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May 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:
I’ve been a little short with posts this past month. My apologies. To be completely upfront, it’s been a few things.
I’ve had a tiny bit of writer’s block. I have a bunch of 1/4 finished posts.
I moved into a house I bought. This comes with a ton of added work on top of the actual move.
I was traveling for work and between work dinners/drinks and the like, it’s impossible to get any outside work done.
Other projects/clients have been ramping up. The good news from this is that I’ll have some more case studies in the coming months.
As I am informing as an authoritative figure, how important is it for me to dox myself to my audience?
It is always easier to use a doxed identity to grow. Most people love credentials... But I'm an Opossum... It's not a hurdle that you can’t usually overcome.
Let’s bucket this into three buckets minding the fact that there may be some grey area between the buckets.
Fully doxed. You’re the face of the company. The company is on your LinkedIn profile. Your face and name is on the website.
Partially doxed. You’re still the name and face of the company but your name is nowhere to be found on the website, LinkedIn or anywhere else easily indexed by Google. When doing link building, you’re likely using an alias. You could even build up a completely fake persona as an employee of your firm. However, your clients, if doing a service biz, know who you are. They likely don’t know that your employee is fake though.
Anon. Think cartoon character or completely fake persona built up online with associated LinkedIn, interviews, etc. not connected to your real identity.
If there’s no negative impact on your job or other IRL aspects, and you’re not doing anything real shady, you should likely go with fully doxed. Many people still respect credentialism and the credentials you’ve built up will help you grow.
The other added benefit is being able to utilize your network to grow.
Because Alexis went fully doxed, she was not only able to utilize her network to get a NYT article written about her new project (link juice/exposure), she was also able to do a ton of interviews to build exposure and links.
Journalists do not like getting quotes from or giving interviews to anon or fake sources. Journalistic integrity or something that barely exists anymore…
The second bucket of partially doxed is probably where you should be playing if you have a FT job that may not be too hot on you starting a side business. This is where the majority of people will play. You have to figure out how to be the face of the company while keeping a low profile.
This is harder to do but it’s worth it to make sure you don’t burn your main income stream. Going partially doxed allows you to reach out to a select amount of your network to get referrals, some links, and other exposure that will help grow your business.
Where we play in the jungle. Outside of the jungle, this is the most difficult way to grow. As it’s playing the WiFi money game on hard mode, this should only be done if one of the following things apply.
The community that you’re in is anon and it’s considered “normal”.
You would likely have a negative impact to other revenue or lifestyle if you were “found out”.
You’re working in the grey or black area.
You have other security issues to worry about not mentioned above.
When testing a SaaS product with ads and a landing page do you collect emails or payment info?
If the product doesn't exist (and probably won't in the very near term), why would anybody hand over their payment info?
The simple answer to so many questions is to look at what your competitors do and replicate. I’ve seen very few products be able to collect money upfront before the product is live. Yes I know Kickstarter exists but that’s literally their business model.
Unless you’re building something completely unique, it’s not worth going down this path.
A better way to do it is to collect emails for a chance to use the tool in beta. If your tool is good, don’t immediately open it up to the world. Give each of those beta users 3 invites to give out to try the product in beta. Iterate.
Alternatively, you could offer a 3 month free subscription for passing along invites. SaaS has almost no incremental cost. In the best case scenario, you spread the word a little further and hook the users into using your product after the free subscription.
When do I give up and move on to another project?
Iguana’s good advice.
This is a difficult question to answer. If I saw the actual effort you were putting in, the competition, your intelligence, etc. it would be easy to answer.
You should only quit when you picked a poor niche that you can’t compete in for some reason or it’s not scalable.
Let’s look at this from a few angles.
It’s way harder than you probably imagine.
Most people think they’re putting in way more effort than they actually are. If you start another project with the same amount of effort, you’ll likely fail with that project too.
You need to have an honest conversation with yourself of how much you’ve actually done to move the business to success.
If you aren’t seeing any success on an online business, here’s a few metrics you can look at to see if it’s effort or time to move on to another project. The below isn’t inclusive but it’s a good start.
Have you written at least 50 articles written?
Have you responded to 100+ HARO requests?
Have you sent 200+ emails/DMs to site owners/influencers/business owners?
Have you built links from at least 20 referring domains?
If yes to the above, let’s look at your knowledge.
You can do all of the above and more and still fail if you’re doing it wrong. You can brute force a lot of things and get away with it, but there’s some things you can’t. You need to have the correct knowledge to make a lot of things work.
If you’ve written that many articles and you’re still not seeing some success. Are you sure you know how to do KW research properly? Do you know how to properly structure an article? Is your site structure bad? Are you hitting topics all over the spectrum and not staying in your silo?
Responding to HARO. Do you have the credentials that they’re looking for? Are you answering the questions like they’re asking?
Are you even doing outreach? If you are, are you doing it correctly? Are your emails ending up in spam? Does your copy suck? Is your targeting wrong?
This is really dependent on your niche and relates to your outreach and link building strategy. If your strategy is SEO and you don’t have links pointing to your domain, your next domain without links isn’t going to be much better.
Maybe you misread the competition. Maybe you were trying to compete with a business like Healthline and thought you had an “in”. Only to realize that you’re competing with the Healthline of your niche.
The only blanket advice I have here is:
There’s generally less competition in most industries than you think.
Most industries have more room for competition than you think.
Find people in an adjacent/similar market to give their opinion. These should not be employees at a company. Most employees are always going to say every entrepreneurial venture is impossible or only possible with extreme luck.
Let’s all be frank with ourselves. It doesn’t take a genius to start a digital business. It does however, take a genius to compete in certain spaces. If your industry requires or is ran by rocket scientists and you’re not one, you have a much higher chance of failing.
This is much harder to diagnose with blanket advice. The best blanket advice I can give is to scroll back up to Iguana’s tweet above and find someone that will give you tough love.
Every field has a minimum level of intelligence that’s required to succeed. We all aren’t Elon Musk and thinking you’re smarter than you actually are is a recipe for disaster.
The bottom line is most of the time when I see people that quit, they haven’t actually put the work in. Their site looks like trash, they barely have content, they haven’t learned kw research or SEO, they have no links, no outreach strategy, etc.
Should you mention payment for backlinks in outreach emails to respectable website owners?
I never do. IMO, it’s implied and if not, free link! While most of the time the exchange is a transaction, not mentioning payment leaves the door open to relationship building.
Once you have relationships built with other site owners, linkbuilding and exposure become much easier…
Should I take on a platform? Or some variation of the question.
No. No. No. No. No.
Think about platforms for a minute. What makes them so valuable?
First, they’re sticky. The switching costs is generally extremely high. All of your old pictures are on FB. All of your purchase history and subscriptions are on Amazon. You run all of your affiliates through X platform. There’s a big cost to pull users from one platform to another. Those users likely aren’t going to switch for you.
Second, you have to create demand and supply simultaneously. This is enormously difficult. Craigslist was only able to succeed because they created a bunch of fake listings, making it look like there were more people than there actually was.
This applies to:
Social media sites
Any sort of marketplace
Any sort of matchmaking site that’s not you doing the recruiting of one side of the equation.
Third, the platform/network gets exponentially more valuable as the user base grows. This is partly a combination of the first two. Even if you succeed in the first two, you have to hit a continuous level of growth early on to sustain your user base. If you don’t, it will die off very quickly.
This can be one of the most profitable businesses to start, but also the highest chance of failing.
Where do I find clients?
First. You have to start with the idea that you’re starting a real business and not a side hustle.
There’s a ton of avenues here but here’s the most popular in no order.
Focus on local search. What I mean by this is SEO focused on Google maps and the map pack. This is going to be the first thing that pops up organically. Depending on your service*s*, this may be difficult to rank for. Some companies have years ahead of you with hundreds of reviews. It’s much harder to black hat your way into that many reviews than it was pre-covid.
Local SERPs. This is much easier as you can target low volume keywords easier than maps. Instead of “ecommerce consultant [city]” which will trigger the map packs and will have more competition… You should target “conversion rate optimization consultant [city]”. Less competition and no map packs to get in your way.
Google ads, LinkedIn Ads, other ad networks in your niche.
Organic marketing of social media. Patrick the Tax Advisor is a good example of this.
That’s it for the evening. Be on the lookout for an email on 6/9. I have a very small request for you that will come out early that day. Also coming up is a guest post on how another jungle member, with significant ecommerce experience, analyzed a site he was looking to buy.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments. I’ll be answering questions over the next 48 hours.
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.