Getting to Self Sustaining

Last year one of my friends couldn't understand why I was willing to heavily invest into marketing a content site that was barely self sustaining, but any market worth being in will require some level of investment to achieve worthwhile returns. If one off marketing expenses triple your traffic then they allow you to spend more on content quality and develop the site deeper. Many people are afraid to risk anything on a new channel. If you are already spending your time working on it and are thinking about it you are already investing...but investing half way won't get you as far as pouring yourself into a project will. If you over-invest and fail in a few months at least you learn something. If you invest to slowly you might just be burning your time and money without even realizing what is going on. You only have so much time and attention, so it is best to leverage it on a few strong channels.

Some types of investment (such as large external ones or ones for poor formatting or bloated infrastructure) are bad because they force you to achieve a certain scale to be self sustaining. Seth pointed to a UK magazine named Pulp that died after its first week:

The magazine had been in development for more than a year and had been heavily trailed on TV, radio and the internet. ... Mr Styles said: "Every piece of research we did, every dummy we created and the concept in all its forms was fantastically received from first to last.

"The industry wanted it, the news trade wanted it, the market was there according to every group we asked - but come the acid test the readers were absent."

They would have been better off launching a website and pouring that print and advertising money into content creation and marketing. That would have been far cheaper and far more valuable than market testing.

The web is so easy to track that you can't spend too heavily without getting good feedback quickly.

As Google and others continue to close off easy opportunity you can't be afraid to invest if you want to see sizable returns. If you are growing rapidly and already are at self sustaining that is a great sign, because when you get more efficient or cut your development costs that cost center turns into a revenue stream. If you are starting from scratch it is hard to compete with nothing unless you are exceptionally passionate.

Published: April 20, 2007 by Aaron Wall in publishing & media


April 21, 2007 - 12:20pm

Absolutely. I really started doing sites and SEO early last year (I focused on design and programming before argh!). While I had one launch hit that immediatly brought in good profits and is still my strongest site I have many sites that grow every month and start to make more and more even though I had to invest a lot of time in doing them.

I have now 5 sites in one niche and 3 sites in another similar niche and start to sell physical products to visitors of my sites. Again I will start with 2-3 different product lines and brands to test which one does best. Even though websites are easier and less risky to do it doesnt matter if I ship just apples or also mango and bananas. (No, I'm not in the fruit niche)

The web gives us a great plattform to test ideas and if you have your own sales channels even better.

April 22, 2007 - 11:16pm

patience is the real challenge in seo for many people; me included. things weren't happening fast, and nobody told me they would. but what was happening fast was the revelations of how things work together, and the ideas that were generated just from thinking down any one particular path. tie that in with legit, challenged research data, and things really start to move.

Ravi Karandeekar
April 20, 2007 - 11:06am

Yes! Very truly said. Only because i am exceptionally passionate, i could get into top 10 in my search term 'pune real estate blog' in a very short time. It also gave me confidence to redesign lot of things of my Pune Real Estate Blog. Though because of this experimentation, i lost the position, i am very much sure to get it back!
In these times keeping your development costs in control and your passion free of controls takes you towards self sustenance.

Lord Matt
April 20, 2007 - 12:50pm

A wise man once said that where your treasure is there too will be your heart. We can turn that around and say where the heart of the reader is so too will be there treasure. Or catch what really matters to people and catch the wealth (money, attention or information).

The question is however, how does one best do this?

April 20, 2007 - 6:21pm


on my Google SERPs you are already back in the top10 :-).

Do you mind me asking how much search traffic you've gotten for that keyword phrase (at your highest ranking)?

I'm really just curious (still being a beginner), but that term seems to have 0 searches/month according to overture&wordtracker?

April 20, 2007 - 6:31pm

On the web people often forget they are developing assets. Content creation and links will still continue to provide returns in future years and thus breaking even initially is a strong indication you will yield higher returns in future year when start-up costs are apportioned accordingly. If your cash flow is neutral in the first year, the chances are that your business is profitable.

April 21, 2007 - 6:57am

right on. For example, I've been working on a site on and off for the past 6 months and it has made me less than $5. But I know that within the next few years (could be a year, could be two years) the site will rank top 10 for the term and my work now will pay dividends for many years to come. My most profitable site took me a lot of time in 2002, but a few hours per month now. In 2002 it probably only made me $1,000 but makes much more than that now.

start building now...

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