Brandon Saltalamacchia (Click Hill)
Bath, United Kingdom
“Be the entrepreneur that has built the best brand in your niche. So good that you’re proud of it, and so good that it can sustain your lifestyle for as long as you run it.”
published: April 2, 2022
1. Where do you live?
Bath, United Kingdom (A small city in the South West of England that seems to be a popular location for large media companies, and I worked with a lot of them, learning and growing to time it right to take the leap and go self-employed)
2. When did you start creating content?
I started creating content back when I was 14, so that was a whopping 13 years ago, making that around 2004.
I first started unboxing and review phone cases for smartphones, and attempted making a blog about technology products, as you can imagine it failed as I had no idea what SEO was or even really how to edit videos. But I was persistent, and even though I stopped working on the blog, I kept creating review and unboxing videos for YouTube, which slowly increased my subscriber count over time.
I will never forget the day that a case company reached out and wanted to send me free samples, I was over the moon, and when they arrived I told all my friends are started giving them free phone cases that I received from my “business”.
After many years of doing that in my spare time it reached a few thousand subscribers, had a few sponsored posts and it would earn me a couple hundred pounds a month which I was so proud of.
3. Are you a full-time Creator?
Yes, full-time and have been working for myself for approximately three years now.
4. What was the “Click” that made you decide you can make full-time money online.
There was three “clicks” for me. The first click happened when I reached 10,000 subscribers on YouTube back in 2012 when I was around 20 years of age. I could make content in my spare time that allowed me to afford a new laptop, a pair of shoes I wanted or even that new smartphone (if I saved up my pennies for a few months).
This click was the “part-time” click, it motivated me to save for the materialistic things I wanted, I was doing this while working full-time at my local supermarket. After travelling for a couple years, and moving between labouring jobs I managed to land a couple of jobs over the years doing video editing, this is when I dabbled in start-up media companies.
I was still young and didn’t see the full potential of creating content as a business it was still a side-hustle to get that new smartphone. But after 8 or so years in the industry and moving between many different media companies, I decided to start my own blog about campervans.
Between full-time work, and freelancing, I worked on this side-hustle for two years, creating video content and building a blog to earn income. It was incredibly successful, reached 100,000 followers in just 3 months and traffic increased significantly. After doing this for 18 months it started to earn more than my full-time job, so after many months of planning and saving, I decided to jump ship and go all-in on my side hustle.
This was the second “click”. I was sustaining myself while I produce content on cool campervans. I got flown around the world to test awesome vehicles, I was meeting incredible people, and although my readership wasn’t growing much and the site was sitting at 50,000 visits a month for a year, the social side was doing really well, so well in fact, one month on YouTube my business earned $15,000 in just 60 days, which for me was insane money. I loved it, but campervans wasn’t my passion, and I wanted to work on something to do with retro gaming which was my passion.
In 2019 just before the pandemic I had a mental breakdown and for the first time in my life I was mentally unhealthy and in a very dark place. The pandemic got worse and I felt the pressure of having to sustain my business, financially keeping me and my partner afloat and trying to keep my mental health above water in order to process what has happened with the world.
It was time to sell, and this was my third, and most important “click”. I calculated the value of my small website and was blown away with what it was worth. I calculated $100,000. This to me, is insane money. Life changing money.
After speaking with my partner and planning if it was a good time to sell, I eventually made up my mind that it was the right time. The pandemic would slow down my video strategy, and the site wasn’t going anywhere, and felt it was stuck in the mud due to my inexperience with SEO.
I sold it for $110,000. My life changed. I could focus on my mental health, put a deposit on a property for me and my partner and start planning my next project which is now Retro Dodo, my biggest website to date.
5. How many niche sites have you created?
I have created two.
6. How many are you still running now?
7. Have you sold any sites or online businesses? And what was the ROI like?
I have sold one website. It was my first proper go at building a brand. It was earning around $3,000 a month, and I sold it for $100,000. Majority of the income came from YouTube and Facebook revenue, with a little bit of display advertising revenue from the site, alongside a e-book about how to build a campervan that produced a few thousand dollars over the year.
8. How many sites or online businesses have failed or not gotten going?
I have failed countless online businesses, from blogs to subscription boxes to YouTube channels.
9. How much are you earning each month?
- $10,001 – $50,000
10. What are your current streams of revenue?
- Affiliate Sales
- Display Ads
11. What are your Top 3 on-page SEO strategies?
This is going to sound incredibly basic, but I feel these are the most important if you are consistent over a long period of time.
1. Genuine, high quality, factual, informative and entertaining content, both written and video formats produced by an authoritative name in your industry.
2. Custom images and photos of the products/services/businesses you are reviewing/featuring. Don’t use stock images, this is the simplest way Google and readers can tell if you haven’t even touched the product/service you are recommending.
3. Build a brand, not just a blog. If you are simply writing content and that’s it then you’re slowing growth. I sold a blog with 50,000 visits for $110,000, but that’s because it was a brand and had a good social following. So many backlinks, and credits from other media outlets came because they saw our content across socials, both on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Creating content elsewhere will 100% grow your website presence and keep you looking professional and trusted from Google’s and readers’ perspective. Gone are the days of simply writing a blog, the competition is higher than ever, and someone will come in, create a blog and build a social following which will eventually outrank you. It’s harsh, but start thinking like a media company and not like a blogger if you want to survive.
12. What’s the biggest issue(s) that you’re facing today?
The biggest issue I am facing is (like everyone in this industry) organic growth. I’m very impatient so I have to keep telling myself to play the long game, and keep uploading high quality content consistently. I am also working with three new freelancers on a daily basis, so managing all of these people has been a new skill for me, something which I don’t think I am very good at.
13. What tool(s) do you rely on the most?
AHREFS is incredibly powerful if used right, at times it’s not very accurate but it does well enough to guide me towards consistent organic growth.
Adobe Photoshop & Premeire Pro are also my secret weapons. I use Photoshop everyday to create custom unique on brand images for my website, to make it stand out and to give readers a sense of quality and professionalism across my site. Premiere Pro is used to edit my videos, it’s a powerful piece of kit and can help me smash out snack-able videos or full blown YouTube videos in no time.
14. What has been the biggest mistake you made?
One of the biggest mistakes i have made was breaching my contract after I sold my first website. So this was a recent mistake. The contract stated I was not allowed to create any content that would compete with the website I sold. However, I had been working on a new website while I sold my campervan website, and even though it wasn’t making any money, the buyer got incredibly frustrated and threatened to take further action if I do not stop the second website.
This single mistake could have lost me hunderds of thousands of dollars if it was taken to court. I learned my lesson, and even though it was a genuine mistake, it was something that still scares me to this day. Read your contracts folks!
15. What has been the best decision you’ve made?
The best decision I have made over the last few years when building my business is to simply think long-term. Thinking long-term has helped me focus less on the revenue and more on how I want to build these businesses in the long run.
Firstly this calms me down, and when the site isn’t doing too well, or I get hit by an algorithm update, I don’t lose sleep over it because I know in 5 or 10 years my website/s will be in a great place. This also helps me look towards the future and predict what will happen with niche websites over the next 5 – 10 years.
This prepares me, and helps me make changes to my business strategy in hopes that I don’t rely on a specific source of traffic and to keep the business in a strong, reliable state for when something goes wrong. I feel many niche website operators look short term and are rushing to make a quick buck.
Yes you can, but building poor websites to flip will only damage your brand in the long run. I feel there is much more value in building a strong, passive asset that you can keep over long periods of time, and if done right, can then be flipped for far more than your typical multiple.
16. What’s one thing that you felt accelerated your journey the most?
I’m still very early on in my journey. SEO is something I only started to teach myself just two years ago through trial and error, but if there’s one thing that I felt accelerated my growth that’s quite simply consistency.
Keep going, stop worrying about the short term problems, and start planning to build something great. Keep uploading, stop looking at what other people are doing and focus on what you want your business to be in 5 – 10 years. There’s no rush.
17. What’s your 12 month goal?
Retro Dodo is now a strong, reputable brand with multiple income streams, and it’s at a point that it’s sustaining nice, slow growth, all while increasing revenue slowly but surely. However, I still do a lot of work.
I manage the team, I spend a lot of time producing video content, and I am behind the social channels daily, so I think over the next 12 months I would like to transition myself away from this and hand over the keys to a trusted team member to sail the boat while I work on my second project.
But I am so passionate about the brand, and worried that something would go wrong that I think I will struggle to do this. So if anyone has any advice on how they stepped away from their beloved projects, I would love to hear it.
18. How do you stay up to date on the SEO, affiliate marketing, display ad, and other news?
I still feel like a one man-band. Well I am, I am the only name in my company, everyone else is freelancing. So I have to be smart with my time as I have a lot on my plate, so everyday I will simply scroll through twitter to see if anything major has happened in the space.
But more importantly, I simply keep an eye on my data, I look at what’s working and what’s not and then test different things in different areas to see what works. I have always been a trial and error kinda guy. I like to learn why things are and are not working out myself, old school I know, but it works.
19. What do you eat or drink for fuel to keep going?
Nothing beats a hot cup of tea and a Kit Kat.
20. Where can people follow you?
I’m very active on Twitter, and I also have a YouTube channel where I document my journey to build a successful media company from scratch!
BONUS: Anything else you’d like to share that can help others?
There’s one thing I’d like to mention before you leave, and it’s one piece of advice that i wish someone told me before I started.
Good things come to those who wait.
Yes, this industry is fast paced, many people are buying, flipping, building and deleting websites all the time, but that’s what you shouldn’t be focusing on. You need to build a long term plan, and focus on that. Think 5 to 10 years.
What do you want? Do you want to build a one man media company like myself? Do you want to buy and sell websites? Do you want to write about your passion and build an awesome brand around that? Then do it, but play the long game. Many niche website owners and builders get stuck in the ever-lasting rat race to make lots of money and quickly. This leads to piss poor content/websites being pumped into the feeds. Don’t be that person.
Be the entrepreneur that has built the best brand in your niche. So good that you’re proud of it, and so good that it can sustain your lifestyle for as long as you run it. Flipping websites is cool, but owning one you love to work on that gets you out of bed every morning and one that impacts peoples lives is much cooler.
If you do that, I promise when you eventually want to sell (if that’s what you want) you will be blown away with the value.