In December 2010 my life changed forever. My parents bought me a laptop, I was 11 at the time.
Money was tight for my parents back then, we had just moved house and I was one of 4 children. My parents still managed to save enough money to get each of us a present. My older brother and I were bought laptops from a second hand computer shop in our local village. We used to argue over who had my dads work laptop so getting both of us one probably saved a lot of arguments.
The moment I got the laptop I was very, very excited. I took it straight to my bedroom and I started playing a game called ‘Farmville’ which was a huge game on Facebook and had millions of users.
I was hooked.
As well as playing games like Farmville I had an obsession that I wanted to build a website. It amazed me that I could create something that could be seen by anyone in the world just by entering a web address. As well as this, I was obsessed with the idea of making money and trying to get a job. My parents didn’t want me to get a paper round at the time due to the fact I would have to wake up in the early hours each day. If I really pushed maybe I could have got a paper round, but instead, me being me, I got creative.
So why don’t I do dog walking?
I thought, at the tender age of 11, I would set up a dog walking business. It failed and I walked no dogs. But I did create a website for this dog walking business and this is what spurred me onto creating another website.
So with my love of playing online games and my obsession with wanting to create a website I used Blogspot and created a gaming website called ABGameHelp.com. My dad lent me $12 to buy the domain as I had no money at the time.
Abgamehelp.com inspired something huge…
In the months following the launch of the gaming blog I tried to cover literally every game out there and write about it. I was maybe working 3–4/hours per day after school in my bedroom writing and then posting article links on Twitter, Facebook and trying to do SEO.
I then began to notice something. There was one game in particular that I covered on the blog that began to get traffic from my posts on Facebook groups and from Google.
This game was called CityVille.
CityVille was launched by Zygna in December 2010 at its peak the game had 61 million active monthly users and it was perhaps the largest game ever on Facebook. CityVille was subsequently closed in April 2015 as more and more people transitioned to playing games on their mobile rather than on a desktop.
So I rebranded ABGameHelp.com and borrowed a further $12 from my father to buy yet another domain.
My dad said this is the last domain I am buying you. I asked him again and again and told him I was onto something. My dad then lent me a further $12 so I could buy the name: FacebookCityVilleCheats.com
Total domain debt, aged 11: $24.
Under this new CityVille domain, I quickly re-branded the site. This time I wanted to make it look more professional. I watched hours of Youtube videos on how to work photoshop to create a banner for the top of my website and after a couple of late nights without my parents knowing I had created this:
I then added Facebook share buttons and I started to write 5–10 articles per day after school. It was intense. But slowly my persistence with posting content paid off.
It was now the start of 2011 and CityVille was literally taking over Facebook. Everyone was playing it and in January 2011 the site hit 14,765 pageviews. I found this incredibly satisfying. The fact that I had a few thousand people from all over the world reading something that I had created.
Before I knew it March had come around, and the site exploded in popularity. In March the site gained 105,562 pageviews. The site grew because with every article I posted on the website I then posted the content onto Facebook pages about the game. Then people just began to visit my blog, people who were visiting knew they could get a daily feed of content for a game they loved so people kept on coming back. I then created a Facebook page for the site that grew massively.
With this amount of traffic to the website I thought I could begin to make money.
I spent a couple of weeks researching on Google the best way to make money from a website. I spoke to a few people on some internet marketing forums that I joined, and took these two approaches:
- Google AdSense
- Clickbank Affiliate Marketing
Google AdSense is a platform where you are able to make money from your website by placing adverts on it that are served by Google. Advertisers pay Google and then Google serve these adverts on google.com as well as their partner sites (facebookcityvillecheats.com was now a partner).
In March I was averaging around 3000 pageviews per day. In Google AdSense terms this equated to around $6/day in revenue for the site.
In 4 days I was able to pay back the $24 to my dad! Result! He didn’t actually want the money back so to this day I still owe him money for my first two domains.
Clickbank Affiliate Marketing:
As well as making money from adverts on my website, I also made a lot more money by selling other companies online products.
I had an engaged audience of over 100,000 people per month who were obsessed with a game, and I had noticed a few companies were selling long form guides on how to master CityVille. These guides cost around $28. By signing up to Clickbank, I was able to sell these companies’ guides and get a commission for every sale I brought. The commission was high at 75%.
So I was able to make around $20 for every sale I could bring. This was much better than earning $6/day on Google AdSense.
So I did both.
The site in the following months BOOMED!
In May 2011, my once little gaming blog had become the biggest CityVille fan website and I gained just shy of 400,000 pageviews. I was blown away.
In that month of May I made:
- Around $800 on Google AdSense
- Around $2000 selling CityVille guides as an affiliate.
I had made $2800 in a month, on the internet, at home, aged 12. The work was hard — during the site’s lifespan I had wrote over 1000 articles and I grew a Facebook page with over 200,000 likes. I was obviously still in secondary school, so juggling homework, a social life while running FacebookCityVilleCheats.com meant that I was very busy!
Here is a screen recording filmed back in May 2011 of me showing fellow site owners my earnings from ClickBank. Excuse my breaking voice.
The high was of course followed by a decline…
In July 2011 CityVille began to decline, people were increasingly playing games more on their mobile phones rather than a computer. So as the game declined so did my beloved site.
I went from 382,000 pageviews in July 2011 to 81,543 pageviews in August 2011. Almost an 80% drop in a month. It clearly signalled the slow death of the site.
Rather than being upset and sad, I was actually very happy. I thought to myself that I had learnt a lot and made good money along the way.
- I had learnt how to use Photoshop
- How to grow a Facebook page
- How to grow a blog and an audience
- How to write for an audience and adapt content for the audience
- The basics of affiliate marketing
I saved most of the money I made. But I did spend some of it:
I bought myself a new desktop computer which was much better than my second-hand laptop which was surprisingly still running, albeit a lot slower.
I also bought myself an iPad so I didn’t have to work from a computer all of the time.
The final thing I paid for was a trip to Paris with school in October 2011. It was a fun trip and I learnt no french (languages are not my forte).
The winter of 2010 up until the summer of 2011 were amazing.
And I didn’t know it then but it would be the start of something much bigger…
Click here to learn how I’m about to travel the world for 2 years at the age of 19, all expenses paid :)
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Arran Rice is on a mission to help enable entrepreneurs to travel around the world. He shares his knowledge and personal projects on his social channels. Thanks for visiting.