What’s the most common piece of advice when it comes to online business?
Let’s see if this sounds familiar.
It goes something like this:
- Be so good they can’t ignore you.
- Write epic shit.
- See what else is out there, and create something 10x better.
Oh, is that all?
And while creating the best / most helpful / most shareable / most awesomely epic 10x content ever is supposedly the golden ticket, I thought I’d put this advice to the test and share some results from a recent attempt at “epic-ness” of mine.
Does it really work? Is it worth the effort?
Spoiler alert: I think it is, especially when compared with the alternative of cluttering the interwebs with mediocre content and getting nowhere with it.
One thing to keep in mind: Content marketing isn’t “free” — it takes time both on the content creation side and on the marketing side.
This post will take a look behind the scenes of “The Sharing Economy: 200+ Ways to Make Extra Money in Your Spare Time.”
- The creation process and costs involved.
- The marketing effort I put behind the post once it was published.
- The traffic results the post has achieved so far.
- The income the post has directly generated. (A bonus!)
- How the post performed in terms of driving email sign-ups.
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The Content Creation Process
The idea for this post actually came before the podcast I did with Glenn Carter, on Profit Stacking in the Sharing Economy. I was frustrated I could find a good definitive monster list of sharing economy companies, but my spidey-sense tingled that it meant an opportunity to build it.
I thought it would be fun to research and discover all these random apps and marketplaces, and figured it would be a good entry point to Side Hustle Nation. And I had good reason to think that; my list of side hustle ideas is still the most popular post on the site, 3 years after I published it. (I’ve updated it several times since then.)
The research was the most challenging part, and I procrastinated on it for weeks because it was an overwhelming task.
Of course there were a few of the companies I was familiar with, but the majority of those listed were new to me. An Airbnb for boats? Makes sense but I’d never thought of it before.
Breaking it down by sections was helpful and seemed to never-endingness of the project. A couple Side Hustle Nation readers even reached out with help and sent me a few lists — thanks!
I scoured dozens of lists and sharing economy articles, and even tried specific keyword searches to try and build out certain sections. Like, “sharing economy [lawyers]” or “Etsy alternatives”.
Many of the companies I did find were out of business or seemed to have very little traction. Eventually I came across a site called Mesh, which billed itself as “the pulse of the sharing economy.” Mesh had hundreds of listings, but the problem was there were a TON of irrelevant companies that really didn’t have a peer-to-peer element — and the site hadn’t been updated since 2013 (at least according to their copyright date).
Note: Make sure the copyright date at the bottom of your site is current. Go set a calendar reminder for January 1st. I’ll wait. OK, done?
If you’re wondering, why didn’t I have a virtual assistant help with this, I did. I tasked my dedicated assistant at OkayRelax.com to comb through the Mesh listings and filter out the ones that met our criteria. We tracked these in a shared Google Doc.
It was during this time I realized why this asset didn’t exist anywhere online yet: it was a giant undertaking! I estimate the research phase took at least 10 hours on my part, and probably another 10 by my VA, Karla.
So as you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t sit down with a Red Bull and bang this post out in a couple hours. I wrote it in sections, in fits and spurts, formatting, linking, adding images, and registering for the different services as I went.
Side note: I can’t be the only one who hates the new in-line linking in WordPress. It takes 3x as many clicks to add a link that opens in a new tab!
You know that section in the top right of your WordPress admin panel, by the Publish button? It shows how many revisions you’ve made to a post:
I hit save on that thing 109 times (so far). It topped out at over 7500 words.
And yes, Yoast telling me the readability “needs improvement” still burns a little!
I estimate this took another 30 hours. A lot of that time was actually spent in diving a little deeper into some of the companies listed, and checking to see if they had affiliate or referral programs I could join (more on that below).
The Marketing Effort
As you’ve seen, the marketing starts with the content itself, but the next step was figuring out a shareable yet still SEO-friendly title for the post. What keywords should I target?
I turned to my trusty friend, the Google Keyword Planner, and fed in some potential terms like “sharing economy”, “gig economy”, and “uber economy”.
After all, ignoring Google as a traffic source is just plain dumb, and your post title is the most important on-page ranking factor.
I was surprised to see both “sharing economy” and “gig economy” receive the same number of monthly searches in Google, but I decided to go with “sharing economy”. If my post could eventually pick up even a fraction of those 6600 searchers a month, that would be a nice win.
Turns out, that doesn’t appear to be happening. I scrolled through the first 20 pages of Google results for that term, and my post was nowhere to be found. Still, I think it’s a good idea to keep SEO in mind when naming your posts and the post is generating some healthy search engine traffic — just not for the keyword I thought it would. More on that in the results section below.
The primary marketing strategy for this post was simply reaching out to the companies mentioned, and letting them know they’d been featured.
Nearly every company had a press link in the footer of their website, and barring that, a contact form.
Here’s the template I used for most of my emails:
Hi there!Just a quick note to let you know I featured Zazzle today in a massive collection of cool peer-to-peer commerce platforms.You can check it out here:Curious, do you have any artist case studies you can share of people who are doing really well on the platform? I’m considering doing a follow-up and would love to include a success story or two.Either way, keep up the good work!Nick LoperSideHustleNation.com
I didn’t ask companies specifically to share the post on social media, but many of them did:
And on Facebook as well:
Moral of the story? Link to other people in your posts!
The other email outreach I did was to send a note to J. Money over at Rockstar Finance, a popular site and newsletter that curates the best of the best articles in the personal finance space.
I’m grateful to have been featured there a few times in the past, and it’s always a big traffic spike. This time was no exception, and represents the tallest traffic day over the last 3 months.
Student Loan Hero also picked this up and sent an email to their list, but that was without any of my prompting.
Interestingly, it did well on the Side Hustle Nation Facebook page, but not on my personal page. I rarely share my articles on my personal account, but did share this one and kind of expected it to do better … but I guess my friends like to see baby pics instead :)
One thing I could have done but didn’t was look for relevant LinkedIn groups to share this post with. It’s a little delicate because I wouldn’t want to come across as spammy so I’d have to take a look around and see what the group dynamic is like — instead of dropping my link and going on my merry way.
About 5 weeks after the post went live, a call with my buddy Mike Kawula from SocialQuant.net opened my eyes to a missed opportunity on Twitter: I didn’t have a “Pinned Tweet.”
A pinned tweet is a “sticky” post that stays at the top of your Twitter profile until you remove it. After your bio, it’s often the first thing that new users see.
Mike uses his pinned tweet to drive traffic to an email opt-in landing page, and the tweet has been shared over 900 times! (With 65k followers, Mike’s kind of a Twitter-lebrity.)
So I set up my pinned tweet — yes, I’m sure I could better optimize the image — and I’m already seeing people engage with it and retweet it.
To pin a tweet, click the 3 dots underneath it, and select “Pin to your profile page.”
I added a link to the post from the sharing economy podcast episode I did with Glenn, since I mentioned creating the resource at the end of the call.
I also added a link to the “Greatest Hits” sidebar on the site:
Of course I sent out an email to my list about the post as well, and the subject line “200+ ways to make money in your spare time” performed pretty well.
So did all that marketing effort add up to some solid traffic results? Read on to find out.
In the 5 and a half weeks since the original article was published, it’s generated over 24,000 pageviews with users spending more than 6 minutes on the site–double the Side Hustle Nation average.
Now 24,000 pageviews probably is a meaningless number to you, so it might make more sense to compare this post to the “average” SHN post.
Here’s a sampling of what I’ve posted so far this year, and their relative performance:
- The 134 Best Udemy Courses for Entrepreneurs, Freelancers, and Side Hustlers – 10,800 pageviews [epic list post]
- Mechanical Turk Review: How I Made $21,000 a Quarter at a Time – 9000 pageviews [guest post]
- How to Get Paid Over and Over Again — From Work You Do Once – 8600 pageviews [guest post]
- Earn $500+ This Weekend: An Intro to Car Flipping – 7600 pageviews [guest post]
Middle of the Road:
- How I Built A Successful Service Business to $4k Monthly Recurring Revenue (And How You Can Too) – 4400 pageviews [guest post]
- Peer-to-Peer Lending 5-Year Performance Update – 4000 pageviews [recurring/update post]
- 15 Things To Do When You’re Broke, Angry, and Feeling Trapped – 2500 pageviews [crowdsourced roundup post]
- The Most Important Number You Won’t Find on Your Tax Return – 500 pageviews [solo post] … ugh I was so proud of this one!
- How to Increase Your Email Opt-In Rate to OVER 30% (in Under 30 Minutes) – 400 pageviews [guest post]
- 5 Steps to Accomplish Your #1 Goal – 400 pageviews [guest post]
The “200+ Ways” post has performed more than 2x as well as the next most popular content on the site this year, and 6-20x better than the average post. (A few more fell into the 900-1500 pageview range.)
Earlier I’d mentioned I’d hoped the post would begin to pick up some organic traffic from Google, and according to my Analytics Google has referred around 1000 people to the post so far. However, the report also shows that only 20% of those people are new users, which I interpret to mean that people who are already familiar with the site are looking for the post directly in Google.
The Google Search Console says only 222 people have found that page in a search query and clicked on it.
I’m not sure why the two Google systems would report such dramatically different results. Any ideas?
But did the post make any money?? Cha-ching!
Now most of the content on this site–and this is true for most blogs–is not monetized directly. The Udemy post listed above is an exception to that rule, as it was one giant collection of affiliate links. The “200+ Ways” post did have several affiliate links included, and I’m happy to report those DID bring in some revenue. I mean, with 200 different companies, some of them must have affiliate programs, right?
If you read this income report, and go back to check the original post, you’ll notice I strategically tried to more prominently feature the companies with affiliate or referral programs.
Here’s what the post has earned so far.
Cold hard cash:
- Ibotta – $107 (Get $10 for signing up)
- Fundrise – $100
- Motif Investing – $155 (No longer active)
- Turo – $307.50 (Get up to a $100 bonus when you list your car)
- Swagbucks – $52.50 (get $5 for signing up)
- Studypool – $20 (Use promotion code HUSTLEON to get $10 just for signing up)
- Total – $472
Some of the referral programs only pay in app credits.
- $316 Airbnb Credits (Get $30 off your first stay)
- $20 Uber Credits (Get $20 off your first ride)
- $20 Lyft Credits (Get $50 in free ride credits)
- $60 Rover Credits (Get $20 off your pup’s first visit)
- Total – $416
So that’s nearly $900 worth of cash and prizes so far and the numbers will continue to climb as more people discover the post.
Another measure of content’s effectiveness is how many new subscribers it generates. In this case, it’s hard to get exact numbers because there are several ways to opt-in once someone lands on that page.
For example, during this study I was running:
- The SumoMe list builder popup
- The SumoMe Scrollbox form
- The SumoMe Welcome Mat (for part of the time, during which the popup was turned off)
- The standard sidebar opt-in
- The standard “Magic Action Box” form below the post
- The standard footer opt-in
So at any given time, on any given page, there are usually 5 different opportunities for a reader to subscribe. Did you get hit with a popup or scrollbox yet on this page? :)
But for the “200+ Ways” post, because it was so long and I hoped it would generate a lot of traffic, I created a content upgrade specifically for it. Did you catch it?
Yep, it’s right there near the top:
In this case, I just took the content of the post and turned it into a downloadable PDF, and used LeadPages to deliver the file. (It was over 60 pages in Microsoft Word!)
I added another call to action to download the PDF at the bottom of the post. Did it work?
It did! 780 people downloaded the file:
Now I could sit here and tell you that this ONE post added 780 new people to my email list, but I’d by lying. A decent percentage of those were already subscribed.
But in AWeber today, I can see that 292 were new. (By filtering to only those who filled out that specific sign-up form.)
There you have it:
- 24,000 pageviews
- $472 in direct revenue
- 292 new email subscribers
Worth it? I think so. Plus those numbers will continue to climb as this pillar piece of content matures and collects more traffic.
But more importantly, the article was actually a ton of fun to work on. Each day Bryn would come home and I’d be like, “Guess what new platform I discovered today! Did you know there’s an Airbnb for boats??”
And the next exciting piece is the post has inspired a new book project. Stay tuned for more info on that in the coming weeks and months!
What happens when you create “epic” content? I think the more pressing question is what happens when you don’t.