Ricky Kesler interview

Published by Colin Finkle on

The Income School guys teach us that internet marketing is more about grit than tricks.

Because of the nature of the content that I watch, I am bombarded on YouTube with paid ads and organic suggestions of videos featuring a slick man willing to tell me the secret to making a fortune like his… for a price. Alarm bells go off in my head everytime.

I used to believe the Aristotle Onassis quote: “the secret of business is to know something that nobody else knows.” However, the more I talk t
o people who have found success, the more I see that success comes down to creating value for people, making smart decisions, correcting when you are proven wrong, enduring through the hard times, and putting in the time and effort.

Jim Harmer (left) and Ricky Kesler (right) from the Income School YouTube channel.

So I was refreshed and intrigued when Ricky Kesler and Jim Harmer came up on my suggested videos. There was no glitz, no promises, no solicitation. Instead, they were giving us a live look into the Google Analytics data of one of their niche income website. They proved that a well-structured site with content valuable to a specific set of people will find traffic and make money. In time, Google will test the content of such a site and distribute it if the signals show that their searchers are finding the info valuable. No need for link building, paid promotion, spamming message boards, scammy opt-ins, etc.



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It is like 2000s era Pen and Teller; they would amaze you with a magic trick and then try to convince you that there was no magic here, just an act and an audience.

Ricky and Jim run the Income School YouTube Channel and website. They have a proven business model of identifying a niche, starting a WordPress site, writing approximately thirty helpful posts, and waiting three to six months for Google to discover and test the content. At which point you can insert some ads, affiliate links, or info products to make anywhere between a few hundred dollars a month to a full time living and beyond.

The Income School dudes have both personally followed this path over a dozen times combined and have always seen income; they are not shy about sharing the data and experiences from those past and current ventures. They offer an online course called Project 24 if you need a structure and community to get going. They also offer private coaching if you need specific advice.

Project 24. Goal: Replace your current income with passive income in 24 months.
The Project 24 course tries to help participants find financial freedom within two years.

Again, refreshing. We are continuously being fed the idea that if you are an entrepreneur, you need to change the world with an idea and grow to hundreds of millions of users on the greenbacks of venture capital. However, there is a gamut of online businesses between selling bottlecaps on Etsy and a hundred billion dollar business like Facebook. So guess what? All the businesses on that spectrum are valid if they are making money and are fulfilling to the entrepreneurs.

We connected with Ricky because he had ideas around when and when not to invest in building a brand which differed from mine. I needed to chat with him, thank him for his content, and expose the BMB tribe to a fresh perspective.

Tired of slick dudes selling you money making SEO hacks and coaching business templates?

Meet Rickey Kesler from Income School. He shares Income School’s business model so you can make a passive income.

Ricky Keslet headshot
Ricky Kesler from the Income School YouTube Channel

Colin Finkle
What is your definition of the term “brand?”

Ricky Kesler
I think of a brand as the way others view your organization. Logos, mission statements, color schemes, these are each one small part that helps influence how others will perceive your organization, but they alone aren’t your brand. The brand is how your target audience perceives you.

Colin Finkle
What is the mission of Income School? Your content is empowering to people trying to change their financial circumstances.

Ricky Kesler
That’s precisely it. The goal of Income School is to help people improve the income side of the financial equation. Right now, internet marketing via blogging and youtube is one of the best ways we’ve found for people to build a sustainable and long-term business with minimal up-front cost.

Colin Finkle
There is a crisis in entrepreneurship; fewer young people than ever are choosing to start businesses. Is a passive income website a good way for people to get a taste of entrepreneurship?

Ricky Kesler
I think it’s one of the best ways for people of any age to get the first taste of entrepreneurship. I know of very few businesses that you can build where the up-front cost is so low. Your only significant investment in this business is your time. And it’s the type of business where as long as you follow through, there’s very little chance that you won’t earn back your initial monetary investment in the first year—with potential for enormous gains in the coming years.

Colin Finkle
You guys are doing that right now, if I am correct…? You and Jim recently announced approaching content websites larger scale than you have previously; I am sure the knowledge and income from your previous sites helped you take the risk of the venture.

Ricky Kesler
That’s exactly right. We recently announced this as “Project Rexburg.”Rexburg is a small town in Eastern Idaho and is the home of BYU-Idaho. There are many reasons that we selected Rexburg for this venture, but what matters is that now we have a team of around 18 college students who are writing for us on a part-time basis. We’re taking everything we’ve learned about passive income websites and scaling it up in a way we just could never do on our own. In fact, in the last month, this team has built a whole website with over 200 articles. And the amazing thing is that this first website will probably be earning enough by mid-2019 to pay for this office perpetually. Only by then we’ll have 5 or 6 more sites!

Colin Finkle
Wow. Well, that certainly speaks to your confidence in this business model. Unlike literally every other “I have a way to make money online” people, you and Jim are wholly transparent and freely provide your business secrets. Why not hoard this golden goose for yourselves?

Ricky Kesler
We’ve honestly asked ourselves this over and over again. We’re well aware that our time would be better spent just building websites and managing teams of writers. However, there’s more to life than earning the most money you can, and that’s the philosophy we share.

There’s too much misinformation out there about passive income (niche) websites. And there are way too many “get rich quick” schemes that leave you broke and more deflated than ever. We both believe, very strongly, that having figured all this out, it’s our responsibility to give back. And we do it in a way that truly benefits as many people as we can while still earning us a good return on our time investment.

Colin Finkle
What do you see the roll is of brand identity is for passive income website?

Ricky Kesler
For most passive income websites, the interaction between the user and the creator is very transactional. The user searches something on Google, and your site holds the answer. They click on over to your site, get the info they wanted, and leave.

Enough of those happen with some percentage buying a product, and you have a nice passive income. That user doesn’t view that interaction as an interaction between them and a brand. For them, it’s an interaction with an informative site. However, your brand does a lot to set the tone for that interaction.

Colin Finkle
A lot of your content advises people on how to avoid making a passive income website that comes off “spammy” to visitors. Your guidance seems to all come down to creating the impression that you (a) care about your visitors, and (b) care about your reputation. A little effort towards your brand can raise you above 3/4s of the internet that is out to take peoples money.

Ricky Kesler
That’s exactly right. Most passive income sites have the wrong focus completely. Their obvious intent is to get me to click on a link to a product. Well, that doesn’t help me very much. In today’s world, I’d rather just go to Amazon and read twenty reviews from actual customers than read what one blogger thinks about a product they may or may not have ever used.

However, if you can help me make the right decision about which product I need, and it doesn’t feel like you’re just pushing a sale, then I’m far more likely to trust your advice.If you can care enough about the people who read your articles to write content that actually helps them, they’ll reward you by staying on your site, trusting your advice, clicking your links, and, in some cases, buy your products. If you can’t at least give the impression that you care, they won’t trust you. If they don’t trust you, they’ll bounce and keep searching for content that actually does help them. Moreover, since Google can see that behavior, the helpfulness of your content will reflect in where you stand in the search rankings.

You also mentioned reputation. When you write helpful content, users perceive it as such and recognize how valuable it is to them. That’s what they care about. You helped them. In doing that, you do build a good reputation (brand) for yourself and your site that will improve how you’re seen in the online space, by users, and by the search engines.

Colin Finkle
You seem to be passionate about brands that are meaningful and build that know-like-and-trust factor.

Ricky Kesler
Absolutely. Not only is it ethical and good for the world, it’s just good business. If people feel like they can trust you because of how you’ve written the content on your site, then they’re more likely to do the things you ask them to. If you suggest they click a link to a second article on your website, they’re more likely to do it earning you more from ads and improving your search rankings. If you suggest that they check out a particular product they’re far more likely to click the link. The more your brand builds that know-like-and-trust factor, the more successful you’ll be, and you won’t have to trick anyone to earn a buck.

Colin Finkle
You and Jim warn about building content on infrastructure and through a distribution channel that you do not control (e.g., Facebook Fan Page). I have put out the same warning. What are the consequences of not following that advice? Have you personally been burned here?

Ricky Kesler: We have. I’ll share Jim’s favorite example. He spent years building up a following on Facebook for his site ImprovePhotography.com and for a long time, it was effective. He’d post a meme or a link to a new article and get a little flood of traffic over onto his site. Then Facebook changed. You see, their goal is to keep people on their website, not send them to yours.

In a short period Jim found that although he was spending 30-50% of his time working on his Facebook following of around 700,000 people, Facebook was sending almost no traffic to his site. Facebook clicks accounted for less than 1% of the traffic on his website.

So he quit posting on Facebook. I mean quit. Overnight. So guess what happened to the traffic on his site? … Nothing. No noticeable change.

When you don’t have control over the infrastructure, you can lose its value overnight if they make a change.

I don’t suggest the people stop using YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms altogether. However, don’t build your business using them as a foundation or you could find your business crumbling to the ground from one day to the next.

Deserted Facebook Page. Like many other, the Facebook Page for Improve Photography went from a vibrant community to a ghost town with Facebook’s change in organic reach.

Colin Finkle
Any other advice for a fellow entrepreneur in the midst of fighting the good fight…?

Ricky Kesler
Just stick with it. It can be a long, lonely battle at times. You may not have the support of the people around you. It may seem like nobody wants you to succeed.

However, if you can find a way to create value for a group of people and find a way to get your solution to them, then you can build a successful business. And if you’re stuck or feeling alone, try to find a meetup group or something in your area or even a group of like-minded people on social media to remind you that you’re not crazy and you’re not alone.

Before long, you’ll find that something you did changed someone’s life. Your product made a difference, and it’s starting to pay off. Once that starts, then the snowball starts rolling down the hill and growing into something bigger and more meaningful than you’re probably imagining right now. That’s the way it goes, at least when you really do focus on creating value!

Colin Finkle
If people would like to engage with you further, where should we point them?

Ricky Kesler
Check us out on the Income School YouTube channel. We’re continually sharing our best techniques for building passive income websites!


Colin Finkle

Colin Finkle is a brand marketer and designer with ten years of experience helping Fortune 500 companies tell their story at retail. You can see his work at finkle.ca

2 Comments

Diane Finkle Perazzo · Nov 15, 2018 at 10:03 am

Great article! Although I didn’t realize it 20 years ago, calling my business “Wordsmith Writing and Editing Services” proved to be one of the most effective actions I took to attract online customers. Although you hear the term a lot now, back then, the word “wordsmith” was just entering the lexicon. Although my current website is WOEFULLY out of date I still get customer inquiries from all over the world from folks who enter the search term “wordsmith”.

I also agree that it is very important to create value for a specific group of customers and “soft-market” yourself to them in a friendly, collegial way. This is where my real bread and butter jobs come from. In my case I was able to build a niche as a writer in health promotion and chronic disease prevention.

Diane Perazzo · Nov 16, 2018 at 2:57 pm

This is a great interview! Thanks for posting it. I was very fortunate over 20 years ago to choose the name “Wordsmith” for my business when the term was just beginning to be used. My website is very out of date and I don’t do a lot of promotion on social media but I quite regularly receive requests for writing and editing services because people Google the name “Wordsmith” and find me that way.

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