While most teenagers are earning minimum wage at the local pizza joint, Chloe Spencer was earning over $1000 per month in passive income after building and starting an SEO campaign on her Neopets fan website. Chloe is living proof that to start a business, all you need is drive and a willingness to learn. She is inspiring young entrepreneurs around the world to go after their dreams, and shares how she turned a passion into a profitable business. We discuss how to become a guest blogger, using viral content as a link building strategy, using social media to create a fanbase and more.
Welcome to another episode of Marketing Speak! I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, and today our guest is Chloe Spencer. If you’re wondering if that name sounds familiar—yes, she is my daughter! You’re going to learn a lot, I promise you, because she is an incredible internet entrepreneur and has been since she was 14 years old—she’s 24 now—and she’s actually a SEO consultant and has worked with multiple companies. She’s been doing her own internet business for a decade now and making passive income through websites that have Google ads on them. She’s part of Google AdSense and she gets direct-deposited every month from Google a check and it would be up to, maybe, $1,100 a month, which is pretty good for a teenager at the time when she was starting. She started small but it quickly grew over the course and in a few years, she was already up to over $1,000 a month in her peak months and, again, passive income so whole months would go by where she didn’t actually do any blogging or any real maintenance of the site so, pretty cool stuff if you could teach your kids how to do that or teach people who haven’t really cracked that knot of passive income or making money while you sleep. This is definitely an episode to listen to. So, Chloe, not only has been blogging and doing SEO since 14 years old, she’s also been doing public speaking. She started speaking at 16 years old. Her first event was BlogHer. Since then, she has also spoken at Ypulse, The DMA Annual Conference, SMX West, BlogWorld Expo, SES, BlogPaws, SMOC, and others, so pretty impressive for a teenager to have all those different speaking engagements. She also has been a longstanding blogger for The Huffington Post. She started blogging for them at 17 years old. She’s appeared on TV. She’s been on the Denver 9 News to an estimated 1.2 million viewers. She’s also appeared on Bay Area’s ABC 7 News as part of their coverage of the BlogHer Conference. She’s appeared in the Capital Times Newspaper. She’s been interviewed on Blog Talk Radio, WebPro News, ClickZ, Tech Smith, ProBlogger, ReelSEO, Blogger Stories, and others. She is also, in 2008, on the list of Top 20 Young Internet Entrepreneurs Under 21. Pretty impressive! I’m a proud dad, obviously, and we’re going to learn more about the website that she created and other activities that have generated opportunities for her that are not just income but also authority-building opportunities. This is this going to be a great episode about building your authority, getting into conferences, getting into newspapers and on the TV, creating passive income streams, and just thinking outside the box. So, welcome Chloe!
Thank you! I’m happy to be here!
Yeah! So, let’s start by just explaining to the listeners how you decided to get started with creating a website that made money while you slept.
Well, it was definitely helpful having you as a dad who is a web developer and an SEO guru. Back when I was 14, I remember talking to you about your site insight and how it made passive income with AdSense and I got really inspired. I thought, “How could I do something like that? and I thought about, “Well, what am I passionate about? What can I make a website about?” At the time, I was really passionate with Neopets, a virtual pet site that is now owned by Nickelodeon. That was just really huge and a huge hobby of mine so, I think, that was the first and most important thing I did—pick a topic that I was actually truly interested in and passionate about rather than choosing a topic just for financial needs or thinking, “Oh, this is a lucrative topic!”
So, I was really passionate about it. I started a website about Neopets, which is mostly just a fan site full of cheats and hints for other gamers on the site, and it became really popular even before I started doing much SEO with it. When I started to SEO with the site, it became the number one Neopets fan site on the internet and that’s when I monetized the site with Google AdSense because I had so much traffic coming in. I started making, like you had mentioned, over $1,000 a month on my peak months at 15 years old with the site. It just kind of grew from there, which is really awesome.
That is amazing! You started small and knowing that you don’t just get on to page one in Google for “Neopets” as a keyword straight away. You started with, I think, you targeted “Neopet cheats” as your first keyword—
Then you got on page one for that. Then you went to “Neopets cheats” as the keyword you were targeting so that was the plural and that was a more popular keyword according to the keyword research. Could describe the keyword research that you did and how that all worked?
Sure! Well, the best tool that is actually free, which I still use to this day, is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and that was really amazing for figuring out what variations of keywords are the best to target whether singular, or plural, or different keywords that you would have never even thought of and the search volume for each and the competition for each one. I discovered that “Neopets cheats” was the second most popular Neopets. Once I was kind of hitting the big traffic, why don’t I really try to target “Neopets cheats”? With that, even with just producing really quality content and not just trying to just go after the keywords but rather, really entice my readers to keep coming back by producing this quality content, I then got up quite naturally to ranking for Neopets as a keyword and right under neopets.com on page one.
Yeah, that’s pretty amazing! I think you were at the peak of it ranking on like, maybe, position 4 or something like that for that keyword so it’s pretty impressive! As you said, you’ve heard from me that I had websites that were making passive income and multiple thousands of dollars a month like InnSite, the bed and breakfast directory, which I eventually ended up selling. Writers Net was another one that was making multiple thousands of dollars a month in AdSense revenue. Those are two sites that I had started just as a hobby as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and that was before I had founded Netconcepts. I kept those sites going and put very little effort into them every month. They just kind of ran on autopilot and generated all that nice passive income and so that was a big motivator for you that if I could do it like that, you could too and you took the bull by the horns and made it happen. I didn’t do the work for you. I just taught you some stuff and then, you’re the one who wrote all the content and did all the keyword research and it was really cool to see you really apply yourself.
So, once you got ranking for “Neopets cheats,” which, as you said, is a really popular Neopets-related keyword and then, eventually, for Neopets by itself, which was the money term, you were able to start getting speaking gigs talking about generating passive income and teenagers blogging and using their blogs as a platform to generate income and authority and other things. You also got your writing gig for The Huffington Post and you still have that column there to this day. So, what would you advise to a parent who might be listening or some, maybe, a teenager who might be listening—what you would you advise them to do to start getting into the speaking circuit when they haven’t had any experience because it can be pretty daunting and it might seem really like a pie-in-the-sky sort of thing to somebody who’s never spoken before?
Definitely! I think a big one there is just trying to get that confidence to reach out to people and tell them your story and they can be really inspired, especially because if you’re a teenager and you have a business so you’re a teenager millennial marketer, that’s really cool and often people who run conferences will want to hear your story and want you to share your story with their conference attendees so just reach out and apply for speaking gigs at all sorts of different conferences. You can find out what conferences are going on in your area or in your state online. It’s also really great to network by trying to get into the whole sphere of bloggers and internet marketers and just start reaching out to people. If you have confidence issues and you’re a brand new speaker, try something like Toastmasters or apply to speak on panels instead of giving stand-up presentations. A lot of the speaking gigs I did when I was younger and when I was just kind of getting into the whole speaking sphere, I did a lot of Q and A sessions or panels with other speakers and that really helped me kind of gain confidence as time went on.
That’s a great point. If you start kind of jumping right in and doing solo sessions with PowerPoint docs and everything, that’s, maybe, a bit intimidating so starting with a panel where it’s just Q and A and you’re sitting down with the other panelists and just answering questions might be a lot less stressful. Once you started speaking at these conferences, the various bloggers and folks in the audience were really impressed by you. You would get interviews and you’d get written about on various blogs and these would be great links that would help propel you even further in the Google search results so it just basically kept building on itself. What would happen is you would get more links and you would rank higher and you’ll have a better result that you could tell at conferences and seminars and then you would get even more coverage by the media and it just kept improving over time so that’s a great way to build links, right? So, what would you recommend as the top strategies for link building with conference speaking being one of them?
I’d say that the best way to go about getting links to build your credibility and your brand is really the natural way of link building and not going out there and really asking for links but trying just to network, meeting people, try getting speaking gigs, attending meet-ups for other internet marketers, trying to do guest-posting on people’s websites, asking for interviews, and doing other things like that, I’d say, are the best ways to link-build as far as just building up yourself as a brand.
When you say guest-posting, you don’t mean the really sketchy kind of guest posting but legit stuff where you’re essentially a guest contributor to a really reputable blog and—
And you’ve blogged for some really reputable sites. Which ones could you name off the top of your head?
Huffington Post for one. My very first writing gig for them was a guest post on another blogger’s account so that was really cool and then I actually got invited to become a writer—a solo writer—for Huffington Post from that so that was really cool and it even got me more opportunities besides just links but—
That’s right! I forgot about that. You wrote on Erin Kotecki Vest’s Huffington Post column and she just said, “I was just so impressed. I met this entrepreneurial young lady at BlogHer and she impressed me so much, I wanted to give my column to her for this week to talk about whatever she wanted to talk about and the column she sent in to me is amazing and here it is!” What a great way to break in to The Huffington Post and then, it was Arianna Huffington herself who said, “We want Chloe to be an ongoing teen blogger for The Huffington Post” It was really cool!
Yeah, very cool!
So, what else? What other sites did you start guest-blogging on or contributing to?
I did a couple other ones—ClickZ was one of them. ProBlogger, if I can recall.
That’s Darren Rowse’s blog—very high authority blog. That was a great gig there! I think ReelSEO was another one that you wrote for, right?
Yup! I actually did some SEO work for ReelSEO. They also decided that they wanted to have me do a guest-post or interview on their website, which was a really cool opportunity that I had from them as well.
For those of you listening who haven’t heard of ReelSEO—it’s R-E-E-L SEO.com and it’s all about video SEO so reel as in a movie reel. A really good site! So, guest-blogging in the form of being a contributor to a legit and authoritative blog. It’s a great strategy but also kind of thinking outside the box, what would be some things that will be more like, outside-the-box types of content marketing campaigns? There are lots of different things that you can do. In fact, I know you’ve created link building strategies before and I taught you how to do that. What would be some of the sorts of things that might go into a link building strategy? One of these big strategic documents offering tons of ideas for different types of campaigns that would build lots of links?
Top-10 lists, articles about really link where the content crazy stuff like, “The Top 10 Most Craziest Hairdos on Dogs of All Time” or weird stuff that’s going to get people’s attention. If you just scroll to your Facebook newsfeed, you’ll have ideas right there such as articles that start off or even a video of “This lady got out of her car and saw this and you won’t guess what happened next!”—all these types of really interesting, wacky, or weird content that can be in the form of an article, a Top 10, a video, memes, or things like that are just so huge that people just want to share them. The secret to a good link-bait idea is something that will be just so cool that people can’t help but share it. That’s the way that you build up a ton of links and hopefully, it will spread like wildfire and that’s really your ultimate goal with any kind of link-bait campaign.
Right, so if you don’t have any good ideas yet and if you’re in a really boring industry, let’s say, plumbing supplies—you could still find really interesting and tangentially-related link-bait topics to write about.
In the case of plumbing supplies, you could just go onto Flickr or Google Images and do a search, for example, a urinal and find all these crazy, weird-looking urinals from around the world, find photos that are creative commons-licensed so that you have the rights therefore to reuse and to include in your Top 10 list or Top 30, 40, or whatever number you’re going to put together and have all that compiled into a list or a Top 10 list sort of article that would be typical of what you’d see on a site like BuzzFeed, ViralNova, UpWorthy, or Distractify because that’s the sort of stuff that gets not only the clicks if you see it in your Facebook newsfeed—the click-bait—but it’s also what’s going to get the links so it’s link-worthy. If you are having trouble coming up with ideas, simply do a search on Google for site colon BuzzFeed.com and then a space and they your keyword so you put “site colon buzzfeed.com plumbing” and it will find all the plumbing-related articles on BuzzFeed, bearing in mind that many of those are community-contributed by just random people who have accounts on BuzzFeed and not just the staff writers who are amazing at link-bait writing. It would be a mix so some of the articles are not going to be great but some will be great and you just kind of have to sift through all that to see what kind of great ideas you can come up with based on the kernel of the ideas that are in those various BuzzFeed articles so it’s a great starting point to start ideating by just simply seeing what’s already been posted to BuzzFeed because they are valued at over a billion dollars. It’s crazy what they’re valued at, BuzzFeed, because of the incredible link-worthiness and click-worthiness of the stuff that they create. With that, let’s talk about how to create something that’s going to really be worthy of spreading and has that viral appeal to it. Let’s kind of brainstorm just off the cuff right here and now a topic and how you might morph that into different kinds of link-bait pieces or content marketing pieces. So, let’s take a topic. Why don’t you pick a topic? Pick a topic that we’re going to start with and then we’re going to create different kinds of campaigns from.
Okay, let’s see—
And this is not rehearsed, for you listeners. We’re just doing this off the cuff completely!
A topic of a link-bait idea?
A topic of an industry, a business or an organization—something that they say, “Oh, I’m in this industry and that’s not really not that exciting, I can’t imagine creating link-worthy articles on that!”
How about something to do with cars—like, a car mechanic, car repair, car parts, car accessories, or something like that or all those type of industry.
All right, let’s do it! So, let’s say it’s car parts and they sell mufflers and all sorts of different things, right? What could we start with? What would be some interesting topics? They don’t even have to be about car parts, they just have to be somewhat tangentially-related and not completely off-topic—it can’t be just cute puppies! I mean, it could be but that’s not ideal.
It is much better if it’s related because then you can get in relevant keywords into the link-bait, which is really important.
But an important distinction for our listeners to know is that the ultimate goal here is not to get the link-bait article to rank, it’s to get the entire site to rank. All the pages—the home page, all the category pages, and all the product pages. Very important point!
You could start of with doing some kind of link-bait articles such as “Top 10 Most Expensive Cars on the Planet” or “The Most Tricked-Out Car Makeovers” or “Most Insane Car Makeovers of All Time” or things like that that are really going to catch most people’s attention but are not really boring like “The Top 10 Best Brands of Mufflers.”
Right, so ridiculously over the top cars because I’ve seen the craziest things just driving down the street. I remember this car that was like balancing way up and down. It’s crazy!
Yeah, low rider!
I couldn’t even believe that they were still—it was like, they were in a bucking bronco! How did they stay in their seat? I don’t even know, Crazy! So, not only could you create an article with pictures but you could create a viral video compilation where you have all these crazy things that you’ve either taken video yourself or you’ve commissioned other people to take videos of. What would be a site that you could use to get people to do stuff where you pay them a little bit of money and they could be somewhere in another part of the world doing that thing that creating a video, or creating that logo, or doing the data entry for you?
Yeah, you can use Fiverr. You can even use ODesk for some things like that. There are different sites that are also relevant to what exactly you want done whether it’s video, logo design, or things like that. There’s tons out there.
Right, so if you want a logo or a website design, you can use these different—it’s like, a crowdsourced design site and design contest like DesignCrowd and what’s another example?
Exactly! There’s a bunch of them out there like LogoTournament and so forth but 99Designs is probably the most famous. I’ve had good success with DesignCrowd but that’s more of if you want to business card, or a logo, or a website look, feel, and design. If you wanted to have a bunch of people take video of like crazy, ridiculous cars and for doing crazy things like bouncing up and down like a bucking bronco, you could get people on Fiverr.com and that’s spelled weird so do you want to tell people how to spell it?
Exactly! Fiverr.com. You can get people to do the craziest things for $5.00. I mean, this wouldn’t be that crazy just to go out and film a car going down the street, that’s kind of ridiculously over the top, but you can have people shave their head sometimes for $5.00—crazy stuff! I mean, you’d be blown away with the kind of stuff that people will do for $5.00. Just go to Fiverr.com. It’s quite entertaining, actually. Imagine you’ve got these videos coming in and some of them are garbage, they’re not very good, you paid $5.00 so it wasn’t a big loss but some were actually pretty good so you could take those better quality ones and the more entertaining ones and then use those in a compilation video that you post onto YouTube, Facebook, and so forth would be some other things that you can do with this idea of ridiculously over-the-top tricked-out cars.
Another way of actually getting photos besides the creative commons or videos is actually Instagram. I’ve been seeing this on tons of articles on Facebook a lot. People who are making compilation articles of—it doesn’t even have to be like the cutest cats of Instagram or something like that. It could be anything. Just type the keyword into Instagram and what you can do is you screenshot the user name of whoever posted the photo, the title, and everything in their hash tags, and you use that as the full photo. I haven’t seen this done a lot and I think, what you would probably need to do is, contact the owner of the photo or the user and say, “Hey, I’d love to use your photo or your video in this article,” and you can even mention how many viewers you usually have yourself and usually they’re going to be really pumped to do it and say, “Oh, yeah, sure! That would be awesome!” They would love to be featured in an article so just reach out to the users of these cool photos you can find. You can find so many on Instagram since Instagram has become so huge, it’s ridiculous. You know how much Instagram is worth and how many users it has and how much it competes with Facebook. There’s just tons of content on there that you can just really easily access and just reach out to the users.
Yeah, and we’re going to circle back and talk more about Instagram and how to market on Instagram because a lot of our listeners, I bet, haven’t really mastered that yet so that’s a great opportunity—that and Snapchat. Gary Vaynerchuk is really big on Snapchat marketing is the future so we can talk a little bit about those two things but let’s get back to the link building side of things. What about infographics or personality tests? Those are some pretty popular formats for link building too.
Yeah, definitely! The quizzes and personality tests are really big especially for younger people such as tweens, teens, and millennials. I don’t see probably many 40 and up taking personality tests—maybe, sometimes—but those are really great for targeting a slightly younger crowd. What was the other thing you mentioned?
Oh yeah, infographics are really awesome! Just make sure that you get them designed by a talented designer because really crappy-looking infographics kind of ruins the whole thing because what’s really cool about infographic is that it’s visually appealing and so, get a good designer. He doesn’t have to be expensive either to make the infographics for you. I’m sure there’s other sites out there or you can actually kind of create your own but I’ve never used one so I’m not sure.
Yeah, I know about Piktochart but I haven’t used it personally. I just prefer to have designers do a proper job of it. I suppose you could also use the design contest sites for infographics though I haven’t done that because I just have a really good designer doing my infographics. We’ll come back to infographics in a minute. I want to explore the personality test and quiz side of things a bit more with you because you are really bullish on quizzes and personality tests from a very really age. Your second site, in fact, that you’d created after NeopetsFanatic.com was QuizFanatic.com. Tell us a bit more about how one designs a quiz or personality tests like, there are certain rules as far as you have to think about what are the different personality types, what are the questions, and how it all works. Could you describe that?
Yes, I created QuizFanatic back when I was a teenager and I didn’t even put a lot of energy or effort into the SEO side of it but I went back to it a few years later and I saw some of the quizzes had hundreds of comments on them so, whatever I was doing, it was good. What I would do is create all the quizzes myself. It was a WordPress site so I used the WordPress plugin for creating quizzes and for the templates for a quiz but you would create your own topic, your own results, and it’s title, results, descriptions, and sometimes a picture, which is awesome, then you can also have an HTML code for them to put it on their blog or whatever, which used to be really popular especially back when MySpace was big. When you’re creating the quiz, if you want to use a template that helps you a little more, I’m sure there’s other ones out there, but if you’re just kind of creating it on your own, just make sure every question of each quiz, each answer directly relates to one of the results because if you start to kind of deviate away from the results and you get a bit too carried away with it, it won’t really be an accurate result when they finish and they’ll say, “That’s not me! That’s really off!” and they won’t share it. You want to train and stick to trying to have it as accurate or as precise as you can, which will give people a better result and then they would be like, “Oh my God, yeah, that’s awesome! That’s totally me!” and share with their friends.
Let’s kind of build one on the fly here just as an example. Let’s say, its “Which superhero are you?” Take the quiz, right? One of the questions might be, “What’s your favorite animal?” How would that work?
Well, you would try and think of an answer for each of your results so if your superheroes are: Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and things like that, you could make it is easy as a spider, a bat, or something like that but if you don’t want it to be so obvious, you could do something like, instead of a spider, you could say, “I love insects” or something so it doesn’t give it away that they’re, “Oh, yeah! This one and I’ll get Spider-Man!” You can be creative with the answers. You could make them however you want—they can be a full sentence and they don’t have to be just a one-word or a two-word answer.
Right, and as you have more and more questions that are answered with A or B or whatever then they get personality type A or B, depending on how many questions they answered. These then get shuffled so the user doesn’t see the pattern.
Basically, Question 1 might be, “What’s your favorite animal?” and Question 2 might be, “What is your favorite color?” and that might be like black for Batman and, I don’t know, red for Superman or whatever, right? If it’s mostly A’s like “A” for the favorite animal would be “bat” and for the next question, “A” might be the color “black” as your favorite color and if somebody answered mostly A’s then they get Batman. But you don’t want people to see the pattern so that’s where the WordPress plugin comes in handy and just shuffle—
It shuffles so answer “A” doesn’t appear in the first spot on each question. It’ll be shuffled around. But the plugin will determine for you how many each person scored of each letter or whatever.
Right, and when you’re doing a personality test and writing up each personality type, is it important to have an image to go with it? Or, is that something you recommend that each personality type has, images or, like you said, a badge or something that people can—
Yeah, I would definitely always have an image because the visual side of these things just makes it so much better and so much more interesting. If you’re taking some kind of quiz like, “What Frozen character are you?” and you’ve got Queen Elsa, you’d want to see a picture of Queen Elsa or have a light blue and snowflake background or something. It’s visually appealing that goes into your results, which also then makes it more likely to share and you would always want to have some kind of badge or an HTML code that you can paste this badge on to your own blog or wherever because even if not many people do it, just because it’s there, you’ll have some people do it and if it’s not there you’ll have zero so you might as well have that available for every results.
Right, and the badge will actually have a link in it that people can click on to go directly to take the quiz themselves.
Yeah, exactly! So, then you get a link out of it too when people share it.
Personality tests can be a great opportunity to get engagement, get links, and get buzz. What’s one of your favorite quizzes that you’ve seen other than your own?Personality tests can be a great opportunity to get engagement, get links, and get buzz. Click To Tweet
Let’s see, I used to be obsessed with quizzes back when I was a teenager and I did a whole bunch of them. I think the coolest one that I thought at the time was: What Hogwarts house would you be put in? Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, or Ravenclaw? It was a really complex quiz and it was so fun. I remember all my friends are doing it and we all had our badges if we are in Gryffindor, or Ravenclaw, or whatever on our MySpace pages, or Bebo, or whatever and that was really fun so I think, target areas especially where there’s going to be like a big following, or fans of characters, or TV shows that have a fanatic following. Things like that are really cool to target.
Yeah, and the headline has to really be a killer.
This is a super important point. I’ll give an example: There is a really successful quiz that just blew up on Facebook and did really well on Facebook called, “Which City Should You Actually Live In?” and the word that did it—that made that quiz so compelling—was the word “actually,” because if they had named the quiz, “What City Should You Live In?”—take the quiz, and I’d be like, “Yeah, okay!” but “What City Should You Actually Live In?” presupposes that you are not living in the city that you should be living in or they bait that you’ve essentially settled on something less than the ideal for whatever reason so, get that headline right. Make it have a hook in it. What would be—let’s kind of elaborate a bit more on hooks, different angles, and different evocative or provocative words and phrases that would get people to click and to share a piece of content because those headlines got to be killer. What would be some examples of hooks? Let’s take the idea, again, of over-the- top and kind overdone cars that you might see on the road. What would be some hooks, or some headlines, or provocative adjectives?
Well, let’s see. As far as cars, I don’t have one off the top my head but I just came up with one in my head when you were just talking just then such as things that almost hit on like the pain point like, “Which City Should You Actually Be Living In?” which is targeting that you’re not living in the right city and you could be happier somewhere else. Another quiz that’s focusing on that kind of aspect is like, “Should you dump your boyfriend?” or “Is your boyfriend cheating on you?” or “Is he really your soulmate?” or “Have you married your real soulmate?” or things like that really get people’s attention and anything that has to do with something that is really important in their life so where they lived, or who they’re with, or “Are you in the right career?” or anything like that is a cool idea to really get people’s attention.
I think the words that I used in the previous car example was “ridiculously over-the-top” so something that makes you really intrigued and make you want to click, you’re on the right path if those are the kinds of adjectives that you’re working on. Now let’s go to infographics because we were just touching on that and then I want to circle back to that and dig deeper into infographics. One of my favorite infographics was the geeks versus nerds infographic where, basically, it was pictorially-explained all the differences between a geek and a nerd as most people think they’re kind of the same but they’re not. I think I might be both but I’m not sure! What would be some of your favorite infographics that you’ve seen? Or, what would be some infographics that could be really successful?
I actually can think of an infographic right now that I thought was really funny and I shared with all my sisters who are big cat people and by the way, everybody, cats are really viral. If you do some of the topic with cats, there’s bound to be people who are going to obsess with it. There’s a lot of crazy cat ladies out there and crazy cat men. People who just love cats. I can just take Cheeseburger.com, for example, which just totally blew up and became mega-big but there is this one infographic I saw, which is ‘Signs that your cat is plotting to kill you’ or something like that and it was all the different things that cats do such as stare at you from across the room, or run in the different rooms, or whatever they do with their food, or whatever and it was describing and had these funny little pictures of this is why it’s plotting your murder, and it was hilarious. I just remember that and that was awesome.
That was The Oatmeal who made those. He’s like a phenomenal viral content creator. Matt Inman is his name but he goes by “The Oatmeal.” I love his stuff! It’s just the most amazing stuff. Now, if you have just some really kind of boring business and you don’t want to get edgy with stuff that, maybe, might be off-brand or whatever and you’re just really conservative, what would be some ways that you could still create something that has viral potential?
Well, I would say a good place to put it if you don’t want to have these pages on your site such as in your navigation or something is, create a blog and then you kind of have more freedom to branch out a little bit with what you’re posting about such as if you are a make-up brand or an all-natural makeup brand, in your blog, you can talk about the 10 healthiest recipes for this spring or things that don’t directly necessarily relate to what you’re selling but they do connect in some way so that it’s not totally weird that you’re posting it. Say you have a really boring industry such as, something that has to do with finances or something, create a blog and you could post about, first, start off with articles that are—link-bait doesn’t necessarily have to be really weird and wacky. It can also be just super helpful or super interesting such as, finances. You could have like, “The 10 Ways That You’re Losing Money Right Now,” or tips on how to make this and this money, or add this and this money to your income in these 10 really easy ways that you could be doing every day or something like that that you can just kind of start off doing. It doesn’t have to be “The 10 Craziest Tatts of All Time,” or something.
Flynn has a very successful blog and podcast called, Smart Passive Income. He’s got great content there and just really useful informational and helpful-type of articles and podcast episodes. Really good stuff. Not viral in the crazy, edgy, or humorous sort of way but just really solid quality stuff. Another thing that, I think, our listeners should know too is, they don’t have to make this post live on their regular blog. They could kind of, essentially, hide it. The equivalent of a dark post in Facebook where it’s an orphan page or an orphan post that they do not have listed in their navigation so a regular user isn’t going to see it. A great example of this from a while back was LifeInsure.com. It had created this article, “19 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Death,” and it was a really depressing and creepy article like, the first item was, after being decapitated, you’re still conscious for an additional 15-20 seconds. I mean, I’m not going to be buying life insurance after I read that article so they did not want that in front of their customer base. They just put it on a tucked away part of their website where it was not linked to from anywhere on their site and then they submitted, at the time, to Digg that really just blew up. It got on to the front page a Digg, which, at the time, was bigger than Reddit. Nowadays, you’d want to be on the front page of Reddit but Digg was a big thing back then and so, they got a ton of traffic, they got a ton of links, and they ended up ranking on page one for life insurance because of that one article. And it wasn’t the article, it was the home page of their site that ranked for life insurance. It’s really cool to think outside the box, do something that you may not normally do and create this as a content-marketing campaign that you set off somewhere on the side. It’s ideal if it’s part of your regular blog and your main navigation and so forth but if you’re feel uncomfortable, you can just kind of tuck it away somewhere and still from like, a power user account onto a social site like Reddit. So, let’s talk about power users and getting that kind of reach and street cred and having a community—like, you, basically, want to become the popular kid on the internet so that when you submit stuff, it has a great deal of reach, right? You had Neopets Fanatic with individual blog posts and pages with some that are sporting more than 5,000 comments. And, as you said, QuizFanatic, where many of the quizzes had hundreds of comments. You didn’t even know it and these were not spam comments—these were legitimate kids, teenagers, and so forth who are chiming in and having conversations with each other so it became a community. That’s valuable! When you have a blog that has a community and that’s not just you on your soapbox saying, “Well, listen to these 10 tips or these 10 humorous whatever, or the 10 most expensive whatever,” but you’ve got a community that’s really active, vibrant, and communicating with each other—that’s a really great asset. Do you want to talk more about the value of that and what you can use that community for?
Definitely! Yeah, I think that’s what set me apart from my other competitors, which are the other Neopets fan sites out there. I had such a big following of users or a community that used the comment section on my blog posts as a discussion forum. They had their own user names, photos, and everything and people are literally chatting and talking about the content, and Neopets, and things like that. The important thing about that is, especially if you have a WordPress site, you can just install a plugin that catches the spam and to look at the spam, it goes into the moderation part where you can take a second look at it before it goes live, but it catches all the spam for you so it’s just truly legitimate users who are talking about your topic and your content in your comments. And that was a really awesome factor of my website that really did set me apart because it was largely community-based instead of exactly like what you said—me, standing up and on this thing and saying, ”Oh, hey! Look at this stuff!” I actually had a community of people.
Yeah, and that’s an asset that you can then leverage. When you end up selling your website, that increases the asset value because you have an active community of users. I remember when I sold Writers Net, one of the things that made it valuable and worth a six-figure acquisition price was that, it had this vibrant community who were just donating their time and just doing amazing things beyond simply commenting. For example, there were a bunch of users on Writers Net, which is a community of authors, and they created a compilation of an anthology, which became an actual written book called, The Writers Net Anthology, where all these contributors wrote creative writing pieces, poems, and things like that and this became a compilation book that was then published. Having a community that is really active gives you a lot of leverage. I think, didn’t you have some active community members who donated their time to write some content for you beyond just the commenting?
I actually had a handful of people that blogged and edited for me over time that were, originally, fans and users on my site. That was really awesome because you have someone who’s working for you who’s really passionate about not just your topic but your brand because that’s how they originally became to work for you—it was being a fan of your brand even before then.
You actually hired some of your fans to work for you, to write and edit blog posts, and do other things to help to maintain the site?
Yeah. Definitely! Because Neopets, I obviously started to grow out of soon as I got a little older so then I actually had a few bloggers and some editors to go on and create new content for me and I really just sat back and didn’t submit any new content to the site. I just kind of look over what they’re doing and they really took over the content-generation from then on, which was really awesome.
Now, power users are really important—not just a community of users but having a few users who have a powerful status. When that LifeInsure.com site got onto the front page of Digg, they got a power user who was in the top 100 User of All Digg Users to make that submission and that made a huge difference in them being able to rank on the first page. Let’s talk a little bit about power users because it takes a lot of time and effort to have a lot of street cred, a lot of reach, and influence in an online community in social sites such as Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram. What are some of your initial thoughts about building up–either you’re building up your reputation on a site like Facebook or wherever or just finding somebody who has that status already and just paying them?
Building up your own credibility can take a lot of time, effort, and work so it’s often just easier just to hire somebody. For example, with Facebook, say you are trying to post something that is say, you’re website or your company is music-related, you can go on and find different, maybe, local artists or musicians that’s not Sara Lee or Lady Gaga but who have a huge following and a little more local, independent, and easier to contact and hire to post a post for you and post your content that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Some of them have you know—what you go do is, you type in or you can look at the genre of music or different artists or whatever and then take a look at their posts and see how many views or shares or comments each post gets. If you see other posts that have 100,000 likes or shares or something and tons of comments that are hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands, that’s a giveaway right there that when they post your content for you instead of your little, old personal Facebook page, it’s going to get way more attention and visibility just by being posted by them.
I think of this as like a two-track or parallel-track approach where, Track 1 or Approach 1 is, if you can get a power user essentially working for you, you might have found him on Craigslist, ODesk—which is now called UpWork—or wherever and they’re working for you, maybe, on a per-post basis, per-submission basis, maybe it’s on a per-hour basis, I’ve had folks in both ways—like, some paid by the hour, some I pay by the submission. And then there’s another track of finding influencers who you’ve not had any previous experience with and you won’t be necessarily using on a pay-per-post or per-hour basis, you’re just trying to build a rapport and relationship with cool people who are popular online in these different social communities. If you have the right pitch for them, you have the right kind of outreach and you’re doing it from a value-added instead of a “give me something” sort of angle, you can get some traction that way. For the second approach, you can use a tool to help you semi-automate that outreach and so, let’s talk about Pitchbox and how that can be a tool for doing outreach?
Yeah, Pitchbox is awesome. I love Pitchbox! It just really automates the whole process of a mass outreach on to bloggers, webmasters, and whoever. It’s really awesome in the way that you can control every part of the process of communication with everyone and you can create templates, messages, and replies, and customize when those replies will be sent, and you can find all the leads and even contacts on Pitchbox itself as well. You can upload a list of leads you already have or you can literally search for them on Pitchbox.
You could put in a keyword that you’re writing a post about and this might be a little bit off-topic from what you normally post about and now, you’re trying to find all these influencers in a foreign topic that you are just not in-the-know about. You don’t know all the influencers and so forth and then Pitchbox is building a list of those influencers and you can set a threshold for the Klout score or Moz rank score minimum score that they would need in order to be outreached to and, as you’re saying, you can then have a template as the basis of the e-mail that gets sent out but then it can be personalized so that doesn’t feel like it’s this spammy, templated e-mail that really feels like an individual e-mail. Can you elaborate a bit more on how that works?
Yeah, so each email is part of the process. With emailing people, you can create templates and they’ll give you ideas and already-set templates on how to approach different people for different reasons in different industries then you can go in and actually edit it yourself and customize it completely. You will put in fields for their name and their blog name and things like that so then, it feels really personalized to the receiver yet you save so much time by using this tool. It’s really cool because you can create replies and edit them and you know, you can edit them or see them before they go out, or for when they get back to you, and things like that.
If they don’t reply to your initial outreach e-mail, you can have it set up to follow-up with them.
Yeah, exactly, and you can set how many times it follows up and the follow-up email is a different e-mail that says something like, “Hey, so and so! Just wanted to reach out to you again. I’d sent you an email a week ago,”—or whatever because you can completely customize it and it sounds really personal.
Yeah, it’s genius! It’s really good. And then, just like SalesForce.com that has these pipeline reports for sales pipelines. You get pipeline reports for your outreach and it just does all the work flow as managed from within Pitchbox—really, really cool! It’s definitely a great way to do more scalable outreach if you don’t just have a couple of power users in your hip pocket that you’re paying on a per-submission basis. You really should have both anyway so you should do both approaches and both tracks. So now, we talked a lot about link building. Let’s circle back a little bit to keywords and how does a keyword strategy help a business to build out their content and optimize their existing content because a keyword strategy is more than just a list of keywords?
You want to start off by doing the keyword research to compile that list but that’s only one step of the process. There are a few different tools that you can use such as the Google AdWords Keyword Tool that we had mentioned before and then, there are different ways to use that tool and some little tweaks you can do here and there to get you the best results, which I’ve actually written articles about and I’m sure that you have too, dad, that you could point your listeners to. Another cool tool is Soovle.com, which is really awesome because it doesn’t just give you keywords that is recommended for in Google but also Amazon, Yahoo, Bing, and I think, Yelp. There are a few different ones and it gives you ideas for. It’s also like Google Suggest, when you start typing, it’ll give you other suggestions that start with what you typed in, which is really awesome so then you would go on to compile this list of these primary keywords, secondary keywords, and keywords you shouldn’t even be targeting at all. Then, you would go through the process of designating these different keywords to different pages on your site because you can’t target a ton of different keywords on any page of your site. It’s best to have a page that is relevant to those couple or handful of keywords that you want to target because if you tried to target too many different broad and topic keywords on one page, it gets confusing and it’s no longer a really laser-focused topic, which is much easier to rank. You would then designate these keywords to a few different pages. You can create new page ideas or blog post ideas on targeting these keywords or keyword topics. There are different places in the site where you want to place these keywords such as, your title tags and your H1’s and H2’s and things like that throughout the body of the text. It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as this whole keyword density thing that if you put in as many keywords or you know, try to type this keyword as many times you can on the page, it will help you rank because then that will appear as spam—not just to your users but to Googlebot.
Yeah, exactly! So, what you were describing, I call it “The Keyword Map” where you’ve mapped the various URLs of important pages of your site to various keyword lists so, instead of having to scroll through this massive list of keywords, you’re just looking on a page-by-page basis seeing that, “Oh, this is the About page, there are a handful of different keywords with very various search volumes and those numbers are right next to each keyword and that’s just the next cell over from that URL of the About page,” and then you go to the next page and the next row down might be the Contact page and that might have just a few different keywords that you might want to target with the search volumes next to each one. It’s just really efficient and that’s a keyword map. The other thing that you were describing—having a content opportunities list where you’ve pulled from the long list of keywords and made a shorter list of those opportunities that deserve to be expanded upon where the whole pages of content should be created around those topics. Just for those of you who are not familiar with the tool, Soovle. It’s spelled as S-O-O-V-L-E.com. What this tool does as Chloe was explaining, it is an auto-complete. As you type suggestion list, just like Google Suggest, but it works across all of these different other sites simultaneously. It’s populating 10 suggestions not just from Google but Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, Answers.com, Wikipedia, Amazon, and so forth all simultaneously. It’s a really slick real-time tool that’s completely free and if you get nothing else out of this episode, just have Soovle as one of your tools in your toolkit and you show that to your boss, your work colleague, your significant other, your kid, your friend, or whomever, they’re just going to be like, “Wow! That is so cool!” They’ll be really impressed so just get that alone out of this episode and you’ll be really impressive to people.
So, now let’s—this is probably about time to wrap up but I did want to circle back to Instagram before we close out this episode. Actually, let’s talk just briefly about Instagram and Snapchat so, Instagram first. What are some of the must-do’s in order to properly market on Instagram or just have presence on Instagram because a lot of listeners are probably not that sophisticated at Instagram. Maybe they’re more sophisticated at Facebook so what would be some of the tips and tricks that you would recommend people do on Instagram?
Yeah, I would definitely recommend every business be on Instagram because it’s such a major platform. You can target your market to so many different people and a really cool thing about Instagram is that, you can cross-post with Facebook. If you post a photo that even has text in it—it’s a promo or something or whatever you’re doing—you could post the picture on Instagram and then you can publish it your Facebook business page as well. You’re doing this cross-posting thing, which is doubly successful so it’s really cool to really utilize that aspect of using Instagram. Another really cool thing about Instagram is that, you can utilize hashtags, which are so popular that people, literally, use hashtags when they don’t even need to just in text messages and things like that—that’s how big hashtags are right now. The fact that hashtags originated with Instagram, that’s the best place to use them because people can search for your hashtag content and you can show up and, literally, get viewers just by having those hashtags.
Yeah, and good hashtags and not stupid ones that are just bizarre and make no sense.
You definitely want to find out the biggest hashtags. There’s tons of articles out there on the best hashtags to use on different topics and things like that.
With Instagram—a lot of people just don’t seem to get that it’s got to be interesting stuff there. If they’re just taking the same boring photos or whatever, what would be some things that would make you stand out as an “Instagrammer” or an Instagram user? What would be remarkable kinds of photos and videos?
For instance, say you are a cafe or something, not just taking just pictures of the interior of the cafe or you know, the food is cool. There’s a lot of people who are really interested in food pictures and you can use the hash tags—it’s a bit weird but “food porn” is actually a big hash tag—and so, food pictures are really awesome. Use those filters and take really artistic photos but also, it’s really cool to get in on the “employee” side or the other side of the business that’s more personal so it’s not just a brand that’s talking but, literally, the people. You can then create a following because it’s more personal such as, if you’ve heard about or saw on Ellen the autistic boy who works at Starbucks—the dancing barista—because he has an issue where he moves a lot and so he turned it into dance moves and it is called, “The Dancing Barista,” and is really viral. He’s been on Ellen and he’s just this amazing kid and so, it gives this whole personal side to Starbucks. They are actually getting to know their employees instead of just the brand side of it.
I remember Dunkin Donuts did a cute Instagram photo that really did well for them where they had a cup of coffee with the Dunkin Donuts logo on the cup and I forget what else they had next to it but then they were holding mistletoe above it and the idea was these two things being mixed together like, the coffee plus whatever—the other thing was the flavoring, or the espresso, or something and it’s just like an amalgamation of those two things together and it was during Christmas time and they used the mistletoe in the photo to make it seem like they were going to get together or they were going to hook up, right? So, that was kind of cute and outside the box where, as a cafe you could take pictures of the interesting designs that you might make with the coffee like, hearts and things like that. That’s kind of interesting but try and just be clever, cute, and remarkable in different ways like Dunkin Donuts with the mistletoe.
All right, so now, Snapchat. I bet most of our listeners have pretty much zero experience with Snapchat so, where would they start? Give them a little bit of a primer on why or how you’d even use it for marketing because they probably only know it as a platform to send naked pictures that you supposedly—
I hope not! They can still be screenshotted, guys!
Right, so if you’re using it for legitimate marketing purposes, what would you utilize? Do you use the stories? I’m guessing that’s the way that people could see things that are not just sent individually back and forth between individual users and Snapchat, right?
The story aspect of Snapchat is really awesome and so popular. Everyone has their own story. Everyone looks at everyone else’s stories that they follow and you definitely want to have a story with your Snapchat account.
Could you define for Snapchat newbies what stories are?
Story was actually a relatively new aspect of Snapchat that they’ve created where you can save your snaps to this thing called your story where people or all your users can go to the story section of Snapchat and view everyone’s stories. It’s basically all your snaps within the last 24 hours. After 24 hours, it disappears and the people just keep following it. So, there’s that thing again where you can show this personal side to your business where people are actually getting a look in with the employees, or who’s behind the brand and watching your story, or even doing snaps with you back and forth or whenever. Just like, Dad, the other day I saw on Facebook that you had a comment on the Sean Stephenson Facebook video who is an incredible man with disability who’s become this public figure on Facebook and has a huge following. He’s just this really positive, amazing guy doing all these great things and he actually has a Snapchat, where you can add him on Snapchat and he’ll snap back and forth with you, which is really cool.
Yeah, he’s a great guy! So inspirational, Just a beautiful soul. So, check out Sean Stephenson all you, listeners. All right so, last question—heck, we could have had a whole episode on Snapchat! We’re over well over an hour here so we got to wrap it up. Last question is, if you could say one thing to inspire a teenager to think differently, to really take life and just seize the day–Carpe Diem! Not just work at a burger joint or do babysitting but be entrepreneurial and think passive income or just think, maybe, self-development and how to be a better person because I know you’ve taken some Tony Robbins seminars and stuff and those have been really impactful for you. What would be a key piece of advice that you would offer to teenagers?
I would say the first one is to not sell yourself short. Don’t think of it as, “Well, everyone else I know works at McDonald’s, or Forever 21, or something like that so that’s going to be the easiest thing for me,” because that’s in your comfort zone—just really break out of that and realize that you can do so much more than just what everyone else does. If you’re thinking, “Oh, well, my parents want me to go to college or all my friends are going to college but I don’t know why I would go because I don’t have anything that really draws me to it like, I want to be a doctor or a lawyer and I have this big passion for web design or I want to start this fashion business and it’s my life dream but my parents are saying I should go to college,” it’s okay to not do that and create your own path and that, you don’t necessarily have to go to college to start your own business. You can do this now. You can start now. You can do it on your own. All it takes is just breaking the mold and gaining that confidence to just start it on your own and you can start by networking, or start researching people, reading about them, listening to them, Tony Robbins and things like that to really help your confidence and self-development and to give you that motivation to really do this for yourself because you definitely can. You can do anything that you set your mind to and that was kind of my motto when I was a teenager and I did. If I set my mind to something like, you know, I really want to make this Neopets website. I put so much effort and time into that and it became huge. It’s because I had just poured so much passion into that so as long as you want something enough—heck, you can do anything! My biggest recommendation is, if you’re passionate about something, just start planning. Just start writing down ideas. Create a website. Go on to WordPress and self-host your site on something like BlueHost.com, install WordPress on there, start creating a website, do you research, read up on people such as Gary Vaynerchuk for inspiration or Tony Robbins, and things like that. Just learn from the experts and you can get there.
Yeah, absolutely! I remember back when I was your age, I decided to make that huge leap. I was 23-24 years old and I dropped out of school. I was in a PhD program and I saw this path of being an internet entrepreneur and so, I jumped on the bandwagon. It was early days of the Internet as well. It was 1994 when I decided to drop out and that’s when people were still using the Mosaic browser and Netscape was just starting to become popular so, you just have to seize the day, go after your dreams and live your life for you. If your parents, or your friends, or other family members say, “You know, you should go to school and get a law degree or whatever,” but you want to do something different, just do it. Do what you want that is going to make you happy. If you follow your path—it all starts with desire. With that desire, you’re going to create a compelling future. So, thank you so much, Chloe, this has been a really fun episode! It’s one of my favorites and I’m so proud of you.
For you, listeners, Chloe is available to hire as an SEO and online marketing consultant. Of course, I am too but our price ranges are a little different. Chloe is amazing and really dedicated and as you could hear, she’s incredibly gifted and has deep knowledge in these topic areas so you’d be in good hands. If somebody wanted to reach out to you, Chloe, to maybe hire you for an engagement or just talk to you and interview you for their podcast, or for their blog, or whatever, how would they reach you?
Best way to reach me is by my e-mail, which is really simple. It’s just [email protected] Chloe is spelled as C-H-L-O-E.
Of course, your website is ChloeSpencer.com. It’s a great place for people to learn more about you.
Which is, mostly, just press stuff, interviews, conferences, and things. It was mostly back when I was a teenager that I was contributing to that blog so, there isn’t a lot of current info on there but you can definitely take a look at some of my other speaking gigs and interviews on there.
There are video recordings of you presenting at conferences. Videos of you on TV and so forth. Also for you, listeners, who wanted to refer back to some of the different things that we talked about—things like Soovle, and how to do link building strategies, keyword strategies, infographics, personality tests, and all that great stuff, we have shownotes, which will provide links and more details on all these different things. We have a downloadable transcript and checklist so we created a checklist of all these great things that we talked about that are action items for you to take that will move your business or your career forward if you implement them so ahead and go to MarketingSpeak.com for the transcript, the checklist, and of course, the shownotes. Thanks everybody for listening! Thank you, Chloe, again for joining us. We’ll catch you next time on Marketing Speak! This has been your host, Stephan Spencer. See you soon!
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
☑ Brainstorm your website idea. What are you passionate about? Think about topics that naturally come up in conversation or that you spend a lot of time learning about.
☑ Search for conferences in your area that need people to speak on a panel, it’s a great starting point to becoming a confident speaker.
☑ Funny, interesting, and crazy information makes up most of the highly shared content on social media. Create a funny or weird Top 10 article or infographic, and share it!
☑ To build a community of loyal fans who comment on your website, make sure that your posts offer high quality, engaging content that your users want to talk about.
☑ Use your fan base as a way to generate more content. They will usually be passionate about the topic, loyal to your brand, and willing to write blog posts for you.
☑ Building confidence as a young entrepreneur is essential. Follow experts in your field, and participate in personal development courses or read books.
☑ Get instagram and Snapchat! Keep up with the most popular social media channels, these two options will allow you to reach thousands, if not millions, of users.
☑ Power users can bring tons of new users to your website. Reach out to influencers that fit with your brand and ask them to share your content. Remember to offer them something in return, or hire them.
☑ Don’t be afraid to go after your dreams. You don’t have to wait to start, start now and learn as you go.
☑ Make sure you set up a spam filter on your website! You don’t want to monitor every single comment, and your users don’t want to be spammed.
About Chloe Spencer
Chloe Spencer is a 24-year-old internet entrepreneur who started her first business at 14 years old and one year later was monetizing her page one rankings into cold hard cash. She is now working as an individual consultant for web development, SEO and social media, as well as a professional writer.