Today I wanted to discuss running an online business and website based around a hobby. We often get asked what is the best ‘topic’ to start an online business around and our answer is that often it can be your favourite pastime or hobby.
Everyone has a passion or a hobby that they enjoy doing and this is often the best thing to consider when starting an online business.
When it is a hobby that you enjoy which you do regularly you ‘know’ a lot about that subject and you can create a lot of good content around that topic mainly because you ‘know’ it so well. Content is king as they say and great content means that you can become an ‘authority’ in that niche.
When wanting to start an online business it is worth looking to see if there is much competition regarding your hobby and if it is possible that you can build a business around it because it is going to be easier to run a business around something you love and care about rather than something that you couldn’t care less about.
If you are not feeling love for the products or the business you are promoting then it can get really hard going, so with that in mind I decided to ask a close friend of mine about his new business plan and website which he has started recently focusing on the hobby he fell in love with while trying to stop smoking. I kid you not!
Alex Whalley is a blogger that I have know for several years and he is also an SEO expert so when I learned that he had started a new website www.mycustomhotwheels.com which was not about blogging or specialising in SEO I had to know more.
Below is the interview that he kindly did for us to explain what his new website is all about, what he did when setting it up, what he is doing now and where he is taking the business in the coming years.
Hi Alex, I see you have a new website, are you doing the site for fun and hoping it will grow or did you spot a gap in the market with your SEO knowledge and realise that you could build a business online doing something that you love?
Bit of both to be honest. First off you need to understand that I am a blogger and marketer at heart and so everything I do stems from these roots. Basically I had amassed a collection of Hotwheels and created dioramas for them and in so doing, had created the ability (with the click of a camera) to create endless amounts of content. And as you know content is king. Always has been always will be, end of story. Next question.
*I actually launched the site with a how to guide (content) that I knew my target audience would salivate over. The result was a 1000 visitor count for the first 72 hours! I don’t care who you are (unless you are Guy Kawasaki) that’s huge!
Takeaway: Understand who your audience is and craft content that you know they will eat up
Are you making any money from the website/business yet… if so roughly how much and is it roughly the same each month?
No it is not making money, nor is it monetized in any way (Yet, read on: Andi). I am building up a mailing list because the money is in the list apparently. I’ve personally never found much of it there but I hear these things.
How is it making money?
Are you not listening Andy? 😛 (I asked before you answered the last question 😛 back at ya Alex 🙂 )
If not… are you planning to make money from the site and how?
Yes the plan is a long term one, 2 years to be precise. To go back to the first question in part, I realised there was a huge opportunity within this niche to build my own authority and in so doing create a place where everyone could go and share their own custom creations and inspire others (etc etc)
(Please Note: Alex who is a professional blogger and SEO expert has given himself 2 years to grow the site and business and is not expecting millions within a few weeks! Always start something new with at least 2 years in mind to give it time to work) Further Reading: Expect To Have Realistic Expectations
Hotwheels customisers are a very vain bunch, and they are not internet savvy so what I have here is not only a market ready for a website they can call their own, I also have the most powerful weapon at my disposal – Other People’s Content! As my authority builds people send me their own tips and tricks and I use these to build the content on the site and in so doing cement my authority even further.
The plan for monetizing the site long term is advertising. One can command top dollar when one is the go to site for a particular niche – any niche really! Short term I will be using Amazon and eBay affiliate networks to promote goods related to my topic – (just say Hotwheels Alex) yeah OK, Hotwheels.
Did you do any SEO keyword research before hand to determine whether you could get a good placing before building the site?
Custom Hotwheels and Diecast Cars are the main two keywords I am trying to rank for. That exact phrase also happens to be my meta description 😉
I didn’t do research around the keywords because we’re talking Hotwheels here. Any niche relating to shopping, marketing, etc then YES, research until the cows come home. And then get them to assist you in researching some more! No, apart from basic Google searches and of course the Keyword planner to ascertain my long tails I really just started building the site, making sure to optimise for the main two terms and knowing that my content would do the rest of the work.
If so would you say that it is important to do SEO work upfront?
It’s stupidly important! Not only can it show you what keywords you should be targeting, it can show you who is dominating that space and can help save you wasting time chasing keywords you will never rank for.
Will you be doing much SEO work like link building or guest posting (if they still work) or not?
Yes I am actively building relationships with other customisers who own blogs. I am a regular contributor to one of the biggest diecast communities online at present and have been invited to be administrator on the biggest of them all – this is all a result of that authority I am building, ironically because I am the only one willing to put in the time to create the site and chase and catalogue all the relevant information that people want.
Is your main focus for traffic getting yourself into the local papers regularly? 😉
Cheeky sod 😉 That was a huge boost to my long term goal and as you can imagine, has boosted my authority within the niche dramatically. Within 24 hours of that article going live I had received over 167 Facebook friend requests and my Page AND Group had both received 50 and 62 new likes/members respectively.
You can read that newspaper article here: From Puffin Ciggies To Smokin Hot Wheels
Will you be doing much in the way of social media sharing to get traffic such as Twitter, Facebook (pages and groups) G+ and YouTube?
Social Media actually accounts for 73% of my total traffic, with organic visitors accounting for only around 800 uniques each month (as I answer this) This shows that SEO is indeed gaining traction (I am monitoring my rankings in SEMRush and have moved over 100 spots to sit on the second page of Google for Custom Hotwheels. Diecast Cars on the other hand is taking a little more effort 😉 )
The main source is Instagram actually (I know, I had to learn and join the ham sandwich picture taking hipster crowd) and I am leveraging this social channel to build further relationships and extend my reach. I currently receive around 100 new likes every week and feed this audience teasers of upcoming posts so they will click through to my site .
I also use Facebook and have amassed a 500+ strong group within a fairly short period. Who knows how far this will go?!
Note: I use Google+ to further extend my reach and share my content but the main reason for this is for SEO benefits. Google will claim their own network has no greater impact over search results than any other social network but I call BS! The proof is in the rankings – and trust me when I tell you that you’ll rank higher if you are actively sharing your posts on Google+
Besides, Google + is a great way of finding targeted audiences to drip feed your best content to.
Do you think you could build a profitable site using social media traffic alone without the aid of any SEO for a very specific niche such as Hotwheels cars?
Definitely! In fact it is because it is Hotwheels that we could probably get away with no SEO at all. The reason? My target audience is not searching Google, they are trawling Instagram and sharing their custom work on Facebook, They are a young tech savvy crowd and they know where to find the good stuff. My job is to become the very ‘good stuff’ they seek 😉
Again the takeaway here is KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. If you don’t know who you are talking to how can you possibly convince them to buy?
Is a placing on the first page of Google important to you?
It’s definitely something I would like to achieve but it plays second fiddle to authority. My primary focus is to build my own online authority. As I do this (through social and content) people will link to me and talk about me and click on me (all of which are within Google’s algorithm as being good things) and I will naturally see the benefits in the SERPs and then I win on both counts.
Now the more advanced questions would be things like have you built a Private Blog Network for your site or sites and would you?
No, never would either. Too much effort and unless you have IP masking and hosting scattered across the world it’s not worth the trouble. I do however build a web2.0 site (a blogger blog and/or a weebly blog) and use this to point those slightly ‘grey hat’ links to 😉
What would you say the total investment would be to build and run a site like yours?
How long’s a piece of string?!
Because I have a passion for collecting and customising Hotwheels it is not something I look at in terms of time. First time in my blogging/affiliate marketing career that I am running a site based purely on passion. Man, I’m going to make a killing….eventually.
Some Final Words From Andi:
Firstly I want to thank Alex for taking the time to answer my questions in a very detailed manner which I am sure that you found very interesting and useful.
I want to remind you that Alex is utilising all of the free social media platforms to get interest and ‘link juice’ to help his site grow and as he mentioned earlier he can create a lot of quality content because of what he has already done with his hobby and so he was able to utilise YouTube which is owned by Google and also great for traffic by creating videos.
So far he has done one video which is a walk around of his Hotwheels collection and dedicated Hotwheels room… and as you will see he has a HUGE collection and he also likes the word ‘random’ 🙂 but you will agree he has a lot of knowledge and information to write about.
Hotwheels, Dioramas and Diecast cars – My collection
If you have a hobby and want to build an online business then maybe you should consider using that as the idea for your website and business plan.
To learn more on how to build a hobby niche based website and online business then you need to join the Digital Academy: