I had no idea that my first website started in 2007 would change my life forever.
Here’s what happened.
I was 15 years into my law practice at the time and bored out of my mind. My wife suggested I get a hobby.
My first thought was to become a woodworker. I like the idea of working with my hands. On top of that, the house we moved into three years earlier had a workshop. Destiny!
So I started buying tools, reading about the craft, and even building a workbench. While researching table saws, I stumbled onto a personal finance blog.
It was the first time I can recall seeing a website that I identified as a blog. Remember, this was 2007.
Several things caught my attention:
- It was a site built and run by a single person. It wasn’t a corporate site with an IT department and
- The content was really good. The blogger had a passion for personal finance, and it showed.
- He was making money. I had no idea how much. But it was clear that he had ads on his site.
I was hooked. I knew I wanted to start a personal finance blog of my own.
There was only one problem. I had no idea how to secure a domain name, build a blog, get advertisers, promote the site, or even publish content.
I was greener than the outfield at Wrigley Field.
So I turned to Google. I searched and searched and searched.
- How do you start a blog?
- What is WordPress?
- Who has the cheapest hosting?
- How much does a domain name cost?
- How do you modify a WordPress theme?
- What plugins should every WordPress site use?
- How do I track traffic on my site?
- What is Google Adsense?
And the list goes on.
Truth be told, after more than a decade of blogging and millions of dollars in profits, I’m still Googling questions today. But I’m again getting ahead of myself.
With enough research, I figured out how to secure a domain name, where to find hosting, and how to install WordPress. Today, all of these things work about the same as they did back in 2007, although WordPress is far more robust today.
The result was my personal finance blog, www.doughroller.net. I launched it on May 27, 2007. I spent hours on the first article and remember being scared to death to press the publish button.
I did, and you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. Nobody read that first article except for me. Not even my mom.
But like the little engine that could . . .
Nose to the Grindstone
It was my love of personal finance and investing that kept me going. But it wasn’t easy. Here’s what my day looked like:
- 5:00 am: Wake up to an alarm and get to work writing content.
- 7:00 am: Break from work to get ready for my day job (I was still practicing law).
- 8:30: Work on the subway into Washington, D.C.
- Noon: work at lunch.
- 5:30 pm: Wish I could work on the subway back home, but with standing room only, it just wasn’t possible.
- 11:00 pm: On many nights, work an extra hour or two after the family went to bed.
I kept that schedule for two years. Two years!
By the end of 2007, I had made all of about $100. I received my first Google Adsense check ($100 minimum) in November. Starting in January 2008, however, the site was making $100 a month in Google Adsense.
I was ecstatic.
Growing the Site
In 2008 I started to learn a lot more about online marketing. I met several other bloggers who are still great friends to this day. I also read a lot.
I learned about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I learned about affiliate marketing. I learned some
As I learned, my traffic and revenue increased. In 2008 the site made $30,000, half of which my wife and I donated to charity.
It was 2009 and 2010, however, when things really got interesting. It was during this time that I realized the power of online marketing.
I continued to add more content to my site. I started an email newsletter. And I worked hard to market my site.
Back then, marketing for bloggers consisted mainly of guest posts and blog carnivals. Today, guest posts are still a viable strategy, but blog carnivals have gone the way of the flip phone.
The work paid off. In 2009 the site generated about $125,000 in revenue. It jumped to over $300,000 in 2010. And keep in mind that my profit margins were around 95%. I had hired some freelance writers by this time, but that’s it. Costs were minimal.
Revenge of the Panda
There are two kinds of online business owners. Those who lived through Panda, and those who didn’t. For those who did, you probably share my pain.
I still remember the day in April 2011 at noon when my traffic fell off a cliff. In the blink of an eye my site lost about 50% of its traffic and 30-40% of its revenue. All of this because Google made a change to its search ranking algorithm.
At the time I was considering retiring from the practice of law to run my site full time. Panda changed my mind. It would be another five years before I retired from law.
It turns out, however, that they were five really good years.
We’re Back, Baby!
Panda was painful. In hindsight, however, I’ve come to believe that it was the best thing that could have happened to my business.
It made me rethink my content strategy. I had become too focused on keywords and SEO. I had lost site of my readers and producing great content.
One result was the launch of my podcast in 2013, called the Dough Roller Money Podcast. It created a real connection with my audience. It’s been downloaded millions of times, and we have a vibrant Facebook community as a result, too.
Over time, my search traffic came back better than ever. So did my revenue. And so did offers to buy my site.
Should I Sell?
My first offer was around the time of Panda. A company offered around $1 million for doughroller.net. I declined.
A couple of years later another company offered $1.65 million. I wanted $1.8 million, so a deal never materialized. That was in 2014, as I recall.
It was a good thing I didn’t sell then. In 2016 I retired from law and focused exclusively on the site. Revenue continued to grow, eventually reaching 7 figures a year. And the business was still enjoying profit margins north of 90%.
And then we reach September 2017. I received an email inquiry from a public company wanting to buy my site. We spoke on the phone. They sounded legit.
A fellow blogger had sold his site a few months earlier. After a call with him, he introduced me to the company that purchased his site. Now I had two companies interested!
I enlisted the help of a lawyer (I’m a trial lawyer, so I needed help!). I also hired an investment banker. And then the bidding began.
To make an already long story a bit shorter, I sold doughroller.net in February 2018 to a marvelous public company headquartered in Israel.
They are a great group of people who continue to publish excellent content on the site. I continue to produce the podcast.
And I never have to work another day in my life. But I do. Everyday. And I love it.
All of this brings me back to you and this site. I started robberger.com because I love online business. I enjoy thinking about it, reading about it, and writing about it.
And it’s my goal to share with you what I’ve learned over the past 12 years.
Here are the main topics you’ll find on this site:
- Technology: You’ll find everything from how to start a blog to the best WordPress plugins. If
the technologycan help you in your business, it’s covered here.
- Marketing: “If you build it, they will come.” Not true! If you build something great and market the heck out of it, then they will come. This site covers everything from SEO to paid search to social media to email marketing.
- Content: Publishing an article is just the start. Content includes video, audio, calculators, tools, and even books. It’s all covered here.
- Profit: At the end of the day, it’s about profit. We can’t have a sustainable business without it. Notice I didn’t say revenue. It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you keep. I also couldn’t care less about how many Twitter followers somebody has. It’s pointless unless they help you achieve your business goals.
- Analytics: We have to know what’s going on with our site. Ultimately, we want to know what aspects of our site are generating profit. We cover all aspects of data analytics that can help us answer this question.
So there is my story and the story of this website. I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me here.