Neil Patel Is Following Me… Clever Retargeting Campaign

Neil Patel is one the smartest branders around and has some very impressive accomplishments under his belt by the age of 26. I’ve been following his business blog for a while and more recently his company KISSmetrics.

One standard I’ve always seen Neil Patel adhere to are TOP QUALITY blogs – from his ACS days, Crazy Egg, and now Quick Sprout, Online Poker and KissMetrics blog – they’re always top quality.

I was surfing statcounter the other day and out of now where Neil Patel popped out… next thing I knew he was following me to almost every site I visited.

I dug in some more and he’s using a service called ReTargeter to remind his past visitors of his site. Really cool concept.

Notice how congruent the ads are with his intention of getting me (a former visitor) back to his site – “Hey, I haven’t seen you in a while!”  The message is true, and it works.

Does retargeting work?

This would be a great question for Neil. It worked on me that day… and several subsequent days over the last few weeks.

During my big(ger) media buying days a couple years ago, display networks would offer retargeting like it was the newest and coolest technology. They offered it at a premium rate and on networks that had a large reach, it would add 5 – 10% to my bottom line.

I haven’t researched ReTargeter enough to know exactly how they operate but from their home page, they say they plug into doubleclick, rightmedia, FOX audience network and OpenX. Just between those four networks I’m sure their reach is great.

Funny Ads: Lil Wayne Becomes A Cop and Hot Mom Refinances

If you make a living online you probably notice ads more than the average surfer. I got a good laugh out of these two funny ads I saw last week.

Lil Wayne Wants You To Become A Cop

Someone used Lil Wayne’s mug shot in a Criminal Justice Degree ad on Facebook… most likely an affiliate. It ran for at least a few days so I’m guessing CTR was good due to Lil Wayne peaking curiosity.

LowerMyBills Uses Hot Cleavage Mom To Encourage Refinance

LowerMyBills and ClassesUSA (parent company – Experian) has long been known to use catchy ads to promote their sites and this one is no different. They’re clearly going for the hot milf on a treadmill to catch your attention. You can’t fully see it here but the ad was in flash and the the woman was moving (err working out) with emphasis on one particular body part… I’ll let you guess which one.

Joking aside, it’s always interesting to pay attention to different strategies companies and affiliates use in their advertising. Split testing your ads, especially when media buying, is the only way to avoid banner blindness and succeed; so I applaud companies when they put in the extra time to test everything, analyze data, optimize ads and landing pages, and split test like there’s no tomorrow. It can make or break your business.

Addition: Snoop wants you to get paid by playing video games!

This one has been on Facebook for a while and I still get a kick out of it.

When SEO Works

I started in this business as an affiliate and have since moved to the advertiser side while building a multi-person company in Los Angeles.

A few years ago I bought a one word premium domain that I figured I would keep on the back burner and slowly develop over time. This was 2.5 years ago.

About four months ago the site started getting serp visitors for a set of keywords in which I saw trickles of profitability. Adsense clicks pay $4+ and affiliate offers pay $35+ in this niche so I decided to try my hand at really pursuing SEO which I never gave serious thought to before.

There was really no need to try SEO when I could fire up affiliate campaigns and within a few days 50% of them would be profiting $x,xxx+ per day. But now that those days have slowed down, I figured I would spend some extra time each night to really learn SEO and test what I learn.

What I Did

I spent 2 – 3 hours each night for about a month reading what different SEO experts had to say. Keep in mind that I had a decent SEO background in terms of having read SEOBook twice before, reading Matt Cutts’ blog, Shoemoney and others; never too attentively but enough to have a good grasp of it.

After my month long SEO bootcamp, some of my favorite SEO’s that provide the most accurate and value-added content are Aaron Wall, SEO Moz and Carey Bergeron. I say this now because they are who I learned the most from and looking back at the success of my site’s growth they get the credit for having good, actionable tips.

Anyways, since my premium domain site had about 250 pages of content I had casually built up, and started getting a couple dozen daily visitors for a set of very profitable keywords I wanted to see what would happen if

  1. I learned everything I could about SEO
  2. I created an seo plan for myself and
  3. I implemented it.

What Happened?

Last week I ended up reaching page 1 of the big three search engines and the traffic flood gates opened.

Traffic increased ten-fold and revenue (if extrapolated) is in the mid $xxx,xxx per year. I didn’t let myself get too excited upon seeing my newly acquired ranking last week because I know position fluctuation is common but so far so good as far as holding onto my page 1 rank.

What’s the point?

The point is that it’s a very rewarding feeling that comes from setting a goal, sticking with it, executing it and seeing it reached. If you end up surpassing expectations that’s even better.

So here’s what I did – I studied everything SEO related I could get my hands on for 1 month for 2 – 3 hours per day; including reverse engineering high ranking sites and what they were doing to get their rankings. I created a plan in writing then implemented it for 3 straight months. Yes, I’m talking an average of 2 – 4 hours per day (after a 12 hour work day in the office) 4 – 6 days per week.

And finally after 3 months, I reached page 1 in the big three engines. The revenue that came from it is nice but its the process that gets me excited. The fact that I researched something, developed my own theory and actionable items from it and executed it to reach  self established goals.

Last Note

When reading about SEO there is a lot of junk and “guru talk” out there. The guys who can’t do it write about the high-level theory behind SEO. This is pointless to read. If you have a site that you want to move up the rankings, you have to read actionable tips that you can execute. Who cares about the high-level theory when it’s not actionable. The three guys I mention above are well worth reading and following. If you think you have a site worth developing in a desirable niche, building a large following or community site is well worth the time both monetarily and for your personal satisfaction.

They Say to Work Less and You’ll Be More Productive

The last few years have brought on this “work less and be more productive” movement which got a huge boost in momentum from Tim Ferriss’ best seller 4 Hour Work Week book.  I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It got me thinking about a lot of concepts and I even tried implementing some into my life and work.

This was several years ago and now that I can look back on some of my successes and failures over those years I have concluded that the periods where I’ve had the largest influxes of revenue and success have come after long, extended periods of putting in A LOT of work hours. By a lot I mean many days of consecutive 9am – 2am work days.

The first few periods that I went through weeks or months of this schedule it really wore on me. I burned out several times from this schedule and had uncertainty of whether I’d see the fruits of this labor pay off. But almost each time I put myself through these stages, for the months that followed I saw great professional gains (usually monetarily).

Of course to many people this type of work hour schedule is simply not worth any amount of fortune it brings but to me it did not feel like “work” most of the time. I’ve heard more than once from my 9 – 5 friends “Omg what are you thinking working that much” or “Wow you must be really busy with work”.

The thing is, it’s not about “am I busy with work or not”. It is about the fact that when you run your own company and love being an entrepreneur you rarely do any of this “work” because you have to. You do it because you want to and because you know the great satisfaction and reward you will feel upon seeing your efforts come to fruition. And although the financial payoff is nice, it’s not always about that either.

So to conclude and answer why I’m writing about this now – I’m coming off a period of working these types of hours after many months of taking it easy and traveling. Right now putting all of my energy into the business feels really good and I’m seeing great advances. Ones I did not see when I was enjoying life and traveling for the past 6 months.

How do you guys feel about this topic and have you seen more advances when you work crazy hours or when you try living the 4 hour work week?

Blog Posts That Got Me Started

I first learned that the notion of making money online was possible around June of 2006 and like most people was astonished by the possibility. I remember sitting at my desk at Citigroup and somehow stumbling upon the whole make money online industry and as I think about my early development much of it was guided by blog posts.

Here are a few of the early blog posts I got the most value from as I developed my own monetizable business models. Many of these still apply today.

  • Shoemoney’s $10,000 Experiment with PPC Part 1 & 2 – These were one of the first functionally relevant posts that got me away from research mode into action mode. I printed at least 5 copies of both posts and kept them at my office and almost every room of my house. I read them at least 20 times each, highlighted, and wrote notes all over these posts.
  • Enough Bullshitting Lets Make Money In 24 Hours or Less – Aojon had an entertaining yet highly volatile blog. One post would be a helpful, motivating article and the next was an exaggerated off-the-cuff rant, but nonetheless I was first introduced to PPC arbitrage and urgent action from Jon’s blog.
  • Quadzilla’s Do It Fucking Now – The single most motivating post to get off your ass and work until you make millions that I’ve ever read. Nothing functional but a great push to take everything you’ve learned and to Do It Fucking Now! Still words to live by in most areas of my life and I have emailed it to many friends in all industries.

How To Get a $100+ eCPM

eCPM formula

I’ve been asked a lot recently about the best ways to monetize sites and how to squeeze the most out of the ad inventory you carry. Today I’m going to share a strategy I’ve used over the last 1.5 years to consistently get a $100 – $260 sitewide eCPM. To put that into perspective that means my sites are earning $100 – 260 per 1000 page views.

Sounds crazy right? Well it’s actually not THAT difficult if you develop a plan to achieve these goals and set everything you do around achieving them.

I’ll first go over 5 general tips to maximizing your eCPM and then give you 9 actionable steps you can take.

Here are 5 things you must do to achieve the highest possible eCPM:

1) Choose a targeted niche.

You want to create your site around a very targeted niche that has high paying affiliate offers. Think offers in the $18 – 40 range. I’ll tell you why this is important later.  In the meantime perfect verticals for $100+ eCPM’s are finance, insurance, auto loans, education, payday, foreclosure and credit reports.

It’s important to find niches with high paying affiliate offers because that means competition on adsense is also high for these terms thereby increasing your eCPM whether you eventually go with CPC monetization or affiliate sales.

2) Test different ad placements.

There are two schools of thought about the placements of your ads – (a) blend your ads with your content or (b) differentiate your ads so they stand out from your content. I have split tested both methods in-depth a year ago and concluded that blending ads got me the highest click through rate (CTR). Since CTR is what you’re optimizing for when test ad blocks, you’ll want to blend your ads.

Here is an ad placement heat map provided by Adsense.

Adsense Heat Map

3) Test different ad types.

Test everything when it comes to ad types – CPC vs CPM; text vs image vs video; adsense vs tier 2 cpc networks vs direct sales; capturing leads yourself and emailing vs selling leads; affiliate offers vs adsense. Everything you can think of testing – TEST IT! I’ve discovered amazing things testing all of those things and I can’t emphasize this enough.

4) Have dedicated pages.

If the majority of your site’s content does not specifically relate to the MOST profitable keyword in your vertical then you must have dedicated pages with articles focusing only on your profitable keywords. These are the pages you will want to SEO the most and optimize for highest eCPM.

5) Focus on search engine traffic.

Organic search engine traffic is the most engaged type of traffic there is. These visitors are specifically searching for your topic and will spend the time to read your site more than people who find you through other sources like social bookmarking, external links, etc. Spend time catering to the needs of your search engine traffic and make it easy for them to navigate your site. Think about those visitors the most when writing and designing.

Now for the actionable stuff – take these steps to making money online using this method. I’ll include a hypothetical example under each step.

1.) Choose a very targeted niche.

Example: online schools and education

2.) Find the 1 most relevant keyword.

Use the Adwords keyword tool and find the most profitable keyword while still being realistic that you can rank for it. For example say you’re doing education, don’t go after the keyword “online school” instead go after “online school for nursing” or “online schools in Los Angeles”. You’ll get much less traffic but these clicks will convert, and most importantly you’ll have a realistic chance of ranking for these terms.

3.) Get that keyword in your domain.

You are not building these sites for branding. You are merely trying to take the least path of resistance to rank quickly for highly profitable keywords. So you must get the keyword in the domain even if its messy and not as memorable as it could be.

The only domains worth getting are .com, .net, .org and all those variations with a dash (-). Using our example even if the best domain you can get is Online-School-Nursing.net, get it.

4.) Get 10 articles written for this keyword.

Go to an English speaking online forum or oDesk and find a content writer. You’ll want these written perfectly in fluent English.

5.) Do on-page and off-page SEO.

If you don’t know how to do this read SEOBook. Make sure you do at least the basics and you shouldn’t have trouble ranking for the term you select.

6.) Start with Adsense.

7.) Test affiliate offers.

Sign up for some affiliate networks (ask me if you want recommendations) and test a nursing education offer. Remember step 1 told you to find a targeted niche that has high paying affiliate offers? Well now is that time – Either create your own ad blocks that look like adsense or get creative. There are plenty of opportunities to creatively get people to click your ad and best of all you’re not restricted by an ad networks terms of service.

For nursing I’d test having a zip code box or state drop down menu that allows visitors to search for nursing schools around them. Fake functionality ads will increase CTR dramatically.

8.) Look for additional opportunities.

Depending on your niche there could be opportunity to capture leads and sell them to companies. I recently attended LeadsCon and there were plenty of buyers out there. If your niche can be applied locally pick up the phone and call local businesses. Using the nursing example you can look up LeadPoint and LeadPile as additional sources to sell to.

9.) Optimize this mix.

At this point you will have tons of data so lay it all in front of you and make a decision on what worked best. If you’ve done this correctly you will be well into the $100 – $300 eCPM range.

I’d implement this strategy on 1 site first. Spend a month or two growing and SEO’ing the site before moving onto your next one. I started doing this 1.5 years ago in my free time and now have 6 – 7 highly targeted niche sites with $100 – $300 eCPM’s.

The beauty in this method is when you get that handful of sites all making money. But it takes one success for this to really hit and gain momentum. It becomes easier with each site you succeed with.

Let me know how this works for you guys and you can always email me on the contact page with questions.

Interesting Links

Every once in a while I’ll put together a list of interesting links that can directly help you grow your online business, help with productivity and make you more money.  Here are some good ones I read over the weekend.

LeadsCon 2010 Review

I attended LeadsCon 2010 in Las Vegas and wanted to get a review up. I first heard of Jay Weintraub a couple of years ago when I randomly came across his blog and some time later I found out he organizes LeadsCon. The only conferences I’ve attended for the last 3 years were Affiliate Summit and Ad Tech. I’ve been to one Pubcon which was horrible, and one Affiliate Convention which was too small to be of any value as it was only their second show ever.

Leadscon West 2010

Going into LeadsCon I did my research and knew what my business partner and I were getting into. We have our own lead gen offer and this is supposed to be the premier lead gen conference around.

LeadsCon did not disappoint.

For the first time since my first Affiliate Summit over 3 years ago, I researched all the companies I wanted to meet with and laid out an agenda. I had a detailed outline of our goals and how we were going to meet them.

LeadsCon was set up much like Affiliate Summit and Ad Tech in terms of booths and presentations but at this point in my business’s growth, it provided more value than I’ve gotten from a show in a while. Other conferences provide value by bringing some of the smartest internet minds together and allowing you to socialize and exchange ideas with them. LeadsCon provides value by bringing high quality Companies to booths who want to get real business done; not just sell you on promoting their offers.

I highly recommend this conference for advertisers seeking lead generation buyer and seller contacts, especially in lending, education and insurance verticals.

Even the presentations were worth hand picking when the topics are applicable to your goals… which I never thought I’d say after sitting in a few presentations at Affiliate Summit and Ad Tech. I sat in on presentations from Course Advisor’s CEO, Leads360, Shoemoney and a couple others.

So to conclude, if you’re an advertiser or lead buyer / seller this is the best show to attend. If you’re an affiliate, you will not get much value from it as there aren’t many networks that attend and I do not recommend going direct with lead gen advertisers.

Also if you don’t read Jay Weintraub’s blog but are interested in growing a quality advertising business you should add him to your RSS feed. He stays on top of the advertising industry and lead gen world with posts like these: analysis of the incentive marketing landscape.