On the topic of crickets, you know those crickets that live in your basement that look like they were crossed with a spider on some alien planet, well... they weren't but they are a special species that prefer basements. But I digress. But really not so much. The fact that I wondered about that for about a decade off and on and before the internet, it would have been one of those things that just stuck in the back of my head. But the other day, after cleaning my basement out after a flood, I just had to know and I found that out. They are also cannibals.

So back when I started this blog, I thought I had a golden ticket and for a while, it was pretty magic to make 40-60k a year from 10-16 hours of work a week (inflation has been bad). You could say I was cocky. You could say I was naive. I will say it. Making bets about ranking for keywords that didn't make me money other than the bet. Turning a $400k a year business into a $3 million a year business, making chump change because I didn't want to make more at my day job. It wasn't a pride thing. It was a "having a pretty good idea of what I would be in that situation" thing. Though the tactics I used there for that job are still viable. Turning a friends side project web site into enough income to quit his day job. I was finally validated for knowing something.

This blog got about 1400 unique visitors a day for almost 4 years straight. Not huge, but it surprised me. My affiliate sites made on average, 25 cents per unique visitor. They flew under Google radar up until the death knoll because I didn't need massive traffic, only targeted traffic. And yes, I will still brag about that shit and ask anyone to beat it with "passive" traffic. There was one mothership site that made the most money, which migrated from after a trademark dispute. A redirect for 5 years fixed that when dealing with a less than complete legal investigation. Before than, it was, my first domain and only domain for many years. It made the down payment for my first house and then got blacklisted for years. It never quite recovered. I keep it because my oldest non free email addresses are attached to it.

That lasted almost eight years. And then came massive changes in Google's algorithm, just as my family was getting bigger and my day job hit a dead end and there was no time and the money was disappearing. And then a divorce. Those sites are now dead, I think. I can't say all the affiliate links are down. For a while there, I was spreading a few hundred every day and there are a lost of my parasitic affiliate enclaves on various sites, a few edu profiles, even some .gov stuff. I took the last site down a few months ago and still make about $40 a week in reoccuring payments.

But I had tunnel vision, and it fucked up a lot of things. Not that I could have fixed some things that happened, but I held on to a dream for too long. It started as a necessity. I went from being a single guy to a father of two in a few months. So one weekend I sat down and wrote my first php code. Because I had an idea about the gap between products coming into the Clickbank marketplace and the 10 links on the google serps for the first few days after a product launch and the product names sticking in people's head from marketing campaigns. I had written basic and vb6 in the past, but this was the first code I wrote for the web. Monday, money started trickling in and by the weekend, I projected I had added 35k to my yearly income in 3 days. The concept with a few algorithmic and automation tweaks flew under Google's and competition radar for 8 years. Code was the route to finish my idea, not my mission.

Back when I was high on being able to wave Google like a magic wand at my affiliate links, I kind of thought of this blog as my legacy. I grew up pretty damn poor. I didn't believe to much in my abilities, because I just did things because I like them and geeked out on them. I had no one to compare my skills too, only myself, which, now that I do have comparison, is still the highest bar. And then shit hit the fan and it was sort of my embarrassment. Yup, that's were I failed. See that day right there where Dad loses his shit. Hey, and just just back here a few months and see his cockiness being a dick to the person his is now. Future Stephan will forgive. But a necessity stop gap turned into my career. It was only recently I realized how small that was, when I finally took down the last site. But anything you excel at requires that. In fact, focus blows the whole 10,000 hour to expert formula out of the water, look it up, on Google of course. I could say that and you won't because it's too hard. Yeah, imagine that. You just have to know when you're being a tweaker. No, you have to know when your tweaking out, outweighs the benefits of said tweaking out. Because that may just be your natural mode, your groove.

Oh, finally got to this. About tweaking out. I'm a geek. At a young age, I realized, if I was interested in something, I was exhaust every source I knew for knowledge about the thing. When I learned about the library, this turned into a stack of books over my head a week until I would I run out of something that I was interested in and pick something else random. Up until ebooks were invented, I wanted to own a library someday. Now, fuck it. Solar charger and ebooks are fine. Technology is where I need it. A library in my pocket. Again, with the digressing. So around 16, I realized money would be a good thing. By then, I had observed myself enough to figure out the whole tweaking out thing. So I considered a short of rabid hound dog. If I give a scent, it's going to tree that bitch up ahead somewhere. Then magically, if I get the scent right, I could let myself go on the problem and wake up Dr. Jekyll again and deal with much nicer consequences. It was years before I got the scent right. 

The filtering of human action through code was my key to success. When the internet is the medium and you are competing with an algorithm meant to be the lowest common denominator, the game is easy. Any small edge scales in the mass of the internet. In the end, I lost track of the scale. Niches became markets and the shotgun approach I was using just wasn't going to pay the bills.

So I shifted and became a developer, full time, creating other people's ideas, sneaking time away to build my own and say fuck you to the man a few hours a week. And yes, I will taking those fucking hours, if it means I sleep 4 hours one night and I am the dick the next morning. And I have about 3 things going in the background now. And right now, I refer you back to my past self hating my future self. And I was very right about my reason for not taking a corporate job. Though what I've learned is, it is more effective to be subversive then revolutionary. So, sometimes you have to lay low, hide your real self in a bunker and wait for the next idea worth betting on.
It is only recently that I have learned that not only am I not a dumb ass, but that whatever I have been involved in, I have been at the top of my game and also the top of the game. A pile of books over my head has turned in a deep dive into unknowns until I can compete with people with more experience than me, using experiences I already have in other territories give me an advantage. New knowledge eventually becomes only a child of current knowledge and a template for future knowledge. Symbolic thought contains it's own fractal compression algorithm. Words are only words and memorization and are mainly used for social battle not transfer of knowledge.
So, back to crickets, first this blog, 1400 a day to maybe 50, on one hand. And on the other. I got started in this shit because, at that time, if I had searched for "basement crickets" on the internet, I wouldn't have found shit. So I would fucking research "basement crickets", find a way to advertise something about "basement crickets", and add a few bucks to the monthly income. Yeah, ok, that was the theory. But it was a valid theory. But the shotgun method I used proves my point more. An algorithm could rank me for product names running on daily autopilot with only slight intervention. It was easy to do that then. Find a gap and fill it with an algorithm.
What I've learned now, is use a different approach. If I love something I am creating because it does everything other tools don’t and I mention it to someone else and they have issues with it, it’s a winner. In fact, I wrote about this shit in 2004: Because I have never left my roots. My life has more responsibilities now, but I don’t need to be rich. I was always looking for a way to live life the way I wanted without idiots getting in the way. Give me enough to live on and not answer to another person and I’m there. Keep it small and keep it all. In fact, I think that was in the book I read that got me interested in internet marketing.

Stephan Miller

Written by

Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

Twitter | Github | LinkedIn