Two years ago my daily job went belly up because the crisis hit my sector very hard: I was fired from the job I just started and for which I just moved in a new European country.
Being a foreigner during a big crisis didn't help the search for a new job, and my son was expected soon which added up the pressure on me. My wife had a small job that provided an OK income, barely enough to cover the biggest expenses of the month, but the birth of the baby was expected to put an end to that revenue.
So, I was forced to go independent. I marketed my non-IT consultancy skills very hard, but the crisis put a halt to my sector (which happens to be accounting) and I could not find a single client. I contacted my former employee and my ex colleagues in order to see if I could do some temp job with them, but all my team was being outsourced overseas and lots of my colleagues had been fired as well.
After a few months with a zero-paycheck and zero success, my baby came and my nights got shorter. The new family responsibilities had a great impact on me, and I started to do what any clever and responsible father would have done if he was in my shoes: to waste 16 hours a day surfing stupid websites. I know. I - know. But hey, 6 months of cold calls and no luck at all can discourage more than one man. I was also shooting a few CVs from time to time, without receiving any positive feedback.
During my wandering on the useless side of the Net, I stumbled upon a great website which provided thousands of template documents. In a website page, they indicated which were the 20 most downloaded templates, and I had a good look to it: the #1 template was downloaded 8000 times a week, whilst the twentieth most successful template was downloaded 200 times.
I read The Long Tail a while ago and I understand the interest to have lots of files to provide to readers, even if plenty of them are almost never requested. However, my thoughts looking at the statistics were exactly the opposite: a specific page on the #1 file could generate LOTS of traffic, without the need to create and manage thousands of templates.
Even better, 8 files out of the top 20 were from the same narrow sub domains: complaint letters for ISP. Looking at the figures, a mind blowing conclusion came to me: if I built a site focused on complaint letters for ISP, I could generate half of the traffic of the huge site by providing 8 web pages and nothing more.
So, I decided to give it a shot since I had too much time in my hands. In three days, my site was up and running on a 10-dollar plan for name+hosting, contained 12 complaint letters templates and had three-backlinks-three from a couple forums in posts such as "Hey, my new site is here. Wanna have a look?".
After that, I did what every SEO real guru and every 297$ WSO will advise you to do in order to make loads of money with your website: I forgot the site and moved to do something else. Come on, a stupid site made of 12 pages ? And anyway everybody knows it, you COULD NEVER make a dime with it. I had already tried with a jokes website when I was younger: I wasted 6 months of my life on that and the advertising on the site totalled a whopping 70 cents.
So, I started again with cold calls for my accounting job, new CV and you know the story, things always change after a while. I had my first small contract with an accounting firm, then the contract was a bit bigger, then one of my former colleagues opened his own company and gave me one of his contracts, and in 5 month time I was working as an independent for 25 hours a week on accounting stuff, making enough money to support my family.
And then, one day...
The ISP which hosted my website wrote me a letter: "Dear sir, your bandwidth consumption is too high, please purchase the 20 dollar a year plan, best regards".
First reaction: who are these guys?
Second reaction: yeah, the 12 page website. There must be an error.
I dug up my access codes and I connected to the site: everything seemed normal. Then, I discovered the site provided a statistic page and I checked the reports: 800 unique a day. I was speechless. My old jokes website peaked at 80 readers a day after 6 months of hard work, adding new stuff three times a day, and this tiny site with 12 static pages had 10 times that traffic volume.
So, that shocking revelation generated such a great storm of ideas in my mind that lead me to the obvious next step: drink a beer, have a nap and forget it. However, after a week, that tiny site still bothered me. Could I do something with it? Well, I decided to give it a try.
First move, I investigated a brand-new concept I once heard about: SEO anyone? Three or four weeks on forums and I had an idea of what to do.
I put Google Analytics on it, I migrated it to a proper Wordpress installation, had a cleanup of the ugly design I was using, optimized the permalinks, opened three Yahoo answer accounts, guest posting, Market Samurai, SpyGlass, two WSO, OpenWire, bookmarks... all the hands-on job you know.
BUT, with a huge difference you probably never thought about: IM can be done in other languages rather than English, and this is what I did.
Internet is mostly English-speaking, but there are hundreds of other languages out there, spoken in rich and soon-very-rich countries. IM is a big thing in the US and the market is very dynamic, but that has ugly consequences : huge competition, great rewards for some happy few and almost nothing for all the rest of us. Wanna open another "get rich in 3 minutes" website, or a "forex for masses" blog? Good luck man, there are 50 800-pound gorillas in the arena, please don't waste your time there.
HOWEVER, do the same in German, or French, or Spanish, or Chinese (well...)! The competition is so small there you can be the #1 without big efforts. I did it, and I see the hurdles : there is no Fiverr and no Clickbank and no Xrumer for German-only sites and no Flippa and nothing - NOTHING your usual tools. Sure there is a Fiverr clone, but it does not work. Amateur market, I tell you ! But with great money...
So, what worked for me :
- Yahoo answers : good for being known by real people
- forum posting : good results, signatures with links work well
- social bookmarking : poor results, waste of time
- WSO I purchased : the ideas there seemed good (1 cent Adwords, self-generated traffic) but it did not work at all
- natural linking : way the best ! I beat all the competition there. This is the single method to rank #1 in a foreign language. I never tried to do that in English, but the principles must be the same. Do you know what works in this ugly world ? Kindness ! I have a method to find interesting websites to target, four or five well crafted emails I use to contact webmasters, good communication skills and a bit of understanding on how Mr. Google works to obtain astounding results. One of my referrers is sending me 2000 users a month and he does not care about it ! This traffic only is valued by Analytics at 40 USD a month. Another one did not answered at all to my first two emails, then he answered to my third request by putting 10 deep links to my site and sends me 1000 users / month ! One advice for you: forget all the ugly spammer-like methods and go natural, that takes time but results are great.
So, to come back to my story: in two months of accounting the day and SEOing the night, results were there: peaks of 4000 valuable users per day for my 12-page tiny site.
So, phase 3 : make money with my site (opened in March 2010, money making strategy started in Oct 2010) :
- Adsense: 50 dollars for the first half-month, then 200, then increasing regularly for 8 months up to 800 this month.
- Tradedoubler: only with programs which are really focused on my domain (ISP and internet). Results are going up and down, with a maximum of 1600 USD in December and a minimum of 300 USD in February
- external company: they print out my templates and I have a percentage on the sale : 300 a month in May
- Tradedoubler again: I have been called by them since my site is on top SERP of plenty of interesting keywords, such as "change your ISP". One of their advertisers asked them to put a PPC ad on my site, for which they pay 45 cents a click. With a 4% click through rate on one of my best pages, that will pay probably 1300 USD alone in June.
And now, I have a big doubt: what to do next? The path to there was not so simple: lots of work has been done to obtain this result, since when you work with foreign languages everything is so complicated: no proper article writer market, no serious article directory, no good linkwheels, no easy guest posting...
And my personal situation has changed: my accounting job is finally doing great and I can make much more money with that rather than with IM, but that's less funny...
OR I can do what you are thinking about: make MORE money! I have developed a way to collect my reader's phone numbers (and they are happy to give it to me!) and I will probably try to monetize it since the money-making potential of that is huge.
I can write my story on WF and see if anyone wants to go for Europe market.
As I said, I am not interested in the English market at all, but I can duplicate your great US money-making machine abroad! Some niches will never work in Europe, but lots of them will. I am serious about this project, I can give references and sign NDAs or no-concurrence agreements if needed, but please don't keep your cash machines out of Europe, the market is almost untapped and... well, that's a huge niche !