For two and a half years, every two weeks I sifted through over 140 blog posts and podcasts that talk about how to build successful online businesses. I found the best content, summarized it, added a bit of my commentary, and delivered it to the inboxes of entrepreneurs around the world…for free. I’m no longer writing Signals in the Noise issues (because my business partners and I are focusing on other parts of Clarity Lab), but please enjoy these archived issues. There’s a ton of useful information in them!
1. What the duck?
“For the uninitiated among you (where have you been?), DuckDuckGo is a private search engine that has seen exponential growth since its inception a few years ago. So why should you care? Because an increasing chunk of your target audience may well be heading to DDG in the coming years. Don’t believe me? Rand Fishkin of Moz fame said it will be ‘the fastest growing search engine of 2016.’” That’s Econsultancy’s Jack Simpson, on why you should pay attention to the duck this year. The bottom line? More and more people will arrive at your website from Duck Duck Go, and it’s also a new place to run paid advertising campaigns. Rubber duckie, you’re the one. You make searching lots of fun.
2. On a wing and a prayer.
Pat Flynn, founder of Smart Passive Income, and all-around nice guy, just launched a new book, Will It Fly? I read a lot of business books, and most of them are good, but few are great. Will it Fly? is in that later category…it’s super, super good. For the first time in years, I found myself doing every single exercise in a book, partly because it’s a fantastic book, and partly because I’m right at the critical point with a new business idea where I need to validate it before I start building it. That’s what the whole book is about: how to validate your business idea so you know if you have a product or service idea that people will actually want to buy. This book is required reading for any small business entrepreneur. And yes, there will be a test on it next week.
3. Home on the page.
Here’s a great peek into the current homepage designs of some of the highest converting, most effective website homepages on the web right now (and why they’re working so well.) Ramsay Taplin, from Blog Tyrant, with 10 Strategic Lessons from the Web’s Most Beautiful Homepages. (Game of Thrones has forever tarnished the name Ramsay for me. If that’s happened to you as well, here’s a reality check: Ramsay Taplin is a good guy. Ramsay Bolton is not.)
4. Noah’s a jerk.
“On Tuesday, I started the 24-Hour Business Challenge to show you that there’s no reason you can’t start your business today. I challenged myself to make $1,000 in less than 24 hours, and let you pick which business I would do.” And so began a short, intense game that Noah Kagan, employee #30 at Facebook and founder of AppSumo, played in full view of his large community of followers and customers. He built a beef jerky subscription business IN ONE FREAKING DAY and made over $1,000 in profit within those 24 hours. Here’s exactly how he did it.
+ And if you’re wondering (or hungry for some jerky), Sumo Jerky is still running, though it looks like Noah handed over the reigns to Ryan Luedecke to run it.
5. Rockets in your pocket.
“Want to know a secret? Writing enormously popular content is not something special reserved for the internet-famous or millionaire marketers who have a team of editors. Anyone can do it.” That’s Sarah Peterson, a funny, very smart, and talented content creator at Sumo Me (another one of Noah Kagan’s businesses), on the exact seven steps they take to reverse engineer enormously popular content.
I love Sarah’s writing. Every post she puts out through Sumo Me is so packed with massive value that they are like an entire course on a given topic, which, in this case, is about creating remarkable content for your content marketing strategy. Content that will generate a crap ton of traffic to your site and build your email list. It’s like doing content marketing, but with 9 SpaceX Merlin rocket engines strapped to each piece of content. That post will take 15 to 20 minutes to read, but if you follow the steps in it, you could make you an extra $50,000 a year (or a lot more). Go then, and initiate your propellant loading sequence in preparation for liftoff. Let’s light this candle.
“We love to talk about ourselves. In fact, we love it so much that Harvard neuroscientists say we can’t help but share our thoughts — it triggers the same sensation of pleasure in our brains as food and money do. Studies have even shown that participants are willing to give up money in order to talk about themselves. It’s not surprising that this drive is clear on social media — researchers have found that up to 80% of social media posts are announcements about people’s own immediate experiences.” That’s the folks from Buffer, on findings from one of seven social media psychological studies that will help make your marketing smarter.
That particular finding I quoted above describes how our brains are wired for oversharing on social media. The takeaway for your business? Talk less about yourself on social media, and make your posts more about your prospects and customers. Aaaaaand, now I know why I don’t get any new people on my email list when I post pictures of what I’m eating for dinner.
7. Small, Medium, or Large?
It took me a long time to wrap my head around what Medium is. After reading hundreds of articles on Medium, I get it now (sometimes I’m a bit slow on the uptake.) It’s a social blog site. Anyone can post articles there (though in the past, articles were curated before they’d get accepted for publishing), and if your work is good, potentially hundreds of thousands of people could see it in a very short amount of time.
Here’s the thing about Medium, though: I’m not a fan of digital sharecropping, which is where you rely on other businesses websites, like Facebook, for any part of your content hosting. At any given moment, a site like Facebook, or Medium, could change something that instantly causes you to stop getting traffic and thus new potential customers. Also, when you only post your content on other people’s sites, you’re building up their brand and platform, rather than yours.
And yet, I’ve watched many solopreneurs, and larger companies, move their entire blog over to Medium only, like Basecamp’s Signals vs. Noise blog. I’ve also seen other small business entrepreneurs embrace Medium, like Paul Jarvis, then later decide it wasn’t working for them, so they go back to only publishing on their blog only.
What to do, what to do? Publish only on your own blog, or Medium, or both? As Kira Hug explains, “You could focus on your own blog. You could guest post like a mofo. Or, you could live life on the wild side and publish your articles on Medium.” But should you post on Medium? Kira dives into that question in this great post.
My hunch on the Medium question? Always post on your blog first, then, create a slightly different version of your posts for Medium (to avoid any duplicate content penalties from Google.) This way, you’re building your own platform and audience on your site, and getting potential exposure to a much larger audience of readers on Medium, who could then make their way to your site, onto your email list, and become customers down the road. Win win.
+ For another perspective, more on the “no you probably shouldn’t” side of the spectrum, here’s Julie Neidlinger: Should you be using Medium to blog?
8. Mediate, clear the state, innovate. Now radiate a perfect state.
“First, work through the noise and look for the one thing others don’t see. Then create something new of value. And finally, come up with clear ways to communicate it. A recipe for guaranteed breakthroughs? No. And yet, far better than flying blind.” That’s Harry Reid, from the Huffington Post, on three ways that successful entrepreneurs come up with innovative products. The article is based around a conversaion between Harry and Clay Collins, the founder of Lead Pages, which is arguably one of the most successful marketing software companies serving small business entrepreneurs like you and me.
There’s a lot of talk about the need to innovate in the tech startup space, but the same need exists in smaller online businesses, like those that sell knowledge products, physical products, or services like coaching. Often, you can directly apply the solutions people use to solve various business problems in tech startups, right in your own small business (which likely doesn’t sell software.)
That way, you can be like a startup, without actually having to be a startup (because honestly, the high anxiety, fear-driven, over-caffeinated 80-hour work week lifestyle that sacrifices everything in your life aside from building your business? Is not only hazardous to your health but also doesn’t give you much of a life. Uh oh…I feel a rant coming on.)
Venture capitalists and startup founders alike use the term “lifestyle business” with scorn. If you have a lifestyle business, it’s deplorable and worthless because lifestyle businesses won’t ever give the investors or founders a 10X or 100X return. Meaning, a lifestyle business will never become a $100 billion unicorn (a.k.a., the summum bonum of VC’s and founders.)
Screw that. You and I aren’t playing that game. I’d rather have a small lifestyle business that generates multiple six-figures in revenue each year that also allows me to live a balanced, fulfilling life NOW. And I’d rather not be a tech startup founder sacrificing everything that matters to appease the VC parental figures, just for the small, tiny, super rare chance of a multi-million dollar payday at some point years down the road.
Okay…end of rant.
+ To balance the ranting, here’s a funny for you: If tech startup company slogans were honest.
9. It’s written all over your typeface.
Okay, it’s time to come clean with you. I freaking LOVE fonts. It’s endlessly fascinating to me how different typefaces can express different emotions, just by employing different shapes, sizes, and flourishes (or lack thereof.) Here’s a gorgeous collection of 50 FREE fonts that you can use in graphics, like logos or quote card images or blog post images.
“After running an online business for 10+ years, you would think I’d have ‘Email Broadcasting’ figured out. Normally I do. In fact, I take great pride in my open and click through rates. But recently I switched email providers (now using Aweber) and after sending my first email, I had a rude awakening. I made a bunch of basic mistakes resulting in me looking like a complete idiot.” Stu Mclaren, founder of the uber popular WordPress membership plugin, WishList Member, on 10 big email blunders that kill open rates and click through rates.
Like it or not, if you have an online business, email is like oxygen. Or, it’s like a 180 pound St. Bernard sitting on your chest for cuddles. Either way, you’ll need to learn to play a good game of email.
Booyah. You’re awesome. Thanks for reading all the way to down here. You make my heart sing. And you’d make everything even more groovy if you shared this newsletter with your friends. Wild thing, I think I…love you.
Or, go old school and hit the forward button to send this email to a friend who might benefit from it.
Until next time, my friend, I hope all is going well in your business (or the run up to you starting it.) Keep going. One step at a time. And the 487 things that need to get done on your to-do list will get done. Keep going.
Your friend on the lifestyle entrepreneur path,
Signals in the Noise
p.s. You can find the archive of past issues right here.