What I Learned In 2013

At the risk of sounding like Ebenezer Scrooge, I don’t like this time of year.


Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a break with friends and family but, here in the UK, it seems like the world shuts down for two weeks. And I can’t wait to get going.

Time to reflect. I feel that 2013 was a pivotal year for me. 2013 was the year when I lost nearly half of my traffic, created 5 new products and realised the importance of my personal brand (if I didn’t already!)

I lost half my Google traffic in 2013

To be honest, if you’d told me 365 days ago that I would lose half of my Google traffic in a year, I’d have cried!


As you can see from the above Google Analytics screenshot, I had a gradual reduction in search traffic since the beginning of the year (complicated by a post that does very well towards the end of the year).

But, guess what? It didn’t matter! I just didn’t realise how unimportant Google organic traffic is to my brand. Almost every other metric, email subscribers, comments, engagement and, most tellingly, revenue, has increased.

2013 was the year I realised the importance of my personal brand and following – two factors that are mostly nothing to do with organic search.

Just think of the great bloggers you discovered in 2013? Think of the great tools, articles and sites you were made aware of in 2013? How did you hear about them? I’m guessing it was through your network, not Google search. Am I right?

People buy from people

2013 was the year I realised people need to trust your personal brand if they are going to buy your products.

Not so, maybe, if I was selling pancakes – then I would need to create the tastiest pancakes and sell them for the right price. But for those of us who are selling digital information products it’s only the brand trustworthiness that matters.

People buy from people. Purchasing is an emotional decision that’s not based on algorithms, conversion rates or sexy graphics.

Multiple products

One of the great mantras of Internet marketing is “test, test, test and test again”. But, I was never very good at tests at school.

For me I think it’s possible to get a little bit too obsessed with testing. For example, little tweaks via A/B tests on conversion pages don’t make a whole lot of difference if you’re not getting much traffic to that conversion page.

Another way to test is to do loads of content.

Why don’t we just create products instead of testing? If you can create a product and it does really badly – there’s a test right there! I’m being a little flippant here, but I don’t think I can over-exaggerate the importance of action.

The importance of an email list

I have come to realise the power of my website and email list in “kickstarting” new products. Every time I published a new course or a new Kindle book I send out an email and I always got, at least, a few sales and a few positive reviews – sometimes more. This starts the product’s lifestyle with a nice bit of momentum.

It’s a really good idea to incentivise people to join your email list – say that you will email them the next time you have a free course or a free book out. That is a good reason for joining a list and it’s something of real value you could offer.

The importance of “2nd tier” platforms

What am I talking about here? “2nd tier” platforms are, for want of a better phrase, the online platforms that aren’t huge (Google, Facebook, Twitter) but are still big.

Some examples of “2nd tier” platforms:

  • Udemy
  • Podcasts
  • Kindle

Small personal brands like mine can’t compete on the super-massive social networks – there’s too much noise. However, take a step down to the next level and you have platforms that aren’t huge but still have millions of people on them. This is where you can compete.

The importance of relationships

And I can’t finish without mentioning the most important thing of all – and that is relationships.

thank you

I would like to thank each and every one of you who is reading this article at the moment. And thank you to those who have tweeted, shared, commented, emailed and generally engaged with me this year. There have been more of you this year than any other year in the past and I would be nowhere without your help. So thank you so much!

You can do it

You can take your personal brand to the next level in 2014. Let’s do it together – it’ll be fun!

Did this help you? If so, please share!

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  1. says

    You are absolutely right on many things. Google is big but if all other aspects are increasing then there is no need to worry about it. Personal branding is going to be important in the coming months.

  2. says

    Thanks for this summary Rob.

    What some people don’t seem to understand is that not all traffic is good. That’s why you see so many people buying traffic on sites such as fiverr and seeing no results. Instead, we should work on building targeted traffic.

    Thanks to you, I also made my first Udemy course with over 500+ students :)

    • says

      500+ students! That’s awesome! Well done. I would continue to create more courses and videos, Rahat, I really think creating multiple products teaches you how to create better offerings.

      Yes, not all traffic is created equal. It’s all about engagement.

      1000 engages fans > 10,000,000 non-engaged visitors. :)

  3. says

    Hey Rob
    Great job my friend. And ignoring Google – congrats. I am not at that stage yet, but maybe next year :>
    I am close to launching my first Udemy course, all thanks to your posts on the matter. So thanks so much for the idea, inspiration and assistance. Much appreciated.
    Have a great 2014

    • says

      Hey, Ashley, congratulations on coming up with a Udemy course, my friend. I’m amazed! Please make sure you get in contact if you have any questions about the Udemy platform or online teaching.

      Remember, Rahat and Ashley, I started on Udemy a year ago so it will be a while before you start earning $1000 a month. Also, free courses really help on Udemy because they get the followers and you can promote the premium courses to them.

  4. says

    Happy New Year Rob and thanks for all the help and useful information you have given me.

    “People buy from people” – so true! That human wonderful trait stopped Starbucks from aggressively attempting to sink a family members business.

    • says

      Happy New Year, David, you’ll be pleased to know that during the first day of 2014 in London it didn’t stop raining, the wind didn’t stop blowing and, I’m afraid, it was particularly dull and grey. Yes, I thought that might cheer you up! :)

      Ah yes Starbucks, I’m afraid my personal boycott is running out of steam – especially when it’s at the right place at the right time. But these days I just think, multinational Fortune 500 companies, they may well be doing bad things but what can I do about them? Can I help the situation? Is voting going to do any good? Probably not. So I’m concentrating on small businesses like mine and yours :)

      • says

        Oh geez, and I was on the on the beach Facebooking a Happy New Year video. I must be hated.

        I still use Starbucks myself. I was just surprised that when they parked themselves next to our rail station coffee kiosk they they decided to open at 6 am and give out free coffee in the street. It was way too obvious what they were doing and the public (well, kiosk customers) were angry on our behalf. The morning commuter coffee is about friendships and having someone who know exactly what you want.

        Starbucks went back to their normal hour and what they do well.

        I see the internet increasingly becoming people to people focused.

  5. says

    Hi Rob,

    As an SEO I’ve certainly seen a lot of people lose Google traffic. They blamed “the last guy” and wanted a new “magician” to get it back. I believe businesses have been placing entirely too much trust in Google’s blessing. You mention diversification through multiple products, but I feel it’s prudent to take the same approach with search engines; where Google is just one stream of traffic and not the whole game. I agree that building relationships and trust in other channels is a solid, long term approach for growing traffic and sales.

    Wishing you a very prosperous and memorable 2014,


    • says

      Hi Cole, so sorry I spent so long to reply! Thank you for your comment and welcome to the blog. Yes, as an SEO you’ve probably seen it all. I definitely agree with you that diversification is key in everything not just product creation but traffic sources as well. Putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea! All the best for 2014 to you Cole and I hope to see you here again. :)