We’re All Just Treading Water In A Sea Of Charlatans

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I’ve been in this industry for a long time. I started out in the personal finance niche doing Adsense-focused sites and then switched over to affiliate sites, which is where most of my time has been spent.

I love SEO, writing, and the whole game of ranking a site. But more than once I’ve thought about selling all my sites and leaving this industry completely. (I’ll get to the why in a moment.)

While comparing your success to other people’s is a fool’s errand that does more harm than good, it’s difficult to not get taken in when you hear about seven-figure exits.

Can you imagine?

Think about whatever site it is that you’re working on now – could you imagine working on it for several years with just a handful of writers and scoring a seven figure exit? Sounds pretty great, eh?

You see these stories of six-figure and seven-figure exits and start daydreaming about your own exits. You do some back of the napkin math to determine how much you’ll need to spend on content and links to achieve something similar.

After all, the person in the thread told you about their zero link building, and their small team, and the thousands of words that they published each week to accomplish this feat. Sounds like the blueprint is there for the taking, right?

All you gotta do is follow this little paint-by-numbers plan and you, too, can be in the six or seven figure exit club.

But they didn’t count on anyone reading to actually find their site and see the reality of it all.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t manage a fuckload of sites for the lols. It’s for the cash and it pays well but I really, really, really hate when I see these success stories that make it sound so easy.

And yeah, I’m sure there really are people out there crushing it big time with minimal links/people/etc. Statistically these people have to exist.

But you see, in my experience, there’s usually something shady going on in the background that’s not being disclosed whenever someone is telling their too-good-to-be-true story.

Lies are almost a form of currency in this industry.

And no one seems to really care. That is really unsettling, no?

So Many Lies

Lies like creating a fake persona where you say that the person was famous in the 90’s as a psychic to the stars…yet you forgot to rename that pic you’re using for this persona that you really swiped from a random hairstyle site.

fake person oopsie

Lies like saying ‘we only add $20 to $30 per link to the costs, so you’re not gonna get this link cheaper on your own’…but then accidentally sending an email with the real up-charge amount listed. Whoopsie.

guest post oopsie

Lies like manipulating Ahrefs metrics and then selling guest post links on sites that are basically worthless….according to a podcast I listened to last week. On that same podcast it was casually mentioned that everyone’s favorite SEO holds his case studies/test results for a year before releasing them 🤯

Lies like saying ‘I’ve done no link building at all to the site’ it just took off cause it’s better than the competition…yet linking to the site from other high DR sites that you own. That’s a backlink, ya asshat.

Lies like saying ‘I’ve never been hit by an algo update or gotten a manual penalty…yet all the SEO traffic tools show a different story for your site.

traffic oopsie

Lies like trying to sell me a site that you’ve ‘only done white hat guest posting on’…yet SEO tools show the expired domains you’ve 301’d to the site…or the PBNs…or both.

301 oopsie

Yeah, that really happened to me last year with the 301’s from expired domains. Mind blowing, eh?

Now What?

So, what should you do with this information? I’m not trying to depress you about the state of things, I just want you to keep in mind that there are very few people in this industry who are worthy of your trust.

Though honestly, that’s probably good life advice in general.

I like to call out bullshit when I see it and I’ve made no secret my distaste for most of the thought leaders in the industry. But at the same time it’s hard to stay in this industry and be excited about it when you know that so much bullshit is happening.

So, if you’re buying sites, then please do yourself a favor and do some in-depth due diligence because I have looked at so many sites for sale, both at broker marketplaces and privately, and people try to get away with all sorts of shady shit that they hope you won’t notice.

Ditto for buying services/products.

And if you’re taking advice from people, then consider their motivations and what’s in it for them. Some people genuinely like helping people – that’s me to a degree, but sometimes I get tired of all the emails and step away for a week or so.

But I can tell you with complete honesty that my motivations for writing this post were not 100% focused on protecting you. Sure, that’s part of it. It’s also cathartic for me to get out all these frustrations.

Some people are “helpful” because it boosts their own brand, they get affiliate money from it, they’re actually scratching someone else’s back, etc. A good example of this is anyone who legit recommends Bluehost as a good hosting option.

Some people are “helpful” because they want to give you bad or outdated info to maintain their competitive edge while you continue to struggle.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any real solutions here. The nature of things is that we have to interact with, and sometimes do business with, people who are not trustworthy.

And I’ve encountered an abnormally large number of those people in this industry. You probably will too. And that disgusts me.

When you find someone trustworthy, hold onto them and soak up all the knowledge that you can. The most helpful and trustworthy person I’ve found in SEO, a guy named Dave, actually left the industry completely a few years ago.

So, with that rant over, I’m taking off the rest of the month. In the mean time you can check out my appearance on Doug Cunnington’s podcast here or on his YouTube channel here.

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7 thoughts on “We’re All Just Treading Water In A Sea Of Charlatans”

  1. This isn’t meant as a personal criticism, I’m just commenting on what I see.

    Why bother with this site?
    Why sell a course?
    Why not spend all your time on your affiliate sites and maximize their revenue?

    The only reason you (and everyone else) would do this is because the money made per time invested is equal to or greater than what you would make if you spent that time on your sites.

    I personally know someone who had a high 6 figure exit with one site.
    He spent all his time, for a long period of time, on that site.
    The last thing he wanted to do was setup a “make money online” site teaching people what he was doing.

    So what I am saying is, if the money was really there in affiliate sites, this site wouldn’t exist.

    Reply
    • I’m not offended by skeptics, but skeptics are never easy to convince.

      I started this site because I was tired of hearing how there were no women doing SEO.
      I sell a course because people in my personal life would ask me to teach them how to do this whole thing, so I figured why not make a little coin on the side helping other people as well.
      I get burned out whenever I spend too much time on the same thing. Though I do spend 90% of my productive hours on my portfolio of sites.

      While I believe that it is true that some SEO bloggers earn more from their SEO blogs than their affiliate sites, I can assure you that is not me. I don’t hardcore promote anything here. I don’t send out tons of emails promoting every shitty affiliate offer available. Hell, most months the affiliate money this site earns wouldn’t even cover half of my €1600 monthly rent.

      At the end of they day, some people are motivated primarily by money, while others aren’t. And some people enjoy teaching/helping/sharing, while others don’t.

      I don’t know what to tell you about there really being money in affiliate sites other that try it yourself and you’ll be a believer.

      Reply
  2. Hi Shawna,
    I must say that I empathize with Paul above. I originally got into this business back in 2009 when link building strategies and weak content were all the rage. That was until Penguin wiped out all my sites as well as most of the gurus I had listened to of that time. I lost my adsense account as the cherry on top. I got out of this business in disgust.

    However, I have since thrown my hat back in the ring. Ironically, I was trying to break into freelance writing at the time and I needed some practice. I found a topic I was familiar with and outlined 6 articles. For ideas and subheadings I went back to what I knew about Keyword Research and went to work. By the time I was done I have well over 26,000 words of content, editted and ready to go. I felt a little stupid about putting them on my portfolio site, try to sell them or even give the free content to a site like medium. So I decided to but a fresh domain, use my GeneratePress theme and throw up a site as a pet project, monetize it with some Amazon products and be basically done with it. Fast forward a year and those 6 articles were averaging about 100 visits a day. I thought maybe I could make something of this if I put in the work. Although I’ve had a few setbacks since(Amazon fee cuts, Google’s May Core Update) I continue cranking out content. In fact, I had decided to double down and crank out even more content.

    There’s only a few “Gurus” in the game now that I listen to. Of course, they totally deny that they are “Gurus” since it’s the fashionable thing to do nowadays, lol. Guys like the Income School and Jon over at Fatstacksblog. They seem to profess to the same philosophy I do, no link building, guest posting etc. Though I do believe that they can exaggerate at times and leave some of the secret sauce or at least the step by step process off the table. They both still do have courses and affiliate links they have to push.

    In general, if and when I finally get to where I want to be with this business I would do the exact same thing as them and you do. How can you not considering how hard this deceptively seeming business appears to be. You learn so much and become so involved, you simply can’t avoid at least writing about it and monetizing it. I mean, that rule number one in this game, isn’t it?

    Anyway, sorry for the long post but I hope that the takeaway is listen, but always question those you follow. In the though you have to make your own path…

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      You nailed it with this: “listen, but always question those you follow.” I guess that’s what my entire rant was about in the end, but you summed it up in a more concise fashion than I ever could 🙂

      Reply
  3. I definitely agree with most of what you’ve said here.

    I hate those who make it sound easy, or like it’s impossible to fail – usually attached to a “flagship course” that teaches you fuck all.

    What this usually results in is people hopping around from idea to idea, buying multiple courses and investing months in a range of different business models and never get anywhere.

    If first five courses you buy doesn’t work for you, I highly doubt the sixth will.

    The truth is that there’s money in affiliate sites, and good money too – however, it’s certainly not easy, and there is plenty of chance that you’ll fail.

    So start with DIY, you’ll learn as you go and if you get a few months into it and you hate the model/working on sites, then don’t do it. All you’ve lost is some time, but you will have learned a lot in that time.

    Once you know the absolute basics (how to upload to WordPress, basic keyword research, etc…) you’ll learn more working an hour on your own site than you will checking out some new content mill that was pushed on a podcast.

    Most of what you read/hear will be a half-story or in some cases, an absolute lie. The catch is, you won’t realize that until you do the work yourself and see that there’s a lot more to it than they let you believe.

    Reply

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