Welcome to aaron chua make money blog

Hi, welcome to my blog. In this part of my world, I talked about how to achieve financial freedom by learning how to make money online through creating sites and earning from them.

Below are some current and past make money projects that details my learning journey.

My current experiment in making 50 amazon site niches. If you have not been following this challenge, best place to start is this resource page for the amazon challenge, that lists all the articles that I have written so far.

My experiment in making 1000 a month through adsense in 9 months.

If you came here looking for low cost startup ideas, here are 140 startup ideas that you can browse through.

Friday, 22 June 2012

DIfference between quality content and marketing fluff: a long reply to tom ewer of leavingworkbehind.com

This was intended to be a reply to Tom of leavingworkbehind.com, who took the trouble to leave a comment in previous post on marketing fluff.  It turned out to be a bit longer than I would have liked as a comment so I decided to flush out my thoughts a bit more and make it into a real post.

This was Tom's comment

"Hey Aaron,

Really disappointed to hear that you feel my blog is going the way of "fluff". I'd love to get some feedback from you on that front - I pour an enormous amount of effort in trying to produce valuable posts every single time, so I'd like to know where you think I'm going wrong.



Given Tom's recently surge in popularity, it was nice for him to even bother to comment on blogs like mine. Made no mistake, Tom is a NICE person. His comment is proof of that. However the realities of blogging in terms of generating traffic sometimes can steer you in the wrong direction.

His simple questions actually left me with a lot to think about. I had years in business development/marketing for both real companies and my own online properties. As a result, my bullshit filter is pretty much on most of the time. I can smell the bullshit from miles away but it takes a bit of effort to dig into the details of why I think they are bullshit. This post is my attempt to do so.

So, back to the question: what is the difference between quality content and fluff?

My answer: deep insights into execution

That is my guiding principle to tell me what is fluff and what isn't.

In the world of business and making money, execution is what separates ideas and dreams from reality. I have learnt long ago to look past the marketing bullshit and to see what really make things tick. It is these insights that will determine success or failure. If a piece content cannot bring out these insights, they have nothing to offer but fluff. Fluff makes you feel good as it tricks you into believing you are learning something. In reality, trying to execute on fluff will leave you with hundreds of burning questions.

An example to illustrate what I meant

If you have never heard of Khan Academy, it is one of the fastest growing platform for online video learning. I investigated deeply into why it grew so fast and where the growth is coming from, especially in the early stage where it has not received so much public recognition.

Fluff: "Great content that is easy to follow". "First of its kind". "Person in the video is really great". "Everybody is sharing these content with their friends" Blah blah blah.

Insight: The videos ranked for almost all the maths related queries in youtube search. In other words, SEO on the youtube platform bought tonnes of traffic to the videos. It is only after the initial exposure that people started to share and talk about the great content.

On the surface, the marketing fluff about Khan Academy is not wrong.
  • Building what the gurus liked to called "pillar content" forms a strong foundation. 
  • Referral traffic from sharing is a good source of growth
However, executing on these alone, as most bloggers do, will leave them cold. Why? The missing link is the initial pool of users. Your kickstart engine if you will. Most companies and blogs failed because they failed in this stage of their ventures. If you want to learn why something is generating lots of traffic online, always look for this kickstart engine. Don't be blinded by all the PR talks and useless commentary.

I loved this particular insight as it is something that anyone can duplicate. Anyone can learn how to do SEO on youtube seach. It doesn't require invisible handshaking which a lot of guru online marketers do that we can't see.

(A side note: this is why a real SEO doesn't focus on Google alone. Any platforms with a large traffic base and a search box can be optimised. If you are not experimenting in getting search traffic from forums, video sharing sites, twitter etc, you are missing out on a lot of traffic).

Other examples

Griz: One of my biggest hero. He taught me many things about SEO by conducting his experiments openly with the SERP results to show for it. I remembered one particular example where he showed the power and the ease of ranking of trend keywords by ranking for the names of American Idol contestants.

Griz created a new blog in front of us targeting one particular contestant and ranked it within days. He also showed the site's  traffic stats and how to make money off it. That one post opened up my eyes in terms of how to target new terms that are featured on TV and eventually lead to my success in creating a adsense site in one of the most competitive industry: cosmetic surgery. ( See this post on how I make 1k in adsense using this method of targeting emerging keywords).

Griz posts were insightful as the kickstart engine was open for anyone to see. Anyone can easily duplicate what he has done and have success. There is no fluff and no gaps in the most crucial part of your business. 

Michael Martinez: Micheal doesn't conduct these live experiments but his years of experience shine through in this SEO posts. I learnt many things from him including a concept called SERP saturation, which explains why it is tougher to ranked for established concepts and keywords. I am not going to explain it here but it is something that once again open my eyes to how search engines work.

Again, such information can be implementated and they have a real impact on your results because they focus on the kickstarted part of your project. 

Back to leavingworkbehind.com

This is the part where I address Tom's question. Let look at a recent post:

"22 Success Stories Reveal The Moment When They Knew They Were Capable Of More"

It is the type of post that most readers will love to read. It is inspirational especially to those who love to live in their heads. However to somebody like me, it is utterly useless. They don't reveal the crucial execution tips in the initial part of their business. As I said above, getting traction is the toughest part of any business. Your first customer, your first 100 readers, your first book deal. All these are the really hard to achieve. A insightful post will tell you exactly the process and the time and the effort you need to get the traction.

Another post: "http://www.leavingworkbehind.com/why-im-getting-naked-for-you-and-no-one-else/"

Seriously dude, you don't need such posts to create your unique selling point. This is again the type of marketing fluff that most online marketers encourage. Your true selling point will come from what you are saying and not telling your readers what you are going to say. Just walk the talk! Don't use this merry go round approach of content to sell your readers to more useless marketing manifestos. These other guys are using fluffy manifestos to establish themselves as the authority and not to provide anything useful.

In fact, most list type of articles fall into this catagory of content. You have nothing to say so you send your readers to a merry go round to other blogs and see if they have anything concrete or useful. Again, most social readers love this because they live in their heads. These folks like to read more than do.

Tom's earlier stuff was much better as it was his personal stories about his money making experiments. Personal storeis are powerful because they reveal insights. Insights about how a beginner can stumble, the kind of mistakes he made and the kind of solutions he thought of. The whole process, including how the initial traction can happen, is laid out in front of your eyes. This is powerful stuff.

Unfortunatley, personal stories don't work that well if you are not successful yet. Causal readers will somehow not share your content or even like your blog unless you have achieved some results. They are ok to missed out on the growin pains of a project which is where a lot of learnings can take place.

This is why most bloggers will go down the marketing fluff path. They can't wait for the day they will be successful. They need the traffic now so they resort to common tactics that I have described above.

My final feedback is this: You need to do things first before writing. Only after real stuff has been done will insights be born. Nobody can produce insightful posts everyday, especially if you don't have years of experiences backing up what you are saying.


Tom Ewer said...


I drafted a LONG response to this.

Then I re-read your post and realized how entrenched you are in your viewpoint (plus I'm not exactly delighted by the clear implication on your part that I'm talking bullshit). So I don't want to waste your time.

Instead, I'll say just this. My blog content revolves around one of two things:

- Leveraging the experiences of others to provide value to my readers.
- Leveraging my own experience to provide value to my readers.

That isn't going to change.

I hope to see you around, but if not, all the best :-)



Justin said...

Hey Aaron,

I understand where you're coming from with "fluff" content and don't necessarily think you're wrong...but I also think it's important to remember that just because you get more value out of actionable content...not everyone's in the same position as you.

For example...Tom from LeavingWorkBehind's post about 22 Success stories is, I would agree, a sort-of surface post that doesn't get into much detail. While that doesn't help if you want to recreate any of their individual paths, it may:

A) Introduce you to someone new that you hadn't heard of before and find interesting.
B) Provide the reassurance and motivation to understand that it IS possible.

Sometimes I need help with a particular problem. Other times, I look for resources on time management or motivation. It just depends on the particular place I'm in at the time. You're looking for actionable, detailed information. That's cool. Just be careful assuming that's the ONLY useful content.

We write and record actionable posts and podcasts, but we also do some of the motivational or list-type posts.

You know, there's another fluffy/marketing way to sneak traffic to your blog too that you didn't mention. It's focused on calling out or attacking other bloggers to get yourself some attention. Just sayin'

David Loney said...

I have to agree that I don't like fluff. There is a lot of it kicking around taking up peoples time and money. What people need is a step by step process or workflow from successful internet marketers. Without a process new marketers are grabbing hundreds of pieces of the puzzle and trying to put it all together.

The best example of a process is Ed Dales 30 day challenge. The course is huge and goes to show new to marketing people the process and the knowledge required and that doing vs reading is what will make it all happen.

I applaud Tom Ewer for sticking his head out and going for it. He is learning and sharing. Which this is all about.

I also applaud Aaron for providing honest and insightful feedback.

Justin said...

Hey David,

Totally agree...Ed Dale's 30 day challenge is a fantastic resource for those just getting started. It gets you into the business, lets you test things out, and is doing quite well for Ed who put the thing together...even if it's free! I like how he sells around the free course...smart move on his part.

I'm a big fan of Tom's blog and, unless I'm mistaken, I think Aaron likes it too. If it wasn't just a traffic ploy, I think he's honestly trying to give some critical feedback. If you haven't seen it, check out Tom's latest post on freelancers...less fluff, more action.

Oliver said...

Hey, Aaron.

Interesting conversation going on here. I do agree that actionable content is very attractive to some people. However, out of the last 100 people who visited my brand new marketing blog, not one single person even bothered to notice my 60 video-long free video course.

One or two people watched a video or two, but out of 100 people, not one single person bothered to go through the entire course. This could very well be because the wrong audience has been visiting my blog.

You know, it is funny how much you learn when you try new stuff. I started to post on the warriorforum, which I have heard nothing but horrible things about, and the goal was to build referral traffic in doing so. I have posted there about 30 times, each time with long, drawn-out, extremely useful advice based on my own experience. That brought me some traffic, sure.

Want to know what I learned by trying to gain exposure through the warriorforum? I learned that almost everyone there is looking to make money as fast as they possibly can, which explains why all of those bunk WSOs promising 10k in a week are selling so well.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that, based on some limited stats that I have, a lot of people really are just looking to be inspired. A lot of people really do just want to read inspirational stuff that is not actionable. What I really value is someone who is not afraid to speak their mind, and even if it means calling others out, whether they are in the wrong or not.

I won't judge anyone. It is good to see your genuine personality Aaron, regardless if I disagree with you or not.