Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! I am David Ning and run MoneyNing.com, a website that discusses anything about personal finance.
Sometimes people ask me why start a site on personal finance when everyone online seems to be offering free money advice already, but talk to people out on the streets and you quickly realize that many people can still use help with their finances.
Many people think they already know what to do with their money, and that could very well be you. But did you know that cutting $100 each month from your ongoing expense means you need to save $30,000 less in retirement? I bet the answer is likely a no.
The numbers prove that the topic is popular too. MoneyNing.com is visited by 200,000 users a month, and that’s just the typical traffic numbers. The number is way higher in some months. People want to know how to manage their money wisely and will continue to do so forever.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started the business entirely by accident. I’ve always wanted to start a website, so I started a personal blog in 2007 that talked about everything that was happening in my life. As I was reading on how to grow a blog, most people suggested focusing on one topic. I thought about a site on computers since I have a Masters in Applied Science majoring in Computer Networking, but since money was what I was passionate about and can talk shop all day, that initial website turned into MoneyNing.com.
And it wasn’t even for profit at the beginning either. I was just writing, and someone must’ve thought they liked what they saw because advertisers started contacting me for ad placements. I still remember my first $1,000 deal. I was so happy I ran to my wife, held her hand, and jumped up and down like an elated kid whose parents just promised unlimited ice cream. I couldn’t believe how someone would offer me such a large amount of cash just to mention their website on my web property.
Pretty soon, more and more advertisers were contacting me and the site was taking so much time that I had to choose whether I wanted to give full-time work on the site a go or sell the site because I was also working on a demanding sales position.
I chose the former, and it was a tough decision to make because I was making three times as much at my day job as what my site was bringing in. Luckily, I found comfort in that we were frugal and can make the finances work. The site quickly grew from there. It wasn’t even six months into a full time when I started making more than my day job.
To say that I was living the dream was an understatement.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
In the beginning, I was writing about anything and everything. The topics eventually had a personal finance focus but still, I was just writing about what was on my mind. At some point, the dominance of Google and how much power it holds on bringing in traffic and revenue became crystal clear, and that in turn led to MoneyNing.com having each article focus on one topic. They were short and sweet to address one point. After all, Google wants to, first and foremost, send visitors to a page to answer the question they are searching for.
As Google’s preferences evolved, so has our content. Now what they are looking for is more long-form articles. This means, longer, more detailed discussion on each topic to show that we are authorities on the subject.
At the end of the day, good content is the best way to keep readers from coming back.
Revenue sources also changed over the years. We started mainly with ad placements, but we added affiliate marketing to the site shortly after I went full time. In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is talking about a product or service, and advertisers will pay you based on our readers performing a specific action. For example, I could be talking about a savings account, and if the reader then becomes interested in opening an account and do so, then I get paid. It sort of works like a referral bonus, but through my site instead of word of mouth.
The first post was always exciting, and the funny thing was that I wasn’t even recommending the product. I was talking about how some people were having a bad experience with a certain bank. Still, people decided that whatever I said wasn’t a concern to them, and they signed up anyway!
It just goes to show that if you are genuine with what you write about, then you can still make a good living. You don’t necessarily have to sell out!
Describe the process of launching the business.
The beauty of launching a website is that startup costs are minimal. Hosting can be had for a few dollars a month, and that’s pretty much all you need. You can pay for a fancy design, or you can get started with a simple out of the completely free box design.
You don’t need to hire someone to get it up and running for you either. If you can install a program on your computer, chances are good that you can get a website up and running on your own.
The website looks pretty basic for today’s standard, but you can see that you don’t need much to get started. Here’s the screenshot of what MoneyNing.com looked like in 2007.
See? You don’t need absolute perfection to get started!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
At the end of the day, good content is the best way to keep readers from coming back. Another tool I use is my email list, which sends a reminder to subscribers of the news articles for the week. It works because traffic spikes for my site Thursday morning when the weekly newsletter gets sent out.
We’ve also tried social media channel ads, but that’s more for targeted traffic straight to specific pages for affiliates instead of trying to gather a general audience to the site.
Don’t forget SEO either. In the early days, the personal finance space was a much smaller community so we reached out and got to know everyone. We would often link to and promote each other, driving visitors to every one of us. That helped a great deal for search traffic too, because Google thinks content that’s linked to is a good article.
These days, it’s much harder to get links but it’s still possible. And the same thing applies. Reach out to others, get to know them and the links will flow in. Keep working at it because organic traffic from search engines can make or break your business!
Make friends, meet up with people, and help others. You never know when a simple tip from a friend will transform your business.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I keep going back to this but the non-existent startup cost is a real benefit of starting a website. I’ve been profitable since day 1 and without much-fixed costs, it’s easy to scale up/scale back and move the marketing budget around as the landscape changes.
Over the years, we’ve spent first on building out our RSS subscription, then moved onto email campaigns, and then social media channels. As they say, the only constant in business is changing and we expect to keep moving forward to not fall behind!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The website may not have had nearly the same amount of financial success if I never found out about the affiliate marketing revenue stream. And I nearly would’ve missed it, if not for a friend who told me about it at a conference.
The personal finance community was small back when I first started, so we all knew everyone who had a site. Yet, it wasn’t until meeting up at a conference and chatting over a drink when a friend showed me how he’s been making money on his site through affiliate marketing.
The business to the business world knows the importance of face-to-face meetings, and it’s valuable even in the online-only world. Make friends, meet up with people, and help others. You never know when a simple tip from a friend will transform your business.
Network with others. Learn from them, and offer what you’ve learned too. You just never know how you can help others and how they can help you in the future.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My website runs on WordPress, which needs no introduction to anyone interested in a website these days. I also use Hootsuite to manage my social media conversations. It does cost a bit of money, but it saves me so much time, time that is spent on other money-making activities.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I read quite a few different websites on personal finance because it not only gives me an idea of what’s happening in our community but it also gives me ideas on what I could write about. Anyone who wants to start an informational website will want to find their favorite sites that talk about a topic similar to the one they are writing about, but a forum I find interesting is the Boglehead.org/forum.
It’s an investment forum with many people who are very committed to low-cost index fund investing. It’s worth a read for me not just for growing my site and business but it’s also useful for me to beef up my investing knowledge.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
The obvious tip is to just get started. Don’t wait and contemplate forever because of 0% of those who haven't started being successful. Once you get going, use that excitement at the beginning to try new things. Many ideas will fail, but that’s okay because some of the crazy attempts will stick.
Network with others. Learn from them, and offer what you’ve learned too. You just never know how you can help others and how they can help you in the future. Don’t shy away from helping direct competitors either. The Internet pie is huge, and everyone can all profit and lift each other’s sales by cooperating.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking for good people to work with our team. Good writers, in particular, are people we always look for.
Where can we go to learn more?
Check us out at the site as well as our social media channels!
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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