Factors to my online success, aka: what it takes to make it online

Darcy wrote on my latest blogpost that I attributed 50% of my success to Squidoo. I was like: no, I don’t. I attribute about 10% of my success to Squidoo. 90% of my success is me. I’m serious: if it wasn’t Squidoo, it would be something else. Sure, I make about 50% of my online income off Squidoo in one way or another, but that doesn’t mean it’s Squidoo that does it. After all, most lensmasters make way less. In fact, from the tidbits Squidoo lets out occasionally about their successful lensmasters, I’d say I’m one of their top 10 earners. At least, this winter I am.

If it was Squidoo that did it, everybody would be making money on Squidoo. The fact is: most people DO NOT make any serious income online, whether on Squidoo or elsewhere.

My ebook is a summing up of what it took for me to become successful online. This post will look at the ‘me’ factor of all that.

So, what is it about me that makes me successful online?

  1. creativity
  2. thinking from the perspective of my audience (usually a lot like me)
  3. being a decent writer and editor
  4. quick with a response
  5. outspoken
  6. persistence when it comes to fixing important details
  7. keeping up to date on SEO: willingness to learn
  8. learning the technology necessary to do what I do (aka CSS, WordPress, a bit of PHP)
  9. persistence and patience

Let’s start at the top:

1) Creativity

What’s creative about what I do? Well, I’m not an artist like my brothers. I am, however, able to think out of the box. I am also somewhat artistic, but not very consistent (which is what makes me not call myself an artist). The result is that many of the things I write are different from what other people would write on any given topic.

2) Thinking from the perspective of my audience

My list of factors for online success is partly personal. Not all of them will apply to everybody who is a success online. This one however is essential to long term (white hat) success, I’m sure: writing or creating for a specific audience.

Sure, the easiest audience to write for is people like yourself. I do that a LOT. It connects to the creativity thing I started out with. When other people write about what the best ten laptops are, I write about what the best lightweight laptop is. Sure there’s keyword research in that, but it started by simply knowing what I wanted out of a laptop: it had to be lightweight.

On the few pages I write where I’m not the prospective audience, my ability to imagine what other people are like kicks in. What would so and so need in this range? Call it empathy, or whatever – but having a feel for your audience is essential. The real pros do research into that sort of thing of course. Sometimes by interviewing people, for instance. Or by really going the extra mile and creating a fictional character (name, sex, marital status, education, hobbies, age, brands etc.) and putting themselves in their shoes: what would they want out of this page, or this site…

The easiest method is, however, creating great content and then measuring what the audience you built for yourself does.

3) Being a decent writer and editor

I’m sure if I’d lived 50 years earlier I’d have started a magazine, or two. I don’t think of myself as a GOOD writer, mainly because I only got mediocre grades at ‘Dutch’ in high school. Funny how long such impressions last, isn’t it? The fact is: I was mediocre because I didn’t dare put my creativity into it. Also, high school writing has the distinct disadvantage of not having an audience. You’re writing for the teacher. Now where’s the fun in that?

The advantage, now that I’m grown up, to never being able to fit in is this: I don’t make stuff that other people also make. Alright, not everything is stellar material, but still: in general my strength is in always having a different perspective from other people writing on that topic.

And yes, I have learned (with the help of spell check) to write without too many spelling mistakes.

4) Quick with a response to any comment

This one is very good for the interactive side of the internet: being able to respond with something sensible quickly. In other circumstances the same trait gets me the label ‘controversial’ or ‘a bother’ or ‘not able to keep the kids in line’. After all, respond to everything teenagers do in a classroom and you’re soon up to your ears in trouble. But online it keeps things lively. Which is good.

This ties into social media of course. On twitter, forums, blogposts – it pays to respond with something valuable quickly. Quickly so it doesn’t take up too much of your time. Valuable because… well there’s that audience thing again.

5) Outspoken

Perhaps not very different from the previous one, but it really is. My quick responses usually aren’t of the ‘thanks for your comment, please come back for more’ type. No, I feel obligated to respond to every innuendo, every mistake, every thing I might disagree with.

Being outspoken means, in my case, that I’m very willing to be controversial if the truth is served by it. And that gets me links, because it means I say things out loud other people are too scared to utter. (I’ve sometimes quoted people anonymously who were just as outspoken in private, but were not willing to stand by their opinions in the easily accessible world of the internet).

Some people are, or so I’ve heard, controversial on purpose: to get links. That’s not me. I merely speak my mind. However, it does pay. Think your favorite columnist: they don’t keep their job by being diplomatic. Aren’t the best political commentators in the USA comedians these days? They combine truth with honesty and a unique perspective. Nothing can beat that.

6) persistence when it comes to fixing important details

SEO may be more of an art than a science, but details are often of critical importance. Things I occasionally obsess about (as in every 6 months or so):

  • Tags (making sure there are no orphan tags on my blogs. Making sure that my tags on Squidoo make my lenses show up on the first page of that tag page in most cases etc.)
  • Titles
  • What sells
  • What drives traffic to my top selling pages
  • Sales pages with a low conversion rate: trying out things to make it better, without making the page worse.
  • Having enough unique content on each page

7 / 8) Willingness to learn

It’s a pity, but unless you’re willing and able to invest in a real designer, you’re just a step ahead of the game if you’re able to build your own blogs.

The willingness to learn extends to: keeping up with SEO blogs to know what the experts think Google is cooking up next.

9) Persistence and patience

I wrote about this factor a lot in my ebook. It took me ten years to get to where I am today. Not a page I made got deleted. The few that got moved got referred from the URL they were to the new one. Why? Because  I care about everything I put online. Just because it only gets 1 visitor a day, or less, doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. That one visitor is important too.

Hey, my dads scientific articles get read by 50 people if he’s lucky. Certainly not more than that. Quantity is no measure of success.

I bite my tongue every time I see someone delete an online account because it doesn’t make them enough. I’m like – don’t you take yourself seriously? Don’t you take your audience seriously?

Anything I put online is there to stay. If it’s up to me, it will stay up there for ever. And it doesn’t make a difference if it makes me a penny or a pound.


If I had to pick one factor that makes the most difference to my success online it’s about putting yourself in your audience’s shoes. Whether it’s by interviewing your spouse, or that girl in the tram, or simply by limiting yourself to writing for an audience just like you. After all: you know what you’d like to see, don’t you? And that’s definitely the first check to put on anything you do online.

One thought on “Factors to my online success, aka: what it takes to make it online”

  1. There is definitely value in the points you have made and of particular note is the one about the audience you write for. One of the mistakes I made early on was in guessing what a potential customer wanted to see on a sales lens, and judging by my early sales, I was often wrong. Someone recently wrote in the SquidU forum that to put yourself into the shopper’s shoes, so to speak, would give you a better idea of what they really want and that my own shopping habits would be a good way to measure that. I don’t think my shopping habits are unique, so if I write sales lenses in a way that I would enjoy shopping on, I am bound to get it right for a good number of customers. I still don’t have all the answers, and due to the ever changing nature of the internet, I suspect I never will, but learning, reading researching figure into a lot of my time online. I think my success so far, albeit small in comparison, is a reflection upon my willingness to learn. Thanks for inspiring more thought with this post. I always find something of value here.

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