Getting Traffic Online, and Money, Used To Be Easy.
There was a time when you could create some content, put it online, and have a few thousand visitors a week overnight. How do I know this? I've been programming, and selling, online since 1995. Those days are long gone.
We welcomed Google with it's "popularity" based search engine as more and more people learned to spam the search engines with meta content, and other simple techniques. It was always a chore to get into Yahoo!, as the site hand processed links ( which, in my opinion, is the best way ) but sites like Alta Vista, Lycos, et al, were fairly easy to get listed in quickly, and get "instant" traffic.
The truth is there was a far greater surfer to content provider ratio than there is today. By simply creating a group of pages built from aggregating niche related links found in other search engines, and then posting those results on your own site, you'd get thousands of visits quickly - often overnight. Today this is not the story.
The web today looks like a giant consortium of people claiming to be entrepreneurs but really kowtowing to the big socials ( Facebook twitter Instagram ) and Google ( in terms of chasing SEO ) .
In 2020 Google is the dictator and "end all" of search engines. The term SEO ( Search Engine Optimization ) has no value - it really should be called "Google Ass Kissing". Google "tells" us how to get listed. It's quite simple - create new content, grind it out on social media, don't buy links, and work 100 hours a week and when you hit that golden ratio Google will list you.
In 1996 I would create a page, send it to Alta Vista, and get hundreds, if not thousands of visitors the next morning when Alta did the nightly update. Also, just posting a video only via your own site, Shoutcast, or the original Youtube, or even Google Videos ( before they bought Youtube ) would get you a ton of traffic. It was just easier.
It's my opinion that most online content these days is regurgitated crap - content read somewhere else, transparently re-written, then posted as original new content. There's not much 'new' content out there. The web has become a great big cesspool of questionable information.
For example, I read the other day how a bag of bamboo charcoal can rid the air of all impurities - including glutens. I shook my head although they seem to be selling a ton of these .25 cent bags of burnt bamboo for $20 a pop. I do love capitalism - people will buy anything.
I've been a computer programmer since I was 14 - working on assembly language and programming Motorola 6800 processors using a Tandy Color Computer. I had a lot of fun with that. With the Internet I programmed in C, PHP, ASP and a few other languages. I 'screen scraped' before it was called that. I called in 'snarfing'... That term never caught on...
What I did was to scan Ebay listings, pre API, to examine who was selling how much and comparing that to what I could get a product for. I decided it was more profitable to create a product since the profit margin for items purchased to resell didn't excite me.
I didn't have a lot of money I decided to create compilations of public domain photos. CD re-writeables were just getting to the point where most computers could read a CD-R so my cost, including a casing with the printed insert, was less than .50 cents each. Shipping at the time was about $3. I sold them for $18. I'd sold about 6 a day on Ebay so I started to create more titles.
I got the content from the Library of Congress. Without getting into details on copyright law, I downloaded the public domain images I found. I'd written a 'snarfer' ( today it's called screen scraping ) to scan the LOC website looking for specific terms and batch downloaded the images. In those days, my connection speed was a 56k modem, then ADSL so it took about a week to download a group of images.
There were a few 'tricks' to downloading from the LOC. Back then all the image categories had directory listings which are hidden today. It also appears that today they throttle the speed a bit, but that may be my impression. In any case, it was a totally free source of images - well, not really free - our taxpayer dollars paid for it.
In the end I had about 20 Photo CD titles and made about $200 a day in profit. It was more than my day job at the time... But I wanted more.
I thought I could print the images. I bought a broken 24 inch wide format printer for $50 from a surplus sale ( retail new was $4700 ), replaced the broken belt for $10, bought ink for $50, found some paper for it, and started thinking of what to sell.
I was able to 'snarf' the sales data of one or two sellers on eBay selling 'Panoramic Maps' . If you just looked at the sold listings by eye, it would appear they weren't selling much but a deep examination revealed the eBay fees, vs. what I figured to be the cost per print, and the amount of sales, painted a much different story. There was gold in them thar hills.
I wrote some software to list a few hundred maps and... Holy crap - the next morning there was over a thousand in sales. Shortly after that I added more posters and more sales kicked in.... BUT THEN HELL HAPPENED....
I woke up and Ebay had suspended my account, and deleted all my listings. To make a long story short, they had mistakenly suspended OUR account, rather than the account of an eBay stalker that would bid and not pay on hundreds of our auctions.... After about a day ( back then eBay would actually answer the phone ) all was back in place but the volatility of using a third party ( eBay ) to sell had cemented it's place in my mind as nothing I could base a serious business on. This was a serious wake up call..
I immediately wrote a shopping cart and built my poster website. I had already written some of the web's first shopping carts while employed, but always felt I could earn more working for myself. I'd built the original "rainfall.com" ( recently sold ) as a test site for ideas I'd get. I made the poster store a sub section. I had over 500,000 posters for sale. The search engines, including Google, indexed me quickly. I saw sales immediately - particularly for 'long tail' obscure keywords. The web site sales were 4x greater than eBay, and I had ALL the control. I can't say it loud enough - THIRD PARTIES WILL ALWAYS BE YOUR ROADBLOCK.
In today's world, Google is the roadblock, as are social networks. There are too many rules, too much competition, and just a never ending list of blockades. Today you need to commit at least of year of creating content, tending social media, and grinding it out making sure to post nearly daily to get even a portion of the pie that you could have taken a decade earlier. Much of this is due to the overwhelming number of 'non tech' people creating content and wanting a presence online which leads to nearly all 'how to make money online' sites listing the ABC methods of creating content, joining socials, creating groups, and all that daily grind that will, in many cases, result in some level of success... But everyone's doing it the same way. Some break through with shear persistence ( which, in my opinion, is the best way to succeed ... Persistence ) but it's so damn much more like 'work', so I view it as being a 'might get paid' employee of the socials and Google - let's face it - without all this "grinding" neither the socials nor Google would be anything at all...
That's my .29 cents.... Off to hack Nasdaq.... :)
A Few Notes From Our Customers: