Choosing a domain, building subscribers, and SEOMike Sullivan
I like to read. I read blogs and news feeds, but I really enjoy reading books. I like to learn new things and get new perspectives or new ways of looking at the same old situation. I also like to throw in the occasional fiction novel as well. Think about how much you could learn. I’ve tried other substitutes for reading, such as podcasts…. and they fill a need. But, I always wished I could read more books and read them faster.
I’m not pitching some speed reading program to you that will allow you to breeze through a phonebook and memorize the entire contents. I’m letting you know about a cool site linked to a domain name I recently came across. FourMinuteBooks.com. Nik Goeke is the man behind it and he has some great tips.
Mike: Tell me about fourminutebooks.com. What gave you the idea to provide book summaries and how did you know people would find value in it?
Nik: First, I’d been reading book summaries myself via a service called Blinkist for about a year and really enjoyed it, but didn’t retain as much information as I would have liked to. I knew it wasn’t the first paid service in this area and saw it growing in popularity.
Second, I validated the idea by offering a few free summaries via blog posts and downloads on my blog, where I also put up a sidebar banner ad for Blinkist after joining their affiliate program. This resulted in $300 in commissions over 3 months, without me doing any additional work, which lent credibility to my thesis even more.
Mike: Did you hand register this domain name? How did you come to choose it?
Nik: Since I set this website up with affiliate income in mind from the beginning, there were some factors I debated for a while – branding or streamlining? Logo, name, color scheme, I knew making these closer to the Blinkist brand would help with selling, but in turn keep me from making this a proper brand and turning it into something more.
Nevertheless, I initially settled for another, unbranded, affiliate-optimized domain: blinkistreview.com. Very quickly though, I realized two things:
1. The name is uninspiring, boring and non-descriptive for someone who’s never heard of the app.
2. Blinkist’s name is registered, which likely prevents others from using it in domain names.
Clearly, another name was in order. I’d been writing content for two weeks at this point and the average length of posts was 4 minutes. Since one of the key benefits of book summaries is saving time, I thought the 4 minute duration would be a good hook.
After experimenting with a few other numbers and units (like seconds, etc.), I quickly settled on Four Minute Books after seeing it spelled out in various fonts and dabbling in logo design a bit.
By the way: any resemblance to The 4-Hour Workweek is arbitrary, I love that book and Tim’s blog, but it didn’t even cross my mind at the time.
Mike: Funny, I was actually going to ask if there was any insiration there from Tim Ferriss. I see you also offer coaching. In what areas do you coach? What do your customers gain from the experience?
Nik: Coaching was one of the first activities I explored in my online career. I was using coach.me to track my own habits and had built up a couple of streaks, and to this day I’m grateful for Tony Stubblebine, the CEO, to reach out when they started their coaching program.
I’ve coached a variety of very specific habits ranging from No Alcohol to Building Mental Toughness to Setting Goals, but have now settled into productivity and project management.
My clients and I have a monthly, 60-minute Skype call in which we move through four questions and tie together loose ends. That results in a very specific action plan for the next month, with three target outcomes and an action plan for each one. I follow up weekly via email to hold them accountable and help them overcome any obstacles until we meet again the next month.
What my clients love the most is the accountability, paired with the outside perspective of someone playing devil’s advocate to their plans and getting them to take the most efficient path, not the one they might be romantic about taking. I only take on a handful of clients at any given time.
Mike: You write a blog, read tons of books, write book summaries, you’re a student, you coach people, answer at least one question per day on Quora… Where do you find all the time to do these things?
Nik: I’m very deliberate with how I spend my time. I’m aware we only get one shot at this thing called life, so I’ve decided to NOT invest any time into a few things which quickly become huge time-wasters, such as:
– Staying on top of the news in any form whatsoever.
– Watching TV. I don’t own one. I occasionally watch movies on my laptop.
– Using social media only to produce, never to consume (except for Youtube, my guilty pleasure and TV show replacement).
– Consumption in general. I buy very few things for non-practical reasons and in fact, buy few things at all. Two big chunks of my money go to rent and food and that’s pretty much it. I never go shopping or browse electronics – unless I need a new pair of pants or my phone is broken.
– Cooking. This one I’m not proud of, but I’m not perfect. I spend a bit more on food in order to not have to prepare it myself. One of the trade-offs I’m making that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, at least not if you enjoy the act of cooking itself.
If you cut out the things 80% of people lose 80% of their time on, you suddenly have a lot of time left to do the things you really find meaning in 🙂
Mike: You also registered your name, niklasgoeke.com, and have content there. Tell me why that’s a good idea?
Nik: Unless you’re very clear about a certain company, topic, niche or brand you want to build, I highly recommend when first starting to blog, do so in your name. And if you make it a brand domain, buy your name too and throw a one-page resumé on there.
I didn’t have THE thing I wanted to write about when I started blogging in September 2014. I just knew I had to start talking. My thinking was: ideas, niches, topics, these come and go, but I will always be me.
I’m glad I made that decision. It’s allowed me to stay open in terms of topics (with phases, for example in 2015 I talked a lot about productivity) and has turned the people who now follow the blog into loyal fans of myself, not just a certain topic or idea I shared.
I’ve pivoted multiple times and start new projects all the time. With a personal blog, I can take the audience with me, wherever I go.
It’s just not the same if you have a brand name and alienate it over time.
Mike: How many monthly visitors do you get to your fourminutebooks.com domain per month?
Nik: Right now, it’s just over 20,000 unique monthly visitors. The site exists since January 11th, 2016 (with 3 weeks prior preparation, initial content writing, etc.) and has attracted 100,000 visitors in its first year.
Mike: Can you tell me how many subscribers you have and what are some good methods of attracting subscribers to a website?
Nik: After combining my email lists from Four Minute Books and my personal blog in March 2017, I’m at about 11,000. Don’t let that confuse you. I’ve been building my email list for 2.5 years and have tried every tactic in the book.
The first 6 months? 100 subscribers.
After taking a course just about list building in 2015? 1,000 subscribers in 6 months.
With Four Minute Books? 1,000 subscribers in 3 months, cut the time in half.
When I started giving daily answers on Quora in 2017, it jumped after a while and now I’m at 1,000+ new subscribers per month.
What worked? Doing all of it. And not quitting. And figuring out which ones worked best for me. The only practical advice I can give is to go through all tactics, find the ones that are the most fun and feel right for you and keep doing those for however long it takes to see the results you want.
It compounds too, as it gets faster over time, because old efforts still expose new people to your work.
Mike: What do you recommend for other online businesses to help get traffic to their sites? Are there any secrets?
Nik: The best secret I can reveal is, I think, that people are best off stopping to look for secrets and invest that time into creating the best content they can come up with and then release that into the right context, where it’ll hit its mark. Work is the differentiating factor here.
That said: if you can make SEO work for you, that’s a wonderfully sustainable source of traffic. With my blog it’s been hit and miss, but with Four Minute Books, it worked like a charm. That is, after publishing daily for 6 months without seeing results, it worked like a charm.
Two possible options to look at SEO:
1. Can you create a consistent keyword structure by following the same formula for every post?
For example, Four Minute Books is all about book summaries, so I stuck with [book title] + [summary] as the structure for all keyword optimization.
I realize that’s not possible for every blog or topic, so…
2. Can you create massive, one-stop-shop resources that solve problems for under-supplied keywords?
For example, if “how to make fudge” had a lot of searches, but almost no good tutorials in the top 10, that provides a great opportunity for you to try and create the best content out there by giving people one resource that covers it all.
Recipes, pictures, instructions, where to buy the ingredients, what it should look like, videos, fun variants, and on and on.
If you can make the best guide on how to make fudge, your reward will be all that traffic from people who search for a solution to this problem, but have so far been disappointed by what’s out there.
Don’t worry about link-building and optimization so much – it’s about creating great content that serves the people that are searching, not the engines.