Can you see the residual income flowing into my laptop there?
Are you looking for the secret trick to set up a passive money making machine?
I don’t blame you. That is the exact brain tickle that caught me back in the day and led me to create my first website.
My first website was awful. It was an information product about how to win at slot machines. I am not even kidding you, it was that bad. Obviously I was just hoping that people would somehow pay me money for this piece of crap eBook and then go away.
I was thrashing about, looking for a foothold in the world of online marketing. Who can blame me? I just wanted it to work.
Of course that first venture crashed and burned. This is Internet marketing. That’s how it starts. You try something that looks like it might work and it fails. Then you try again. Do this enough, and eventually you might get lucky.
The alternative is to try one thing and just keep doing it until it works.
How it used to work back in the day
At one point I made “an authority website.” Or rather, it was the start of one.
I was pretty lazy though. I would work on it for a while, put in a bit of effort, then get sick of it. Try something else.
But I kept going back to that website, trying new things, building some awful links, and adding new types of content.
Put up a video!
Add a picture to each post!
And so on. You know the drill.
Eventually I saw a glimmer of hope with that website. This only happened after I had all but given up on the stupid thing and left it alone for a while.
And so I had this spark.
Hey, wait a sec.
The stupid thing actually made a dollar.
And then three days later, it made two dollars.
Holy cow, there might be something here to this thing.
So then you go nuts.
Let’s see how many articles I can write in a day!
And how long should they be? OK, this guy on Forum “A” says they should be “this” long to be OK with the search engines.
So you make them all at least that long.
Then you are writing these things like a madman.
Research your keywords. Find the ones that are not too hard to rank for, but hard enough that they bring in some money.
Then go nuts. Write up a storm. For some people, this meant outsourcing. For me, it meant learning how to type really fast, all day long, and pushing myself to the extremes.
I can sit and compose new articles at a wicked pace. And when I am determined to purchase my freedom with blogging, I can sit there for up to 12 hours in a day. (OK, so I probably only did that once. But I did many 8 hour days as well).
Today I compose new articles at a rate of 70 WPM. I am not sure how fast I type but it must be slightly faster than this. Basically I trained myself to write without having to stop and think all the time.
Is it lousy writing? I dunno, anyone can be the judge of anyone. This is the Internet. If you don’t like it, flame me in the comments, etc.
So that was how it worked for back in the day. I saw a trickle of income, so I went nuts with it. I wrote up to 25 articles per day (though that was rare, even for me) and the income came pouring in.
Until it didn’t.
And that’s where we are today. It no longer works. At least, not as well as it used to.
Residual income, passive income, blah blah blah
The old strategy was straightforward enough:
1) Build a website about a topic that has advertisers.
2) Write articles, publish on site.
3) Build links, point links at your website. Get guest posts, etc.
4) Write more articles, target more keywords.
5) Monetize. Slap up ads, sell affiliate products, build a list and then sell to the list, etc.
If you targeted a keyword and you did NOT rank for it, then there were a few possibilities:
1) The keyword was just too competitive (i.e., “credit card”) and you were never going to be able to rank for it, no matter how many links you threw at it.
2) Your site lacked authority, trust, age, link juice, etc. Some of which could be improved on or manipulated through work and effort.
3) Your site had been penalized by the search engines and even though it technically should have ranked, they flagged you as being spam, or evil, or whatever. So, you did not rank.
Many moons ago, the penalty thing did not exist. Then they started to roll them out one at a time. Now they are quite common, these penalties.
So you can see that the system used to support the idea of residual income. If you built a big old website and pointed a whole mess of links at it, you would make money. Want more money? Just write more articles, maybe build a few more links. Heck, you get to a point and you don’t even need to worry about new links, you got old links, right? So just pump out more content! Free money forever!
That was the “passive income dream.” And it worked….until it didn’t.
So the question is…..what works now?
Building a personal brand and trust out of thin air
First of all, I can tell you what doesn’t work. Everything I just outlined above (about what worked in the past) no longer works. Thanks for the news flash, right?
Second of all, we can easily point to some examples of what is still working for people. “Brands are how you sort out the cesspool,” etc.
And who is building successful brands? You’ve got your obvious examples like James Altucher and Tim Ferriss, but also there are folks out there who are extremely transparent, like this post here from my buddy Sam. He has built a very successful website for himself based on transparency. He tells the truth. He shows you his real life and his real self. Warts and all. So you get to really learn something when you read his stuff. You want to see transparency in writing? Check that post. He bares it all for the benefit of his readers. Incredibly valuable (for his audience).
And to be honest, that is pretty rare. Actually what is rare is not the transparency, but it is the combination of “success + transparency.”
Don’t just show me what you did, but show me your amazing results, and then show me exactly what you did.
That is why that particular blog post is so successful. Because he exposes himself fully while delivering huge value.
If you want to build a personal brand online that can earn you residual income, you are going to have to figure out how to do the same thing. How to deliver such huge value to people that what you create is still relevant in a year, in five years, in ten years. Not because it is “evergreen content,” but because your story and how you overcame your personal obstacles is timeless. It has to be a great story that can inspire for decades. Otherwise, how in the world could it keep providing value to people after all that time? The details always change. The world evolves and moves on. But personal triumph will always sell.
Somehow I believe that transparency is linked to this. If you are not 100 percent honest then it is only a matter of time until your ideas are replaced, set aside, or whatever. People want to hear your story, the real you, how you overcame. This is your personal brand.
Take Tim Ferriss, for example. Many people claim that he is all hype, nothing but a marketing guru. But his first book (4HWW) is in its 41st printing! (Last I looked anyway). That is not sustainable with marketing tricks and gimmicks. His book succeeded because he was transparent enough. If it read like a strict “how to” manual then I don’t think it would have sustained the success for so long. His personal brand, his real world story, and his honesty and transparency make him into more than the marketing shyster that his critics make him out to be.
To recap: How do you build a personal brand again?
First, do something amazing.
Then, tell everyone about it, being as transparent as possible.
Don’t bother doing one without the other. You need both to succeed online, where the residual income machine no longer works via search engines alone.