Optimize or Grow – How To Decide?

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Something I have been thinking about lately is how to find the right balance between optimizing or growing my business.

For example when I was first starting out I had a website with no traffic but read that green buttons would increase conversion rates so I spent an entire weekend changing all the buttons…stupid waste of time!

There have been many similar times in my business when I have been optimizing a part of my business I shouldn’t have been and times when I have been trying to grow fruitless businesses.

There is not one perfect answer and I hope to share the mistakes I have made/continue to make and how I am thinking about this problem to try and find the right balance between optimization and growth.

optimize or grow

 

Here are just a few examples of good and bad uses of my time from the history of my online business…

Examples Of Wasted Time Optimizing My Business

  1. Changing from Joomla to Drupal to WordPress all within 1 month because I read somewhere one was better then the other.
  2. I once had my VA go back and add 20 tags to each post because I read somewhere that was the optimal number of tags
  3. With a site that had no traffic I spent hours trying to get a CPA offer because I read a CPA offer could increase revenue by 27% (or something like that).
  4. The examples above are old but more recently I purchased a Student Finance website and overpaid for it from an earnings standpoint with a $400 price tag…not wanting to admit it was not a profitable purchase I spent hours tweaking the site and adding content. This was not the best use of my time!

Example OfA Good Use Of Time Optimizing My Business

  1. Last week I wrote about the 5 minutes I spent on an optimizing activity that resulted in the 1,800/month increase in profits
  2. I took a couple days of vacation and worked LONG days to improve the processes around LightningRank which cut costs and allowed me to pass those savings onto customers.
  3. When I started my student loan site I spent a lot of time testing words that increased/decreased click through rates and it paid off.
  4. Everytime I have tweaked a process or procedure associated with my main services (Domain Finding or PBN Building) it has resulted in improvements.

Examples OfA Bad Use Of Time Growing My Business

  1. Too many times to count I have had the urge to “build” something get ahold of me and with no prior plans or thoughts on how I can sustain my new project I dive head first into a new website or project…5% of the time this pays off 95% of the time I do this it results in an unfinished poor quality website/project/system.
  2. Growing a new business based on my own gut feeling that the service is needed has 100% of the time resulted in failure.The Lean Startup has great lessons to avoid this problem.
  3. Any time I have started a new business that doesn’t add value to humans, such as a micro niche website with terrible content, it has resulted in failure. This strategy (how to build a website for one dollar guaranteed to get traffic) is the type of project I have to fight myself not to start.
  4. Projects that are too far from my core business and especially when I get involved in technology I don’t understand it often ends in failure. For example when I outsourced the creation of a plugin it worked well but as far as delivering business results it was a failure since I didn’t know how to leverage it within any of my existing businesses. (Outsource the Development of a WordPress Plugin in 10 Steps)

Examples OfA Good Use Of Time Growing My Business

  1. When I have planned ahead and replicated a successful website in a systematic way it has resulted in solid results. Such as repeating the success of my student loan site.
  2. Building out a new service that customers are asking for makes common sense but has never let me down. Both my domain finding and PBN building service came from customer requests.
  3. Creating useful content has been another good use of my time growing a business
  4. Creating systems and hiring staff for additional capacity has been another “growth” activity that I have almost never regretted investing in.

 

4 “Rules” on how to decide if I should spend my time growing or optimizing my business?

  1. Never optimize a website or service that is not generating healthy revenue
  2. Optimizing your main revenue streams and business processes almost always pays off
  3. Never Grow or Build a part of your business without a plan and clear goals
  4. Growing a portion of your business with demonstrated profitable processes always pays off

Although the 4 statements above seem pretty obvious I would be wise to print these out and make sure to always follow them.

With an infinite number of ways to spend your time building your online business how do you decide whether to optimize an existing part of your business or grow another part?

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Comments

  1. Great post Jon, as always! i recently started some new amazon sites and decided to build my own blog network. So far I have bought seven expired domains and hosted six of them. let’s see where the journey goes and if my time (and money) was well spend ;-)

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi Philip, sounds like you are doing some solid growing but with a plan so hopefully it will all work out!

  2. Hey Jon

    Great post. Q: is there a place that breaks down or explains your SOP and high level business? Meaning I want to create a system thats similar to how you run your own business using VAs and managers and i keep getting stuck on various BS.

    Do youy break down how you create, run your business somewhere?

  3. Great post, Jon. I know exactly what you talk about when you referred to time wasted in the following paragraph:

    “Too many times to count I have had the urge to “build” something get ahold of me and with no prior plans or thoughts on how I can sustain my new project I dive head first into a new website or project…5% of the time this pays off 95% of the time I do this it results in an unfinished poor quality website/project/system.”

    I feel like although I haven’t shut down the entire idea behind Virtual Property Income, I may have been slacking a little in planning how I will sustain the idea. Initially when I started with niche sites I had done all this research and found a number of niches I’d like to enter, with targeted keywords all having good potential to drive decent traffic numbers. I wanted to dive in and build them all at once, get them all ranked at once and start earning from them all at once.

    That ‘failed’, as I learned quality is much more sustainable over the long term than any quantity. So I decided on a handful of sites I will be able to build more or less simultaneously but still be able to put good work behind them and eventually have sustainable results which trustfully will fund future projects.

    Then came the idea behind VPI and I thought perhaps I could target locals in doing the same, a learning community as we go along. I still think it’s a pretty good idea and I will probably still go ahead with the project at some stage, but I am back at the drawing board, planning how I will create sustainable results with the project.

    In the meantime I am slowly building my expired domain network and the first fruits of my time and other sources invested are starting to prosper.

    I think optimizing is more sustainable for me at this stage, at least until that sustainability gained will carry future plans for growth along the way…

  4. I run into this sort of problem all the time. There’s always so many new ways I’m finding to make money and there’s never enough time to do them all. Since the main parts of my business are already running well, I decided to focus my efforts on the things that I find to be the most fun and interesting. So basically, I optimize when I’m bored of growing and I grow when I get bored of optimizing. If something that i have to do becomes boring, I find a way to outsource it. By doing things this way I found that I’m more happy and motivated to work and push my business to new heights.

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi Josh…I used to do this as well but I found one major problem with it…the tough work that matters and we get most rewarded for is not always fun…when I push through past the “this is fun” limit and do more significant work it is more fun. Maybe your “this is no fun” limit is further then mine…just curious how you make sure you aren’t starving a project the last 20% of your effort which makes up 80% of the results.

  5. I’m at the stage of still not ranking yet for big kw’s, but I feel good about the limited sales I have had on small traffic. I guess when I have a material increase in traffic it will become more important to tweak the conversion optimizing etc.

  6. Hi John,

    This article came in to my email at the right time i really need to see how i can improve my online business ideas.

    Am actually planning to implement some of these guides into my ecommerce and niche websites.

    I will keep you updated on my progress.

    Btw; what is the meaning of SOP?

    Thanks John,

    Oloyede Jamiu

  7. Great article deciding when to optimize vs growing is something that I always have a hard time with. It was good seeing your point of view on this!

  8. Thanks Jon like many others this article came at the right time, making me think about my own stuff.
    Growing or optimizing as you state is neither here or there, its more about the stuff you grow or optimize.
    You made me realize that I rarely fail when I work on existing streams of income “that have already proved themselves” normally getting some “instant gratification” that I love so much :-) Working on projects that are not generating a lot of income or might do, results in a whole lot of failures and disappointments.

    I think that even at a project / site level one can see what is working and what is not, or even started, looking at it from this point of view I can easily see what should be done next and the path with the least resistance to extra income.

    Thanks you have helped me not start off on a path that may or may not have worked with the site I’m currently working on.

  9. Thanks for the great insight Jon! Very helpful and knowledgeable for all shapes and sizes, its always a fine line of balance between optimizing and expanding…the good ones keep compounding the growth with expansion!

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