How I Got Rich Online Building an Authority Site

Hello. Welcome to my site.

My name is Kristjan Mar Gunnarsson and I am a 32-year old internet entrepreneur from Iceland.

Since my full name is very hard to pronounce, I call myself Kris Gunnars online.

Back in 2010-2011, I was a broke college student that worked at Domino’s Pizza alongside my studies in biomedical science and medicine.

Around that time, I got the idea that I could maybe find some clever way to make money that didn’t involve a direct exchange of time for money, as in an hourly job.

I knew I was smart and fairly good with computers and the internet, so I started learning about building websites and making money online.

At first, I made a couple of websites that didn’t gain any traction whatsoever.

The first one was a site that compared the price of supplements in different health stores in Iceland. The site was functional, but I needed to update the prices manually every day by visiting the health food store websites and then updating the prices on my own site.

The second one was a site that gathered online resources on the paleo diet, a way of eating that was incredibly popular at the time. I listed the top blogs, books and other useful tools for people who were interested in this diet.

Building these two sites took a lot of time and provided a great learning experience for me. But neither of them got any significant amount of traffic, maybe a few hundred visits each over their entire lifetime.

Then I decided to start my own blog about nutrition and health, called Kris Health Blog. Despite the awful name, this site actually became successful and ended up getting quite a bit of traffic.

I even made it into the national news in Iceland a few times because of it.

The screenshot below is from one of these news stories in Iceland’s biggest newspaper. The headline says “Medical student blogs his way through university.”

Photo of Kris Gunnars at the computer

This site actually ended up getting a million visits and making about 10K in a single month when it peaked.

However, one day a new Google algorithm update was launched called the Penguin update. This update was one of those massive changes in Google algorithms that caused a permanent shift in the landscape of the internet.

This algorithm update basically obliterated my site and caused the traffic to drop by a whopping 90%.

I woke up one morning and opened Google Analytics to see how much traffic I had gotten the previous night. The traffic chart had taken a nosedive overnight, as if it had fallen off a cliff.

I can’t really blame Google for this because I had been breaking their rules by building links to the site using automated tools. Back in the day, links to a site were the single most important signal that Google used to rank websites in search.

This was fairly standard SEO practice at the time, but it is now considered to be a “black-hat” SEO tactic. It is firmly against Google’s rules and a surefire way to really kill your chances of getting any significant traffic from search engines.

Right now Google has become much more sophisticated about links. Links to your site need to be authentic and based on merit in order to help your site rank. Low-quality links can actually hurt your site now.

Although this traffic drop was a massive shock to me at the time, it really was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It motivated me to start a new site, which was much better and became much more successful.

December 1st, 2012: Authority Nutrition Is Born

After Kris Health Blog (cringe) got obliterated, I decided to take all the things I learned and use them to start a new website.

After a lot of brainstorming, I finally ended up choosing the name Authority Nutrition — the word “authority” was meaningful because the site was supposed to be about nutrition from an evidence-based perspective.

For this site, I wasn’t going to do anything against Google’s rules. I would just write fantastic, well-researched, highly useful content and do everything I could to make sure that the site was a great experience for users.

On December 1st, 2012 I published the first article. I also made it a goal to write three articles per week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

I believed that if I just focused on writing fantastic content, at a consistent schedule, then I would eventually be rewarded with lots of traffic.

I even put a post-it note on my computer monitor that said “CES: Consistent Epic Stuff!”

This is one of the earliest versions of my site that is available in the Wayback Machine internet archive. It is from April 2, 2013, about five months after I started the site:

Authority Nutrition wayback screenshot from April 2013

This version of the site doesn’t look that great by current graphic design standards, but it was good enough at the time. It also doesn’t render completely in the Wayback Machine.

To put a long story short, this site ended up becoming enormously successful. After just a few months, I was making so much money that I didn’t need to work with school anymore and I actually paid off my student loans early.

Some interesting stats for the traffic

  • February 10, 2013: Over 100 visits per day.
  • March 12, 2013: Over 1,000 visits per day.
  • August 4, 2013: Over 10,000 visits per day.
  • July 20, 2014: Over 100,000 visits per day, while I am still writing all the articles alone.
  • January 2, 2016: 200-300 thousand visits per day.
  • January 2, 2017: From 400-700 thousand visits per day.

While I was still writing all the articles myself, I was getting over 100,000 visits and $1,000 in ad revenue each and every day.

I even dropped out of medical school after getting my Bachelor’s degree in order to focus on the website full-time. In retrospect, this was the right decision to make.

Plus I was already making more money than the highest-paid doctors in my country, so there wasn’t really any financial incentive left for me to continue studying.

In 2014 I started hiring people, including many writers and several editors. I also hired my mom and made her a part owner.

This fantastic team and I were able to grow the site up to over 10 million visits a month and over $2 million a year in ad revenue.

Here’s a Google Analytics screenshot that shows the monthly traffic on the site:

Google Analytics screenshot from Authority Nutrition

By the year 2017, the site had become the most visited nutrition website in the world. It had gotten natural links from tens of thousands of domains, including Wikipedia, The New York Times and other top mainstream media websites.

The site ranked #1 for many of the most competitive keywords in nutrition, including “weight loss,” “green tea” and many others.

We also had a Facebook page with over 1 million likes and a newsletter with over 500 thousand active subscribers. Our total follower count on the various networks was over 2 million.

July 31, 2017: Authority Nutrition Is Sold

Some time early in the year 2017, I get approached by a man called Jake — who was the head of corporate development at Healthline Media. This is one of the biggest health websites in the world, based in San Francisco.

They were looking for an acquisition to expand their business and offered to buy the site from me. Although I really hated the idea of selling the site at first, I eventually decided that it was a good idea.

After a few months of negotiation, I signed the papers to sell the site on July 31, 2017.

I am not allowed to say how much I sold it for, but I can say that it was enough for me to never have to work again. I could live comfortably off of the interest for the rest of my life if I wanted to.

After the site was sold, all of the content was redirected to Healthline. It lives on, along with my fantastic team of editors, medical reviewers and writers, on Healthline.com/nutrition.

Here’s the last available screenshot of the site from the Wayback Machine, from July 26, 2017:

Authority Nutrition wayback screenshot from July 2017

Just like the decision to start the website in the first place, selling it was also one of the best decisions I made in my life.

I did stay on with Healthline for about 15 months before leaving, then I comfortably “retired” at age 32. My retirement didn’t last long, though.

What’s Next For Me?

My goal after selling the site was to become a full-time investor, but I have decided against that now.

I am one of the most accomplished people ever in blogging and SEO, and I think this is where I should focus my efforts.

Although I haven’t been able to verify it, I also think I may be the single most read writer on the internet. At the time of this writing, the articles I wrote and published myself have generated over 400 million individual visits.

Plus I also just seriously love doing this. It is the most rewarding work I have done in my life, by far.

For this reason, I decided to start this new site, Search Facts. I want to teach people to write fantastic content and build great websites, just like I did.

I am just going to write some articles to start with. If this site becomes popular then I will dedicate more time to it, including perhaps creating some paid courses and even starting an SEO company.

Some Things I Learned Over The Years

Building a great website and getting lots of traffic is actually not very complicated. You don’t need to know programming or any advanced math. It is all based on relatively simple skills that can be learned and practiced.

Here are some things I’ve learned through my journey:

  • Content truly is king. About 80% of your success comes from creating great content.
  • Be “good with words.” Almost every single person that makes it online is good with words in one way or another.
  • Be consistent. Set a publishing schedule and stick to it.
  • Don’t let them hit “back.” When a person searches on Google, they want an answer to something. Make sure that your article delivers the answer so that the person doesn’t have a reason to hit the “back” button. Google will know whether they found their answer or not.
  • Create the content that people are looking for. By writing content that answers people’s questions, simply and efficiently, you will be rewarded with search traffic.
  • Speed is important. Having a site that loads fast is crucial. Keep in mind that many people have slow internet connections and some of them may take forever to access sites that are heavy and bloated.
  • Readability is essential. Have text that is easy to see and read, especially on mobile devices.
  • Make content scannable. People that find your content through a search engine are probably looking for an answer to something. Most of them will scan your article for the answer instead of reading from start to finish.

These are just a few of the things to keep in mind when writing content and building a website. I am going to explain all of them in much more detail in future articles.

Another thing I’ve learned is that it’s incredibly fun learning about this stuff. It is so much fun to test new tools, improving your writing, optimizing your site to make it faster, etc.

Most People Who Try To “Make It” Online Fail

Unfortunately, chances are that you will end up failing if you try to “make it” online. There are many reasons for this.

First, you may be unfortunate enough to find advice that is bad and misleading. Many “internet marketers” are scammers that are trying to take your money.

Most of them haven’t been successful outside of the internet marketing niche, so their strategies have never been tested in the “real world” of the internet.

Second, you need a lot of patience and persistence to make it online. It took me months to get the first paycheck from one of my earlier sites, and the paycheck was small. But the size of the paychecks grew quickly after that.

Third, you may end up trying to do too much at once. It’s important to just start and not try to make your site perfect before launching it.

Also, keep your initial goals small and try to get your site to a consistent 100 visits per day. Getting from 100 to 1,000 (or even 10,000) is actually a lot easier than getting the initial 100 per day.

If you can get to 100 per day, then you’ve already managed the hardest part.

Keep in mind that I made a ton of mistakes over the years, many of which led to months of wasted effort.

But you don’t need to make all the same mistakes as me. I can help you focus on what matters so that you can succeed even faster than I did.

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