mechanical Engineering and Business Degree
  • 2009 – Started Working in Project Management for an Oil and Gas Company
  • 2009 – Started replicating the “feeder” sites and made them into money sites – $750/month
    • Outsourced everything article marketing, web creation etc.
    • The dream of a self growing fully outsourced system was strong!
  • 2010 – Attempted to build a Facebook Team Gift app after coming up with the idea at my Bachelor party with friends– FAILED – $1,000 gone
  • 2010 – Got Married
  • 2010 – Built a team on ODesk to promote each website using Yahoo Answers and Blog Commenting – $1,250/month
    • Built the team up to 15ppl
  • 2011 – Stopped Being Profitable & Cut Back On Team To Become Profitable – $500/month
  • 2011 – Started Building Private Blog Network and Testing Other Strategies to Improve Ranking and Drive Traffic
  • Feb 2011 – Panda hit – No Impact on My Business
  • 2011-2012 – Started focusing on lower quality exact match domains that required less work and my team was building 2/week – $1,500/month income
    • Never used “automated” link building methods!
    • Never used spun content on my sites (but yes I was one of them that used it on article sites)
  • Apr 2012 – Penguin hit – Small Impact
    • Doing some research and trying to think about SEO like Wayne Gretzky played hockey “go where the puck is going to be not where it is” translated into “give the search engines what they want not game the current loopholes”
  • Summer 2012 – Decided to shift focus to build up my larger more useful sites – $3k/month
    • Sites like ACLSurgeryRecovery.net grew to 800 visitors/day
  • Aug 2012 – Decided to create a public case study through AuthorityWebsiteIncome.com showing how I was going to build PayMyStudentLoans.com
  • Sep 2012 – EMD Update Hit – 15%-25% of my sites got killed(all smaller sites) – 5% of my earnings affected – $3k/month
    • EMD update reconfirms I believe I am on the right path with larger more authoritative sites.
  • 2013 PayMyStudentLoans.com averages over $1000/month for month 6, 7 and on track for 8 – $4k/month income
  • TODAY – Business Direction Decision Time!

 

My Online Income Goal:

Make over $15k/month move my family to our hometown by the age of 35 – 6 years to go. Get more time with family, friends and experience the activities I enjoy. Solve real problems with my business.

 

How Am I Going to Get There?

It is time for me to either confirm I am on the right path and scale or pivot and test a new model.

Here are the requirements for whatever business model I choose:

  1. Limited Time – Due to time with my wife/son, a busy and unpredictable day job and other activities I don’t want to live without(sports and camping)
  2. Ability to Walk Away for Extended Periods – Like I mentioned above I need to be able to not work on the business for 2 month stretches. Outsourcing and systematizing is key
  3. Add Value(solve real problems) – I did the no value exact match niche sites and I am not willing to go down that route again. Whatever I do must add value to the internet – I believe it is the only way to build a sustainable business.
  4. Enjoy The Work I Do – I need to do work that I enjoy – luckily for me I really enjoy systematizing  work and managing teams executing my strategies. Developing a strategy, setting up systems to have other people execute and then managing that process is definitely central to my business.
  5. Reliable Income w Growth Potential – If I do the things I mention above I believe the income streams will be reliable but it is important to make sure that the income is diversified and reliable. Exploiting a temporary loop hole in Google is not adequate. Transferring my online income into offline income generating assets(likely real estate) is also on my radar as a possibility.
  6. $15-20k/month – Relatively self explanatory, this is my target monthly income

Here are my potential strategies….

 

Potential Strategies

Option 1 – Build Authority Websites – Replicate PayMyStudentLoans.com

PayMyStudentLoans.com should be able to earn $1-2k/month within another couple months. If I replicate the work I have put in and build out 8 of these sites over the next few years I will get to my target income.

= 8sites x $2k/site = $16k/month

 

Option 2 – Build PayMyStudentLoans.com and 2 other sites into 6 figure annual earners

Build a “real” business around a couple of my sites and work them up to $5k/month income earners. This strategy would allow me to focus more on a few sites and really make them into sustainable winners. With this model I believe I would need to build a product or service offering around these sites and then build an outsourced team to fulfill the offering.

= 3 sites x $5k/site = $15k/month

 

Option 3 – Build AuthorityWebsiteIncome.com w Tools/Plugins/Coaching/Membership

I am not sure I want to be one of “those guys” but the experience of making a plugin was great and I have several ideas for others. Helping people with their desire to make money online is very rewarding but I just don’t think I am cut out to be a “guru”.

= $2k coaching + $5k affiliate income + $5k product/plugin sales + $3k training sales = $15k/month

 

Option 4 – Build More Smaller Niche Sites

Build out sites at a rate of 4 sites per month, taking some of the higher value SEO tactics used on the larger sites I have had success with. I would need to pick relatively easy keywords to rank for and use outsourced content to rank each site.

= 100 sites x $150/month = $15k / month

 

Option 5 – Physical Product Business

With my engineering background and my work experience in a high tech start up hardware company I would enjoy being back in this world. I have several ideas that I believe would help solve real problems both to consumers and businesses. The problem with this idea is the amount of time and constant attention it would require. It would be tough to systematize this business model, however very rewarding.

Within the next couple weeks I will pick a strategy to go with and start taking action.

Over To You – What Strategy Do You Follow? What Strategy Do You Think Will Get Me To My Goals?

 

history-of-the-internet

 

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Comments

  1. James (SEO Mind) says:

    Why wouldn’t you replicate this case study site – like you have shown, you built it in 6 months to earn over $1k/month and you said you missed 2 months of work on it. If you can repeat your success twice per year you will get up to a great monthly income!
    If you do make more sites are you going to share them?

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi James

      I am leaning towards the replicating of PayMyStudentLoans.com – I think based on what I have learned making all my niche sites and now a few larger sites the focus on 1 website for a few months and then setting it on autopilot might be the right model for me.

      What strategies do you use online to make money?

  2. Thank you so much for sharing you story! I have been making websites and some passive income online for a long time. Even though 2007 until now doesn’t seems like a long time I am impressed with how much you have done to master the craft.
    For me when I was faced with the same questions I decided to start offering the service of website building and online marketing.
    With your skills and you ability to build a team I think offering a productized version of content creation / traffic generation would be great!

    • Jon Haver says:

      That is interesting, I hadn’t thought of that as being my business. To be honest I have made websites for people in the past but I always found it to be a real pain to explain the limitations of wordpress themes and haven’t charged a price point where getting a custom site made from scratch made sense. It was a very high touch – low income kind of job the way I was doing it. If I wanted to move up the value chain and earn higher multiples I would need to become full time and set up a full “shop” which isn’t the lifestyle design I am going after. Thanks for you suggestion and am very happy its working out for you!!

  3. Thanks for sharing EVERYTHING in this one Jon! Many people are quick and proud to share their successes, but I love that you’ve included your failures here as well. It’s interesting to see all of the different strategies you’ve tried over the years.

    I know you will have incredible success in whichever route you choose. My only advice, with the start of a young family, is to set up your systems or sites to be as passive as possible. From my experience as a father, kids require a lot of time and attention especially through the toddler years – which will leave less time for you to work on your sites.

    • Jon Haver says:

      Thanks Matt, I am happy to share “everything”. I think you are right – he will require a lot of my time and I dont want to cut that time short either.

  4. I’ve been reading this blog for a while but didn’t know you already had a successful history in internet marketing.

    I’d go with option 1 or 2. If you can reliably pick winning niches/keywords and already have a good team in place, why not replicate what you’ve done so far?

    If you picked a niche where an ebook or membership site would be appropriate you could add extra revenue streams to your existing ones.

    Have you read about Ian McConnell and his model railway membership site? http://inmyhomeoffice.com/who-else-wants-to-make-up-to-6587-per-month-with-a-simple-membership-site/ Might give you something to think about.

    I haven’t gotten past the low value niche keyword sites part but have been trying to build an authority site for a while now without any success.

    Good luck!

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi Joe

      Option 1 and 2 are definitely the areas I am leaning.

      The membership idea is interesting – I am not sure if it would be possible with my limited amount of time. However, I do like the idea.

      Once I have the site and have traffic then it becomes a simpler problem of only monetizing.

      Thanks for the comment and best of luck with building your sites!

      Jon

  5. Hi Jon,
    Have you ever thought about publishing books? I also come from a mechanical engineering background. I’ve self published two engineering related books on multiple platforms (with paperback actually selling the best). My income has been over 1k per month for eight months in a row now with book sales making up the majority of my income. Just a thought and let me know if you have any questions on self publishing.
    -Nick

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi Nick, very cool about the self-publishing. It sounds like it would take a long time and the income spikes then dissipates. But obviously it is working out well for you!

      I am interested what is your book?

      • Self publishing does initially take some time unless you repurpose content from your blogs or websites. One of my books is about how to write VBA macros for the 3D CAD system CATIA V5 (a skill I learned at my day job), the other is about roller coaster design (with content mainly from one of my websites). Sales have been consistently steady for over a year with a huge spike between Thanksgiving and New Years. And that’s with virtually no marketing.

        • Jon Haver says:

          That sounds awesome Nick, talk about great overlap between your online and real jobs. I am sure writing the books has given you knowledge that has made you better at your day job as well!

  6. hey Jon,
    That’s an interesting story to read ! Thankfully I discovered your site couple of days ago and since then I am consuming all your earlier posts :) One thing I found it difficult that if you place a section for archives then it would be easier for me to locate the previous posts chronology !:) O by the way, I have emailed you some queries as well and hope it will draw your attention some day !
    Good luck with your future plan !

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi Anisul, thanks for commenting.

      I have received your email and will respond but haven’t had a chance yet.

      Thanks for the feedback on the archives (check the sidebar now) – It has been added!

      Let me know if you have any other questions or suggestions.

      Thanks

      Jon

  7. Hi Jon,

    First of all, thanks for being so transparent and sharing your strategies in detail. There are very few bloggers out there who can go this far. Appreciated.

    I am also finding myself caught in a dilemma where I am planning to increase my current income levels but can’t find a suitable option to proceed. I have considered the options you have outlined, and I believe that option 1 (replicate authority site) and option 3 (build more niche sites) sound very much doable to me. I am not sure I can do the coaching / membership bit as it seems too much of a hassle to me.

    By the way, you have mentioned “feeder sites” in your article. Can you please elaborate on what they were and how you have used them?

    Thanks.

    • Jon Haver says:

      Thanks Kashif, that’s what I am shooting for – transparency!

      Option 1 is where I am leaning – Option 3 is out I am not going down that road again.

      When I mention feeder sites I used them to get free search engine traffic and drive it to my money website. These “feeder” sites are typically exact match domains essentially micro niche sites that then capture and direct traffic to my money site. I dont use this strategy as much anymore.

      Best of luck picking your strategy!

      Jon

  8. Hey Jon,

    Inspiring story for newbie like me.

    I am going 5 niche sites (20-25 arts)-> Earning Few bucks in 4-6 months -> Picking a winner -> Expand it to an authority site -> Sell/Partner for remaining sites.

    Obviously, I have picked niches that I can expand to larger sites.

    Because my first site is showing good signs, I hope I would be able to follow my plan. But life is all about crazy surprises. So, fingures crossed.

    Do you see logic in this?

    Thanks,
    Priyank.

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi Priyank, I am glad you found the story inspiring.

      Regarding your approach I like it except that is a lot of articles and sites to focus on at once. Why not pick 2-3 and focus more.

      I think even just picking one and focusing like a laser on it will generate better overall returns. If you already have a site doing ok work on it until you build it up to a sustainable business and then move onto the next step.

      Thanks

      Jon

  9. Curse of the entrepreneur I’ve heard, is always having so many ideas, so many angles etc.
    I’ve heard more than one entrepreneur that I really respect admit, “I’d love to just concentrate on that one, main site. I could make it so much bigger and better.”

    My problem is kinda the same / kinda opposite. I have the curse of lots of ideas etc…but rarely get myself OFF the starting blocks and taking action. Working on it though…

    My opinion, for what it’s worth – option 1 thru 3 kinda blend together. From what you say, options 4 & 5 are both out – for different reasons (maybe option 5 a bit later down the road…)

    Why I say option 1-3 are intermingled: I see Option 2 as the key here. Because you can’t totally control the revenue, you may end up with just 1 -3 sites, or you may need to expand to 10 sites…but the philosophy (of option 2) is, “the fewer sites the better.”
    Option 3 I see as something that simply again falls into the realm of option 2. i.e. Why can’t this be one of those few sites?

    My only spanner in the works, is to add that;
    – if you find you have quite a few potentially profitable ideas
    – you find getting the the paymystudentloans site quite acheivable etc.
    – you’ve got your systems down pat (as it sounds like you do!)

    then option 1 is still truly an option. 5-15 sites earning 1-3k per month on average….

    But *even then* I keep coming back to the same principle you (and we’re not the only ones) mention above: the future proofing. Think of a portfolio of even only 8 sites. But they’re mainly text based site. Quality articles etc.
    But then – imagine 3 sites in different niches…all with quality content (outsourced to experts in the field)…and content of various media: audio, video, text. Video really does seem to be on the rise – and it makes sense. People love to listen to and watch stuff as much as read stuff (though reading won’t go away – or at least, I hope not. That would be a real shame. It never will, anyway). Sites that warrant a social media presence. Sites that warrant referencing by “offline” media. Sites that warrant products, or services, or member sites etc.
    That whole thing just sounds more future-proof-ish, hey?

    Great post. I’m thinking through all these things for myself too. It’s good to get back to basics, or back to concepts – and ask the, “where to from here.”

    • I did want to add…

      Don’t rule out this site being one of those couple of “serious” sites. I’ve found your stuff very helpful. I simply found you through a blog comment, and your content has made me want to stick around.

      • Jon Haver says:

        I do hope to turn this site into a profitable site for me, right now it is not generating any income but I find it helpful in keeping me accountable!

    • Jon Haver says:

      Thanks for your input Steve, its absolutely something I think most people in our shoes struggles with (too many ideas). What I am coming to realize more and more is that ideas are worthless unless backed up by solid execution!

  10. I believe there is no need to replica that much. Pick a 2 to 3 sites and build a really good source of whatever you are covering. I believe that would be easier and you can get healthier sites.

    • Jon Haver says:

      Miki I like that idea my concern is if I only have a few sites what happens when Google decides they dont like one and penalize it. I believe there is always risk in any business and online a large risk is Google slapping you and so more sites mitigates that risk. Are you at all concerned about concentrating your income around only a couple sites?

      • Agreed about diversification. I’ve had my income evaporated twice by Google, Penguin killed a very worthwhile full time income and reduced it back to almost nothing. And once before that when Google decided it didn’t like eBay stores, and deindexed hundreds/thousands of eBay stores, including mine.

        So I’m starting again for the third time, and acutely conscious of the risks of being dumped by Google! Diversify is a big one for me, though I haven’t achieved it yet.

        Great site Jon, happy I found it, I enjoy it.

  11. Hey Jon, thanks for the comment on my blog. I’ve been reading a few of your posts including your latest income report. Congrats on your little boy too — I have an 18th month old and can definitely relate to the flexible time table. In fact, I use to rely on my side income exclusively from SEO consulting in addition to my 9-5 SEO gig at a local agency. Unfortunately, there is no “time off” in this scenario and have now started the journey of niche sites.

    With my SEO experience (5+ years) I can tell you that in my experience its the niche or less authoritative sites that tend to get hit a bit easier by algo updates. The authority sites can get hit too but if they truly have a following you can regain traffic in other forms… IE Pat Flynn’s “be everywhere” concept. I will also admit that I have some authority sites that haven’t gained momentem at the rate i would like to see and its deterred me from working on it more. Niche sites tend to be quicker ‘wins’ where you can see income pretty quickly.

    In the end, I think you’ll find that a combination of all your solutions will be the best option. Best of luck!

    • Jon Haver says:

      Thanks for the congrats Nick – Congrats to you as well.

      I agree with your comment about authority sites sometimes go nowhere and then you have spent all that effort and gotten nothing out of it! However, I have to believe it is worth it. I feel like the sites that usually don’t go anywhere are the ones I don’t put any effort into after the initial launch. When I do put in effort to promote it has always seemed to take off for me.

      • Hi Jon,
        Interesting internet-business journey you have taken. Like Nick eluded to an authority site promoted properly theses days does not depend on google, it is ‘updates proof’. Pat Flynn, Corebet Barrand many others use a sweat of traffic generating tactics including podcasts (itunes), youtube, facebook, twitter and their own email lists. Theses traffic funnels are all huge – we use them everyday. 1 video can be turned into a tweet, FB post, blog, the same goes for a podcast. And by getting good social signals to ever increasing content, you actually get good search rankings. You now have your own ‘web’ and readership.

  12. You know Jon, I really like the fact that you never gave up. I’m sure there were alot of bumps on the way til now and for you to keep grinding is just inspirational. Lately, I’m telling myself to be more patient and just keep grinding. Good to see that all that grinding is finally starting to pay off for you.

    • Jon Haver says:

      Grinding away is definitely what I have been doing and will continue to do – only way I know how to win at this online game. I am sure other people have faster paths to success and will be happy to sell you those but for me I don’t know anyone that didn’t make it to substantial monthly income other than by grinding it out week after week.

  13. Hi Jon,
    This is really a comprehensive list of your business life and i really like it. See, all of us started from somewhere and yours wasn’t bad at all.

    It shows that you’ve been a very busy man and a hustler but, all those hustling are now paying you, isn’t that great? It’s obvious that most people will not go this far before giving up but, the main reason why you succeeded today is simply because you never gave up after all the trial and errors…. Thumbs up man :).

    Now, i think i prefer Option 1, 2 and 4. Those are also the 3 models i like but, don’t you also like ebook and Kindle publishing?

    I will also like to know the one you’ll finally choose the follow among the options. I’m still trying to apply the advise you gave me concerning my weight loss site. Its just that I’m getting so many distractions at the moment, friends telling me that the niche is so competitive.

    I will also like to outsource few things there but, can you remember the amount of money you invested into your Paymystudentloans site before it made its first $100? I mean, minus the money for domain and hosting.

    And please, can you also link me with your writer or any other good one?

    Thanks Jon and more strength to your elbows.

    • Jon Haver says:

      You are right, most people will give up before they see success online.

      My final strategy will be in my monthly income report posted on Monday – I will talk about my hedgehog concept moving forward.

      Regarding competitive niches, I don’t care much about competition, in a competitive market you need to use what you can to your advantage. For example on my student loan site I am going up against multi-million dollar corporations but using my ability to get low cost content created to target long tail keywords that they could never economically create content for.

      Regarding the money I invested until I became profitable…it was month 3 when I became profitable. I put in around $500 and made that back by month 3. (http://authoritywebsiteincome.com/website-is-profitable/)

      Regarding writers the best way to find them is to use the strategy I talk about here – http://authoritywebsiteincome.com/successful-guest-posting-campaign/

  14. Kudos Jon,
    You’ve really gone far man and I’m happy that all your efforts were never in vain. You’ve really proven that hard work pays.

    Among all the options above, the one i really love most is the option 3, this is because i really like creating my own products. I think its the best way build up a residual income business because, ones your products are really solving people problems, they will forever be paying for it.

    I also like the niche site model which i think is the 4th option.

    Thanks for sharing man and good luck :).

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi Valentine, thanks for the comment. Option #3 remains on the table but for a later date. I will be focusing more on other strategies initially.

  15. I would go for the real business strategy and try to build a few websites into big earners, but be open to having authority websites as you call it. A whole other option I never read about is e-commerce. I have an export business and I make way way more from that than any content based website.

  16. Hey Jon,

    I would go with 1 or 2 as the options. I am new to the site and just working my way around and really like the information but the number one reasons are that you are on the path I am seeking as well. With a family – the wifey, a newborn, and two teen boys I want to be able to spend time with them an making money through the internet is the most effective way to spend my time.

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi Thomas

      Thanks for the comment and vote, the freedom online income provides is a great motivator! Best of luck with your efforts!

  17. Jon, you’ve won me over. Your transparency is admirable! I’m signing up. You’ve inspired me to create an eBook on expired domains. Best to you in reaching your goal!

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi Feemo, best of luck with your eBook and let me know if I can help. What are you going to be sharing with your book?

      • I’ll be sharing the “secret” of generating traffic using expired domains. There are a couple of other things that I’d be glad to tell you privately, but would prefer not to share publicly until the book is done…just in case someone beats me to the punch. :-)

  18. Just learned about you.

    How are things going now Jon.

  19. Jon-
    I like the authority site model the best. It is pretty proven if you pick a good subject and will eventually get you to a more hands off income stream. That’s my two cents (about what it’s worth…).

    I’m way behind you on the online income track, but I’m an engineer also. So we must think somewhat alike…

  20. Hey Jon your honest post here seems to have reached out to some people who responded. paymystudentloans.com looks a niche, and adds value as you suggested. I tend to agree value will sustain. One thing I learned about online income is not to get scammed or distracted by scores of get rich quick schemes and high promises. For a new business direction, maybe you can give provenamazoncourse.com a look? Based on what I learned – It is proven, starts small, founder has good Imreportcard rating, value in tangible physical products, not a scam or pyramid. Now, I have not bought it, nor did he recommend to spend your last bit of cash on it. However, so far my research puts this in positive. Am I overrating it? Will be good to know your your thoughts on this too…

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi Andrew

      Thanks for the tip, I will definitely go and check out provenamazoncourse.com.

      Cheers

      Jon

  21. Hi Jon, John from South Africa here; thanks for being so candid; from what I`ve been reading and learning it appears that Google prefers “Authority” sites. I too went the “low hanging fruit” affiliate site route, had 3 sites sitting at no.1, them blam. Unlike you I am 63 with zero job prospects so as a last resort I have launched a small seo, web design and responsive website upgrade for older HTML sites business – this is to create some finance so that I can get back into affiliate marketing; for me this is I think where the passive income lies.

    So to answer your question: why not build out studentloans.com into a massive Authority site; after all, as long as there is learning there will be students. If you also use PBN`s for this the chances of it being crunched by the big G are slim to none!

    (That`s MY 2 cents worth!)

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