In 1998, a book called Striking it Rich.com (now out of print), profiled 23 “incredibly successful websites you probably never heard of.” One of those sites was Ask the Builder and its owner is the builder, Tim Carter. Tim is a nationally syndicated columnist and his website is a font of home improvement columns, videos, tips and help.
His is also your prototypical self-employed business, with but one and a half employees. Yet not only has Tim been incredibly $ucce$$ful with his online business, he’s convinced anyone can have similar success.
TIM’S SITE WAS SO SUCCESSFUL THAT GOOGLE DID A CASE STUDY ABOUT IT.
How? Here’s how:
What Online Success Might Mean for a Small Business
When Tim started his site back in the mid-’90s, he sold ads manually — making phone calls and getting banner ads. But the advent of Google revolutionized his business. All of a sudden, instead of having to sell ads one at a time, he was able to sign up with Google AdSense and have Google populate his content with ads.
How successful was this strategy?
So successful that Google did a case study about AsktheBuilder. Here is what Google says:
“In April 2004, Carter learned about AdSense for content sites. He recognized that it would enable him to reach thousands of advertisers and screen ad quality with minimal time and effort. Carter immediately experienced a jump in advertising revenue of 400%. His monthly advertising revenues, including AdSense, grew from $1,500 to $7,500.”
But it gets better. The case study concluded with the fact that AsktheBuilder soon began to make $1,400 a day in ad revenue, but according to Carter, that is now incorrect. Today it makes significantly more than that.
Duplicating the Success: The Steps, According to the Master
1. Tap people’s pain or pleasure: Tim Carter says that people go online for one of two reasons: Either for pleasure (to play games, shop, learn, etc.), or to alleviate pain (pay a bill, research solutions, and so on.)
To create a site that draws a lot of people, and therefore Google ad revenue, you need to solve problems, such as what Carter does by helping people easily learn about do-it-yourself home improvement solutions.
Solving problems therefore requires that you create content on your site, whether that be written or video. If yours is a freelance service business, or you are a self-employed consultant and you want to sell your expertise online, you need to create easy to understand articles for posting on your site.
Note however, that even if your business is product-based, this strategy would work for you too. Says Tim, “Figure out how to give your knowledge away for free and become an expert; get people to trust your information and sell ads around that.”
For his part, Carter is now also moving strongly into video solutions and believes there is even more profit to be had there. (You can see his videos either on his site, or on YouTube.com/AsktheBuilder.)
2. Become an SEO expert: Carter does no marketing of his site, other than creating the best, most useful articles and video he can and then making every article as Search Engine Optimized as possible.
More than 1 million people a month find his site through nothing more than organic search results.
3. Tweak AdSense: Says Google, “Carter quickly began tests using AdSense channels trying different ad formats, colors, and placement to gauge relative effectiveness. He immediately found ads with a yellow background resulted in a 40% drop in income, so he discontinued them. One winning strategy Carter discovered is a rectangular format. … he saw a 20% jump in revenue from placing the rectangle in the upper left corner inside his articles.”
So can the self-employed make it online? You bet, and in a big way.