Ten Years of ZacJohnson.com – A Decade in the Making
Ten years ago today I made the decision to finally go live with a blog of my own and share my story with the rest of the world. Looking back, it was definitely one of the best business and life decisions I’ve ever made.
Before I talk about the purpose and results of the blog… we need to start from the beginning.
All the way back to the mid-90s…
Today we are celebrating the ten-year anniversary of ZacJohnson.com, though I’ve actually been making money online for roughly 20 years now. Back when the internet was young and while I was still in high school, I knew there had to be a way to make money online, it was just a matter of figuring it all out. After playing around with a few different methods, I finally came across one that legitimately worked and had a real business model associated with it.
That was affiliate marketing.
The concept was simple — refer a customer or sale to a business and get paid a commission! At the same time, it was also a dream come true! Wow, I could make money online without ever needing to work for anyone else, talk to customers, handle any transactions and not even have to invest in a product or hold inventory! Too good to be true? Nope… that’s just how affiliate marketing works.
Long story short, Amazon.com had an ‘associates program’ of their own, where they paid out 5-15% commission on all referred sales to their site. I found some great success with this and was able to continually scale my business through the use of affiliate marketing for the next several years. Once I discovered the world of CPA marketing where I could earn a commission on leads and not required to have a user complete a purchase, then things really started to get serious.
You can see a couple checks from 1996 and 1998 below. eAds was a CPA type banner advertising network and AdGraphix was web hosting company back in the day. I used to scan copies of all of my checks, but most of them are now destroyed thanks to Superstorm Sandy. Good thing I still have digital copies to remember them!
Even before starting the blog, my focus was always on lead generation. My two favorite methods for doing this were through the creation of my own website and using email marketing. In the early years of my business, I started off in the free stuff and sweepstakes niche market, then moved into entertainment sites and also social networking resources sites.
One of my best sites was a MySpace resource site that went on to generate over $800,000 in profit in just a few months time. You can see a check from the revenue generation from that site below as well, along with two write ups on that who process here and here.
However, don’t take the “showing” of such checks in the wrong way. I’ve never been one to brag and have always used any success of mine as an example and inspiration for others. In doing so, the content and material I’ve produced through the blog have helped my readers earn millions of dollars in the process, all while never charging them a penny in the process.
Such examples are here to only “impress upon you, and not impress you”.
But don’t let me get too far ahead of myself… this would all just come into play as material to document through the blog when I would then launch it in a few years time…
Jump forward to 2005-2006…
Being an affiliate marketer is great, but it also comes with its own set of ups and downs.
You never know when your next big campaign might win or fail, there are always going to be outside (advertising) costs, and you are also reliant on affiliate networks and the offers you are promoting. In short, if you don’t own your own website, blog or product, your business can go belly up at any time. On top of all of this, you are also potentially held captive to affiliate networks until that next payment comes through. (and sometimes it doesn’t)
In short… this isn’t where I wanted to see myself forever.
I already knew I had what it takes to find success and make money online, and not only did I want to grow my own business, I also wanted to teach others how to do the same. I also wanted to become “the brand” of “Zac Johnson”.
Unlike other ‘gurus’ who charge $5,000+ for online courses and $25k for a mastermind, I never really felt right with charging someone that much money. It’s a perfectly legitimate business model and one that has held me back over time, but this also goes back to why I never promoted junk weight loss rebill offers and scammy offers. Sure, I could have made a lot of money, but I also want to be happy with myself and how my business works at the same time.
Affiliate marketing is always going to be a main focus of mine, but I knew something bigger and better was on the horizon.
Time to start a blog…
Around 2005-2007, the concept of blogging was getting pretty popular. Thanks to the growth of WordPress it was now easier than ever for someone to start a website and publish new content on a daily basis. With entrepreneurs and bloggers like John Chow, Darren Rowse (ProBlogger), Brian Clark, (CopyBlogger) and Jeremy Schoemaker (ShoeMoney) all making big names for themselves in the world of blogging, it was definitely something to consider. (All of whom I’d be later speaking on panels with at events like BlogWorld and Affiliate Summit, all a result of the blog)
And consider it I did… for quite a while actually!
You might think having a personal website or blog isn’t a big deal, but when you are putting yourself out there… you are really putting yourself out there! This is especially true when talking about the internet marketing industry, where everyone is constantly trying to one-up another or bash someone for the dumbest reasons possible. So yes… it is quite a decision to put yourself out there, even if it is just a blog or website of your own.
March 17, 2007…
With deep consideration and thought, I finally decide to launch my blog at ZacJohnson.com on March 17th, 2007 — which happens to be St. Patrick’s Day.
The date was fitting, as it was right around when I was ready to launch the site and it’s a perfect ‘Lucky’ holiday and easy way to remember when the blog went live. My first post was a simple one, and you can see it here. Just a simple hello and getting that first post out of the way. As for the domain name, it was one that I registered several years earlier and just decided to keep it for a rainy day. I always stress upon the importance of owning your name as a domain, and this was something I acted on very early.
Like all blogs, in the beginning, you are writing for yourself and any friends or family members who are willing to take some time to read what you have to say. These are going to be the toughest times for anyone launching a blog or brand of their own. Keep in mind, I already had years of experience in the world of internet marketing, but I was still kind of an ‘affiliate marketer in the dark’. Sure, I was already speaking and attending events like Affiliate Summit, but I didn’t have a launch pad to really kick things off. However, I did manage to secure a blog review on JohnChow.com a few months later, which helped introduce my site to a larger audience.
With the blog now live, it was simply a matter of growing my readership one person at a time, while also focusing on sharing my story, case studies, guides and helping others learn how to do the same. After all, the time and effort that I put into the site and personally responding to nearly ALL emails I get, is how the site and my personal brand got to where it is today.
The Zac Johnson Mascot Logo…
Speaking of personal branding… one of the best decisions I made when launching the blog, was to create a unique logo for the site and a custom site design. The blog logo, of course, is a custom drawing of myself with a crown and a dollar on my shirt. Whether you like the concept or not, it’s become quite the branding feature and is well-known throughout the blogging and affiliate industry.
As for the actual design of the site, it’s gone through several revisions over the years — all of them being 100% custom designs. You can see the first three designs of the blog below. If you ever want to invest some money in your own site and branding, a custom design is definitely the way to go.
However, as great as a killer logo and site design might be… it’s the actual content of a website or blog that matters most.
As of today, there are 1,548 published articles on ZacJohnson.com, all written by me (except for a few guest posts). Not only does the site make for a great resource for learning how to make money online and grow a business, it’s been an amazing way to connect with my audience and profile my life in the process.
Rise of the Entrepreneur…
When you have an audience, you always want to provide as much value for them as possible. Starting ZacJohnson.com was an amazing opportunity for putting myself out there, which is something I never really liked or wanted in the first place. I was a shy kid and never enjoyed the thought of public speaking or becoming a mentor to people around the world — being an entrepreneur, attending conferences and launching the blog helped changed all of that.
To keep the message and value of ZacJohnson.com alive and flourishing with the trends of the industry, I thought it was time to launch a podcast of my own. This was yet another challenge in itself, as no one likes to hear their own voice, I know absolutely nothing about audio/recording equipment (nor did I want to), and recording yourself in conversion with another person on the other side of the line is quite a task in itself.
With all of that said, Rise of the Entrepreneur was launched.
The focus of the podcast would be to interview industry experts and entrepreneurs I’ve personally become friends with over the years — ultimately making each episode strictly about the guest and how they got to where they are today. It was quite a process, and over 80 episodes have been launched so far, with more than 100,000 downloads to date. Some notable names that have appeared on the show are Gary Vaynerchuk, Jeremy Schoemaker, Carol Roth, Timothy Sykes, Neil Patel, Michael Hyatt and even my dad!
The podcast is currently on hold for the time being while transitioning/rebuilding from Superstorm Sandy.
Not only has launching the podcast allowed me to connect with some of the best experts in the world, just like blogging, it’s also helped me become a better public speaker, while also allowing my audience to know me much better in the process. Written text is one thing, audio is another.
Thank you again to everyone who has listed to the show.
Ten years in the making…
So here we are… ten years, 1,500+ blog posts and more than 2.5 unique million visitors later — it’s been quite a journey and one that’s really only just getting started.
The opportunities and new business that have been generated from the blog over the past ten years have been quite amazing. Everything from appearing on ABC News and Fox News, to having a camera crew come to the house and film a documentary that premiered in Hollywood, to being able to share personal stories around my life, brand and business — and most importantly, getting to meet and connect with new audiences and readers around the world.
Probably the greatest result of all from the blog is being able to spend time with my wife Reena, my dog Foxy and family and friends. I get to work from the comfort of my home and I love what I do. Life is short and I wish everyone could truly experience the same.
Simply one of the best business and life decisions ever made.
Without you, the blog is nothing. Thank you, everyone.
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