I had reached an age where it was not possible to walk straight into a job in the field in which I was qualified - computer programming. Having worked for a while in a software-based start-up ... Errrm ... Hang on a moment...
At this point, having struggled to get started on this SBI review, I checked my email. As you do when at a loose end. And what do you know - someone had ordered an e-book. Ka-ching, thank you very much!
Is there anything sweeter in small online business than having a stranger pull out their credit card and purchase one of your very own products? Something fashioned by your own hand or mind. Anyway, getting back to the Solo Build It! review...
Sorry for the interruption. So there I was, mid-forties and only recently married - and searching the Net for an alternative career. It wasn't long before a very promising option turned up...
How did I know a strong option had turned up? By reading real reviews and case studies of people who had been using Solo Build It! (or Site Build It! as it was then known) and had generated huge traffic through their sites. It wasn't clear exactly who was making money or how much, but one thing was certainly clear - SiteSell was promising big traffic and numerous people were reporting how that promise was delivering for them.
The first and sometimes second-hand stories were convincing. Another message from SiteSell was 'no traffic = no money'. Couldn't fault that simple logic.
Persistence and single-mindedness were qualities I knew I had - so I just had to give SBI! a good crack. They were looking for people with BAM - Brains (using what you've got), Attitude and Motivation. Check, check, check.
Accordingly, I took the plunge (a phrase used by many new SBIers!) and started my first site, paragliding-tales-and-reviews.com. The Google Adsense ads I added had the promise of being quite lucrative for this topic. However, around this time a steady decline had set in for most Adsense publishers. I struggled on for a year or 2, trying to optimize the ads and build traffic quicker than Google could take my income away. But to no avail. Furthermore, we didn't have the resources to get right into the sport and look at better monetization options.
What SBI review wouldn't have something joyful to say about traffic figures? :-)
By early 2007 I had started my-best-kite.com, having considered several alternative niches and checked out their keyword potentials. At this point I was pretty naive about money-making possibilities and didn't put much effort into anything other than Amazon affiliate links and ... Adsense. Again. Some called it Ad-cents, for good reason :-( At least it worked to a degree.
The kiting topic was rich with keywords. A traffic-building bonanza just waiting to be worked. And work it I did, following SiteSell's Action Guide meticulously....
If something seemed worth a shot, I gave it a shot. RSS, newsletter, article marketing, C2, FaceBook commenting, you name it. It all added up to a steadily growing base of visitors, many of whom gave enthusiastic feedback concerning the site. But income was always a struggle. Adsense was soon ditched. Amazon product links weren't doing much better, initially. But then, using another SBIer's approach to using text links to Amazon products proved fruitful. An unexpected although modest success.
It was time to really look hard at monetization....
A dilemma emerged. I had published a ton of 'How To' instructions since these topics were getting great results from the search engines. But Adsense wasn't working, so how would I get people to buy e-books on material that was already published on-site?
There was still the angle that people would find the PDF file format more convenient to work from than the live web page. So I went ahead and converted all the How To content to e-books. More kites were designed and written up as well, so at least some bonus material could be promised to customers. And it worked reasonably well, generating a small income that was never-the-less quite a bit better than Adsense and Amazon affiliate sales combined.
Somewhere around this time, the dreaded black and white Google Zoo Creatures hit many small business sites. You know, the Panda and Penguin algorithm changes which affected rankings in search results...
SiteSell was right onto it, and issued instructions to all of us to brush up our sites to minimize any impact. Thankfully, my-best-kite.com sailed through this period with hardly a wobble. This was largely due to the breadth of effort expended by following the Action Guide so closely I think. In addition, the website content revision and other steps recommended by SiteSell added solid protection.
As the years went by, the site began to look rather dated. So on at least 2 occasions, I went through and made revisions.
A professional graphic artist was employed at one point to update the header graphic and also do decent covers for the growing collection of e-books.
On another occasion, a brilliant new BlockBuilder was developed by SiteSell which allowed further tweaks to the look and feel of the website. Site-wide consistency was easier than ever to achieve and maintain.
Finally, the urgency of implementing better monetization dawned on me and nearly all of my time was going into kite design and e-book production. Most of the premium content was ending up in e-books now!
The general kite-info foundation built by following the Action Guide continued to pull in 4-figure daily traffic. For several years, the site has been featured in Sitesell's Top 500 listing.
You can find my-best-kite.com in the Hobbies section of the Top 500. Many of these site owners have done an SBI review which would echo many of the positive things I have mentioned. On that, make sure you read this page right to the end :-)
SiteSell never sits still. The tools are always being improved and the recent addition of AI (Artificial Intelligence) to the software should work hard for me as I enter another concentrated phase of page-building in the near future.
Meanwhile, my site will continue to funnel interested visitors into an Aweber mailing list. This list produces some sales directly but also feeds a newsletter list which really warms up subscribers to buy my publications.
Pinterest has emerged as an ideal platform to drive extra traffic to my site. Week by week, it's contribution is creeping up, since I have an enormous reserve of original imagery to process. The annual International Kite Festival here in Adelaide takes care of much of that!
Sometime next year Pinterest should be the second largest referrer after Google itself. It helps to be covering a topic that is rich in imagery and DIY information - pinners just lap that up!
Am I a Pinterest guru? Not at all - once again, SiteSell helps out by providing an Action Guide for most of the major social platforms. The smart approach is to simply Follow The Guide!
If you're looking for a sure-fire way to get enough traffic to drive an online small business, I can't recommend Solo Build It! enough. Making a lot of money is harder, since much depends on the niche you choose and your natural business acumen. Never-the-less, the longer you stick at something like this, the better you get at all aspects of it. Including making use of other people's expertise for some tasks, which can really be worth the money spent!
When I first started, back around 2005, there was less emphasis on business-building. There was some general advice but it tended to glance off people like me who had little talent for making money.
SiteSell has changed. There is now plenty of emphasis and detailed help for those who really need to get a viable business going. If that's what you are after - 'hobby' sites and special interest sites are still welcome! By the way, your site could have a hobby theme like mine, but still be an online business - like mine.
In this SBI review. I should mention some other reasons why I like this product so much...
- The security is comforting. To my knowledge, no SBI site has ever been hacked. SiteSell itself has been targeted by major cyber-attacks in the past but has stood firm.
- The tools / features are constantly being kept up to date. Ken Evoy, the founder, is great at peeking around the corner so to speak. Sitesell is always prepared when important trends on the Internet unfold.
- Early in my career, I had to pull my hair out solving difficult technical problems. Finding and squashing the Insidious Bug. No more! Sitesell takes all that off your shoulders. With SBI, anyone who's willing to put some work in can put up a decent website with loads of useful functionality for business purposes. And actual technical issues with your site will be rare. That's been my experience. Everything gets well tested before you get to use it.
The success of an SBI site kind of sneaks up on you. Around the 10 year mark, little hints of your influence and visibility on the Web start to bob up from many directions, on and off-line. I won't elaborate since it might start to sound a little self-serving! But it's awesome. Or as my 11 year old son would say - 'Epic!'
Fake Reviews - Beware!
Before Ken Evoy began alerting us to what was happening, I did chance upon the occasional mention on the Web of a company called WA (Wealthy Affiliate). This crowd were talking up their product as being even better than SBI! in the online small business space. People were writing 'reviews' which inevitably ended up promoting WA over other products - including SBI. But something didn't smell right...
In response, Sitesell conducted some in-depth research which returned the true picture. Even Ken was taken aback by how big the difference was in measured levels of success. Read a more detailed explanation at this review of WA.
Have you come across some of these fake reviews from Wealthy Affiliate? If so, try comparing them to the real thing, as ordinary people review their experiences with Solo Build It!.
Just to be clear about it, I personally have not and will not be paid a cent for writing this SBI review. In fact, my young son noticed the considerable effort going in and commented 'Dad - are you being paid for this?' I had to explain that it was in the interest of the company that gave me the opportunity and satisfaction of being an SBI Webmaster...
Long Live SiteSell!