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I haven’t written about my $1M case study for quite a while so I thought now would be as good a time as any to give an update. If you don’t know anything about my attempt to build a $1M website in 12 months then read the first post here. I wrote follow up posts on buying a $550 domain and my CMS and content strategy.
A few months ago I decided it would be a good idea to hire a model to create videos that would add more credibility to the site. I ended up choosing a girl previously featured in FHM and shot footage (non-adult) of her last week.
Before I go into the details of how I went about hiring a model and getting the necessary paperwork together, it’s probably a good idea to go into the real reasons of why I would want to do this. After all, despite being a typical 20-year old male when it comes to women, I don’t just spend my money for the sake of it.
I did have the model – let’s call her Sarah – sign an NDA so there wouldn’t be too much risk in revealing who she is but I would rather keep her identity private. Just showing her picture would make her easy to find and I’m sure she doesn’t want to deal with internet marketers trying to uncover what I’m working on.
There were quite a few reasons I decided to hire Sarah so let’s get to them…
Because my niche is so competitive, I want to give myself every opportunity to get more search engine traffic. Especially from Google. You may have noticed for a number of search queries that videos, images, and even maps show prominently in the results pages.
As it’s probably going to take at least another 6 months for me to rank on the first page for my main keyphrase, I thought I would try and get a video ranking highly in the results. This would take a lot less links than an entire site needs to rank and I could also use the other video ranking factors (views and ratings) to my advantage.
You can see how videos play a part in universal search with this example for Cristian Ronaldo below:
Instead of just making one long video (the main one is around 4 minutes long) I also cleverly asked Sarah to introduce different sections of the video whilst we were recording. This meant that I could chop them up individually and essentially create around 7 different videos from the hour that we spent together.
7 videos means 7 different opportunities to rank in Universal search and get more traffic to my website.
I did not hire Sarah to do one of those annoying flash ads where women pop-up and start talking on product websites. I hired her in order to create legitimate, useful videos for my niche and represent her as part of my website. In other words, I wanted to give genuine value to the audience and throw some social proof in there as well.
The industry I’m targeting has mostly male buyers so having a very attractive woman say “Hey, I’m Sarah from Glens Awesome Site.com” is probably going to be enough to convince people the site is the real deal. Which, in fact, it is.
Not only can I get more traffic to my site from Google searches that click on the video, I can also get traffic from people who are using Youtube search to find videos. Many of the videos in this industry have millions of views but not one of them had a title that was based around my keyphrase. If my keyphrase is getting 100,000+ searches per month in Google, I’m sure it must be getting quite a few in Youtube.
I haven’t uploaded all of the videos yet but I do expect that they’ll get quite a lot of views. Sarah introduces the website at the start of every video, there is a logo for the site at the end of the clip and there’s also a clickable link in the video description so it should be easy to convert those views into visitors. Having utilised this tactic in the past I know it works well and it certainly wont hurt to have an attractive female in my videos this time.
If you can’t tell through my writing, I really love the life I live and how I spend my time. If something sounds fun and it’s not going to hurt anyone (except my wallet) then I’ll generally give it a try. I have absolutely no experience working with models, writing scripts, or using video to promote a website, so the experience I could gain was another reason to do it.
Not only did I learn a bit about an entirely new industry and increase my knowledge for the next time I do something like this, but I also had a blast doing it. I shot the video with one of my best friends (so we could have multiple angles) and we were joking around with Sarah the whole time.
The main reason I chose her over the other applicants was not just because she was pretty but because she seemed very chilled and fun in her emails. She personally requested that my release forms didn’t have a hidden clause which meant she had to give me her first child. I liked that. I didn’t want to have to deal with a serious girl who was going to expect a professional set-up for the first time I did something like this.
This probably won’t be interesting to most of you so feel free to skip this section. I’ll forgive you. I’m now going to cover exactly how I went about finding a model, dealing with the paperwork and shooting the video. I’m sure a few of you will take something out of this and I personally think the whole process was quite fascinating.
The main criteria I had for a model was simply that she must be slim and have a pretty face. That was it. I didn’t care about her ethnicity or her background — there are many variants here in South Africa.
The three ways I looked for a model were:
Out of all of these methods, the response rate was quite different. As an estimation, I would say that each strategy received the following number of applications:
In the end I was undecided between a girl who applied on Gumtree and one who emailed me but said she found my tweet through a friend. Because of her humour I went with Sarah – the girl who found me via Twitter.
I had never worked in this industry at all but knew that there must be some paperwork involved. My friend Diggy who models (and owned the site in this case study) told me that I must create some release forms which make it clear that I can do whatever I like with the footage. This also protects me in case, for whatever reason, Sarah decides she doesn’t like the work and wants to take me to court.
I found a photography company in Los Angeles who had a lawyer-approved release form that I could use and simply modified it with my company name, address, and so on. The release forms clearly state that the model “must understand that he/she may be shown in media with persons of different ethnicities” which I thought was interesting. I wonder if certain models have had issues with that in the past?
Apart from signing a release form I also asked Sarah to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) so that she wouldn’t talk about my website to anybody. You can’t literally stop people from mentioning it to their friends, of course, but it would put her at legal risk if she was to write about it online or talk about me and the site in an interview.
This site that I’m building could well be the most profitable that I own so I want to keep myself safe from the competition for now.
Before offering Sarah the job I made it clear to her that this would be very unprofessional in the sense that I had never done anything like this before and would be using fairly basic equipment. I didn’t want to have her arrive and expect something completely different.
We used two Sony HD video cameras which are worth around $650 each so it certainly wasn’t amateur equipment but it wasn’t industry standard either. The complex that I stay in has two swimming pools: One indoors which is heated and one outside which is surrounded by palm trees.
We had originally planned to shoot inside but the outside pool looked much better through a camera and the natural light meant that I didn’t have to fiddle with the lighting when editing the movie before putting it online.
The actual shooting time took around 65 minutes and I have around 7 minutes of usable footage. I don’t know if that’s a good ratio, but I have everything that I wanted from the day.
Hiring a model was fun and I learned a bit about the process but I’m certainly not relying on it to bring in the majority of the income for the site. As many of you know, my aim is to rank in Google for a very competitive search term and promote a product to the visitors I receive. When I started the site my keyphrase was getting 110,00 exact searches per month. Now it’s getting 140,000 and according to Google Trends that isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. As I own the exact match .com that’s very good news for me.
The site is receiving about 25 visits per day and getting a 20-30% CTR on the affiliate links, even though they aren’t that clear. The numbers are still way too small to make a meaningful income, but I completely expected this. Two weeks ago the site was ranking 357th in Google and now we’re around 228th. This means we’re way back on page 20+ but, again, I completely expect this. As we’re finally building decent links now, we should see the rankings increase substantially.
On that note I should say that I hope you’re not just waiting for me to make this a success before you try to build your own profitable affiliate site. I’ve outlined the whole process over here, in detail. What do you have to lose?