Episode 231 | Posted on

How to Grow a Site from 0 to 6 Million Visitors with Chris Parker

Starting up a business is fraught with stressors and unknowns. And especially these days with what’s happening in the world – the pandemic, the global recession. Some of us are blessed with that entrepreneurial gene that tells them, “go for it!” But most of us are wary of walking away from the security of paychecks and benefits. 

My guest today took that leap in 2000, when the Web was still pretty new. Chris Parker is the founder of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com, a tech-friendly website attracting a remarkable 6,000,000 visitors a month. Twenty years ago, Chris created WhatIsMyIPAddress.com as a solution to finding his employer’s office IP address. Today, WhatIsMyIPAddress.com is among the top 3,000 websites in the U.S. and I have truly enjoyed working with him as a client for almost three years now. 

We discuss stepping outside your comfort zone—something I encouraged Chris to do in our coaching by being a guest on podcasts, and now I’m excited to say he has just launched a podcast of his own, called Easy Prey. Great name, right? I thought of it! 

In this episode, Chris and I talk about getting stuck, and ways to get unstuck, such as by delegating work and freeing up thinking time to grow the business. If you’re curious about what it takes to get 6 million uniques, and beyond, you’re in for a treat. And now, on with the show!

In this Episode

  • [00:29] – Stephan introduces Chris Parker, founder of WhatIsMyIPAddress website attracting 6 million visitors a month.
  • [02:18] – Chris shares the inspiration behind WhatIsMyIPAddress.com and what made him build it back in 2000. 
  • [05:58] – Chris recalls what made him decide to finally quit his job and focus more on his website. 
  • [10:21] – Prayers, setting goals, honesty, and having accountability helped Chris overcome his fears and convinced him to take the risk.
  • [16:03] – A passion project, Chris introduces Easy Prey, a podcast about scam prevention.
  • [20:14] – How Chris’ social proof on his media page led him a spot on on national TV.
  • [26:05] – What’s the difference between a hobby and a business? 
  • [30:40] – Chris shares the best opportunities for growth in terms of investing money, time, and energy.
  • [36:23] – Why hiring a team of great writers to spike up your audience’s interest is a good business investment
  • [49:03] – Connect with Chris Parker via his website and social media. Tune in to his podcast, Easy Prey.

Jump to Links and Resources

Transcript

Thank you, Chris, for joining us today.

Thank you for having me on.

First of all, let’s talk about whatismyipaddress.com because six million visitors a month is really remarkable and you didn’t start out that way. You had to build up the momentum and you also didn’t start out as an entrepreneur. You were working as a full-time employee somewhere. So give us that origin story of how you got from there to where you are now.

When I originally created the site, it was a matter of solving a problem that we’re having at the company I was working for. Back in the old days of the internet, when a T1 was a high-speed internet connection, we were having problems with one of our vendors and being able to connect up to their system. They asked, “Well, what’s your IP address?” and we went, “I don’t know.” We realized that there wasn’t an easy way to figure that out. There wasn’t a whatismyipaddress.com.

That night, I went home and on my Windows NT server, I created a little website called whatismyipaddress.com. I spent several hundred dollars at the time for domain name registration and put together a site that only displayed those 8 of 16 digits in 8-point Arial font on the screen and that was it. That’s the origin.

When was this?

This was back in January of 2000; the dawn of the internet.

Wow, that’s very early days. I built my first website in 1994, so I got you beat, but that’s still an impressive early start, so good job. What foresight to think, “I need to create a website for this,” and then turned it into such a valuable destination for folks.

I wish I could say that I had great foresight and had planned it out as this amazing entrepreneurial business journey, but it was just a solution to a problem I was having, and I just figured I’d make it available to everybody.

What happened over the course of time? Did you start putting advertising on it, affiliate offers? How did you build this site up into more of a destination?

It actually resulted in me getting alerts from the server saying that the hard drive was almost full and I couldn’t figure out why in the world the hard drive would be full on this machine that was just serving up a single-page website. It turned out all the logs from the people visiting the site were starting to chew up all the disk space. At that point, I’m like, “Oh, let me do something with this. Let me see what these people are doing.” I put an email address on the site below the IP address and asked people, “If you have questions, email me.” My nights and weekends were spent furiously responding to emails and trying to help people out, which I don’t like doing.

There definitely will be a lot of fear before taking that giant leap of leaving your comfort zone. Fear will never go away, so what’s next is really up to you. Click To Tweet

It’s an awful lot of the same questions over and over and over again. So I built out frequently asked questions pages on the site. After that, it reduced my volume of emails that I had to deal with, and then this great platform called Google AdSense came out. I placed a nice one little page or one little snippet of code on the site, I was able to start making some display revenue earnings, a couple bucks a month here and there. The one thing that really caught my attention was the company called GoToMyPC, which provided remote access services to people’s computers. That’s why a lot of people were coming to my website because they’re trying to connect up to their machine at home.

GoToMyPC was running an affiliate offer for $10 a lead or $35 a sign-up, so I put a tiny little logo on there that just said, “GoToMyPC,” and people started to buying that stuff and I started making some commission. I was like, “This is neat. I can make money off of this site.”

Very cool. At some point, you got big enough with the traffic and the revenue that you were able to quit your job, how did that come to pass?

It was actually one of those fortuitous things. My employer with the economic crisis back in mid- to late- 2000s had a rough go of it, it ebbed and flowed, laid some of us off, brought us back, have some of us working with contractors, brought us back, and each of those episodes where they asked me, “Hey, can you work for fewer hours?” I was like, “Well, this gives me more time to work on my website.” I started using those hours of that reduced obligation to them to fund and not be fully jumping into being self-employed, but to be able to do that part-time, which reduced the risk for me.

A few years later, they just couldn’t make it work and said, “Hey, we’ve got to let you go.” The decision that I had to face was, “Okay, do I do this full-time? And if I do this full-time, can I actually grow the revenue enough to offset a full-time job? If I quit my job, do it full-time, and I don’t actually make more money by doing that, is it really a good decision?”

My wife and I sat down, we planned out, “Okay, can you make this much more money in three months, six months, and a year?” We hit each of those three milestones, and I didn’t mind working from home. I was a little worried about being isolated and things like that, but it turned out to be a blast. It was great to see those milestones being hit and say, “Okay, this makes sense for me to spend my time and effort growing the business.”

It initially lowered your stress levels to have that safety net of some hours working for your former employer as a contractor or a consultant, but then it got to the point where it was a blessing that they had to cut you loose because then you got to really focus 110% on this as a viable business.

Yeah. In hindsight, it’s easy to look at that and say, “Hey, I got laid off. That was a really good thing.” At that moment, it was pretty nerve-wracking like, “Well, what if I invest this time and energy in my business and it doesn’t grow?” Well, that doesn’t preclude me from going out and getting a job at some point, but I think that was an emotional risk to some extent of, “If I invest in this and it doesn’t work, am I a failure?” How do I view myself, but it turned out to be really good. It turned out to be a great experience, and I’m pretty sure that if they hadn’t gone out of business, I probably would not have said, “Hey, I’m out of here. I’m going to do my own thing.” It was a kick in the butt, which was very fortuitous for me.

Right, so you are not that much of a risk-taker that you would have just said, “I’m out of here completely,” whereas those who were just die-hard entrepreneurs, that’s not a problem. For me, I was a bit, somewhat risk-averse, I am a risk-taker for sure. I do have that entrepreneurial gene, but when I first dropped out of my Ph.D. program to start this agency called Netconcepts, I wanted a safety net. I got a half-time job at a university department, working in a microscopy lab, doing some computer stuff programming and things like that, 20 hours a week. It was not fulfilling. It was a distraction. It didn’t allow me to really focus on starting my business properly.

It was not the best thing. It just was for me to feel more comfortable. Thankfully, I quit that useless job within two months, but it took a big bunch of revenue just dropping in my lap. I’ve told this story before and I’m sure you’ve heard it because you’re a listener of the show, but where I walked around as a mic runner at a conference that I talked my way into doing volunteer work, and got two big accounts out of that where both worth $500,000 a piece. If I hadn’t had that happen, I don’t know how long I would have dragged out this thing of working part-time in a useless dead-end job. Maybe, it might have been another four or five months because I was nervous.

I had mouths to feed, I had very young children at home and my wife at the time was not working. She was going to school as well (she had finished by that time), but it was scary. What did you do to come to terms with that fear and anxiety? Did you do any meditation or yoga classes or you just felt the fear and did it anyway? What was your secret?

There was definitely a lot of fear in making that decision on whether or not I should jump in with both feet, even though I was being forced that direction, but the number of the things that we did, part of it was just having to deal with the fear and it’s just going to be part of the decision. Also, my wife and I prayed about it a lot and find some comfort there and got counsel from people that I know that were entrepreneurs and business people and said, “Here’s what I’m doing. Here is what I’m thinking about. Are these milestones reasonable?” And have them follow-up with me on those milestone dates, “Did you hit it? If you’re not going to hit, what are you going to do? If you do hit it, what do you do?” So having that little bit of accountability and having reassurance from people who’ve been an entrepreneur that, “Yeah, it seems reasonable you’re not doing anything crazy. We know you’re not a risk-taker, so we know this seems to be within your tolerance for risk. We think it’s a good idea, you think it’s a good idea, your wife’s on board. It seems like something we’re trying.”

Understand the risk and rewards before putting up a business. Taking a leap of faith must also be paired with calculated risks.

At what point did you far exceed the income that you had previously earned?

I think within a year, I had increased the net revenue of the business to cover what I was making from the full-time job. That was kind of a, “Okay, good within a year, I’m making the same amount of money as when I was working effectively two jobs and now I’m only working one, so okay, this is good. Hopefully, I can keep the growth going.”

And it has been growing and continuing. What are your big goals for 2020?

For 2020, I’m hoping to consistently be on track and exceed the revenue goals of $1 million. For 2019, it looks like I’m just going to come in under a million, so 2020 being consistently above the run rate even on low months, so that alternately when Q4 comes around 2020, it’ll hopefully well exceed the million revenue goal. I wish I could say it was all take home, but there are mouths to feed and CPU cycles to pay for the process.

Right, and you just went through a revamp of your website, the back-end, the hosting environment and all that. That was a big investment.

Yup, it’s a big investment and a big bit of stress. We tried to get it all done before Q4 happened, but fortunately, we set a cutoff date. Even though we missed the cutoff date, it will be rolling live in 2020. I’ve learned from previous years’ mistakes where I’ve made big changes in Q4 and shot myself in the foot monetarily by things not going according to plan. This year, as much as I wanted to force it and make it happen in Q4, it was nope, missed the cutoff, let’s just wait until 2020 and roll it out then. I think that was a…

That was a wise decision.

It was a very good Q4, and it was a very wise decision. It definitely reduced my stress in Q4. I can focus on other things and not worry about infrastructure upgrades. Just keep the site doing really well during the holidays.

It’s a very common thing to have a code freeze during the holidays. It’s almost throughout all of e-commerce. If there’s seasonality to their business, they probably have a code freeze in place, which made it a challenge to work with companies that had such a situation, because then I had to work around that code freeze all the way from mid-September through the end of the year. We couldn’t make any changes to the website and how are you supposed to SEO a website when, for an entire quarter, you can’t make any changes. That was always fun trying to deal with that situation.

That’s definitely going to be a challenge to not do anything for four months or so.

That was an impetus for me to invent the pay for performance technology platform that I did called GravityStream, because then I could work around the code freeze deadlines and continue to optimize the website through a proxy environment.

That’s a very clever way to get around that.

Yeah and to get paid on performance, too. Just a flat retainer. That was good. That was good times. We even had a client paying us seven figures a year in click revenue. That was good. Anyway, enough about me. Let’s get back to you. How do you grow the business beyond just increasing the affiliate offers, that you may be negotiating better percentages, adding new affiliates to the mix, changing out advertising platforms for better paying ones, increasing traffic? What are some of the things that were outside the box? I’m going to bait you here in terms of giving you a softball here. I’m thinking perhaps the podcast might be one of those and it might be something that I helped you to see the opportunity there. Do you want to share a bit about all that?

Yeah. It works on multiple levels. One of the things that you had challenged me very early on was being comfortable with being uncomfortable. As I’m making decisions, I’ve really tried to make sure that if I’m deciding not to do something, I am not deciding to not do it because it’s uncomfortable. Too many negatives there. Making sure the reason why I don’t do stuff is just because it’s uncomfortable. If there’s a good business reason not to do something, then it’s a good business reason, but it shouldn’t be because it’s new to me, or because I’m nervous about it, or because I’m unfamiliar with it. It has to be a legitimate reason, not a personal or emotional decision.

Right, because all growth happens outside your comfort zone.

Yeah, and it’s really been a blast. For about 1–1½ years now, I’ve been going on people’s podcasts, talking about my story. For some of the techier podcasts, talking about the back-end of the website, different things I’ve had to deal with through growth and expansion of the server farm and all that stuff. 

I think part of it has really gotten me excited about being able to launch my own podcast called Easy Prey, where I talk about so many of the things that I’ve seen people contact me about over the years. That they’ve fallen victims to romance scams, lottery scams, the Indian fake call center saying that, “Your computer’s been infected, we need to remove the virus from your computer,” as they proceed to completely infect your machine and steal all your passwords.

I really wanted to be able to have a legacy to be able to live beyond me, so to speak, of being able to help people out and prevent people from being victims to these things. There are so many people out there trying to do horrible things that I want to be able to help keep someone from losing their life savings and help keep someone from some of these tragic situations that have happened.

Right. You’ve got this altruistic drive or desire to help people, and the podcast is the way to do that, but you got started in the world of podcasting by being a guest on other people’s shows. That got you comfortable with being in front of the mic, and thinking on your feet, and just being bubbly, personable, a great storyteller, and all that sort of stuff. You did that for how long? A year?

It’s probably been about 1½ years now. I’ve met some great people, met some hosts, and built some great friendships with people. It’s been more than just a practice experience, but I think it’s helped me network with people and get introduced to people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met.

Would you say that you wouldn’t have taken that path, getting on all these podcasts if I hadn’t pushed you to do that?

Absolutely. I would never have even thought of doing it and I don’t think I would have seen the longer-term impacts of it, if you hadn’t pushed me and opened my eyes to that and say, “This is how it will have a positive impact on you.” I appreciate it. Thank you.

If there's a good business reason not to do something, then it's a good business reason. But it shouldn't be because it's new to you or because you’re nervous about it or you're unfamiliar with it. Click To Tweet

You’re welcome. That’s awesome. I’m so glad that this stuff is paying off for you. What would be an example of a powerful conversation that you had on somebody else’s podcast? Something that turned nothing into something, an opportunity came out of the woodwork that you weren’t even expecting because you got to have a powerful conversation in the form of an interview?

I think a couple of things that’s been really neat is I ran across people who have been using my site as part of their references for their business. One runs a podcast, teaching people how to launch their own WordPress sites. One of the things that she was specifically talking about was, “Okay, what you need to do is go to whatismyipaddress.com, get your IP address, and you want to white list it so you never get locked out of your own website.” It was really neat to be able to see how people have used my website.

It was a couple of weeks ago that talking with Josiah Goff on his podcast. We’ve had the same history of growing up with the internet, and growing up and dealing with the same experiences of denial of service attacks, what happens when one web server can’t quite handle the traffic, how do you handle load balancers. It’s been neat to see people who’ve gone through some of the same experiences that I have.

You can even get some of these folks who are known and respected thought leaders in their different industries to say nice things about whatismyipaddress.com even not being a guest on your show and you being a guest on their show.

Yes. They weren’t planning on saying that they’d been on my website, or used it, or referred to it, but now they are, because I’m there. It’s really neat to see that thing, see those positive mentions through the result of podcasting.

That is awesome. Do you take those little clips from the podcast episodes and put them on your YouTube channel, or on your website, or in your press page, media page, anything like that?

We did build out a fairly extensive media page on my site with the news websites, the publications in CNN and whatnot, who have referenced my site, along with the podcast that I’ve been on. I think as part of that of having built out that media page, I was actually approached by scripts who do a syndicated television program, and they actually asked me to come on and give them some quotes on romance scams. It was neat to be able to be on television, on a nationally syndicated program, and to be able to add that onto my media page as well.

You’re saying that you were on a nationally syndicated show that ended up on multiple networks. What were the networks that got syndicated on TV?

It got picked up by pretty much all of them, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox.

That’s awesome. It all started because you had a media press page on your website.

Absolutely. I think more than that, it was more than just having that single page there, but by having this ongoing effort to make sure that I make myself available for interviews. Showing that by being on podcasts, and showing that when people ask for written interviews, I’m responding to those as well. Those opportunities are coming out of the woodwork now. It was a little slow at the start. I was wondering, “Gosh, is this really going to be worth the effort?” but it’s really neat. Every couple of weeks I get an email from someone, “Hey, we’re writing this article on a topic that I’m somewhat familiar with or very familiar with. Would you be willing to comment for our article?” and to be able to respond to those media requests is really pretty neat to see that happening.

Before we were working together, you didn’t even have a media page.

I didn’t even have a media page. I don’t think anyone that ever reached out to me for a quote or for an article, no one had ever invited me to be on a podcast, and now I occasionally get unsolicited invites to be on podcasts as well, which is really neat.

That will continue to grow as you build out your podcast’s presence as a podcaster because podcasters invite other podcasters to be on shows, not just guest experts. Before we started working together, you didn’t even have any as seen on logos. You didn’t even know that you were mentioned in these different places.

I had no as seen on, I didn’t even realize that I had gotten mentioned in so many media. There was definitely no mention of Chris Parker anywhere. I had always in some sense, really tried to stay behind the scenes, and not even have my name known, so that was another get out of my own way and be uncomfortable with that because being in the spotlight is not my normal position to be in. It’s been neat seeing how that is actually having a positive effect on my business.

Would you say that you’re an introvert?

Absolutely. Unequivocally, I’m an introvert.

Yeah, me too. It takes a lot out of me to be on stages, to be in front of a camera, a microphone, to be in the public, or to be interacting with the public. It is energy draining. It drains my batteries and I have to go recharge. If I’m in a room where I don’t know anybody and nobody knows who I am, I’d much prefer to just leave the room than to go up and start conversations with people I don’t know, which is lame, but that’s just how I’m wired. I have to overcome that and when I do, good things happen, but I don’t always overcome it. Sometimes I’m like, “You know what? I need to go out and make a phone call,” and I’ll find something else to do.

That is a little too close to home. I have definitely made a few phone calls in my days.

Not because you needed to, but because that’s a good excuse to get out of the room. You got this great TV opportunity that came out of having that press page, and having all those podcast interviews, and everything. I oftentimes point out to prospects, your media page as a best press practice example.

To be successful in business, you need to be organized in your thoughts and processes.

Wow, thank you.

Yeah, I do. I tell them how it came about, that you didn’t even know that you were mentioned on so many different mainstream media websites. It wasn’t you personally, it wasn’t Chris Parker, but it was whatismyipaddress.com. By me directing you to find this in places like the Google news archive search, and Google web search, and other places, YouTube, etc., to find that these opportunities where you didn’t even go out and seek them, they found you, they mentioned you, and you just didn’t know it happened.

Exactly.

Some of those sites are really big name sites like Fox Business, and The Register I think was one, is that right?

Yup. The Register.

CNN?

CNN, definitely. I think there might be a Bloomberg reference out there as well, I’m not sure, but there are quite a few fairly well-known references out there that I was in some sense startled that existed.

To be able to use those logos then on your masthead, your website and say, “As seen on ABC, NBC, CNN, etc.,” is a huge credibility builder, one that your competitors couldn’t say with equal measure. That’s a good differentiator.

What would you say was the biggest of all the different things that you learned from, gained, or gleaned in a relationship, from the engagement, from the coaching that you have received from me, what has been the biggest game-changer?

I think differently about my business now. For the longest time, I operated and thought of it as a hobby, and treated it like a hobby. I did basically everything myself. I was the gatekeeper for everything. I did all the work. I did the accounting. It’s just what you do when you’re running a hobby. I think you’ve really helped me to think about it as a business, not that we’ve specifically had that conversation, but in thinking about, “Is this really the best use of your time? Could you have someone else do this who’s a CPA for example, who knows how to do accounting, and have them do it instead of you at a rate that frees you up to do other things.”

I feel like in the last 2½ years, I’ve freed up a lot of my time, to be able to focus on things that only I can do, to start thinking about things like actually launching a podcast, or if I want to take a day off, I can take a day off by outsourcing various components to other people and trusting other people to do what they’re good at, which are very often things that I’m not good at. It’s helped me to leverage other people’s expertise and leave me to work on things that are unique to me.

Basically, you’re running this as a legit business and not as a hobby or even just as being a self-employed person, so many business people are under the illusion that they are running a business when they’re only merely self-employed. That’s the worst kind of employment because you pay yourself last, you give yourself the worst hours, you don’t respect weekends, nights, holidays, none of it. There’s no boundary.

Yeah, I’ve been there.

Great entrepreneurs are people who want to leave a legacy of being able to help people out. Click To Tweet

It’s a dead end. You’re not really building anything, you’re just paying the bills and with a business, on the other hand, you’re building an asset, one that can be sold without you going with it, because essentially if the business can’t sell without you being a part of that, then again, you’re just trading one self-employed role for another one, which is not even as good as being self-employed, now you’re employed by somebody else. You’re working for the man, which was the whole thing you wanted to avoid by starting a business in the first place, right?

Yeah. It’s been nice to see things working in that direction or hopefully at some point, if I wanted to take a three-month or six-month or a year off from it, and everything would continue to run without me being there, which is an exciting thought. Initially, I think it was a very fearful thought because I’ve been doing it all myself for so long.

So what’s been the thing that’s held you back from really going whole hog into this? Has there been something that you feel like is an Achilles’ heel or some sort of weak point for you? For me, I’ll say that I just love doing everything all at once. I’m just big into exploring and ideating and trying new things and being prolific with ideas, and it does interfere with my ability to focus on the one thing.

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Actually, reading the book or listening to the book, The ONE Thing, I know what I need to do. I need to cut a bunch of stuff out of my business and out of my life, and it’s hard. It’s really hard for me, so that’s my Achilles’ heel. I’m just curious what yours might be.

Probably for me, it’s the avoidance of doing things, not in a “delegate to other people” avoidance of doing things, but in an “I just don’t want to do it, I don’t want to think about it.” Sometimes, I get overwhelmed mentally and personally, not because I actually have so much to do, but I get stuck. I get stuck and start looking at things, like “That doesn’t have a whole lot of impact.  That doesn’t have a whole lot of risk.” But I feel like getting stuff off my checklist” type of stuff.

It just takes refocusing and getting back to like, “Okay, I’ve got to be uncomfortable.” I’ve got to push through the times when I’m not feeling sorry for myself, but when I don’t want to engage, those are the times that I happen to learn, “Okay, I really need to go out of my way to engage during those times that I don’t want to.”

I’m curious. Where do you see the biggest investment opportunities for your business? If a business is an asset, then you want to invest in that asset, grow that asset, and then eventually exit. Where do you see your best opportunities for growth in terms of investing your money, your time, and energy?

I think it’s getting a consistent platform for producing content for the website. I’ve started to work with some people who can create tools for me, so I’m not the one who’s having to engineer it, so that’s nice. As I continue to figure out, trust with delegating, and building those systems in place that will produce that stuff without my involvement, if we can figure out how to make that a reality for me, that investment will pay significant dividends over the years, where I don’t have to be in charge of coming up with every idea. I don’t have to be the one who’s driving every element forward, but other people are starting to take ownership and say, “Okay, I’m going to work on this outcome.”

And you have an outsourced team that does stuff like take articles that are already published on the site and turn them into infographics, Lumen5 videos, SlideShare decks, and all that sort of stuff. Do you want to talk a bit about that process and the thinking behind that?

For me, it was a way of thinking about my content differently, not just, “Well, here’s a wall of text.” My writers have done their job. They produced a wall of text, but to really think about for one, how can that wall of text become something more engaging in terms of adding video, adding pictures that are more engaging. Different ways of addressing the text that is just not, “Hey, I’m reading a book. This is really boring,” but making the content more exciting. Addressing what the user is looking for and then trying to figure out how to spin that in different ways. Not spinning in terms of, “Let’s just rewrite 15 different versions of the article,” but can we turn this into a video? Can we turn this into an infographic? Can it become an episode for a podcast? Can it be something that I can talk about on social media? Is there a  meme that could be built from this? And looking at all the different ways to utilize the work that’s gone into making that article, to make other assets that catch people who use different media, and not just reading.

Documentation is vital to every business. Everything should be accounted for so everything can be easily managed.

Yeah. It’s like a two-pronged approach. One prong of it is to make the article itself better, more engaging, more link-worthy, more buzz-worthy, just more interesting. Then, there’s the other prong, which is to then create all the spin-off pieces of content that may or may not be embedded into the article itself but that can be leveraged for increasing your presence on YouTube, on other social platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and so forth, and also to have those stand in their own right as standalone pieces of content, that drives interest, buzz, links, and other engagement, watch time, all those other engagement metrics.

You were handling both prongs pretty darn well. Prong one, you might incorporate, let’s say, a funny viral meme into an article to spruce up or spice up that article, make it more engaging. We’ve got lots of examples of those kinds of funny memes on various articles on your site. We should include an example or two in the show notes of those; that’ll be fun. That’s part of it, but then the other part of creating these videos, like using Lumen5. In fact, maybe you want to explain for our listeners, who are unfamiliar with Lumen5, what that is and why we’re using it?

Lumen5 is this self-service video editing platform that takes probably potentially years of learning out of the cycle that someone without a lot of experience could say, “Oh, I just want some text to flow into it.” They don’t have to figure out how to make it flow from left to right or right to left, but they just type in the text that they want to appear, they can select from a ton of royalty-free media with its audio, video, or stock photographs, and to build up in a one-, two-, three-, or four-minute video that gets the point across in an easy to understand way. It’s actually very simple to use. I told my wife about it and her team is now using it to build videos.

That’s awesome. You learn about that from me. Did you see a quality difference in the videos that we were able to produce once we up to the level of the account to the higher end, more expensive pro-version with all the additional stock video and everything?

Definitely a better range, a larger inventory of video and stock images not just, “Hey, there’s a keyboard,” that could be much more tailored to the exact content as opposed to tension to really relate to it.

Right. That was a well-worth small investment to spend on a higher level account with Lumen5, to have access to all those stock videos that really increased the relevancy and the value of each video.

How have you seen things progress in terms of new articles? You had a library of existing articles, then we started working together and you’ve been adding some new articles in a different format that is more engaging. It also includes things like funny memes and so forth, but the way that you decide on what topics to cover, the angle, the hook, and all that, it’s different from what you were doing in the past. Do you want to describe that process?

Historically, the vast majority of the articles were very how-to or what-is type of articles that I did a decent job of explaining stuff in a non-technical way, but weren’t interesting, didn’t have a clear call to action, the person that read the article went, “Okay, goodbye,” and would leave the site as opposed to, “I want to learn more,” or, “Gosh, I really need to do something as a result of this.” It’s really been, with my team of writers as well, of changing how we look at what’s being written, not just how do we do this, why do we do this, or what is this, but having a better understanding of what they are really looking for?

A good example was, we have an article about why free VPNs are bad. Rather than address the thing of people who are looking for free VPNs, why don’t we actually give them what they’re looking for, explain the risk, but rather than just saying, “Don’t, don’t, don’t,” actually help them find a solution that will actually work for them, and keep them safe without having as much risk as they otherwise might have.

Entrepreneurs shouldn’t treat their businesses as if it’s a hobby. A hobby is something I do in my free time all by myself. A business is composed of people, operations, finances, documentation, etc. Click To Tweet

That reminds me of the principle of preeminence that I learned from Jay Abraham. If you’re going to do right by your prospect, more by sending them to your competitor, you should do that. Essentially, that’s what you’re talking about. You’re going to send people to the competitors and your competitor, in this case, the free VPNs, where you don’t make any affiliate commission because that’s what they were looking for, that’s the intent based on their search query, and you want to be helpful to them, and by the laws of karma, you will reap rewards in some fashion.

Maybe not because they became a paying customer of NordVPN or CyberGhost or something, but because they felt good about the value that you delivered to them. They might tell friends, they might introduce or recommend you as a cybersecurity expert to their friends, the TV producer at the local station or whatever. You never know.

It honestly just feels better that way. In the sense, it feels better to write the article like I’m helping people even if I don’t necessarily agree with what they’re trying to do, that it’s the best solution. In the case of free VPNs, not everybody can afford it, so what’s the best solution I can offer them for their situation and not say, “Well, no. You need to fit inside my box, and if I don’t like that box you can go somewhere else.” I think that helps. It’s helped me really think about just trying to meet people where they’re at and help them where they’re at as opposed to helping under my terms.

Now, I taught you this process where you start with the topic, the search keywords that are related to that entity or that topic to then come up with a hook related to that topic, to then come up with the headline, that grabs the reader and makes them want to link to the article, read the article, share the article, even before they’ve consumed it and then finally to deliver on the promise of that headline through the content, which incorporates all sorts of entertainment, edutainment really, where you’re adding value in various ways that are engaging and keep them reading and also wanting to share and link to that in a piece of content.

What would be some of the useful tidbits that you might have learned from me over the years in relation to finding that hook or finding that magical headline that really delivers?

I know that we’ve, in the past, gone and searched those phrases on BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed is a great resource for getting people criminally addicted to reading articles.

It’s like R&D, rip off and duplicate. You just find some example headlines for inspiration on BuzzFeed. I showed you how to do a site: search, site:buzzfeed.com and then whatever keyword you’re looking for.

You can even laser in even more by using intitle: as well. You could do intitle:, and then the keyword, and then we’ll find that keyword in the title, in other words, in the headline of the article on BuzzFeed. That’s a great way to find stuff on cybersecurity, intitle:”cybersecurity” site:buzzfeed.com. It finds all sorts of articles specifically on cybersecurity, not just the passing mention somewhere in the article. So, that’s great.

What about the process of identifying grabber keywords? Any studies or anything like that that have been helpful or particular phrases? How back in the day they used to say it and number six will really blow your mind.

We’ve looked at a number of those reports that talk about question headlines that don’t draw as much attention as listicle type of headlines.

That was from a study done by Conductor a few years ago. It was in a moz.com article that chronicled that study and the findings. That was a good one. How about the BuzzSumo million headline study?

They even talked specifically about what numbers of listicles work best in that one.

And different kinds of adjectives that were especially grabbing. We’ll include links in the show notes to all these.

And ones that were particularly poor, which I unfortunately often had previously been using.

Give me an example of that.

I think it was “how.” It was a pretty bad title to use. “How to do this, how to do that.” It just does not engage people.

Looking at the BuzzSumo study, that was really about engagement for clickbait on social media, but then you’ve got to balance that out with the fact that from an SEO standpoint, how-to is a very popular search query. “How to install a VPN, how to choose a VPN, how to do this and that,” those are very popular queries. They tend to generate featured snippets, which are those position zero instant answers, and those come from people’s websites.

If you’re not providing that how-to information in that structure using those kinds of queries, you’re not going to stand a chance of getting the featured snippet. You got to balance those two things out. Be engaging and draw the click, but you also have to resonate with the searcher search query and hopefully get a featured snippet out of it, too.

Which we’ve been able to do in a couple of important circumstances.

One of the helpful tools to identify featured snippets from your competitors and of your own is to use SEMrush, where you’d go into the advanced filters to say, “Don’t just show me all of the keywords my competitor or my own site rank for, show me the ones where I actually have position zero, the featured snippet, or my competitor has that.” It’s a very handy little resource.

And then look at what they’re doing, rip off and do better.

Exactly, R&D, you got to love it. I’m curious and I’d love for you to share with our listeners. When you were thinking of signing up for my coaching and you hadn’t yet, what was giving you pause? What was it that you’re thinking, “I don’t know if this is the right choice. I’m not sure if I should be doing this.” What were the objections going on in your mind as you were contemplating, as you were deciding whether for us to work together?

I think probably one of the biggest objections was the price, the cost. Part of it is me not knowing how to evaluate what is or is not a good price to pay for someone to help with SEO. I know that responding to someone who blanket emails me, and guarantees me page one results via spam, definitely a bad place to go, but trying to figure out, “Will the results actually end up paying for the cost of the service?” and that definitely has been the case. The results have definitely more than covered the cost of your service.

Positive ROI.

Yes, positive ROI. Some of it was because I don’t necessarily sit in a traditional space where I have a specific product or a specific service. It was like, “Well, can I even get a positive ROI?” because it’s not like I have a coaching program that I’m selling, or I’m not selling a car where there is a large value. Traffic is a little more complicated animal. Give me a whole bunch of traffic from India, that’s not really going to increase ad revenue.

Which is a great point because you had a massive increase in traffic from India and you got zero additional dollars in revenue from that.

Yeah. That’s always been something I’ve been looking at. Okay, we want to grow traffic, but it needs to be traffic that actually increases revenue. Some of those were my questions going into it, “An SEO person I’m sure can help me get more traffic from around the world, but is it going to be traffic that’s going to convert on the affiliate offers? Is it going to be traffic that will drive ad revenue?” I think those are some of my questions going in. “Will this work?”

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Yeah, and so far so good.

So far it’s been very good.

We’ve been working together for almost three years.

Yeah.

Awesome. One of the strategies we talked about in terms of being a guest on other people’s shows, and you’ve been on how many shows now?

Over 30.

Is to have a gifts page. Have some resource or set of resources that would be irresistible for the listener to go and grab. For me, one of my favorites gifts page pieces of bait is a 7-step hiring blueprint for hiring an SEO, whether an in-house SEO employee type person, or an outside contractor consultancy agency.

I have a 7-step process. One of those steps in the 7-step process is to throw in trick questions into the interview process, and those trick questions can be really hard to come up with if you’re not an SEO expert. I just happen to have another freebie of SEO BS detector which I also include on my gifts page.

Depending on the show, this might not be relevant. It might be that, that’s a personal development show and I’m talking about my story of transformation, and what were the things that made the biggest impact and stuff. I’ll make a totally different gifts page for that. This idea of a gifts page is something that you’re going to trial out here.

Absolutely.

What are you going to offer our listener who is going to feel like, “Wow, I’m going to be an idiot if I don’t go and grab this awesome stuff,” over on this particular page that you want to share what the things are and what the URL is for them to go get the stuff at?

Absolutely. We’ve put together a self-assessment to find out whether or not you are easy prey for online and offline scams, and the answers might surprise you. You probably are more inclined to be a prey than you think you are. You can take that assessment and download it at easyprey.com/marketingspeak.

That’s awesome. Thank you for that generous gift. It is surprising and alarming to what degree we are all vulnerable to getting our identities stolen, to getting our cryptocurrency wallets emptied, to getting our bank accounts emptied, having our credit cards run up with all sorts of charges, it’s so easy. There is so much information out there about us on the dark web. It’s foolhardy and negligent to not be changing your passwords and not have 2-factor authentication, and all that sort of stuff. If you invest in cryptocurrency, to not have a hardware device. There are so many different things that you need to do or you’re just asking for it. This is going to be a really helpful resource to go and take that assessment.

Again, that’s easyprey.com/marketingspeak and where else should we send our listeners to, to learn more, or to interact with you if they want to, follow you on social media, if they wanted to use your website as a resource, where should we send them?

You can always find all the resources at whatismyipaddress.com. There are links there for social media, where you can follow me and find out what’s going on.

Awesome. Which platform are you most active on as far as social? Is it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram?

I’m most active on Twitter, it’s twitter.com/wimia.

Awesome. Well, thank you, Chris. This was a blast. I’m really happy for you with all the success you’ve gotten. By the way, didn’t you just hit a big milestone recently? Your biggest month ever or something like that?

Yup. The last three months have been the three consecutive months of the best revenue. Best revenue, three months in a row, which is really exciting. It’s nice to see all the work that we’ve been doing paying off and hitting record numbers is really cool.

That’s awesome. I remember when you told me, “Hey, we just hit a new record,” and then the next month you say, “Hey, we just broke that record and now we have a new record,” and then did it again for the third month in a row. That’s amazing, so congrats.

It’s really exciting.

Yeah. All right. Well, listeners, I hope you’ve got some value out of this and you apply that value by actually doing some of the stuff that we’ve talked about, like creating these more viral versions of your articles, sprucing them up, adding potentially funny memes, better and more engaging headlines, you create spinoffs of these articles, and repackage the content into different formats, play around with Lumen5, create some infographics.

By the way, the tool that we use for infographics is Piktochart, that’s a great little construction kit for doing your own infographics. There’s so much that you can do just from stuff that you learn from this episode. Pick at least one thing and implement it over the next week, and we’ll catch on the next episode of Marketing Speak. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.

Important Links

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

☑ Clarify my business concept and make sure it is something I truly love doing. 
☑ Build a website for my business. In this day and age, not having one drastically lowers the chances of my company’s exposure.
☑ Outsource and delegate the things that I am not good at or the tasks I don’t really like doing to boost the business’ productivity. 
☑ Learn from my previous years of operations by evaluating my road bumps and mistakes. Document the steps I did to solve them so my team and I know what to do if we ever encounter the same problem again.
☑ Set quarterly goals aside from annual goals. In a three-month period, determine short term, highly attainable objectives that will help everyone on my team achieve big-picture goals.
☑ Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Sometimes there are things I have to do for my company even if they are outside my comfort zone.  
☑ Start with a want to help and then let the business planning follow. People respond and engage more when they know something is beneficial.
☑ Find ways to share what I do. Try different online and offline marketing strategies to target leads that can potentially be customers. 
☑ Utilize video creation in my marketing strategy to reach more audience members who’d like to consume the information I provide.
☑ Check out Chris Parker’s podcast, Easy Prey to learn more about how I can stay safe and secure online.

About Chris Parker

Chris Parker is the founder of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com, a tech-friendly website attracting a remarkable 6,000,000 visitors a month. In 2000, Chris created WhatIsMyIPAddress.com as a solution to finding his employer’s office IP address. Today, WhatIsMyIPAddress.com is among the top 3,000 websites in the U.S.

 

 

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