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Ok, so I’m being asked a lot lately how I got into the whole internet marketing scene, so I figured I might as well write a blog post about it. I’m not a big fan of writing… so I’m going to make this as “to the point” as possible for both my benefit and yours, since I’m assuming you probably don’t enjoy reading fluff. So here goes.
After I graduated college in 2001, I Worked in an IT department for a company in Batesville, IN called Batesville Casket Company. I worked there for around a year or so. As some of you probably know, working in an IT department is very much like the movie “Office Space”.
I would actually work for about an hour each day and then have 7 hours to either stare at the computer screen OR surf the web. I’ve always been interested in figuring out new ways to make money, so I found myself searching online for all sorts of “make money” type ideas/programs etc.
I came across some eBay selling course and bought it for about 20 bucks.
Read through it and it motivated me to start selling things on eBay. Instead of selling junk from home, I searched through eBay looking for small items that people were selling. Not “junk items”, but “new items”. Things that I assumed they bought wholesale from somewhere and then sold them directly on eBay. Buy low, sell high. Back then, there was a section on eBay that was free, where you could actually see what any item actually sold for. Doing this, I could get a good idea on how much I could afford to pay for something wholesale, in order to sell “high” on eBay and make a profit.
Through my research while at my day job, I came across a couple of things that people were selling for much higher than what I could get them wholesale for. I tried to look for small items like sports cards, or electronic devices etc. Stuff that could easily be shipped, but could be sold for a decent amount.
I remember one of the items I sold was a diet pill called Trim Spa for around $24.95 and could buy them for like $4.95 a piece, in bulk.
I sold a few computer programs as well. I could buy them in bulk somewhere and then sell for slightly higher on eBay at the time. I made a decent amount of extra money at the time, doing this. It wasn’t any crazy amount, by any means, but was enough to wet my appitite to learn more about making money online. I think I’d make an extra $200/week or something.
The guys at the post office knew me by name after a few months because every day after work, I would stop by the post office to ship out the things I sold on eBay that day.
I eventually got tired of going to the post office, so I searched for other ways to make money online. I came across an eBook called “The Garage Sale Cookbook”.
It was about a 50 page eBook on how to make money with garage sales. It sold for only $9.95 or something. I bought it. During the buying process, I was fascinated with how the author of the book did absolutely nothing and they delivered the eBook to me, AND make 10 bucks… all automatically. I thought, man, that’s much easier than listing stuff on eBay. Packaging up the stuff. Then going to the post office every single day. I contacted the lady that sold me the eBook and asked her where she learned to sell eBooks on the internet.
The next day, she actually replied to me. I was amazed that this “famous person” actually replied. I mean, she wrote an eBook! Anyway, she told me that she would recommend a course called “Internet Marketing Secrets Revealed” by Corey Rudl.
I clicked on the link she gave me (which was her affiliate link. I didn’t know at the time, but I forgive her. hehe) and it directed me to the course. I read the sales page and read all of the testimonials. It sounded amazing, but the price was something like $250, which was ALOT of money for someone that had a day job, to spend on a course for anything. Later that night, I went back to the website and bought it.
It was hard for me to stomach losing $250, but I was confident that I would make it back soon. About 3 days later, I got the course. I remember getting home from work that day and sitting on our couch (which was the dorm room couch my wife had in college) and read the entire 2 binders. All in 1 sitting! I was amazed.
The next day, after work, I went straight to following the things outlined in the book. I decided to write an eBook on “weight loss”, since I knew that was a big market and something I knew a lot about. I had never struggled with losing weight, but was always into health and fitness.
With the course I bought to teach me how to make an ebook and sell it online etc, came a couple of eBooks teching internet marketing. These eBooks were really fancy. They’d been created in Flash and weren’t basic PDF eBooks. At the time, I thought that since they made their eBooks in Flash, that’s what I should do. So… I went to Barnes and Nobles and purchased a book teaching me how to program in Flash. Looking back… that was just plain stupid. But I didn’t know at the time. So, I read the book and built a Flash application that had all of my weight loss information in it. It was FAR from amazing. Not only was it ugly, but it was just plain hard to navigate through and read stuff. I feel sorry for the people that bought the eBook early on.
Here it is in all its glory
I eventually came to my senses and just made it a PDF eBook, which is what anyone with a sane mind should do.
I then went to Clickbank.com to see what other “weight loss” related sales pages looked like.
I had no idea how to write sales copy. The #1 ranked eBook in the health and fitness category was something called “Ultimate Weight Loss Secrets”. Nice name
So, I went to the site and basically copied their overall layout (i.e. headline at the top, subhead below, the “from: brad callen” section, and so on). Ok, now that my site was up, I had to figure out how to get people to the site. The course told me about something called ‘search engine optimization’. Obviously that means get your site ranked high in the search engines by doing stuff. I had no idea at the time. So, I did what the book told me to do. One of them was to get other websites to link to yours, while you link back to them. (i.e. reciprocal linking).
I figured if I could rank at the top of Google for the term “Weight Loss”, I’d be RICH!
So, I set out to get a bazillion links from other sites. My average day would go like this. Wake up. Drive to work. Work on my real job for about an hour. Do reciprocal linking for the other 7. When I got home, I’d respond to all of the link request replies I got and would MANUALLY add these people’s links to my site, since they showed me they linked to me. This would take another 1-2 hours each night after I got home.
… and keep in mind, I’m doing all of this on a dial-up internet connection, and we only had 1 phone line! haha… Our phone was busy ALL the time.
Slowly, I started seeing my website move up in Google’s ranking for every single term I tried to optimize for. The terms were:
lose weight fast
weight loss program
weight loss tips
weight loss exercises
Basically, all I did to choose to optimize for these words was to use the Overture search term suggestion tool and I just picked the top 6 most searched words. DO NOT do that! You should be optimizing for “buyer keywords”, not “browser keywords”, which is what all 6 of those were.
Anyway, after about 6-8 months of doing this, I was #1 for every single one of those keywords! Except for “weight loss”, in which I was #2 (sometimes #3). Now, how crazy is that?
See below. CLICK them to view the full size image.
I was beating out sites like jennycraig.com, lafitness.com, and all of those multi-million dollar companies, and I was doing it on a dial-up internet connection from our tiny Duplex we lived in!
Also, so I was getting a ton of traffic. I’d say it was up to close to 20,000 visitors a day JUST from Google searches. At my eBook’s peak, I was making about $7,000 every two weeks in profit from my dinky little $24.95 eBook. My weight loss eBook, titled “Ultimate Weight Loss Revealed” rose to #1 in Clickbank’s Health and Fitness category for a short period of time. By the way, I basically combined the name of the weight loss eBook I was mirroring it’s marketing, in combination with the internet marketing course I bought. I wasn’t and am still not the most creative guy in the world
My sales conversion on my site was awful, but I didn’t care. I remember sitting at our tiny kitchen table with a calculator and figuring out how many eBooks I’d have to sell to make enough money to quit my full-time job. (creating backend products never crossed my mind).
Alright, so at this point, I’m still working my full-time job in an IT department, but am basically doing link exchanges all day long from my office. I’d quickly close the link exchange program whenever my boss or someone “important” came in. I’ve never really been wired to work for someone else.
A little side note: I’d ALWAYS take anywhere from an hour and a half, to a 2 hour lunch break. I’d always get into work at 8:15 instead of 8:00, and always leave slightly before 5:00. I suppose that’s not a good thing, but I have always looked for ways to shortcut having to do something that I didn’t want to do. And I knew that working those extra minutes wouldn’t benefit my family at all. I’d still get paid the same salary, no matter how much or hard I worked. I admit, now, that’s really a very good mindset to have, but goes to show I’ve never really been cut out to be an employee.
Ok, at this point, a good friend of mine from work had moved about 3 hours away to take a new job as a consultant for another company. This made my days at my current job even longer. Several months went by and I kept on making progress in the search engines. I started getting #1 ranking in Yahoo and MSN for those same keywords mentioned earlier. I wasn’t learning much about marketing, but was learning ALOT about search engine optimization. I spent a very large amount of my time in 1 specific SEO forum (SEOChat.com). I haven’t visited that forum in a long time, but it was very helpful back in the day.
Alright, so months went by and I was getting even more sick of my current job and the area I was living in at the time. It was in a small town about 35 minutes from where I grew up. WAY too close and too familiar with where I’d been my entire life (except throughout college).
The friend that moved to the North side of Indiana gave me a call and said that the company he was working for was looking to expand and hire another person. He told me the pay would be higher and I would now be a consultant. To make a long story short, I decided to take the job. My wife and I packed our bags and moved up to the North side of Indiana. About 3 hours away from our previous home. Before we could move into our new home, we had to live in an Extended Stay America for 2 full weeks. Whew… that was a long time to live in, what is basically a hotel room with a tiny kitchen.
During this time, I used my amazing MSN dial up internet connection to run my “internet business” (i.e. my linking campaigns and sell my weight loss eBook). I’d work at my new day job during the day and then work my internet business during the evenings.
Finally, the 2 weeks were up and we were able to move into our new, 1200 square foot home. Man, it seemed HUGE at the time. And it was compared to the tiny little hotel room we’d been living in for 2 weeks. I decided to upgrade from a 56k dial up connection to a cable internet connection. It was never offered at our previous home, since we lived in such a small town.
Now with my upgraded cable access, I knew I could build the business even bigger. At this point, I honestly was pretty darn good at getting top search engine rankings. Afterall, I used absolutely no other methods of generating traffic. It was 100% SEO focused. I’d built many online friendships and/or aquaintances over the year or so I’d spent online to date.
One of these friends was someone that owned another weight loss related website that competed directly with me. We spoke a lot about helping each other out with link exchanges and cross promotions. I specifically remember one email conversation where she told me she was getting out of the “weight loss niche” and moving into something else. She told me she found a programmer to create some sort of program for her, based on her specs (i.e. her instructions). She told me the name of the website was rentacoder.com and all you had to do was post your idea and people from all over the world would “bid on” your project.
You could then select a programmer and they’d create your product for you. WOW! That opened my eyes to a whole new world of opportunities. I’d always had no problem coming up with ideas, but most were beyond my intelligence level… which was clearly evident in my attempt to create a Flash style weight loss eBook!
Ok, so armed with this new found knowledge I opened up my trusty Microsoft Word program and began writing specs for a software product that I needed created for myself. Remember, at this time I was still doing constant link exchanges with other websites… to get ranked higher in Google.
The problem was, once I got another website to link to me, I would add their link to my site… and then “hope” they never removed my link from their site later. If they removed my link from their site, I would have no way of knowing. I’d still be helping them out by linking to them from my site, but they would no longer be helping me if they removed my link. I didn’t think that was a fair deal, which it wasn’t… but I was stuck to just hoping they were honest.
So, I wrote some specs out for someone to create a program to help me monitor whether my link partners were holding up their end of the deal and keeping my link on their site forever.
After I finished writing up the specs, I set out to post the project on rentacoder.com. After about 4 days, there were a ton of people that had bid on the project. I picked the person I thought would do the best job, based on their coder rating given by the site.
Side note: This programmer is my lead programmer and is still working with me full-time to this very day (7 years later!)
Anyway, this person went on to program what I instructed them to create. A program that would keep track of and monitor whether or not my link partners were still linking back to me. I’ll never forget that first time I ran the program and found out that over 50% of the people I linked to had removed my link from their site. Sheesh…
So, what did I do? I manually removed their link from my site… and, at the time, that greatly increased my own ranking just by doing that. Very cool. My first program idea was working! Now, I thought, if this is working for me, I know it would work for others. Plus, I also wanted to move out of the “weight loss niche” and thought it was very fun and exciting to create software products.
Side note: In order to sell software products, I figured I should probably come up with a company name and get incorporated. I remember sitting at the PC, talking to my programmer and trying to come up with a company name to put inside the software product. I came up with Bryxen Software. The Br came from Brad, and I just thought the yxen sounded cool. Yeah, very professional. What do you expect from a guy that had only been online for a couple of years and had never owned a company before? hehe…
In order to sell the product I’d just created, I needed a salesletter. I also needed graphics and a way to accept payments. Over the time I sold my weight loss eBook, I learned about some important resources…
The first was who to go to for really good mini-site designs. At the time, the best person was Max Rylski at http://www.maxcovers.com . (I don’t know if he’s still taking on work these days or not. I’ve not worked with him in a long long time, but he did great work for me way back in the day).
In order for Max to create the design, I needed to tell him the name of the program.
We came up with the name: Link Proctor . Sounds so exciting, right? Remember, I’m not very creative (i.e. Ultimate Weight Loss Revealed and Bryxen Software)
So, I went to Max and he created the minisite design for me.
Next, I needed good salescopy written. I had written my own salescopy originally for my weight loss eBook, but eventually hired a copywriter to redo my crappy copy and increase conversions. The guy I used to redo my weight loss eBook salescopy was a guy named Mike Jezek. I haven’t talked to Mike in years. Probably 6+ years from the time of this writing. And that is AGES in terms of internet speed.
Anyway, I went to Mike again and asked him if he could write the salescopy for my new software product. He said yes.
Lastly, I needed to accept payments for the software. For my weight loss eBook I used Clickbank.com to accept payments. That and paypal were the only 2 ways I knew of. I went with Clickbank again and chose the clickbank username: bryxen1. I figured if I ever created more products down the road, I could just increase the number on the end.
Side note: I think we’re up to something like bryxen17 now
Alright… So, now that I had my graphics all set up. I had my sales letter written and had a way to accept payments, I could now sell the software.
I chose a price point for the software at $67. That was 3 times the price I sold my weight loss eBook for. If I could make about $14,000/month selling a weight loss eBook, I figured I could make MUCH more selling something for $67.
I figured I could try Google Adwords now that I was selling a higher priced product. I had a higher margin of money to work with and lose before I broke even.
I set up my first Adwords campaign and by the end of the day had made 2 sales! I think I spent about $10 and made over $120! Wow, I thought that was amazing. Well, that didn’t last for long because the next day I made 0 sales… and the next, 0 sales… I let the campaign run and I think I made maybe 1 sale every couple of days. I was making money from it, so I just let it run (and it’s still running to this day, 6+ years later!)
… but 1 sale every other day isn’t the kind of money that’ll let you quit your full-time job. Yes, I was making as much money online (weight loss ebook + software sales) as I was with my full-time job, but the majority of it came from free search engine traffic… and I knew I didn’t want to let my fait lie in someone else’s hands (i.e. Google).
So, I set out to learn more about Google Adwords. I knew that Adwords was a very consistent, predictable was to get traffic and make sales. I figured if I could make the bulk of my sales with Adwords, I would be more comfortable with quitting my day job.
I bought Perry Marshall’s Adwords course. I remember getting it in the mail and going through it while taking hand written notes on my legal pad. I learned a ton about Adwords. How to find profitable keywords. How to “peel and stick” and all of the other thinbgs Perry taught in the course.
I put into practice what I’d learned and it bumped my sales up. I was now making a couple of sales a day with Adwords. So, about $120 profit each day, solely from Adwords.
I then started doing some banner advertising on the SEO forum I’d become very active in over the years. Most of the people there knew me. I became fairly close acquaintances with the people in charge of selling ad space on SEOChat. She gave a me a pretty good banner rate, so I went with it. I started making pretty good sales from that 1 banner ad. I think I paid them about $2,000/month, but was bringing in atleast double that each month for several months.
Next, I tried out solo ezine ads. I got a membership to DirectoryofEzines.com and started advertising in each of the ezines. I made some more sales from there, and was building a customer list, without really even knowing it.
I think about 6 months went past and we started getting a lot of feature requests for Link Proctor. So many, in fact, that the name really wouldn’t make any sense if we added these other SEO related features. Remember, the only purpose of the software, originally, was to monitor whether your link partners were still linking back to you.
I loved it. I decided to change the name. I figured that over time, people would forget Link Proctor even existed and it wouldn’t be a big deal. So… you tell me, have you ever heard of the name Link Proctor and did you know that is essentially version 1 of SEO Elite?
Time went on and I started learning more about marketing. I learned how to write good sales copy. How to properly do joint ventures. How to use all major ppc engines… Adwords, Overture, Enhance, Miva.
I can’t remember all that happened during this time, but I was reading everything I could get my hands on. Sales of SEO Elite continued to rise because we paid very close attention to our customers and actually gave them what they wanted (wow, what a novel idea).
Then something very business changing took place for me. John Reese released his Traffic Secrets course. I can’t remember exactly what year this was in, but I’m sure many of you remember it, or have heard about it. John did 1 million dollars in sales in 1 day. This was completely unheard of at the time. I bought the course. While I can honestly say that the first time I watched it, there was nothing incredibly jaw dropping in it (probably because what he teaches are extremely sound principles that will work forever. Not the flashy ‘get rich quick tactics’ many teach), I can say that one of the things I put into action from the course completely changed the way I do business.
And that was email marketing. Up to this time, I had NEVER built an email list. Just think how many people I’d have on my weight loss email list, had I collected email addresses while I was getting 20,000+ visitors per day for a year! I’m still kicking myself for that.
John taught in his course that the best way to build an email list was by giving away a free eCourse. A 7-day eCourse where you send 1 GOOD lesson per day for 7 days. Then, on the final day, it’s ok to sell whatever it is you’re wanting to sell. It’s very important to give give and give FIRST, before you ever ask for anything in return.
So, I went to work, again… and wrote a 7 day mini-course on how to optimize your website and get higher search engine rankings (The one you’re reading now is a completely redone and updated version of that original course. I recently updated everything from scratch, including adding videos, adding all the new tips/strategies I’ve learned, and new graphics etc so the course is 100% relevant to TODAY and not 5 years ago).
I wrote them as detailed as I could, teaching exactly what I personally did to get my high Google rankings I could pretty much get whenever I wanted. Once the course was done, I had Max from maxcovers.com create me a nice looking eBook cover image.
I created a web page and put an aweber.com optin form on the page. Next, I went back to the SEO forum I’d built good repoir with and told the members there that I wrote a guide teaching people how I get my top rankings. Back then, not many people were using optin forms and people didn’t really see it as a way to build an email list. They just saw it as me giving away great information for free and that I was delivering it to them via email.
I think I built an email list of about 1,000 or so just through that single forum post! If you were to do that now, it probably wouldn’t go over too well, because people are too accustomed to these optin forms, or “namesqueeze pages” that people call them these days.
I also placed a popup on my sales page for SEO Elite where visitors could optin to get the free eCourse. If you go to the site now, you’ll still see I’m giving away a free course. Although the course has been updated over time, I’m still building an email list this way.
This 1 list building strategy has transformed my business from a “money maker” to a long term “business”, because I now have an asset. I can contact the friends (i.e. email list) I’ve built over the years and teach and help them more over time. The more I help, the more money they’ll make, and the more money they’ll have to buy more from me, to help them more. Win/win.
If you’re not building a list this way now, do it. It will change the way you do business.
Ok… now, at this point I think I’m bringing in about 2 times more money online than I am with my “real-life” job. SEO Elite is going well. Link exchanges are still very powerful and helpful.
I decided to create another product, but it would be a free product, mainly for SEO Elite users, since they had requested something like this. It was basically a website where users could find others users to do link exchanges. I had my lead programmer create the site based on my specs.
We decided to name it PageRankCity.com, because the idea was that the more links you got, the higher your page rank would be, and the higher your search engine rank would be.
Right before we launched it, I decided to change the name to something without the words “page rank”. I knew Google tended to be sticklers when it came to using their trademarked terms. So, my wife came up with the name LinkMetro.com, which I thought sounded cooler anyway
We released the site. It was a major hit. Tons of people began signing up and using it. It was a great resource for people wanting to exchange links, and it was completely free. It did involve some tedious tasks, but was much easier than doing everything without the website.
Through this, I built a bigger email list and following.
We then decided to automate the link trading process even more. We created a paid version of LinkMetro that would automate everything users previously did manually. It was a very very cool system in its day. We charged $19.95/month for access to the paid version. It was a hit.
At it’s highest point, LinkMetro was bringing in about $27,000/month on 100% complete auto-pilot. A user would pay to upgrade and would get access to everything almost instantly. I would do nothing and just receive Paypal payments each day. It was a very slick system.
At this point, I am still working my full-time day job.
Next, I decided to create another software program. Because I’d been doing a ton of keyword research, and pay per click marketing now, I knew it inside and out. There were keyword programs out there that just didn’t do anything anywhere near what I’d wanted, or had done manually for a long time.
I spent the next month writing out specs for a keyword and pay per click program. This might be my favorite part of internet marketing I love creating things that make things easier and faster. I showed the specs to my programmer(s) and about 6 months later Keyword Elite was created! I was very very proud of this product, as it was extremely unique and encapsulated everything I knew about making money with keyword research and ppc. Now that the product was created, I needed to lay out the marketing strategy and get the salescopy written and so on…
All the way up to this point, I had STILL been working my full-time day job. My day job consisted of me sitting in a cubicle working on my internet marketing business while “working for” the company that was paying me my salary. I literally did absolutely nothing for this company for a good 8 months! Seriously, they gave me absolutely no work to do and didn’t seem to mind at all. It was the strangest place I’ve ever worked. Everyone in our office just surfed the web and screwed around all day. A pretty fun job, to be honest… but not very fullfilling.
Anyway, after Keyword Elite was finished, I remember having a meeting with my boss and telling her that I’d decided to move on and work full-time on my own business. I was very nice with her and told her that the internet was my true passion and I wanted to follow my passion. She was pretty shocked, yet nice about things, and said she had no idea I had been building an internet business while working for them. So, that was my 2 week notice.
On my last official day at work, I remember sitting in my cubicle when my boss came up to me and said: “Brad, we’ve been monitoring your internet usage and your usage is 50x higher than the next highest person in the company. Would you mind kind of lowering that this last day please?” haha… That was just classic
After my final day of work, I was so incredibly excited. I no longer had a boss AND I was about to launch a product that I was extremely proud of.
The next few weeks, I’d gotten all of the marketing stuff in place and we launched Keyword Elite to the world. We did about $550,000 in gross sales from that launch. I got a 2 week pay check from Clickbank for about half of that. Pretty cool!
Click to view bigger size
At this point, I had read literally thousands of online AND offline marketing books. Listened to, I don’t even know how many teleseminars, and watched so many DVDs, my brain hurt. Any spare second I had, I’d be either reading, listening or watching marketing. I’d wake up and go for a run each morning while listening to a teleseminar on my mp3 player. I’d go to Subway and eat lunch in my car while listening to some audio of something. OR, I’d bring the food back home and watch a DVD course while eating. I’d read stuff while on my PC during the day. At night, I’d listen to a teleseminar while laying in bed.
I was truly obsessed and loved it. I hadn’t met any of the big name internet marketers face to face, but could probably recite everything any of them ever said during a seminar or teleseminar There were certain teleseminars that I could literally recite almost word for word while they were playing on the mp3 player.
The next several years were full of more learning, as well as creating more software programs and writing eBooks and courses.
and more… (got tired of writing)
We even created our first physical product called The SEO Mindset Home Study course, which is a series of CD-Roms with video showing how I landed #1 positions in Google for a ton of popular keywords. Plus a 120+ page manual. From one of the courses I’d read, I had learned that disk.com was an excellent place to have physical products created and shipped, and we’ve been using them ever since.
And this brings us to the present day… I’m sitting here in my shorts and t-shirt, in our office directly above an Edward Jones financial office… looking out of the big window in front of me and enjoying every single day. Now, if I want to take a 2, 3, heck… 5+ hour lunch I can… and not feel guilty about it!
I can wear what I want, whenever I want.
Side note about this. The other day, the owner from the Edward Jones financial office below us came up to introduce himself. He was dressed up nicely in his full suit and had a briefcase in hand. Super nice guy. Anyway, after we spoke he said “Wow, I wish I had your job and got to wear jeans and a t-shirt to the office.” and we laughed and said, “Well, actually this is dressing up for us. We normally wear our workout clothes to the office.” It was one of those “there is no greater ‘job’ than being an internet marketer” moments.
Along with wearing whatever I want, I can come and go as I please. And I can spend as much time with my wife and daughter as I want all thanks to this wonderful thing called the World Wide Web!
Thanks for listening to my drawn out story of how I personally got started online. Hopefully it inspires you to know that (and I know you’ve heard this before) “if I can do this, anyone can!” … and I do mean that. All it takes is the dedication, passion, and the CORRECT KNOWLEDGE to spend your time learning and you’re virtually guaranteed to succeed. Never stop learning. Invest in yourself!
Have a great day and I’ll talk to you again very soon!