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July Q/A Roundup
Hey it’s Opossum here! Welcome to my free monthly Q/A Roundup. Today’s post is on some of the best questions in the last month. Each week I write about a new topic or analyze a new digital business. If you’re not a subscriber, here’s what you missed this month:
Should we be optimizing our Substack content for SEO KWs?
Or said another way.
How do we get our Substack to rank?
No. No. No.
Ideally yes, but no. For two reasons.
You’re writing to a broad audience in an email newsletter format. If you niche it down to the point where you could rank for a term, you would likely lose the interest of your readers.
On my website, the top ranking article is targeting “how to calculate percentage in google data studio”. If I sent a bunch of those types of posts out to you readers, you would probably all unsubscribe. It just isn’t the format to be writing those types of articles.
The only people that care about that article, care about it in the exact moment when they have that issue. Outside of those exact moments, no one cares.
I’ve found through being on Substack for the past year, that it’s a particularly bad medium for ranking.
Ranking a Site
The 3 biggest factors for ranking your site is going to be links, content, and structured data. Let’s hit on all of them here.
Links - You probably should be building links to your Substack. Not for SEO but for discovery purposes. As a way for people to discover you outside of Twitter. What I mean by this is cross posting/guest posting to different audiences to pull their audience.
I personally, am building links to my Substack. For discovery purposes but I also hope that I can get my domain strength up to rank for KWs even though the content isn’t targeting KW to rank.
I’m throwing resources at this but if you’re not throwing considerable resources at it, you’re not going to rank for anything. Hell, I may not even rank for anything, BUT, I have my .com and my Substack interlinked. Even if it’s wasted effort, I’m still passing link juice to my owned domain to rank that.
Content - As we discussed above, it’s a different style of writing and if you target KWs like that, you’ll likely lose your readership.
Structured Data - I can’t really customize this.
I don’t want my structured data on my Substack to be “NewsArticle” but it is and I can’t change it. I can’t change any of it.
I can’t build HowTo tables and associated structured data. OR Table of Contents. OR anything else that I want.
What I’m Doing to Bypass This Issue
I’m not saying to not try to rank your Substack content but it’s going to be a lot harder to rank a newsletter. I’m still trying but the longer I go on, the more I think this is a fruitless endeavor that’s not going to be worth the energy I’m putting in.
So…I kind of am trying to dissuade you from doing this.
Another Domain as an SEO Funnel
I turned an old site into bowtiedopossum.com. Half of the content is about Data Studio while the other content is more focused on Ecommerce. I’m using that website’s traffic as a funnel into my Substack. (It’s slow moving because I just started another site that I’m trying to get ranked for a project that should be very lucrative long term)
None of the issues I mentioned above are valid for my .com. I can put all of the structured data I want and write specifically to target a KW. If you have read my last post below, I go over how I’m reusing the content.
If you don’t want to read that, high level, I’m finding Keywords that are similar to my Substack posts and I’m rewriting them to publish on bowtiedopossum.com specifically targeting a KW. This is great for a few reasons.
I can actually target a KW and have a shot at ranking.
I can use structured data.
I can spend minimal time on content creation since most of the content is already written.
I own the domain.
#4 is important and you’ll see why in the below section. Quick question for you though. Substack has been great and there’s much less chance of getting the rug pulled out from you given that they value free speech more than most.
BUT. What happens if that changes?
All of your rankings are tied to your URLs. Sure, you can take your content with you but you can’t take the URL…
I’m building links. I mentioned it above. On my Substack and my main domain. This could be wasted effort if the worst happens and I got kicked from the platform. You own your content but I really doubt that they would put in redirects for you to redirect all of your link juice.
In the more likely scenario, I stay on the platform and waste a ton of time/effort/money due to the content not being structured to target individual KWs.
In this likely scenario, I have at least interlinked both domains so some of that link juice is flowing to bowtiedopossum.com.
Why is it important to submit a sitemap to Google Search Console?
Listen here. It’s an easy thing to do. Don’t fight me on this. Just do it.
You should do this for the same reason you submit every new article to GSC as soon as you post it.
The internet is a big place and it’s really expensive to crawl the entire internet constantly. So what does Google do to mitigate this infinite cost?
They assign every site a crawl budget based off of how important your site is. Guess what? Your site isn’t that important in Google’s eyes. If it runs out of crawl budget because you stubbornly didn’t want to waste 15 seconds of your time…
Their bots stop crawling your site
They don’t find your content
They don’t rank your content
It’s 100% your problem. Don’t be lazy.
Great article. Agree that taking a stable job with less stress and wfh is great to combine with side biz, compared to more salary and more stress. I myself recently jumped of the corporate law rat race to make 120k working 9-3 (partly from home) inhouse.
Been using Extra time for side biz, since Christmas, but must confess it has been hard when no one is really shouting and asking for deliverables. Easy to just put it off and instead go out or do other things. Any tips? Been really trying to treat it like a real business and real job.
This is where self motivation comes in. Nobody can do that for you and some people aren't self motivated. You must want your side business to succeed more than you want the other stuff.
If the fear of never being rich doesn't do it. If the fear of being laid off doesn't do it. If the thought of working for someone else that doesn't really care about whether you starve for 40 years doesn't do it. Nothing I can say will do it. There has to be a fire that self motivates you to want it more than you want to do other things.
I saw your wifi money path chart - beyond the capital ($20-50k lying around), how do you know if you’d better off going into e-commerce vs staying in affiliate/content?
I’ve been working away at my affiliate/content site but I’d be lying if I said there isn’t always that small concern that I could make more money faster if I went into e-commerce and working for a year or two and having nothing to show for it….
Really depends on opportunity cost, marketing ability, risk/reward, and type of affiliate/product.
If you're writing your own content for affiliate long term but dropping 20k on ads for ecom, of course you have a better shot at making more with ecom. If you spend that 20k to train and hire 2 full time VA's pumping out 400-500 pieces of content in the first year + link building, you level the playing field much more.
Overall, affiliate is less risky than ecom. What I mean by this is you have a higher chance of making ,whilewithecomyouhavealowerchancebutthemoneyis$. Three $comparedtotwo for those barely paying attention.
We try to dump everything in buckets of affiliate vs product ecom but the real world is much more grey. Each of the two avenues have other ways to monetize that aren't initially taken into account. For example:
- Affiliate sites eventually launch their own product
- Affiliate sells digital program/product
- Affiliate sites rent their email list
- Ecom rents ad space in the product listing page
- Ecom moves into dropshipping
- Weird mixes where Opossum has affiliate and a newsletter
- Social influencers/accounts move into either market after getting attention
- Sponsored posts for social accounts
- Partnerships galore for all of the above mentioned
How do I add 400 new subs to my paid digital community in 4 months (100 subs per month) without discounts, without affiliate program and without paid ads?
The list is ordered according the most effective channel for me.
1. Members referring others
4. My blog I blog daily since more than 2 years now
(I’m leaving out the community and other details for privacy reasons)
Everyone wants to go to the moon. I get it. Unfortunately, you want to 5X your subscriber base in 4 months that’s taken you 15 months to build. It’s absolutely unrealistic to continue what you’re doing and expect drastically different results. Even more unrealistic since you refuse to spend any money to get there.
You have to do something totally different if you want that drastic of results.
If you won’t spend money, have no network, aren’t an early mover, and aren’t relying on luck, you need to try to get as viral as possible.
Here’s your choices. If you fully execute with perfection on one of them, it’s possible. If not perfection, you won’t hit that benchmark.
More Member Referrals
If you haven’t tried asking and really pushing for referral, this will help some. It’s unrealistic to expect 50% of your audience to bring in 2 people, then half of them bring in 2 people, etc.
You’re already doing this and it’s a top driver. This is going to be one of your better shots at getting growth.
However, you can’t continue to use Twitter like you currently are and expect different results. Something has to change. You have to have a different strategy than you currently do. The best tactic, if you can make it work, is working on threads if you can get the copy right to make them go viral.
This, within the constraints you’ve given, is the #2 most likely to be your growth channel.
If you’re going to focus on this channel and achieve the growth you want, you’re going to have to 10X your output. It’s time consuming and there’s limited questions in your niche so I’d count this one out on getting to your goal.
Stop doing this to focus on other higher performing channels. If you’ve been putting out a post every day for two years and you still don’t have the traffic to accomplish this, you’re doing something wrong. You either don’t know how to target keywords or you don’t know how to write articles to rank.
It can’t be a backlink issue because a well targeted and written site with 700 posts would still have a ton of traffic. Even without links.
Even if you learn and fix it now, SEO takes too long to achieve what you want to achieve. Move on for now.
I do not mean putting out a press release or getting one article on business insider. I mean doing something big to get eyeballs. Big enough that multiple outlets write about you.
The only way this is happening without media contacts is to cause controversy. Good luck if you try to go this route.
Partnering with influencers to promote you. Tapping your current network. Make friends with bigger partners in your space.
Given that your parameters are no affiliate, I’m sure you also count this one out since there is a give and take here. Not always monetary but there is usually a give and take.
If you can master TikTok, this is the best shot you have. Not to go too deep into how it works but TikTok is unique in the opportunity for growth for creators.
Look forward to a guest post from BowTiedArcticFox. He’s been saying he’s going to get this guest post to me for like 2 months…
Here’s a few businesses being created by subscribers just like you. They’re putting in the effort. Are you?
natural dos - Natural Spectrum CBDA from American Grown Hemp.
Upsprout - Monthly Care Packages designed to affirm, guide, and support the experience of grief.
La Touraine - A brand of affordable luxury watches that brings together quality, value, and affordability.
UltMechE - Optimize everything for your dream engineering job.
Settee - The largest portal on internationalization and digital nomadism in Portugal.
Outdoor Rack Builder - An affiliate site for climbers.
Windstone Financial - Say goodbye to your accounting headaches.
My Fitness System - An affiliate site dedicated to fitness.
Fittest Travel - They consult with hotels on how to improve their fitness options and give travelers a resource to learn about the things they need to know to stay fit on the road.
If you’re subscribed to this newsletter, you need to keep in mind why we’re here.
Your boss and company, no matter how nice, doesn’t care about your future. Nobody outside of a few family members and select friends care about your growth and your future.
You are the only one that can save yourself and make your life what you want it.
Single player. Just you.
This Substack is here to help you build a business and build the life that you want. I’ve laid out the basics to understand, analyze, & grow most any online business.
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Disclaimer: Nothing written here should be construed as legal for financial advice of any kind. These are opinions and observations, written by an anonymous cartoon Opossum, built up over years working in e-commerce & affiliate marketing.