A lot has been happening behind the scenes here at SPI Headquarters, and I wanted to take a few minutes to share some of the exciting developments we have in store for you for next year. And when I say “in store for you,” I really mean for you. I’ll tell you what exactly that means in a second, but for now, let’s take a quick look back at 2015 and some important milestones that happened:
- The blog posts here on SPI became more consistent, which was a major goal for 2015.
- The SPI Podcast and AskPat continue to rock and roll, now combining for more than 26 million total downloads. My goal was to hit 25 million by the end of the year.
- The YouTube channel was reborn and SPI TV launched in February. We gained an extra 20,000 YouTube Subscribers as a result—shy of my 25,000 goal, but I’m still extremely happy with it.
- Overall traffic to the blog has continued to climb, surpassing 2 million total uniques, up from just 1.53 million the year before.
- My total earnings surpassed a million dollars in a year, which has never happened before.
- I was able to contribute more than $100,000 to organizations and charities that I believe in.
I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I see what has happened since I started this blog in 2008. Since then, I’ve continued to make improvements on the site to try and make the experience better for you over time. It hasn’t always gone in the right direction (as you can see in this post here), but for the most part it has gotten better over time.
With that said, after conducting a survey in July of this past year, the results opened my eyes to the fact that there was so much more that I could do to help. You think you know what your audience wants and how they experience your site, however, it’s not until you ask them straight up that you learn the hard truth. And the truth is that I am not serving you in the best way that I can.
Despite the all-around growth of the brand, the general consensus is that across the board, things could be a lot better.
For example, the website, although “pretty,” doesn’t do a great job of helping display the content throughout the site in the best and most useful way.
Take the homepage, for example. It features two pieces of content: my latest blog post and my latest podcast episode. Everything else is hidden and not easily accessible. The most recent content on the site is important to see, but to someone who is new or looking for something in particular, it’s a slim chance that the latest post or podcast episode is exactly what they need.
Furthermore, the survey results reveal that 33% of my audience has yet to start any business at all, and of that group of people, 42% have been thinking about starting a business for several years. Now, I’m not sure how long those people have been following SPI, but I guarantee that a lot of them have been following it for a while and have yet to take any action. That’s not good, and it means there’s room for improvement.
Looking deeper into this, here are this group’s biggest struggles:
The #1 problem is they don’t know where to start.
While examining the data of those who already have a business, the problems are essentially the same:
I know I have content here that can help, but I’m not doing my job and serving you if I can’t organize it in a way that is easily accessible.
We all strive to create amazing content, but if it’s not able to get in front of those who need it, it might as well not have ever been written.
And even if it’s there and people see it, how can I get more people to take action with it? That’s a huge dilemma in the space of online education, and although it’s not necessarily a content creator’s job to take every single person who comes across that content and personally hold their hand and keep them accountable until they take all the steps, but I also know that there are things a content creator can do to make it easier and more likely that a person will take action, get through the content, and see results.
All of this has been on my mind ever since I collected those survey results in July, and ever since then, my team and I have been coming up with a plan to better solve these problems and make the overall experience better for you here on SPI.
Here’s what’s coming up within the next year that we know for sure will happen:
A New Redesign of SPI
When I told people I was redesigning SPI, they thought I was crazy because the current design looks and works just fine. Well, hopefully by reading this post you can understand why it needed to be redone. And really, from the ground up.
The main goal is to make it the best and most useful online business website on the Internet.
The only way to do this is to make it easy for you to find what you need. With nearly 1,000 pieces of content to go through, it is a major task, but we’ve got a plan.
First, we’ll be categorizing and tagging content primarily based on where people are in their online business journey. Based on that, we’ll focus on delivering a more personalized experience on the site from there.
For example, if you signed up for my free email series and selected “I have yet to start a business” in one of the initial surveys, then the new website will be able to tailor content to you and folks like you in that phase of your entrepreneurial journey.
Additionally, we’re going to engineer an advanced search experience into the new WordPress theme using Algolia. A ton of people complain about searching directly within websites, especially in my own blog—and I would, too. There’s a ton of content and out-of-the-box WordPress search engines aren’t that good. Integrating with Algolia will allow us to enrich the search experience with such capabilities as instant search and deeper keyword targeting to deliver fast and relevant search results for content you’re looking for on the site. We will be rolling out the new search experience in phases, with some of the new advanced capabilities available at launch with others coming online in later phases.
Beyond personalization, consistency will play a big role in the upcoming redesign too. Since starting AskPat and SPI TV, there have been a lot of inconsistencies across the brand. Each of those parts of the brand could easily stand on their own, which in a way is cool, but also not cool when they don’t do a great job of cross-promoting and continuing a contiguous SPI experience and conversation across the entire site.
Dustin, my designer, has shared some of the new design specs with me that my engineering team, Rocket Code, is building into a sandboxed development environment right now, and I must say, they make me giddy. It’s going to look pretty awesome.
Furthermore, we will be using Optimizely to develop, launch, and analyze split tests and multivariate tests of key website interfaces from day one so that I can see which web experiences perform the best and which don’t. You might not know this, but I’ve actually been split testing certain key interfaces and treatments on the existing SPI.com already in a “beta test” sort of way. By micro-testing these small but important treatments now and seeing what kinds of things you respond to (or not), we can go into the new design with certain rules that we know work already.
As far as a timeline, I’m hoping for a March or April release, but you’ll hear more about this over time, and I’m more than happy to share teasers along the way. I know a lot of you have been following the site for nearly seven years now, so I hope you’re as excited as I am for this next iteration in the life of SPI.
Will It Fly?
As a lot of you know already, my new book is coming out on February 1st, and it’s the first big item on the list that’s going to go live next year. Titled Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money, it’s a direct response to the survey results and the most common question I get submitted to AskPat.
A book is, of course, an amazing way to get people to take action, and I feel that this will be the start of a lot of people’s journeys—not just on my own site and through the SPI brand, but also in their own lives.
A book is much less intimidating to get started with than a course. The way the content is shared in a book—presented in a very step-by-step, iterative manner—is the best way to get those who have yet to get started to start, and those who are struggling to find their next step to find it.
In an upcoming episode of The SPI Podcast, I talk more about the WHYs behind this book, including why this topic, why now, why self-publish, and why sell through Amazon vs. directly on my own site. So I’ll leave the details for you there. Generally speaking, the goal is to reach as many people as possible with this book, which has directed a lot of my decision making for the above.
I can’t wait to share it with you on February 1st. If you’d like to see where we’re at now (and we’ll be taking pre-orders very soon, if we aren’t already), head on over to the link below to get more info:
More Crash Tests!
Will It Fly, has definitely been taking up all of my time recently, so I appreciate your patience because I know you’ve been waiting for my next great business experiment.
The first two niche site experiments went well, and both of those experimental sites (SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com and FoodTruckr.com) are still making money every month with less than an hour of work required for each, which is awesome.
I’m ready, however, to do another experiment, and I’ll be using the framework and strategies in Will It Fly to guide that next test.
I’ll be starting from scratch, not using any of my existing contacts, attempting to create a new business on the side. We’ll see what happens, but after the book launch is over, it’s on, and I hope you’re as excited as I am!
My “First” Course
Back in July of 2013 I launched Breakthrough Blogging, a membership course and community where people could get content to help them break through some of the biggest struggles that were holding bloggers back from becoming successful. It was only available for three days as part of a special promotional bundle along with a few courses from other people, and about 400 people joined, which was pretty awesome.
The response was incredibly positive at the start with a booming forum and more than 50 videos that were already helping people through some of their biggest problems. My goal was to continue to add content to the course and eventually re-open it to the public after working out the kinks.
Unfortunately, it never reopened.
Over time, the forum started to become less and less active and I really struggled to figure out what else could be added to the course, feeling like I just had to add “something” to it each month to stay consistent. I started to hold monthly webinars, which a number of members attended and enjoyed, but eventually people just didn’t get the ongoing value from it that I had promised. Although it did help a lot of people, overall I consider that project a rather big scar in my history of delivering value here on SPI.
This past year, nearly two years later after that course went live, I offered every member a $197 refund. I know I didn’t have to, but after thinking about it, it was obvious that it was the right thing to do. Quite a number of people took me up on that offer, which I was happy about, but others thought I was crazy to offer a refund two years later, especially because they said it was well worth their money to them.
It was an important lesson for me because it taught me that a membership site with on-going content, similar to Fizzle.co, Youpreneur by Chris Ducker, and Internet Business Mastery Academy—each of which I’m a proud member of and have gotten a ton of amazing value from—are extremely difficult to manage and keep active. It’s just not the way I feel I can best teach and help others.
It’s important to have a course component, however, in any brand that teaches something online, because it’s a great way to deliver massive value and get paid in return. A course helps people take action, and makes it easy to organize the steps and lessons involved to get a particular result. Plus, often times there are systems in place within a course to hold customers accountable and because customers have to pay to get access, they are more invested in what they are hoping to learn and accomplish.
I’m stoked to share that come mid-2016, I’ll be launching my first course that takes into account everything that I know that I can do to best serve you. The course will be a stand-alone course that has a very specific, measurable result in mind, built for a select segment of my audience. One-time payment, no recurring fees, and guaranteed to give you those results if you follow the steps. If I cannot do that, I don’t deserve to get paid for it.
From a business perspective, creating courses of my own is much safer than what I currently have going on, which is where most of my income is coming from affiliate commissions from other companies. That’s a scary thing, because at any moment in time those affiliate relationships or those other companies could go away, so I feel really good about creating my own assets that I can control, that I can also make sure are of top quality for you as you experience them.
More on that later!
I just wanted to take a quick moment here before 2016 is upon us to thank you. This has been an incredible year for me, and I hope it was the same for you, too. Either way, I’m here to help make 2016 a great year for you, and I hope you’re as excited as I am for these plans for SPI that’ll unfold all throughout the year.
What are some of the big plans that you have for your brand next year? Share them below and let’s make it happen!