As you may know if you read this blog regularly, I am building a niche site about holidays in the sun.
When I started, the intention was to have categories under the main site that would be based around longer-tail keywords, because with the travel niche being so competitive in internet marketing, I realised I would have no chance on the more popular keywords such as “hotels in Spain”.
So, I picked a few keywords that looked less competitive.
The problem is that the training I got during the Thirty Day Challenge taught me how to evaluate keywords but did not take into account any regional targeting. Trying to apply the same criteria to the UK market just does not work. Whereas, for example, in the 30DC we are taught – go for a keyword with traffic at no. 1 of 80 a day or more, and phrase-matched competition of 30,000 or less – these criteria are not right for targeting the UK, and the problem I have is that I cannot find any information on what the UK criteria should be. Maybe I should email Dan Raine in Manchester?
Meanwhile, until Dan Raine reads this or until I find the answer somewhere else, I just have to muddle through as best I can, testing this and that strategy and finding through my own expenditure of time and money what works and what doesn’t.
There must be many people new to Internet Marketing who are targeting the UK market who are in the same position – it would be good if there were a central resource for our experiences. (Maybe there is – if you know of one, PLEASE let me know!) The problem with Internet Marketers as a group is that they are all so cagey about what they do, I mean exactly what they do, in case someone “steals” all their business or spams them up. Or something.
Anyway, back to the long tail of travel. In the travel industry, this means something like the process whereby suppliers bring an ever increasing choice of micro-niche holidays to the market, aimed at an ever-decreasing number of customers per product. In Internet Marketing, long tail is similar, but based around keywords, using an ever-increasing number of micro-niche keywords, aimed at an ever-decreasing number of web page visitors per keyword.
As I understand it, the reasons we go for long tail keywords are:
- they are highly targeted to visitors who searched for something very specific, and are very likely to buy
- there is very little competition even in a competitive industry
The big problem of course is that you still need some minimum amount of traffic in order to get some sales. evaluating that traffic is very difficult using the standard tools like Google’s Adwords Keyord tool or Search-based Keyword tool, because the numbers just are not there for the really low volume, focused keywords. The only way I know of really assessing the traffic is either to make a test site (a la Thirty Day Challenge) and get it to number one and see for yourself what the traffic is like, or to do a short Adwords test. The 30DC site build takes time – and if you are aiming at a low volume keyword, you could spend a couple of days on the site and all its initial promo only to find that there is no traffic. Ever. This has happened to me several times now. So, I am moving towards using Adwords as a test as this costs less than £10 a time; usually less than £5; and saves about two days work.
So, my plan for the travel site was to build categories where I could go for longer tail keywords, yet have everything under the umbrella of a strongly-branded site, a site that in time would earn reputation and authority and where the sum of all its microniches would be greater than if they were all separate sites, thanks to the domain authority. This was always the plan, but what has changed recently is that I have found a few travel affiliate blogs and had an interesting dialogue or two with some of the authors. It seems that in travel, you basically have to go long tail – and then go looooonger. It is just so competitive that you can ONLY go for the low traffic, long tail keywords. Attacking “hotels in Majorca” will leave you, even after quite a lot of work, in a very long queue behind Expedia, TripAdvisor, Holiday Watchdog, Thomson, ulookubook.com, sunshine.co.uk, Alpharooms, Thomas Cook and the rest. Because in travel, these big boys are on the ball when it comes to the internet. It’s not like engineering components.
I am changing tack, therefore, to go even longer tail. I am also thinking more laterally about the travel keywords – seeing what I can come up with that does not just include the destination in the keyword, but could be based around a specific attribute of travel, say based around travel advice, travel tips, safety etc. Whatever – it has to be long tail, and I think I will need to verify the traffic via Adwords, if I can. As you can tell, I am learning as I go.
So why am I bothering with travel at all given that it’s so competitive? Why not just go for low hanging fruit instead? Well, I am INTERESTED in it for one. Secondly, a customer is likely to generate at least £15 and as much as £100 in commission, so you don’t need as much traffic as if, say, you are selling DVDs (also ridiculously competitive – but without the commission levels – why would anyone do that?) Mostly, though, it is the interest thing. I have already spent too much time over the last few months trying desperately to inject humour into my writing about really dull topics, and I can do it, but it’s a killer. Here’s an example: Oil Filled Radiators. See what I mean? I tried..
So on I go with the travel niche. I will keep on with the microniche sites too, but there are only so many hours in the day and the travel site, now at 50+ articles since starting on 1 Oct (and no traffic), takes a lot of work!
***** If anyone reading this would like to offer advice to me and to others on succeeding in the travel niche, please leave a little comment. Go on, do it now..
The last few days it seems that am reaching new depths of despair in my efforts. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean I am about to throw in the towel or do something stupid. I think it’s just that sometimes a combination of factors seems to conspire against me, undermining my best attempts at remaining cheerful and positive. One of the hardest things is that, with this Internet Marketing, I just don’t know for sure that it will work. After, what, four months of doing it in earnest, my income from it is absolutely nowhere near where I need to be and the daily unique website visitors I am getting remains subbornly around 150 to all sites. OK, you will probably think that from a standing start four months ago, that’s not bad – but it’s not good enough for me, that’s the problem. It’s 5% of what I estimate I need in order to pay the bills from this.
But I don’t want to get distracted into talking about Internet Marketing, because a specific business activity is not what this post is about. This post is about how it feels to be me, here, right now, struggling to get going as a self-employed businessman, hitting wave after wave of despair, like a series of roadblocks. I cannot be the only small businessman facing this kind of despair – it must surely be a common occurrence, only maybe some of them don’t call it despair, maybe for some it’s just a few down days, a few failures, a series of blips that just have to be endured, got over, got through. But for me, this is a new feeling, and yet something else I have hit that makes me think, even aged 46 that, “I really don’t know life at all”, to quote the beautiful Joni Mitchell song. Now, this to me is not a bad thing. My whole adult life has been filled with learning. It’s just that, well – I never thought that starting out in business would test me so much psychologically. I thought I was more “ready” for it than I am. So, now that I find myself facing these setbacks, what can I do?
I think that the difference between those who succeed and those that fail when it comes to hitting these roadblocks is not that the successful don’t hit them, but that they have a successful strategy for dealing with them when they come along. Almost week by week, as I seem to hit one bad day after another, I’m starting to think that this is just a series of ever-bigger tests that I must pass if I am ever to succeed in self employment. I need a strategy for dealing with these down days, with a smile on my face even if there’s not exactly a song in my heart. I need to accept these days, get through them without damaging myself; my business; and most importantly without lashing out at the ones I love.
It is without doubt one of the biggest psychological tests I have ever faced. I have no support network apart from my partner who, yes, is very supportive, but sometimes I think I would be prepared to go all out and take more risks if I were alone – but that’s for another day. So, yes, I am very fortunate to have a great partner who is indeed supportive, but during the day I am really alone, and boy do I feel that.
So, I was thinking that maybe for me, one of the ways of coping with the roadblocks of business is to get away from the computer for a while and into the real world of people – a suggestion that I have often read. The problem I have with this strategy is that the roadblock will still be there when I get back. It’s as if I can’t rest until I have got over it or round it, and just having a cup of coffee and a piece of cake while the dam of black water is towering above me will not make me feel much better – a bit like fiddling while Rome burns, or playing in the orchestra on the Titanic. I need a better way, and I haven’t got one yet.
For now, I just have to keep going in the face of these continual and ever-growing tests of my character and of the strength of my resolve to make it in business one way or another. Each one seems like a life-level test for me, because I can’t help feeling that if, one day, one of them causes me to turn around, I will be turning around and facing the world of employment; the world of careers and appraisals; as a broken man, never again to be self employed, never to succeed in business.
Given that all my self-analysis, all my getting to know myself over the last decade or two has pointed to “being my own boss” as being the obvious choice for me, the stakes are high. If I fail this test, if I find that I cannot do self-employment after all, what then? There is no plan B.
I had a tough week last week.
I was facing a dire lack of progress on my internet marketing efforts, with my older sites sinking down the rankings and getting less traffic, despite having more and more links, and my newer site not breaking through.
I was once again questioning the whole thing – should I be doing this internet marketing at all or should I do what my Dad would have advised and get a “proper job”? Things were really getting on top of me. I think that, working alone at home, this period of utter slog, when there is no little to show in return, and yet of course the bills have to be paid etc – this drudgery got me down. I over-reacted, I started once more to think about bottling out, quitting. I started worrying away about money and getting old and having achieved so little by age 46 (which is BO***CKS by the way) went into a proper black mood.
Towards the end of last week, once I reached the depths of despair, something strange happened. I found something within me, a reserve of will-power, a hidden fountain of strength. I started to pull myself together. I realised that actually a lot of what I am going through is one of the biggest tests of character I have ever faced. I realised that, now, aged 46, I’m breaking down barriers, smashing through ingrained behaviour patterns that have been there probably since I was a toddler. I can feel myself changing. I can feel myself taking control of my life – REALLY taking control of my destiny in a way that I have never actually done before – even though previously I THOUGHT I had. It really is a great dawning of a new era for me, and it’s going to stand me in good stead in my self-employment, whether that be in affiliate marketing, online, offline, whatever. Wow, I just thought to myself – people pay for weeks of THERAPY to get here!
This realisation that I was breaking through some of my life’s oldest psychological barriers, changing myself, helped me to understand why it’s such hard going. Some of those barriers have been resolutely in place since the 1960s, after all. It gave me a new impetus, this realisation, and then a dose of serious admonishment – I started to beat myself up big-time. I started to give myself a few home truths. I reminded myself once more that getting started in internet marketing or whatever flavour of online business I end up with, well, it’s not so different from starting a business in the offline world, and not so different from starting any new enterprise even away from the world of business, for example deciding that you want to, I don’t know, get in training and run the marathon or swim the channel.
It takes work, of course – but more than that – as the late Roy Castle used to sing at the start of Record Breakers on the BBC, “If you want to be the best… you gotta have dedication”. And lasting, undying dedication at that. Setting up a business online or offline often requires a period when you will see NOTHING in return – no money, no satisfaction, no sense of achievement, no recognition, NOTHING. There is nobody to ask for advice, nobody to cross-check decisions with, nobody to go for a coffee with, no financial return let alone financial independence, and constant hard graft. And if it’s a business that’s new to you, you will be blundering about making a right mess of it all and wasting a load of time, money and energy aswell.
Having reacquainted myself with these home-truths, I very soon had reaffirmed by wholehearted commitment to self employment. I mean, if I don’t use all my skill and experience and intelligence to make this work, what else am I going to do? I already know, from detailed self-analysis, repeated several times over a period of many years, that I am in no way whatsoever suited to a career, dedicated to someone else’s business. I have forced myself into this role time and time again and my heart has NEVER been in it and I have wasted over TWENTY YEARS of my life on this. So, if I cannot work for someone else, at least not for a full-time career anyway, what alternative is there but to build my own business, to work on my own account?
There really isn’t any viable alternative for me – I have wasted enough time as it is, and now, aged 46, I just HAVE to make a go of working for myself, in whatever business, in whatever field, in whatever niche or niches that I decide or to some extent that the market dictates. There is no choice if I want a fulfilled working life, and I need to work and act from now, from this minute, as if there are NEVER going be to ANY career openings for me ANYWHERE. I need to forget about “job hunting”. I need to pretend that there are no vacancies for me. Ever.
I need to do this because in the past the biggest distraction for me has been the lure of money, easy money, to be gained by taking a salaried career-style job, or more lately by taking contract work that, in reality, looks and quacks like the dead duck of a pseudo-job that in day-to-day reality it actually is.
So, with a new resolve I started work yesterday, Monday, morning – determined that I would do ANYTHING to make this work, anything in line with my ethics that is. And I kicked myself into action and told myself off for doubting myself, and gave myself a good talking to as my mother might, saying things along the lines of, well – you just have to do the work, you just have to do it, there is NO choice. Wasting time on doubts is pointless. Just get on with it, mechanically; forget about strategy for a while; just to the work, and eventually, maybe when you least expect it, and maybe in some way you never thought of, things will start to pay off.
I have learned something else from this episode. I need to have a survival strategy for when I hit a black-spot. Maybe I need to have a big red psychological “emergency stop” button, and when I “hit” it, maybe I need to break away from the desk and the laptop for a while, go for a walk, do something voluntary with kids, go out there and then for the rest of the day. This “emergency stop button” would require me to sacrifice a few hours or even a whole day, but that sacrifice of a day could save a life doing my own thing, instead losing that life to some mindless employer.