This is a story about how executing on one idea can lead to ideas that are even more profitable. I’m telling this story because too often I see people abandon an idea before ever trying to execute on the idea. As a result, they end up robbing themselves of future opportunities that would arise out executing on their idea, possibly even a profitable pivot.
My story starts out in 1999, just after I graduated from college. One of my fraternity brothers was successful in creating websites for businesses around the Las Vegas area and started telling me about how he used Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to get more people to visit the website. This really piqued my curiosity and lead me to teach myself HTML and CSS while working the graveyard shift doing software support for hotel reservation software.
After a few weeks, I decided it was time to try and create my first website and I started learning how to host a website and buy a domain. I then bought the domain Silist.com which was short for Smitty’s Information List, a play on Craigslist, with the purpose of building an email distribution list to inform people when local, regional, and national stores were having sales. It was a minor success but ultimately was too much to manage given the demands of my day job in the software industry.
In building Silist, I learned about a bunch of free PHP scripts that were available and came up with an idea on how to combine scripts to create fully functioning, though not very good looking, websites. This led me to build BestMyspaceProfiles.com, which allowed people to submit and vote on the what they thought were the best Myspace profiles.
Building BestMyspaceProfiles helped me stumble onto a goldmine of SEO information at the time, which was building high-quality links back to your website. I accidentally did this by creating little images that people could cut and paste into the comments on a Myspace profile letting them know they had submitted their profile to BestMyspaceProfiles.com. This quickly generated a ton of traffic to the website and gave me the idea of creating additional images in the form of e-cards that a person could cut and paste into the profile comments giving that person a compliment, like “You’re pretty!” or “Have a great day!” Each of these cards was clickable and took the person back to BestMyspaceProfiles.com. This led to an even further explosion in traffic and what I didn’t realize until later, was building an amazing amount of links back to my site from Myspace, thus putting BestMyspaceProfiles on the first page of Google for the term “Myspace.”
I had unknowingly built an awesome SEO machine and had driven tons of traffic to the website. I then learned about Google Adsense and affiliate marketing as a way to monetize the website. Off just one small banner ad I was generating thousands of dollars a month in ad revenue. It blew my mind!
Eventually, Myspace realized the juice that they were providing websites and started cloaking all the of the links linking from the service which resulted in a dramatic drop in my Google rank and eventually my traffic. Though, the fall of BestMyspaceProfiles.com was eventually going to happen given the fall of Myspace to Facebook.
Back in 2006, before Myspace changed their policy, I decided to take everything I had learned from BestMyspaceProfiles.com and build another site, literally using the same free template for the home page, the same Serendipty blog system, and an SMF forum to build my most successful content site to date, SlyBaldGuys.com. I even used my e-card system to promote the site on Myspace which also led to Sly Bald Guys being ranked #1 on Google for the keyword “bald” for many years.
Sly Bald Guys turned out to be an affiliate marketing university for me; first on the blog (which I’ve now discontinued) and ultimately on the forum where all of the content is now generated. About 4 years ago I discovered a post that a member had written that reviewed a bunch of products. In the post was a bunch of links to Amazon.com, but I wasn’t getting any credit for them. I modified the post to include my affiliate ID into each link and within the first month after doing that I was making around $1,000/mo in affiliate revenue from just that post alone. This discovery led me to ask, “how can I turn all mentions of products into affiliate links?”
Upon asking the question above, I did a little research and found a PHP script that I purchased that converted keywords and phrases into whatever affiliate link that I wanted. Implementing this simple script again added over $1,000 in monthly revenue. The script just worked and allowed me to directly link to affiliate programs rather than use services that wanted to share the commission. I had a good run with that script but eventually it deprecated and the developers didn’t want to spend any time updating the script, even after offering to pay for it. My revenue took a hit and after thinking about it for a few months, I decided to try to build it myself; and succeeded!
I like building new things and wanted to challenge myself to build the solution that would work for me and bring back my lost revenue. After struggling through it for a month, I finally created a version that I liked and did the job I needed it to do; then I got another question in my head, “what if other people need to do this?” This question led to me adding on to my application and giving other content website owners the ability to use the application that was working so well for me. Thus, CouchMoney, a simple online application that turns words and phrases into affiliate revenue, was born.
If you’ve gotten this far in this post then you’ve come to learn that from executing on a simple, not very good idea, I was led down a path that continued to give me new ideas and lead to more success. If you have an idea, I encourage you to execute on that idea. You may not get very far or it may surprise you and lead to something big. Either way, I’m sure you’ll learn more than you ever thought you’d learn; information that will lead to more success.
Good luck with your journey!