Starting Anew Again

At the beginning of the year I shared a 5-year update of my venture into self-employment or figuring-it-out-ism, if you will. 

If you missed it, you can find it here.

While the revenue side of my business was and still remains in the shitter at the time of that post, I still consider these past 5 years a success. 

On the revenue note, I was able to pay myself better than anyone else ever did.  We were able to buy our first house, I surfed a bunch, and we welcomed our son into the world, and I got to dive into a variety of different projects and types of works of my choosing – creating content, designing websites, making art, messing with some code, and all sorts of things in between. 

Most of my work during that time was focused on building and growing my portfolio of content websites – those were what were most profitable. 

Well, here we are 5 months later, and I figured I’d continue to document my journey. 

Death of an SEO & Digital Flotsam

In my previous roles and even into self-employment, I’d still consider myself an SEO. That’s what I knew and that’s what I was still focused on for the most part.

I was keeping up with the industry news and I was actively working on getting more organic traffic for my own websites. 

If you know any SEOs or are in some sort of SEO-adjacent role, you already know that this year has been rough. 

With some pretty heavy Google updates starting in August/September 2023 and continuing into 2024, the nature of building and growing websites certainly shifted for me. And that’s not even to mention the endless A.I. integrations of seemingly every company and tech product in the world. 

In November 2023, an article on The Verge by Amanda Chicago Lewis titled “The people who ruined the internet” made the rounds and painted a fairly scathing picture of the industry/profession of SEO.

I found it to be an enjoyable read, but I don’t think there was really anything new in there. Anyone who works in digital marketing or uses the internet for that matter already knows there’s a lot of spammers, scammers, and snake oil salesmen out there. SEO is no different, there’s honest folks helping make good websites and grow businesses and there are also bullshitters. 

But, the article did make me think, had I personally been contributing to the “enshitification” of the internet and Google? 

Aside from WAVE ARCADE (my surf/art business not the overarching corporate entity), all of my websites existed to turn an increasing profit – primarily through display advertising and insurance leads. 

I was publishing a lot of content, adding new features, and building new sites in related verticals when I saw an opportunity. 

While I probably wouldn’t nominate any of these sites for any awards, the journalist in me did always strive to make them as accurate and useful as I could. 

Actually, I’m going to share them right here, and if you’re interested in clicking around you can tell me if they’re shit or not shit.

1) PuedoManejar.com (sections in both Spanish & English) – this started as a driver’s license practice test website for Spanish speakers and evolved over the years to be my own version of a mini ORG (if you know, you know.)  

2) MotorcycleZombies.com – I actually started this when I was still restoring motorcycles. I was documenting some tips and tricks I was learning along the way. It grew to include registration, licensing, and insurance topics, plus some content focused on adjacent powersports vehicles.

3) VINvaquero.com – this was my first dive into creating a “service-first” website via the NHTSA VIN decoder API with the help of my friend and former coworker, Lance. This one came to be due to my deep love for vehicle identification numbers – just kidding, there was some good search opportunity and it was related to insurance. 

4) Relocalate.com – This was my first exploration into programmatic content – i.e. gathering data and mashing it together in potentially unique and hopefully useful or interesting ways to build a website. Again, I built this for the insurance opportunity. 

5) HappyWrench.com – This was my first acquisition of an existing website. I had noticed this site way back when I first started MotorcycleZombies.com. This one was started by a guy working on old Harleys. It was later sold to someone else and then purchased by me. 

6) QuickBoilBusiness.com – This was my second attempt at programmatic. This time combining small business data across different states and industries. I think I actually launched this one after the first hits to my other sites came. I hate to leave things unfinished.   

Pretty much each one of these websites took a complete nosedive and continued to suffer with each new algorithm change. 

So, maybe they’re bad websites. There’s definitely better ones out there covering the same topics. Maybe people would rather get that stuff from an A.I. chatbot. Who knows? 

At first, I was pretty bummed (still am to a certain extent), but that’s life. 

With my change in schedule and work-focus with a newborn, I also realized that continuing to build these websites and chase organic traffic may not be how I want to spend my time. 

(But hey, Google, if you’re listening and want to give these puppies traffic again, I won’t stop you.)

Doing What You Want To

If you want to hear a story about someone chasing their dreams and learning a lot along the way, you can watch the 1987 film North Shore. 

You can also watch a short documentary titled Slomo, which tells the story of John Kitchin, aka Slomo, that may leave you with a similar takeaway. 

In either case, there are a lot of things in life that I thought I was supposed to be doing. Go to school, get a job, go to work, whether you want to or like it or not. 

And before I continue, I recognize that I was fortunate to be able to change course.

Eh, actually, caveats be damned. You get the picture.

There’s risks and opportunity cost to most things in life. Plus, life is short, time goes fast, and all of that. 

Knowing that, you’ve got to decide what’s best for you. 

And that can change as time goes on. It’s okay to change your mind. 

Not everyone has the presence of mind to know they want to primarily rollerskate in slow motion. Some might want to surf the big waves of the North Shore and then pursue their artistic talent by attending a program in New York. 

WAVE ARCADE At Work

I got some good responses and had some nice conversations as a result of the update I published at the beginning of this year. 

I also like writing like this and sharing my story honestly. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to run into any “small business” or “entrepreneurship” content on the internet, you know that there are a whole lot of bullshitters out there. 

There’s a lot of bullshitters everywhere, but that’s beside the point. 

So, I’m back to share the next chapter of WAVE ARCADE and what I’ve been working on these past few months. 

First, whether I was acting in denial or desperation, I tried to take some steps to salvage my totaled websites. I did some audits, made some changes, and waited a bit. No dice. 

I also started to think more about what I actually wanted to be spending my time on. 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t these websites. And yes, that’s an easier realization to come to when they’re not making money. 

In my last post I had mentioned my National Parks Surf Posters, which have been a side project/creative outlet for some time. 

These have been really fun for me to make and people seemed to like them.

That’s a winning enough combo for me in my MBA analysis. 

So I got to work revamping both my e-commerce shop on wavearcade.com, my Etsy store WaveArcadeArt, and my WAVE ARCADE social media profiles (@wave_arcade on most platforms).

I set up wholesale, the early stages of an affiliate/referral program, and a few other admin tasks that I’d been neglecting over the years. 

I decided that I would expand the WAVE ARCADE project into a full on surf & coastal-inspired art studio. 

I’ve always liked creating things and making art, but aside from my WPA-style posters, I hadn’t done much of that lately. 

This felt like a perfect opportunity to do what I wanted to do. 

After a few months of spending probably too much time on the behind the scenes items and putting off actually making art, I finally got to work on some new series. 

Most of these are hot off the presses as of a couple weeks ago, and I’m working on expanding these series and more as time goes on. 

I’ll be exploring a variety of styles and themes that I’m interested in – all mostly centralized around surfy and coastal type things. 

Another item on my todo list is to reach out to some local shops & galleries where I can share my prints.

Currently, you can pick up some National Parks Surf prints for some local spots at the Gallery at Land’s End in Pacific Beach, San Diego. 

If there’s interest, I’ll continue to share my story and the twists and turns that it’s bound to take. 

In the meantime, you can follow along for updates at wavearcade.com, on instagram, tiktok, and Pinterest @wave_arcade, and you can find prints and other things for sale on wavearcade.com and Etsy at WaveArcadeArt.

Welp, see ya later!

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