How I Created Retireat21 | The Blog That Made Me Famous
The Insider Story On How I Created My Most Successful Blog
It seems like only yesterday but it was back in 2006 that I came up with the idea for Retireat21.com. I was at Yanik Silver’s UK Underground Seminar, and I was just networking and discussing ideas with some other entrepreneurs at the event. I was aged 17 at the time and someone asked me if my friends were doing online marketing or if it was just me. I explained it was just me and that it was hard to find anyone young to network and share ideas with. About 20 minutes later with that ‘someone’ and several others we brainstormed the idea that was to become RetireAt21.com. I could hardly wait to leave the seminar and get started on my idea. (Indeed as I didn’t have a credit card at the time I had my father register the domain name there and then). The concept of RetireAt21.com – A Young Entrepreneurs website was 100% me, but it came out of that initial conversation I had with someone (a guy) – whom I have not spoken to since and whose name I don’t even know.
Several Lessons actually — the main one of course being the power of the ‘mastermind’ and networking and attending events like The Underground Online Seminar but also the RIPPLE effect of that ‘someone’ asking me a question and how that question inspired me which in turn resulted in 1000′s of other young people being inspired to take action because of RetireAt21.com. Quite a Ripple Effect I think you will agree.
Since launching back in December 2006, millions of people have visited the site and have been inspired to make money online. I have heard from several top Clickbank vendors and affiliates that told me that RetireAt21.com was where it all started. (Ripple Effect again!) Right now you have the opportunity to do something really big, even if your goal isn’t to become rich, you can connect with and effect a lot of people.
PLEASE NOTE: Any website or service I talk about in this blog post, I have used and tested first, I’m not promoting them just to make money.
How I Created the 2011 Version of Retireat21
To save you tens of thousands of dollars and probably a thousand hours of hard work, I will skip all my failures and take you to exactly how we built the new Retireat21 site and how you can do it yourself for a lot, lot cheaper.
Firstly, before you do any website, you need to register a domain name which is basically the name of your website, for example Google.com is a domain name. Whenever possible I like to ‘explain’ what the site is about in the domain name. In the case of Retireat21.com the goal was to achieve financial freedom by aged 21, and my choice of domain explained that perfectly. Registering it is simple, go to GoDaddy.com and follow the instructions, make sure to grab a .com domain as they are by far the most brand-able and easy to remember. Once you have you domain you need to host it on the internet, once again this is a simple task, visit HostGator and pick the cheapest hosting account which is Hatchling, this will cost you $4.95 a month which is a very small price to pay considering I pay over $500 a month to keep my blog network online. Use the coupon code Retireat21 to get your first month for 1cent. Now you need to connect the two together and then install WordPress, here is a good (and short) video showing you how to install WordPress in 60 seconds.
Once you have WordPress installed, you want to choose a design/theme to fit your site niche, I personally use Woothemes for my blog themes because it gives me a better result then if I was to hire someone to build the site for you. This blog uses the Headline theme and when I started IncomeDiary, for the first year I used the BusyBee theme, these are the two themes I personally believe to be, by far the best out of the Wootheme collection. Buy and download your favourite theme, login to your WordPress Admin and click Appearance on the left side, followed by Themes then Install Themes at the top then upload. Find your theme on your computer and then click Install Now. Once the theme is installed all you need to do is click Active and your blog will now look like the theme you purchased.
Each theme you buy from Woothemes, you get something called WooFrameWork which makes it easy for people like you and I to build great sites. Features include, simple uploading system for advertising banners or Google Adsense, design options (over 10 different colors for each theme) and over 100 other great things.
The next thing you want to do is install WordPress Plugins to make your blog run better, plugins can do 1000′s of different things so depending on your site and your goals for it, you may want to use different ones. Here’s a list of the ones I’m currently using on Retireat21:
- Popup Domination – a plugin developed by myself to allow me to add lightbox popups to collect email addresses (email marketing makes me the most money). Since launching this plugin over 5000 people have purchased it.
- Gravity Forms – this plugin allows you to add contact forms to your website, I have three, one on my contact page, one on a order page (great if your selling a server or consulting) and then one on my contest page.
- Broken Link Checker – this helps me a lot with my No Leakage Rule, if links are broken, then you either want to edit them so that they work or remove them because that site no longer exists. If people click them, realize they don’t work, it wastes there time and they may end up leaving your site.
- PS Auto Sitemap – when you begin to create more and more pages and posts on your blog, it’s import that search engines can navigate through them all, this plugin creates a sitemap page where every single page on your site is linked to, I link to this page on the footer of every page so that Google can find it.
- OptimizePress – probably my favourite WordPress theme/plugin right now, you can create squeeze pages, sales pages and membership sites. By far the best money I spent in 2010! You can see a review of OptimizePress here.
- YARPP – another cool plugin, if you go to the bottom of this post you will see related posts, this was produced using this plugin. Making it easy for users to find related content, means readers will visit more pages and make you more money.
I don’t use that many plugins, I only recommend using the ones you really need, the more you have, the slower your site will run. If your looking for more WordPress Plugin suggestions, check out this post.
Creating Content for Retireat21
Now it is time to start publishing content on your website, it’s kind of like Microsoft Word & Facebook, you type what text you want and click Publish. No one will come to your website without content, the day I launched Retireat21 I had over 4000 people visit the site and for the past two years although I haven’t published much new content, I still get over 1000 visitors each and every day. Here’s the three types of blog content that will bring you the most traffic, take the least amount of time but make you the most amount of money!
When I started publishing top lists 4 years ago, not many people were doing it and those who were, did it completely wrong. One of my first top lists was called The Young Entrepreneur Rich List and was published on Digg.com. I sometimes say this one list made me “Famous” online – certainly my online profile went up considerably after that list and the mentions I had all over the Web and I even ended up getting interviewed by a Brazilian Newspaper.
Here are the benefits of Top Lists:
- It’s simply research because of this, you can outsource this type of content writing.
- Easily scan able so people don’t have to take all day reading something.
- Extremely motivating, when people see my top lists, it makes them think “YES, I can do it”.
Here’s some examples of top lists so you can try it out for yourself:
- Top 30 Richest Young Entrepreneurs, (try: 30 Richest Female Athletes)
- 30 Most Influential Young Entrepreneurs, (try: 30 Most Influential Football Stars)
- 20 Reasons Why Your Website Is Crap, (try: 20 Reasons Why Your Restaurant Isn’t Making Money)
- 10 Reasons Why It Rocks To Be a Young Entrepreneur (try: 10 Reasons Why It Rocks To Be Tall)
Recently when starting a New Blog about things to do before you die, I simply did 10 top lists in a row, it already gets over 1000 visitors a day, this stuff works, try it, I make nothing for telling you that, I just want you to succeed.
I started doing interviews big time when I was 19 and I had just got out hospital (Long story – I spent 1 week in hospital in Ghana followed by a further week in England). I had nothing I could do but sit in bed for a month, I decided to look at the top 1000 websites as well as all the big sites I visited often and ask them for an interview. Around 40% of people would say yes to doing an interview (remember every NO you get means you are one closer to a YES) and so I would simply write some questions and email them over to the owners of these top ranked websites. I remember when I got my first big time interview with a top 1000 website, I was so excited and rang my dad, I rang him 5 times more that day with updates on even bigger website founders who said yes to doing an interview.
Publish Guides and Tutorials
My very first high traffic blog was about website design and coding because that was what I was learning at the time (Mind you I never got very good at it and in the end preferred to pay other people to do it for me). I would also pay people to write articles about how to do stuff, such as “How To Code a Contact Form” and then publish it on my blog. I would then go ahead and submit to website directory’s and at the time it was really easy to drive traffic from those types of site, in literally a week I went from 0 visitors a day to over 3000. The best thing about writing tutorials and guides is that they are great at making money, look at this post for example, I teach you a lot of great stuff and in return if you take action you buy some stuff through my affiliate links.
Making Money From Retireat21
I have tried a lot of different things when monetizing Retireat21, for your benefit, I will break them down for you:
- Google Adsense – this is where I started, the site before Retireat21 was earning $50 a day from Adsense but because this site was a different concept it no longer worked and did not make much money so I quickly dropped it and tried something else.
- Banner Advertising – I have a love/hate relationship with banner advertising, benefits are it’s easy to bring in a chunk of money but in return for that money you have to spend your time working with advertisers and constantly need to be looking for more. Another thing which annoyed me was if I doubled my traffic from the previous month, I wouldn’t make any extra money because I had set my rate for advertising and couldn’t change it.
- Affiliate Marketing – something I would highly recommend because your earning potential is unlimited. How it works is simple: You promote other peoples products and if you sell any, you receive a commission for each sale, usually 50%. Pick the right product and you can make a lot of money.
- Email Marketing - Email Marketing goes really well with affiliate marketing because you build a highly targeted list of followers and then email those followers promotions. Another benefit is you can use you list to promote pages on your site and earn money from other monetizing such as Google Adsense and Banner Advertising.
So what should you do? To be honest, a bit of everything goes well, it’s very important to diversify your income so that you don’t keep all your eggs in the same basket. When you start you will find it almost impossible to sell advertising because you haven’t received much traffic yet and have little to no social proof that says “this guy or girl is worth investing in”. I highly recommend you place affiliate ads on your site to begin, this way you will earn only if the product owner earns, it’s a very fair system. Depending on what your niche is and what type of products you want to promote, your next steps are different, I recommend you read this post on Affiliate Marketing.
Going From Small To BIG With Blogging
A lot of people will only want to make a small amount of money, perhaps a few hundred or a thousand dollars a month, which is a great initial goal. But believe me, when you reach that goal, your soon find yourself wanting more and more – and not always because of the money but because the entrepreneur inside you wants it.
In my mind there is very little additional effort in making a HUGE site compared to making a SMALL site. The basics are all the same – it is only the application that is different. Here are my 7 Top Rules for creating big sites:
- Model Yourself on Someone Else! This is simple, find a mentor or someone you like that is doing things big and copy them (to some extent at least). I find a lot of people are copying people when they shouldn’t because they are copying things that don’t work.
- Stand Out From The Crowd! This is easy, just follow my content strategy, most people will focus on small quick blog posts daily, sometimes many times a day. Focus on 1 or 2 great posts a week, this will make you stand out, once you make enough money, hire someone to help you write 1 a day.
- Invest In Yourself! Most people can’t do this until they are earning some money from there site, that’s fine, I was the same. Once you make enough money, hire a designer and get a custom site designed, this will make you stand out and allow you to customize things better so people stay on your site longer, rank better in search engines and of course make you more money.
- Get Networking! In a 5 minute conversation you will very often think of a new idea or be told something new that will help you a lot. Take time to talk to your competition, friends and other online marketers.
- Build a MASSIVE List! If you have a big email list or Facebook following, that means every time you have no content or something to offer, you can tell them and they can come back to your site, time after time. One of the most important and easiest ways to get traffic is to make sure the traffic you already had keeps coming back. I have people who have been following me since the beginning, appreciate them!
- Always Be Trying Something New! I never stop, I always want to change something and improve something. I often call this bullet proofing, making sure my site is so perfect that nothing isn’t at it’s top performance. Put yourself in the mind of your reader, what would they want to see here, what products would they like to buy, why haven’t I visit this page, etc…
- Never Think Your Better Then Anyone Else! This is something I’ve always believe, the second you think you are the best and become arrogant is also the time you stop learning. Everyone is a ‘teacher’ – even less successful people than you (even if if is only to teach you what not to do). I’ve told people often you should change this, add this, try that and so and they never listened, why? Because I’m 21 and they think they are better then me. I speak to friends, some who aren’t even that big with their online projects (yet) every week because I know I can learn them all.
Today I have tried to in as simple a fashion as possible explain what went into making RetireAt21.com a success – times and strategies do change but much of what I detailed here still works brilliantly (Top Lists, Interviews, Guides etc). Indeed I am very confident that if you follow a similar strategy even as we enter 2011 then you can achieve similar levels of success – even more success. One of my motto’s in life is to always be learning – you even learn from failure. You can even do BLOG POSTS on your failures and experiences as I have done here.
This morning my father shared with me a quote from a friend of his – John Carter – Frankly I think it pretty well sums up my own beliefs about trying something new:
As you head into 2011, just remember to take that risk. If you win, you will be happy. If you lose, you will be wise
Wishing You Huge Success and Happiness in 2011