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5 Tips for Increasing Website Traffic

5 Tips for Increasing Website Traffic

Looking to get more traffic to your website or blog? In this article, I discuss 5 tips for increasing your website traffic. The methods I discuss I am actively using to increase traffic to my websites and have used them to increase traffic to my clients’ websites.

Resource Links:
Getting Started with WordPress: https://learnwithjerad.com/p/getting-started-with-wordpress-a-beginners-guide
Introduction to Hashtags in Social Media: https://jerad.courses/p/understanding-hashtags-in-social-media

This was originally a video that I converted to an article for my blog.

Hey it’s Jerad, and I have five tips for getting more traffic to your website. So, I’ve producing a lot of video content lately, especially on this YouTube channel. And, I’ve also am trying to grow traffic to my blog. So, what I’ve been doing is actually posting these videos to my blog, and that’s one of my goals to get more traffic to the website.

I want to also be blogging more and just doing more to build traffic to that website, because that’s kind of my hub for everything. Like if somebody wants to see what I’m up to, or know kind of what’s the latest stuff that I’m working on, that’s the website that I want them to go to.

So, here are five tips. These are things that I’m doing here and there with this website, and some of my other websites to build traffic to these sites.

1. Video Marketing

Now, video is huge, YouTube is huge. Google’s the number one search engine. The number two search engine is YouTube.

People are searching more often on YouTube than they would be searching on Bing, or any of the other search engines. And so, video marketing is super important. And, my goal is to actually embed my videos into my website. Now, I put these videos up on YouTube, and I know that people will come across them from YouTube because, maybe they subscribe to the channel or what not.

But when I’m actually sharing that video with other people through social media, or an email or something like that, I’m drawing that traffic to my website, and the video is embedded at my website. Google will reward a website for having people spend more time there. So, say somebody does a Google search for something, it ends up at my website because of one of my videos and they watch a video.

Google’s paying attention to that stuff. How long a person is on a website, how many clicks they click around a few times before leaving the website. All these things are better indicators that a person is finding information on that website and that helps Google rank that website as more relevant than another website that might have similar information.

So when you put a video on a website, you’re actually keeping people’s attention there longer because they’re watching that video in your website. So, for example, if it was a small article, somebody might come to your website and be there for a minute while they read that article really fast or, browse through that article.

But if they’re watching a video that might be five or six minutes long, then they might stick around a little bit longer to watch that entire video, which means more time on your website. And then, the links that you provide are also on your website. You can link to other resources from within your website. And also, link out to other locations so that people can find relevant information.

So, you’re keeping people at your website longer, and you’re also referring them to information that also helps them take the next step or, get more informed about whatever the topic is. So, I embed my videos in my website, in a post for that purpose, and use links to kind of get people to move throughout my website, to other videos or other resources that I mention.

2. Host a Give-a-way

Now, giveaways can be something very small, to something pretty big. I did a giveaway about a month and a half ago on another website of mine that just drove crazy amounts of traffic to the website. Got a lot of people to sign up for email and newsletter and, social media channels and all that stuff.

It doesn’t have to be a big giveaway. It could be something small. People get excited about giveaways. We used to do these giveaways where these companies were sending us cases for smart phones and stuff like that. They probably were less than $10 to buy in retail, but we were giving them away.

So, we would do these giveaways, and people would sign up for them. We’d get a bunch of people signing up just to get a free case sent to them. And of course, we had to cover the cost of sending that in the mail to them, which was usually only a couple of bucks. But, it got people signing up for our newsletter, it got people subscribing to our YouTube channel. It got people to come to our website ’cause that’s where the giveaway was being hosted, was on our website.

So you can do a giveaway, and make sure that you’re getting their email addresses, so that way you can send them out newsletters, or an email every now and then saying hey, here’s the latest post to my website from the last month. And it’s like, people aren’t just sitting around thinking hmm, I wonder what Jared’s posted to his website lately.

You have to kind of send them updates an keep them informed. And, doing a giveaway is a great way to get them on your email, to get an email so that you can actually send an email to them, keep them updated. Maybe get them to like or subscribe to your social media channel so that they can see the updates there as well.

So, do a giveaway, they’re extremely inexpensive to run depending on what it is that you wanna give away. Obviously, and whether you choose to make that an international giveaway, or just local in the country that you reside in, or like the United States for me. Giveaways are definitely something I’m going to be doing a lot more of this year, because people like free stuff and, it’s easy to get stuff to give away to people to where it’s not costing me too much more than just my time and organizing this for the people who are coming to my website.

3. Social Media

You wanna be useful and not spammy on social media. I see this all day long, people get spammy on social media. You wanna use social media to direct traffic to your website. Whether it be your personal social media channels, or ones that you’ve set up more for your business or what not.

Like a Facebook page, instead of your personal Facebook profile. Or maybe like an Instagram business profile, or something like that. You wanna direct traffic to your website, but you don’t wanna be spammy about it. Using social media, it’s very easy to look spammy. You wanna make sure that you’re providing value, that you are giving people things that are interesting to see, or to read, or to watch on social media.

Just saying hey, go to my website, check this out, blah, blah, blah. You don’t wanna spam people, you don’t wanna trick people into getting to your website because when they come to your website, and there’s nothing interesting there, they’re gonna feel like you tricked them, or tried to scam them, and they’re not gonna come back.

So you wanna provide some sort of value. One way to do that is actually to put a little bit of something on your social media, and then have the rest of the resources on your website. For example, Facebook doesn’t necessarily like it when you link outside of Facebook to another website. So I tend to try and put a bunch of information in a post, or something like that. Share a much as I can in a post on my Facebook page.

And then, I’ll mention that the rest of it is on my website. I want Facebook to organically show that post to other people. And when I’m including links and things like that, trying to send people outside of Facebook, Facebook doesn’t seem to show that post to as many people. So I try to provide as much value as I can on social media to basically wet the palette and get people excited about something.

And then, they can get more over on my website, and that’s how I drive traffic from social media to my website.

4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Websites need to be optimized so that the search engines can crawl them, find the content that’s on them, and rank them as relevant for whatever keywords people would use to search.

So, say you have a website , like a technology website and you write reviews and post reviews and stuff, and talk about smart phones and what not, just like my website StateofTech.net. I wanna optimize that site so that when Google is crawling and looking for information to show people for maybe say, an iPhone 10.

Somebody wants to know something about an iPhone 10, they’re gonna look at all the websites out there, that have information about iPhone 10, and Google is reading all that information, seeing the links that are in that post that are linking to that website, that are linking away from that website.

They’re looking at how fast the page loads, how much text and photos, and maybe there’s a video on the page. All these things are part of what Google is crawling. So you wanna make sure that the page loads relatively fast when somebody lands on that website. You also wanna make sure that the content is good there, and that you’re not cheating with the content by just trying to make sentences longer than they need to be, or what not.

You wanna make sure that you’ve got links going to other pages on your website. When appropriate, you wanna make sure you’re linking to other websites. Optimization also means getting people to link to your website. So, if there is another blog or another website, or maybe you’re doing a product review, you would wanna ask the manufacturer of the company that’s selling that product to link to your review on your website, so that you have those inbound links.

There’s a lot of ways to optimize your website. The term is like search engine optimization, but it’s kind of become a lot of different things. Search engine optimization, if you do a Google search for that, you’ll find a lot of things that you can do to get started optimizing your website.

The better optimized your website is, the better chance Google’s gonna send traffic to it.

5. Join Online Communities

There are a ton of communities out there that you can join around the topics of your website, that you can take part in conversations, and drive traffic to your website.

Now, you don’t wanna join these communities and spam people in the same way I was talking about spamming and being spammy with social media. You wanna provide value, you want to answer questions, you wanna provide your expertise, and help these people in the community. That way, when they wanna find out more information about you, they can go to your website.

Or, for example, if you have a answer to their question that you may already have on your website in the form of an article, or some photos, or a video, you can link to your website from those communities, and share that information with them. That part is okay. People are fine with you linking to your website from forums, and from Facebook groups, and stuff like that, if you’re providing additional value.

When you’re just trying to get somebody to leave that community and go to your website, that feels a little spammy. But if you have valid information, stuff that’s gonna help them with their problem, or their question, it’s totally fine to send them to a link to your website. So that’s gonna do it for this video.

I just wanted to give you five tips on how to get more traffic to your website. How to increase that traffic. It’s important to get more traffic to your website because without viewers … You want viewers to your website. You wanna build that traffic, you wanna get more people excited about what you’re doing. And without traffic, that’s kind of hard to do.

So if you have any questions, definitely ask them in the comment section below. I’ve got a couple of links for you in the description of this video, so make sure to check those out. They’ll help you with this process of trying to increase traffic to your website. If this video helped you, share it with a friend, link to it from your website, embed it in a post, write a review about. Whatever you can do to boost it, I would definitely appreciate that.

I’m also trying to grow traffic to my website, so I hope that this video did help you with that process of getting more traffic to your site. Click subscribe on my YouTube channel to be notified when new videos come out. I’m trying to post as many of these as I can, as I have good information to share. So thanks so much for checking it out, and I hope to see you back in the next one.

Blog Business Growth

My Give-a-way got 50,000+ Entries

I am giving away a Cryptocurrency Mining GPU and that give-a-way has blown up. It has over 50,000 entries and it’s only been live for 8 days. The total length of the give-a-way is 9 days so it will end tomorrow. I’m excited to see who won and am even more excited to have so many new YouTube Subscribers, Instagram and Twitter followers, Facebook likes, Email subscribers, and more. What a successful campaign!

Blog Business Growth

50/50

50/50 Self Generated Income Goal

If you went 50/50 on something instead of just 100% on one thing, how could that change your life?

This may be a weird statement coming from a person who is self-employed, but my goal for 2017 is to transform my income stream. My goal is that by the end of the year, at least 50% of it will come from self-generated projects or products. This means that at least half of the income I earn this year needs to come from projects or products that I have generated, not from client work.

You see, since I started this journey as a self-employed person, I have made my income doing work for other people. Whether designing websites for businesses or photographing weddings, I am doing work that I was hired to do by someone else who had a need. I may own my own business, but I am working for others.

There is nothing wrong with doing work for other people. Our country runs on the trade of services for dollars. Ultimately, I want to get to the place where the majority of my income is generated from products and services I have created. I have spent the last 19 years of my life pouring my energy into the projects of others. I would moonlight occasionally on my own projects and have had some success with a few of them, but they always ended up on the backburner because client work paid faster.

So how do I plan to transform my income stream this year? Glad you asked.

I have a couple of projects that I will be working on a lot this year in an attempt to tip the scale toward self-generated income. A couple of these projects are still in the conceptual stage and I am not ready to share much about them. The other projects are already live and I will pour into them even more this year.

The first project is Ditch Auto. Four years ago, I filmed a course to help people get out of auto mode on their cameras so they could unlock the true potential of their cameras which are found in manual mode. Pro photographers use manual mode to properly expose and capture the image they see rather than the image the camera sees. I filmed this course in a day and did not anticipate it growing into a thriving photography community. Today, over 125,000 people have taken the course and we have a pretty active Facebook Group as well. Starting the beginning of this year, we launched a weekly photography challenge, which kicked off strong and is growing larger each week.

My plans for Ditch Auto this year include the modernization of the original course, creating additional courses, and growing the community to help people grow as photographers whether they want to be in business as a photographer, or enjoy it as a hobby.

The second project is State of Tech: In 2007 I started a blog where I reviewed iPhone Apps. Over the years that turned into a podcast that diversified into a variety of different mobile technologies. The last 10 years in the mobile tech space has taught me that many people still do not understand the technology they are walking around with each day. State of Tech has a small, but growing online community on Youtube and I intend to grow that following through the production of valuable content. State of Tech will also expand into a variety of educational courses geared toward helping people better understand and use their smart devices. I believe that Ditch Auto has more promise as far as generating an income goes, but there is a huge gap in educating people on mobile technology.

Project #3 is not a product that is going to help me meet or exceed my goal as mentioned above, but it will eventually contribute to my bottom line.

As I mentioned before, I have spent the majority of my adult life doing creative work for others. During that time, there are many tools and services I have become a professional in using. A few years ago, I started to work towards shifting the income stream of my company Hill Media Group. For years I was doing project-based work for a fixed fee. Once the project ended, I was paid and I had to find a new project. I still do a lot of project-based work, but about 25% of Hill Media Group’s income comes from ongoing work we do for our clients.

I realized that we are really good at handling tasks for our clients. When our clients deliver a clear task to us, we often can turn it around for them in a short period of time. The relationship we have with our clients that retain our services on a monthly basis makes it easy for us to prioritize their tasks and get them done.

Project #3 will be a new company that specializes in handling a variety of digital tasks for small businesses and organizations. I am partnering with a long-term employee and friend of mine to launch this. I am really excited about the concept and have already begun developing the infrastructure needed to manage this new startup company.

Growth through actual products, not affiliate marketing.

It’s not that hard to create a ton of average content and link to products to generate income. Nobody will make much money doing that. If you want to generate income from affiliate marketing you have to create fantastic content and a lot of it. While there is nothing wrong with generating revenue from affiliates, I prefer to generate content to market my own products.

I have had some limited success in affiliate marketing. When the Hoverboard was new and exciting, I filmed a review of my Hoverboard for State of Tech and the Amazon Affiliate link generated between $1,800-$2,500 for several months until Amazon removed all of them from their inventory. What I learned from that experience was that your affiliate income stream is only as good as the product. Technology changes quickly, and fads move even faster than technology does. It takes a lot of effort to stay ahead of the curve to assure you always growing.

Why do I need my income to be self-generated?

I’ll say it again: There is nothing wrong with doing work for other people. The products and products I want to create will be consumed or used by other people, but there is a difference. The effort I am putting into my projects and products are generated from ideas and inspirations that I had. I saw a need and created something. These projects and products will be for others to consume, but they will be something that I saw from conception to delivery. If it succeeds, it will be because I saw the problem and executed on a solution. If it fails, it will be a lesson in which I can not direct a complaint at anyone but myself. I need that kind of challenge in my life. It will be an exercise in generating more control over my destiny by executing on my own ideas instead of focusing on others. It sounds like a selfish move, but it’s really not. I will do more good this way.

For years I have also had a desire to share my financials publically. I used to be held down by debt and seemed to always be carrying a balance somewhere. Whether it was car payments or credit card debt, I had it, and somehow justified it. These days I try to keep my family as close to debt free as possible. Though it is not always possible (yet), we are closer than ever. I plan to share some of my financial information as it pertains to achieving the goal mentioned above. Stay tuned for more information on that.

Goals!

Shortly after turning 30 and having a few kids, I made this list of things I wanted to achieve over the next few decades. I called it my challenge list and I have not done a very good job of working on achieving those challenges. Now I could give myself the benefit of the doubt and blame it on being a busy business owner, husband, and father, but I’m not going to do that. The whole idea behind this list was that I would attempt to achieve some of these things while maintaining the life I am living. No excuses. So in 2017, I am going to start crossing off some of the challenges from the list. I encourage you to check back often and if I seem to be slacking, please call me out on social media.

A Challenge

My main goal for 2017 is to slide the revenue scale away from client-based work to my own projects and products. If you could slide the scale away from 100% and closer to 50/50, what would that look like, and how would it change your life? I’m not just talking about income, but anything. Perhaps you want to change your diet or travel more. How can you slide the scale toward doing that more?

If you could, take a moment to think about that. If you have a thought or an idea, share it in the comment section below! I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for sticking around to the end of this post. If you want to follow along as I work toward my goal, make sure to follow me on social media. You can find the links on this page.

Blog Business Growth

I Almost Shut It All Down!

I have been self-employed since I was 18 years old. I went full time self-employed when I was 21. Perfect timing considering that it was 2001 and two months after I quit my job to go full time after my business the biggest attack on American soil ever took place.

Since then I have had my share of setbacks as an entrepreneur, and a lot has changed in my life. When I quit my job and went full time into my business, I did not have any responsibilities. I lived on my own, so I had rent and a car payment, but that was it. If I ate ramen three meals a day because I had to put out money to order more product, I did it. I started my business with $2,500 in inventory and grew it in less than four years to a business that grossed $1.5 million in sales. In 2003 I was shipping products internationally from orders that came through my website when most companies were just learning what a website was. It was fun, but it wasn’t what I saw myself doing for the rest of my life.

My online business taught me more than just how to run an online business. Through that process, I taught myself how to code and that set me up for my next business venture as a web developer. Though I have had a few other ventures since such as Photography and running a Tech News and Review website, website design and development has been my constant since 2005.

In 2008 I had a rough year. The economy was down, and nobody was spending money. Businesses were cutting back on marketing expenses and Brides were spending less on wedding photography. I almost took a job with a company in Southern California handling search engine optimization for a large corporation. I stuck it out, and the market returned.

It has not been easy running a business and trying to grow that business. I have had some success, but it has been matched by frustration and some failure as well. Nothing has come easy.

During the slow days of 2008, I started reviewing iPhone Apps on a blog I set up and that turned into a business that generated an average of $13,000/mo over the course of six years with the best month earning me $32,000. It was pretty amazing.

Web Development started to pick back up in 2013, and I started focusing more heavily on what I knew would carry me over the long haul as a business owner. The app review site had garnered a ton of competition, and I could tell I would need to focus my attention elsewhere after that.

I have always found it necessary to reinvest in my company. If I am not reinvesting in myself and my business, I am stagnant. The revenues from the app review site allowed me to do this more freely. This was also a challenging time for me as I had started growing my family in 2010 and by the end of 2013 had three children. Yes, three kids in three years.

Now I love people, and I love my clients, but not all clients are easy to work for. I am very thankful that I have had more good clients than bad ones. The problem with bad clients is that they suck the life out of you and leave you beaten on the side of the road. I have always taken my work seriously and being that I don’t have a traditional education to fall back on, I always took myself very serious as well. Bad clients can make you question yourself and your core competencies. Like finding out that your significant other doesn’t love you anymore, it makes you question yourself and your self-worth. It’s hard not to get emotional about business when it’s your work and your business you are putting out there. I have never been able to believe anyone who says they can completely separate business from personal life. Business is personal. I do not trust anyone who does not take their business personally.

As I mentioned before, I have celebrated plenty of little wins in business, but I have also taken quite a few jabs to the ribs both from clients and from the logistical aspects of running a business. I have a wife and three kids. We don’t own a home, not because we don’t want to, but simply because it is very challenging for a self-employed person to purchase a home. We are a single income household by choice. We made the decision to provide our children with a Christian education. We are considering adoption.

I am closer to my 40’s than my 20’s, and my personal responsibilities will only continue to grow. My goal since closing my retail shop and starting web agency was to provide myself with more freedom. Running my shop, the online store, and a small parts distribution center was time-consuming. I found myself working 14+ hour days. I closed my store on Mondays simply so I could catch up without customers coming through the door. I knew that I could not live that way if I was to get married and start a family, so I shut that down. I pivoted in my life toward something that offered me more freedom, and since then, freedom has been my goal.

My professional life has allowed me a lot of freedom. Those that have known me since I started having children know just how much time off I have been able to take to be with my family. At the time of writing this, I currently work a regular 8-5 day, but I am working every day to change that to provide myself and my family more freedom.

About a month ago I was offered an opportunity to work for a fast growing company in my area. I always recognized that if I were going to quit working for myself, I would probably have to move to the Bay Area or Los Angeles to find a company that could afford someone with my skillset. The idea of working for someone else was desirable to me because it was something constant. There is not much in my life that is consistent other than the needs of my family and my clients. The concept of money getting deposited into my bank account every two weeks and only having one client to deal with sounded great.

Over the course of three weeks, I was all over the place. I was all for the job one moment and then the next I was totally against it. I was a wreck. I constantly prayed over the opportunity. I knew that if I took this job, I would not have time to run my business any longer. I didn’t want to run my business on the side while working full time. I was not going to let my work cut into the time I wanted to spend with my wife and kids. Whether I worked for myself, or another company, freedom still had to be my guiding cause.

If there were any time during the year that a consistent income would be welcome, it would be the holidays. I think anybody can relate to that. Being that my business does the majority of its business with other businesses, holidays are notoriously slow. Nobody wants to start designing and roll out a website or a new online marketing plan in December. Most of our clients are small businesses, and they are focused on the holidays. Turning down the job offer was very hard to do going into the holiday season.

Ultimately, I decided not to take the job because I have not yet had the time to flesh out all of the ideas I believe have a lot of promise. I often get too busy to work on my ideas because I am focused on my clients, but I never stop thinking and dreaming. If I wanted to start working on one of my ideas, I could by simply cutting back on client work. If I was working for another company, I would have to be all about that company during work hours. To moonlight on other ideas while on the clock would be giving less than 100% to the company I was working for. I am not ready to turn off that part of my brain, and I am not going to divert that energy to time I am at home with my family.

I am not going to say that this is the last time I will consider taking a job, but I can honestly say that it is the closest I have come to working full time for someone else. I work for myself, but I have clients whom I work for as well. My clients have expectations of me just as an employer would have. People often comment on how nice it must be to be my own boss. I explain that it is nice to be my own boss, but I also have a dozen clients I have to answer to as well, so it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be.

Another thing this opportunity has given me is a renewed drive to grow my business. I can not honestly say which direction I will point all of this renewed energy, but I do have a renewed focus and am excited about the future.

Who knows what will happen with Trump in office, but the last almost decade has brought more regulation and difficulty to small business owners than ever before in the history of our country. Regardless, challenging and uncertain times are often some of the best to start a new business. I am blessed to have been able to direct my own professional direction for the last 15 years of my life and I am not quite ready to give that up, even if the opportunity is great.

I have had job offers from other clients in the past, but I appreciate this one the most because I believe in the company and it’s potential. Even if I had taken the job, my life as an entrepreneur wouldn’t have been over; it simply would have been paused. I am looking forward to finishing this year strong and focusing on new things in 2017.

Blog Business Growth

How Did I Get Here?

Do you ever stop mid task and ask yourself how you got to where you are in that moment? I have had that happen to me a few times over the last few months. Since moving out of my home office in 2011 I feel like I have been chasing after too many things. When I worked from home and was only responsible for my own wellbeing I could do whatever work I felt was right in the moment. As long as it resulted in getting paid for my time, I was ok with it. Now having tried to scale a couple of things with a roller coaster ride of limited success, I have been finding it hard to focus lately.

Lately I have felt like my own worst enemy. I have taken focus off of a few long-term projects that have not been producing as much fruit as they once were but still allowing myself to be distracted by some of the aspects of those projects. In my mid twenties, I was good at limiting distractions. I had laser focus, but it had to be that way. I was so busy with the company I was running at that time that I had to pull late nights and work 7-days-a-week to keep up. Somehow I was fine with that. Busy is easy because you can see what needs to be done. When you are busy, the work comes at you and you can take it on full force. The real struggle is when you are caught in between busy and slow. That middle ground can be dangerous and it has been eating away at me like a cancer for the last year.

I have some great clients. We have been blessed with clients that have fun products and they trust us to do the work they hired us to do. At the same time we have had a few stinkers that have made it hard for us to do our work. It is all part of being in business. Over the last year specifically, we have had steady work from regular clients and a small amount of growth, but nothing that has stretched us too thin. Being in this place is what allows my mind enough energy to dream but does not leave me with enough time to execute on any of those dreams. I have always been a dreamer and often find myself laying in bed at midnight considering a new idea. Late night thought sessions as I lay in bed is what led me to at one point having owned more than 350 domain names. I have my own representative at GoDaddy who calls me from the office of the CEO. That might be some marketing ploy to make me feel important but I do know that I own way too many domain names. Every domain name was purchased because of some idea I was mulling over in my head. Most of those domain names never made it past a GoDaddy Parked page and expire a year later.

When I was 18 and almost out of high school, I was utilizing everything I had some knowledge in to make money. Besides working in retail management at the local mall, I was building computers for people, setting up small office networks, and trying to start an online business selling cell phones and accessories. I was going in too many directions. I found myself prioritizing what I enjoyed doing the most. The retail job was a constant paycheck. Building computers was fun, but being available for any and all questions that my customers had was not. I enjoyed setting up small office networks but when AOL didn’t load fast enough, I got a call. It was an early lesson in doing too many things at once. Now almost 20 years later, I am having the same problem. 

As I have written about before, I started building websites to give myself more freedom. The business I was running prior to that was taking too much time and was not going to scale unless I could clone myself. I started a photography business to fund my desire to buy new camera lenses but that quickly turned into a business more profitable than my website design business was at the time. During my later twenties, having both businesses was nice. I was single for a few of those years with plenty of time to work when needed. After marrying, my wife worked on some weekends so shooting weddings on weekends was not a big deal. After we started having kids, I wanted more weekends available, which meant shooting less weddings. Having moved out of my home office, one of my goals was to grow my website design company as well. I have had some measurable success there but I have allowed myself to be distracted a lot along the way which has stifled growth of Hill Media Group.

Running your own business is very emotional. Some people refer to their business as one of their kids because it is that close to them. I have always been able to work for myself and stay motivated. Motivation has never been the problem. The problem has been allowing myself to get stuck because of decisions I have made or allowed myself to be distracted by. Let’s take a quick inventory of what I currently do or offer as a service. Some of these services are related and this definitely is not an exhaustive list. What follows is a list of services that I offer and deliver on at least once each week in one form or another. This list also includes jobs performed to maintain our own projects and websites at Hill Media Group.

  • Website Design
  • Custom Development/Programming
  • Website Hosting
  • Email (Google Apps for Work)
  • Google Adwords (Paid Search Marketing)
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Social Media Management
  • Social Media Marketing (Paid Social)
  • Website Technical Support
  • Project Management
  • Data Management
  • Commercial Photography
  • Wedding Photography
  • Photo Editing
  • Video Production
  • Wedding Video Production
  • Video Editing
  • Product Testing
  • Product Reviews
  • Editorial Writing

I will have to come back to this list. I know there is more. This list does not include tasks required to run a business, nurture new and potential clients, manage employees, and whatever else I can’t seem to think of at this hour. Some of the above listed jobs I share responsibility with employees and occasionally outsource from time to time, but for the most part, I have my hand in all of those things. I recognize that I am not a top level professional in all of those areas but I am a professional in each of them to the extent that I believe I could focus on any one of them specifically and make a good living. The problem is allowing myself to do that.

It’s hard to avoid doing everything that I have a professional understanding of because there are so many people out there offering substandard service in just one area. In online marketing, there are a lot of scam artists out there who might as well be selling snake oil. Companies take advantage of naive business owners who simply want a professional to handle their online marketing for them. When you know that you can offer a better service and more value, it’s hard to just not do it.

This leads me back to the question, “How Did I Get Here?”

Just about all of these services I offer came from me needing them as a service from myself. I taught myself how to build Google Adwords Campaigns that perform using my own money attempting to market my own businesses. Though this article is all over the place, I developed my writing style from years of writing. My formal education stops just above high school level. I taught myself how to film product reviews by making videos and striving to improve along the way. Where I have led myself astray is that I turn that knowledge into a service and make it available to others.

When you turn something into a service you are stating that it is available for anybody. When I offered my website design skills for sale, I had to build websites for anybody who wanted one. When I started filming projects for clients I needed more gear, so I started offering those services to anyone. Hill Media Group has become this agency that has the knowledge and tools to be a full service agency handling everything from website design to film production but we don’t do end up doing enough of most of those services to justify the costs associated with them. What I mean is that we have everything we need because we have invested in the tools we need to produce quality work. The problem is that some of those tools end up collecting dust because we are not focusing on that specific area of business enough. People have short films in festivals and own less equipment than we have. 

All of the services that my company offers are services that I enjoy spending time working on. There are so many cool things out there and so few hours to get to spend doing them. What I truly enjoy is learning something and deploying it. It really doesn’t matter if I am doing it for myself or for someone else. I just enjoy the journey. But I do understand that specializing in a smaller subset of things leads to being better at them. This goes not only for me, but for those who work for me. Most people get bogged down when they are jumping between multiple unrelated tasks. It’s impossible to get into a grove when you don’t know where you will be next.

I have already started making changes to limit what types of work we do and will offer. I removed a once very profitable offering from one of our websites because it has been more of a distraction over the past several months. I plan to make more changes this year as I attempt to discover what areas I would like to specialize in and cull the rest from our offered services. About a year ago I started selling off some of my equipment I use for video production projects and simply rent the gear when I need it. I am already doing the same with my photography equipment. I simply don’t do enough volume to justify having all of the equipment I have. I love having the latest and greatest equipment, but I can no longer justify owning all of it.

I am thankful for this clarity I have been praying I would receive for over a year now. Sometimes you end up down a rabbit hole and are not quite sure just how you got there. Working for yourself or being an entrepreneur is a constant lesson in understanding your strengths and recognizing your limits. I am looking forward to further clarity as I continue to remove things from my work life that have stretched me too thin. I love my business, but I love my family more. Anything that takes away from that is theft in my opinion. Allowing myself to go in too many different directions has robbed my family of my focus and attention. Narrowing my scope will be better for everybody involved. When I stopped building computers for people I referred them to another local business. I look forward to doing that with some of the services I have provided in the past. Sometimes you have to cut the fat, which leads me to a blog post I really need to write about being more healthy.

Blog Business Growth

Taking a Big Leap

When I was 20 years old, I decided to take a break from my education and working towards a rather recent goal of pursuing a career in some form of medicine. I had been working in retail management and was not content with corporate retail. I really wanted to start my own business and try things for myself. I had an attempted businesses several times since I was 16 years old. My first small success being an online cell phone and accessories company. However, this time, it would be different because I would be attempting to open a physical store with actual inventory.

I opened my store with $4000 to my name. I use that $4000 to pay first, last, and deposit for the building I would lease. I used to that same money to buy inventory, display cases, and supplies I would need to be able to sell products to customers. It took a lot to spread out the inventory that I had in an attempt to make the store look full. To kick things off, I have the local rock radio station come due a ticket stop and giveaway in front of my store. I believe that the only reason people came inside was due to the fact it was raining outside.

My brother and one of his friends were into gas powered scooters and we’re always complaining that there was nowhere to buy parts or have their scooters repaired. You may remember these noisy scooters that were very popular from 2000 to 2005. That was the sound of money for me until a law was passed making it impossible for kids under the age of 16 to ride them on the street.

One of my first purchases for inventory was one of these scooters. I actually bought one and took it apart so that I would have parts to sell. Timing seems to be on my side because these gas powered scooters would keep my business alive for the next year.

Using my limited website development skills I had obtained from building my first online business, I built a website for my new store. The main products I sold online were these gas powered scooters and parts. That holiday season, I would sell between 15 to 20 scooters each day. At this point, I was buying scooters from a distributor in Southern California. I would climb in a small cargo van and drive to LA to pick up scooters because I needed them faster than they could be shipped.

Weeks later I would place a $18,000 initial order direct with the factory. For the next few months, I would drive to the factory, which thankfully was only an hour away, to pick up truck loads of scooters for my online customers who had already purchased them.

I quickly added other services that were complementary to owning one of the scooters. My store quickly became a repair shop. The owners of the building we were renting were not impressed. This resulted in me having to move my shop to another location in the midst of trying to keep up with the demand of our customers online orders. This meant an increase in overhead expenses.

Each step along the way of this business was a leap. Starting it was a leap. Placing that initial order of scooters was a leap. Moving to a more expensive location was a leap. Hiring employees was a leap. The entire process of owning a business is often a series of leaps. Some are small, some are quite large.

When I decided to start this business I told myself that now was the time because I was young and could easily bounce back. At age 20, it’s not a big deal if you have to scrape yourself off the floor and move back in with Mom for a while. I realized it would be much more challenging to start a business if I had a family of my own.

In 2004, I saw the writing on the wall. I knew that a law would soon prevent kids from riding these scooters on the street and most who owned them would either sell them or put them away forever. I would either have to pivot my business, or try something new. I decided it was time to try something new. I closed my business, sold all of my inventory, and started developing websites for small businesses.

These last few years, I have been putting some of my time into online education. It has been a lot of fun because I have been able to teach people about things I enjoy doing. This last year I have realized that I would really like to shift more of my time toward creating educational content. I realize that this is going to require a shift in the way I currently spend my time.

Creating education content is hard work and requires a lot of time. Creating educational content has been extremely fulfilling to me. I have spent years working and perfecting my process for different aspects of my work as a photographer and website designer. It is fun to be able to teach those processes to others.

Twenty-year-old me would make the full leap into educational content, but thirty-six-year-old me knows that he has responsibilities. Because of that, I will be working on both as I have time. I have clients who I have committed time to and I want to see their projects through. I also have my educational website that I am working on when I have extra time. As we complete client projects, it will free up more of my time to work on the new site. When I get closer to its completion, I will make sure to share about it on my blog.

At this point in my life, I realize that I am a career entrepreneur. Though the idea of getting a job with a company for the quintessential “security” sounds great, I prefer the series of strategic leaps in life. I think that deep inside most of us, we want to leap. We want to try something different or go after an idea. For many, it stays a dream. The fear of failure is too much for some. I have found that failure is an excellent teaching tool that better prepares me for the next thing. I am sixteen years into working solely for myself, and I have yet to hit that home run that would result in an early retirement. I have hit a lot of singles, even a few doubles, but I have struck out more times than I can count. I have also hit a lot of pop flies out to deep left field only to have them caught just short of the fence line.

If I could encourage you to do one thing, it would be to take a leap. Your first leap doesn’t have to be across a raging river of risk. A short leap could be starting that blog you always wanted to put out there. It could be taking your photography hobby to the next level by trying to get a paying client. We live in a world where you can build a business from home using an iPad while watching Storage Wars on Netflix, which is literally what I have been doing these last few weeks. It’s pretty crazy what we can do these days.

In the coming months, I will be creating courses on how to start a business. Whether you desire to start a small blog about your hobby or plan to replace your income with an online venture, my video courses will help you be as ready as possible to take that first leap.

If you are interested in learning more, click here and enter your email.

Blog Business Growth

In Search of Success & Freedom

I have written on the topic of personal freedom many times. Since my early 20’s, my ultimate goal has been to work toward achieving freedom from the regular things that end up tying us down. I have had success and failure along the way through my efforts to achieve personal freedom and have learned a lot along the way. We moved across town this weekend and through that process, I spent a lot of time in the car with my father-in-law. We discussed work and life, which ultimately led to a discussion of basic life securities.

My father-in-law is a hard worker. He recently retired from many years of service to the same company. Though he is not old, or quite at retirement age to draw from social security, it was time for him to move on. Being that he and I are from exact opposite ends of the workforce spectrum, we occasionally discuss the topic of work and all that comes with it. Though he does not have any direct experience as a business owner, he recognizes the role differences between his jobs and my job.

Over the years, I have received job offers, usually from clients I have worked with. There have been a few years where business was slow and I actually looked around at what was available. I have never entertained anything to this point, but sometimes the concept most people refer to as “job security” is fun to fantasize about.

During our discussion, he brought up a few of my complaints I have had over the years such as rising healthcare costs for my family, taxes, and the challenges the self-employed have purchasing a home since the housing market crash. That led to discussing the various job offers I have received over the years. To most, the solution to my “first-world-business-owner-problems” would be to get a job where I had health benefits and a w2. I understand that perspective. Beyond that, most people would assume that a business owner can’t just turn off the work mindset at the end of the day. Society typically portrays business owners one of two ways:

  1. The Tyrant: This is the business owner who sits in his office all day counting money as his employees slave away for low pay.
  2. The Founder: This business owner works near 24/7 giving themselves little sleep and even less time to their family.

Through the many conversations I have had with people, most see business owners as one or the other. Media and the startup business community considers long hours as a requirement for being successful. There are popular online personalities such as Gary Vaynerchuk and Casey Neistat who broadcast a perceived lifestyle of working 14+ hour days. Whether that is the case or not, that simply is not healthy and should not be honored as a lifestyle to follow in the footsteps of.

If you are going to own or start a business, the mindset is that you are going to have to work extremely hard up front, in order to have success later. This makes sense as it’s the only way most people can wrap their head around rising to success. Before I talk about success to much more, I want to be clear that success means something different to everybody. My definition of success is different than yours, and that is ok. Besides being a business owner, I am a husband and father to three children. I see my wife and children as my most cherished worldly possessions, so that is the lens in which I focus my life through.

I want to be able to exist with the basic comforts we expect to have here in the United States. I need a home in a safe neighborhood with walls that has heating and air conditioning. I need a reliable vehicle and food to eat. I need clothing that is in decent condition and a few dollars left over to buy the occasional piece of technology. What I do not need is excess. I did excess for a couple of years in my early 20’s and it did not lead to happiness or contentment. At age 24, I was making more money than I have ever made to date with my retail business, but I was spending all of it. I was also working long hours. I have discussed this before in other posts.

My definition of success has changed over the years. It used to be all about money. I was a kid and had no real concept of what contentment was. My current definition of success is to be able to provide a decent life for my wife and children. Not a life where they get whatever they want, but a life where I can provide basic comforts and securities, without going overboard. I have been blessed with the ability to do that so far.

My definition of total personal freedom will also change, but right now the definition and goal is to one day be able to self-sustain financially. That means that the work I have done so far is producing enough income to cover our life expenses for a while without having to do more work. Some call this retirement, but I don’t really like the definition most people give retirement. Most people see retirement as the end of the line where they do not have to work or use their brain for much anymore. I plan to follow in my Grandmother’s footsteps and use my brain to the best of its ability until I take my final breath. Of course, I could work extra hard now in order to obtain self-sustainability much earlier, but at what cost?

It is important to have a clearly defined understanding of what being successful means to you. If you do not have that understanding, you will never reach a level of success you can feel comfortable with. I know plenty of people who make more money than I do and even more who have a dual income household. I know people who work twice as many hours as I do, and I know people who barely work what would be considered part-time, yet still make more money than I do. None of that affects how I feel about what I have or haven’t achieved yet in life.

It is easy to think that if I just worked two more hours each day, I could take an extra vacation or afford to have a bigger house, but what would that do to my freedom? I am not the best at it, but I try to weigh each decision I make that requires my time against what it would cost my family. That puts things into perspective quickly. I see time away from my family as a deficit regardless of what the result of that time produces.

Getting a job with a company would not necessarily make me feel any more secure or provide me with any additional freedoms. Having paid vacation might make it easier to take one vacation, but if you set it up right, owning your own business gives you the flexibility to take multiple vacations and occasionally work from them if need be. It’s getting harder to do that now that I have kids in school, but we still try. The photo above was taken a few years ago when we went to Del Mar on vacation. I worked while our kids napped and we spent the rest of the time at the beach (Look how chubby Cohen was!!).

For me, reaching total freedom does not mean never having to work again. That would actually be torture. My brain does not operate that way as I am always trying to solve problems and come up with solutions. Beyond that, I never tire of learning about new things. Whether I am working for myself, someone else, or in partnership with someone else, all must align with my defined goals of freedom and success. Anything short of that would lead to confusion and frustration.

The reality of it is that there is no true freedom from everything. We will always have obligations and requirements. People will always expect something from us. However, if you have a personalized definition of what freedom is to you and what being successful is, you will more easily be able to obtain it. As a side effect, you will also prevent the endless chase that comes from nothing ever being enough.

What would your definition of a successful person be? Are you working toward reaching that level of success? What do you consider “true freedom” to be? Are you working toward reaching that level of freedom?

Blog Business Creative Tutorials Growth Personal Development

Create Quality Content, the rest will follow

Jerad Hill Udemy Courses

One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is that you can’t just start creating things and expect people to pay you money for them. I have worked for myself since I was a teenager and the only time that I could ever get money instantaneously out of somebody is if I had a physical product that they were interested in buying. When it comes to selling services or information you can’t just put it out there for sale and expect people to pay for it, especially if you’re wanting to charge a premium.

Jerad Hill Udemy Courses

One of the great things about the Internet is that if you provide valuable information, people will find it. That is been what I have found over the years. Every time I attempt to launch something ahead of providing value through producing information and making it available free, that product fails. This is why I produce so much content and give it away for free. I’m a firm believer in giving away 80% of what you know in order to charge a premium for that 20%.

Udemy 100,000 students - Jerad HillThis past weekend I surpassed 100,000 students on Udemy.com a platform for online education. My photography and social media courses, most of which are free, have been pretty popular. When I share statistics about how many students I have achieved on that platform, the first question I get is how much money have you made. Most people don’t understand because they are led by a different mindset than I am. My goal is to share information first and foremost. The money will always come. If revenue generation is the first thought when deciding to create content, you have already lost. There is no way that you can sell somebody on something if you are number one driver is to make money off of them.

Those who are making a lot of money from their content most likely had a sizable following from the beginning. Perhaps a small percentage of them were just in the right place at the right time. However, for most of us it is a long road of creating content, building trust and making friends along the way. After you have created enough value it makes it much easier to ask people to pay you for further instruction.

Though you can create on a minimalistic budget by opening up your laptop and using your WebCam, I didn’t feel that taking that approach would result in the type of following I was looking for. My courses are reviewed highly because of the production value put into them. My content is not groundbreaking, it is all stuff you could easily figure out on your own with enough time and patience. I do believe that there is value in getting instruction from a professional who understands what he’s talking about but if the quality of that production is low, that professionalism gets lost in the lack of production value.

Beyond simply producing high quality content you must find a way to connect with those that have consumed your content. Most platforms have this type of functionality but it is usually limited because their goal is get your students to buy more content. I have no problem with this, it is their platform we are using, but you must encourage people to keep in contact with you in some way if that platform limits you. Find a way to be able to communicate with your students or viewers outside of that platform that does not break the rules that platform has put in place.

You must also know what you are talking about. I don’t post or publish anything that I can’t back up. If somebody wants to know if I am actually a decent photographer, they can easily find that information out online. The same goes with my social media and online marketing courses. I have found that many educators who create these paid courses can’t even be found online. They then wonder why their course does not sell.

One of the reasons for adding production value to your content is that it makes your content look like it is a brand. When you position yourself as a brand, it makes people want to look for you outside of that platform to see if there is any other information out there. Take my Ditch Auto Photography course for example: The brand is “Ditch Auto.” I own and operate DitchAuto.Com. I also have a popular podcast I started a few months ago in iTunes with the same name. To top it all off, I admin a Facebook group for Ditch Auto, which has over 1300 members. During my course videos, I also encourage people to engage with me on the platform and on social media. People search for me by name and follow me.

Jerad Hill Google Search

The spelling of my name is pretty unique. Though not all of these search results are for content I have created, a large percent of them are.

Why do all of this, and do it for free?

I am in this for the long haul. Back when Myspace was the popular social network, I told everybody that they were nuts for posting all of their content in one platform. Your website should be the hub in which all of your efforts pour into. My online courses are no different. I use a couple of different online platforms for education and monetize 10% or less of the content I post to those platforms because I believe in giving first. Education is not all that I do. I own a professional photography business and an online marketing agency that keep me pretty busy. I would love to teach full time, but I only get about 4-5 hours each week to generate video content. I am lucky to have a studio that I have built from the ground up that can stay setup and ready to go whenever I am ready to film.

I never stop refining and making my content better. Even though my Introduction to Facebook Pages course is a free course, I re-filmed the entire course a few months ago because they content is out of date. That course has resulted in multiple consulting clients over the past few years. Should I have a paid followup course on Facebook Pages? Yes, totally. However, I have not yet created one.

What platforms like Udemy has done is made it way too easy for people to publish content. Everybody is a content creator, and while that is fantastic that it is that simple, not everybody should be a content creator until they get themselves into the right mindset. The best teachers do not decide to teach so they can make a ton of money. All of the teachers that have had the biggest impact in my life have not made much money in their lifetime. The most valuable knowledge I have obtained over the years, has came from books that I have read that were written by people who’s success came before they wrote the book, not the other way around. Am I doing Udemy and platforms like it any justice by putting up paid content that nobody ends up buying? I don’t believe that I would be. Though Udemy has not made much money from my courses, their numbers have increased a lot due to the people I have driven to their platform. Once I do begin releasing more paid courses, those numbers will start to level out and it will happen much faster than it would have had I started out with only paid courses.

All of my free courses are nothing groundbreaking. You could easily teach yourself what I taught in those courses if you spent some time bouncing around on Youtube. In teaching these courses, I am also getting better myself. When you teach something, you have to know enough about it to explain it well. This has helped me be a better photographer and provide better services to my clients. Beyond that, it also helps solidify the fact that I am a professional in my chosen fields. There is a lot of competition out there and you need to do whatever you can to market yourself well.

I see every student who signs up for one of my courses as a person who is interested in a subject and is eager to learn about it. Whether they are trying to learn something for business related purposes or simply for enjoyment, I am touching their lives and helping them achieve something. I spent countless hours making mistakes, so they don’t have to. The countless emails and reviews that have been written tell amazing stories of how my courses have allowed someone to start a business and allow their spouse to stay at home with their children. If I had put a pay wall in front of everything I produce, I may not have been able to have that affect on as many people as I have had. Once you generate that much change in the lives of others, you can ask them to pay for future content because they are now fans.

Now that I have reached this milestone, I plan to post more about my process of educating. I waited to do this because I felt that I needed to be at a professional level before weighing in on how to educate others. I am still far from a professional but I have had many people contact me asking how I was able to achieve 100,000 students on a single platform. More to come. Please follow me on Twitter or follow this blog to keep in touch.

Blog Business Growth

Facebook Video Ads – 15 Days In

Facebook Video Ad

Facebook recently added the ability to upload a video and turn it into an ad. This is cool because Facebook videos start to play in the newsfeed as people scroll. As a photographer and videographer, I have visually appealing content that when actually seen in the newsfeed, gets a lot of views and likes. Some of the top liked items on Facebook are cat pics/vids and wedding photos.

As I have with all other Facebook ad tools, I gave it a try. I had a video reel that I had put together from a previous wedding season which I thought would be a good video to try out Facebook Video Ads with. It was a simple process, just as easy as starting a text based ad using an image. I uploaded the image, set my target demographic and hit start.

The video started off a bit slow as far as views and interactions went, but as time moved forward, that view count grew and is now receiving about 900 views per day. I am running this campaign from December 19th through the end of January. Today marks day 15 of that campaign.

Here is what that ad looks like”

Facebook Video Ad

Here is what the view count looks like over the past 15 days:

Facebook Video Ad Dashboard View Count

And the most important data about the Facebook Video Ad Performance:

Facebook Video Ad View Analytics

So far I am enjoying the result. Of course it comes down to whether or not I end up booking any of the brides who contact me, but so far I have received a lot of inquiries. In the first 15 days, the video received 9,000 views, 100 likes, 4 comments, and 1 share using the share button. Beyond that, there have been a lot of clicks to my website as well as inquiries that have came in stating the Facebook video was what led them to contact me.

Metrics that stand out to me the most:

3.489% Clickthrough rate – That is pretty good even though it sounds like a small number.
62 Website Clicks – This means that 62 people clicked the learn more link and visited my website.
39 Other Actions – This is the conversion pixel I placed on my website to track conversions. That means that 63% of the clicks that come to my website are resulting in inquiries. You do the math.

It will be interesting to see how many of these inquiries turn into booked weddings. Time will tell. Perhaps after all this is over I will post a followup article.

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