Ever wonder what type of solopreneur businesses are possible to help you build additional income streams?
A big part of the HYW podcast will be interviews with solopreneurs who are building lifestyle businesses that enable them to be completely time, location, and financially independent.
In Episode 12, I talk with Jeff Campbell, who spent more than 2 decades in the corporate world before starting an online side hustle with niche blogs. He plans to solopreneur full time starting in 2020.
We dive into the details of what he does, how he does it, and how he started.
What you’ll learn in this episode:
- What kind of niche blogs Jeff has started
- How he landed on the idea and got started
- How much he’s currently earning
- What his day looks like balancing side hustle and job at the moment
- How he taught himself the marketing and analytical skills needed to grow his traffic
- Jeff’s advice for other solopreneurs
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Links mentioned in this episode:
- Pat Flynn’s podcast (Smart Passive Income)
- Media Vine (ad broker)
- Income School podcast
- Brandon Gaille podcast (Blogging Millionaire)
- Authority Hacker podcast
- Simple Pin podcast
- Side Hustle School
- Side Hustle Nation
- Late Night Internet Marketing
- Help A Reporter Out (HARO)
- After we stopped the recording, Jeff also mentioned Lumen 5 for automated video creation using blog posts as the source material
- HYW private Facebook community
Read this episode as a post:
Andrew Chen 0:20
Okay, welcome to another episode of the podcast. Today we’re going to do something different.
One of the things I plan to do with the podcast is to spend some chunk, I don’t know exactly the percentage, but some chunk of the podcast interviewing other entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who are building side hustle income streams with side businesses.
I’ll interview them about what they do, how much money they make, how they got started, how they actually build the business, and their advice for other entrepreneurs.
And I plan for this to be a regular ongoing thing where I invite other solopreneurs to come and share their wisdom, share their numbers, and share their advice and knowhow with us on how we can also build our own side businesses and build new additional side income streams that can help diversify our passive income.
So today, I have invited a solopreneur named Jeff Campbell, who is based in Austin, Texas.
We’re going to cover all kinds of things around the kind of business that Jeff has started, how he landed on the idea and got started, how much he’s currently earning, what his day currently looks like, balancing between his side hustle and his current day job, and how he has taught himself key skills around marketing and analytics needed to grow his business. And finally, his advice for other entrepreneurs.
So it’ll be a great episode and I think you’ll learn a lot.
And give me feedback. Is this format something that’s valuable, that you want to know more about, that you want to hear more solopreneurs come on the show and talk about their experiences…balanced with the strategy and tactics content I put out around retirement accounts and taxes and wealth building and all that stuff?
So balancing those two, between practical and tactical strategies and inspirational interviews from other solopreneurs to hear how other people are building passive income streams. I definitely encourage that feedback.
I hope it will be valuable to you to hear the stories of other solopreneurs and entrepreneurs, in addition to just practical strategies around wealth building.
Okay. My guest today is Jeff Campbell. Jeff spent over two decades as a corporate leader for Whole Foods. He is now helping to run a large martial arts school, but has been side hustling since 2016 and plans to go full time solopreneuring in 2020.
He currently has four different websites he’s running as a side business, and we’re going to dive into the details of those today.
Jeff, welcome to the show. So nice to have you here.
Jeff Campbell 3:48
Thank you for having me. This is an honor.
Andrew Chen 3:51
Cool. So I’d love to first just jump in by understanding a little bit: tell us what your solopreneur business is about, your different websites. What are they, and what are they about?
Jeff Campbell 4:04
Certainly. My main website is called Middle Class Dad. And middleclassdad.com was unfortunately taken about a month before I started it, so it’s actually under newmiddleclassdad.com.
And that was the one I started first. That was really what started me on this journey. And it was initially designed just to be a parenting blog, before I even really knew what a blog should be or could be.
And it’s grown to cover a wide variety of topics now, everything from parenting tips to relationship tips. Personal finance is a big part of the site as well as some family travel tips and things like that.
So pretty much anything I figured that I’m interested in as a middle class dad is what I put on that blog. Honestly, in retrospect, I wish I had narrowed down the focus of the niche a little bit more, but it is what it is.
And then more recently, I’ve started three other websites, wanting to diversify my website portfolio so that I have different niches going on, so that if something starts to trend up or down, I’m spread across four different totally unrelated websites.
So the second one I started is all about food. It’s not a recipe site because that’s way oversaturated. It’s called kitchenappliancehq.com.
And it’s basically cooking tips but also things like how to sharpen a knife the right way. Anything kitchen-related other than just pure recipes, because I love to cook. And having worked for Whole Foods for over 20 years, I know a lot about food also.
The next site I started was about hot tubs because it seemed like every hot tub site I came across on the internet looked like it was built in 1998, just not very mobile responsive. There’s decent information, but it seemed like there was a void there that I could help fill as a hot tub owner and lover.
I’ve owned four different hot tubs and I love getting in them. My kids love getting in them. So it seemed like something I could write about.
And I’m not trying to sell hot tubs on there, which, honestly, most of the websites that are out there about hot tubs are actually trying to sell them. I’m just providing information about how to use them, maintain them, repair them, things like that.
And then the last site I developed fairly recently is basically geared towards grocery stores, which is obviously something I also know a lot about from Whole Foods. But it’s not about the food side really, like my kitchen site is. This is more about the nuts and bolts.
I initially started it thinking that it would just be for people who own or run grocery stores, but I’ve since broadened out the topics to also be relevant to people that are just shoppers or who love grocery stores or who want to know more about how a grocery store might work.
And so that’s my newest one.
Andrew Chen 7:06
Excellent. So it sounds like the New Middle Class Dad website that you have was the first one to come online.
Tell us how that started. Where did the idea come from?
Jeff Campbell 7:18
Yeah. It’s very interesting, or at least to me.
I had had a blog back in 2007, back when everybody was starting blogs, not really knowing what they were. And it never really went anywhere because I knew nothing about it. I hadn’t discovered Pat Flynn yet or any of those people that were pioneers in that area.
But this blog came about because I was writing blog posts for the martial arts school that I helped run on our website and I found that I really liked that.
But the editorial process was such that the owners of the school really wanted to scrutinize everything that ever went on the website. And so anything I wrote, I would have to send to them for approval. That would take a few months, honestly, for every single article.
And so I really was just like, “I want a creative outlet. I want something to keep me motivated, keep me interested in.” And I had a lot to say other than just writing about martial arts.
So I was like, “Well, I’ll just start my own website. That way, they can do what they want to do and I don’t have to worry about going through their editorial process.”
So that frustration of the delay in being able to write something and get it published was what drove me to create that first website.
Andrew Chen 8:37
I see. Was it your intention to turn it into a side business at the time, or was it just a purely creative outlet?
Jeff Campbell 8:48
I wasn’t sure at that time. I had definitely started listening, in particular, to Pat Flynn’s podcast at the time, and others that are following in his footsteps. So I knew that there was something possible, but I didn’t yet really know exactly what that looked like.
So it was like I wanted a creative outlet, but maybe this could turn into something. I just don’t know yet.
Andrew Chen 9:14
Gotcha. And then later on, it sounds like you started the kitchen appliance and grocery and hot tub websites. What was the spark that led you to want to start new websites when you had New Middle Class Dad already going?
Jeff Campbell 9:31
Really what it was was I discovered a YouTube channel of a couple of guys that I really like. The channel is called Income School.
And the two guys that basically run that channel take a very different approach than most internet marketers to how they build websites and how they monetize websites. And I started listening voraciously to their YouTube channel and really got into them, and I ended up buying their blogging course.
And once I got into the nuts and bolts of their course, I realized that I had done a lot of things,
I don’t want to say wrong because everybody has a different approach to internet marketing. But I realized that there were a lot of things I could do differently that might get me better results.
So that was my impetus in starting the kitchen site, which was the next one that came out. And then as I got that website up and going, all of the other three have been launched in 2019. So they’re all fairly new.
The kitchen site came first, so it is actually getting a little bit of traffic now that it’s about eight months old. The other two are still way too young to really be doing much in terms of traffic yet.
But it was really listening to their YouTube channel and then buying their course that gave me the idea of “Well, why don’t I start other websites? I’ll follow their approach, see if that gets me better results.”
Because I have gotten decent results with Middle Class Dad, but it’s also taken me three and a half years. And I’m thinking that under their approach, I can probably get the other websites to this same level of success or better in a faster time frame.
Andrew Chen 11:10
Gotcha. So it sounds like when you listened to the YouTube content and took the course, you learned some techniques that you decided to apply to the new websites. At a high level, can you talk a little bit about what were some of the things that you learned that you’re now applying?
Jeff Campbell 11:26
Yeah. Their process is very nuts and bolts.
The introduction to a blog post is really critical, especially from an SEO standpoint. Really making the point of your article clear, clearly using the search term that you’re targeting, and all in that first introduction paragraph, and not go off on a bunch of different tangents.
For instance, if I was writing about why do grocery stores move everything around every few weeks, I wouldn’t say, “Well, when I worked for Whole Foods Market back in 1998 in the San Francisco area…”
Because Google might see that and say, “Is this article about Whole Foods? Is it about San Francisco? What’s it about?”
So really just simplifying the introduction paragraph specifically, just getting straight to the point.
Then the next thing that those guys really do is the second paragraph clearly answers the question that people might be typing into Google to get there in the first place, so that you’re not making people read all the way through the article hoping to find the answer towards the bottom. You’re giving it to them right off the bat.
And then you’re giving them a reason in the next few sentences to stick around. “Well, this is the answer. But really, if you know these tips, which we’re going to get into below, that can make this even better.”
And I’m being very general here, but that was the idea. And then some of the formatting and things like that, they get into too.
But that was really the nuts and bolts of it is really being clear about the introduction paragraph, nailing the answer early on so that people aren’t having to skim through trying to find it, and then giving them a reason to stick around.
And then also just in terms of how to find the things that you want to write about.
Most people in internet marketing push these paid SEO tools, but they push them because they’re getting an affiliate commission for recommending them. And these guys don’t use any of those tools at all. In fact, they’re notorious in the internet marketing space for being critical of them because they believe that the search volumes aren’t accurate.
And whether or not that’s true is for somebody else to answer. But their approach is just very simple and direct. But it has given me a lot of good results in the 9-10 months I’ve been following them.
Andrew Chen 14:02
Gotcha. So have you been able to apply some of these learnings onto Middle Class Dad as well?
Jeff Campbell 14:10
Yes, definitely. I went back not to the whole site because there are hundreds of posts on that site, but probably the top 100 ranking posts. I’ve gone back in, tweaked the introduction paragraph, made sure I had that answer clearly stated up front.
In some cases, I’ve realized that maybe the search phrase I was targeting is too competitive, so I found a different search term that was related and I’ve maybe rewritten the article a little bit.
But if you think about it, I discovered them in late December of 2018. At that time, Middle Class Dad was getting about 25,000 page views a month. And I’m now close to 60,000 page views a month.
I don’t necessarily attribute all of that growth to them because there have been other things I’ve done too, especially growing my Pinterest account. But I do feel like all of the changes in the Google organic traffic for Middle Class Dad, I do attribute to their course.
Andrew Chen 15:13
Got it. So it sounds like their course is really focused on SEO and making things rank well in Google.
So for Middle Class Dad, and maybe to some extent, the other three as well, what have been the main ways you have tried to drive growth? It sounds like Google is definitely one factor, maybe Pinterest. And I don’t know if there are others.
What have been some of the key insights for how to drive growth to your websites?
Jeff Campbell 15:42
Well, I could definitely tell you all the things to not do because I tried everything with Middle Class Dad. But at this point, I’ll answer your question right up front, and then if you want me to go into the not do section, I can do that.
The number one thing I do for Middle Class Dad is try and pick good Google organic search phrases that aren’t super high in competition but that are high enough to where they are getting a number of people searching for them.
My goal is every post, I want to have maybe 1000 page views a month. I don’t always hit that, but some exceed that. But 1000 is about the goal for every post that I write.
And with Middle Class Dad, about 50% of my traffic comes from Pinterest because I’ve been doing Pinterest for a long time on there and I get 20,000-30,000 page views a month from Pinterest.
I’ve started Pinterest for the kitchen site, but not the other two. I’m not really sure that they lend themselves to Pinterest as much as the other two do.
And then I would love to start corresponding YouTube channels for the kitchen site and the hot tub site because I do think that would lend itself well.
I just haven’t gotten around to that yet, working 45 hours a week and having almost an hour of commute each way. My time is definitely stretched thinner than I wish it was.
So really trying to do SEO right and then Pinterest I think are the two big drivers.
Andrew Chen 17:23
Gotcha. What are some of the best practices when it comes to using Pinterest that you have found?
I know at least most of the folks who are listening to this who have their own side hustles definitely are aware that they need to optimize for Google. But Pinterest may be less explored.
What are some of the best practices that you would recommend now having done this for a while?
Jeff Campbell 17:44
You can definitely apply some of the same SEO techniques to Pinterest because it’s not a social network. It is a graphic search engine, just like Google, but more visual than text-based. So you can definitely apply some of the same techniques.
What you have to realize is that at least 75% of the Pinterest users are women.
In some ways, what I found initially that wasn’t working was I would write posts and pin them on Pinterest and had a very masculine approach to it because I’m a guy. So my images, my text, my font choices were all things that I liked.
And I found over time that if I shifted those things a little bit, not like in a manipulative way but just in a way that made more sense for the end user of Pinterest, that’s when I really began to see the growth.
One of the ways that I did that was simply by searching in Pinterest for the article that I had just written that I wanted to pin, and I would see what the top results looked like.
And I wouldn’t outright copy anybody because I definitely think that’s wrong and I report hundreds of stolen pins every month on Pinterest of people that steal them from me.
But I would get ideas about color choices, font styles, that kind of thing, and general layout.
But for the most part on Pinterest, you want your pins to be vertical, like a 2:3 ratio. You want to have a captivating image of some kind and then a text overlay that clearly tells the person what they’re going to get when they click on that. And that’s the nutshell.
And then because of the high number of stolen pins I’ve dealt with, I do these days add my brand name to the pins as well, just to make it easy to identify and hopefully so that people will steal them less. But I literally report hundreds a month, unfortunately.
Andrew Chen 19:46
Unfortunately. How consistent do you have to be in pinning to get those kind of results?
Jeff Campbell 19:53
Well, I use Tailwind, which I think is probably indispensable as a scheduling tool. If you’re going to be on Pinterest, it’s incredibly laborious to do it manually.
You can schedule pins directly in Pinterest, but it’s very cumbersome. And it would still be extremely time-consuming, especially if you have multiple boards and maybe group boards and things like that. You’d still spend hours a week.
So Tailwind really streamlines that for me.
Plus, they have some other cool features. They have a thing called tribes, which are like Pinterest group boards or sharing boards where you share their pins and they share yours, kind of a reciprocal thing. So it’s a good way to get your pins in front of people that wouldn’t necessarily see them on their own.
And then they also have a loop feature where you can loop your most popular pins to the boards periodically every few months to keep it fresh.
But I always pin about 15 pins a day on Pinterest. Combination of mine and others, but probably 80% mine and 20% other people’s.
Andrew Chen 21:08
Got it. So your target audience for New Middle Class Dad is I think dads. And if in Pinterest, the users are mostly women, are you getting the type of users you want from Pinterest?
Jeff Campbell 21:26
Well, surprisingly enough, when I look at my analytics for Middle Class Dad, I get about 75% women to my site.
Now, some of that certainly could be from Pinterest. But like I said, Pinterest is only about 50% of my traffic. So for whatever reason, my posts do attract a lot of women.
I think one of the reasons for that is, these days, I have more relationship tip posts than I do parenting tip posts. And one of the reasons for that is parenting blog posts are a very saturated niche, so there’s a lot of competition.
So I tend to find search terms to write posts on in the relationship area more because I can find things that are a little less competitive. So I do have a lot of relationship posts.
And then I also have a lot of family travel posts. I do a lot of Disney posts. And I think those things may lend themselves to a little bit more of a female audience than a male audience.
Andrew Chen 22:29
Gotcha. So these days, how do your websites make money?
Jeff Campbell 22:36
Well, for the most part right now, Middle Class Dad is the only one generating any real income.
The kitchen site, like I said, is about eight months old. I’m hopeful that by January or February, I’ll be able to put ads on there.
I could put Google ads on there now, but when I had them on Middle Class Dad, they generated such a small amount of money. I don’t really feel like it’s worth the time and how it would make the site look.
Right now with Middle Class Dad, I use Mediavine, which is more of a premium ad broker than Google AdSense.
But Mediavine, for your first site, you have to have, I think, 25,000 sessions to even be considered. But if you already have one site with them, then they’ll add additional sites once you get to about 10,000 page views.
So I’m hopeful that by January or February, I’ll be able to add the kitchen site to meet my Mediavine account because Mediavine does really well for me on Middle Class Dad.
I make anywhere from 1000-1500 a month just on ads using them, whereas if I was still with Google AdSense, even with my current traffic rate, I doubt I’d be making more than $200 or $300. So it’s a big difference.
Plus, I think the user experience for the audience is better with Mediavine. I think the ads are a little more tasteful. The placement is better.
Mediavine is easier to use also. I really literally don’t do much.
And the ads just pop up naturally and they’re in good places. They’re not obtrusive. It doesn’t look like one of those sites where there’s just ads everywhere and it really looks bad.
So that’s the number one way that I make money.
The number two would definitely be affiliate products, recommending things.
Amazon is probably what I use the most, although it’s not necessarily the highest dollar amount because their commission rate tends to be about 4% on most things. So I get a few hundred dollars a month from Amazon.
And then I have some other affiliate products either from ClickBank or MaxBounty or FlexOffers.
There’s a few other affiliate programs out there. But just recommending products in a blog post, if it’s relevant to that blog post, not stuffed in in an artificial way.
On the hot tub site, I have a post about the best hot tub chemicals to use for sensitive skin. And so I recommend some things that they can get on Amazon that are highly rated things that I have purchased myself. And then if they click that link, obviously I get a commission for that sale if they buy it.
Andrew Chen 25:18
Got it. So it sounds like two ways: showing ads on the site where relevant and affiliate marketing.
Jeff Campbell 25:27
Yes. And I do hope to maybe add some products that I create down the road.
I do have an e-book for sale on the Middle Class Dad site about personal finance, but in all honesty, I need to update it. I don’t push it much and it doesn’t do much in terms of sales.
But also, since I wrote that, Google has really clamped down on sites that talk about money or health. And so I feel like my rankings in those areas have fallen.
So I’m not getting as many people coming to my site as I used to in the personal finance area. That probably is part of the reason why I don’t sell as many e-books as I used to.
Andrew Chen 26:07
Interesting. Can you say more about the Google change for health and personal finance? I hadn’t heard about that one.
Jeff Campbell 26:15
Yeah. I’m not quite sure when that came out. I feel like it was earlier this year.
Most people refer to it as YMYL or “Your Money or Your Life.”
Basically, they decided that for topics that are super critical, like “What do I do if I think I’m having a heart attack?” for instance. If somebody writes a post about that, Google doesn’t want to show you Joe Schmo from down the street’s article on that if they’re not a doctor or a nurse or haven’t been to med school because they don’t want somebody to click on that, follow that advice, and then die of a heart attack.
So they decided that anything that’s super important (“What do I do to avoid bankruptcy?” would be one in the money space), they want to make sure that the posts that are at the top of Google for those questions are from credible sources.
And then there’s since been another update that everyone refers to as the EAT update, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. So Google is looking for those things, especially in the money and health topics. So I’ve made a lot of changes to all of my websites as a result of that.
For instance, a website that was talking about health but didn’t have an About page, so you had no idea who the author was. They don’t have a picture of the author. They don’t have any of their background or their story about why they’re writing these posts.
Google is going to shove them down to Page 10 on the search results.
Whereas even somebody that’s not a doctor but maybe, like me, they worked at Whole Foods, in a health food store for 20 years. And I’ve got my picture on the website and I talk about my experience with health or with Whole Foods. And you get to know a little bit about me.
And maybe I have an e-book that’s for sale on Amazon. That gives additional credibility.
So Google is really pushing those things right now, so that the more authoritative you can look and the more credible and the more trustworthy you appear, the higher your rankings will be, specifically in what they call “Your Money or Your Life” kind of areas.
Andrew Chen 28:34
Got it. That’s really good advice. Two quick follow up questions to that.
How do you stay up to date on these type of changes that come from Google or maybe even Pinterest or other places?
And I guess you’ve already mentioned some, like an About page and do you have something selling on Amazon, do you have a photo of yourself, things like that. But what are some of the markers that folks should be aware of that influence that EAT score that you described?
Jeff Campbell 29:09
Sure. What I changed on my sites. I have an About page for me personally, but I also have an About page for the brand.
And I know that even though it’s just me doing everything, it seems like that would be one and the same. But I talk about each thing differently.
I make sure I have a contact page where people can contact me by email. I even put my phone and my address on there because that is something that Google favors.
I know everyone is not necessarily comfortable doing that. But I also feel like in this day and age, if you dig enough, you can find out anything on anyone. So I’m not worried about it too much.
It does increase the number of spam emails in my inbox and things like that. But if it puts my articles closer to Page 1, I feel like that’s probably worth the trade-off.
I also make sure I have an affiliate disclaimer. I put mine in the sidebar, but I also have a full-on page about it that is linked into the About Me section. That way, I’m not getting in trouble with the FTC or anything like that.
But I also think Google cares about that also. If I’m recommending products and I’m getting money for that, they want to know that I’m clearly explaining that.
Those are really the big things.
I don’t have my e-book on Amazon. I probably should.
Again, I haven’t done this yet, not really, but having a YouTube channel that points to your websites would be really big too. Or like in your case, having a podcast I think would be huge in that arena.
I do actually have a YouTube channel for Middle Class Dad. I just haven’t done anything on it in about a year.
And in retrospect, I realized that I cover way too much ground to really make a successful YouTube because people that are interested in my post about how to navigate Disney World aren’t necessarily going to care about how to budget when you only make $40,000 a year.
So I almost feel like if I’m going to do YouTube for the Middle Class Dad blog, I should have a separate channel for each category. And again, that’s a lot of work.
And I feel like I didn’t answer the first thing you asked.
Andrew Chen 31:37
Yeah, just around how you stay up to date.
Jeff Campbell 31:41
Oh, right. Well, the good news about working a day job that’s 50 minutes away is I have a lot of time in the car to kill. So I almost exclusively listen either to podcasts about internet marketing or I listen to YouTube channels about internet marketing.
And that was how I found the Income School guys. But they’re not the only people I listen to. But I get most, if not all, of my information that way.
And there’s a lot of great ones out there. And now I’ll be listening to yours too.
Andrew Chen 32:13
Thank you. Are there any that you recommend?
Jeff Campbell 32:16
Yeah. I started with Pat Flynn’s podcast, definitely. He was the one who really put the idea in my head and got my ball rolling. And I’m sure that’s true for thousands of other people because he’s been around for so long at this point.
There’s a guy named Brandon Gaillee who runs a blog and a podcast called The Blog Millionaire. I liked especially his earlier work on his podcast because he really got into the technical nuts and bolts of things.
Whereas Pat was a little bit more big picture, Tim Ferriss style, inspiration and motivation, Brandon was the nuts and bolts of things.
I think the Authority Hacker Podcast is pretty good. And then there is one specifically on Pinterest that’s good called the Simple Pin Podcast.
Those are probably the ones I listen to most consistently.
But there’s Side Hustle School and Side Hustle Nation. And then Late Night Internet Marketing.
There’s quite a few, but I would say Pat Flynn’s and The Blog Millionaire and Authority Hacker are probably the main ones I listen to.
In the course I paid for with Income School, they also have a private podcast just for course members. And I listen to that one every week also.
Andrew Chen 33:44
Gotcha. That’s a lot of really good sources. Thank you.
I’m sure my listeners would be very curious to know. What does your typical day look like now running your websites? If they could live by looking at the world through your eyes for a day, what are the kinds of things, activities that they would see you doing to grow your brand and grow your business?
Jeff Campbell 34:09
Well, they would first see me getting coffee because in order to do this, I get up about 4:00 a.m. every day.
Andrew Chen 34:15
Jeff Campbell 34:16
Because I’ve got a wife and three kids and everybody is asleep then. So I get up, I make coffee, then I start to work on it.
And then by 6:30 or so, I’m up helping get the kids ready for school. Two of them are in school. One of them is not yet.
And then I take the big girls to school and then I start to get ready for my day job and then don’t get back home again until 7:00 or so p.m.
So I try and get most of my work done in those early morning hours.
And so it’s not just writing blog posts because there’s a lot more that has to happen. So as much as possible (and I don’t do this enough), I try and batch what my process is.
So one day, it might be my Pinterest day and I do all my Pinterest work for the week. One day might be just brainstorming about what my next batch of blog posts are going to be about. Then I’ll have a couple of days where I’m actually writing those blog posts.
But then there’s also responding to emails because I get at least 30 emails a day now, unfortunately. And a lot of it are just people looking for “Hey, will you link to me?” kind of thing. So some of them I ignore and I’ve set filters up now to deal with some of those.
I don’t do a lot of outreach requests for backlinks because I feel like that’s spammy and not something that feels right to me. But one day a week, I do spend time on a website called Help a Reporter Out. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that.
Andrew Chen 36:08
Yeah. HARO. Yeah.
Jeff Campbell 36:10
And that’s basically all these journalists submit questions and you answer them. And if they like your answer the best, they pick yours and they often will link to your website.
And so I find that that’s a good way to get backlinks to your website without doing things that are spammy or black hat. I’ve gotten links that way from the Washington Post, for instance.
Andrew Chen 36:33
Wow. That’s amazing.
Jeff Campbell 36:35
And I would have never gotten a link from somebody like that.
Andrew Chen 36:37
Just from HARO. Wow.
Jeff Campbell 36:39
Uh-huh. And I will say that for every 10 requests I respond to, I’m lucky if I get one. But if you can get a link from somebody like that, then it’s probably worth it.
Andrew Chen 36:51
Totally. One thing I’d love to ask is, I don’t know about you, but when I was writing, when I write posts for my blog, maybe I’m a slow writer or maybe my blog posts are too long, but I find that I’m just not able to crank them out.
I’m not as consistent about it. I do them, but they come in fits and spurts.
And it sounds like you have a pretty good system for batching and for just staying on track. How long does it take you to write? And what are some of the strategies that you have found to make you efficient at cranking blog posts out?
Jeff Campbell 37:39
Well, having written a few hundred at least at this point, just doing it over and over and over again is the best way I’ve gotten better because I look back at some of my earliest blog posts and they’re frankly terrible. And some of the ones that were terrible and were getting no traffic, I just removed altogether. And others I’ve rewritten.
So there’s just learning as you go and doing it over and over again and gradually getting better.
For me, though, one of the keys is just having a recipe or an outline to follow. And I tend to follow that every single post, no matter what the article is about.
So I’ll first start with that brief introduction paragraph where I just really clearly state what this article is about. Then I put in that little answer section that clearly answers the topic. And then I have probably five to seven subheadings that come in underneath that before a conclusion.
And what I do for the subheadings is I just go to Google. Let’s say I want to write a post about what do you do when your child hurts your feelings. And I type that into Google.
And then about halfway down the page, there’ll be that little block on Google that says “People also ask,” and it gives you a list of things. And I will often use those verbatim as my subheadings.
And instead of thinking about “I’ve got to write a 2500-word post,” I just go in and write a bunch of little 300-word posts under each subheading. And then I write a conclusion at the very end that just sums it up.
On Middle Class Dad, I often end the article with a question to inspire comments. I’m on the fence about comments on my other sites because I get so many spam comments these days on Middle Class Dad.
I’ve gotten some great comments too from people that I know were genuine and I really was able to help, and that makes me feel good.
Ultimately, one of the reasons I started this blog was to help people. And so I love it when I can interact with a real person.
But I would say for every real comment I get, I get about 20 spam ones. And again, I’ve got filters set up to get rid of most of those, but it’s still a pain. So I’m on the fence as to whether I’m even going to do comments on the other sites, but I do on Middle Class Dad.
And I don’t know where I was going with that.
Andrew Chen 40:16
Just your process for writing the blog post.
Jeff Campbell 40:19
So, on Middle Class Dad, I end the post with a question usually, hopefully to inspire comments.
And then I go back and I might add in some images. I don’t use as many images these days per blog post as I used to. I always have a main featured image.
And I prefer to do a custom image, not just a plain stock photo. I’ll probably start with a stock photo, but I’ll maybe do a text overlay or some sort of graphic overlay that’s eye-catching or maybe funny or maybe invokes curiosity.
I used to stuff a bunch of images in my post. And I find that especially now that I’ve got ads on Middle Class Dad, I feel like it’s almost too much. And every image you add also slows down the site a little bit too.
So I’ve streamlined the number of images I had.
I often will put an embedded YouTube video towards the bottom of the post. If I can find a good YouTube video on that subject, then if it’s three, five, or six minutes long and people watch some of that, that just keeps them on my blog post longer, which Google definitely rewards you for what they call dwell time or how long somebody spends on average on your post before they bounce away.
So things like that definitely can keep people on your post a little bit longer.
But starting with that outline. So the first thing I do is I have my title, I put in my subheadings, I write my intro, I write my conclusion, and then I go back and I just fill in each subheading with about 300 words.
Andrew Chen 42:04
Gotcha. That’s a really good streamline process.
So how far ahead are you pacing in terms of your calendar? Or do you pretty much write one and then hit “Publish” right away?
Jeff Campbell 42:12
I used to write them ahead of time and then schedule them, thinking that that somehow was better. But now I just write it and I publish.
I use the free plugin or browser extension Grammarly just to make sure I don’t have any glaring grammar mistakes. That comes in handy.
But I just publish it.
Especially if you think about it from the standpoint that it’s going to take Google about eight months to really trust your post. It’ll be indexed within a couple of weeks, but it’ll take them about eight months to where they really say, “This post deserves to be in this spot.”
And so if you’re scheduling posts weeks in advance, you’re just pushing that timeframe even further out. So I literally just hit “Publish” the moment it’s done.
Andrew Chen 43:01
Got it. What are the biggest lessons in all this?
You’ve done a lot. You’ve learned a lot. You’ve gotten a lot of wisdom from podcasts.
What are the biggest learnings that you have had throughout these few years building your business? Maybe the things that you would tell yourself back then when you were just starting?
Jeff Campbell 43:22
Well, there’s a bunch of things.
I know Pat Flynn was big on saying you’ve got to be everywhere. You’ve got to have a blog and a podcast and a YouTube channel and be on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram. But he has a team of people working for him, helping him manage all that.
And so I think for a solopreneur, start with one thing. Master that one thing. Then when you’re good in there, expand to something else, instead of trying to do a bunch of things not very well.
At least that was my experience. I was trying to do a bunch of things not very well.
And then the second thing is realize what’s really producing the results.
I used to spend hours every week scheduling posts to go out on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. And I stopped doing that altogether almost a year ago, and the traffic I get from those social networks now is more than it was then.
And I don’t do anything on those platforms now, other than a little bit of stuff personally on Instagram, pictures of my kids and things like that on Halloween or whatever.
But I don’t do any posting for Middle Class Dad on Facebook or Twitter anymore, and my traffic has only gone up. But I’m saving hours of time each week.
So figure out what it is that’s really moving the needle forward on your business and put more time there and less time or no time on the things that aren’t having an impact.
Andrew Chen 45:01
True. So what are the plans for the future? What’s the big vision that you aspire to with your websites?
Jeff Campbell 45:08
Well, my ultimate goal, as is I’m sure thousands or hundreds of thousands of other people, is just to have that financial freedom and flexibility of working for myself, not working a day job, being able to work when I want to, how I want to, where I want to.
If my family wants to take off and go to Disneyland, I can bring my laptop with me and the work doesn’t stop. I can work on stuff in the morning and then go to Disneyland, come home, maybe work a little bit then, without having to adhere to someone else’s schedule.
So that’s the ultimate goal. And I set myself a goal to get there by the end of 2020.
And that was my push to add additional websites just so that I’m spread out across different platforms in different niches. Certain things trend up or down. I felt like I was a little bit more protected that way.
It does create a little bit more work because I do feel like you have to crank out content consistently in order for Google to really trust you.
We’ve all seen websites that haven’t put out anything since 2015. And I feel like they’re only going to go down in the rankings because Google sees that and a red flag comes up.
So I do feel like cranking out content consistently helps you in the rankings.
But my goal is by the end of 2020, if not sooner, to be able to leave my day job and focus solely on these websites and probably build more websites on top of these four.
Andrew Chen 46:48
Got it. Most solopreneurs will never get as far as you have gotten. You have four websites, at least one or two that are starting to show some real traction.
Because most people just end up not making money on their side hustles. What do you feel like is the biggest mistake that they make, and why aren’t there more people like you?
Jeff Campbell 47:11
Well, thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment.
Well, my wife will tell you that I’m extremely persistent and determined. And if I try something, I don’t like to give up and admit defeat. So stubbornness definitely is part of it.
But also, I think the understanding that from the moment I hit “Publish,” it’s going to be eight months before I really know what Google thinks of that article. And hopefully in that meantime, I’ll have written 50 other articles at least.
So just understanding that this isn’t a get rich quick thing. You’ve got to put the time in now and then you’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to wait.
You have to understand that if you launch a new website, no one except for your Great Aunt Tessie is going to be going to that website anytime in the next several months. And so you have to have that understanding.
Especially if somebody is married. They might be spending all this time cranking out these blog posts and their spouse is like, “You’re spending all this time and only two people visited your website last month, and I was one of them?”
So there’s that lack of understanding, I think, is part of it. Impatience is part of it.
And then the other thing that I really think happens a lot is people write blog posts about things that they think are important.
Like “Why I Hate Blue Bell Ice Cream.” Well, nobody really cares why I hate Blue Bell ice cream. Even beyond that, nobody is typing that into Google to search.
“Why does Jeff hate Blue Bell ice cream?” They’re not typing that.
So people spend all this time writing blog posts about things that aren’t actually being searched in Google.
And so I think that’s the key is nailing that search analysis, really understanding that everything you write should be something that someone is searching in Google.
And then beyond that, you’ve got to make sure that if I’m writing a post about a troubled marriage, I got to make sure that the top ranking posts aren’t written by John Gottman and Oprah and Dr. Phil because I’m never going to outrank them.
So that’s the second part of it.
So you got to first figure out what to write about that people are going to search for. And then you got to make sure that you’re not writing something that other people who are way more credible than I am have already written about it.
So really both of those things I think are the key reasons why people don’t see success and why they give up is faulty search analysis, faulty competition analysis, and being impatient and not realizing that blogging requires time to really see the results.
Andrew Chen 49:54
Amen. Jeff, this has been such a delight and joy.
Where can people find out more about you, your websites, your business, all you’re about? And don’t spam them, guys. But just where they can find about you.
Jeff Campbell 50:04
newmiddleclassdad.com is my baby. That’s my home base.
But there’s also kitchenappliancehq.com. hottubownerhq.com is the hot tub site. And my grocery site is thegrocerystoreguy.com.
Andrew Chen 50:20
Awesome. Thank you so much, Jeff.
A lot of great wisdom and insights here. And I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts here today.
Jeff Campbell 50:30
This was a true pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. I can’t wait to hear it, and I can’t wait to add you to my podcast player next Tuesday.
Andrew Chen 50:37
Jeff Campbell 50:39
Andrew Chen 50:40
All right. That’s a wrap. I hope you enjoyed this interview with Jeff Campbell and all the tips and tools he shared with us.
And please go to the show notes page, hackyourwealth.com/12. And leave a comment. Let me know.
Did you like this format? Is this type of content useful and valuable to you? To hear the stories of other solopreneurs and entrepreneurs, and hear about what kind of businesses and side businesses they’re building, how they’re trying to grow those businesses, and how they’re trying to increase their side passive income?
Let me know what you think. And if this type of content is valuable to you, and you want to see more of it, I definitely appreciate your feedback.