How I Earned 💰$3mil+ On The Internet and What Was the Trick to Beat The Competition
Programming was my passion. I did it for years before I started thinking about how to make money out of it.
At that time, I was doing desktop software (freeware/shareware) for Windows coded in Delphi. So the idea was to create a software downloads directory. Something like download dot com where I can market my software. Nothing more, initially.
I built this site in pure PHP + MySQL DB without any framework and deployed it on shared hosting. It was 3 dollars/month for hosting! I've automated a lot of things like check for proper data entered by people who submitted their software as well as watermarking all images that were processed by the administrator.
It was time to think about how to drive traffic into the site. I knew marketing is my bottleneck, and I'll have to find a way to get users into the site.
For this type of site, the usual marketing strategy was like this:
1️⃣ Award top software on your site with five and four stars.
2️⃣ Send an email to all of those developers with a code snippet
3️⃣ They will place the badge on their site, and you get a backlink.
4️⃣ These backlinks get you some traffic and also boost your SEO rank.
I soon realized that this tactic, widely used by others, won't be enough to beat the competition. So I've decided to think about the next steps. The first one was the SEO reverse engineering of the competitors. I spent one week analyzing sites like soft32 and brothersoft.
The first thing I've found was the usage of the keyword "Free". It was included in the page title tag, meta descriptions, and also in the H1,H2,H3 tags of the pages. "Free" is an emotional keyword that makes people in Google search results click the link. They also used keyword repetition on a number of places on the same page.
That helped them to boost the page rank. Soft32 and Softpedia had a bunch of editors who wrote software reviews for them. This was something I knew I can't compete with. I've implemented all the techniques I've discovered during the reverse analysis. I wanted to know how and where my competitors getting their backlinks so I can try to replicate them.
At that time Yahoo Explorer was available as a free tool that made it possible. Currently, you can use tools like Ubersuggest (free) or Ahrefs (paid) for the same purpose. I've found some blogs and forums where I was able to get some new backlinks.
Later I was contacted by a few small competitors to exchange links with them. I've placed links to the footer or a sidebar of my site and they did the same. All links were "do-follow"
This On-Page/Off-Page SEO worked quite well but I was still way behind the competition.
I knew that I have to come with something that will be unique and special. This was the time when the traffic was already stable and I started to monetize the site with Google Adsense. There were some CPM competitors out there but none of them was close to the earnings that Google Adsense offered.
I got another idea 💡
Everybody wants to download virus-free software. What about checking all of them for viruses? So here are the steps:
✅ Check all 60K+ software for viruses
✅ Publish virus report on site
✅ Inform developers about the clean report and provide them with a code that will link back to my website.
Pretty straightforward right? But how to test 60K software against viruses? Nobody wants to do this.
The solution: Automation 🤖
I've discovered Virustotal API and decided to leverage it for this. I've created an automation backend script that made it all possible automatically.
1️⃣ It downloaded the software to my server
2️⃣ It uploaded it Virustotal and got a unique ID
3️⃣ I used that unique ID to periodically check Virustotal for the scan result.
4️⃣ When it was ready I've saved results into the DB as plain text.
Nobody wants his content to be stolen. So needed to somehow protect the reports from scrapers. So I've converted reports from text to images with a watermark. That was a solution that worked well.
I got another boost in traffic. Unfortunately, it was not as significant as I've expected. So I've started to think about how to get more backlinks as it was the main ranking factor.
How get people link back to you? You need to provide as much value as possible otherwise they won't link back. What everybody who is running the website is hunting for? And the right answer is CONTENT!! Everybody is hunting for as much content as possible. And the best content is the free content.
And then the idea CAME!! 💡
What about creating an API for my download directory and make it accessible for others. But this is just a first step. You have to make the implementation on the client-side as simple as possible. Otherwise, it would prevent your end-users to implement it.
Then I got the second idea 💡
I had experience with a few content management systems at that time: PHPNuke, Joomla, and WordPress.
WordPress was already quite popular at that time and it was one of the best targets. I've created plugins/extensions for all of these content management systems. Then I've submitted them to plugin directories.
How it worked:
After installation into your site plugin created a section on the site with all programs listed. At that time it was about 50K programs. People were able to browse the directory and after a click on the program name, the short description of the program appeared. If people decided to download it which most people decided they were redirected to my site.
So there were 3 advantages:
✅ I got backlinks for each software listed not just one.
✅ I got direct traffic from these sites.
✅ If somebody linked to these sites they actually linked also to my site.
The result was insane.
People started to install them on their sites and use them. Within a year more than 2000 sites installed them and I got tons of backlinks from them as well as traffic.
My traffic reached 200K, daily visitors, after all these steps. Of course, it was not instant and the process took few years. The best part was that it required about 1 hour daily to take care of all the stuff around the site and server.
🕸 site: download3000 .com
🚦 Biggest traffic: 220K visitors/day approx. 6Mil unique/month
🤖 Daily Google bot visits: 550K pages crawled
🧰 Revenue source: Google Adsense
💰Total revenue: 3mil+ dollars
That's my story guys.
If you found this story useful and inspirational, consider follow me on Twitter @csaba_kissi.