Have you ever wanted to be famous?
I’m not talking about the fame where you can’t have a private moment to yourself. I’m talking about a healthy fame where you are instantly recognized wherever you go in your niche. You are a respected authority on your topic. As soon as you enter a room, everyone recognizes you and crowds you immediately.
Well, that’s what I accomplished over 10 years ago as a child in middle school. I ended up growing my no-name blog into the most respected authority in its own special place on the Internet, accumulating over millions of visits and knocking out established titans.
In this article, you’ll learn about how I did it, the timeless strategies that that still work today, and the mistakes I made that lost me the whole audience.
I was just a kid in awe.
It all started when I was playing this online multiplayer video game called Club Penguin. I had played it since it came out in beta, and stumbled across a blog about it. By the comments on each blog post and the view counter on the sidebar, I realized that hundreds of thousands of kids were visiting this blog every week, if not more.
After using the blog for many weeks to improve my gameplay, a crazy thought came into the area. I wanted to have that fame. It looked fun. It all started with belief.
Who would have thought that a few years later, I would have achieved my dream and overtook this blog for the #1 spot on Google for most search terms around that niche.
I self-taught myself everything. I remember it being difficult. I didn’t understand WordPress that well but I was excited to learn it. I copied the #1 blog in that niche. I followed how he put up widgets and wrote posts.
I remember the first day I went live! I was so excited when I saw that I had gotten 50 views on my view counter. But I learned later that those views were myself hitting refresh!
I started putting up the best posts I could. I kept asking myself how I could make the post even better. And I did.
Every week, I would hustle to put out the best content on the web. And overtime, it was clear that it was. It was a niche that was very data-driven. Readers wanted to know how to do things, where to find things, and so on.
Every week, I would be the first to post new updates on things because I would monitor the game updates like a hawk.
But the problem was I wasn’t getting traffic. The first several months were rough. I was getting almost no traffic even though my content was getting increasingly better. Keep that thought in mind. I’ll touch on it later in the post. It’s important.
But the years progressed and I put more and more time into my blog. I went above and beyond to do everything better than anyone else.
- If another blog had a “funny pictures” section with 10 photos, I had one with 200.
- If there were other blogs owners who were willing to talk, I would reach out and form relationships with them and I would try to get backlinks to each other’s websites.
- If there was an advanced bonus feature that the other blogs didn’t talk about, I would take more time out of my day to talk about it.
Over the years, it paid off. I eventually rose to the top position in my field despite numerous setbacks, like when a top blogger tricked me into linking to his site without linking back.
In Club Penguin, there’s an online “world” with over 100 rooms you could explore. You could talk to real people playing as penguins. There were over 100 servers, which are exact duplicates of the world you can enter. They made servers because too many people on one server would overload it.
I remember I was so famous that I could randomly choose any server, walk into any room, and within seconds, I would get noticed by dozens of penguins. Instantly, I would get flooded. People would follow me around.
It was like real-life paparazzi, but online!
Here’s some salvaged footage to give you an example (note: I chose the most deserted server and room to be able to capture this footage for YouTube, but they still found me):
This was all fun. But to me, it was just a hobby. Keep in mind that this took place 10 years ago, back around 2006. I didn’t know it could be monetized. It was eating up too much time. So I ended up shutting it down and focusing on my studies in high school.
And I thought that was it…
Until I got the urge again. Out of curiosity, I got back into the scene a couple years later towards the end of high school. The niche had changed like crazy.
The field was a hundred times more crowded and competitive. It’s funny because there were plenty of child bloggers doing things that I still don’t see bloggers do now. It seemed to be a niche the rest of the world didn’t know about that was way ahead of its time. Here are a few of the techniques these kids were already using:
- They had beautifully designed websites, even by today’s standards.
- They had custom build chat rooms.
- They had online forums.
- They were the first to use social media and social sharing. They were some of the first to get on Twitter. Check out the account @watex. It’s my account that I started during that time. On the profile, it will say created in 2008. Also, you can check my Youtube channel profile. On it, it will say created 2006.
- They had fairly advanced computer programs that would track Club Penguin’s updates in real time and update you live to the smallest details.
I’m not saying they were perfect. None of them really collected email addresses, which was a big mistake. But let me remind you, that the average age of these bloggers was 11.
The blogosphere excited me again because it was still a huge trend and there was a ridiculous amount of search traffic for the topic. Having said that, the pie had to be split among many more competitors.
I decided to get back into the space.
I was still able to leverage my brand name, but only partially. A lot of the kids who knew me had grown up and moved on to other things in their life.
Eventually, I built up a brand new blog up to several million views before shutting that one down as well. I made a small sum monetizing it with ads but it was so insubstantial that it wasn’t worth the effort. I still had a lot to learn about blogging!
I went away for many years. I assumed that it was it for me. SEO must have advanced so far beyond what I knew at the time. There was no chance of getting back into the game. Or at least that’s what I thought…
Then, I stumbled across a little podcast called Smart Passive Income in 2015. And it piqued my interest enough to return to the blogosphere and SEO to see what was up. And man, was I surprised!
I realized that SEO had returned to the fundamentals that I had been doing all this time. I learned that Google had consistently penalized websites over the years for using short-term tactics to trick the system.
This was great because it was back to something I knew very well: creating the best content out there and getting backlinks.
And it makes complete sense too. Google wants to serve the best possible content it can to its users. And it will move closer and closer to that goal as it gets the smartest programmers in the world to keep tweaking their algorithm.
So I wanted to share with you some of the major takeaways that I have found are still echoed by top SEO bloggers like Neil Patel and Brian Dean today. These are timeless principles that will not be shot down in a couple years by another update like Penguin or Panda.
Create the Best Content On A Niche Topic Out There Consistently
You’re probably going to say, “Well that’s easier said than done!”
And you’re right.
In my niche, it was easy. The topics were very data driven. My readers wanted to know the steps to beat a specific video game or how to get a hidden item. All you had to do was provide this information in the most clear, compelling, visual way.
But if you’re not in a niche with an objective topic, it can be harder.
For example, productivity topics can be quite subjective. What makes the article the best? How do you convince the reader that your advice is the best?
And artsy topics like painting, music, fashion, or photography get even worse. There is no clear, mathematical process for determining which piece of artwork is better.
My best piece of advice on this is to use the numerical metrics you can influence. Might I remind you that Google has to do this too. At the end of the day, it’s an algorithm, not a human.
Therefore, focus on how many comments you get, how long the average user stays on a page, how many shares an article gets, how detailed or positive the comments are, and backup all your claims with scientific studies.
Another part of this is consistency. I never dropped the ball. I always posted at least once a week with a high quality post.
2. It’s a Delayed Meritocracy. Creation is just half the battle. Get backlinks.
Remember how I said to hold on to a thought and I’ll come back to it?
Now, I am coming back to it.
The first year of my blog was horrible. I was putting out the best content out there by all measures. Yet I was getting none of the traffic I deserved because no one knew I existed.
Content creation is only half the battle, especially in an increasingly more crowded world. I eventually got the traffic I deserved but it took a lot of time. Rather than just sitting there waiting, I sped up the process by forming relationships with the hundreds of bloggers in my niche and exchanged backlinks with the ones that were willing to.
Looking back at all my experience and all the experience I’ve had creating Youtube channels (a story for another day), I suggest that you don’t kiss butt to every single person in your niche. You could lose your voice or lower your standards and values when you’re catering to numerous opinions. By all means, you can still try and form as many relationships as possible but you will run into people who you don’t align with well, especially in crowded niches.
Just try your best and be very patient with forming relationships and getting backlinks. It should never be forced. I come from the mentality of always striving to put out the best content out there and making people aware of it. Eventually, it’s not an ask. My content is so awesome that they want to link to me anyways.
When you boil it down to its core, those were the big strategies that made up the bulk of my time.
All the other tactics I tried didn’t work or had a very minimal result on my traffic in the short-term AND long-term. The techniques didn’t hold through. It’s the long-term timeless principles that really matter.
Many of these principles are transferable to different platforms, such as YouTube. While not everything transfers, most of it does.
And here I am now, I’ve started a new blog, willyoulaugh.com, around my new passion of self-development and business. With the same intensity I tackled these previous blogs with, I have spent thousands of hours studying the world’s most successful people to deconstruct how they did it. I’ve applied these lessons to my own life and have been sharing what I’ve learned in this new area! My focus is always on timeless principles that make the highest impact. Rather than telling you about a short-term tactic from a random business book like E-Myth, I’d rather tell you about timeless principles billionaire magnates like Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller used, that no one else uses, that are still applicable today.
The following is my account of my online blogging adventure as a child. I grew a blog to millions of visitors through hard work and luck but lost it when WordPress shut me down because I relied on just one platform.
When I was just a little kid and still in school, I grew a blog that attracted millions of views. Remember, this was years ago in 2005 and 2006 when millions of views was a lot. Right before I lost it, I was getting 100,000 to 200,000 visits per day on the weekend. The weekends were when I peaked in viewership.
It’s a long story so I’ll tell the abridged version. I loved this kids game called Club Penguin. I had found out and played it ever since the prototype version (pre-Beta) on this random site called Rocket Snail. You dress up as a penguin and you can chat or walk around to cool places. It was mind-blowing and revolutionary in this beginning-of-the-internet world. Over the years, as it got more attention, it got more developed. They started adding new locations, new mini-games, and new collectibles. I eventually started Googling and searching terms like “Club penguin cheats”, “how to find the latest pin in Club penguin”, and “Club penguin hacks.” The biggest thing were pins. Every week, they would hide a pin in one tiny location in one room in the Club Penguin world. And if you found it you could use it forever on your profile. These pins were limited edition and so it was very exciting because you were EXCLUSIVE! I was also poor so I couldn’t afford the membership and therefore the pin was one of the only wearable items for a non-member. Club Penguin then rolled out really cool extensive mini-games. This prompted me to search for tutorials because they were often hard to beat.
Eventually, this lead me to the world of Club Penguin blogs. At the time, almost all the big Club penguin blogs were run by teenagers and hosted on WordPress.com. WordPress still does this. They let you create a free blog on their website but your domain name will be something like clubpenguin.wordpress.com and you have to abide by their terms of service or they delete your site.
I was ABSOLUTELY amazed when I saw these blogs. The ones that came in first on Google delivered the goods. They had quality images. They had guides. They were very quick with releasing where the latest pins were.
I was so excited about intrigued by this because the #1 spot on Google for ‘club penguin cheats’, which turned out to be THE keyword you wanted to rank for, had hundreds of thousands of views. They displayed their site stats on the sidebar and I was amazed at how many people were interested in this. There were many kids like me who were coming on every day to check for these things.
For the first couple months, I was just one of the thousands of eager fans who awaited every week for this #1 blog to post where the pin was every week. The site is paintboy100.wordpress.com and it is still in existence, although it has been completely revamped, someone else has hacked or taken control of it, and it is not as good as it used to be. (You can still check it out and you’ll see it has 18 million views but I’m pretty sure the view counter has been reset numerous times thanks to takeovers).
I would often refresh the page just to amaze myself at the amount of views the view counter would go up in those few seconds. Sometimes, the guy who managed the site would be late and I would go onto another blog to get the pin (a key lesson for how you beat your competition).
Then, one day, I thought it would be FUN and awesome if I could be a blogger like Paintboy100 and get all those views. Each time he logged into ANY room in ANY of the dozens of servers, he would be recognized and a crowd would form. I thought it was AMAZING on so many levels. So guess what? I did it. It took me many years but I overtook him and became #1 for a highly competitive search term on Google. I gained more page views than he did. I outcompeted hundreds of other aspiring bloggers in this niche that was becoming more and more competitive. When I would log into any of the hundreds of servers, I would get mobbed (Club Penguin has changed a lot since then. They have been acquired by Disney).
So it’s a long story. How did a kid do such a thing? I was going to school full-time. Honestly, I still remember the DAY I started. I was on the computer and my parents were moving around me. It was the first (and definitely not last time) that they and my peers thought I was wasting my time playing games or doing something weird. Part of me said it was impossible and I knew nothing about programming or anything. But something in me told me to at least try and see if I can learn how. I eventually created my blog watex.wordpress.com (I still have the handle @watex on Twitter. You’ll notice by the sign up date I was one of the first Twitter adopters. I found out about that and YouTube through this niche too) and slowly but surely, I modeled everything off the other blogger and started my site.
If you look here, you will see my Club Penguin videos on YouTube. I was one of the first users of Youtube. My first upload was on March 2007.
At first, I got no views. On the first day, I thought I got 50 views but it turns out they were just my own from viewing the site and creating it. The first week was zero views. Others would have given up there. Long story short, I learned about SEO and did a lot of manual commenting and community discussion with the thousands of other Club Penguin bloggers out there. I used blog directories. I did link exchanges. I found a lot of sites with fairly decent followings (ten thousand or so total views on average) were willing to link to you for free on their blogroll if you just took the time to ask politely. I did the work no one else was willing to. I sat there and commented on thousands of blogs and found more through their blogrolls. Remember, this was back in 2005ish and I was a little kid. On top of that, I reached out to the big guys too. There were quite a few. Many didn’t respond.
Finally, I made sure the quality of my content was THE BEST in the business. I realized there were small things that the others couldn’t do because of lack of time or laziness or whatever else. I was the best at grammar. I had full sentences. I had in-depth walkthroughs. I had more images. I was quicker with announcing news that came out. I was quicker in providing new information.
After months of this, occasionally, I would get a huge break, like the top bloggers not posting at all for a week for an unknown reason. The traffic would trickle in more to me. It was a slow grind. There were never any huge spurts, just larger trickles.
Long story short, I hit the #1 spot for the Google term “club penguin cheats.” By then, the space got even more competitive. The blog had become too time consuming. I had school to attend to as well. I made a huge mistakes of just letting the blog go dry for a couple weeks occasionally because I was out of town for vacation. That cost me. I should have asked one of my fans or viewers to help me post but for whatever reason I didn’t know any better and didn’t want to relinquish control. Now I know better.
Anyhow, what’s the POINT of this whole article? Well, I grew this into a blog with a niche I was passionate about at the time at a young age with the amount of traffic people would die for. What was the problem? 1. I could not monetize at ALL because of WordPress’s terms of service since it was hosted under them (watex.wordpress.com) 2. The site got shut down because WordPress decided so. When you are under a platform, you can lose control. It was getting up there in terms of highest ranked WordPress blogs at the time but apparently they were NOT tolerant at all. I posted one affiliate link and that was it. A reader of the blog reported me. Competition was stiff. I lost my entire following and all contact with them.
3. The website had a severe lack of customization and add-on’s because of some of the rigidness that comes with having the free WordPress.com service. PLUS, it had a horrible and unofficial domain name.
What does this all mean?
It means you have control when you have your own domain name. Almost everyone needs a website whether you are a business, a job seeker, or a professional. Having your website can make you more official and give you the control. You don’t have to be worried about your entire following and audience being WIPED out just like that. In addition to that, I have learned that it is important to build an email list and/or followings on other social media platforms in the case that something like this happens. It is important to build your brand in case another Myspace occurs where your main platform gets wiped out. People always talk about how they’re worried about this and they’re scared Youtube or Facebook will go away. I think they are being too scared and they don’t know how strong these platforms are right now but there is some truth there.
Nowadays, with advanced in technology, even a clueless beginner can build a beautiful website in 5 minutes. Here’s a great video guide on how:
Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. You can find more content on this website and my Youtube channel. I love constructive feedback and suggestions for future content.