How the 80/20 Principle Cost Me Over $100,000 This Year

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 12/17/12 •  8 min read

Dane: Ok, so you want to update your marketing.  Let’s start with the basics, what’s your conversion rate?

Me: Good question. I have no idea.

Dane: What do you mean you have no idea?

Me: I always ran into a technical issue every time I tried to set it up, so I haven’t done any split testing or conversion tracking

Dane: And how long have you had this site?

Me: About a year and a half.

Dane: Shit. I have a moral obligation to help you set this up.

This conversation took place this past weekend when I was getting business advice from my buddy Dane Maxwell.

I was going over my plans to *finally* update the marketing for Location Rebel.

You see, I set it up over a year and a half ago when I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Updating it has been on my to do list for over a year now, but it was always such a daunting task that I figured “why fix what isn’t that broken.”

Worst. Mentality. Ever.

This story is the perfect way to illustrate how the 80/20 principle has cost me over a hundred grand this year.

The Set It and Forget it Myth 

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard of the Pareto Principle which states that “80% of the causes come from 20% of the effects “.

I’ve always been firm believer of this.

If 80% of the sales or value of a product is going to come from 20% of the work, then it’s better to just launch it and get most of the benefit, as opposed to spending weeks, or months getting everything perfect. Right?

This is great in theory, however in order for it to work properly, you have to focus on the right 20%!

Over the last few weeks as I do every December, I review my highs and lows of the year, and get a plan together to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes in the new year.

Well this go around, I found some MASSIVE, GAPING HOLES in my business.  Holes that cost me a ton of money.

I’ve found that often the things that are easiest to do, are not the ones you should be focusing on when you’re going the 80/20 route.

Location Rebel is the perfect example of this.

For the last year I’ve been adding to the blueprints, refining the content, chatting in the forums – all things that are great for the existing members, and stuff I should be doing regardless – however, it’s the wrong 20% to be focusing on if I’m looking to maximize sales and income.

Since the inception of the site I haven’t changed a single aspect of the site’s marketing.

I haven’t tested any headline or copy changes, I haven’t tried paid advertising, I haven’t tried different opt-in offers or to professionalize the look and feel of the site.

THIS is the stuff that’s going to make an impact.

I made dozens of sales of the program when it was in it’s first stage – 8 blueprints, few extras.  Now we have going on 13 blueprints and a TON of extra content.

Obviously, I don’t need all of this extra stuff to get people to buy.

The course has more than enough content, and it’s easily one of the best values out there in this space.

The problem is it’s easier to build new content or modules, and logically, it makes sense. More is better, right?

The reality is that all of these updates do very little to encourage sales.  People love it when they’re inside, but these generally aren’t the things that sway a buyer.

I was focused on the wrong 20%.

I should have been testing and optimzing the marketing, not the product itself.

Even minor tweaks have the chance of doubling my conversion rate, and thus doubling my sales and income from this site alone.

The Worst Services Page Evah

The Location Rebel marketing isn’t the only thing I neglected this year.

When I relaunched Location 180 in June of 2011 I overhauled the About page and added a new services page.

In order to get everything done in time for the launch I threw the pages up in a couple hours and swore I’d come back to them to refine.

Well here I am coming back to them, 18 months later. Not cool.

These days I don’t feel like the About page is as engaging as it should be, and it isn’t as good of a representation of my site and business as I feel like it should be.

Had I spent more time really trying to appeal to you, the reader, as opposed to talking about myself over and over, I think long term engagement would be higher, and traffic would increase dramatically as a result.

An even bigger issue however is the Services page.  Apart from being the most vague services page ever, it details that I offer two types of services: SEO and Lifestyle Business Consulting.

The reality?

For the most part, I don’t do either of those things these days.

It’s taken me three years, but I’ve really hit my stride with the consulting space.

My business partner Derek and I work with people who have very successful offline businesses, and make them successful online.  We charge a lot of money and have some killer case studies, but it doesn’t say anything about that on this site.

The vast majority of my clients I’ve met in offline arenas – imagine if I’d actually had a page that portrayed what we do in an engaging manner?

We’re talking thousands of dollars in increased revenue.

However, once again, because I wasn’t focused on the right 20%, I’ve missed out.

The Difference Between Year One and Year Three

One thing I’ve learned while thinking about this is that there are very fundamental differences for a business in year one vs one one year three or later.

When you’re first getting setup you can 80/20 the hell out of everything, because you’re starting with nothing.

It doesn’t really matter where you spend your energy, because you’re starting nothing – no matter what you’ll make quick progress.

I took this mentality, and was able to get a lot of content out, create some fun side businesses, and in less than a year from leaving my job, make a livable wage – even if my business wasn’t anywhere close to as optimized as it could have been.

However, once you hit year three – you have to be more selective with your time.  If you’re continuing with this mentality, you have to make sure you’re focusing on the right aspects of your business – or else you’ll face stagnation.

There comes a time when it’s absolutely essential to start focusing on the right details.

This is difficult for me personally as the nitty, gritty details are not necessarily one of my strong suits.  Generally the 20% you need to focus on is not necessarily the easy thing to focus on.

It’s much easier to write a blog post or create a new module for LR, than it is to build a marketing funnel.

This last week in Breckenridge helped me come to some very life changing realizations.

I’m much farther along than I think. I’m more successful than I realize.  I just haven’t capitalized on it.

I haven’t spent the time and mental energy to get to 100%.

Once I hit that, there’s no telling what can happen.

What This Means for You

I’m excited, no really excited, about 2013.

I’ve finally made the mindset shift necessary to take things to the next level.

It’s been a gradual evolution that is still in the works, but it’s one I truly feel is making this a stronger, more useful business.

The posts from the last couple months may be a little more infrequent, but the content is also much more actionable (usually) than some of the stuff in the past.

You’ll be seeing a greater sense of professionalism in all of my products. An increased dedication to helping you achieve your lifestyle goals, as well as more targeted focus.

I’ve been pretty broad with my target audience – to my detriment.  This site isn’t for just anyone. It’s for people that refuse to settle for alright, or ok.  It’s for people that want full control over their life. And it’s definitely for people who want to experience this control and freedom through their own online business.

2013 will see us focusing much more on this target person and having a hell of a lot of fun in the process.

With that, consider what you’ve been leaving on the table.  Are there aspects of your life you’ve been 80/20ing that are keeping you from the success you know you deserve?

If you’re comfortable with it, I’d love to hear about your struggles with this.  Shoot me an email or leave a comment below!

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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13 comments on "How the 80/20 Principle Cost Me Over $100,000 This Year"

  1. Liz says:

    Hey Sean,
    This really strikes a cord in me.
    When it comes to testing things and picking the right choice, I usually don’t know where to start and I put it off for later. When I do look at stats, I have no idea how to interpret them and finding a way feels too hard and less of a priority than guest posting or creating content.
    I also haven’t updated my about page since I’ve started, and I know that needs work. I promise to get around to it, but again, something that feels much more important comes up.
    This is one area I’m going to take action on immediately before it gets any worse. Thanks for sharing your story 🙂


    1. Sean says:

      Glad to hear I’m not the only one 🙂

      It’s hard because thats the stuff that isn’t really pressing, so it keeps getting put off. The reality however is that its things like this that are actually the MOST pressing, we just dont view it that way.

      1. Liz says:

        I don’t mean to be pushy, but there’s another aspect about this that a lot of people struggle with (and by that I mean me). That’s knowing what you’re testing for and what is ‘good.’ Especially when you’re first starting out. 8 months ago I had no presence on the internet. Now I have a pretty good presence and it’s getting better all the time. But still I struggle to define what ‘success’ looks like for me. So even if I do test, what am I looking for? Subscriber conversion rate or number of subscribers? Engagement or traffic? Bounce rate or time spent on site?

        I think you should create a product to REALLY help bloggers define their goals according to the movement they’re trying to create, along with case studies and examples of goals from all kinds of bloggers in all kinds of niches. I’d buy it. Let me know if you need help. I can be a case study. I think it would be insanely valuable.

  2. Dave says:

    Sean, first of all, it’s great to see that you’re still holding yourself accountable and working to improve. Once you’re having good success, it’s easy to get carried away, but you’ve taken the time to analyze your mistakes, while still acknowledging your victories, and figured out what you need to improve. That sets a great example for your readers who are traveling along a similar path.

    I’ve been focusing on the content for my blog, which has done well and continued to gain popularity. However, I’ve neglected to come up with an email opt-in such as a free eBook in order to get people to subscribe. I’ve also waited far too long to construct a consulting page.

    It’s easy to 80/20 your life and go for the easy things first. But that is not what garners great results. I’m getting my consulting page together this week as well as a free eBook to build my subscriber list.

    Thanks for the motivation!


  3. Greg Lenz says:

    I’m in the same boat. I’ve tried to learn to code dozens of times, but get frustrated and stop when I hit a technical dead end.

  4. Shayna says:

    Great point, and one thing I would add is that “which 20%” can change over time.

    For example, when developing a completely NEW product, yes you do need to focus more on getting the offer / content right – all the button color A / B tests in the world won’t make up for a product no one wants!

    However, now that you have a proven product in Location Rebel, your key 20% is definitely optimization of the marketing and conversion process. It’s a different stage of a business’ lifetime.

  5. Great read Sean! I am glad role see I am not the only one with a huge list of to do’s!

    The challenge really is balancing where it is you focus your attention. Some of the things you mention like split testing landing pages or if you were to use paid traffic you could spend hours and hours optimising but you need to find a balance on the time invested versus the return.

    This is not just a challenge for bloggers or solo entrepreneurs but even large corporations struggle with figuring out how to allocate resources to these types of things effectively!

  6. Chas says:

    A bit of honesty here. I have learned a lot from about the same time as you started Location 180. I fell for a con-game of making a ton of money from affiliate marketing online and learned how difficult it actually is and the huge volume of targeted traffic it actually takes to get conversions. I knew next to nothing about code, SEO, marketing, split testing, etc., etc. Now I at least know next to next to nothing.
    My whole focus was way off base and had nothing to do with my personality, passions and interests. Recently my LinkedIn account has been ‘temporarily restricted’ for no apparent reason and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really belong on that site and it’s for the best anyway. I have joined instead and find it to be a better fit for me and my interests.
    I am also working on another site that is more in tune with my core values and interests. I am wondering how long it will take Gravatar to redirect to my new site once it is up and running and I have made the necessary changes to my Gravatar account, however. If anyone has experience with this, I would love to hear about it. Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough, now and a bit off-track. Thank you for your insights, Sean, as well as those from your many varied readers.

  7. Carrie Smith says:

    Once again Sean, your honesty and openness about your business is exactly what I needed to hear. I can totally relate and this is where I’ve been with my online business as well. Although I’ve only been doing it for about a year and a half, I did pretty much the same stuff you did – threw it up there and swore to learn more/do better.

    Thankfully, I redesigned my site, which went live a few days ago, and am now working with a marketing genius to make my site more personal while testing conversion rates. I also had to update my services page because I realized (thanks to Derek Halpern) that I should only display my strengths and focus on the services I rock!

    Anyways, thanks for sharing your experiences. I know I’m on the right track too!

    1. Sean says:

      Congrats on the new site! And you’re obviously listening to the right people if you’re taking Derek’s advice. I’ve been stealing some of his strategies as well for my own products and services.

  8. Therese says:

    Hey, Sean. I’m excited for your 2013 too! Looking forward to seeing the changes you make and the lessons you learn. I, too, will be focusing on getting a handle on conversion tracking and split testing this coming year, now that I have an initial product in place. Weee!

    Happy holidays–


    1. Sean says:


      Excited to hear that the new product is underway and can’t wait to hear about how the big launch goes early next year! Keep me posted 🙂

  9. I guess in the end we’ll need experience if we want to find that perfect 20%.

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