Ruud Questions: Stephan Miller

by Ruud Hein June 25th, 2010 

Stephan Miller is a classic self-employed affiliate marketer; building multiple web sites, setting up income streams.

You run multiple sites to generate multiple streams of income. You monetize via Adsense and affiliate sales. What's your strategy? Launch as fast as you can, as often as you can and see what sticks? Create a unique angle or offer for each site?

Stephan Miller I have had to change that strategy a lot.

I usually find an easy, quick way to put up a site. My new models I set and forget for a while. I let them build their own links through a few tools I have and watch for any products worth building a smaller site around. I start with huge category killer sites and then start building satellites around them or even disconnected from them of any products that have sold.

Some of my sites have gone for years, with random product sales I can then build smaller sites from. So part of my niches pick me rather than the other way around.

I do build some sites with a target in mind at the outset also. These tend to take more work since I am not aiming for the low hanging fruit.

The two most common tips for people starting (blog) web sites (to monetize) are "write about your passion" and "go niche, niche, niche".

What's your experience with those two tips?

Stephan MillerI have a lot of passions which is why my main blog has no focus. I have always read the "write about your passion" thing and the niche thing and then rejected them. The only niche sites I have are ones I really never touch again. I am a generalist and get bored easily, so maybe this works for some people, but not for me.

My tips for making a blog all it can be are:

  • Write posts more often than I do now.
  • Have a section people have to come back to use (my link lists) for times when you aren't writing.
  • Sign up for everything that looks like a social network or will give you a profile and flesh it out.
  • Keep mental or physical notes on what other bloggers are doing with their sites, how they are getting links, what they are writing about and what things they are advertising, what they have in their sidebar, what type of plugins they are using — and do better.

To tell you the truth, I am not really am MMO blogger. I don't make much at all blogging. I am a blogger who builds sites that are not necessarily blogs but that do make money.

I am not a good salesman. I bombed as a telemarketer. But every now and then a different person comes out when I write, to my benefit. And sometimes pages I have created are just in the right place and the right time, which is all by design.

What are your top tips for building successful (read: money delivering) web sites?

Stephan MillerI think I answered most of this in the last question. But I will add more to it.

I said to watch other bloggers. I don't think some reader will have an idea of the extremes I took this. I currently have over 2000 feeds in my reader. I had to switch to Feedly, which is a great tool, because it would take minutes for my other readers to load thousands of feeds. This list of blogs just grew over time. I have no real favorites and I will never claim to read them all currently. And I have learned just as much from bloggers with 200 readers as those with 20000, maybe even more. You can't be personal with 20000 people. Eventually you just become a fixture.

I see too many bloggers that stick to their niche when they are off their blog. If "Niche,Niche,Niche" works for you blog, go with it. Get links from other blogs in the same niche. Hang out in the communities. But get out enough in other niches to look around. If you find something you like out there in the wild that no one in your niche is doing, test it in your niche. And you will be the first. If you never get out, the best you can ever be is #2.

Although as a self-taught programmer you do your best to automate some stuff, you're nowhere near the scale of some massive automated networks (bordering on or venturing into full blown spam), nor are you churning out content at the pace of content factories.

Is there place for "the little guy" — and what is it?

Stephan MillerMy advantages came from learning and knowing every part of the system I had to use. Most marketers outsource things they don't understand and then try to tell the freelancer what they want done. I see this as two people who speak different languages using the "yell louder" method to get their point across. The end result is usually a compromise. I don't like compromises. So I learn both languages and get very close to what I wanted or even better. I read a few words about some new software and I am jumping up and down in my seat because I know what the developer is saying and have already thought of 3 other ways of using his software that he never thought of.

It took a long time, but I don't need a committee to build a site. I know marketing well enough to find potential income sources. I know servers well enough to go for the $7 budget server instead of the $100 managed one. I know design well enough to build a good looking site. I know PHP well enough to modify that site as I am building it for any SEO effects I want. I know WordPress well enough to find plugins that will do most of my work for me and write the rest.

But then again, I came from nowhere, without a degree and a bright future as a construction worker. I had to do this at the beginning. And now it is hard for me to have other work for me, because I know their business also and know exactly what I want.

The bare minimum, learn PHP and SEO. Once I had those two tools, I started making money and "building employees".

In a nutshell The E-Myth states that when people want to do business alone, they make the mistake of doing the work vs. doing the business — and that that doesn't scale.

What's your take? Should affiliate sale hopefuls try to outsource their content and site building? Launch more as a team/business than you could do alone?

Stephan MillerI am not a businessman. I am a guy that likes playing with ideas and taught myself about money so I could inject it in there. So I wouldn't know much about business. I find business boring. If I were rich, I would use my SEO skills for evil or good depending on which political party you belong to and probably build open source software for education because advances there are far behind say, advances in software used by our military.

So I would probably hire someone to do the business and I would do the work and have 100% veto power. But yes, I do see the need for some outsourcing and I will be training someone who has a little more "social skills" than me. I need a front man or woman who can say "No" and tell people when they are wrong, LOL. I allow others to bend me until I break. And I do outsource at times.

In this series I've asked a lot about the how or why for people to make a living online in these hard times. Let me ask you another question: why not? Why should people *not* try to make a living online?

Stephan MillerSome people are just not cut out for it. On an average day, I spent 12 hours at the computer. Some people can't handle this.

Other people think this work is easy. It is easy for some of us, like chocolate for chocoholics. But if you think you just write a few posts and send out a few tweets and you'll be making money, then you are not cut out for this. I work more now than I ever worked in construction or any other job.

"Always on" has become synonymous with "splintered attention" (if such a thing as splintered and attention go together in the first place…). Research suggests it is changing the way we work and focus.

How do you strike the balance between "always on" and "I'm getting this done"?

Stephan MillerI realized last year that certain social networks are a time waster for a person like me who is not really social.

I gather and spread ideas and concepts in my social networking and I really don't give a crap about lolcats or the weather. My business actually started going downhill when I "got social" a couple of years ago. People knew my name more often and my blog started getting more traffic but I wasn't making any more money. I tried to use that to get SEO and development jobs, but like I said, I need a front man. I lowballed myself almost into bankruptcy. I rank #4 for "Kansas City SEO" and now I just tell people I'm booked.

I have not really yet found the balance to tell you the truth. Lately I have been developing my own things and getting them done. Mainly thorough the "out of sight, out of mind" method. I no longer have Twitter tools or feed readers that run all the time. When I want to check Twitter or my feeds I do, and then the software gets turned off so I can work. This usually ends up with me disappearing from internet for days or weeks at a time. But, what can you do.

If you could have a "for one more day" with someone via Twitter — who would it be?

Stephan MillerI would say my Mom. She died a few years ago before we thought she would and there were things I needed to ask her that I thought I had the time. But we never have the time we think we do.

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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3 Responses to “Ruud Questions: Stephan Miller”

  1. DazzlinDonna says:

    This interview resonated with me like no other. It felt as though Stephan was my virtual twin brother in many ways. Glad to have gotten that personal insight. Thanks.

  2. Thanks Donna,

    Good to know someone else thinks the same. Until the internet I never met any liked minded people and I can say that with 100% accuracy. The internet is great in that regard. I have met some of my best friends and my wife through internet, something that would have never happened without it.
    .-= Stephan Miller recently posted: Chasing the IronPython and Various Other Free Desktop Development Tools =-.

  3. Aaron says:

    Hi Ruud.. I totally agree with Stephan here about following other bloggers. There is plenty of room out there for internet marketers. The newbies all go away after a few weeks of unsuccess. I've found that looking at what other bloggers and marketers are doing always gives me more ideas on how I can improve myself. Great interview.
    .-= Aaron recently posted: Free Blogs =-.