In 2002, I met Neil Patel (yes, that Neil Patel) through the webmaster forums DigitalPoint — he wanted to hire me to build links for his clients on an ongoing basis. We spent hours on the phone the first couple of weeks discussing Google’s early ranking factors, algorithms, and the nuances of link building.
I was still in high school at the time.
I joined — stumbled into — a very young “website publishing” industry. I attempted to find, research, and target new niches with weak competition and high revenue potential. I’d create a website in the niche and perform all aspects of branding, design, development, content creation, marketing, etc — eventually monetizing the site with private/affiliate ads and/or AdSense.
As Neil and the services/tools he offered started becoming household names in the marketing industry, he informed me that he was bringing all of his employees in-house. Being over 3,000 miles away — me in South Carolina and him in California — we parted ways. I transitioned to publishing websites full-time.
I created and maintained dozens of sites in a variety of verticals (insurance, health, credit cards, cell phones…). Most sites had revenue that peaked at $XXX/mo, some $X,XXX/mo, and a couple $XX,XXX/mo. Google (SEO) was the main source of traffic for everything I created — I spend $0 on direct ads.
Throughout the years, peaking probably around 2007, I’d regularly have businesses approach me looking to hire me for my “SEO services.” They didn’t really know or care what that meant, they just know they wanted to rank highly in Google.
While I’m not very social or vocal in the industry today (2017), I was once apart of many industry forums and most of my friends in the design/development business knew of my background and passion for SEO — it wasn’t hard to find work. Fortunately (for me, at least), I could pick and choose to work with clients that paid exceptionally well and provided me with a healthy budget.
What was true ten years ago is true today — if I’m given a healthy (not huge, decent) budget, it’s almost impossible to outrank me.
Another serial website publisher asked me to join him in expanding and monetizing his existing, popular website by adding an e-commerce store. It was new and exciting, so I agreed.
He relocated to South Carolina and we leased a nearby warehouse, bought equipment, established accounts with suppliers/distributors, stocked and added thousands of SKUs to inventory, etc. After five months of some very long workweeks, we shipped our first order. It was just the two of us.
Due to the amount of time and energy I was spending on the e-commerce venture, I started dividing up and selling most of my neglected website portfolio to investors, publishers, and/or national brands in the same industry.
A longtime friend offered me an executive position within his boutique company, one that was and is well-situated in a lucrative niche. With the appeal of a role heavily focused on SEO, flexible hours, and 100% remote work, I said yes.
After 7 years, dozens of employees, and tens of millions of dollars in sales later, I walked away from the world of e-commerce.
Two years after joining my friend’s company, I’ve increased traffic to our major web property tenfold. Leads, sales, and conversions have multiplied numerous times over, as well.
Using SEMRush data, we’re ranking for around 11,000 longtail keywords. We’re also competitive (first page) or #1 for dozens of money terms, outranking the well-established, major players in the niche. We are also seeing success in obtaining featured snippets for a variety of popular keyword terms.
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