My advice for people considering Site Build It or SBI
Larrisa, a visitor to my website from Malaysia, asked these SBI questions via the Contact-Us form on my site. Since I put a fair bit of effort into answering them, I've decided to post the questions and my answers here, hoping they're of use to others.
I've shown my response in regular text, and Larissa's SBI questions in bold text.
Hi Robin. Wow! I'm very impressed with your site. :D
My name is Larrisa. I'm a newbie to online business. I'm seriously considering using Site Build It to build an online business that makes money.
I believe you could give me some sage advice because of your experience with SBI.
$299 is a lot of money, at least to me. Please allow me to ask you a few serious questions before I jump into the unknown seriously. :D
Hi Larrisa. Thanks for contacting me. Let me try to answer your questions about SiteSell. First of all, let me remind you - if you don't already know - that the $299 first-year price comes with a money-back no-questions-asked guarantee - now bumped up to 90 days, so you can get your whole $299 back if you're not satisifed in the first 3 months for any reason - and that if you can't afford that up front, there is a $29.99 monthly payment option as well.
Figuratively speaking, as a non-swimmer, I'm afraid I may not survive in the raging sea and ended up wasting $299, precious time and effort - disappointed again.
Here are my questions:
1) What are your advice to people who are evaluating and considering using Site Build It to build a moneymaking REAL online business?
If you go it alone - just try to create a website without SBI and with no prior knowledge, there are a bunch of traps you can fall into such as:
- Choosing a topic that no one is interested in
- Choosing a topic (or an angle to a topic) that has already been done to death
- Choosing a topic that doesn't have good monetization options - ways of converting visitors to money
- Writing individual pages that no one is searching for or that are already covered to death
- Writing your pages in ways that aren't optimized to the search engines
- Trying dubious SEO techniques that might work in the short term but don't add real value to your site visitors and so turn against you in the long term.
I found that SBI has a very well thought out process, and a set of tools, that helped me avoid all these pitfalls. First it helped me find not one but several appropriate website ideas that interested me and had some potential. Then it helped me decide which one was the best fit in terms of market demand, competition, and money. It helped me build a very strong list of keywords (Brainstorm It! is a tool I use for just about every page I write, to make sure I'm not wasting my time writing pages no one is looking for) and then organize them into a site structure that makes sense to visitors. The BlockBuilder tool wasn't my thing because I prefer to write in raw HTML - but I did use it at first and I can see how it makes things easier for folks who aren't computer savvy. And the Value Exchange tool that helped me find other websites to exchange links with made a huge difference to my traffic. Also I'd have to say the forums are invaluable - tons of great advice in them, and a great spirit of community. And finally, the 10 day Action Guide (don't fool yourself, it takes more than 10 days to work your site through it) is exactly the right approach. Every time I've strayed from it I've paid the price. Every time I've followed its advice I've benefited.
For a comparison between Site Build It and the more traditional do-it-yourself approach, you may want to read this article: Compare SBI with old fashioned Web host solutions.
2) If you were to build another online business from ground zero all over again, would you still choose to use Site Build It?
If no, why?
If yes, why?
I would, primarily because Brainstorm It! is such an incredibly valuable tool. (For a complete list of the tools that come with a Site Build It license see SBI tool set.) I could probably use much of the Action Guide advice (since I have access from my current site) without getting a separate license. I could join Value Exchange without being an SBI member since it is open to everyone. I don't need Block Builder. But Brainstorm It! is critical to building a set of keywords that are meaningful to me as a website owner AND that are in high demand and short supply, so I can write pages that get instant traffic. I think the real measure of how successful SBI is, would be how many people renew their license after the first year.
Once your website is up and running and you have a strong keyword list, you can download that list, move your site to a cheap hosting service, kiss the $299 a year goodbye, and just work away on writing your keywords (of course you won't have access to 'Analyze It!', the tool that helps you fine-tune your pages to be search engine friendly, but by the time you've written 50 or 100 pages you get the hang of it and don't really need Analyze It! that much). So I would say, if I were writing half a dozen or more websites, I might not spend $299 on each of them especially after the first year. But Brainstorm It! makes it completely worthwhile. I have renewed my energy efficiency website twice, and started a second website that I've renewed once already (although that one is still just a back burner hobby that hasn't earned back the $600 invested in it - yet!).
Would you do it the same way or differently; why and how?
It has worked pretty well for my first website. Focusing on a topic that relates to people planning to buy something - a furnace, air conditioner, solar panel, renovation work, etc. - tends to create lots of visitors looking for information on what to buy or whether to buy - and lots of advertisers looking for potential customers. That translates into money for me. For the second site I think I chose a niche (recipes) that is not very profitable. People looking for recipes want directions, ingredients, photos of tasty food. They tend not to click on ads because the recipe is what they wanted, and they found it. And they tend not to want to buy products off your site (e.g. through Amazon.com links) because they can buy food at their local grocery store. So recipes is a much more challenging niche to make a living in - although I am sure my recipe site could become profitable if I put the time in it. But since my energy efficiency site yields a much higher return on every hour I invest in it, I've mostly spent time on that one.
In fact, diversifying is not a bad way to do things - SBI often has 2-for-1 specials that let you buy two licenses for the price of one. If you have a chance to get one of these, I'd go for it, and start a second website about 3-4 months after the first. You might discover that the second one was a better idea - or just that you like switching back and forth between them.
What mistakes would you avoid?
Giving up is the biggest mistake I've made, a number of times. Traffic does tend to slump at times. I've finally discovered, my third year in, that my site is of little interest to people between February and mid-April, because heating and AC are my big topics and by February if people haven't solved their heating problems, they've frozen to death, and it's not hot enough until mid-April for people to be looking for air conditioners. Every year I've gotten discouraged in February and stopped working on the site (and done something else instead). And every year by mid-April I realize I should have been building up more pages for the AC rush. Things pick back up in May and June and my energy goes back into the site.
The other mistake I would avoid is doing things that the SBI Action Guide warns you not to do. I've done a few of those and they have helped me in the short term but hurt me in the long term. For example I put a lot of effort into article writing - submitting articles to article websites who publish your article in return for a link back to your site, which builds traffic to your site. Unfortunately Google decided that these article sites are a form of spam, so while the links in those articles used to boost my own site's rankings in search results, which helped for a while, those sites have now been penalized, so my traffic has dropped somewhat and I am back to following the Action Guide to build it back up.
How would you do things more profitably, efficiently, effectively and quickly?
I wouldn't change things much. Obviously with experience you gain better judgment about what pages are going to draw traffic and get interested visitors, and what things aren't worth writing. So for a new site topic I might decide not to write certain pages even if they get high marks from Brainstorm It.
I think the key is to (A) be true to yourself - don't write things you don't believe, don't write things you don't think are useful to others, (B) try to do the best job you possibly can with every page, and (C) follow a well thought out process like the one SBI provides. There are no short cuts - if you skip a step in the Action Guide, you'll pay later!
3) What are the difficulties, problems, critical issues and challenges faced in building a moneymaking REAL online business using Site Build It.
There are two big challenges: the amount of work it takes, and the time it takes before you succeed.
It isn't a cakewalk to build a successful online business (which is so much more than 'building a website'). It takes a lot of work. The work ain't complicated - just about anyone with a high school education can follow SBI's Action Guide and succeed at it - but only if they keep at it and persevere.
The other challenge is that there is a period up front where you have to focus on building content, before you see any reward in terms of traffic coming to your site. Then you have to focus on building MORE content and building links with other sites, before you can start turning traffic into money. It's kind of a double whammy of effort without real reward. For example in my first two months I had a TOTAL of 450 visitors, in my first four months I made only $143, in my first six months I made about $500 total - not even enough to cover my SBI license and my internet charges. In my first year I had made only about $5000, for around 20 hours a week of work - that's a pretty low hourly wage, at least by North American standards. It takes time to build a business online. But I've found that once you build it up - if you do things right - it kind of coasts, so I can make $50 or $100 or $150 a day and not do anything for weeks at a time.
How did you overcome them and what solutions would you recommended to a novice like me?
I overcame the challenge of how long it takes, by just keeping at it. SBI has this mascot of a tortoise and it's very appropriate: slow but steady wins the race. As long as you follow the Action Guide, use Brainstorm It to find good keywords, and write something you believe in and make it as good as you can, eventually it will pay off.
4) All things being equal; both are using the same Site Build It and follow the same SBI Action Guide; Why some succeed and why some fizzled out over time and fail?
I think you will find that many of those who fizzle out and fail DIDN'T follow some aspect of the action guide. Namely:
- They chose a topic they cared about, but one that didn't meet SBI's requirements for high demand, low supply keywords, or that didn't monetize well. For example, compare my site topic of energy efficiency to the site topic of climate change. I had many requests for link exchanges from sites with names like global-warming-explained.net and real-climate-change-action.com. Guess what? Advertisers aren't interested in placing ads on sites that explain climate change, because there's nothing for them to sell, and visitors aren't interested in clicking on the ads either. So these folks, whose goals are pretty similar to mine - helping people reduce their environmental impact - made almost no money and quit, while I did well and kept going.
Why did they fail? They didn't follow the SBI Action Guide guidance on finding the right monetization mix.
- They didn't come up with a good site structure. The step of creating your site plan near the beginning is critical. If you don't do it your site becomes a mishmash of pages that have no logical organization. That means people coming to your site will be unimpressed and will leave after the first page, before you've had a chance to convert them to $. I also think the search engines can deduce something about the value of your site based on its organization. Finally, a better organized site will get more organic linking (other sites linking to it without expecting anything in return) which boosts its search rankings and traffic.
Why did they fail? They didn't follow the SBI Action Guide advice on developing a logical site plan based on high demand, low supply keywords from Brainstorm It!
- They gave up within the first six months because they didn't realize that it takes a fair bit of up front work and a lot of patience to produce results!
Remember the SBI Tortoise - slooooow but steady wins the race.
Thanks in advance for your advice.
You're welcome. I hope it helps. Did you know that I started my first site on a whim - I had no intention of starting my own business, I was just looking at a one year leave of absence from work, during a trip abroad (to Costa Rica), trying to decide how to keep busy? I did some looking around and (A) discovered SBI, then (B) used it to figure out I could write a website about energy efficiency. My thinking was, the worst that can happen is I lose $300 on the SBI license. I actually considered using their process and just getting a cheap hosting service - at that time you could read a public version of the Action Guide for free. But the more I read it the more convinced I was that it would be worth the $299 up front. I paid the money, started working, and within three weeks was getting my first traffic from the Search Engines.
And I discovered the $299 was worth it many times over. During a hot week in summer (when people in North America are really interested in air conditioning) I can earn back my annual fee in advertising revenue within just two days!
For a full explanation of how Site Build It works and how it can make you successful, I suggest you watch the Site Build It Video Tour.
Wishing you greater success in building your online business.