How I Became An Overnight Success As A Blogger

Note: This post was originally published on Medium on June 24th 2020.

To hell with the years of sweat, frustration, and self doubt.

Blogging. The Early Days.

By the Spring of 2002, I had built and sold a consulting company, and had recently gone back to work as programmer with a huge media company in the Ashburn, Virginia area. I was married with kids, house, pets, debt, the whole thing. I worked a LOT of hours, so many in fact, that I came home one night to find that everyone had moved out.

Just like that, my life was turned upside down. It forced me to take a long, hard look at myself, my lifestyle, and my career choices.

As a form of self therapy, I started writing. My first personal website consisted of a few static pages and an “info product” that I sold in an attempt to pick up a few bucks to help me crawl out of debt and start to piece my life back together. It was slow going to say the least.

Writing on the web was different back in 2003. WordPress didn’t reach a 1.0 release until January 2004, and even with that, who was using it? Not me.

So like many people back in the day, I created my sites using static HTML with some PHP sprinkled here and there to help boost my Google rankings.

Between 2004 and 2008, I poured my life into creating small niche websites in an attempt to sell products as an affiliate, and to pick up a little AdSense pocket change.

I must have been doing something horribly wrong, because my revenue/time equation told me I was earning around $10 per hour.

I would have been better off, both physically and financially, mowing lawns.

Now throw your hands in the air
And wave ’em like you just don’t care

Blogging Is Like Meth, But It Won’t Make Your Teeth Fall Out

Numbers don’t lie.

I often looked at myself and thought: “Dude, you are toiling away in your room like a monk with little to show for your efforts.” But there was something to show for my efforts, a little money coming in here and there, it gave me a rush, and I couldn’t put it down.

Even back then, I knew there was more to all of this than just writing.

Creating blogs, static sites, little 6-page niche sites, landing pages, squeeze pages, funnels, and email lists is literally the same as physically building something.

Even though our creations are in digital form, we are creating things. Things that are assets that will potentially return more in the future than what it cost to build them.

The concept of “asset building” outweighed my desire for immediate revenue.

Up until the summer of 2014, I focused my blogging efforts on topics in the “Big Three”: health, wealth, and sex. But I typically went for topics that were overly competitive like: blood pressure, ED, weight loss, making money online, dating, etc.

It’s incredibly, and increasingly, difficult to be competitive as a blogger in overly broad topics. I was a small fish, with a smaller budget, in a pond full of sharks.

By this time, I had married an awesome woman and we had a few kids together. Our family now had five members, and I was banging right up against “get a damn job” time.

My wife gave me the stink eye every time I told people I was a blogger/internet marketing guy. Because, while technically true, I was really just a clerk typist sitting in a dark cave.

Flop sweat. Drop the curtains.

Then, Boom.

One afternoon in 2014 I was watching NFL, and a FanDuel commercial came on during a TV timeout.

Prior to seeing that commercial, I’d never even heard of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS).

Later that night, I started to do a little research on DFS. There was a lot of information online about season long fantasy sports, but not too much specific to DFS. Regardless, I read everything I could find online about both DFS and season long fantasy.

I used my newly acquired knowledge of DFS and entered a few FanDuel NFL contests the following Sunday. I didn’t win any money from these entries, but chalked up the entry fees as educational expenses. I studied more, watched, recorded results, collected data, and kept it all in Excel spreadsheets.

I saw an opportunity, not as a player of DFS, but as an information source for the DFS community.

I have both a B.S. and M.S. in Information Systems, and a M.Eng. in Systems Engineering. I’m a data nerd that loves studying performance of systems via measures and metrics. DFS is a dream come true for people that like numbers, predictions, gaming, and (potentially) making money.

So based on a hunch that there had to be a market for DFS information, I secured a few keyword rich domains and private web hosting. I installed and configured WordPress, then spent the next few months cranking out highly optimized content.

Creating relevant content for this niche was easy, because it had caught my interest. I was getting hundreds of visitors a day from Google. All organic, highly targeted visitors that wanted to learn, and didn’t mind spending money to do so.

I learned and evaluated tools that helped people create lineups to enter into DFS contests. This resulted in a steady stream of content resulting in recurring affiliate sales.

In some cases, I had created so many pages with brand information in them (reviews, how-to’s, etc.), that I owned the top SERP for the brand. So when a company Googled their name and my site popped up, they would reach out offering private affiliate and promotion deals.

I created sport specific information on lineup building and DFS contest strategy across NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL. Turned this into many, many blog posts and a lineup building guide that I sold through the site.

All that to say…

Lean times suddenly got a little chunky.

The Afterglow

I worked those DFS sites for over three years, writing, posting contest results, emailing actionable info to my email subscribers, and collecting revenue from various streams.

Regulatory changes and acquisitions brought some pretty significant change to the DFS market. Online gambling is now a thing that is legal in quite a few states across the United States, and there is a ton of high dollar ad budgets fighting for those eyeballs.

So given that the market was getting crowded and less profitable, I decided to punch out and let the web side of the operation die off. I still have a social media account that I use to send info and tips to loyal subscribers, but with no sports in 2020, the whole thing just feels empty.

Which brings me to a topic I will write about in a future story: diversification!

The Take Away

I love reading about an “overnight success” in the music or startup world.

The more you read about this phenomenon, the more you realize that the concept of an overnight success is just a romantic notion.

Almost every overnight success is the result of years of preparation: reading, writing, coding, designing, painting, composing, beating the street, thinking, crying, sweating, and eating whatever you can find at the grocery store for less than $3.84.

This is about you.

Create value, give it to the world, and never forget why you’re in the game.

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