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Monetizing your SEO expertise
Columnist Stephan Spencer discusses how you can use SEO knowledge to build assets that make money for you, rather than having all the gains go to your clients.
I have a theory: the best SEO practitioners in the world are not consultants helping their clients get rich. Rather, they are their own clients. Or, if they do have clients, they’ve figured out a way to have them on a performance pricing model in order to share in the client’s upside.
How are these rock-star SEOs their own clients, you ask? It could be a range of things — they could be affiliates, “infoproduct” sellers or lead generators who are leveraging SEO expertise. Or a combination of the above.
One thing is certain: they use their SEO knowledge and expertise to make money for themselves rather than helping clients make all the money and in turn getting paid for their time. Dollars-for-hours consulting is a hard slog and doesn’t scale.
Contrast that with building an income-generating asset — one that makes money for you while you sleep. It can appreciate in value even when you aren’t expending energy and time on it.
One thing I drilled into my kids’ heads from an early age was the value of building assets over working for a living. Years ago, I had read in the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” that an asset is something that puts money in your pocket every month, whereas a liability is something that takes money out of your pocket every month.
Given those definitions, what is the house that you own — an asset or a liability? Clearly, it’s a liability, unless you’ve moved out and are renting it out for more than your mortgage payment.
Technology as an asset
One of the assets you build could be a technology that everyone would want if they knew it existed. I created one example of such an SEO platform way back in 2003.
Based on “reverse proxy” technology, I named it GravityStream, and it made me money while I slept. It was a beautiful thing — getting paid on a cost-per-click basis for SEO. I was paid on the value of what I delivered.
If you were thinking it was a tad ironic that I’d have chosen to run an SEO agency for 15 years given the bent of this article, it was because the majority of Netconcepts’ revenue was performance-based. We hung out our shingle as a SEO consultancy only because it made business sense to do so: prospects would come to us for consulting advice, and we were able to introduce them to our technology solution, GravityStream, (a “Software-as-a-Service”) as part of the sales process. Consulting was lead generation for GravityStream.
Your asset could take the form of a WordPress plugin you commission and have an offshore programmer develop. My SEO Title Tag plugin served me well as link bait and definitely paid for itself many times over. I could have expanded the plugin, then applied a freemium pricing model to make money from my user base, but I never got around to it. Now, Yoast completely dominates the space, so the window of opportunity has almost certainly closed.
Websites as assets
Whether an e-commerce site, online community or content site, a site can obviously generate passive income for you. A website can be monetized in a number of ways, none of which are mutually exclusive. You could sell digital goods like e-books. And they don’t even have to be your own digital goods — e.g., promote some of the stuff on ClickBank. You could sell hard goods.
But don’t mess around with inventory and warehouses: have your manufacturers/distributors drop ship them, or send the traffic direct to the merchant to complete the purchase through affiliate links, or source products from China and send them direct to Amazon’s warehouses as an Amazon FBA (“Fulfillment by Amazon”) seller.
Or consider these alternatives to selling digital or physical products: You could generate leads and sell them either direct or through intermediaries. You could sell sponsorships or direct advertising. You could take donations, i.e., a “tip jar.” Certainly, you could make money from Google AdSense — that’s one of the easiest ways to get started. There are countless ways you can monetize your users’ clicks — Chitika, Infolinks and Sovrn, to name a few.
An example of an AdSense-supported site is InnSite.com, a bed-and-breakfast directory I created in 1994 and sold in 2010. My success with that site inspired my oldest daughter, Chloe, at the age of 14, to create a blog about her favorite hobby at the time, the Nickelodeon-owned Neopets.
Her AdSense-supported blog and game cheats site, Neopets Fanatic, generated passive income for her throughout her teens for over five years (now she’s 25 and runs her own SEO consultancy). Isn’t that how all kids should be saving for college, rather than flipping burgers or bussing tables?
Proximity begets wealth
In addition to the value of assets over selling your time, there’s another key concept I advocate in wealth creation: proximity is power. This concept comes courtesy of Tony Robbins and is a simple one to grok: when you are in close proximity to super-successful people, it puts you in a whole new trajectory.
From these outstanding people, you learn crucial distinctions that shave years off a traditional career path. More importantly, you get introduced to opportunities of a lifetime — ones that can make you a fortune. Also, when you form your peer group out of the super-successful, the attributes of these outstanding people rub off on you.
How do you achieve this proximity? One of the easiest ways is to join groups or attend events to which the super-successful gravitate. After I sold Netconcepts, I joined a group called Platinum Partnership, a mastermind run by Tony Robbins. It was a six-figure-per-year commitment, but amazingly, it pays off — my “Plat” friends and I can attest to this. Just in direct client revenue, I made 2x return on my investment. That doesn’t even include all the intangibles — including meeting the woman of my dreams, who now, as of last week, is my wife!
Of course, the dilemma with rubbing shoulders with the super-successful is that it takes money to make money. If you’re not keen on dropping six figures on Platinum Partnership, no problem — consider joining a mastermind like The Society ($12,000 per year) or attending an elite event like Genius Network, The Art of Lead Generation, or Business Mastery (each of which costs about $10,000).
Introducing: the new rich
Have you heard of Frank Kern? I hadn’t either until I met him at Business Mastery in 2010. How about Jeff Walker? Brendan Bouchard? Eben Pagan? Taki Moore? These guys have all made eight figures through internet marketing. They sell information products (more on these below) and run seminars, group coaching programs and masterminds. These guys are what Tim Ferriss, author of the MUST-READ “4 Hour Work Week,”calls the “New Rich.” The New Rich is what we online marketers aspire to: “money while you sleep,” and lots of it.
The New Rich aren’t employed by anybody. They aren’t even self-employed. “Self-employed” implies that you work for a living. The New Rich aren’t operators of a business; they are OWNERS who let other people do the operating for them.
How can you tell if you are an owner instead of an operator? An owner has an exit strategy; an operator does not. If you don’t have an exit strategy, guess what? You have a very expensive job. Meaning you are your own worst boss, subjecting yourself to work conditions you would never dream of subjecting anyone else to. You work yourself to the bone — nights, weekends, vacations, no time is sacred. Your stress levels are unhealthy, to say the least. You probably don’t pay yourself at market rates. And you pay yourself last, sometimes not at all. All this — for what? For a business that becomes a sinking ship if something were to happen to you.
The popular “E-Myth“ books (over five million copies sold!), including the newest one, “Beyond the E-Myth,” make this crucial distinction between being your own boss and being a business owner: one is people-dependent, the other is systems-dependent.
Scalability is the key to success. Remember that the real product you’re selling is your business, not the product/service you are selling. If you didn’t build your business this way, you’re not going to like the medicine that author Michael Gerber prescribes, namely: don’t fix your broken business, but instead start a new one and run it simultaneously, this one built from the ground up to be “turnkey.”
Once “NewCo” is really humming, you’ll transition out of “OldCo.” (Michael Gerber explains this process in detail in this illuminating episode of my podcast.)
Information products as assets
With an information product, you’re pricing the product based on the value to the reader/viewer by achieving a certain outcome. In other words, you’re selling the result. By selling the result, Eben Pagan was able to make $120 million over his career as an infoproduct marketer, and Frank Kern, $20 million in a single day!
Creating an information product is not the same as publishing a book. My three books haven’t been big money-makers, even though “The Art of SEO,” in particular, has sold really well. Selling your knowledge in printed book form through a traditional publishing house is NOT an effective way to monetize your SEO expertise.
Information products are typically digital goods — which are cheaper to produce and don’t involve inventory or shipping costs. A printed book isn’t a bad thing to have; just think of it as a big business card more than anything else.
There is an art to doing a six- or seven-figure product launch. The process is well defined in Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula (PLF). Walker was a pioneer in the space; he was the first to make six figures in seven days and laid out the formula that launched an industry.
This is the system that Frank Kern, Eben Pagan, John Reese, Andy Jenkins, Jeremy Schoemaker and all the other big names are using. Jeff describes the PLF process as a “sideways sales letter” — you take your marketing and turn it into an orchestrated event.
A prime example of this is when a product has a live event tied into it as a bonus for signing up within a certain time period or within the first X number of people. Jeff just did this with his recently completed PLF launch — bonusing tickets to his “PLF Live” event. This offers not only in-person training but also a chance to meet the guru himself, as well as other rock-star millionaires.
Since a big part of a successful product launch is co-marketing with joint venture partners, attending a live event such as this is a can’t-miss opportunity. According to Jeff, “You don’t need a list to do a launch, but you do need a launch to do a list.”
The PLF process involves two primary types of launches — internal launches (to your own list/social media followers) and joint venture launches. Those of the second type tend to be the multi-million dollar money makers. Walker went from a list of zero to 55,000 people in two weeks through joint venture partners.
When I signed up for Frank Kern’s “List Control” infoproduct in 2010, I acted fast and got into his live event, and it was powerful. One direct result of attending was hanging out over dinner with Jeremy Schoemaker, who then contacted me a week later inviting me to star on his Shoemoney System as the expert for his SEO module.
These sorts of opportunities just fall into your lap when you are in the right place at the right time. In other words, when you are in proximity.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it
You may have spent years becoming an SEO expert. Now, you are perhaps working in-house — putting all your skills to use day after day to grow someone else’s business — or working for an agency, and toiling long hours to help clients do the same.
You might even have become a consultant or started your own agency, and still you are exchanging time for money. You only make more when you work more, and you are subject to the whims of clients who may drop you at a moment’s notice.
There is a third option: turn your SEO or other marketing knowledge into ASSETS like SaaS products, websites or infoproducts where you can sell at scale, and where the money keeps flowing, even if you decide to take that well-deserved month off.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.