Tag Archive | "Million"

‘Ninja’ Tyler Blevins Could be First $10 Million a Year Fortnite Gamer

The best Fortnite player in the world, ‘Ninja’ Tyler Blevins, says he currently makes more than $ 500,000 a month and may just become the world’s first $ 10 million a year gamer. Ninja has over 20 million subscribers to his YouTube channel and a reported 200,000+ paying subscribers watching Blevins livestream on Twitch.

‘Ninja’ Tyler Blevins, coming off appearances on Ellen and Jimmy Fallon, discussed his Fortnite success and wealth in an interview on CNN Business:

Blevins Makes More than $ 500,000 a Month

Losing tens of thousands of dollars sitting for this interview is a perfect assumption. With Fortnite alone I’ve streamed 3,400 hours this past year. That’s 142 days of gaming and streaming. On a good month I make more than $ 500,000 a month.

When I started making more than $ 80,000 a year streaming and gaming was the deciding factor in leaving college and quitting my job at Noodles & Company. That was the deciding factor by my Mom. By no means was she going to let me quit my job or drop out of school.

I say “drop out of school,” I don’t even like that because I always had every intention of going back. I actually did go back when I had an eye issue thing and my stream took a dive. After hitting $ 80,000 a year I said Mom, I’m doing this until I make less and then I will go back.

Could be the First $ 10 Million a Year Gamer

I definitely could be the first $ 10 million a year gamer. It’s rare that I meet people that don’t know what I’m doing. But if I had a dollar every time I was at an airport and someone asks what I’m doing. I say I’m going to a tournament. I answer it’s a video game tournament. They are amazed I make money playing video games. The gaming tournament explanation is simple. A bunch of people buy a team pass. That money goes into the prize pool winner take all.

70 Percent of Revenue Comes from Twitch and YouTube

Streaming is the hardest part for people to understand. How do you make money streaming? The answer is ad revenue. There are going to be ads in commercial breaks. Those advertising companies pay the network and it’s the same way with streaming. However many people see the ads, you get money there. Also, people can subscribe.

I make most of my money from Twitch and YouTube. It’s constant, it’s consistent, it’s monthly. About 70 percent of my money comes from Twitch and YouTube together. And then like brand deals with Red Bull and others make up the rest. It’s really simple, it’s like subscribing to a magazine, Spotify, or anything like that. It’s the same thing.

My favorite reference is a guy on the street playing the violin. He’s not expected to get any money, maybe a couple of bucks. If you enjoy it a lot sometimes people will throw in twenty’s and five’s. It’s the same thing with me, but I absolutely have a big violin case.

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Google buys expert community and ‘answer engine’ Superpod for $60 million

The speculation is that Superpod founders and assets will be used to improve Google Assistant.



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This 7-Year-Old Kid Raked in $22 Million Reviewing Toys on YouTube

A 7-year-old is proving that you’re never too young to become an entrepreneur.

Ryan, the star of Ryan ToysReview, is reported to be the highest-paid person on YouTube. According to a Forbes report, the tyke has made $ 22 million from June 2017 to June 2018.

The premise behind Ryan’s YouTube videos is very simple. He’s presented with a toy and plays with them. During the process, he gives his impression of the product. An unseen person sometimes prompts him but the videos are purely Ryan – his reactions and impressions.

Like any regular boy, he does have some preferences when it comes to toys. The description on his channel states that he “loves Cars, Trains, Thomas and Friends, Lego, Superheroes, Disney toys, open surprise eggs, play-doh, Pixar, Disney cars, Disney Planes, monster trucks, minions.” His channel has also branched out to include food for kids.

The idea behind the YouTube channel came about simply. In 2015, a then 4-year-old Ryan saw a toy review video and wondered why he can’t do his own reviews.

Since his parents launched his channel in March 2015, Ryan has garnered 17.3 million followers and has acquired over 25 billion views. His personal channel is also a very active one, with Ryan, or more accurately his parents, uploading a video almost daily.

Ryan is just another example of how videos can rake in serious revenue. There are other YouTubers who have almost the same clout as Ryan, like Jake Paul ($ 21.5 million), Dude Perfect ($ 20 million), DanTDM ($ 18.5 million), and Jeffree Star ($ 18 million).

Ryan’s toy review videos have also been instrumental in opening other doors for him. He now has a line of toys and clothes that are sold exclusively at Walmart. He also signed a deal with Pocket.watch and his videos are set to be repackaged and distributed on Amazon and Hulu.

But what is it that makes the little entrepreneur’s videos popular? According to Ryan, he’s “entertaining” and “funny.” It could also be that people love watching unboxing videos. So far, his most popular toy review is one where be opened several huge eggs that contained more than 100 toys from Paw Patrol and Disney’s Cars. This video received almost 935 million views.

One marketing expert suggested that unboxing videos are universal in their appeal. Children who might not be able to own a particular toy will be able to experience the next best thing when they watch Ryan – the chance to see someone else happily playing with it.

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DuckDuckGo reaches 30 million queries per day

DuckDuckGo, the privacy focused search engine, keeps growing steadily.



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The Anatomy of a $97 Million Page: A CRO Case Study

Posted by jkuria

In this post, we share a CRO case study from Protalus, one of the fastest-growing footwear companies in the world. They make an insole that corrects the misalignment suffered by roughly 85% of the population. Misalignment is the cause of most back, knee, and foot pain. Back pain alone is estimated to be worth $ 100 billion a year.


Summary

  • We (with Protalus’ team) increased direct sales by 91% in about 6 months through one-click upsells and CRO.
  • Based on the direct sales increase, current run-rate revenue, the “Virtuous Cycle of CRO”-fueled growth rate, and revenue multiple for their industry, we estimate this will add about $ 97 million to the company’s valuation over the next 12–18 months*.
  • A concrete example of the Virtuous Cycle of CRO: Before we increased the conversion rate and average order value, Google Adwords was not a viable channel. Now it is, opening a whole new floodgate of profitable sales! Ditto for at least two other channels. In part due to our work, Protalus’ annual run-rate revenue has grown by 1,212% in less than a year.

* Protalus’ core product is differentiated, patent protected, and high margin. They also have a strong brand and raving fans. In the Shoes & Apparel category, they’re most similar to Lululemon Athletica, which has a 4x plus revenue multiple. While Nike and Under Armor engage in a bloody price war and margin-eroding celebrity endorsements, Lululemon commands significantly higher prices than its peers, without big-name backers! Business gurus Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger often say that the true test of a defensive moat around a business is “Can you raise prices without hurting sales?” Protalus has this in spades. They’ve raised prices several times while simultaneously increasing units sold — from $ 39 to $ 49 to $ 59 to $ 69 to $ 79 to $ 99 to $ 119.


One-click upsells: A 21% sales boost

When we do engagements, the first order of business to uncover low-hanging fruit growth opportunities. This accomplishes two things:

  1. It helps the client get an immediate ROI on the engagement
  2. It earns us goodwill and credibility within the company. We then have wide latitude to run the big, bold experiments that produce huge conversion lifts

In Protalus’ case, we determined they were not doing post-purchase one-click upsells. Adding these immediately boosted sales by 21%. Here’s how we did it:

  • On their main sales landing page, Protalus has an offer where you get $ 30 off on the second pair of insoles, as well as free expedited shipping for both. About 30% of customers were taking this offer.
  • For those who didn’t, right after they purchased but BEFORE they got to the “Thank You” page, we presented the offer again, which led to the 21% sales increase.

Done correctly, one-click upsells easily boost sales, as customers do not have to re-enter credit card details. Here’s the best way to do them: The Little Secret that Made McDonalds a $ 106 Billion Behemoth.

Below is the final upsell page that got the 21% sales increase:

A screenshot of a cell phone Description generated with very high confidence

We tested our way to it. The key effective elements are:

1. Including “free upgrade to expedited shipping” in the headline: 145% lift

The original page had it lower in the body copy:

Google Experiments screenshot showing 145% lift

2. Adding celebrity testimonials: 60% lift

Google Experiments screenshot showing a 60% lift

Elisabeth Howard’s (Ms. Senior America) unsolicited endorsement is especially effective because about 60% of Protalus’ customers are female and almost one-third are retired. We uncovered these gems by reviewing all 11,000 (at the time) customers’ testimonials.

3. Explaining the reasons why other customers bought additional insoles.

See the three bulleted reasons on the first screenshot (convenience, different models, purchasing for loved ones).


Radical re-design and long-form page: A 58% conversion lift

With the upsells producing positive ROI for the client, we turned to re-designing the main sales page. The new page produced a cumulative lift of 58%, attained in two steps.

[Step 1] 35% lift: Long-form content-rich page

Optimizely screenshot shows 35% lift at 99% statistical significance

Note that even after reaching 99% statistical significance, the lift fluctuated between 33% and 37%, so we’ll claim 35%.

[Step 2] 17% lift: Performance improvements

The new page was quite a bit longer, so its “fully loaded” time increased a lot — especially on mobile devices with poor connections. A combination of lazy loading, lossless image shrinking, CSS sprites, and other ninja tactics led to a further 17% lift.

These optimizations reduced the page load time by 40% and shrunk the size by a factor of 4x!

The total cumulative lift was therefore 58% (1.35 x 1.17 = 1.58).

With the earlier 21% sales gain from one-click upsells, that’s a 91% sales increase (1.21 x 1.35 x 1.17 = 1.91).


Dissecting the anatomy of the winning page

To determine what vital few elements to change, we surveyed the non-converting visitors. Much of the work in A/B testing is the tedious research required to understand non-converting visitors.

“Give me six hours to chop a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

All CRO practitioners would do well to learn from good, ol’ honest Abe! We used Mouseflow’s feedback feature to survey bouncing visitors from the main landing page and the check-out page. The top objection themes were:

  1. Price is too high/product too expensive
  2. Not sure it will work (because others didn’t work before)
  3. Not sure it will work for my specific condition
  4. Difficulty in using website

We then came up with specific counter-objections for each: A landing page is a “salesmanship in digital print,” so many of the techniques that work in face-to-face selling also apply.

On a landing page, though, you must overcorrect because you lack the back- and-forth conversation in a live selling situation. Below is the list of key elements on the winning page.

1. Price is too high/product is too expensive

This was by far the biggest objection, cited by over 50% of all respondents. Thus, we spent a disproportionate amount of effort and page real estate on it.

Protalus’ insoles cost $ 79, whereas Dr. Scholls (the 100-year-old brand) cost less than $ 10. When asked what other products they considered, customers frequently said Dr. Scholls.

Coupled with this, nearly one-third of customers are retired and living on a fixed income.

“I ain’t gonna pay no stinkin’ $ 79! They cost more than my shoes,” one visitor remarked.

To overcome the price objection, we did a couple of things.

Articulated the core value proposition and attacked the price from the top

When prospects complain about price it simply means that they do not understand or appreciate the the product’s value proposition. They are seeing this:

The product’s cost exceeds the perceived value

To effectively deal with price, you must tilt the scale so that it looks like this instead:

The perceived value exceeds cost

While the sub-$ 10 Dr. Scholls was the reference point for many, we also learned that some customers had tried custom orthotics ($ 600 to $ 3,000) and Protalus’ insoles compared favorably.

We therefore decided our core value proposition would be:

“Avoid paying $ 600 for custom orthotics. Protalus insoles are almost as effective but cost 87% less.”

…forcing the $ 600 reference point, instead of the $ 10 for Dr. Scholls. In the conversion rate heuristic we use, the value proposition is the single biggest lever.

We explained all this from a “neutral” educational standpoint (rather than a salesy one) in three steps:

1. First, we use “market data” to explain the cause of most pain and establish that custom orthotics are more effective than over-the-counter insoles. Market data is always more compelling than product data, so you should lead with it.

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2. Next, like a good trial lawyer, we show why Protalus insoles are similar to custom orthotics but cost 87% less:

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3. Finally, we deal with the “elephant in the room” and explain how Protalus insoles are fundamentally different from Dr. Scholls:

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We also used several verbatim customer testimonials to reinforce this point:

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Whenever possible, let others do your bragging!

Attacked price from the bottom

Here, we used a technique known as “break the price down to the ridiculous.” $ 79 is just 44 cents per day, less than a K-cup of coffee — which most people consume once or twice a day! This makes the price more palatable.

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML32cd1f37.PNG

Used the quality argument

The quality technique is from Zig Ziglar’s Sales Training. You say to a prospect:

“Many years ago, our company/founder/founding team made a basic decision. We decided it would be easier to use the highest quality materials and explain price one time than it would be to apologize for low quality forever. When you use the product/service, you’ll be glad we made that decision.”

It’s especially effective if the company has a well-known “maker” founder (like Yvon Chouinardat at Patagonia). It doesn’t work as well for MBAs or suits, much as we need them!

Protalus’ founder Chris Buck designed the insoles and has a cult-like following, so it works for him.

Dire outcomes of not taking action

Here we talked about the dire outcomes if you do not get the insoles; for example, surgery, doctors’ bills, and lost productivity at work! Many customers work on their feet all day (nurses, steelworkers, etc.) so this last point is highly relevant.

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML3717c03d.PNG

Microsoft employed this technique successfully against Linux in the early 2000s. While Linux was free, the “Total Cost of Ownership” for not getting Windows was much higher when you considered support, frequent bugs, less accountability, fewer feature updates, and so on.

2. Not sure the product will work

For this objection, we did the following:

Used Dr. Romansky

We prominently featured Dr. Romansky, Protalus’ resident podiatrist. A consultant to the US Men’s and Women’s soccer teams and the Philadephia Phillies baseball team, he has serious credibility.

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML371d6ed4.PNG

The “educational” part of the landing page (above the fold) is done in “his voice.” Before, only his name appeared on a rarely visited page. This is an example of a “hidden wealth” opportunity!

Used celebrity testimonials on the main landing page

Back in 1997, a sports writer asked Phil Knight (Nike’s founder): “Is there no better way for you to spend $ 100 million?”

You see, Knight had just paid that staggering sum to a young Tiger Woods — and it seemed extravagant!

Knight’s answer? An emphatic “No!” That $ 100 million would generate several billion dollars in sales for Nike over the next decade!

Celebrity testimonials work. Period.

Since our celebrity endorsements increased the one-click upsell take-rate by 60%, we also used them on the main page:

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Used expert reviews

We solicited and included expert reviews from industry and medical professionals. Below are two of the four we used:

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These also helped address the price concern because some site visitors had expressed discomfort paying so much for an over-the-counter product without doctor recommendation.

3. Not sure the product will work for me

This is different from “Not sure the product will work” and needs to be treated separately. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it is that everyone thinks their situation is one-in-a-million unique!

We listed all the conditions that Protalus insoles address, as well as those they do not.

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML37353580.PNG

In addition, we clearly stated that the product does not work for 15% of the population.

By conspicuously admitting this (NOT just in the fine print section!) you are more credible. This is expressed in the Prospect’s Protest as:

“First tell me what your product CANNOT do and I might believe you when you tell me what it can do!”

4. Difficulty in using the site

Several visitors reported difficulty using the site, so we used Mouseflow’s powerful features to detect and fix usability issues.

Interestingly, the visitor session recordings confirmed that price was a big issue as we could clearly see prospects navigate to the price, stare incredulously, and then leave!

Accentuate the customers’ reasons for buying

Most of the opportunity in CRO is in the non-converting visitors (often over 90%), but understanding converting ones can yield crucial insights.*

For Protalus, the top reasons for buying were:

  • Desperation/too much leg, knee, or back pain/willing to try anything (This is the 4M, for “motivation,” in the strategic formula we use)
  • The testimonials were persuasive
  • Video was convincing

On the last point, the Mouseflow heatmaps showed that those who watched the video bought at a much higher rate, yet few watched it.

We therefore placed the video higher above the fold, used an arrow to draw attention, and inserted a sub-headline:

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML373cd9dc.PNG

A million-dollar question we ask buyers is:

“Was there any reason you ALMOST DID NOT buy?”

Devised by Cambridge-educated Dr. Karl Blanks, who coined the term “conversion rate optimization” in 2006, this question earned him a knighthood from the Queen of England! Thanks, Sir Karl!

It’s a great question because its answer is usually the reason many others didn’t buy. For every person who almost didn’t buy for reason X, I guarantee at least three others did not buy!

Given the low response rates when surveying non-converting visitors, this question helps get additional intelligence. In our case, price came up again.

*Sometimes the customers’ reasons for buying will surprise you. One of our past clients is in the e-cigarette/vaping business and a common reason cited by men for vaping was “to quit smoking because of my young daughter.” They almost never said “child” or “son”! Armed with this knowledge, we converted a whole new segment of smokers who had not considered vaping.

Speed testimonials

One of the most frequently asked questions was “How soon can I expect relief?” While Protalus addressed this in their Q&A section, we included conspicuous “speed testimonials” on the main page:

C:\Users\jkuri\AppData\Local\Temp\SNAGHTML37a1de17.PNG

For someone in excruciating pain, the promise of fast relief is persuasive!

Patent protection exclusivity & social proof

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Many of Protalus’ site visitors are older and still prefer to buy in physical stores, as we learned from our survey. They may like the product, but then think “I’ll buy them at the store.” We clarified that the product is only available on Protalus’ site.

Mentioning the patent-protection added exclusivity, one of the two required elements for a compelling value proposition.

At its core, landing page optimization isn’t about optimizing pages. A page just happens to be the medium used to optimize thought sequences in the prospect’s mind.

Dr. Flint likes to say, “The geography of the page determines the chronology of thought sequences in the prospect’s mind.” As shown above, we repeated the social proof elements at the point of purchase.

Tying it all together

After systematically addressing each objection and adding various appeal elements, we strung them all in the cohesive long-form page below.

We start with a powerful headline and Elisabeth’s story because it’s both intriguing and relevant to Protalus’ audience, which skews female and over 55. The only goal of a headline is to get visitors to read what comes next — NOT to sell.

The product’s price is not mentioned until we have told a compelling story, educated visitors and engaged them emotionally.

Note that the winning page is several times longer than the control. There is a mistaken belief that you “just need to get to the point” because people won’t read long pages. In fact, a previous consultant told Protalus that their sales were low because the “buy button” wasn’t high enough on the page. :-)

Nothing could be further from the truth. For a high-priced product, you must articulate a compelling value proposition before you sell!

But also note the page is “as long as necessary, but as short as possible.” Buy buttons are sprinkled liberally after the initial third of the page so that those who are convinced needn’t “sit through the entire presentation.”


Acknowledgement

We’d like to thank team Protalus for giving us wide latitude to conduct bold experiments and for allowing us to publish this. Their entrepreneurial culture has been refreshing. We are most grateful to Don Vasquez, their forward-thinking CMO (and minority owner), for trusting the process and standing by us when the first test caused some revenue loss.

Thanks to Hayk Saakian, Nick Jordan, Yin-so Chen, and Jon Powell for reading drafts of this piece.


Free CRO audit

I can’t stress this enough: CRO is hard work. We spent countless hours on market research, studied visitor behavior, and reviewed tens of thousands of customer comments before we ran a single A/B test. We also solicited additional testimonials from industry experts and doctors. There is no magical silver bullet — just lots of little lead ones!

Results like this don’t happen by accident. If you are unhappy with your current conversion rate for sales, leads or app downloads, first, we encourage you to review the tried-and-true strategic formula. Next, we would like to offer Moz readers a free CRO audit. We’ll also throw in a free SEO (Search Engine Optimization) review. While we specialize in CRO, we’ve partnered with one of the best SEO firms due to client demand. Lastly, we are hiring. Review the roles and reasons why you should come work for us!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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Google AMP has reached 125 million documents & is expanding to apps & recipe pages

AMP is growing and expanding, here are some of the latest information from Richard Gingras of Google out of Google I/O.

The post Google AMP has reached 125 million documents & is expanding to apps & recipe pages appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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DOE to spend $7 million on North Alaska solar power, where it’s dark 24/7 all winter




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The Department of Energy reported Monday that it will give $ 7 million dollars in specialized backing for sun oriented force boards for Native Alaskan tribes that might be helpful for a large portion of the year. That is on the grounds that these sun based boards are in the most distant north of the state, where it’s dull every minute of every day amid the winter:

The parts of Alaska where the DOE intends to spend the cash have nearly 24 hours of darkness in the winter, which is precisely when Alaskans need the most electricity. Alaska has nearly 24 hours of sunlight during the summer, but that’s when demand for power is at its lowest point as there’s no need to crank up the heat. Alaska’s harsh winters make the state’s per capita energy consumption the third highest in the nation.

The villages which will receive the cash influx don’t actually have much demand for power and are currently reliant upon diesel generators.

At the end of the day, the sun oriented boards will be futile when Alaskans need control the most. Be that as it may, they’ll work fabulously when force isn’t required.

Moreover, while northern Alaska has a huge measure of sun based force potential, as per a DOE study the sun powered boards will require diesel generators as reinforcement in the winter. Also, the study doesn’t analyze whether the system will spare Native Alaskan tribes cash or if the examination would even be monetarily practical.

Sounds like an incredible thought!

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Online Marketing News: Introduction From Instagram, DuckDuckGo Goes Past 10 Million, Pinterest Pins Partners

Social For Customer Acquisition

How to Utilize Social Media for Customer Acquisition – One of the biggest reasons we all do social media marketing is to find new customers for our products or services. Maybe it is the biggest reason. It comes before social customer service, because without finding customers in the first place, we’d have no one to serve. This infographic from Salesforce Canada gives some insight into the process of acquiring customers via social media. Salesforce Canada

Facebook Makes Ads Manager, Power Editor Easier to Use – Facebook Thursday announced significant updates to its Ads Manager and Power Editor tools to create and manage ads on the social network. SocialTimes

Google Launches YouTube Newswire To Verify Eyewitness Videos – YouTube has started a video news service to showcase the most interesting clips recorded and posted by eyewitnesses at events unfolding around the world. In partnership with the social news group Storyful, YouTube Newswire will be “a curated feed of the most newsworthy eyewitness videos of the day, which have been verified by Storyful’s team of editors,” a blog post said. cnet

Facebook Tests Auto-Filling Marketing Forms With People’s Profile Info – A lot of marketers build their businesses by getting people to sign up for things like email newsletters. It’s a way to get people’s contact information so that the marketer can keep in contact with them and try to make them a customer. Now Facebook’s going to make it easier for marketers to collect that contact information. Ad Age

Introducing Instagram’s All-New Search and Explore – This week Instagram announced two major updates to Instagram: the all-new Explore page, with trending Tags and Places, and more powerful search that makes it easier to find the people, places, and tags you’re looking for. Get more details on the Instagram blog. Instagram

Facebook Rolls Out Author Tags: A New Way to Grow Your Following – Facebook has introduced a way for publishers to grow their audience with a new feature called Author Tags. When implemented on a website, Author Tags allow people to easily follow the author of a piece of content they found on Facebook. Facebook

Twitter To Let Users Follow Live Events, Not Just People – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) will start curating tweets on live events, the microblogging service said, as it plans major changes to make its real-time news feed more user friendly. Reuters

Facebook Unveils Vision For Immersive Mobile Ads – The social network is showing mockups of interactive mobile ad formats at Cannes Lion advertising festival in France. Marketing Land

Pinterest Streamlines & Simplifies Its Search Interface – New search enhancements from Pinterest make finding the right type of information quicker and more accurate thanks to the first ever inclusion of spellcheck. Marketing Land

Twitter Testing New Ways To Make It Easier To Discover Products and Places – Last week Twitter is beginning to test two ways to make it easier for you to discover rich and relevant content about products and places on Twitter. Twitter

DuckDuckGo Surpasses 10 Million Daily Queries – DuckDuckGo, the privacy focused search engine, hits a major milestone – reaching 10 million daily queries. Search Engine Journal

Instagram Ads to Get More Focused with Facebook Targeting Options – Get ready, your Instagram advertising options are about to get a lot more specific. Ahead of the Cannes Lions Festival this week, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson has said that Facebook’s targeting data will soon be available for use on Instagram.  Social Media Today

Pinterest Announces Marketing Developer Partners for Ads – Pinterest announced that 4C, Adaptly, Ampush, Brand Networks, HYFN, Kinetic Social, SocialCode and SocialFlow are the first Marketing Developer Partners using the company’s ads API. SocialTimes

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Salesforce Canada


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Google Penalty Hits eBay’s Bottom Line, May Cost Up To $200 Million In Revenue

Earlier this year, eBay was hit with a search penalty by Google. The loss of traffic resulting from that has been noticeable enough that eBay acknowledged it in a financial call this week, suggesting it may have cost up to $ 200 million in revenue. eBay also said it plans to improve its efforts in…



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From Zero to a Million: 20 Lessons for Starting an Internet Marketing Agency

Posted by NiftyMarketing

Mike’s disclaimer: This is not a post about how awesome I am, or how there is only one way to build an internet marketing agency. It’s a combination of stories and thoughts about what I have gone through building Nifty Marketing.

When I started in 2009 there was very little information online about starting, running, or growing an Internet Marketing Agency. The ones that did exist were from superstars that charged a billion dollars an hour. I am not a superstar. My company started in Burley, Idaho. Here’s a rap about my town I wrote.

My hope with this post is that a few of you who are out there hustling will benefit from doing some of the things that I did, and most of the things that I didn’t.

Start smart

I was in my final semester at BYU-Idaho and had accepted a job to be the chief marketing officer of Rove Pest Control after spending my summers during college as a door-to-door salesman for them. I thought my future was set. But, due to some changes at Rove I knew that I was going to have to have to find a different career. My wife was pregnant, we had just started building a house in Burley, and I had a full load of credits. My two favorite classes were a basic HTML class (that used Don’t Make Me Think as the textbook) and a web business class for which we had to start an online business and make/lose money. Naturally, as any true Idahoan would do, I started HugeIdahoPotato.com and sold potatoes bigger than heads to people across the country. The website sucks; I’m pretty sure I got it penalized within a year of creating it. But I fell in love with internet marketing in the process of building that site, and I keep it up as a remembrance of where I started.

Lesson 1: Start with a reason that’s more than money

After making around $ 100 on the site I knew that I had found my career choice. I also knew that I was going to live in Burley, Idaho, and that I wanted to bring non-agricultural jobs to the town. I can’t tell you how sad it is for many of my friends who grew up in a town they knew they couldn’t move back to if they wanted to make a decent living. I wanted to change that. I still do. It’s one of the main driving points for me. Of course you need to make money, but if that is the only thing you are looking for as a business owner then eventually you will fail. You will make decisions that aren’t for your clients, or for your staff, or for the community; you will get short-term gains and create a long term failure.

Lesson 2: Start by interning/working at an agency

This is possibly my biggest regret of my career. I started Nifty Marketing with literally no experience at all. I had no friends in the industry, I had no idea what I was doing, how SEO companies were structured, or even how to do anything beyond what I had learned in college. I dove into blogs, but at that time I didn’t know who to trust and read some really awful advice. I was not a good SEO. I was not a good PPC advertiser. I could have saved myself at least two years if I had worked for someone who could have pointed me in the right direction first.

Lesson 3: Focus on something specific

Business wasn’t going very well. I had a few clients, and I decided I needed some help, so I signed up for SEOBook. There was a feedback forum, so I posted my super-awful website for Nifty Marketing. I didn’t even own the domain at the time. (I had TheNiftyWay.com, and it wasn’t until later—by some good grace of the heavens—that the person who owned NiftyMarketing.com let it go, and I bought it for $ 7.99 with a GoDaddy code.) When I posted my site on SEOBook, I got brutal feedback. People told me it sucked. But someone in the forum said something that changed my life forever.

He said something like:

“You offer SEO, Web Design, and PPC. That is exactly the same as 100,000s of companies around the world, who by the looks of things are better than you at it. What can you be the best at? What can you become known for?”

The comment hit me like a ton of bricks. The few clients I had at the time were really small businesses in Idaho, and I had been spending a lot of time in Google Maps. I realized that I enjoyed that aspect of marketing, and was getting clients ranked. So, I redesigned my site, changed my messaging, and decided to focus. I became a local SEO.

Lesson 4: Start with networking, not cold calls

I remember quite vividly trying to use my door-to-door sales skills to try and cold call businesses to get work. I grabbed a phone book and called people with big ads and no websites because I figured that they had budget. What I found was that I was caller #5 for that week offering the same thing as everyone else. Worst of all, everyone “knew a guy who knows a guy who could do it” for them. So, I put away the phonebook and started talking to my friends and asking if they knew people who needed websites and marketing. That’s when leads started coming in. Then, I wrote an email to David Mihm on August 7, 2009, and asked him how I could become an expert in the local search field. This was his response:

The best advice I can give you is to optimize the local listings of a bunch of clients. The more you “play” in the space, the better you’ll get at teasing out the parts of the algorithm that really matter.

Beyond that, subscribe to these blogs:

http://www.blumenthals.com/blog
http://www.localsearchnews.net
http://gesterling.wordpress.com
http://www.searchinfluence.com/blog
http://solaswebdesign.net/wordpress
http://www.smallbusinesssem.com
http://www.hyperlocalblogger.com
http://www.sixthmanmarketing.com/blog
http://www.expand2web.com/blog
http://www.devbasu.com
http://www.martijnbeijk.com
http://www.seoverflow.com/blog

I immediately dove into every one of these sites and learned everything I possibly could about local search. I took notes, and then I started testing and haven’t ever stopped.

While doing that, I realized the most valuable networking lesson I ever learned was to simply share. I started blogging, which led to guest posts on SEJ, and I attended a few small conferences, one of which was the first ever LocalU. I offered to help any way that I could. Fast forward to 2013, and I am a LocalU Faculty Member and speak at conferences year-round. It isn’t because I am special. It’s because I am passionate about the space and I am willing to share information and help as much as I can. Almost every client we have at Nifty Marketing comes as a referral from clients, friends, blog posts, webinars, and conferences. Not one client came from a cold call. I will forever be in debt to David Mihm and the rest of the local search community for teaching me such a valuable lesson.

Lesson 5: It’s good to have funding, it’s better to have partners, and it’s best to bootstrap alone

From the first year of my business until now I have had opportunities to get funding and take on partners. I have never done it. I am not saying that it’s bad to do either of these things, but if you take a close look at our industry you will see that a lot of funded companies and partnerships don’t make it.

I remember very clearly going to dinner with some guys from Blueglass in my first year and thinking, “Man, I wish I could be part of that company.” And while I respect the founders a great deal they took a massive risk and it didn’t workout. Many of them had successful businesses before then, and while the idea of a Mega Company that can make tens or hundreds of millions is alluring, the chance of you being successful and earning more on your own is better. Sure, extremely fast growth and funding means you come to market quicker. But by growing at the slow rate of 2x per year (which isn’t that slow), I have been able to continually innovate and offer better services without taking do-or-die risks.

I am very glad I bootstrapped. I own 100% of my company. I can make 100% of the decisions about its future. I don’t have to pay a silent partner a large chunk that makes cash flow an issue. I don’t have to make short-term decisions for a board that hurts the long-term vision I have. And I make enough that I stopped caring about the money around year three; slow and steady wins the prize.

I know that there are many successful companies that haven’t gone the way of solo bootstrapping. At the top of the partnership list for me is Avalaunch Media. But in order to do what they have done you have get big enough to support multiple owners and find amazing partners that can all pull in the same direction. With around 50% of marriages failing, how many partnerships in business actually work out? They are definitely not the norm, and I respect them immensely for it.

Grow smarter

Lesson 6: You are in the business of providing a service, not SEO

I remember becoming a good SEO. I also remember getting amazing results for clients and still getting complaints from them. I thought they were the problem. Then I realized I was. I thought back to the days of pest control and remember the company training techs to take their time at customers’ houses. You see, you could service a house in 15 minutes or even less if you hustled. But if you did that, customers would complain that the work was sloppy and it shouldn’t cost so much. Instead, you should take your time, get down on your hands and knees, and look around. Take notes and pace yourself. Then, customers felt like the service was worth it. They weren’t paying for the product. They could buy the product at Home Depot. They were paying for the service.

Comparing this to Internet marketing, I knew I had done a great job gaining more traffic, but the clients had no idea what was being done. They didn’t understand what they were paying for and subsequently thought that I was unnecessary. Most small businesses don’t care or understand what a title tag, meta description, an exact match, a naked URL, duplicate content, etc is. So telling them you changed/created these in a report without actually showing them physical pictures is pointless.

We started creating custom reports with tons of arrows and screenshots explaining the work that we were doing. We starting giving them a complete list of the links and citations we were building. We stopped sending over a raw list of traffic counts and started providing analysis of the traffic that websites were getting, and our clients stopped complaining that they didn’t know what we were doing. Clear communication is what the business of service is all about.

Lesson 7: Read The E-myth

I was doing everything myself. Everything. Then, I tried to have some people on oDesk help me. My wife even did some of the citation work. The only problem was all the information was in my head. I had very little of the processes and information organized, and I didn’t have time to focus on organization when I had so much client work, sales, and bookkeeping to do. That is what The E-myth is about. It talks about the difference between being a technician and being a business owner. It talks about the need to build your business like a franchise with training manuals, easy to follow processes, and the need to not burn yourself or your first few employees out.

When I read this book, I changed my business, and I have never looked back. We were able to start hiring people locally instead of having contractors on oDesk, and we centralized information and grew. While we aren’t perfect at systems and delegation, we could have never grown without improvement in those areas. It’s still the case.

Lesson 8: Raise your prices; raise your minimums

When I was the only employee in my company, doing everything myself, I could still make good margins and be the lowest price around. I took clients at $ 200-$ 500 per month, built some websites, and put tons of hours in, and as long as I could get to where I had $ 40-50k per year in revenue, I had a decent wage for Burley. That was my first goal. I could be flexible with what I made and could literally have no cost other than a couple of tools and my personal time. Employees, though, cost more than time. Employees cost money. And regardless of how much money you bring in, an employee’s wage is constant. If I wanted employees that were good, there way no way I could maintain my pricing and minimums, providing the level of service that was needed. We had to raise prices. We changed our minimum to $ 1,500 and determined that we would do work for no less than $ 100 per hour. The types of clients got better, and we had enough revenue to bring in talented people who increased the quality of our work. I know that many SEO firms/companies can charge a lot more than $ 100 per hour, and we do as well, depending on the type of project—but for the average small/medium business this is a price that they can afford and you can do good work for.

Lesson 9: Learn when to pass on bad clients

When I was hungry I took whatever client walked through the door. I took abuse. Emails that called me names, clients who would not listen to my advice and would then blame me when things went wrong. Clients that paid three or four months late but would complain when I didn’t answer my phone on the first ring.

I kept them because I felt like I had to have the revenue. What I didn’t realize is that if I had taken the time I was putting into their project and put it elsewhere, I could have replaced the revenue plus a lot more and had a much better quality of life.

If you are not happy, then no amount of money will make up for it, so fire your bad clients, pass on the red flags, and figure something else out. Remember Lesson 1.

Retain

Lesson 10: Be trustworthy

The fastest way to lose clients and employees is to lie to them. If you want both to stick with you through thick and thin, then there has to be 100% trust. I personally think that the more transparent you can be all around the more you will be trusted.

One of our core values at Nifty is to be “willingly naked.” Not literally, but figuratively. We have to be willing to share what we learn, take feedback, tell our clients the brutal truth even if we know they don’t want to hear it. But you have to be willing to take feedback yourself.

Lesson 11: Reward your team

I am not going to pretend to be good at this. I know I should say “thank you” about a thousand times more than I do. Instead, I find myself more apt to criticize when things go poorly. It’s something I am hoping to constantly get better at. The team at Nifty is amazing and they take a ton of stress, responsibility, and problems on themselves and do an awesome job.

Here’s a few things that I have done at times:

  • Thank-you gift cards
  • Revenue sharing
  • Company lunches
  • Pop-Tarts (long story)
  • Big Christmas parties
  • The best office in Burley, Idaho (complete with a moose, a monster, bricks, and staked firewood)

Lesson 12: Auto-renew your contracts

When it comes to smaller businesses, I have found that month-to-month contracts that auto-renew and are paid by automatic credit card last longer than contracts that are 3, 6, or 12 months with renegotiations required. Bottom line, people don’t like re-signing up for a committed amount of time. Especially small business owners who believe the word “contract” is a cuss word.

Change

Lesson 13: Never stop learning new things

There are many search companies that fall behind. It’s because they don’t change. They keep blasting away at the same spammy links, the same old school designs, and the same tactics from 5-10 years ago, and they wonder why a massive amount of their client portfolio drops in rankings.

I personally start every morning by reading blogs, and I have for years. The staff spends the first part of every day doing the same thing, and we pass around articles that make an impression. It keeps us constantly thinking about innovation and learning from our great community. Another way to keep up is to constantly pitch to speak at conferences. You have deadlines around which you can build tests and case studies, and you will do everything you possibly can to be up on the latest news in the industry because you never know what questions the attendees might ask you.

Lesson 14: Request feedback

The best way to find issues in your organization is to request feedback from your staff and clients. The other day, we had a client that paused his account. This is usually a soft way to end the relationship. But, upon asking for his feedback, he said he loved working with his project manager and the work we had done, saying he would be back on track in 2 months. Then he mentioned he was hoping for faster results on a side project we were doing for him. Whose fault was it that he felt that way? It was ours. I took the opportunity to clear up the miscommunication and he was very grateful for it. If we hadn’t asked for the feedback, we might not have ever heard from him again and he definitely would have had the issue on his mind.

Lesson 15: Be pleased, but never satisfied

Nobody is perfect. Which means there is always room for improvement. There is always more than can be done, and there is always a better way. The day you stop growing and say that “it’s good enough” is the day that a competitor is going to come in and do more that you are willing to.

We have redone our proposal process multiple times. We haven’t ever been bad at it, but every time we go back to the drawing boards there is something more that we find that helps to bring in better clients. Right now we are testing out a live walk-through of the proposal, as compared to just sending over a PDF and asking for questions.

SAVE

Lesson 16: Content isn’t king, cash is

If you want to run a successful business of any type, then ensure that you aren’t running cash-poor. I have followed Dave Ramsey’s personal financial guidelines for my business and find that it’s very conservative. While it might limit the speed at which we grow, it eliminates a massive amount of risk.

Dave recommends having a personal emergency fund (and in this case business fund) of 3-6 months of expenses on hand at all times. That means that if you are going to pay yourself (your only start-up expense) $ 3,000 per month, then you should have between $ 9,000-$ 18,000 in cash before starting up. At $ 65,000 per month of expenses, you should have between $ 195,000-$ 390,000 in reserves. That’s a lot of cash on hand for a small business, but if clients unexpectedly drop, or major industry changes necessitate a completely new model, you will have the cash to make good decisions and not desperate ones. I started out around the six-month reserve when I was smaller, and as time has gone by and we have a more diversified revenue stream, I am comfortable between 3-4 months of cash on hand.

Lesson 17: Pay yourself modestly, and get out of personal debt

I pay myself $ 4,000 per month. The rest goes to growing the business, savings, and other ventures. Now, you need to realize that I live in Burley, Idaho, and it’s literally hard to spend money here. I could pay myself $ 2,000 if it wasn’t for Amazon Prime. But, at a very young age, my wife and I decided that we would have no personal debt and worked really hard to pay off our house and buy cars with cash.

I know many financial experts will tell you that leveraging your home is the best financing you have but let me tell you that the freedom of owning your house outright means that you can make better business decisions over the course of your life. You wont have the “what if I lose my family’s home” question circling around in the back of your mind and you can actually take bigger risks, and never make business financial decisions based off of your personal financial needs.

Lesson 18: Don’t sign up for every Internet marketing tool under the sun

Tool subscriptions are reoccurring costs. It’s very easy to spend thousands of dollars a month on different tools you don’t have the cash to do that when you start up. When I first started, I only used Raven Tools, but quickly added a list of 10 to 15 tools like Moz. Occasionally, we have to go through the list of tools and find out what we are actually using and get rid of the rest. I’m not going to pretend there is one tool to rule them all, because everyone has very different needs. The key is to quickly identify which tools work for you and which don’t, and to stop paying monthly for the ones that don’t.

Lesson 19: Diversify

If you get to where you own a successful guest-blogging company, or a successful SEO company, or a successful content-marketing company, or whatever niche you decide to work in, then realize the problem with a niche is that you are putting all of your eggs in one basket. If that basket disappears, you’re screwed.

Try going after more than one niche. We opened a division focused on SEO and website development for lawyers called NiftyLaw.com. I also owned a newspaper in my home town, and am working on some new projects so that I am not 100% reliant on Internet marketing revenue.

Lesson 20: Find a few things to help save yourself

Owning a business is hard work. It’s mentally draining, and it’s very hard to shut down your mind after constantly thinking. There will be times where you need to save yourself from burning out, so ensure that you have hobbies that can get your mind completely off of work. I golf, mountain bike, and travel with my family. I also don’t do any work on Sundays at all.

Overall

I have loved starting an Internet marketing company. It’s been hard; I’m going gray and I’m only 29.

I know that you might not agree with certain things I think are important, and that’s fine. The best part about business is that it’s a “choose your own adventure” storybook with no “right” answers.

Please add your own questions and advice in the comments. I hope that this is a post that can have more insight in the comments than the article itself, and I look forward to learning from all of you!

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