This week I have a long and detailed chat with Australian internet Marketing legend James Schramko about how he is dominated his space with his content marketing and authority building efforts. This is my favourite episode so far I’ve detailed the chat below but please check it out and I hope you like it.
Super Fast Business
- Services (websites, videos, SEO)
- Information Products (coaching, mastermind, info products)
- Software (speed dash, iPhone apps)
- Affiliate marketing (buy with bonus)
Sexy numbers and other stuff
- $2million+ turnover
- 76 staff (I think all in the Philippines, forgot to ask about this)
- Works from home
- $1m+ SEO business
- $400k mastermind – Silver Circle
- $250k community – Fast Web Formula
Content Marketing Methods
- Internet Marketing Speed blog (history, started making good content)
- Focus on quality, try to produce articles always with images and ideally with audio and / or video
- Provide a more engaging experience with multi media.
- Co host / JV format (Freedom Ocean)
- Interview format (Internet Marketing Speed) – aim for paid content quality
- Individual / daily format (Super Fast Business) – audience sectioned up using Office Autopilot
Here’s one of James’ recent videos (the one with the flower matching shirt).
- Use Wistia- great tracking plus free plan available -
- look at video profile by email,
- look at where people drop off etc
- Multi player tracking
- Chocolate coated carrots – love that shit haha
- Short sharp videos getting more views than the audio version
- Getting a lot of interaction and comments with video content
Affiliates and partnerships
- Not a lot of affiliates are asking for content development opportunities (opportunity here?)
- Some JV efforts like Freedom Ocean paying off for both
- Affiliates are seen more as a cost of doing business
Physical events and workshops
- Content from physical events leveraged for online community and products
- Following up online adds more value
- Profitable in it’s own right
- Higher risk, higher emotional toll, can’t make everyone happy (bloody whingers - my words)
- Can add a ‘lazy’ couple of hundred thousand to the profit but so can other things (I added the word lazy too)
Video training and paid content
- Provide the minimum solution for the maximum result.
- Follow a simpler and more elegant approach and chase the core of what people want.
- Products come from solving own problems and listening to what others are saying about it.
- Podcast represents a great opportunity to build the audience and looking for opportunities for paid products.
- Make it good enough to be sharable.
- Google starting to potentially de-value embedded info graphics.
- Make sure it’s well researched.
- Make sure it’s highly relevant.
- Have a high quality, elegant design.
- Don’t force embedding but use share icons and a subtle logo.
- Using Twitter mainly for news updates – not overly active on there.
- Auto publishes Facebook posts to Twitter.
- Twitter is full of useless noise.
- Facebook is the main focus on social media, be yourself, post interesting pictures ask for feedback.
- Active on Youtube as well.
- LinkedIn not so much of a focus.
- More stuff is newsworthy than you think.
- The ‘real’ news is boring and is often commercial motivated anyway.
- New podcast interview = news – if there are innovations in the content, then that’s news.
- Traffic, authority, credibility and SEO benefits and conversions.
- News sells.
- Good social proof builder.
A few points on strategy
- Leverage – uses a large team to leverage and build on content – e.g. transcribe every piece of content, summarise episodes, create graphics for every blog post, audio editing, extracting audio from videos etc.
- Engagement and interaction with your audience, via comments, Youtube and Facebook a key in building trust and authority and ultimately converting.
- Dan Andrews
- Tim Reid
- Tim Conley and Foolish Adventure
- Freedom Ocean
- Small Business Big Marketing
- Robert Cialdini – Influence at Work
- TMBA Philippines
- I love Marketing show with James Schramko
- Dan Lyons and Podcast like a radio DJ
More from James
Here are another 2 great things to check out that delve more into his background.
Tip – Start a podcast today
I couldn’t be more excited about podcasting at the moment. Here are some numbers from my show so far:
- After 2 years and 80k+ visits to my web design blog I only had 120 RSS subscribers.
- After 2 months of podcasting I have the same amount
- So far I’m getting up to around 1,000 downloads per show (according to Buzzsprout, unsure how accurate this is)
My 3 top reasons for podcasting
- Networking with other big players in your space – everyone is happy to talk shop for 30 minutes.
- Marketing – What better way to get important people to talk about your product / service.
- Authority – Podcasting is up there with video when it comes to building trust and authority but it’s far less daunting – some people just aren’t great at presenting on camera (me) you can get away with a bit of incompetence in audio form.
BuzzSprout.com to simplify the process of uploading files and pushing to iTunes. you don’t need to worry about issues with hosting files on your own server or with updating iTunes with episode information. It also provides a podcast website for your show and stats on the downloads on each episode. I pay $9 / month for the entry level weekly plan.
Podcast like a Radio DJ from Dan Lyons is a great free resource for starting out. I got the Buzz Sprout tip from Dan and also a bunch of audio tips and he goes into some stuff on podcast marketing as well.
I’ve chatted to Dan and he does a lot of other interesting stuff like Podcast masterminds and a podcasting editing service as well so he’s well worth chatting to if you are looking at getting going with your own show.
Dan: “Web Domination” is brought to you by my startup “Informly.” My app shows you a simple, one page live report on all of your important business information. It talks to your favorite services like Analytics, MailChimp, Xero and more, and centralizes the important info on one page accessible via mobile or the Web. The basic plan is free. Feel free to check out inform.ly/podcast for more info about the app we are about to show.
Hello everybody! Thank you for tuning in, this is Episode 9 of “Web Domination”. Wow, this is going really great so far. At the end of the show I’m going to have a chat to you about Podcasting, which will be in the Tip section and share some of the stuff I’ve learned over the last couple of months and some of the stats from the show. Also, a couple of podcasting tips that I’ve picked up from a couple of other podcasting gurus I’ve been talking to in the last couple of weeks.
Just the reviews this week, I’ve got a review in iTunes in the U.S. store, “Dan’s smart and an action-taker, brilliant with Web design, online marketing and software development. If you learn one thing, it’s to action your ideas,” and that review is from Dan Norris. Nah, I’m just kidding, that’s from Tim Conley. Thanks Tim, you’re a legend.
Quickly, Tropical MBA, that I recently went to in the Philippines, have announced another one in October. If you go to tropicalmba.com/tmba, which I’ve put a link in the show, I think there are a few spots left on that, if you’re thinking of starting a business then you should go. If you got any questions about that then feel free to e-mail me or let me know via the comments on the show.
I’m really excited this week, this is me in excited voice. Over the last couple of years, I’ve probably been influenced by three people more than others and one of those is James Shramko. I’m really stoked to have spent an hour or so chatting to him about a topic that’s dear to both of our hearts. I won’t get too much into James’ background but I’m going to really fill up the episode notes on the Web site, with recent podcast appearances that he’s done on “I Love Marketing” and some recent presentations he’s done, some videos and a whole bunch of stuff. I’ve documented all of the points in our conversation, which really lay out a really solid plan for the topic we’re going to be talking about. I hope you like it, I’ll see you at the end.
James, welcome to the show.
James: Great to be here.
Dan: I don’t normally spend too much time going into people’s backgrounds on the show, I’d just like to get into the content. I find your business really fascinating. I wanted to get a quick rundown on what your business is and maybe go through what my understanding of it is and you can tell me how far off I am.
James: Yes, do you want to have a guess at it first?
Dan: I will.
James: Go for it.
Dan: Superfastbusiness.com is the overall umbrella company. You’ve got eight divisions across coaching, software, Web design, SEO, affiliate marketing, communities and paid content, and Internet marketing education. I think you’re turning over more than $2 million a year, possibly. You’ve got 76 staff, you work from home and you’ve got businesses like seopartner.com, which is potentially half a million to a million dollars. You’ve got a product “Mastermind” which is 300-400 thousand dollars. A private community, fastwebformula.com, which is a quarter of a million dollars potentially, and obviously a lot more than that. How did I go?
James: Not bad, I tend to put my business into a few less buckets, but that’s just from a continually reworking it, which I do every month. I sit down and figure out what is my business because there are so many arms of it. You have to be pretty careful when you classify stuff. I’ve ended up with services, information products, software and affiliate marketing, as the core ways that I think about the business. Most of the things I do fit into those buckets somehow. I would class coaching and “Masterminds” and information products all under the Info banner. Things like Web sites, videos, SEO would fit in the Services banner. Software is a new division which I’m just checking out, because I think it’s definitely a great market to be in and to be successful in.
I’ve got some software as a solution, which is a Web-based app and I’ve got two iPhone apps. The affiliate marketing is really just selling other people’s products and services which fits really nicely into the services and information products that we already sell.
Yeah, that’s basically how I look at it. Some of the things you describe, I would class as traffic mechanisms rather than products or services. I’ve done a lot of work trying to split my business into what’s a product and what’s traffic. Things like podcasts for me fall in the traffic area, and things like blogs and interviews, all under the traffic area, I don’t consider those products as such. A product for me is a Web site that has a payment button on it.
Dan: Just on that, from an outsider looking into your business, you seem to have a lot stuff going on. Is there something that ties it all together? Is it common for you to be selling across these brands to the same people?
James: That is what’s in common. The central hub of customers experience most parts of my business, which is where the strength of it is. I’m in separate markets and different types of business, but I do have a common customer for most of them.
Dan: Okay. This is just a really fascinating business to me because I’ve also got a Web design business and I’ve dabbled in SEO. The scale at which you do things and the way you’ve mechanized it is really interesting. There is a lot stuff I could talk to you about. In fact, you don’t know what we’re going to talk about today, which is unusual for a guest on the show. It struck me during the week, I was chatting to Tim Conley who’s got the “Foolish Adventure Show” and we were talking about characteristics of good Web sites. One of my points was having great content. Tim pulled me up and said, “Everyone says that, butwhat does that mean?” All I could say was “Check out what Shramko is doing because he’s crushing it with content.”
That’s what I want to talk about today, because this is something that I’m really passionate about as well and I can see you are too. Actually, one question before I get into that, what can you tell me about what you do with advertising in your business?
James: I’ve got a more general sense of sales and marketing. Some things that other people may not consider advertising I call as advertising. Such as affiliates, I would put them into my marketing expenses bucket. There is a cost to create content. The small team that I’ve assembled now to help me create our content effort, I would class as marketing expense. Advertising is probably more pointed a term than I would use, but whether it is Facebook-sponsored stories or a wage for somebody to transcribe my videos, or strip out audio and make them into a podcast, that will come as marketing expense for the business. Same as affiliate revenue that I pay out, as a marketing expense. Of course the obvious ones, like Google pay-per-click banner campaign, is most definitely straight out advertising expense.
Dan: Yeah, that’s what I’m interested in, is how much… when you talk to people about starting a business, the first thing that they’re looking at in terms of marketing is what are you going to spend your advertising dollar on. The sense that I get from your business is that you’re not spending a hell of a lot of money on all of the types of things that people tend to think about when they think about advertising a business. Is that correct?
James: I probably think about it in a different way because I have been focusing a lot more on creating integrity of the products and the content that I actually provide, before I worried too much about scaling. The by-product of having good products and services is that they actually grew via word of mouth. I didn’t have the traditional paid marketing approach until now because it’s been a see saw between capacity and marketing. The way that I run my business is actually working off a set of numbers that are not sales revenue numbers, they are not profit numbers, they are not number of people in the business, it’s actually a number such as days to complete work. If we sell a product then we have to keep to a certain number of days that we must deliver that work. That’s really a capacity.
If it turns out that the days to complete a project is blowing out, then that means we have a capacity problem or an effectiveness problem within the team. They way that we are doing things or we may not have enough people to do it, we focus on that. If the days to complete a project speeds up then that means that we have a marketing solution required. We then go and drive more business towards that division. By balancing out our number, we’re able to balance capacity versus marketing. That’s how we’ve continually grown our bottom line profit, because we are working to a quality standard and a specific number that is probably not obvious to most business owners.
Dan: Yeah, that makes sense. You can do what you need to do to get more resources or to wind back demand, temporarily I guess.
James: Yeah, we can redeploy people from other teams within the business to balance it out, which is what we do. We’ve got, it’s like a load balancing on a server, we can move people around the business because pretty much everyone in our business is cross trained on somebody else’s job. That’s a default setting that we have, that there must always be two people that can do any one role. That means that the person in a team or in a position in a team is always training their partner to do their job, or training the person below them to be able to step in for them, so that they can have holidays and so that we can grow.
Dan: Alright. We could make this episode about HR, if you want. [laughter]
James: [laughter] That’s alright, whatever you want.
Dan: No, no, I did HR in uni and I only lasted one year because it was too boring. I want to talk about content. The first thing I want to ask you is, I think with your business I noticed, maybe a year or two ago you just went full-on into this idea of creating really good content. You used to talk about blogs that picked up feeds from other blogs, that kind of thing. I don’t know how long ago, maybe a year or so, you just went full-on into creating content. There is a list of 10 different things that I wanted to go through with you. What’s your thinking on content and on authority in general?
James: Regarding authority, the more authority you have the easier it is for you to make conversions. You create an environment where people come to you instead of you having to go to them, which is my preference. As a marketer, I’d really like my customers just coming to us wanting what we have, because they found out about it through our marketing efforts or even better, through someone else who found out about it through our marketing efforts. I think that it’s a good position to be in.
For places like Google, they are very clear on what they want, they want relevant useful content. It makes sense to play the game rather than to try and cheat it or… I’ve always been outspoken about spam, blog, auto-gen content, I’ve never been into that racket. I tried to six years ago, with a plug-in and I blew up a few good blogs. I’ve had a quality approach to things for a long time. Even more so now, everything we do is handcrafted and put with a much higher degree of quality because I think it will last, you don’t have to worry about it getting slapped around or you don’t have to worry so much about the long-term impact. I know for a fact that the residual effect of just continuingly adding good content is positive and increases of your chances of getting customers and then making a sale.
Dan: Yeah, and you guys are doing this for other people as well as your own business right?
James: Yeah, we take the same approach and invariably people will come to us wanting help to do it for them as well, because they’re short on time or a resource. It’s much easier to contract a dedicated supply service who have done a lot of research and testing on this. Yes, we do get a lot of people coming to us asking for help to create content and to promote and distribute content.
Dan: Cool. What I wanted to do is go through the different ways you approach content development mainly for building your own authority. I wanted to start with your blog, “Internet Marketing Speed.” “Internet Marketing Speed,” you write posts on there, you’ve got an archive of a whole bunch of stuff and you also got podcasts that you use for interviewing people. Is that about right?
James: Yeah, there is a year’s worth of podcasts and posts. I think that blog’s probably six years old now. It originally started as somewhere for me to post about things that were in my other Web sites, to link back to them and give them some power. Suddenly one day someone actually commented on one of them and I realized that people are actually reading it. I converted it across to more of a blog, a traditional blog with posts and good information.
Dan: Okay, how do you feel about the blogging side of things now, like you’re doing a lot of video stuff, which I’ll get to, but are you still writing articles and typical posts on the blog as well, and you continue to do that?
James: I do have a blog where I just put text, but for the most part I want media-rich blogs now. I would generally have at the minimum, audio and text, or audio, text and a picture, or the granddaddy, audio, text, a video and a picture. I like to have all those elements if possible, because it opens up a lot more distribution channels. It appeals to more different readers because of different modality.
Dan: Yeah, I’ll get into that stuff after this as well. The next thing I want to talk about is podcast. That’s something I’m really passionate about at the moment because I’ve started my own and I’m just noticing the traction that I’m getting on this is well beyond what I got after years of blogging. Either I’m really shit blogger or there is something in this podcasting thing. I looked at the podcasts you’re doing, you’ve got a number of different podcasts and a number of different formats that you use. Can you run us through those?
James: Yup. One of my, I guess masthead podcasts is freedomocean.com. That’s a partnership, I have a co-host who is very entertaining as you know, Tim. That one is under the gaze of, he’s got all the questions and I’ve got all the answers. That is a very, very powerful podcast. It has a pretty strong, a very strong listener base who are addicted to the episodes, they crave the next edition. When I look through my paid products and services, there is, such a huge proportion of them have come from that podcast.
They say, “That’s where I found out about you.” In fact a lot of them may even have found out about me from Tim’s podcasts, which was about small business, big marketing. They came from that to freedomocean and from freedomocean they’ve jumped across into my communities and started using my services, because the question-answer format is the perfect way for people to go on that discovery, and find out more about something they didn’t know much about. It’s a natural consequence that they trust and have built some rapport with you, even though you may not know them, but you start to get to know them and they comment and be involved in your community, so it’s been a really powerful one.
The other style of podcast I have is “Internet Marketing Speed,” which is where I have gone back into my old blog posts and activated the interviews as podcasts, where originally they were just streaming audio. By installing the podcasting plug-in, I think it was blubrry, I was able to retro-fill the iTunes store. That quite often floats to the top when I put out a new episode, which is probably once a month, I’m really not prolific with that one, but it’s always great meaty content.
It’s the sort of interview that you would be happy to pay for, that’s my minimum standard for “Internet Marketing Speed.” I want to have real experts, quality content, I’ve had such good people on there, like Andrew Warner from Mixergy, Noah Kagen from AppSumo and John Carlton, the copywriting legend. I have great content there and it has a strong base of subscribers like, I’ve built a big list from that particular blog over the years and it ranks for a bunch of different phrases that relate to Internet marketing.
The third one that I have is “Super Fast Business,” which is relatively new and that’s more or less a daily or semi-daily post. A very short, sub-five minute is the goal. It is basically by channel. For a lot of my listeners, they may be picking up one episode a week that relates to their topic. It could be that they are just getting the SEO one or they are just getting the business one or they are just getting the Internet one, or they’ve joined the daily newsletter where they’ll get every single episode. Even with that I give them the option to get a weekly roundup, which just sends them the links to the whole week’s worth in one hit.
That one’s brand new. It obviously went to the new and noteworthy very quickly and it has had time in the top 10, on and off, but I noticed a small glitch the other day, which I fixed and it should bring it back, restore its former glory. I’m pretty excited about this one, long-term, especially with the number of unique visits coming to that site now, in just the first six weeks is very encouraging. The number of views that I’m picking up on my brand new YouTube channel, also very encouraging. That’s a multi media approach, that one.
Dan: That one’s really cool. Let’s start with the joint venture one. I think the takeaway from that really is around this idea of doing partnerships with other people, because I imagine that Tim’s benefited a huge amount from that as well. You’ve benefited by getting his audience, he’s obviously benefited by getting your audience cross-over to his products and his other show as well. There is a lot of power in that one. I think I’ve put a link to some of these ones in the blog post for podcast.
That “Internet Marketing Speed” one, that’s my favorite one. That’s really, really good. Even just the most recent episode I’ve noticed… the interviews are with guys who really know this stuff, they are typically an hour long, really in-depth interviews, the content you put on the site is really detailed as well. That last one, that was like a thousand words of content to accompany the interview.
James: In fact, there is complete word-for-word transcription posted to that particular post as a PDF as well.
Dan: Right, that’s just part of the leveraging that you do with your team, which I’ll get to if we get time. The individual daily format is interesting. I’ve been chatting to Dan Andrews about podcasting, he’s really passionate about it as well. One of his ideas is that, this idea of daily podcast is something that’s really underutilized. I know you were talking about it with Tim on freedomocean the other day and he was having a go at you about it, or maybe he was just asking questions but… I think this is really cool, was this a deliberate thing because you saw no one doing it, or do you just have so much content that it turns out to be a daily thing?
James: There were about five things that coordinated to make “Super Fast Business” what it is. One of them was a customer saying, “You should have one Web site where I can see all your products and services, because I don’t know all the ones you’ve got,” because I do have a quite a lot. For most people, any one of my businesses would be plenty, as you said, the SEO business, it’s a million dollars in sales alone, just from one Web site. For most people that would keep them busy. I did one on an umbrella site to announce what’s going on with all my other Web sites, that was the premise. There was the shift in Google with Penguin, really demanding quality content. I wanted to have more than just a blog post or a curation, I really wanted original content that’s useful.
There is also so much crap on the Internet that I want to be the change that I’d like to see. Like that Nelson Mandela philosophy. I really think that there is a place for leaders to step up and take some market authority by putting out really good quality content, without having a handout or beating people over the head or forcing them with manipulation stunts. There was that and there was this idea of mine that I have so many Web sites and so many businesses that I really need to focus a lot of my energy into one place and get more leverage from it. I felt that this would bring a lot together. It coincided with me migrating my entire customer base into a more easy-to-segment system, which I did.
That allowed me to set up, it’s the closest I could get to an online magazine with channels or segments, like the newspaper would have the sport section and the news section and the crossword section. I wanted that for my business, here’s the Web site section, here’s the SEO section, here’s the business section, here’s the Internet marketing section, here’s the software section, here’s the reviews section. That’s pretty much what I do and it’s worked out, that with a combination of testing and trialing, I’ve been able to achieve a very consistent workflow and production process to put out a reasonable quality three to four minute video every day or two.
Dan: Just on that system, is that the “Office Autopilot” system, are you using it for the subscription and stuff around that?
James: Yes, it is, by using tags to bucket my customers by interest rather than have separate lists, which I was using with aweber. It became completely unmanageable for me with so many different segments.
Dan: Actually, that leads well into my next point. You’re talking about the videos, that was the third thing on my list. I’ve noticed you’ve really gotten into videos, you’ve splashed out on some equipment. You’re really good on presenting on the videos, you’re adding personality, I know you’ve done this deliberately. How do you see video? I don’t watch a lot videos, I tend to listen to more audio because it enables me to do two things at one time. This is obviously in every way, you think, is going to explode because you’re throwing a lot at it.
James: The average American watches seven or eight hours of video every day because they are watching multiple things at the same time. They actually watch multiple videos at the same time, which is extraordinary. You only have to look at YouTube and Pinterest and Facebook to see that people want to be entertained. They want to waste time and to just turn off and just be part of something. With the amount of TV viewing, I think it’s great. Also if you take research from people like Cialdini, who has proven that conversions increase when people get to know the person on the other end of the line.
If you do lend yourself to being able to go on camera and it’s a medium that’s comfortable for you, I think it absolutely increases the relationship and the bond with your target market. You can express a lot more when you’re in front of a camera than you’re just with voice or just with text.
The great thing is with the video, you still end up with an audio track that you can siphon off and repurpose into a podcast, which is obviously what I do, so that I’m still capturing that audience who would prefer to listen or want to catch up with it on the bus, or while they are driving alone and operating machinery, they can still catch up with it. I think video, especially short videos, are going to be more and more popular. I’ve watched my YouTube channel really go from nothing to 4,000 viewers in just the last couple of weeks. I’m seeing evidence that my customers will watch a two or three minute video all the way to the end.
I’m getting a lot of feedback, I’ve never had so many comments in relation to media that I’m putting out. “Thanks for the video, I really like the tips.” Or, “I liked your t shirt today,” or, “The flowers were a nice touch,” or whatever.
Dan: I hadn’t noticed the flowers.
James: Getting a lot of comments on equipment and scenery and location. When we say splash out, we’re talking about a pretty modest budget for audio and camera equipment to be putting out your own show is incredibly cost effective for small business compared to most other advertising channels.
Dan: Yeah, just on the tracking thing, you’re getting more comments and people asking you about it, there are two questions I’ve got about this. One, I know you use Wistia, and what do you do with the tracking in Wistia? The other question is, do you compare the video watchers to the audio listeners and how do they compare to each other?
James: I do track everything. I track podcasts, downloads, I track unique visits to the site, repeat visits, page views, how much of the video they watch. Where it spikes in the video, which is very important. My team and I have actually put out a Google Doc and we’ve listed likes and dislikes, we’ve noted where people re-watch the video as a like and we’ve noted where it drops off as a dislike, and we can tailor out messages or a topic around likes and dislikes. We’re learning about our viewer and we’re trying to be more relevant to them.
I don’t think it compromises me as artist because I can still talk about what I want to talk about, if we call that the carrot, then I can dip that carrot in chocolate, which is what the customer really wants to hear about. I can have my chocolate-coated carrot and still deliver the message I want, but I can wrap it in a way that my consumers really enjoy.
Wistia, the real analytic feature of that that’s so powerful is the ability to see how many videos a particular user watches and which ones they watch all the way or not, so I can map the profile. I can look your e-mail up and I could see how many videos you’ve looked at and get a bit of feeling for you and start to see what the typical usage pattern is. Of course, I can then, in my paid memberships, call up all the videos in a multiplayer and see which video is the most interesting to my audience and how far they watch, which parts spike or not. For my sales videos, I can see where people drop off, how long I can hold attention. I can actually swap out the videos and test them against each other, which is pretty cool.
Dan: That is cool! I use Wistia just for the video I just did for the inform.ly and it looks better as well. They’ve got a free plan, which I think is one Web site or three Web sites or something, the videos look good in there, display on all devices, that kind of thing as well. What about the audio versus video, do you find that still more people subscribing to the audio or listening to the audio than the video?
James: I haven’t looked at the audio stats for “Super Fast Business” recently. I have to check that. It won’t determine much for me, I won’t decide to turn one or the other off. Because I’ve committed to do both, I guess I haven’t looked at it for that reason yet but I will out of curiousity.
Dan: Yeah, that makes sense to me, if you’re doing the video anyway you definitely do the audio anyway, but I think that people who are doing audio and considering doing video, that’s an interesting stat. I was listening to “This Week in Startups” the other day, they were talking about, they just splashed out a huge amount of cash on these really awesome microphones because they had spent so much time on their video stuff. They realized that most people were listening to the podcast via audio, a really big percentage of them. It’s totally different to what you’re doing because it’s like an hour and a half per show. I would be interested in knowing whether most people are watching your videos or most are downloading the audio. I suspect with the short videos, it may be the case that more people are watching the videos.
James: I’m seeing this in YouTube counts, hundreds of people watch the video. I think they are a great part of the recipe for me. I suspect that there’d be more people listening to the audio in iTunes or from an RSS feed of the site but that’s okay, I really want to appeal to everybody. Some people don’t like audio or video and they just want to read, so we put a full word-for-word transcription for every single post now.
Dan: Wow, yeah, that’s interesting. The next thing I wanted to get on to was affiliates and partnerships. This is all under the broad heading of content to me, because when you’ve got affiliates who are promoting your content they’re effectively putting out content for you. Are they part of your content strategy in a way?
James: No, affiliate for me is just a marketing expense.
Dan: What about when affiliates do reviews or affiliates ask you to come and do interviews on their shows and that kind of thing? Do you see that as a content marketing opportunity? Is that basically just an expense, cost of selling your products?
James: Probably the only exception to that would be freedomocean, which is more or less, Tim has an affiliate benefit for doing that. That’s the most assisted affiliate program or super-affiliate that I have. He’s made a lot of money from that podcast as an affiliate but that’s probably the only exception. The rest of the time I’ve got my sites there and affiliates drive traffic to it from various places. Everywhere, from pay-per-click right through to reviews-style blogs.
I don’t really see all of the ways that they drive the traffic, but they are not breaking the rules and I don’t really mind as long they are not promising things that don’t exist or telling fibs, then it’s okay. Their goal really is to send traffic and make a return on investment for themselves. My job is to have high-quality products that people stick around with, and I keep sending off that affiliate commission every month, couple of times a month.
Dan: Right, okay, yeah. I’ve never really looked into the affiliate stuff much but I thought maybe there was more relationships like with Tim, where you’re going on each other’s shows and putting out stuff together. It sounds like maybe that’s not the case. I’m guessing that joint venture podcast thing with Tim is… there is only a limit to how many those sorts of things you can do right?
James: That one is more intensive resource, but it’s been a great traffic source for me, and because it’s a partnership, then I claim half of that. Half of the relationship and half of the traffic I can have for myself, and the other half he can run through his affiliate link. I certainly do podcast interviews and provide content to affiliates who ask for it, interestingly not everyone does. The ones that do, I really do help them, and more often than not they will stick an affiliate link somewhere near any special piece of content that I helped them with. It is a partnership thing and I don’t mind sharing ideas and putting things out there. It’s just a way for me to meet more people and also to help people understand more about what I do and provide them a better choice in some cases than what they are currently aware of.
Dan: Yeah. The next one on my list is physical events because this is something that I’m interested in. I’m going to, hopefully the next episode of my show is going to be talking to a guy specifically about what they are doing offline to build momentum online. This is an area that a lot of people, especially the Internet marketers, don’t look at, but I know you go as far as putting on your own events almost every year. I think you’ve done four or something. What can you tell me about those events and how they contribute to your content, and how you can leverage that content as well?
James: Events are good to bring a community together and just to give them strength in their relationship and provide more value for them, a forum where they can meet each other face-to-face, and of course if you involve some experts, you can record and leverage those recordings, which is what I have effectively done with my most recent community that I have put up, is to harness all of my previous event recordings into one forum where I can also provide the opportunity to be present and answer questions that are triggered as a result of watching those recordings, rather than just have a membership in isolation.
People can actually involve themselves with the recording and then ask questions about it and get answers from me, and I have the most context to be able to answer the questions since I arranged the content to come together and be recorded. I was present at all of the events and I know the whole story. It’s tremendously valuable for pulling together a community, it can be profitable, both in ticket sales and sales that may be made at the event. Then post-event, in monetizing it in form of a community or whatever.
The obvious things are, you have timing issues with payments and with hiring events and staff and video production, et cetera. It’s a logistical situation, there is also a high energy level that goes into putting on events like that and coordinating. It does consume a fair bit of time prior to the event, to make it happen. Then you have to actually turn up and deliver. No matter how good a job you do, there will always be someone complaining about something, whether it’s the food didn’t have enough variety or that they would have liked it to be closer to the beach or whatever. You have to also have some thick skin and put with a small percentage of people who will get under your skin a bit and make you feel like you should never run anpther one again… [laughter]
Dan: [laughter] Yeah, you’re really putting yourself out there with an event and financially as well. You’re booking out a whole resort and hoping that people would turn up. It’s a much bigger deal than launching a Web site.
James: It’s a higher stakes game and I’m sure some people do their pants with running events. They may not actually make a profit. I’ve done really, really well with events, but it’s not a major part of my business model. It can add a couple of hundred thousands dollars a year to my profit line, but at the same time I can do that with just a Web site and a couple of team members and some good marketing.
My preference is to be not event- or launch-dependent in business. I don’t run launches, I don’t have time-critical events so often. I have more of an evergreen approach because it’s really easy to sustain and manage. I still get to sleep in and have a relative amount of freedom and flexibility built into my schedule. That’s what I’ve wanted after such a long time of putting my nose the grindstone and driving a desk in corporate land for decades. I’m actually enjoying the rest.
Dan: Yeah, well-earned. [laughter] The next thing on my list was video training. I think I probably came across your stuff, that was probably before “Traffic Grab,” but this is one of the things that I really like about your content, was the “Traffic Grab” product, which I know you’re doing but this was pretty intensive video training, it was nine or ten hours or something of training. Are you still in that game of producing content in the form video training, paid content?
James: Yeah, there is about 16 1/2 hours or something ridiculous for that.
Dan: I listened at double speed.
James: My next product after that was one and half hours. My next product after that was about 10 minutes. I’m learning a lot about creating products as I go and I’m sure that “Traffic Grab” version 2 will be quite a different product to the first version based on all the things I’ve learned in the last year. Especially when it comes to providing solutions, the goal is actually to provide the minimum possible solution to get the maximum result. That means creating something that people can actually consume and understand. “Traffic Grab 2″ will be simpler than “Traffic Grab 1,” it should be more elegant. I’m really going to take the 600-odd feedback results that I got and strain them into the very, very core essence of what people want and deliver that exactly to them and nothing extra.
Dan: Yeah, that makes sense. The market has changed so much since that “Traffic Grab” product came out as well, which probably encourages you to focus more on quality and less on the … you didn’t talk too much about automated stuff, but I think that the message now is different.
James: There are way less components now, yeah, you’re right. Whole industries have been wiped out since that product came out. The core of the product was always about original content and distributing it cleverly, but there are less steps required to distribute. In fact I will probably recommend, some people went all the way through the product and then decided it’s just too hard and they’re going to get someone else to do it, so I’ll be quick to point that out to them that if they really want to get good distribution of their content, they probably will find it easier to take a service that is already very, very good at it and well priced. I’ll point some of these basics but I will be modeling it heavily around my “Super Fast Business” experiments.
Just for your information the audio downloads or players are just a fraction below the YouTube for each post. I suspect the short videos are more useful for my audience than the audio. Probably some of them are not bothering with the audio since the video is there, it’s the next level of media up on the food chain.
Dan: Yeah, that’s interesting. I think that idea of doing the short couple of minute videos is a good one, especially if you’ve got the capacity to do that every day. On the video training stuff, just quickly, how do decide between what is the free video stuff and what is a paid product? Are you listening to customers and finding out what they want and then creating something? How does that work?
James: Always, almost all my products are created from my own needs where I’ve solved it. I may have done research or looked for solutions or just developed or innovated something. Then other people say, “Can you help me with that? How do you do this?” I’ll say, “You do this and that,” or, “This is what I did,” and they go, “Ah, this is awesome.” Therefore the need is there. Pretty much everything I’ve released has come from an inherent need that’s already been expressed. I’m working with very small margin for error. I hardly ever put out a flaw, because I’m not a pure artist just trying to put something out because I think it’s wonderful or because I’ve got a great idea. They are almost always consumer need driven and they’ve expressed it quite clearly.
I know that people are waiting for my next five or six products. I’ve talked about them and they have expressed a strong desire to have them, they want them. I might mention it in the podcast and then we get 20 people at our Help Desk asking for it. I mentioned a sales template once in freedomocean and then in our Help Desk almost every week ,we get people saying, “Is that product out with sales template that James mentioned in freedomocean?” The connection between a podcast and solving people’s problems for a fee is very strong.
Dan: I guess the message there for other people is one around, I guess, taking all of these tips and building all of this content, building your authority, getting to the point where people are listening to you, and once people are listening to you then it becomes a hell of a lot easier to work out what they’ll buy from you.
James: They’ll tell you what they want.
Dan: Yeah and it’s hard to know that unless you’ve got that following to start with. I think that’s something that, I don’t know if it gets talked about enough, the fact that you’re following is so important. Let’s move on because I’ve got three more things. The next thing I wanted to talk about was infographics. This is something that bamboozles me and I just don’t even bother with but I heard you talking about this recently. I know this guy comes up comes up in the SEO circles, with Pinterest blowing up at the moment, it seems to be something that’s popping up all over the place. You’re doing a little bit with this kind of stuff for SEO partner business and also for your own stuff.
James: Yeah, we do it for, LinkJuice customers and we have used them on our own sites with great success.
Dan: What’s the thinking, you come up with some research or you Google a problem and basically try to a find a way to represent it graphically?
James: Yup, you just represent some data or statistics that might be interesting to your audience in the form of a picture, then you post that onto your site, on page content, and then it’s good enough that people want to share it. That’s basically the core essence. A lot of people are starting to spam it now and take it overboard and it’s cause to start warning that people that they might devalue embedded infographic links. Just like everything else, people come along and ruin a good thing by overdoing it. The keys points are, make sure that it’s well researched data. Make sure that it’s very relevant to the target audience.
Have a good quality elegant design. It should be good enough that people do want to share when you put it up there. You don’t force people to embed it with a link back to your site. Just put Share icons and stuff in there, you can put a subtle logo in the bottom of it, so that when it does get repinned or shared that is still getting advertising for it. If you like, it’s the closest you get to a free banner where people will actually promote your banner for you because it’s useful enough on its own.
Dan: Yeah, that leads into the next one which is social media. Maybe if you could explain quickly which platforms you’re on and how you are using them? I know you’re on Pinterest, I know you’re on Facebook a lot and you’re on Twitter but you don’t love it. Is that a good summary?
James: I check it every day. I use Twitter to get the news so I just follow very few people. I’m really just following a couple of people who I find interesting or funny, like Ricky Gervais. For the most part I’m following news outlets in industries that I’m interested in, like Wall Street Journal or Fox News, I just want to know who got kidnapped today or which prime minister just got voted in, and then a couple of the news services for the industries that I’m in, like SEO. I want to know what did Google just change, what results are people getting with the latest slap, et cetera.
I use it to follow news and I do syndicate my Facebook posts to Twitter. I don’t have any issue with that. I’m stuck around 7,700 followers for some reason for the last two years. I think Twitter is a lot of useless noise. It’s useful as a news feed and some people love their Twitter, and it’s great to back and forth or thank them for retweeting or whatever. For the most part Facebook is where my social media focus is and YouTube.
I don’t worry about LinkedIn, because I’m not in the suit-and-tie market. I don’t care about corporate. I do sell to some of them but I don’t change what I wear to deal with them. Again, I want people coming to me, so I’m not using it go and network with people on there. Facebook I like a lot, because I can just be myself and operate under my own fan page and post pictures that I think are interesting or might be useful for people. It’s so easy to reach so many people with continuous good quality posts you can drive a lot of traffic to your sites.
Dan: Yeah, I noticed you’re got a lot going on Facebook, and Tim on “Small Business Big Marketing” stuff is really active on there as well. He’s always posting interesting marketing things and he’s always getting lots and lots of comments likewise. Your audience is probably there, a lot of individuals and smaller types, like home business. Is that why you think Facebook is more powerful, or do you think it’s just as powerful for a business-type audience?
James: Yeah, most of my people are sole operators or small business owners or mums and dads, so they are all on Facebook. Probably not all of them are on LinkedIn. I’m not trying to be a big enterprise corporate, I don’t need that approach. Just normal real business operator but most people are on Facebook and I’m on Facebook, so that’s a perfect match.
Dan: Yeah, I think people like it when you interact with them on there. This is something that I probably I’m not going to get to because we don’t really have the time, but this is something that I think I’ll notice with your audience, you are really good at getting back to them and engaging with them. I suspect when you’re putting out content, if you’re not doing that you’re probably missing this huge chunk of the opportunity because people responds really well to that. Facebook lends itself to that really well.
James: It’s why it’s called social media. It’s not a one-way medium like the Yellow Pages and if you engage, you’re just strengthening the relationship and acknowledging people, that they know they’re being heard and accepted and appreciated. Even something as simple as a stunning post the other day, “Help me choose between blue and yellow,” I had a 180-something comments in no time. I was really shocked with the amount of interaction from such a simple question. It was an honest question because my Web designer sent me two drafts and I thought, I’ll just put it to my audience, people like to express an opinion and they want to socialize in social media, fancy that.
Dan: Yeah, I think it’s such a big part of content marketing. If you’re going to be putting content out there that’s the first step. People are going to like reading content, but they like it a hell of a lot more when you start replying and listening to them and… I don’t know how you can measure that but I’m sure they are much more likely to buy, I know I’m much more likely to buy from someone who I’ve engaged with online as well.
James: Me too!
Dan: The final thing I had in the list was press releases, because I know you seem to do a lot of these and I’m always a lot bit confused about when to put a press release out. I’ve done them occasionally and haven’t really had that a good result. I’m a little bit less excited how good they are for SEO. You sound more excited about them. You put a press release out when you interview for your podcast for example, right?
James: Yeah, I put a press release out when there is news.
Dan: How do you define that? If you interview someone for your podcasts, that news, or does it depend on who the person is?
James: Of course it’s news. It’s like when you switch on the TV and you see on the news, you’ll see them actually cross-promote “The Voice.” They’ll say, “The stars have arrived in town for the next episode of “The Voice,”,” it’s shaping up to be one of Australia’s most viewed shows, ever. I guess we’ll find out and they’ll run that in the news. It’s certainly more newsworthy than “Spot the dog fell out of a tree today,” I’ve seen some absolute drivel on the TV news, some crazy boring stories, you think, “Why is that news?”
I think when you put out a new podcast interview, for me that’s news, and for my audience it’s newsworthy because they probably can pick up some ideas that have changed since the last month. Like in the podcast episode you referenced there when I interviewed a conversion expert, there were a few innovations in that that were not in my business a month or two prior. The new data that came to hand that showed me that thin headers out-convert fat headers, and getting things above the fold is even more important now, because people give you less of a chance when they land on your site than they probably did a year ago. They’re just so bombarded. If you can make something newsworthy, then that is a good time to put out a press release.
Dan: Do you think the benefits of that are, are you getting traffic from that or are you getting a bit of authority or a bit of credibility or are there SEO benefits, do you think?
James: Tick all of the above. I’m sure the links from Yahoo News are positive for SEO getting several hundred different signals to your site. Even though some of them might be not that great quality, there will be some good ones in there, you might pick up a San Francisco Chronicle-type article in an online newspaper. People talking about your site is usually good and if you make sure you rotate your key phrases every single time, you’ll probably pick up a number of page one listings straightaway.
I can put out a press release and be on page one instantly, just because it will show in the news feature. Quite often it will have that long tail stick and it will stay there for a while. Yes, you do get people coming to your site from the press release and making purchases, I track them with my analytics. As I put in the recent conversion tracking webinar inside “Fast Web Formula,” I showed that actual conversions coming from press releases can be quite solid. Because news sells, that’s the other thing we should consider as marketers, news sells.
Dan: Yeah, yeah, I noticed when I launched the first version of the Informly app that I’m working on, I’ve put a press release out, it was the only thing I spent money on. Cost me $200 or something. The main reason I did it was so that I could point people to someone that was talking about my site that wasn’t me. That worked, I noticed a few apt review sites and startup Web sites picked up on the press release and re-wrote parts of it. Then I’ve reused some of that on redesign the site, in saying, “This company said this about our app.” Really, all I’ve done is ripped off a little bit of the press release that I wrote and re-worded it.
James: We can have media gallery and you get a little buzz for it. When you watch the news and you see scientists in Russia have discovered a new plant that reduces weight, they’ll run that as news, but that’s probably just some pharma company ready to make bazillions from drug sales. What’s newsworthy for your market might be different to other markets, but I’m sure when you put out an app, that’s certainly news, it’s new. It’s in the interest of people who are your target audience to know this, because it can save them time or money or whatever.
Dan: Yeah, okay, that makes sense. Alright, that’s a list of things I had around content marketing. Do you think there is anything that I missed?
James: The picture on every post is an original picture every day and that’s because it increases the value of the post, it reinforces the theme of the message and it also provides Pinterest fodder.
Dan: Right, just decorative images or actual pictures that you produce specifically for the posts?
James: Yeah, our minimum standard for a post is that it must contain text and a picture.
Dan: Right and you’ll develop a graphic that relates to the post, you’ll get someone in your team to do that?
James: Every day, yup. She gets the video and makes a picture that relates to the video.
Dan: Alright, that’s interesting.
James: It also gives you a very pretty thumbnail when you click on the News tab, you’ll see all the pictures showing in the post preview. It’s more engaging and useful for a visitor.
Dan: Yeah, I think so too, I try to include a lot of pictures. I think from a design point of view as well, it works better if you got a single theme but you’ve got graphics or videos associated with your posts. It just makes it feel a lot more rich.
Dan: Okay, I think that’s all I’ve got. I’ve got so many things I could talk to you about but I think we’re getting near the one-hour mark. I think I told you 20 minutes, so thanks for not having a go at me throughout the interview. I really appreciate it and thanks for coming on the show. If people want to catch up with you, where’s the best place to go?
James: Go superfastbusiness.com, because it pretty much lists most of my other sites that are public.
Dan: Okay, cool and I can certainly recommend fastwebformula.com as well, which is the Internet marketing community that I’m part of as well. I really like this idea of paid forums. I’m going to put something out on this, paid communities, I think that you get so much more out of them than you do with some of these free forums, like the WarriorForum. I’ve tried to go on there, it’s just a time waste. I really like your forum, and the idea of paid forums is a winner.
James: I think there is a lot be said for filtering, and the quality of people in a paid community is so good and supportive because they all have something in common, they are all investing in themselves to succeed. Already the group has something they can align with, and so they help each other to be successful. Of course it justifies experts to come in there as well, because it’s worth their time to be there. It’s worth my time to be there because I’m getting rewarded of it. I don’t mind giving as much as I can. It does work out well for everyone.
Dan: Yeah, great and cut out 90 percent of the shit that you get in the public forums at the same time.
Dan: Alright, it’s been awesome, thanks for coming on the show.
James: Thanks Dan, it was awesome.
Dan: Alright, see you mate.
Dan: Wow, what a legend that guy is. I could have talked to that guy for hours and hours about any number of different topics. Cool, I want to talk about podcasting really quickly in the Tips section of the show. I’m really excited about what’s going on with this podcast, it’s not like I’m taking over the world but just some of the results I’m getting compared to years of blogging are really fascinating to me. I’m going to run through some of those results.
My Web design blog, over the last two years I’ve been blogging on there, I think I’ve written close to 200 articles, I’ve put videos, I’ve written four or five e-books, I have gone nuts with content marketing on that blog. I’ve had 86,000 people visit my site in two years since I started blogging on there. Most of that is just SEO traffic and most of them aren’t necessarily coming to listen to a blogger talk, but out of all of those that have visited, I’ve only managed to get 100 people to subscribe via RSS to my blog. I’ve had a lot more people subscribe to e-mails and download books and whatnot, but just going off the RSS subscription, people who are basically getting my content automatically, 120, which is pretty dismal.
The interesting thing to me is with the podcast after two months of podcasting, I’ve got the same number of subscribers. To me that is, I probably 2,000 people visit my Web Domination site and I’ve got 120 subscribers in iTunes and I’m using FeedBurner to count those. To me, that’s just a really telling thing about where podcasting is at at the moment. There is obviously still a lot of demand for it.
I’m going to give you three reasons why I think you should podcast and I’m also going to give you two tips that I’ve learned. The three reasons for me, the main one is networking. I hear people saying, “Should I start a blog, because I want to do some networking in my audience.” I’m like, “Start a podcast,” because podcasting forces you talk to really important people. There is no way James Shramko would be talking to me if I had a blog. He wouldn’t even respond to my e-mails if I asked him to write on my blog. People, especially who are already podcasting, are more than happy to come onto a podcast and talk to you. It’s like a little inner circle of podcasters and you can get access to this group of people just by having your own show. Try that with a blog, and you have to be a very, very good writer to be able to pull that off.
The next benefit for me is marketing. It might seem unusual, but I’m going to use this podcast to market my Informly app because I feel like it’s an easy way to get a lot of people to start talking about this app. It’s early days with the app, so I’m not really pushing iton the show at the moment. Eventually I want to really get the guests to help out with marketing the app and that kind of thing, and getting these people talking about the work that I’m doing is marketing as far as I’m concerned, and that’s a great way to do that.
The third thing is this point around authority, and if you listened to anything James said on the podcast, you’ll know how important that is in building an audience. There is probably only audio and video, which are really the only two ways to do this cheaply and in a way that actually builds trust and builds authority. Blogging is really too hard, people don’t really get to know you through blogging. A lot of people want to listen to audio. Video is good as well but if you’re not particularly good on a camera, then it can be hard too. I just think podcasting is a really great option from that authority point of view as well.
The two tips that I want to go through are buzzsprout.com. I know people who use their own host to host to the files and something like Blubrry to interface with iTunes. Buzzsprout looks after the whole thing and you don’t have to worry about, I found when I was trying to host the podcast files on my server it didn’t work and I was troubleshooting that, Buzzsprout gives you stats and hosts the files and also integrates with iTunes. It gives you a nice little site, it’s really easy to use, I quite like it. I’m paying $10 a month or something because I’m doing a certain amount of content but up to four hours a month is free, unless you’re doing a weekly show then four hours is probably… maybe its two hours anyway, it’s probably enough for someone starting out.
The second thing, Dan Lyons wrote a book called Podcast like a Radio DJ and he’s got a great Web site and blog. He’s in a couple of the forums I’m in and he really knows his stuff about this podcasting thing and I learned a lot from his books. It’s a free download, so I’ll link you up to that download as well.
Thanks for listening, see you next week. Guys, thanks for listening, make sure you check out inform.ly/podcast to learn more about the Informly app and more about the show. Thanks, see you next time.