Most people don’t realize just how big of an impact the email + product based model can have on their revenue numbers, especially in the early stages, until they try it for themselves.
I had no idea either, until a few years ago when I built and launched my first product on RankXL.
Since then, and especially in the past year, it’s now the most profitable way that I monetize my blogs.
And in this post, I’m going to share some important things I learned about building blogs this way, including a recent venture of growing a brand new blog (not RankXL) to $50K in sales in just 16 months.
Surprisingly low traffic numbers
Last week, I wrote a case study of how I quintupled revenue to a blog in a very unprofitable niche. That site had a ton of traffic.
But I found it’s not always necessary to reach such high traffic numbers to hit big sales numbers.
The best part about a blog strategy built around building an email list and launching products is that you can make a significant income with minimal traffic.
I used to think that you need 100,000 visitors minimum to make decent revenue on your blog.
And that’s true, in a sense. If you can build a blog to 100,000 visitors, it’s usually not very hard to grow it to a decent 4-figure income per month with ads.
The problem is, it takes a lot of time (and a lot of work) to grow a new blog to that level of traffic. And, not everyone can do it.
But with list building and launching products, I found I can build a site to the same (or even higher) revenue numbers with only a fraction of the traffic.
For example, this is the revenue for the first 16 months for one of the newer blogs that I’ve started around a year and a half ago.
That’s $55,000 in sales with a single product in just around a year and a half.
Is this blog getting hundreds of thousands of visitors per month?
Nope. Not even close.
The blog is only getting around 400 visits per day.
That’s around 10,000 to 12,000 visitors per month.
Instead of aiming to build a broad site and build the biggest traffic numbers possible, I’m taking the opposite approach.
I’m laser-focused on one very small group of people within a niche. And they’re all I care about.
Here’s an example:
In the past, I might have targeted the personal finance niche and with the aim to build the biggest authority site around that topic.
Now, with an audience and product-based business model, I would target a small group like: Stay-at-home moms who want to learn about how to make extra money and smartly budget their family finances.
We’re still in the finance niche. We’re still writing about personal finance.
The difference is that we know exactly who our target audience is, and we can angle all of our content for them.
This might sound counterproductive. You might be wondering:
“Why go after tiny audiences? Wouldn’t that limit our potential traffic in the long run? Don’t we want as many people as possible reading our site?”
The problem with targeting everybody is that the larger the group of people you target, the more difficult it is to market to them. You’re essentially marketing to nobody.
In the case of our previous example with personal finance: If I didn’t laser focus on a tiny group of people, I would pretty much be classified as “just another general finance blog.” There’s nothing special about me. There’s nothing really different either. I’m speaking to everybody, but not really capturing anybody’s attention.
I become just another blog in the enormous sea of others.
However, let’s say I target my blog solely to one specific group of people. In our example, we targeted stay-at-home moms.
Anybody who isn’t a stay-at-home mom wouldn’t be interested in my blog or any content I put out. But it doesn’t matter. Our content isn’t for them. Our products aren’t for them.
However, for anybody who does fall under the category of my target audience, everything I do becomes that much more personalized. I become the one blog with a voice that resonates with them, and their current situation.
Your target audience is your differentiator. It’s what makes you “not just another blog for X”.
This is how you build an audience quickly, and it’s how you can build create and sell extremely targeted products.
It also makes it easier to market your blog because the smaller group you target, the more likely it is that they run in the same circles.
You can always expand later. But in the beginning, the narrower you can get your targeting, the higher your chance of success, and the easier it is to grow a profitable email list.
Build an email list, and focus only on growing your list.
The email list is how you’ll make 99% of your blog’s income. This is true for every blog I launch products on.
Without an email list, there is no product business.
Therefore, in the beginning it’s the only metric I really care about. I ignore everything else.
I don’t care about traffic numbers, rankings, backlinks, social shares, etc.
Things like SEO, rankings, search volumes of keywords, digging through backlink checkers, outreaching for backlinks… these are all things you can ignore in the beginning stages.
That makes life a whole lot easier, and the process of building out blogs a lot more enjoyable.
I don’t mean to say that we ignore SEO entirely. In the long run, SEO is going to be our biggest traffic source.
However, it’s not our focus in the beginning, because it won’t give us any results in the beginning. It usually takes about 6 to 12 months for a new blog to really get traction in the search engines.
We don’t want to wait around for months before we get traffic or start making money. We want to grow our audience quickly and start generating revenue right away.
And building an email list is the best way to do that.
Focus your initial marketing efforts on quick traffic wins.
Like I said: It’s no longer about waiting around for Google to index your site, or building links to rank for keywords.
You’re not doing keyword research or vigorously searching through competitor data.
SEO comes later. It’s the late game strategy.
So how do you drive traffic then?
You hustle. You work for quick traffic wins. This means finding where your target audience is already hanging out and building links that drive instant referral traffic.
Things like Reddit, forums, Quora, guest posting, social media, networking with influencers, and participating in communities like Facebook groups or Slack channels.
i.e. Any site that has a large group of your target audience hanging out already.
In the past, I used to think that traffic spurts that die off within a day were pointless.
Who cares if you get thousands of visitors one day from Reddit if it’s just going to disappear the next day? Who cares if you get on Hacker News today, if it’ll all dry out within a few days?
But when you’re focused on building your email list, these traffic spurts, even if they’re small, are what we’re really looking for.
Even if it dies the next day, it doesn’t matter. Our goal is to convert a percentage of that traffic into email subscribers. Therefore, the more traffic spurts that we can get, the faster we can grow our list.
And there’s another huge advantage to approaching our initial traffic this way: You can go after competitive niches without worrying about competition.
The best niches are competitive ones
Because we’re not having to rely on SEO for the first stage of our blog’s growth, the range of niches we can target gets a lot wider.
And this is seriously great news.
We don’t need to avoid competition because our entire model isn’t based on ranking for a few select keywords and relying on them to drive all of our traffic.
When we’re building an email list to grow an audience and launching products, we can start looking for big markets with hungry buyers.
If we’re driving traffic from referral links, it’s the same amount of work/difficulty whether you’re in a hugely competitive niche like finance or an uncrowded niche like sewing.
The most profitable niches are crowded niches with a lot of competition. Why? Because there’s a bigger market with more customers and more opportunities for profitable products.
I don’t mean to say that uncompetitive niches won’t be profitable. It just means you can start expanding into industries you might have avoided in the past.
The biggest challenge with entering competitive niches does still exist though. And that’s growing organic traffic – SEO – our long-term game.
In the long-run, SEO is (usually) going to be our biggest traffic driver. And when you’re growing your search traffic, your email list will organically grow alongside it.
But in the more competitive niches, it becomes more challenging to grow traffic in the serps.
I tell you this to clear up that I don’t mean competition doesn’t exist when you’re using this model. It still exists. You just don’t need to lose sleep over it because your business isn’t dependant on it.
Your email list becomes your security blanket
The email list you build up over time is extremely, extremely valuable. It becomes even more valuable than your biggest traffic source.
A traffic source is ultimately a means to an end.
And that end = growing your email list. You’re driving traffic for growing your email list. If that traffic doesn’t convert to email subscribers, it means nothing.
You might make some one-off sales, but you’ll have no actual database of people you can contact over and over again to promote your new content and sell them new things.
You can always go find another traffic source if it came down to it.
If Google somehow shut down over night and killed my traffic source, it wouldn’t be the end of my business BECAUSE I have my email list.
It would be challenging, but I would eventually find a traffic source to continue growing my email list.
The same goes for competition
When we have an email list, competitors aren’t really seen as competitors, but more as colleagues.
For example, if you have a food site, and another popular food blog pops up, that doesn’t mean everyone on your list is going to unsubscribe from yours and go subscribe to theirs.
Another blog simply means there’s another blog that they can follow. Most people subscribed to RankXL are also subscribed to dozens of other marketing blogs, a lot of which are way better than mine.
That’s completely fine! We aren’t competitors in the traditional business world sense of the word.
Instead of losing sleep over each other, or strategizing on how to take each other down, we help each other and become internet buds 🙂
And this is true for every niche out there, not just in marketing.
In your first year, build one product, launch every 3-4 months
This isn’t the exact model that I follow every time, but it’s a rough idea of how and when I launch products for new blogs.
If you’re taking your blog seriously, it shouldn’t be too difficult to grow to at least your first 1000 email subscribers in 6 months.
In all honestly, depending on your targeting and your source of traffic, it can even be done in a matter of days. It all depends on your content, targeting, skill, and of course, a little bit of luck.
When I have my first 1000 subscribers is usually when I like to create and launch a first product.
Forget the notion that blogs can’t make any money for the first few years. Here’s how you start generating a lot of revenue quickly…
With a $100 product, with a 5% conversion rate, you should make $5000 in sales.
Not a life changing figure, but for a brand new blog that’s just a few months old, it’s fantastic.
4 months later, launch again. If your list is at 3000 people, at a 5% conversion rate, you can make $15,000.
4 months later, launch again. If your list is at 6000 people, at a 5% conversion rate, you can make $30,000.
That’s $50,000 in 15 months since starting your blog.
All with a tiny $100 product, and a less than reasonable list growth estimate.
*Your list should grow more quickly as time passes since you’ve likely had more content published, more exposure built up, and have an existing email list you can promote new articles to.
For example, my most recent blog’s total email subscriber count after 16 months is over double the 6000 estimates above.
But that’s because I’m doing a lot of content marketing and focusing a lot on SEO at this point to really grow my daily subscriber count.
Another thing to note is that pricing, and how engaged your audience is will really affect your conversion rates, and therefore your revenue.
For example, with RankXL, I had less subscribers than this blog. But it crossed 6-figures in the first year.
Conversion rates were a lot higher even for a higher priced product because of the niche, and how engaged/interested my audience was in the topic.
Over the past year, I’m been really enjoying the process of building new sites again.
I’ve created 2 new blogs in the past 18 months, and currently planning to launch another one come December.
It’s fun to build out new blogs again, even the beginning stages.
But it wasn’t always this way. The initial stages of a new site was the part I dreaded most: Building links, creating tons of new content, waiting until you finally start ranking and driving traffic from Google, etc.
As a result, starting new blogs was something I found myself procrastinating the past few years.
Why build a new site and start all over from scratch again when I can just put the same work into an existing site and see more rapid growth?
This was my way of thinking, and I focused on growing and expanding existing sites rather than building new assets.
However, today, the entire process I have with growing new sites is a little bit different. It’s been a game changer, especially in how I approach the first year of a site’s life, and it’s made it fun to target new audiences in different niches.
And it all only works because I’m building it based around list building and launching products.
Everything moves a lot faster: You see results sooner, you start driving revenue faster, and there’s no waiting around for traffic.
Over to you:
Have you ever experimented with email and launching products? What was your experience with it?
I’d love to hear them in the comments.