7 Memorable Times I Failed Woefully at Online Business (And Lessons for You)

Most people succeed at online business only after recording many fails. And I’m no exception.

Online business, just like offline brick-and-mortar business, has its own fair share of risks. There are times you’d fail due to reasons well known to you, and there are times you’d fail due to reasons you can’t explain, even after doing things near-perfectly.

Ever since I started creating blogs for passive income through affiliate marketing and Google Adsense, I’ve earned far much more money than I earned as a freelance writer. In fact, that’s why I “retired” as a freelance writer to focus fully on those passive income streams. And so far, it’s been quite fulfilling.

But the truth is, I didn’t succeed with every passive income idea I launched. In fact, many of my ideas failed woefully. But the sweet part is that the ones that ended up as successes fetched me enough profit to compensate for the time, energy, and money wasted on the failed ideas.

Now, I want to share with you some of my failed online business ideas, how and why I executed them, and why they failed. My aim here is to help you to avoid some of the mistakes I made.

my failures in online business

1. Miracet-reviews.com

This was the first affiliate niche site I created. It was a simple blog that featured posts promoting Miracet, a quit-smoking product made from herbs. The home page was a long, detailed post that explained everything a potential buyer needed to know about the product.

The site was well optimized for the keyphrase, “miracet reviews”. And there were two other much shorter supporting posts that provided additional details about Miracet. Both were also optimized for some secondary keywords.

Within a few months after I created the site, it ranked number 1 in Google search results for “miracet reviews” and several other related phrases. And it fetched me some decent commissions through the Markethealth affiliate program. Each sale of Miracet fetched me $25 to $50 in commissions, and I was making a few sales monthly for close to one year.

At some point later, I noticed that no more sales were coming in. I tried to find out the cause, and I discovered that the product was no longer in the market. And I had no choice but to close down the site shortly after that.

My big mistake was that I centered the site on a single product. If the site were to focus on quit smoking products in general, then I would have easily switched over to other similar products.

2. Venapro-reviews.com

Shortly after I abandoned miracet-reviews.com, I created this site because I wanted to continue earning my monthly affiliate commissions from Markethealth. I set up the site and implemented every single strategy that I implemented on miracet-reviews.com.

Of course, my aim was to get exactly the same result — to rank number 1 on Google for the primary keyphrase, “venapro reviews”. Just so you know, Venapro is a natural hemorrhoid cure product.

Ordinarily, one should start seeing SEO results after five to seven months. But after waiting for nine long months, I didn’t get any cool result, and it dawned on me that the site would never pick up. Google Analytics showed zero traffic. And several manual searches for the site on Google confirmed that site was not among the top 100 sites ranking for that keyword. I needed no other proof that I’d failed.

Up until now, I really can’t figure out any reason why. But I keep guessing to date that the domain name was probably registered by someone else who had it penalized by Google prior to the time I snagged it up.

3. Oyinboland.com

I started this site when I discovered the huge volume of Google searches by Nigerians for keywords related to travelling abroad, especially to countries like United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Germany. At the start, I basked in the euphoria of having discovered one gold mine of a blogging niche.

At the time I set up the site, I had big dreams. I planned to feature detailed information on how to travel out of Nigeria to any country Nigerians are dying to visit. And ultimately, I would monetize the site through Adsense and direct adverts for Nigerian travel agencies. To me, it was a perfect idea.

With my research skills, I was able to craft detailed posts on how to get UK, US, and Canadian visas. Most of the information I rendered in the posts were extracted from the official websites of the countries’ embassies and high commissions.

But after publishing about four posts, I got tired. My enthusiasm waned. And I knew I wouldn’t be able to continue with the site because there was just no reliable online resource where I could get the exact information that Nigerians were looking for. They were not just looking to learn how to secure a visa; they wanted far more complex details that only a seasoned travel agent can provide. And since I’m no more than a bloody freelance writer, and I couldn’t find a seasoned travel agent to work with, I had to ditch the site. Yet another failure!

4. Careerandbusinessguide.com

After helping a client implement an article marketing backlink campaign that boosted his blog’s ranking for many of his target keywords, I decided to start a blog in the same niche because it appeared to me to be a low competition niche. So, I quickly conducted keyword research and pulled out a lot of keywords related to business and career growth. My goal was to build an authority site that I would later monetize with Adsense and direct ads.

After publishing a few articles on the blog, I discovered that most of the keywords I pulled out were already being ranked for by sites like Inc.com, Forbes.com, Huffington Post, and other authority sites. There was no way a new site like mine would topple those bigwigs. So, I had to quit. If only I took my time to carefully analyze the competition, I wouldn’t have wasted my resources on the site.

5. Vitalhealthinfo.com

This is one of the first blogs I ever created. My goal from the outset was to build an authority health blog that would compete with the likes of WebMD, Mayo Clinic, Medscape, and so on. But at that time, I never realized that I was only chasing shadows.

After publishing some posts on the blog, I discovered that most of the authority health sites do shy away from topics related to natural health, home remedies, and alternative therapy. So, I decided to focus on those.

I pulled out lots of promising keywords related to those topics, but that was about all I did. I only wrote few topics myself and later outsourced few topics to another writer. In the end, I abandoned the site because it wasn’t picking up as quickly as I expected, and I was just too busy with clients’ writing assignments and other commitments (including other online businesses that were already earning some income).

Although the site is still very much online, I’m not sure of what I’ll do with it later on. I’ve been reluctant to close it down, yet I’ve done nothing to make it grow. If you ask me why this site is a failure, I’ll give just one reason: I didn’t have time for it.

6. Contentmarketingplus.com

I created this site in 2012 shortly after I understood the importance of an online portfolio to a freelance writer. My plan with the site was to publish quality articles that center on content marketing, search engine optimization, and other topics that would help me attract potential clients as a freelance writer.

But after publishing a few articles on the site, I abandoned it due to the clients’ writing assignments. The site is still online, too, but I doubt if I’ll ever publish anything new on it again.

7. Howtocreateablog.org

When I started earning decent income from some of the web hosting affiliate programs I promoted on this blog, I thought it was a smart idea to start a separate site that explains how to create a blog in very simple terms that anyone can understand.

Ultimately, I was going to earn commissions by recommending a reputable web hosting company to visitors — supposedly newbie bloggers. Since each hosting plan sale fetched $50 to $100 in commissions, I was optimistic that I would have a money-spinner on my hands in the next few months.

At the time, I thought getting to the number 1 spot on Google would be easily achieved with the exact-match domain name coupled with a few long, detailed articles. After publishing about 12 detailed tutorial articles, I waited patiently for the site to start ranking, so I can start smiling to the bank. But that never happened. Due to the lucrative commissions paid by web hosting firms, the niche was so competitive that no site would rank prominently without heavy investment in backlinks by its owner.

When I figured the huge cost of buying backlinks, I backed out, bearing in mind that results are not guaranteed even after spending heavily on backlinks. For about one additional year, I left the site alone. But it wasn’t totally useless, as I used to redirect my clients to it after helping them to set up their new blogs, so they can have deeper understanding of the WordPress platform.

Close to two years after I created the site, I sold it to a friend who offered to buy it for N120,000. That price notwithstanding, the site was a failure because I didn’t achieve the goal I had in mind when I started it.

That’s not all…

While I’ve detailed only seven online business ideas of mine that failed, I have recorded a lot more failures. But most others died right at the domain registration phase. That is, after spending about $10 to register a domain name for an idea that looked promising at first, I’d later abandon it after discovering that the idea wasn’t as lucrative as I thought or was far more competitive than I expected.

In such instances, I didn’t waste time and energy on content creation, but I still lost some bucks on domain registration. I’ve lost count of the number of times this happened to me.

Wrap up

There are no fail-proof formulas in online business. As with offline business, not every online business idea you launch would succeed. And the only way out is to try another idea after one idea fails, while avoiding mistakes that led to the failure of the first idea.

While I have a long list of online business ideas that have failed, I also have a good number of them that have turned out lucrative and that are presently earning decent monthly figures for me. And at every point in time (including now), there are at least 2 or 3 new online business ideas that I’m incubating with the hope of turning them to profitable ventures. But the truth is, I can’t win all the time. I’ll win some, and I’ll lose some.

So, in essence, I’ve failed many times at online business, and I’ll still fail in the future, unless I stop trying out new ideas.

Your turn

Have you ever launched an online business that failed? What were the reasons why it failed? Or do you have any questions or contributions related to this post? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Abass Toriola

I'm a seasoned freelance writer, internet marketing strategist, and online business coach. And I'm a university graduate, doctor-in-training, husband, and father.

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Updated: June 29, 2017 — 6:58 am

26 Comments

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  1. I had to stop working to read your post. Great job bro.

    1. Oh, thanks for that, Clem. I hope you were able to learn one or two things from the post?

  2. Welcome back! I discovered this site sometimes ago while you were on pen-silence and I was beginning to think you may never come back again. But thank God you’re here again. This site has really helped me a lot from wasting my time on some promising-but-not-viable-schemes. Your honesty, experience and the accuracy of your posts are the BIG DEAL.

    1. Hey Taiwo,

      Thanks for checking by. I’m glad you’ve found my blog helpful.

  3. I had encountered a lot of failures too and they all had left in me one or two lessons.

    1. Entered the Game cheat niche for Fun but later became bored and gave up!

    2. then to Amazing facts hoping for Awareness, Failed too!

    3. To Health niche for monetization, it was a No No

    4. Education niche bearing in mind to create products around it but didn’t work out

    Etcetera

    The bottom line is; One should look very well before he leaps. Also passion and determination are very important

    Welcome back to WIP bro!

    1. Hey Tunde,

      Nice to know that you’ve also made some mistakes in your quest to earn some bucks online. More importantly, I’m glad you learned some lessons from them. Thanks for taking your time to read the post. You rock!

      1. Thanks again, Abass, for this post. You’re one of the few bloggers I’m keenly following.

        Yes, you’re absolutely right: if you haven’t failed enough, you probably haven’t tried anything new.

        But the point is, standing up each time we fall, learning, re-learning and unlearning along the way is the ‘extra’ in the people tagged EXTRA-ordinary.

        I’m glad you also talked, in your comment, about one Affiliate Marketer who you said knows her stuff. Well, I believe if she does really know her stuff she should be bold enough to ensure her buyers get the best from their purchase. I think that trait (of not providing after-sales support) is common with Nigerian online markers. It’s bad. They should reverse it. I’ve also been a victim of that. Once. And of course that’s last.

        What more can I say, I admire your confidence to be able to continuously replicate your strategies in different online business models. I wish to be able to do that too.

        Now regarding failure:

        I’ve failed many times in freelance writing and blogging. As a freelance writer, clinging to one client was my greatest setback. And in blogging, it seems I’m only just testing things, not really sure of the exact strategies that work best. But of course, I’m working on that as well. I’m indefatigable, and I strongly hope I can make it via blogging because I’m passionate and determined to succeed. My name is…

        – Sodiq

  4. This is a very insightful post. Contrary to the saying that the narrower a niche is, the better; this is not most times the case. Wide scope niches that appear more general in a niche area seem to have more profiting in some cases.

    1. Hey Ab,

      The saying that a narrow niche is better is actually true. What is bad is when you narrow your niche so much that you’ll have little or no room for expansion or modifications when the need arises.

  5. This is indeed a great post and I find it inspiring and encouraging too. Now I know am not alone.

    I started blogging without any niche idea. I knew nothing about keyword research, I just heard Linda was making it huge via blogging so I decided to start one.

    It was a free hosted blog on blogger. I felt it was wise to stick to blogger, since it’s own by the Almighty Google, who incidentally owns Adsense.

    The choice of domain was another big mistake. Within 1 month, I had littered ever nook and crany of the blog with ads expecting money to start flowing, I was thrilled by the number of ads I saw on Linda ikeji’s blog. I made ZERO Naira. Lol.

    After Appling severally for Adsense without success, I abandoned the blog for more than one year.

    Recently, I stumble on this blog, after digesting the content of the free ebook, I decided I will try again. I deleted the blog from blogger, started afresh on WordPress.

    I know I might still fail, but who cares. I will keep trying until I succeed. At least I am better informed now even though I still have a lot to learn.

    Thanks so much Abass, I still see my landing on your blog as a miracle. Keep up the good job you’re doing here.

    1. Hey Chidi,

      Your story only drives home the point that beginners in online business are at the biggest risk of making mistakes. But the good part is that you’ve learned from your mistakes and you’re determined to succeed. Keep the dream alive, bro.

  6. As an internet lover, one day, while surfing the web, I stumbled upon a blog post analyzing different ways of making decent income online.

    I found two of them -freelancing and blogging easy for me to implement. Decidedly, I created free blogspot blog, because Linda Ikeji too was using the same platform, and I also registered on Freelancer.com, Upwork to offer graphic design service.

    I picked entertainment niche, but I later got tired of updating it with fresh content, because I usually have time in the late night, and other bloggers have already published what I wanted to write about. I deleted the blog in the fifth month that I created it.

    Till today, I have not won a single project on the freelance sites that I rigistered on. But, Luckily, I got a client on twitter after reading people’s replies. He wanted to redesigned a Mosque logo for the youth section of the Mosque. I took the small project, and I finished it six hours after, and get paid.

    Till this moment, Once in a while, I get Ad Banner Design work from Nairalanders. I also help people to install Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Indesign, Adobe Illustrator & others on pc.

    In 2015, I dipped my hands into mini-importation business. I ended up selling the items at the exact price that I bought them. I made no profit.

    Bitcoin investment and other ponzi schemes have also whittled away my hard-earned money.

    Last year, I started a reseller website for cheap internet data plans, bulk sms, airtime and sms marketing. At the moment, am not making decent money on it. The web address is http://www.clubkash.com/xp

    Since January, I have been reading about, dropshipping, domain name flipping, website flipping, information marketing and freelance writing. I really want to start something profitable online. It will be location free – that I can work from anywhere there’s internet connection. The road is rough!

    1. Hey Olaide,

      Your experiences are enough to plunge a feeble-minded person into the abyss of frustration and hopelessness. But I’m glad you have the zeal to keep trying, no matter what.

      Here are some ideas I think you can find helpful:

      1. Start a blog where you teach the basics of graphics design — monetized via ebooks/ e-courses on graphics design
      2. Retry with mini importation, doing your due diligence extensively this time around
      3. Find more creative ways to promote your cheap Internet data plans. Why not try creating a Facebook group solely for that business? From the start, you should be ready to attract attention by giving out free data plans until you have an audience large enough to continue with.

      Those are just suggestions, anyway. You can adopt, refine, or ditch them.

      Thanks for taking your time to read the post.

      1. I must applaud the good work you’re doing.Weldone sir.

        I think, starting a blog on graphics design is a good way to go. But, for now, I won’t be able to manage it properly because am really engaged these days- learning some web languages for web design.

        This time around, I will make sure that I buy from Wholesaler, because I just discovered that, I purchased all those items from a retailer, and this ate up all the profits that I supposed to make.

        Honestly, I was not convinced enough to create a Facebook group for my cheap data plans,because I was thinking that I won’t have control over it like Facebook page. I created a Facebook page, and I have been promoting it, but no good result. I will give the group a try as you suggested, and I look forward to having you as a member of the group and a regular customer.

        Also, I have intention of having your book on freelance writing. I used to write well before,but now, my inconsistency has made me to lose the skill. I have been trying to resharpen it back by reading some books. I’ll soon knock your door for it sir.

        Thanks for the helpful suggestions.

  7. Hello Abass i have been following your articles on this site. am not a good writer like you. just a webdesigner, who strongly believe that he can make decent income online. I have an issue with my site. The first week i launched it the Seo was very impressive but i pulled it down due to virus that corrupted my site as per Null theme. Ever since then SEO has been stagnant and snailike for me site: https//rubinuvia.com. site is less than 1 month and half month though. All article are original contents, no copy and paste.

    1. Hey Atani,

      SEO takes between 5-8 months to start fetching results. So, don’t expect results in less than 2 months.

  8. Hello Mr Abass,my own case is like your own,i started online business since 2010 and till today i have not made even a kobo in profit.

    First i started blogging in entertainment niche,i thought in a month i will buy a car and at the end i didnt make a cent.

    I started a business blog in which i always post business ideas and how to start a business it failed woefully.

    I started a make money online blog,that was the worst,i got only 2000 visits in a year and i accounted for 1910 of the 2000 visits.

    I left to study abroad,since internet data is free where i stay i thought it will be easier to make it. I created 20 different affiliate websites for amazon and clickbank products i never made any sale.

    I started a cruise blog,where i wrote about cruising and cruise ships,that was a nightmare.

    I started information marketing business where i ran ads on facebook to people in the caribbean where i am staying,after spending much money on facebook ads,only one person bought the product and the person asked for a refund later that the product was useless,but i didnt refund the money.

    I joined fiverr,freelancer,upwork and over 10 freelancing sites and till today,i have not even landed any gig or job.

    i enterd domain flipping,after buying 6 domains from people,nobody refused to buy it again from me. All my money went.

    I cant list all here,you will cry for me. I have bought like 42 different domain names. I have wasted money on hosting,i have wasted money on a whole lot of things i cant even say.

    I regret the day i knew about online business and how people made it look like it can make you a mega millionaire. Online business i harder than all offline business

    What i have learnt is that online business is not for everyone,that other people are making it does not mean that you will make it. Am never going back to any online business never again in my entire life,

    I am a medical student now,i will just complete my studies get a job,start an offline business like agriculture precisely,make my visible cash and enjoy my life.

    Online business never am i returning.

    1. Hey Usoro,

      To start with, I would like to disagree with your first statement that your case is like mine. Going by your story, nothing has worked for you in online business. But mine is a totally different story. I have recorded a good number of successes — online businesses that are earning cool bucks consistently every month. All these 7 failures were not sequential, and I had successes between the failed projects and after them.

      No doubt, you’ve really tried, and your experience can frustrate anyone who goes through the same. But the truth is, failures are meant to teach us lessons. And it’s just unfortunate that most mistakes that lead to failure can be avoided if we had been a bit more careful.

      Going by your story, I would like to ask some questions related to your past attempts:

      1. With regards to your business blog, did you conduct any form of keyword research before generating topic ideas? And did you write really long-form content (1500 – 2000+ words)?

      2. With regards to the 20 different Amazon and Clickbank niche sites you created, did you really take your time to focus well on each before hopping to the next? Did you do extensive SEO and publish detailed and highly converting product comparisons and buyer guides?

      3. With regards to your cruise blog, did you gather first hand experience about cruising before starting to blog on it?

      4. With regards to your information marketing business, did you study the online buying habits of your target audience in the Carribean before taking a plunge? Did you try to figure if most of your target audience were freebie hunters? And did you try to set up a blog or other platform to establish trust before launching your ad campaigns?

      5. As for domain flipping, did anyone tell you before you started that it’s based on speculation and hopes (hopes that once you buy this cool name, you’ll be able to sell it big)? Did anyone tell you that names that sound very cool don’t get sold many times, while names that sound awkward can sell for 6-7 figures?

      If you can’t answer a YES to any or most of these questions, then I just pointed at some of your mistakes.

      Truth is, we all waste money. This is business! It involves some risk. With every failure comes some losses — of money, time, and energy.

      I see you’ve made up your mind to ditch online business, and I really am not in a position to compel you to change your mind. But bear in mind that even offline business is far more risky, cost-wise. For example, you claimed to have wasted money on 42 domain names. If I’m right, that’s just $420 (presently about N160,000) at most. And you’re still alive and good. But do you know you’ll probably be in an abyss of depression by now if you were to fail at just 5 offline businesses — an experience that many people have had. Do you know N160,000 is not enough to secure business space for just one offline business, let alone 5 businesses?

      The main reason many people fail at online business is that they have big expectations due to those crazy snake oil marketers who paint a rosy picture of everything.

      And on a final note, you went into too many different business models. I’m not laying blames, but I think you should have taken your time to study why each business model of yours failed, try that same model again before quitting. If you take note, all my 7 failures are either affiliate niche sites or blogs that I plan to monetize with Adsense. Because I persisted after my failures, I presently have 2 sites earning income from Adsense and 4 sites earning income from Amazon affiliate program. And I have about 4 other sites being incubated. I wouldn’t have achieved such successes if I had hopped to many other different models.

      I wish you all the best in your quest for a fulfilling business venture. But if you play your cards right, you’d later find that online business is far easier than online business.

  9. This article is great…where do i start? 6yrs ago started a news blog on blogger got tired and abandone it. Then bought a course about amazon affiliate by Iyabo Oyewale (don’t know her where about online) I set up the site which is http://www.backpackforcollege.com. Few months I had visitors based on analytics results but recorded zero sales after waiting for 2yrs. Switched to Dan Brock affiliate course centered on how to sale market health products. I had about 4 visitor per month who visit the site: http://www.vtighteningtips.com yet no sales where recorded. I realise that am bored of publishing contents on these site. Now have pulled everything down to implement your affiliate course I bought in 2015. Bottom line is i lack consistence and don’t work on my site traffic. Am always willing to try new things and now am working on a blog that teach people how to setup a blog following your course guide. What is your advise sir Abbass.

    1. Hey Tim,

      You’re be the second person I’d come across who bought Iyabo Oyawale’s info products. After having gone through her materials, I can say she really knows her stuff when it comes to Amazon affiliate niche sites. But if what someone told me about her is anything to go by, she doesn’t provide much after-sales support to her customers. While Amazon affiliate program is one of the simplest entry points into affiliate marketing, there are some intricate parts of it that most beginners won’t understand on their own.

      As for the Dan Brock course, I always warn Nigerians who are just starting out to avoid courses and ebooks by foreigners. This is because doing online business from other countries is a different game entirely when compared with doing the same from Nigeria.

      The sweetest part of your story is that you know your own problem — inconsistency. In one of my past posts, I specifically stated how important it is to be consistent, and that inconsistency is the main reason why most Nigerians won’t succeed at online business.

  10. Thank you for sharing some of your failures, Abass.

    Most successful internet marketers make it seem as if online business is a smooth ride.

    This is an encouragement to us all to keep trying no matter the failure.

    1. Hey Fouad,

      It’s been quite a while. How’s your end?

      I quite agree with you that most Internet Marketer paint a too-good-to-be-true picture of online business. And it’s just expectable since their aim is to encourage their audience to pay for their information products (ebooks, etc.). But it makes zero sense.

      Thanks for taking your time to read the post.

  11. I came across your website online and since then I’ve been going through your posts and what I really like about your approach to business is the extent you go into making detailed and informative materials available to people for free. There’s no way I won’t buy any product you come up with as long as it meets my specific need.

    Thank you for being you.

    1. Hey Olusegun,

      I feel really humbled by your words. Thanks so much for believing in me, and for taking your time to read this post.

  12. Thanks for this inspirational post of yours. I am started a new blog on natural home remedy after reading one of your post that inspires me to try that niche out.

    I have already given up on blogging after all the blogs i setup in the past failed. But with the inspiration i got from this blog from one of your post concerning some of your subscribers that has made money online from blog flipping,
    I visited the sites to find out the niche they were blogging about and discovered that it was the natural home remedy niche. vitalhealthinfo.com and humanhealthhub.com was the two site that inspired me, so i decided to blog on that niche too.

    For now the blog is just two months old and it is yet to be monetized because i am following the strategies i am learning from this blog to build an audience first before i will monetize it.
    So i can’t really say i have failed or succeeded yet. But i will post an update on this topic again to tell my final story about the blog… So that other readers of this thread can learn from me too.

  13. I want to thank you immensely for your effort in educating us online. I bought your ebook on freelance writing, it’s a well detailed book and I enjoyed it.

    With your free ebook I started by learning how to design a free website. And this is the result so far, http://www.solcy.blogspot.com . Thanks once more.

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