Early Beginnings Let's rewind a bit... I had only just turned 19. It was in my first year of college and things were heading nowhere FAST. There was no chance in hell I'd be staying here long. My GPA was unspeakably low, and I still had not chosen a field to study. At this point, I knew I needed to stop taking out loans for school, and start making some money online. This wasn't new to me, I had been messing with all sorts stuff from about 14 years old. It all really goes back to online games like Maplestory and World of Warcraft, that's where I spent most of my childhood days. I quickly began buying and selling items, currency, accounts - at this point everything was just money to me. 14-18 hour sitting in front of a screen were common, however, it was this rather extreme behavior that was making me an easy $2k per month. From here it was an easy transition into CPA type stuff, promoting sign-ups for all sorts of things in whatever crazy ways I could think up (or find on sites such as this!). I spent my days reading forums, thinking of twists to take, and implementing. Video streaming sites and CPALead were my first big hustle, netting me roughly $50k in under a year. This was great, but I knew it would be short-lived. I took a good crack at entering the SEO service niche, primarily on forums at this time. Digitalpoint and WickedFire were where it started, shortly after leading me here to BHW. The idea was to sell the same links I was using for my own sites. I knew what was working and what wasn't, and so I capitalized on that by building packages and pushing it to the people who needed it most. I made this a full-time thing for some time, always lining my pockets (and my customers ) and keeping myself fed. The Internet - My Cash Cow It was time to take things to the next level, I didn't want to leave school without a very comfortable savings account and a solid plan going forward. Nutrition and fitness was also becoming a big part of my life at that time. I was frequently browsing the bodybuilding.com forum. There was a thread for Internet / Affiliate marketing and I kept up with it regularly. A fellow member posted some questions regarding an iPhone 5 blog he had made (this was long before the release of the iPhone 5) and even posted some screenshots of his earnings. He was making a bit of money from the site, something around $20 per day if I remember correctly. He was however only ranking towards the bottom of the first page for "iPhone 5", and the keyword was getting well over a million searches per month at that point. The competition was laughable, and I know I could capitalize in a big way, this is when I got to work... Wordpress was my go-to, so I through up a quick blog with a top selling theme that looked like it'd convert well (can't remember the theme name at this point). I quickly outsourced 4-5 pieces of content. These were re-writes based on the most useful articles I could find online. Rumors, concept screenshots, leaks - this was the initial angle I took. I mean, what other angle could I really take at this point? From here I started to build links myself, as well as buy services from WF and BHW. Now that doesn't mean just throwing any random services at it, I knew what was working at the time and simply couldn't handle all the manual link building that was required. It's Not That Difficult I'm sure you're wondering what sort of links I was using. For the most part, it was High PR blog comments, profile links, web 2.0's and a couple of High PR networks thrown in. The content being used seo was mostly spun too, it really didn't matter so much back then. It was also a free-for-all in terms of keyword density, I used "iPhone 5" and variations of the keyword for every single link. I spent around $3k-$5k on links in a months time, and had around 10 pieces of content up by now. I hit page 2 rather quickly, and I was climbing day by day at that point across a ton of keywords. I saw the pennies start to roll in, then small dollar amounts each day. This is when I knew the money was coming, I didn't know however that I was about to make a quarter of a million dollars! It was time for a branding and design upgrade. I worked with a developer from my school to make the new website. The new site looked like this and took around 2 weeks for us to finish. This was a big upgrade from the old cookie-cutter design, and would covert much better as well. Inside the posts, I would put a square Adsense ad below the content and remove the header ad on those pages (Adsense only allows 3), this always had the highest click-through rates of any ad on my site. I continued to build links and pay my content writer to do re-writes and I would format them and post them on the blog. My site was really starting to rank, I was on the first page for "iPhone 5" and controlled the top rankings for most of the long-tail stuff. By this point my site was bringing in about $100 per day in revenue, everything was happening very quickly. I was refreshing my earnings like a madman, I really had to stop myself from doing it too much! I threw another $2k-3k in links at the site in an attempt to power through the first page. What Now At that point, TechCrunch and similar sites had articles up about the iPhone 5. These were the ones ranking highest, however, they still weren't anything too difficult to pass considering I had an exact match domain and a site filled with strictly iPhone 5 content. Thankfully these authority sites didn't make full "iPhone 5" sub-sections full of content, I have to assume they just weren't up to speed yet (nowadays they all do this!). Once I secured a #2 rank things got real quickly, I was bringing in $500 a day or more like clockwork. Again, I threw a few more thousand in links at the site. This time I went to odesk and hired a ton of workers for all sorts of links, I would typically pay them by the hour. This ate up a lot of my time, but I feel as if it's what really helped me get to #1. I kept asking them to do High PR blog comments, these were cheap for the juice they were giving back then. After about a week I popped up at #1 for just a couple of hours. My site became unresponsive rather quickly. It was already getting slow, and the surge in traffic really took it over the edge. After some rather tiring phone calls with my cheap shared hosting provider, I knew it was time to leave and get something a bit more powerful. I got a $350 per month dedicated server, but still there were some serious load speed issues. It was affecting my visitors, my earnings, and my head. I knew I had to sort things out, so I worked with the same developer who helped me code the website to optimize everything. We read up on load speed optimization and went to work. Cache plugins were the biggest factor in the end, the thumbnails on the homepage were really causing a lot of stress. I was seeing days with 200,000 and sometimes 300,000 unique visitors to the site, things were crazy. You can have a look at my Adsense earnings and stats here. Like I said, things got pretty crazy for a while... I kept up with link building for a few months, but I was only spending about $1k per month at this point. I remember getting worried about having too many links, and too much spun content around my links. After I was #1 for some time and felt I had cemented myself there, I just continued to put out content and stopped building links. Google started to roll out updates not too long after, this couldn't go on forever. My site stuck around in the rankings for quite a while, I had a solid full year of nice earnings before it really started to trickle down. This was just a small side project that turned into a big thing, even though it never really took TOO much of my time, especially not for what it netted in the end. Happily Ever After This set me up for the rest of my life. Last year I relocated myself to NYC from Philadephia and started Gurus NYC. This is the agency I put it together with my close friend who had been designing / developing websites for a long time. It took nearly 10 years before I felt like I was in a position to take brands under my own command, and actually improve them from the bottom up. This past year has taught me some invaluable lessons. You know why? Because starting an agency forces you to get out into the real world, it forces you to talk to multi-million dollar business owners, to sell them on your services, and then you have to communicate with them regularly while you take their brand from zero to hero. Yea, it's a lot to manage, but it's what I am passionate about and where my life has taken me. I have the freedom to live anywhere I want, to work by the beach, or in the mountains. The internet has given me that freedom. I owe a lot to BHW, I took in a lot of information from day one and it continues to thrive as one of the top internet marketing forums. Bravo. What I did with the iPhone 5 blog can be replicated, but not with such shady link building. Move with the times, and use what's working now. Google wants to see quality over quantity, and using exact match keywords is a no-no. Make it look natural, and put out quality content both on your website and around your link. Don't be afraid to reach out to blogs and news publications, they want your good content just as badly as you want that juicy backlink. Read blogs, case studies, forums - the more knowledge you're taking in on a daily basis the better. I'll end on that note, I hope you were able to take something useful or even gain some inspiration from reading this post.