I just finished analyzing the results of my recent KeywordsBlogger.com subscriber survey, and the results reinforced things that I’ve been hearing for a long time. A lot of newbie internet marketers:
- Are annoyed by the amount of shameless “make money in your underwear” programs that take their money and offer no value in return;
- Are confused by the number of online business models;
- Are uncertain which online business model they should follow;
- Are making little (or no) money from their sites; and
- Are financially strapped
Now, that’s not to say EVERYONE is struggling. But these are shaky economic times, and it seems that a lot of people are feeling it. Which is why I ALMOST turned my Niche Sherpa Video Coaching Course into a free program…but ultimately decided against it. Instead, I’ll be turning Niche Sherpa into the ultimate “hold-you-by-the-hand” program for making money online.
More on that toward the end of this post. First, let me tell you what KeywordsBlogger subscribers said in my survey.
Questions For Internet Marketing Newbies
My blog tends to attract people who are relatively new to the “make money online” scene. Some are making money from their websites, but many aren’t, and many are still trying to find their feet in this business. So the purpose of my survey was to get a feel for the types of challenges that people are facing, and to find out what topics I should write about on this blog.
I was also looking for ideas for paid products that I could potentially develop in future (yes, I admit it. While I love giving away information and helping people, I’m not a communist!)
I wrote the survey questions accordingly. The questions focused on finding out what IM newbies want to learn, the obstacles they’re trying to surmount, and how I can help them.
Here are the questions I asked in the survey:
- What topics are you most interested in learning about to make money online?
- Please describe exactly what you would like to learn to help you make money online.
- Are you a member of my Niche Sherpa Video Coaching program?
- If you are NOT a member of Niche Sherpa, which of these new features would motivate you to join?
- Would you be interested in a “done for you” service? (This would involve my team doing all the keyword research, site building, and ongoing linkbuilding, for a monthly fee)
- What is the biggest obstacle holding you back from making a good income online?
In the next few sections I’ll briefly discuss the answers received for each question, then I’ll wrap up by outlining what action I’m going to take based on the answers.
Question #1: What topics are you most interested in learning about to make money online?
Surprise, surprise! Readers of my blog – which is focused on niche research – want to learn more about niche research! Okay, I could have seen that coming.
What was more interesting was survey respondents said they want to learn more about:
- Content creation (57.7% of respondents)
- Affiliate marketing (also 57.7%)
- Keyword research (50%)
- Adsense, SEO, and info products (all 42.3%)
The 19.2% of respondents who chose “Other” for this question gave a range of answers, but most fell under two themes: SEO (e.g. building backlinks) and niche/product selection.
Question #2: Please describe exactly what you would like to learn to help you make money online
In the follow-up to question #1, I asked survey respondents to elaborate on their answers and tell me what EXACTLY they’d like to learn about making money online. I left an open text box under this question where people could type to their heart’s content.
This is the kind of survey question I love analyzing – because it provides rich insight into precisely what people are thinking.
What’s interesting about this process is that when you ask people to choose from a multiple-choice list then ask them to describe what they’re looking for in their own words, you get deeper insight into their thoughts.
But enough of my rambling – here are the top topics that survey respondents said they want more information on:
- Adsense (setting up an account; how to increase revenue; best ad layouts)
- Affiliate marketing (how to set up an Amazon affiliate site; case studies)
- Building an online business (step-by-step instructions for the whole thing)
- Content creation (how to write articles for SEO; how to create “link bait”; how to write content targeted at a specific audience)
- Keyword research (how to find low-competition keywords; how to find profitable keywords)
- Monetization models (sustainable online business models; how to monetize an ebook)
- Niche research (how to find hot trends; how to choose one niche to focus on; how to understand deeply what your market wants; how to find low-competition niches)
- Product research (how to find good affiliate products; how to find evergreen products)
- SEO (how to do article marketing; how to do good backlinking; how to rank quickly; how to do “Panda-proof” SEO)
- Traffic generation (how to get free traffic with Web 2.0 sites; how to generate sustainable traffic; how to set up traffic systems; traffic generation from A to Z)
- Website development (how to build Amazon sites; how to build low-cost sites; how to build membership sites; where to start)
(Note: I already have posts on this blog that address some of the topics mentioned above. I’ve linked the topics to the relevant post.)
And here’s my favourite response to survey question #2 (remember, the questions was “Please describe exactly what you would like to learn to help you make money online”):
“I want to learn how to automate an online solution with minimal effort at 10-15k per month income”
Well, at least he’s willing to put in a little work (he said “minimal effort”, after all, not “no effort”)!
But seriously – I understand where this person is coming from. We’ve all been exposed to those sales pages with pictures of palm trees, Ferraris, and buxom wenches in bikinis, all offering internet riches overnight with no effort. But we’re not supposed to actually believe those promises!
Questions #3 and #4: Are you a member of my Niche Sherpa Video Coaching program? If not, which of these new features would motivate you to join?
If you don’t already know, the Niche Sherpa Video Coaching course is my paid online program to help newbies find a profitable niche. Niche Sherpa contains dozens of step-by-step videos and PDFs on how to find a niche, and many other aspects of building an online business. It also has a forum where I answer members’ specific questions.
Questions three and four asked survey respondents if they’re currently members of Niche Sherpa and, if not, what it would take to get them to sign up for it (naked bit of marketing on my part, wasn’t that?)
Most people (over 80%) are currently not Niche Sherpa members. That’s very sad, but what interested me more is what people said would motivate them to join.
The results from this question support what current customers have told me when I’ve chatted with them through email, or answered their questions in the members’ forum: most people want to see results faster.
So they would love to have a series of step-by-step “quick start” videos and checklists that will allow them to quickly put up niche sites, and start getting a little traffic and seeing some income coming in (through Adsense clicks or affiliate commissions). They also want more individual attention to their specific challenges, which is why nearly half of respondents said they’d like to see monthly webinars where I answer their questions.
Question #5: Would you be interested in a “done for you” service?
I get a lot of emails from people asking for my opinion of tools such as Market Samurai and Long Tail Pro, along with automated services for mundane tasks like linkbuilding (ESPECIALLY linkbuilding! Is there anyone on earth who enjoys this task?)
Question number five on the survey was meant to gauge interest in a service that would take the nitty-gritty work out of IMers hands – basically, a “done for you” service that would hand over keyword-researched and search engine optimized niche sites every month.
The majority of people who answered this question gave a tentative response: 59.2% said “maybe” they would be interested in such a service.
I think the hesitant response to this question supports one of the main findings of this survey: that most people are still in the initial stages of building an online business, and are trying to make their first dollar online (see Question #6 below). My theory is that a done-for-you service appeals largely to people who are either earning money already from IM, or are willing to take some cash from their day job or offline business to ramp things up quickly.
Question #6: What is the Biggest Obstacle Holding You Back from Making a Good Income Online?
The final question on the survey elicited some of the best responses – detailed, heartfelt, and revealing.
In analyzing the data, I created a “code” for each response. The code represented a theme (for example: “lack of money”, “no time to implement what I’ve learned”, “fear of failure”, etc.) Since many of the responses to this question were long, I ended up assigning multiple codes to many responses, because each contained multiple themes.
Here’s are the obstacles that were mentioned most frequently by respondents, starting with the most-mentioned:
- No time
- No money/tired of being swindled by IM “gurus”
- Can’t find a niche
- Can’t focus
- Need a step-by-step plan
- Confused by all the information/ways to make money online
- Fear of failure
- Lack of knowledge
The obstacles that were mentioned in the majority of responses could be grouped into four broad themes:
(1) I have a full-time job/a family/other obligations and have no time to learn and build an online business. This is pretty self-explanatory, and we all suffer from a time drought, but I was surprised by how many people mentioned this obstacle. It came up in almost every response.
Here are a couple verbatim responses on this topic from two IMers who completed my survey:
“My time is at a premium. I work a night job and must devote 10-12 hours per day towards that. I am also a caretaker for my wife and as a result only have 1-2 hours during the week to devote to trying to earn an online income. Though I do have about 4 hours each day on Sunday and Monday very early morning.”
“I work full time and don’t have enough spare time to work on my affiliate marketing. I have lots of ideas but no time to work on them.”
(2) I recently lost my job and can’t afford to buy “make money online” courses or I’ve spent hundreds/thousands of dollars on those courses already and have nothing to show for it. Another clear message that came from this survey: most people either have no money to spend on IM learning, or they’ve been burned by IM charlatans so many times that they won’t be buying any more courses.
Here’s one interesting comment from a survey respondent:
“People always say this is guaranteed to pay for itself. Well if so, why can’t you provide the site for free until it is making money?? Then I will pay you. Anyone can say it is guaranteed, for life even, but if they go bankrupt, the guarantee is meaningless because they won’t be around to fulfill the guarantee. Sorry, it’s a pet peeve of mine!! :o)”
(3) I can’t find a profitable niche. In giving this response, most people also said that they want a way to figure out if a niche will be profitable before they dive into it. Given that a lot of people have already spent money on courses and have seen no results from them, it’s not surprising that they’re treading cautiously in spending money on implementing what they’ve learned.
Here’s a representative comment from one respondent:
“Finding an untapped profitable niche and being able to generate the level of targeted traffic that I need.”
(4) I can’t focus/am confused by all the information out there/don’t want to fail/need a step-by-step plan. To me, these responses are a combination of “analysis paralysis” and lack of knowledge. Some people don’t feel they have the knowledge necessary to implement, while others might have the knowledge, but are not sure where to start or want to get things perfect.
Here’s one of my favourite responses from the survey, in response to the question “What’s your biggest obstacle to making a good income online?”:
“Lack of focus! To be able to shut everything else out in order to concentrate on the task at hand. (I’m 51, 2 kids at home, a sexy wife (how’s that for lack of concentration!) and two dogs. I divide my focus between playing guitar, writing songs, writing another person’s biography, and working with my sites.)”
Wow, poor guy – can’t focus because his wife is too sexy! If he could bottle that problem I bet he could sell it for a fortune.
Why Market Research is So Powerful
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I briefly considered making my Niche Sherpa program completely free, and opening it up to all comers.
This survey underscored how many people are having money problems these days. By opening up Niche Sherpa, I reasoned, more people would be able to use the program, and I would be compensated by putting Adsense ads and affiliate offers on the site.
But before making this decision I first had to ask my current Niche Sherpa customers what they thought. After all, they pay for their membership!
So three days ago I sent an email to all Niche Sherpa customers asking what they think of the idea of making Niche Sherpa free. The response I got was sobering (and a little surprising).
Some Niche Sherpa customers thought it would be good to make Niche Sherpa free, for the single reason I mentioned above: more people would use it. But others (especially those who have been with the program for a while), thought it’s a really BAD idea – and not just because what they’ve paid for would now be free (I would have made it up to them somehow).
The argument that most people made is this: if a person is serious about making a go of it in this business, they understand that they need to make an investment. That investment involves both time AND money.
Other customers pointed out that making the program free would attract a lot of newbies who aren’t serious, and that my time would be spread across slackers and people who really ARE serious about building an online business.
To sum up the sentiment of most Niche Sherpa customers, I want to share with you an email I received from one member who lives in Greece.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock at the bottom of the ocean on Mars, you probably know that Greece has been having some problems lately. Like “our-economy-is-collapsing-and-we’ll-soon-be-facing-Armageddon” kinds of problems. The Greek government is close to declaring bankruptcy, unemployment is sky-high, and riots in the street are taking place regularly.
Well, one of my Niche Sherpa members lives in Greece, and his financial situation is not great these days. And yet he argued AGAINST me turning Niche Sherpa into a free program!
His name is Demetris, and here’s what his email to me said:
As you know I live in a bankrupt country and I have limited financial resources. Furthermore, I really need to be financially independent asap in order to quit my present job. Thus I do not consider the reason lack of money as very serious, since I believe that if someone is in a great need (like me) he’ll be able to find a solution. After all, you can not start up a new business without investing even a small amount of money!
I agree that confusion is the greatest obstacle, that’s why people (like me) need a mentor. I think you should get a reward for all the hard work you’ve put in your site. I also think that in the case of free access there will not be personal attendance to our questions; just take a look of the “Smart passive income” blog. Pat Flynn simply cannot reply to the huge volume of the thousands everyday comments.
I was hoping that you could establish an outsourcing agency in order to have access (paid, of course) to a reliable team of professionals for all the things that give me a terrible headache (apart from the everyday news concerning the sociopolitical and financial situation of the once old merry Greece), like backlinking, etc. After all you shouldn’t forget that quantity always destroys quality.
Thank you very much for asking my opinion.
This was the email that “broke the camel’s back” and convinced me to abandon my plan to make Niche Sherpa free.
One Way You Can Accelerate Your IM Progress in 2012
I’m not trying to claim that the Niche Sherpa program is perfect and will some day win the Nobel Peace Prize. But in my opinion (and the opinion of many members, some of whom have testimonials on my sales page here), it’s the most comprehensive, step-by-step program to finding a niche on the market.
Over the past year I’ve added many modules to Niche Sherpa – on building websites, outsourcing, and many other topics. Recently I’ve started adding quick-start videos on building Adsense sites – from keyword research to article creation. Within the next month I’ll be starting a monthly webinar to help members tackle the obstacles they’re facing in building their online businesses. And that’s not to mention the members’ forum, where I give in-depth answers to members’ questions.
For the past year I’ve been charging members $27 per month for access to the Niche Sherpa program. That will change in one month, when the price will go up to $47 per month.
This is not a decision I’ve taken lightly. I understand that increasing the price of the program will put it out of reach of some people. But I also know that the only people who make it in this business are the ones who are too stubborn – or too dumb – to quit.
So I’ll be putting a lot more time and resources into Niche Sherpa in coming months, for a couple of reasons:
- I’m tired of hearing about newbie IMers getting ripped off. The results of my survey just reinforced what I’ve heard over the past couple of years from hundreds of conversations with my subscribers: people keep pouring money into “make money online” programs that promise the moon but deliver only a handful of dirt.
- It’ll be cool to build a community of “performers”. I hope that by providing more step-by-step tutorials (on what’s actually working NOW), monthly webinars, and forum support, I’ll be able to help more people get over that initial “hump” and start making some money online. I firmly believe that small bursts of progress build confidence, and lead to bigger and bigger successes.
How I Can Help You Overcome Your IM Obstacles
In addition to putting a lot more effort into the Niche Sherpa Video Coaching program in coming months, I’m also going to try my best to keep providing useful content (free of charge) here on the blog.
Here’s what you can expect from me in coming months:
- Blog posts that reflect what YOU want to learn. Based on the survey responses, I’m going to write more posts on niche and keyword research (the focus of this blog), but also expand into tips on affiliate marketing, SEO, content generation, and basic web development.
- Blog interviews with experts. Some of the information that survey respondents asked for (such as how to build an Amazon affiliate site) are beyond my experience. So I’ll be reaching out to experts in various fields and asking them to be interviewed for my blog.
- A “Resources” page on this blog that shows you the tools (both free and paid) that I consider essential to run my online business.
A Few Final Words
In this post I hope I’ve shared some aspirations and challenges that resonate with you.
If you’re an IM newbie (or even a veteran who’s had a tough time making money online), what are the things you want to learn, and what obstacles are you facing in making money online?
Please leave a comment below!
P.S. As mentioned in the invitation for the survey, two survey respondents would be offered a free one-on-one coaching session with me and a free lifetime membership in the Niche Sherpa Video Coaching program. Here are the winners of that contest (I’ll be in touch via email with the winners):
Free one-on-one coaching session with me: Ramnik
Free lifetime membership in Niche Sherpa: Dave