Hello and welcome to episode 14 of the ActiveGrowth podcast. In today's episode I will talk about two key factors that helped me start find my way in creating online businesses. Like many people, I floundered around for awhile. Obviously, when I started I had no idea what I was doing, I also have no formal education in anything related to economics or business or anything like that. So yes, I spent some kind of floundering around not knowing what I was doing, but there were two key factors that made a difference to where I started getting some traction.
What I'm going to talk about today is actually from before I started making my own information products which became then, or making my own products in general became my main business and still is. But this is from even before then, so even if you know my story about how I build the products. What I'm talking about here is something that I discovered back in my SEO and niche sites days and that has stayed with me in some form for a long time.
Now just a few quick notes. You can find the show notes for this episode with all the links to anything I mentioned during the episode at activegrowth.com/14. This is also where you can get in touch, you can leave a voice message or leave a comment with any questions or other thoughts or feedback you have about the podcast. That is activegrowth.com/14. Also we are still working on preparing the next content series, so the next deep dive into a critical topic for online entrepreneurs. We're still preparing this, it's taking a little longer than expected.
Of course also, over at Thrive Themes which is my current main business, we've had the Thrive Architect launch which is taking quite a lot of time and resources, well, that's why things have slowed down a little bit here on the ActiveGrowth podcast. But it's in the works and more is coming. Also, links to Thrive Architect if you're not familiar with that, you can also find that at activegrowth.com/14. With that said, let's get into the episode.
Hello, I'm Shane Melaugh, and today like I said, I'm going to talk about two key factors that helped me find my first success, and two factors that I'm seeing a lot of entrepreneurs I work with and talk to could benefit from. Have you ever seen a rock climber who's a really good rock climber and they just kind of elegantly crawl up a wall even if it's like an overhang or sheer cliff or on overhang, with smooth motions, they just kind of almost crawl or almost walk up the walk and make it look so easy, and it make it look like the human body is clearly built to climb things.
But then if you step up to the same wall and try to do the same thing, you can't a grip on anything, you can't even start climbing that wall. That's when you start appreciating how great the level of skill of this climber is. It's only once you see how difficult it is to do this yourself that you see how skilled this climber is. Climbing is just one of many examples. I mean that this is how it works, someone who has great expertise at something makes that thing look easy whether it's maybe dancing. You see a dancer it just looks so elegant, and beautiful, and enjoyable, and then you try it yourself and you're stumbling over your own feet and over your partner's feet, and over the feet of people who are just bystanders and thought they were at the safe distance and it's just a mess, and it's awkward and it's difficult.
That's how it is, people who are great at things make those things look easy. Why do I mention this, why do I bring this up? Because of course it's the same with entrepreneurial skills. One of the reasons that I always emphasize skill building, and I always emphasize techniques, and approaches, and mindsets and so on that are about skill building and, spoiler alert, this episode is about that as well, is because if you're looking at that wall, the best way to get up there easily is to become really good at climbing. The best way to do it is to build that skill, to become excellent.
Conversely, there's no better way, and there's really no other way, there's no shortcut ... Maybe dancing is a better example here. The way to become really good at dancing is to become really good at dancing is to acquire that skill and there's no shortcut past that, and neither should there be, there's no point in trying to shortcut that somehow.
That's what I see with entrepreneurs quite a lot, we are always looking for that quick fix, we're always looking for the way around the skills. As I've talked about in a previews episode, and a link to that below, is this is one of the reasons why we do things a bit differently at ActiveGrowth. We take these deep dives and ... Really, what I'm doing here is another example of that, I'm going to talk about more skill building mindset stuff even though I've already talked about skill mindset stuff in many videos and many podcast episodes. It's because we go against the grain.
In general, human crave new and exciting stimuli, we want new things. That's why on the typical podcast you have different guest every week, or maybe everyday, and a different topic, and a different hot tip of the day, of the moment, and then you can consume that and you can move on, and consume the next thing and so on. But this doesn't lead to the kind of expertise where you'll be doing something and making it look easy.
That's basically what I'm trying to help you do, I'm trying to turn you, to help you become that amazingly skilled climber, that amazingly skilled dancer that makes things look easy. This is exactly what it comes down to for me, is entrepreneurial skill. In fact, entrepreneurial skill is quite difficult because where many skill are ... The climbing is, sure, a complex physical skills, but it's actually quite limited in scope, there's not much diversity to climbing skill compared to entrepreneurial skills.
Because the way to do it as an entrepreneur is to become good at creating great offers, understanding markets, understanding demand, becoming good at how to frame and offer copywriting. You have to have some basic knowledge of how to create a website, how to create landing pages, how to make those landing pages effective, how to make people want to engage with you, want to sign up, want to buy. As you keep growing there's more technical stuff, and it also becomes about hiring, and leadership and all these kinds of stuff. It's actually a hugely wide range of skills that you must master to become a really good entrepreneur. I think skill building is especially important in our field, and ironically it's a specialty overlooked, in favor, it's especially overlooked in favor of imaginary shortcuts.
What I'm talking about today is also about this, it's also about the first steps I took to building my own entrepreneurial skills and the two factors that made a difference here. The two factors are, the first is focus, and the second is experimentation. Focus and experimentation. The first one is pretty simple, focus, we've talked about this before. If you haven't listened to that yet there's an episode about bright shiny object syndrome which is the entrepreneurial opposite of focus. If you haven't listened to that yet it's our most popular episode to date, so if you haven't listened to it yet go check it out, I'll link to it in the show notes as well.
I won't go into great detail because we have gone into great detail about why you need to focus on strategies, to focus on all these kinds of stuff in previous episode. The basic idea was that at some point during my floundering around I was looking into all of these different online business and online marketing things, at some point I settled on SEO, I settled on search engine optimization. There was no particular reason for this, I man I was just interested in it, but at some point I decided this is what I was going to do, this is what I was going to specialize in basically, and that made a big difference.
Because before that I was trying all kinds of things, I was jumping from one thing to the next, I was buying different courses, different eBooks and so on, and everything have the potential to distract me from whatever I was doing right now. So basically, bright shiny object syndrome. It's really that moment where I decided, "Okay, I wanna, I wanna figure this SEO thing out, I wanna get good at this." That helped me remove a lot of this distraction and actually start making progress.
The big problem with distraction is you're always jumping around between different things, even if you're making great efforts, you're never actually moving forward. It's like you're constantly changing direction. You're running, you're running as hard as you can but you're constantly changing direction randomly, so overall, you more or less stay in the same place. No matter how hard you run you can't solve this problem by running harder but by making more of an effort. You're basically always more or less staying in the same place because you're constantly changing direction.
This was the thing that helped me, is that I just decided, "Okay, SEO is the thing, this is what I wanna get good at." I decided from then on, what an important factor here is the information diet essentially. From then on I would ignore information that wasn't related to SEO and I wouldn't read non-SEO blogs or non-SEO books or whatever else came along. That's really helpful, that helps focus and it gives this direction. From then on I was basically running or walking in more cases, in one consistent direction, building skills and knowledge about SEO.
Like I said, I chose SEO not for any particular reason, I could've chosen many other things. I couldn't have chosen let's say PPC advertising because I didn't have enough money to put into that to gain the skills needed, but there are many other things that I could have gone into and could have focused on instead. The reason I say this is because I think it's not important that you find the right thing or the perfect thing to focus on, I think what's important is that you focus on something. There are many options that are viable, so pick one and start walking in that direction and not the others. So much for focus, that's fairly straightforward.
The second point is very important as well, and that is experimentation. I went into this with a mindset of experimenting. For example, I had niche sites and I've built many different niche sites, so part of my process was to do keyword research and I'd find different keywords in whatever niches I could find them in. Then I would build niche sites and start putting content on there, and then I would start building links to that content and there will be some form of affiliate promotions. I had some AdSense websites and, in some cases I would have like product reviews for affiliate products and stuff like that.
Basically, I built up several such niche sites, and all of these niche sites had many different pages, each page would target a different keyword. I basically had a large volume of different pages, different sites, different niches, and different keywords I was going after. This is important because my mindset was always like, "Let's see what happens if." My mindset was I'm gathering data to find out about SEO. It's like, "Okay, let's what happen, what happens if I use this link building method on these pages over here, and then another link building method on some other pages over there, and then watch the rank tracking over time." Rank tracking was really important. I would track my progress in organic rankings for these pages.
Because there's always a randomness factor, I knew that I can't just have one page and one keyword, and then create one type of link, and if my rank goes up that worked, and if it goes down, it didn't work, because there's always some random movement. So I knew that I need more data, I knew that I have to ... If I'm testing a link building strategy, specific strategy, I have to test that on different websites, different pages for different keywords. I have to get more data points before I can really know is this a good link building method or not.
This is really helpful because the mindset of experimentation I think makes you more productive and it makes you less nervous about each individual step. Even if we just take the example of having multiple different niche sites with multiple keywords, multiple promotion methods and so on, if you have just one website, if you find like on little set of keywords, and one niche, and one product you can promote, and then you build one website and that's all you focus on, then everything you do there becomes so important, because you have to do it right, it's your only website, it's your only chance to make this work.
It's like, "This article I'm writing for this keyword has to be perfect, it has to be perfectly optimized, I have to find the exact perfect domain for this keyword" and so on. It becomes this pressure because you're doing the one thing that it has to be perfect, it has to work. Having the experimentation mindset take that pressure off. So I never have this, it was always like, "Okay, over here is a site, I do some stuff here. Over there is a site, I do some stuff there" and so on.
I think here's a key to this and why I am telling you about this pair of principles, focus and experimentation. What I'm saying now is I'm doing different things, in different ways, on different sites, is potentially distracting again. It's potentially something where I spread myself too thin and I don't accomplish anything anymore, and that's why focus is an important part of this.
If you go in with only the experimentation mindset without focus, you're like, "Okay, over here I'm trying a PPC campaign. Over there I'm doing some SEO. Over here I'm doing some outreach. Over there I'm doing something else", then you have the same problem again where you're doing all of these stuff but you're not actually making any progress. It's really the combination of these two things that is the key to making it work.
I was doing different things, and I was gathering data from different data points and so on, but it was all focused on building links to these pages in order to get them ranked organically. It was all focused on SEO. This is the reason why I'm presenting this as a pair of principles only taken together does this work. This experimentation mindset, this makes things easier in many ways, and there's something related here, there's something related to Parkinson's law.
Parkinson's law states that any task will expand to fill the time allotted for it. There's something related here to the way you work and whether you have an experimentation mindset or not. Let me give you an example. If you have a blog, you have a website you have a blog and you tell yourself, "Okay, I want to publish one blog post this month", then the task of publishing that one blog post this month becomes a huge task, and it would probably take you a month or so to do that.
Again, because it's like this only thing, it looms large in your mind, it's something that you can put yourself under a lot of pressure to try and get that right and it can become quite intimidating. Because it's like this one blog post this month, I mean it has to be good, it has to be really good blog post, people have to love it, they have to share it, it has to be well optimized for some keyword and so on and so forth. However, if you tell yourself, "Okay, what I wanna do is this month I want to release a new online course, but also while I'm working on that course I wanna make sure that I still publish at least one post a week."
Now, the idea of publishing a blog post has shrunk down to a much smaller task because it's something you're doing on the side of the really important thing you're doing and you've got one week for it. The thing is if you do a blog post a week on the side next to your main project, those blog posts aren't necessarily going to be worse than if you take a whole month to just do one blog post and nothing else. In fact, I think in many cases it was just as good or even better. If you're skeptical about those blog posts actually being better, check out my video on the 89% rule where I explained that is.
So it takes the pressure of, and if you have larger things to do, if you have larger projects you're pursuing, it can shrink other projects, it can shrink your work. This is also something that the experimentation mindset helps with because you're going, "Okay, I'm trying out a bunch of stuff and I have to have many data points." So I'm just going to produce, I'm going to focus on shipping which is of course very, very important. That's another advantage of the experimentation mindset.
Finally, I think what's also really important is that when you're experimenting, then the information that something doesn't work is just as valuable and just as interesting as the information that something does work. With SEO and link building, if you have your one page, you're doing your one things, you're doing one kind of SEO link building method, you have kind of everything invested in that, you're hoping, "This has to work, this has to work.
Maybe, "I bought this course about how to do link building and following this strategy for my one website, and this just has to work. If this doesn't work then I've wasted my money on this course, and then I don't know what to do next, I don't know what to do else. This is ... Everything is riding on this." Whereas in the experimentation mindset you go, "Okay, I'm trying these five different things and I'm gathering data, and some of that data is this works, some of the data is this doesn't work, some of the data is this is inconclusive." All of that is interesting.
Information about what doesn't work makes you better at what you do, it tells you what you can focus on and what you can ignore. It is useful to get essentially negative feedback or negative data if you think of it from the standpoint of experimenting, and building your skill and building your knowledge. This is the combination of focus and an experimenting mindset took me from my time of floundering around in online marketing and not knowing what I was doing and not really getting any results, to getting results very quickly actually.
Once I started doing this, I built up a really good base of knowledge about SEO, and I also built up some income from these sites I was doing all these experiments on in a matter of just a few months. It was ... actually I don't know the exact timeline not anymore but it was only about a year later that I released my course about SEO because through all this experimentation and this focus, I've built so much skill that I started having people ask me about this, and people ask me to do an SEO course.
Because from by blog content they could see that I really knew about this topic. Really if you look at it like that, it made a huge difference. I know that there are people who are kind of floundering and treading water for years at a time, so to make significant noticeable progress in just a few months is really a huge [inaudible 00:20:47]. I do believe that without focus and experimentation, this would not have happened. So that's the history of how I discovered this principles, and of course this is still with me now, I still do this, I still apply focus and entrepreneurial mindset to what I do.
First of all, let me get something out of the way. If you're wondering, "Okay, so what is my SEO technique, what is my keyword research method? It doesn't exist anymore." I did this stuff back when SEO was very different, and I don't think that much of the stuff I learned there would still be applicable or still matter today. What I do now is that I don't do any SEO, I don't do any SEO work at all. If you're wondering, "That's doesn't seem right. Like how can you not do any SEO and also not do any social media really, and you still have a business that works online. What the hell?" If you're wondering about that there's also a post or a video about that that I will link to from the show notes.
After my time doing SEO stuff, I started focusing on product creation, and I really focused on how to create and deliver really high quality products and product experiences online. First, in the form of information product, and I focused on how to basically be a better teacher, how do I explain things well and how to just use different forms of media and presentation and so on online to really get information across as effectively as possible. This is something that has stayed with me, this is something I'm still very interested in, and I think it's a very useful skill in many ways, basically communication and teaching skills, very useful. That's been a focus ever since.
As I said, entrepreneurial skills are varied, and as a business grows, I found myself shoved in to many different roles. So my focus has changed over time quite a lot, but because I do apply focus I can make progress in burst. An example of this is that about two years ago I noticed that we had a real problem with usability and user interfaces in our product, and so I spent a few months really focusing on that and learning about user interfaces and usability to the degree where I could be a better judge of what we were doing, and I could set up maybe some systems by which we can optimize our user interfaces and so on.
I apply focus like this in relatively short burst which is my other point about this, is that yes, as an entrepreneur, you will be pulled in different directions, and you do have to be good at more than one thing. But you end up making much faster progress by focusing in short burst, get good at something over the period of a few weeks or a few months, and then switch to the next thing. That's how you can build up that skill much more effectively than if you try to do five things and get better at five things in parallel.
With that said, I would be really interested to know whether this resonates with you and whether you've maybe experienced the same kind of thing. I like you to think about how can you apply this. I think focus is fairly obvious, how you can apply that, but how can you apply the experimentation mindset to what you do? Maybe this experimentation mindset could help you get unstuck, maybe it's something that would help you overcome perfectionism if you do procrastination but perfectionism. Maybe it's something that can really help you see things in a different perspective, and make progress, and move forward much much faster.
I'd like to know your thoughts about this. In your business, can you see opportunities where you could apply focus and experimentation to make progress? I'd love to hear from you so leave a comment by going to activegrowth.com/14 where you can leave a voice message or a written comment.
All right, so to wrap this up once again, you can go to activegrowth.com/14 to get the show notes for this episode, you can also find the transcript there and all the links of the things I've mentioned during this episode. There's two more things I want to quickly mention. The first is if you enjoy the ActiveGrowth podcast, if you get value out of this, then you can help us by recommending it to a friend. Do you know anyone who could benefit from the kind of stuff we talk about here? Anyone who can benefit from the topics we've covered or even from the course that we've added as a free course with our last series. Just send them a quick email, a quick message, link them to our podcast and ask them to have a list.
If you do it it means a lot to me. If this is valuable enough for you to recommend it to someone, and it's also something that helps us of course grow and reach more people which would be wonderful. Second, I want to read another iTunes review, we got some great iTunes reviews and one of them is from Michelle from the United States. She says exactly what I needed to hear. I'm a huge fan of Shane and Hanne and I like Thrive Themes. These episodes help me focus on smaller goals and actually get stuff done. I've really felt depressed and lame because I'm not being productive, forgiving myself and focusing on who can use my info is huge. I want to create good stuff without hype, and this podcast let me take a breath, smile, and use my [inaudible 00:26:27] how I honestly want to. Thank you both for creating my solution to my BS that I couldn't even recognize myself.
Thank you very much for this review Michelle, this means a lot to me. Seeing that the stuff we talk about really gets through to people and makes a difference, that is wonderful so thank you thank you very much for this review. If you also want to leave a review that also helps the podcast of course, so you can head over to iTunes, you can also go to activegrowth.com/itunes and that takes you to the iTunes page where you can also leave a review. Thank you very much for your support, thanks for listening and I'll catch you in the next one.