My November 2018 Retrospective

This is my retrospective for the month of November and also my first public retrospective.

Time Spent

In November I logged ~209 hours.

Time distribution vs. Project (November 2018)
Time distribution vs. Project (November 2018)

I spent the plurality (37%) of my productive time on my Consulting project, in which I’m taking steps to set up my own consulting business. Another 5% was spent on Intercompanion, which is an initiative spun out of my Consulting project where I’ll be launching a podcast focused on Intercom Tips for Businesses.

I spent 21% of time on my participation in the 24 hour startup challenge and another 1% on Voicast, which is the product that spun out of my challenge.

7% on Rapid Breakup Recovery and 7% on this blog.

5% of my time was spent on Pingcoin, which is now in public beta on the Google Play store.

7% was spent on General tasks, such as my morning routine and this retrospective.

3% of my logged time was spent reading, but I wasn’t completely consistent with tracking this. The real number would have been a bit higher.

I tried to adhere to the policy of taking one day per week off (as in completely off my computer). This is surprisingly difficult, especially because certain activities on my computer feel perfectly relaxing (like taking on online course). Also, doing administrative work, such as my personal accounting, didn’t really seem like work to me. As you’ll see in the graph below, not every week contains a day of 0 logged time.

Time per day (November 2018)
Time per day (November 2018)

I tend to log close to 7 hours a day, with some days shooting over and some days falling short.

Revenue

In November 2018 I generated $200.9 in revenue.

Rapid Breakup Recovery

  • Coaching calls: $143.9
  • Ebook sales: $57
  • Total: $200.9

I ran a sale with my email list offering 3 hours of coaching for $100. Only one client took me up on this offer, which was a valuable wake-up call. My list is very cold, and I will probably want to purge it in December.

Grand total

$200.9 in November 2018

Happiness

Using Daylio I tracked 45% good, 48% meh and 6% bad moods in November. October was 40% good and September was 15% good, so I’ve seen an upward trend.

Overall

Overarching Goals

  • Become financially independent
    • Verdict: Good. Took the step to move to Chiang Mai for this purpose, even though I will be spending my time in Europe from December onward. I was very productive towards this goal.
  • Be full of love and surround myself with others that are full of love
    • Verdict: Neutral. Lived a fairly solitary life-style in Chiang Mai.
  • Maintain physical fitness be a jiu jitsu fighter and be able to defend myself and my family
    • Verdict: Neutral. Picked up a good 3x/week gym habit, but failed to go to BJJ training more than once.
  • Don’t postpone happiness & making an impact
    • Verdict: Good. Visited the Doi Suthep temple, did a meditation retreat, got a massage. Did some offline stuff for me.
  • Travel the world and continually expand my frame of reference
    • Verdict: Good. Lived in Chiang Mai all of November.
  • Explore my mind, my unconscious and integrate my shadow and become at peace with myself
    • Verdict: Neutral.
  • Read more to expand my frame of reference and support my other goals
    • Verdict: Good. Started reading more. Still working on
  • Write to clarify my thoughts and to connect with other minds
    • Verdict: Good. Wrote 2 RBR posts and multiple posts on this blog as well as a post on Indie hackers

What went well?

  • Time tracking went well. I was very consistent
  • My weekly retrospectives have been going well
  • Met some cool people in Chiang Mai that are also indie makers
  • Read more than last month
  • I did a lot of outreach to obtain consulting clients
  • This retrospective went quite well
  • Expense tracking — I tracked all my cash expenses for November

What did not go well?

  • I did not plan my month and I had no specific goals for the month
  • Spent a lot of time on the 24 hour challenge without producing anything
  • Summarizing the books I read
  • Did not spend much time on RBR
  • I did not secure any new consulting clients
  • I set out to write 2 RBR blog posts per week, but I discovered I cannot produce two quality articles in a week
  • Accouting — I did not do any accounting in November
  • Sleep tracking — The android app I was using isn’t reliable. Thinking about getting a fitbit for this purpose

What should I stop doing?

  • Don’t dive into a project like the 24 hour challenge while underestimating the work involved with learning a new skill set

What should I start/continue doing or do more?

  • Be more consistent with summarizing the books I read
  • Plan the next month
  • Create a reading-summarizing workflow and stick to it
  • Publish 1 high quality RBR article per week
  • Keep in touch with the people I met in CM

My 24-hour startup challenge retrospective

On the November 17 I participated in the 24-hour startup challenge where I live-streamed the (attempted) development of a product. The day itself turned into a disappointment for me as I wasn’t able to achieve much. My Macbook was very slow, my connection was poor, I underestimated the work involved and how fast I would learn and I simply didn’t end up achieving much of anything.

I felt quite disappointed and demotivated, but I thought it would be instructive for me to at least do a proper retrospective on the experience.

What went well?

  • I wrote an article leading up to the challenge about the definition of startups. I believe it was well-received, it got some traction and I enjoyed writing it.
  • I was forced to get some practice doing self-promotion. This was a great benefit. I gained a handful of twitter followers and met other indie makers in the space.
  • I was forced to try to develop something and release it. In the end I failed to develop something meaningful, but this showed me that I was underestimating how difficult this would be for me and how much time it would take.

What did not go well?

  • In the end I wasn’t able to achieve much. I think it’s attributable to the following causes:
    • I underestimated how much time it would take to set up a development environment for the technology I intended to use. I never reached the point where I understood how to get debugging information on why my application wasn’t working.
    • I underestimated how much time it would take to get up to speed with a tech stack I had no experience with (node.js and AWS Lambda). I was much too overconfident and ended up spending hours going over tutorials.
    • Leading up to the challenge, I underestimated how long it would take to find and get in touch with a responsive market.
    • My internet connection was poor and unstable, which made everything about the challenge more difficult.
    • The Macbook I was using is a bit old and it could barely handle the live-streaming software which slowed down all other things I was doing.
    • The audio on my stream is not very good. I think the mic was picking up the Macbook taking off due to the extra load of the broadcasting software.
Me, struggling during the 24 hour startup challenge

What should I continue doing?

  • Continue to participate in events like this.
  • Continue to do retrospectives.
  • Continue to improve my development skills.

What should I stop doing?

  • Stop assuming you can reach a meaningful level of competence in a new language/skill in a very short amount of time. You can learn fast, but you’re underestimating how much there is to learn.

Insights & Provoking Questions

How might I leverage the honesty effect of streaming?

Streaming puts you in a situation where you assume you’re being watched, even with 0 real-time viewers. This changes your behavior and I suspect it keeps you a bit more honest than you otherwise would have been. I can’t prove this, but I felt like I needed to be careful with my words in constructing my arguments for why I was doing what I was doing. How might I leverage the honesty effect of streaming to become a more successful at efforts like this?

How might I methodically go through the product discovery process?

Below you’ll find three iterations I’ve done (after the fact) using the Lean Business Model Canvas. If you look through the iterations you’ll see that my idea has evolved somewhat. I’ve moved away from the thought of doing a productized service. I think a self-service app where you can enter your podcast feed and generate an Alexa skill perhaps makes the most sense. What would be the benefit over, say, a universal Alexa podcast player such as Anypod? Not much, provided the experience is good (and based on the reviews it seems to be okay). I think there’s one angle that’s worth exploring and that’s whether you can capture email addresses of listeners with Alexa. Many podcasts have CTAs with the goal of capturing email addresses. If Alexa can do that directly, that could be interesting. But here we enter the realm of solution-looking-for-a-problem which is always dangerous.

An overarching point needs to be made, though, which is that it’s difficult to come up with a way to methodically make your way through this process of product discovery. How do you surface and map out assumptions? Which do you test first? What areas can you ignore in the beginning? I’m not satisfied with the approaches I’ve seen so far online and I will keep my brain primed on finding a better solution.

How might I assess whether it’s worthwhile to continue with this idea?

The fact I was able to book 4 podcast hosts for interviews based on an email alone indicates to me that there’s potentially something there. I will conduct all the interviews and report back on my findings. My first interviewee told me that he’s come to expect SaaS apps to be almost free. He was interested in talking about an Alexa app, but he did not immediately see the benefit over the use of Anypod. He seemed most interested in getting discovered by more listeners, which would be a nudge towards going down the route of creating a universal player (aka an Anypod clone). I don’t see immediately see how I could create an unfair advantage over Anypod (although an in-app CTA which captures emails might be worth exploring). I don’t see a clear argument in favor of continuing with this idea at this point.

How might I maximize my rate of iteration?

My approach was to maximize my rate of iteration. I focused primarily on finding a market that would be highly responsive so I could iterate with them quickly. I assumed that building the application would not be the slowest link in the chain. In the end this is what bogged me down. (That’s not to say that the learning step would have been fast.)

Figure 1: The Build-Measure-Learn cycle with a conceptual shortcut going from Build to Learn.

My assumption was that the learning step would be the most time-intensive and thus the bottleneck to my rate of iteration. I did no anticipate that building would in fact be much of a hurdle. Seeing the other participants whipping out cool functionality within hours, I realize that I need to learn how to build apps fast in order to make sure this does not become the bottleneck to my rate of iteration. The two questions I’m asking myself now are:

  1. How might I rapidly build prototypal apps? (e.g. what tech stack is best suited for apps-as-prototypes?)
  2. How might I rapidly learn with a market for my prototype (e.g. what’s the best way to find a responsive, suitable market?)

I believe the first problem has been solved by any one of these amazing young developers that whip out fully functional apps within hours. So if I want to improve the Build component of my iteration strategy I need only learn what they’re using.

The second question, however, I haven’t seen approached by anyone. What I have seen is people iterating quickly within a market to which they belong, or a single market they’ve found themselves (perhaps by accident). I haven’t seen anyone iterate across markets quickly, or find markets based on their responsiveness. I’m also not entirely convinced of my approach here. Looking for responsive markets might not be the best way to maximize your rate of iteration. For instance, any market may be experienced as being responsive, provided you have enough warm contacts one phone call away. I need to reflect on this a bit more.

The rise of indie product development streaming

There was a lot of hype around the 24 hour startup challenge. A lot of people were streaming and I can only assume quite a few people were watching as well. While preparing my stream I slowly discovered the world of Twitch and all the gamers that have been streaming for years. They’ve really made inroads into this space and there are a lot of tools on the market and established best practices. I expect this to take off more. If your hardware can handle it, streaming an easy to step to make solo product development more exciting and more social. I think this will lead to more supporting software to be developed, like Twitch plugins specifically for developers. I also think that some indie makers are going to figure out how to make money while streaming like many gamers seem to have figured out now as well. Lastly, I don’t think the indie maker community has converged on solution for making watching streaming attractive. I don’t find myself compelled to watch anyone else stream and hour-long streams don’t seem very watchable to begin with. I expect some indie makers will start to figure this out as well, making their streams more fun and more consumable.

 

My 24-hour Startup Challenge

Introduction

On November 17 an online live-streaming event was organized where over 300 people participated by building a startup / product in 24 hours. I too participated in this challenge. In this post I’ve laid out my approach and included updates in reverse chronological order.

Although I was happy with my preparation leading up to the event, the day itself was a bit of a disaster for me. I had to deal with a terrible hotel internet connection, a Macbook that could only barely handle the live streaming software and a lot of difficulties (due to my own underestimation of the complexity involved) setting up a basic development environment. You can read my entire retrospective here.

Update: 24 hour startup: Challenge day

Summary

On the challenge day my plan was to create a basic Alexa skill out of a podcast I had selected. This should not have been very difficult to do, but I ran into problems with setting up my development environment and figuring out how to debug the Alexa skill. In the end I wasn’t able to even get the basic skill to work, so I just focused on creating a landing page.

Stream

The entire playlist of all streams can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9EffBKUMi4qxK9vGSudatQo3ImoeGm9B

The streams for the challenge day itself are here (they are broken up due to the connection:

Assets

Google drive folder for challenge day

Key achievements

  • I didn’t achieve much at all during the challenge. Read my retrospective here.
  • Got a better understanding for how Alexa skill development works
  • Created a landing page for Voicast at voicast.io

Update: Friday (1 day before) – Reaching out to podcasts

Stream

Friday (1 day1 before event) Part 1/1

Assets

Google drive folder for 1-day-before: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Jczx4be9_M_cnnTQU4ho9fH09p21F5SD

Key achievements

  • Reached out to 57 podcasts: 4 meetings booked
  • Had one interview with an “Aspiring Product Manager” user
  • 0 pre-sales

Update: Thursday (2 days before) – Reaching out to markets & testing assumptions

Stream

Assets

Google drive folder for 3-days-before: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1xVURxl-4h3F5uHro1Q8oWFY1kACg_3ES

Key achievements

  • Conducted interview with a social media marketing agency
  • Collected leads from 100 podcasts
  • Started the gather email addresses

Comments

None

Update: Wednesday (3 days before) – Brainstorming & Testing assumptions about the markets

Stream

Key achievements

  • Booked 1 interview (Social media marketing agency)
  • Joined many communities
    • Many not responsive
    • Many communities are active (e.g. FB ones), but don’t engage
  • Cold email still seems comparatively quite effective
  • Identified some potential areas for exploration

Comments

Some things that were a bit surprising to me:

  • Takes a long time to get accepted to certain communities
  • Lots of spam groups that are barely useful
  • It’s HARD to find an audience to interact with
  • Even if you find a community, telling them you’re trying to solve one of their problems doesn’t really elicit a response
  • Cold emailing & calling is probably better

Update: Tuesday (4 days before) – Testing assumptions about the markets

Stream

Assets

Google Drive Folder for 4-days-before: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1WVDm8bZS0X5rA6Wc53BMjft_tSGgUf83

Key achievements

  • Expanded market list to contain audiences that are active on slack/telegram
  • Applied to join 10+ slack groups
  • Reached out to 1 prospect in 1 market

Comments

I really need to pick up speed, because the challenge is coming up and I haven’t had any conversations yet with potential markets.

Update: Monday (5 days before) – Brainstorming responsive markets

Stream

Monday (5 days before event) Part 1/1

Highlights & Assets

Google Drive Folder for 5-days-before: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1WVDm8bZS0X5rA6Wc53BMjft_tSGgUf83

List of high-potential markets

  • Social media agency
  • High frequency trading company
  • Sales agency
  • Private equity firms
  • Public relations
  • Translation agency
  • Funds
  • Legal services
  • Funds
  • Defense industry
  • Think tanks
  • Broadcast media

Key achievements

  • Brainstormed a list of markets likely to be responsive
  • Clarified criteria for picking high-potential markets
  • Scored markets based on new criteria

Initial Post: Approach

I will be participating in the 24 hr startup challenge and I wanted to make explicit and public my approach.

When we make our commitments public we can leverage the sense of being held accountable by the people we share our journey with. We also become less biased when we are required to make our thoughts public and we know that they will be scrutinized.

I think the 24 hour startup challenge is a great idea as I’ve laid out in this article.

However I think it’s important to be clear on what your goal is for the challenge. My goal is the following:

Arrive at a validated idea for a startup. (Or, to get as far as possible in that direction.)

The 24 hour constraint, like many other types of constraints, promotes creativity and forces you to finish what you’re working on.

One way (and from what I’ve seen the most common approach) is to choose a problem that you personally have and to build a solution for that problem with 24 hours. That’s a fair approach.

However, by the end of the challenge if everything goes as planned, I’ll have one product that I can use to validate my startup idea. I think I can do better than that. 🙂

Former head of Y-Combinator, Sam Altman, recently tweeted this:

As a former product manager I think this is probably also true for products. Rate of iteration is key. Rate of iteration is key because every iteration you’re testing a hypothesis. Roughly speaking, the more hypotheses you’re able to test (provided they’re good hypotheses) the better shape you’ll be in.

When is a product idea validated?

A hypothesis can be validated or invalidated. Your product idea, before you talk to anyone, is just a hypothesis. It’s just a test. You should treat it as just a test.

The point of “getting out of the building” is to validate or invalidate hypotheses about your product, your market, your user, your business model etc.

Your product is validated when you’ve iterated on the hypotheses that define your idea and you’ve proven that they’re all true. You can do this before you build the product.

The difficulty is that not every experiment yield a binary validated/invalidated result. If people sign up for your email list, does that mean your product is validated? The answer is: a little bit. Here is an ugly drawing of how I think about this.

If your friends like your product idea — that doesn’t mean anything. If strangers give up their email address, that’s slightly better, but still not great.

What we’re trying to figure out, ultimately, is whether there’s a sustainable business model contained within this idea of yours. The holy grail of validation is of course: Getting people to pay. And you can get people to do this before you build.

That’s exactly what I’m going to try to do.

I’m leaning slightly towards products, as opposed to services, because I enjoy building things. So I will orient myself towards product ideas while keeping my eyes open for services and productized services.

So the goal is to arrive at a validated startup idea and I will measure this by the amount of pre-orders I generate.

To increase my odds of achieving the goal, the approach I want to leverage is to maximize the amount of iterations I can do.

Most participants I’ve seen are going to build a product during the 24 hr period and @patwalls has said that doing some research prior is okay. So I think it’s okay to do some validation prior to starting.

So instead of starting with one idea, I want to test out different ideas before I start the challenge. In order to maximize the amount of iterations I can do I want to:

Target markets where I can iterate quickly

What do I mean by that. I want to target people with whom I can easily jump on a call with or chat with in the build up to the 24 hr challenge and especially during the challenge itself.

Here’s an ugly drawing of how I’m thinking about this currently:

If I were to target a certain type of market with certain problem, but it would take me a week just to get them on the phone, I won’t be able to iterate quickly.

I’d rather select my target market beforehand based on which target market can I iterate quickly with. These need to be people that by virtue of what they do for a living are very responsive, often online etc. Perhaps salespeople? I’m not sure. That’s one of the first steps to figure out 🙂

My ideal scenario is that I start the 24 hour challenge with some pre-orders in my bank account and some of my pre-order clients a phone call away to iterate on the product with me.

There are some more criteria I have for my target market to increase my odds. For that I encourage you to tune in to my live stream later today where I’ll go over these criteria and brainstorm market ideas.

I will start a stream today some time after 1 PM UTC. Stay tuned!

https://www.twitch.tv/jessemsz

Idea Validation: Better Youtube recommendations

For years now I’ve been frustrated by how terrible the videos are that YouTube routinely recommends to me. Although they are reliably terrible, on occasion, I have also discovered life-changing videos and channels through these same recommendations. This makes the situation extra frustrating: This content discovery process has the capacity to change your life – but it’s (intentionally or unintentionally) left broken.

My youtube recommendations with my comments.

(It seems like I’m not alone in saying this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12568477)

That being said – my feeling is that the recommendations have gotten even worse recently. Here are some of my complaints:

  1. Videos and channels are routinely recommended to me that, to me, are obviously not interesting.
  2. The same videos and channels that I am not interested in are recommended over and over.
  3. Videos I have watched in the past are recommended to me over and over.
  4. A video which I watched (and liked) is recommended to me again but from a different uploader.
  5. Sometimes a non-official uploader of an official source is routinely recommended to me. I would much rather be recommended the official source.
  6. Sometimes I’m in a “discovery mood” and I can’t find anything worth watching so I end up watching some terrible recommendation which then goes on to poison future recommendations.

More recently YouTube has gotten bad press for censoring Jordan Peterson and demonetizing videos created by Gad Saad, Pewdiepie and others. This is notable because

  1. The reasons for the censorship are never mentioned
  2. These videos contain nothing immoral or reprehensible
  3. These videos DO often contain unpopular viewpoints which leave many people emotionally triggered and/or outraged

I have three main points of concern:

  1. This culture of outrage is getting worse, making it harder and harder for people to hold unpopular viewpoints
  2. Due to the nature of how we consume information today, the information that reaches us also tends to stay within the realm of those that share our viewpoints. As a result we’re exposed to a decreasing variety of voices.
  3. Google and Facebook have announced increased measures against whatever they deem “fake news.” It seems the world we live in today is one where Youtube uses the tools at its disposal to censor and bankrupt the voices it doesn’t want to be heard – I suspect their recommendation engine is another tool they use to achieve this goal.

Validating the problem

First I wanted to validate that I wasn’t the only one having this problem. I decided to put together a google spreadsheet where anyone could add inspiring youtube videos. I shared this with my brothers and with the wip.chat community to see what the feedback would be.

There was little response. I was unable to find others that were experiencing the same problem as I was. But that’s fine. This allowed me to put the idea to rest.

Building a Breakup Recovery Solution for Men: July 2017 Update

This is a monthly update on my project of building a breakup recovery solution for men at rapidbreakuprecovery.com.

Summary

I continued to work on the structure on content of my website but lost focus. This month I had 2 sessions with 1 client and 13 book sales for a total of $397 in revenue. That’s a 29% increase compared to last month. I’m particularly happy about the book sales.

Introduction

I had set up a 7-day email course using Drip and an opt-in form using a Thrive Themes’ Leads at the end of May before going on a mountaineering expedition in Peru for 2 weeks. When I got back to São Paulo I was pleased to see I had made several ebook sales. I hadn’t set up conversion tracking correctly inside Drip, so I’m unsure if those conversions were a direct result of my email campaign.

Trying to follow the principle of essentialism I asked myself: “What activity will make the highest contribution to my goal?” I made an assessment of what the highest impact activities would be for the month and prioritised those in Trello. Based on what my competition and similar websites are doing I determined that the highest impact activity would be to get featured on certain Men’s podcasts (I’ve since come to question that goal). There were certain intermediate steps to get to that goal, I identified those to be:

Goal: Get interviewed on men’s podcasts.

  1. Clean up and re-organize site content.
    Background: I consider quite a number of articles on my website to be low quality. I wrote some of them back in 2012 and they were highly optimized to the SEO standards of the time. Times have changed, but unfortunately many of my articles haven’t.
    Status: Started, but turned into a bigger task involving keyword research and information architecture. If I’m honest, I might have let this snowball.
  2. Improve coaching salespage.
    Background: One priority is to continue to talk to as many customers as I can and another is to earn income. One of the best approaches to address these priorities is to lead interested visitors to my coaching services. I’m still questioning this strategy, however. The alternative would be to primarily lead visitors towards my book. I’ve started to charge $100/hr for my coaching sessions, vs. $19 per book sale, but coaching requires a good internet connection, which isn’t a problem now but will be once I start moving around more.
    Status: Not touched.
  3. Rehash personal philosophy.
    Background: I imagined that during a podcast interview I would be asked about the core tenets of my philosophy. I’m still unsure what those would be, but I think it’s something  should have clear.
    Status: I’ve started making a list of my breakup advice tenets in Trello.
  4. Run through the book.
    Background: In the spirit of Eric Reis’ Lean Startup “If you’re not embarrassed about your first release, you’ve waited too long”, I released my book in an embarrassing state. I’d very much like to revisit it and include the chapters that were still drafts.
    Status: Not started
  5. Reach out to podcasts.
    Status: Not started
  6. Order a microphone.
    Status: Not done

Cleaning up the site content snowballed into an exercise in information architecture (to determine ideal user flows through my site and content) as well as keyword research (to continue the steady stream of organic traffic and to improve on it).

I did not follow through on the goals I set above, instead here’s an overview of what I worked on:

Keyword research, site architecture and link clean up

I redid all my keyword research, which was long overdue. Google used to have the go-to tool, the Keyword Tool which morphed into the Keyword Planner. Frankly, it’s become a complete joke. The keyword planner is made for researching Google paid ads campaigns. Google deliberately did not make a tool for SEO. Not only that, but they recently started obscuring the keyword volume data in the tool forcing advertisers to buy keywords in the dark and spend more. Complete joke. Also, the figures they do provide are often questionable. The whole thing is a complete joke.

I ended up signing up for trials for some of the mainstream commercial alternatives out there. Although they seem to cater to slightly different sets of use cases, I found AHrefs to be the most useful and user friendly.

The end result is a spreadsheet with an extensive list of breakup related keywords. I segmented them based on user intent and have labeled those as themes and sub-themes. I’ll be focusing mostly on the keywords that have mentions of “ex girlfriend” or “her” as I’m assuming they will more often correspond to men making those searches.

My keyword research spreadsheet.

Having an idea what people were searching for and making an assessment on what their intent could be, I could start thinking about content (new or existing) that I could use to target those theme-keywords. I was still left a bit confused, however, how my different pieces of content should work and link together. Also, should I just rely on links inside the articles, or should I give links in sidebars careful consideration.

I found myself Googling stuff like “ideal site architecture for SEO”, but I found very little information. Many SEO websites have optimized content for this keyword, but hardly any of them answered any of my questions. The most useful post I found was this one from Yoast. He basically says: Create some “cornerstone” content — your key strategic content pieces — and pump out new blog posts that keep linking back to those cornerstone pieces. That’s exactly what I plan on doing.

What’s more, I also re-immersed myself into the SEO scene to get an understanding how the field has evolved since my last experience. I was trying to figure out if it was helping me or hurting me that I was linking to all my blog posts in my sidebar on pretty much every page of my website. Back in the day this had been the recommendation, akin to what Amazon does, but now it didn’t seem any other blogs were doing it.

Indeed, I found out that if you keep linking to all your blog posts on all your pages you’re diluting the “link juice” that Google attributes to those pages. So instead of concentrating that link juice on your cornerstone content, you distribute it across all your smaller, shittier posts. Not smart!

Previous sidebar with a list of all blog posts.

So instead I got rid of the entire list and only link to my category pages and my cornerstone content. I also used this as an opportunity to redo my category structure (still a work in progress) as well as clean up my broken links with Screaming Frog.

New sidebar with updated categories and featured posts below instead of a list of all blog psots.

This has resulted in an immediate uplift in my organic traffic and rankings. This was made evident by Ahrefs. See the uptick at the far end of both graphs below. Why is there a decline from end of last year to May this year? I’m not sure, but Google did update their algorithm several times at the beginning of the year and I think that negatively impacted RBR. I’m also not too concerned, because I haven’t put any effort into SEO for a long time.

Organic traffic and keyword visibility June 2016 – June 2017

Ultimate guide

One of the conclusions that I’ve drawn after doing keyword research and revisiting my site’s structure is that I need to be more explicit about what my cornerstone content pieces are. In that vein I’ve decided to create an ultimate guide targeting the main keyword groupings of “how to get over a breakup for men” and “how to get over your ex girlfriend”. For one I will be employing Backlinko’s Skyscraper technique essentially ensuring I have the best content out there. Secondly I started using a concept I got from Nathan Barry ‘s Authority book where he tells you to go out and read your competitor’s book to make sure you’re covering the advice that they share. I intend to apply Nathan’s technique to this ultimate guide as well as to my book. I’ve started scanning through the main breakup books out there and making an inventory of the concepts they put forward.

Competitor Research

While doing keyword research I used some of my known competitors’ websites to generate keywords, but I also discovered some new ones. I did not discover any new direct competitors in the niche of breakup recovery for men, but a handful of female breakup coaches seem to have popped up. I’m interpreting this as market validation. Some things I noticed:

  1. Various competitors are using facebook groups as a support group. I’ve joined one which is quite active. This format seems to work for people.
  2. One competitor is getting a lot of traction on instagram. This is a channel I hadn’t even considered, but posting inspirational quotes on instagram seems to give them good responses as well as leads.
  3. More than one competitor has an online course for sale.
  4. I’ve seen more than one competitor now quote scientific articles and bringing science into their message. This wasn’t the case when I started.

7-day email course

I rewrote some of my 7-day email course emails and I received some feedback on email 6. A reader said he really liked the emails but that the 6th email, which covers “How she could move on so quickly”, had brought him back down. Essentially he said that he wasn’t ready to hear the truth about why she had moved on nor was it the type of advice that he was looking for at the time.

This has made me think ever since. You could classify some of my advice as tough love and some of it as more kind or more uplifting. Perhaps there’s a right time for a certain style and perhaps people respond differently to different styles. Perhaps I can allow my readers to indicate what type of style they like and would like to receive more of. Some readers might like to receive only tough-love, manly type of advice, while others might not want to hear about the science and might only want positive, uplifting advice. It seems plausible to me that something can be done in this area and I will continue to develop this idea in the back of my head.

Attached

I read and reviewed the book “Attached” by Amir Levine, which was long overdue. I liked it, even though it was more of a practical guide and I was expecting an approachable survey of the literature. Either way, worth the read.

Customer Development

I had two clients in June. One old and one new.

One is a young professional who has initiated no contact, has no trouble keeping it, but is struggling with lingering sadness as well as incessant questioning of himself whether or not he could have done something differently. He wants to get over his feelings and doesn’t want them to impact his professional life.

The other is an older guy who fell head over heels for a younger, very attractive but extremely unstable and troubled young lady. I’ve been helping him initiate and maintain no contact and deal with the ensuing obsessive thoughts and strong longing.

Revenue for June 2017

Consultations

I did 2 consultations at $100 and 1 at $50 for a total of $250.

Book sales

My book was priced  as “pay what you want” and I made 6 sales totalling $57.

Total revenue

$307

Reflection & Conclusions

I’m happy with my revenue figure for June. It shows me that I’m able to find clients through existing channels and that I can get people to pay me $100/hr for Skype consultations.

I’m a bit uneasy about not having worked on the things I had set out to be the most important. Looking back I think I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that getting featured on men’s podcasts might not be the most practical thing while traveling. If I try to be present-minded and ask myself the same essentialist question: What’s activity will have the highest impact? I don’t find myself thinking about getting featured on a podcast anymore. At the same time, I’m not confident my answer to that question will stay the same throughout the month. Unsure what to do about that other than asking myself that question as often as possible and adjusting course as necessary.

Building a Breakup Recovery Solution for Men: May 2016 Update

It’s been a while since my initial introduction to this project.

As has been the case in the past, I have found it difficult to consistently work on this project. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It is not my favorite subject. Although I like the idea of helping others, digging into my own breakup (more than 6 years ago now), is not always easy. It’s hard to remember everything but also trying to remember the details of your sadness isn’t the most pleasant activity.
  2. Writing a book is hard. The main thing I continue to work on is a breakup recovery manual for men. I’m afraid I’ve gone a bit overboard on the level of references I want and the amount of topics I want to cover. I repeatedly get lost in trying to organise ideas.
  3. It feels like an area that I’ve explored already and therefore it doesn’t feel very exciting. I know this isn’t really true, because I haven’t turned this into a profitable business yet, but still I find myself being drawn to other areas such as web development or history.

Book Draft

Following lean startup best practices I’ve published a rough, dirty, draft on leanpub, but I really am embarrassed at its current state. I haven’t even included half of the chapters I intend to include and many segments are just slapped together without considering the flow of the story.

An example showcasing the embarrassing state of the manuscript.

Sales

The good news is that I have received a total fo 45 downloads, some of which are paid. I haven’t received any feedback yet, but also no complaints.

Leanpub purchases for “The Breakup Recovery Manual For Men”.

Email Coaching

I’ve now also added back the option to set up email coaching with me using gumroad. For $20/month people are able to get unlimited email coaching from me. I had this option on my the website before, and 2 people signed up who ended up never answering to my emails.

Screenshot of the gumroad button linking to the salespage for email coaching on RBR.

Next Steps

Next steps are to continue with the book and to slowly become more comfortable with the site’s code base.

Building a Breakup Recovery Solution for Men: Introduction

This is an introduction to one of my projects, Rapid Breakup Recovery, a blog focused on heartbreak recovery for men, which I’ve been working on (sporadically) since 2012.

A Brief History

Some time in 2012 I was reading up on how to start a successful online business. Going through one of the exercises on selecting a niche, I remember reading the advice “Do what you know.”

What did I know? At this point in my life, 25 years old, still in college, I did not feel like there was much I did know.

I didn’t feel like an expert in anything.

It was only when I combined this advice with another piece of advice that I read coming from Eben Pagan which was to focus on a specific customer need – a real, palpable pain that people have.

It was 2012 at the time two years prior, my girlfriend at the time had broken up with me. A more accurate description of what happened is that she left me for another guy, and it was without a doubt the most painful and visceral experience I had ever experienced.

Two years on, I had found meaning to my life again and I felt recovered. But it had taken two years to get to this point.

I reflected on how I had gotten here, from being completely destroyed two years before, and I realized that there was value in the lessons learnt during my recovery which I could share.

“Do what you know” had been the advice, and this was something I knew. Moreover it seemed plausible there would people out there with a real, palpable need for this type of information.

So I started investigating the topic of “heartbreak recovery” with a focus on advice for men and found that there was very little competition.

I started immersing myself into SEO and generally any topic supporting my efforts in starting an online business.

I soon settled on a strategy of selecting a range of keywords I wanted to target and to write blog posts optimized for those keywords. This was back in 2012 when keyword stuffing articles still worked, sort of.

Again, following Eben Pagan’s advice, I settled on a name that (I hoped) was clear, memorable and that communicated a clear benefit that my target users were looking for: Rapid Breakup Recovery.

Rapid Breakup Recovery back in 2012.

My strategy of targeting low-volume keywords that seemed highly likely to correspond to my target audience, such as “my girlfriend left me” or “girlfriend left me for another guy”, turned out to be successful.

Traffic to rapidbreakuprecovery.com by channel (Jan 1, 2016 – Feb 27, 2016). Source: Google Analytics

The blog would slowly gain traffic, predominantly organic, and has done so consistently since. Even though my posts have been few and far between.

Traffic to rapidbreakuprecovery.com by channel (Jan 1, 2016 – Feb 27, 2016). Source: Google Analytics
Traffic to rapidbreakuprecovery.com by channel (Jan 1, 2016 – Feb 27, 2016). Source: Google Analytics

While initially my blog posts would get a small trickle of organic traffic by virtue of being the only ones targeting highly specific keywords – things evolved from there.

Some of my blog posts would elicit a slew of comments by readers, sharing their stories and commenting on one another.

Top blog posts sorted by comment count.

Google must have seen that these posts were highly engaging to readers and that these posts were getting periodically updated by new comments that it rewarded me with higher rankings.

This is how I started ranking for more competitive, and less focused terms, such as “no contact after breakup” and others.

Top organic landing pages sorted by SERP impressions.

Note: The posts with the top 3 amounts of comments are also the top 3 pages that generate organic traffic.

I put up an opt-in box from the first iteration with which I’ve successfully collected over 800 email addresses since 2012.

Rapid Breakup Recovery back in 2012.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit, however, that I haven’t been nurturing my list, at all. I suspect many of my subscribers are long recovered.

The Current Situation

As of February 2016, RBR consistently generates around 22-23k visitors a month, predominantly through organic search.

Users can visit RBR and get in touch with me to set up a Skype coaching call. I’ve done a handful of these already. They’ve helped me understand my users and better develop my advice for them.

I am currently writing a book on breakup recovery for men, which has been quite challenging to say the least. I’m using leanpub to publish it while it is still a work-in-progress. More on that in a follow-up post.

Current incarnation of Rapid Breakup Recovery.

Ultimately my goal is to create and sell a range of info products that help my readers recover.