Niche Surfer is now Digital Surfer!

Paul Lemley

Paul Lemley

Location:

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Website:

Follow:

Picking the right spouse will turn out to have been the best decision – by far. My fiance challenges me in all the right ways, bringing clarity and making me sharper.”

published: April 16, 2022

The Interview

1. Where do you live?

Milwaukee, WI – Midwest is best!

2. When did you start creating content?

I’ve been in marketing, dabbling with digital businesses and creating content for over a decade. College and Grad School were seminal years for dabbling. I’ve always tinkered around with digital media formats and business ventures from e-commerce, video production & YouTube, writing (personal, collegiate & professional), and a little social media.

3. Are you a full-time Creator?

Full-time consultant and media operator for 8+ years. Still have some imposter syndrome around the “Creator” title.

4. What was the “Click” that made you decide you can make full-time money online.

The cliche answer is; after reading “The 4-Hour Workweek”, by Tim Ferriss.

Launched an e-commerce business shortly after reading it. Sourced a leather pilot’s flight bag from China, made a few small tweaks to the product, so it was functional for pilots, scraped together a Shopify site, and hit the ground running with dropshipping products.

It never hit full-time revenue, but the small taste of entrepreneurial freedom pushed me to quit flight school and dive headfirst into marketing and business. 

5. How many niche sites have you created?

Too many to count. My incessant dabbling is my achilles heal. 

6. How many are you still running now?

15 total niche sites in our Digital Authority Group portfolio. 3 new niche sites and 1 marketplace in my personal portfolio.

7. Have you sold any sites or online businesses? And what was the ROI like?

N/A.

8. How many sites or online businesses have failed or not gotten going?

Too many to count.

9. How much are you earning each month?

N/A.

10. What are your current streams of revenue?

  • Affiliate Sales
  • Display Ads
  • Listing Subscriptions

11. What are your Top 3 on-page SEO strategies?

One I’m experimenting with right now is using Gifs, rather than images. My gut says it’s not going to do much in terms of ranking or revenue, but the added motion is such an interesting way to add depth and differentiate from competitors.

Next would be my maniacal focus on outperforming all competitors with the best answer target for a given search query. For my personal sites, I’ll spend a substantial amount of time writing, rewriting, tweaking, and optimizing them. We know the rules of the featured snippet game, and we know that Google rewards those sites that play the game well, so for the past few years, I’ve focused on those types of experiments.

The last one may just be a way of reframing an existing topical authority strategy. Some operators like to include FAQ sections at the bottom of their articles to anticipate the additional questions a reader might have on the topic. I always thought the FAQ was an awkward way of including this additional content though. I also like to assume that if a frequently asked question is important enough to include in the post, then it’s important enough to publish a standalone info article to answer that query.

So the extra step I like to take for an on-page strategy is to publish shorter posts (500-800 words), create a parent-child linking structure, and then use some type of graphical element to call attention to that additional content on the original post. I know, not that novel of a strategy, but if done correctly, it can show the visitor just how deep your content goes, increasing topical authority and potentially average pages/visit in the long run.

12. What’s the biggest issue(s) that you’re facing today?

As I write this, our most significant risk is niche selection. We’re launching a new portfolio of 50 niche sites. Selecting those 50 targets has opened up several variables to consider, outside of a normal vetting process.

Building out a ranking system that takes into account both quantitative data and qualitative research/assumptions, has been a difficult yet rewarding process. Opportunity cost is a huge issue with a portfolio approach, and we don’t want to leave anything on the table.

After that, it’s sourcing, vetting, and training writers.

13. What tool(s) do you rely on the most?

  • Ahrefs
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Clearscope
  • Runners-up: Typeform, Zapier, Monday & Google Sheets

14. What has been the biggest mistake you made?

Choosing who to partner with has been the most challenging decisions in my career. I like to think I’m a pretty good judge of character, but the excitement of an opportunity is such a blinding force that it has often prevented me from making good partnership decisions.

“Slow to hire, fast to fire” is a fantastic maxim to follow. Not just when growing a team. I’m blessed to have made those early mistakes and found my path to identifying individual characteristics that I want to surround myself with.

15. What has been the best decision you’ve made?

Picking the right spouse will turn out to have been the best decision – by far. My fiance challenges me in all the right ways, bringing clarity and making me sharper. I’m so glad I waited to pull the trigger on marriage because having the right spouse is such a great cheat code!

16. What’s one thing that you felt accelerated your journey the most?

Choosing to leave a cushy (yet stressful) agency job was the accelerant I needed at the time. This was years ago now, but it really does bring focus to a person when they have to hunt to eat. I had maybe 2 months of savings, so failing wasn’t an option. 

17. What’s your 12 month goal?

It’s a 15-month goal but our new site portfolio is; 50 new niche sites (10 per quarter) called Legion Media I. Gotta push that publish button!

18. How do you stay up to date on the SEO, affiliate marketing, display ad, and other news?

Big fan of SEO Twitter. Brevity and clarity make learning so much faster and more fun.

19. What do you eat or drink for fuel to keep going?

Most mornings, you’ll find me and my dog, Cato, at our favorite coffee shop. Cortado and a 12 oz. Ethiopia pour-over. 

20. Where can people follow you?

Twitter is best – @PALemley

BONUS: Anything else you’d like to share that can help others?

Don’t be a stranger. I love chatting with and learning from operators!

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