Today, I’m thrilled to have my good friend Jim Wang on the show. For all of you who don’t know who he is, Jim started one of the most popular personal finance blogs at Bargaineering.com which he later sold for over 3 million dollars.
In this episode, he shares his wisdom on what it takes to create a popular website in this day and age. If you want to learn more about Jim, you can find him at Microblogger.com where he also runs an incredible podcast as well. Go check it out!
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What You’ll Learn
- Jim’s advice on how to start a popular blog today.
- How Jim established traffic to his site early on
- Why you need to be different
- How Jim made his blog stand out in the early days
- How to establish a connection with your readers
- Jim system of pleasing regular readers while making money off of search traffic
- How Jim’s SEO strategy has evolved over time
- What page Jim links to for guest posts today
- How Jim ranks the different traffic sources
- The best way to network with other bloggers
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials)
- Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
- The Undercover Economist
Now I am giving away a lifetime membership to my ‘Create a Profitable Online Store’ course as well as free consulting. For more information go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch, and while you are on my site you should also sign up for my free newsletter, where I will send you my free six day mini course on how to start an online store of your own. Go to www.mywifequitherjob.com for more info. Now on to the show.
Welcome to the mywifequitherjob podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suites your lifestyle. You can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host Steve Chou.
Steve: All right, welcome to mywifequitherjob podcast. Today I have a very special guest on the show, Jim Wang. Now, Jim is also someone that I met at the financial blogging conference the first year that I went. And to be honest with you, had I known who he was at the time, I might have been a little bit more shy when I met and approached him, but you know, Jim is already a rock star online businessman. But it turns out that when it comes to think-on; Jim is actually somewhat of a celebrity, because he started one of the most popular personal finance blogs on the internet at bargaineering.com, which he later sold for many millions of dollars.
Anyways you know, we met in the elevator actually on the way up to one of the think-on mixers, you know, he was dressed in sweats and a t-shirt, and then you know passing behind me…
Jim: Wow, wow, hold on, hold on. I think I was in a full suit, three piece suit; I was looking like an online businessman rock star celebrity.
Steve: Hey, you are not supposed to interrupt the intro man, all right?
Jim: I’m a rock– I’m a diva; I am allowed to do whatever I want, right?
Steve: That’s true, but this isn’t think-on anymore, it’s back to reality.
Jim: Sorry, all right.
Steve: Anyways, the person behind me goes, “Oh my God, that’s Jim Wang.” And I was like, “Wow okay, this guy must be pretty popular.” But it turns out there is a reason why Jim is so popular, it’s because he knows his stuff, he executes well and at any given point in time he’s actually got a bunch of projects going on. And what I really like about Jim is that he tells it like it is, so welcome to the show Jim.
Jim: Thank you, thank you; I also interrupt intros as well multi times.
Steve: Apparently, you took me by surprise.
Jim: I just wanted to see what, you know, how you would react.
Steve: Yes, so for those outside of think-on who actually don’t know who you are, can you just give us a quick background story and tell us about how bargaineering got started and how you came up with the idea, and what were some of the motivations for starting it?
Jim: Sure, so I started working in the defense industry. I was in software development. This was back in– I started in 2003. And ss you can probably imagine in defense, this is a little bit of downtime from time to time. And you know I would surf the internet, you know, you start a new job, they give the whole big booklet of, you know, the employee manual and whatever, and so you don’t really have that much work to do yet.
So I was surfing the internet, I found all these like deal sites, you know, ‘Ben’s bargains’, ‘Fat Wallet’, all these great sites where they’d show you, you know, this stuff’s on sale, get it, whatever.
So I was like, ‘I can do that’, so I tried to do it, and me and a friend were going to start off the site and it was called ‘Ease of Travel’. It was going to be about travel deals and all that good stuff. It never really got off the ground, but it sort of gave me the taste of ‘I can do this, I can make money on the internet somehow’, I’ll figure it out, plus it’s something fun to do on the side.
Eventually that becomes ‘bargaineering’, so ‘engineering baragains’, It’s a kind of– I thought it was a clever name. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that as I’m learning about personal finance and money, I started to shop for one K, Roth, all that good fun stuff that they never teach you in school. My parents introduced it to me a little bit, but you know, when you learn it for the first time yourself, it helps to put in your own words, so that’s what I wanted to do. Created a blog, ‘bargaineering’ talked about personal finance. It was back then in 2004, 2005, there were very few people doing it, there were maybe ten, twenty of us max, and we all became friends, you know, as you do in blogging. You network with people, you talk with them, and soon the niche grows, grows, and grows till you have events like think-on where last year there were like 500 people there, this year there might be 1000 people there. And the best part is everyone’s like a regular person, like you connect on a personal level, and it’s not like business and business and stuff like that. So that’s sort of how I got started.
Steve: So let me get this straight, so you got this job out of college, I would imagine at a government facility, and the first thing you did was start surfing the web and start finding…
Jim: It was a defense contractor, it’s Northup Grumman
Jim: So I wasn’t in a secure area, not yet, that wouldn’t add up.
Steve: And then you just decided right away that you wanted to double in the online arena, kind of right away?
Jim: Yeah, there was a lot of downtime, I was doing a lot of radar development, writing software, and so what happened unlike a typical development environment where you would write code and you could build and test it there, we actually had the goal to a development bench that was connected to a radar system that was pointed at BWY, so we had real data. You have some like fake data that you can use too, but in the time that you have to wait, you have to schedule your bench time, so during that time nothing to do. Like our code was written, like we have hours and so we could do like a test flight or go on the bench and so I surfed the internet.
Steve: Nice, I wish I had more time to do that at work. So let’s go back, you know, ‘ease of travel’ that was your first idea, so what didn’t work about it, like you said you kind of mufted over, so what were some of the hurdles that you encountered early on with that?
Jim: The biggest hurdle was that, it was going to be me and another guy partnering up. You know I was really that serious, I mean I was serious about doing it, but I didn’t approach as it was a business, I approached it as a hobby right, and so what happened was, he was going to develop the end where we did like the search.
We were going to build like a Kayak, and this is 2004 where Kayak existed, or it was so new that no one– like back then all the travels sites were like ‘expedia’ right now. You go in you tell it a specific time and it does an update, there was no one used ajax, it was not pretty, it was not useful, you know, it is not like ‘hit monk’ today, where you put in something and it updates in real time.We wanted to build that.
I wasn’t going to be in charge of the building part, he was, and it just sort of never got off the ground. So big chance is that we never built the product. During that time in trying to figure it out, I thought okay well, in the meanwhile while he’s building the software, I’m going to build something to manage, you know, finding hot deals and updating it and all that. Eventually that was put in place, migrated to ‘bargaineering.com’ and then I put the blog on top of it. Blog did well, the hot deal section just sort of fell off.
Steve: So, was WordPress around back then?
Jim: Yes, it had just started.
Steve: Okay, and so was that the platform that ‘bargaineering’ was on?
Jim: Yes, it was WordPress.
Steve: So how much did you invest in starting ‘bargaineering’?
Jim: Domain was like $8, posting was probably like $50 a year, something like that, it cost nothing.
Steve: Yes, so very little, right?
Jim: Oh, very, very little.
Steve: Yeah, so, I mean, it’s like that was an online store too. We invested $630, but that was mainly becausewe needed to get inventory. If it was just a pure site I think it would have been not it, that’s inexpensive as well.
Jim: The biggest expense is your time, your investment is that time that you go in and try to figure out how to make it work.
Steve: Yeah, and so you had some time and work as well as after work in order to work on this, right?
Jim: Yeah, so my wife and I, well, girlfriend at the time were living apart, and she was in New Jersey, and so we weren’t seeing each other during the weekdays, so at night I really had nothing to do. So I would surf the internet, watch TV, built the site then.
Steve: One of the biggest problems when people blog is they don’t really have a strategy to get traffic, so I know when I first started my blog, I launched and I wasn’t really sure what to do, and so this was a long time ago, but was kind of your early strategy to obtain traffic.
Jim: In the beginning– okay, so here is the nice thing about starting a blog and not really considering it a business is that, I didn’t really have a real strategy. But what I ended up doing haphazardly was interacting with other bloggers, leave comments, talk to them, and actually the comments did well because back then, you know, you’d have a post, there were only a handful of blogs, so everyone reading a blog was going to read one of these ten.
And then they were probably going to read the comments, the comments are going to be more engaging, people are going to reply, and then that’s how you build relationships. So initially we just went through each other’s blogs. I started guest posting, sort of sharing each other’s readerships, comments, and that was essentially the start, right? Because you get the readers, and then you get some links and then search and traffic would eventually start trickling in, because you know you have your post would be very specific about a very specific topic, and you are going after the long tail, and you will be okay if you only got like one or two visits a day.
You weren’t treating it as a business; you didn’t feel bad that you weren’t doing, you know, 100 or 1000 visitors a day. It was just a fun little hobby, and so you could slowly grow your traffic organically, without feeling like you are failing or not growing fast enough.
Steve: So in a way you kind of work together with some of the other bloggers, kind of to help bolster each other, early on?
Jim: Yeah, we did a lot of stuff like round-ups, and carnivals were really probably the back then, when there were fewer sites.
Steve: And so who were you kind of working with, any big names that you care to mention?
Jim: It was like ‘Consumers and Commentary’, ‘Five Cent Nickel’, ‘Garret Slowly’, ‘Wise Bread’, all the sites that are big today were usually from the beginning, there were a bunch other like, ‘Free Money Finance’.
Steve: Yeah, I know all those guys actually; actually they all go to think-on for the most part.
Jim: Yeah, yap.
Steve: Okay, so that’s really cool. It’s funny to see how blogging has evolved a little bit, that strategy of just commenting other people’s blogs because there are so many of them, that actually probably isn’t as effective today, would you say or…
Jim: It really depends, like you could still be effective if you come in early in the life of a post, like if it goes up and you are like one of the first five, or first ten or whatever. It’s one there like hundreds or there are fifty and you are sort of near the end. People, they get tired of reading comments, so maybe they will read the first few, see if there is anything interesting, if there isn’t some sort of discussion going on then they don’t read the rest.
So I find it still effective, but you have to find the sites that are popular, and either comment early or reply to a comment early, just start a discussion that engages people and pulls them in. It’s not just as simple as it used to be.
Steve: Okay, so along those same lines, you know, if you were to just start all over, let’s say you want to start ‘bargaineering’ all over again, how would you get that initial boost of traffic early on, would you still use that commenting strategy, carnivals and that sort of thing?
Jim: I would probably try to find a way to differentiate myself, and then network with the bigger blogs in my niche, and outside of it to get guest posts, just sort of show case my expertise in whatever it is. So it is a little harder with ‘bargaineering’ because I positioned it as a personal finance site for people that are young professionals, because I was at the time 23-24, no kids, buy my first house, sort of the typical young professional issues.
Nowadays I don’t think that that’s enough of a differentiator because there are a ton of people that are in that position, so you’ve got to find a differentiator, and then leverage that to go to publish sites and provide content that their readers are going to enjoy, and that they can’t get from the original blogger themselves.
Steve: Yeah interesting, you know, I am finding that, that’s a really important aspect of just opening e-commerce stores as well, or just any website for that matter, since there are just so many things out there you’ve got to stand out in some way these days.
Jim: Like you wouldn’t go and try to open up a bookstore e-commerce site, right? Like a random books, because there is Amazon.
Steve: Yeah, you know, a lot of people actually want to launch T-shirt shops, and that sort of thing, and those types of goods are just very generic, unless you really have something unique to offer.
Jim: Yeah, you have to be different so that people– it’s, Seth Gwen said this years and years and years ago way before it was popular, the idea of a purple cow, you have to be remarkable, you have to be worthy of someone making a remark. And a purple cow is surprising, a brown cow, a white and black cow; they are just, it’s a cow, who cares. I mean, no disrespect to the cow itself, but it is not interesting.
Steve: Yeah absolutely, so you know, ‘bargaineering’ early on, so you are– I actually went back and looked at some of the archives and I saw that you put a lot of personality in your post, so you did a lot of videos, it looks like you did a lot of very personal posts, and I think in one case you were featured in a newspaper right for posting your networth or your expenditures.
Steve: So I would imagine back then that was kind of unheard of, right?
Jim: Yeah, that was the New York Times in September which was maybe around seven or eight months after I started the site. It was uncommon, it was certainly uncommon like socially and the greater like world, it was not as uncommon with personal finance sites online then, because that was just something that people did, they put their goals in their side bar, some people talked about their net worth, some people went as far as to talk about their budgets every month. I mean, budgets are sexy chain money; he still talks about his net worth today, that’s 2014. So back then, it was different enough that the New York Times wanted to call me and talk to me about how I shared I spent X dollars on clothing, or how much on food, because the whole idea of talking about money was taboo.
And to go back to your earlier point of putting more personality into it, people don’t follow websites necessarily, they follow people. In order to have a connection with your readers, you have to share something about yourself that they can connect to. Like no one looks up back then, no one looked at ‘bargaineering’ and said, “I connect with the guy in the hard hat” – that is the logo.
Steve: I love that logo by the way.
Jim: And people would tell me like, “I love reading what you wrote”, “I love hearing your story”, they didn’t say, “I love reading ‘bargaineering’’ or the story on bargaineering, “I loved reading what you said about this, your insight on this. And that was because I put a lot of my personality into it, and that was something that I learned over time.
Some of the initial posts were a lot of like analysis, like the second, third or fourth post was about like photography. It was about online printing sites, because that is what I was researching at the time. And it’s analytical, people just don’t really connect with that, they may find it valuable, but it doesn’t elicit emotional response.
Now when I share my story about buying a house, and how anxious I was, and how nervous I was when I applied for a loan and tried to get a pre-approval note and all these whatever, people are like, “I get it, because I did that too, I felt the same way. I feel like we are on this journey together and I understand what Jim’s going through, it is helping me a little bit but also I’m part of this community like this. All the emotion sort of builds the loyalty and the following but you just can’t with like analytical posts and you know other strategies you might try.
Steve: That’s actually a very good point; I have actually noticed that on my own blog. Whenever I get a little bit more technical, and talk you know give a little bit more in-depth how-to’s, those posts tend not to do very well, than when I just kind of talk about some of the struggles that I have been facing with my business. So I totally see your point in kind of just humanizing your blogs, so to speak.
Jim: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it’s tricky because some of the things like you know, it really all depends on what metrics you are looking at. People looking at analytical posts are not going to leave as many comments, because chances are you are going to cover a lot of the things that they may comment about. They probably will only say something if you did something wrong. Which is also good. Alternatively like if you look at traffic wise, you may find that your more analytical post do better because it provides a lot of information, it just doesn’t get the same level of engagement.
So I always think of my blog post as having multiple roles. If I’m writing a– every Friday I would do a ‘your take world’ to elicit responses by asking a very specific question. I would generally try to find questions that I thought would elicit emotional responses and get people engaged. Anything about taxes, politics, to where they are going on vacation, stuff like that, people would engage with that a lot.
They won’t get a tremendous amount of traffic, but it was community building, people could share, we could interact, and it is just something fun to talk about after a week of writing about personal finance. Alternatively I would write something that was very referensive, very I felt was useful, something like tax brackets.You know the IRS and look up the tax brackets, but if you want to read about it like a human being could understand it, then you would read a post on bargaineering because it would explain in a way, people don’t really comment that much on it, because, I mean, what are you going to say about tax brackets, but it is still useful for other reasons.
There would be tools like calculators, again people are not going to comment on it, but you can tell that people will find it useful by seeing how many times they click on the calculate button, right. So each of these have different roles and purposes, and so you can’t use the same metrics on each to evaluate how good it did.
Steve: Yes, let’s talk about one metric that probably all the listeners are concerned about, and that’s money. So, which of these posts that you were just talking about actually generated you the most income? Actually let’s back up a bit and just talk about how bargaineering makes money in the first place.
Jim: Sure, so most of the money that bargaineering made was from affiliate deals. Affiliate deals are where you know I put an offer on the site, someone clicks on it, they apply for a credit card, a bank credit score or whatever. They perform some sort of action that the advertiser wants, and that was probably 60, 70% of the income. The rest of it came from direct advertising, companies paying me to put a banner on the site, or from AdSense, so they would, Cost-Per-Click. They would click on an Ad and I get paid that way.
Steve: Okay, so it would sound like a lot of those more personal posts would not generate you that much money, would that be accurate?
Jim: No they wouldn’t.
Steve: Okay, so how did you strike a balance then I guess, coz obviously making money was probably one of your goals as well with this site.
Jim: Yeah, I mean that was the number one goal, because it is a business and you know to the extent that the other, there were other goals, like learning personal finance, reading and writing and being able to support myself so that I could continue to read and write about it. That was important, but ultimate they all tie back into making money.
In terms of finding balance I felt like– so how I approached the site was, we had two distinct groups. We had people that were sort of like the community, they would read every day or every other day, and they would leave comments. This group was relatively small maybe about 20% of the recurring traffic or a day’s traffic. I wanted to make sure that I took care of them, and that we talked about interesting things and didn’t just always inundate them with traffic.
However, on the flip side the remaining 70%, 60% which would be search engine traffic, referrals and things like that, those are not the loyal following. I wanted my advertising, whatever to sort of earn money from them. So in terms of writing posts, I think I tried to keep it to only one affiliate sort of motivated post a week, and I was very intentional on how I did that, and there were many cases where I was able to do both like for example, one post I did well is ‘What’s a good credit score, right? It’s very informative, explains how the credit work, it’s very in-depth. It also did well at search and saw a droll of people to sign up for free credit scores on like myFico or whatever else I forget it, you know, I forget it now.
Steve: And you’d get a cut when someone asks for their credit, okay.
Jim: Yeah, so they would sign up, they would put in their credit card they’d sign up for some trial period, myFico is one of the more legitimate ones because you could cancel it all online and you get paid a commission.
Steve: So would say then that most of the affiliate conversions that you made were from search as opposed to your regular readers?
Jim: Yes, I would. I don’t remember the numbers today, but I would say the vast majority came from, search.
Steve: I see.
Jim: I made a concerted effort to have the experience of the site be different for people that were regular readers. I gave them the opportunity to register and sign in, and by doing so – well there was a point system which we can talk about if you want, butwe also heard like, I strip the site of Ads whenever a logged in user was using it. So I took the side bars off for AdSense, because I knew that, I’d looked up the numbers, someone that was a returning user almost never clicked on a side bar Ad. It was always people from search, a first time visitor.
So I said, okay, you signed in, you tell me that you want to identify yourself as a regular reader, I give you a point system where you can bid on things like books, and then I will also take Ads off. So it won’t annoy you, and you can find the content more easily, it’s a better layout, everything is better.
Steve: That is ingenious, I actually don’t know of anyone else who’s done that. So what are some of the perks that you got as member besides not having the Ads, you talked about the point system, how did that work?
Jim: So, every time you logged in each day you got a point, everytime you left a comment you got a point, and there was an auction. It tied into this auction system where you could win books. So publishers would send me books to review and then afterwards I’d have all these books, why don’t I just mail them back to our readers, so they would bid on books. There was also like ING referrals, well I guess now ‘Capital One 360’.
Also to these referrals systems where, let’s say I refer you to that bank, you get ten bucks I get five bucks however we sell. I would actually give readers the opportunity to send me their links and then they would go through. We would go through like 100 referral links a month.
Jim: Yeah, and people were like– that surprisingly put money in people’s pockets, built up loyalty like crazy. I must have gone through like 2000 referrals, it was kind of a pain to manage, but in the end it all worked out for the best.
Steve: So let me just summarize what you just said, so you allowed your readers to post their own affiliate links essentially for like ING, and so one of your– when you actually got traffic you’ll send someone else clicked on that link, your reader would actually get the affiliate commission, is that how it worked?
Jim: Yeah, it wasn’t affiliate commissions, it was just a referral.
Steve: Referral, okay.
Jim: So like, you as a customer of ‘Capital One 360’ can refer up to like fifty people. So I had some pages that ranked well for those terms and so I used up my referrals, I used up all my friends referrals, so I was like, “Oh this is a good thing I could do.”
Steve: So, you are actually putting money into your readers pockets in a way, through this option, okay.
Steve: So how many users, registered users did you actually have for ‘bargaineering’?
Jim: I think it was close to a thousand.
Jim: The active users was probably close to like a couple of hundred, as is always the case with most membership things, I think.
Steve: I see, and so these people would naturally just come back and they be incentivized to comment and just participate, right?
Jim: Yeah, yap. I did the math and I think the average comments for a post was probably around eight before we implemented the system. I say we– before I implemented the system, and it was probably around twelve. It was a 50%, 40 – 50% increase in comments.
Steve: So actually how do you– is there a plugin that you would recommend for other bloggers to do this with their blogs.
Jim: The Queue points.
Steve: Queue points, okay.
Jim: Queue points is what I use, and then I use, I think it is called WP auctions for the auction system and I had to– I had to go and edit the plugins so that they work together. This WP auctions is just an auction plugin, that you can put on your site and people can bid money on things. And so I had to tie it into the user system and look at points to make sure people didn’t bid more points than they had.
Steve: So a lot of your you know monitory strategy involved getting search visitors, so is there anything special that you did with your site to actually increase your visibility in search?
Jim: I did all the typical on page stuff, make sure you title tags are good, your Meta data is good, inter-linked well, made sure– most of the gains came from off page stuff, writing guest post on other people’s sites and driving traffic. I’m not sure how effective that would be today. I think my, my approach today is different, and it is different because of the various Google algorithmic changes, back links and things like that. And now it’s just to drive people to the site, get them to sign up for the e-mail list and then talk to them via e-mail. And so it is a bit of a tweak to the approach.
Steve: Did you use this e-mail strategy back in bargaineering, or…
Jim: I built an e-mail list by having a pop-up and taking an old post that was doing well, ‘100 Money Saving Tips’ and offering as a giveaway incentive, and you know, I built the list. I just didn’t do anything with it, coz it was around the time that I stopped being as motivated with the site, to dance around that issue. But I just didn’t have a chance to investigate how to be more effective with e-mail.
It kind of stinks because, when I, when I stopped looking at it, it was probably around 16, 17,000 e-mail subscribers, all driven off this one little light box pop-up on Aweber. So kind of wish what I could have done with that.
Steve: So you mention that your strategy for search has kind of evolved. By the way Jim’s blog is called microblogger.com. It’s kind of this brand new site that he started to teach other bloggers how to get started with their own blogs.
So on microblogger, so how are you taking a different strategy in terms of search engine optimization as you did from bargaineering, so how has it evolved over time.
Jim: I’ve actually not really focused on Search Engine Optimization. I have tried more initially to try to figure out how to be more effective on social media, just because it’s more interesting to me, and searche is so much in flux that I don’t think my previous strategies would be as effective. And so now when I write guest posts, I have links back to the site, but they are all to microblogger.com/newsletter which is a landing page that entices people to sign up for the newsletter. So it is less links to individual posts.
So for example, five years ago, I’d write a post, and I would point them to a post for tax brackets, with the link ‘tax brackets’.And then that did well in search, and it would drive more search traffic, and I’ll be, “Ah, I will do more guest posts.” And they were super targeted very specific and now it is, I think, that would be flagged as manipulative. Even though I wasn’t paying anything for the post, these were all free other than my effort, but it’s considered manipulative, and the fact that I didn’t pay is irrelevant.
Steve: Interesting, so now you are actually trying to drive all traffic from these guest posts to a landing page where you collect e-mail addresses?
Steve: As opposed to driving, trying to drive search traffic to that page?
Steve: Interesting, and that’s just a function of the fact that search is kind of evolving and you are worried about getting penalized, or…
Jim: I just feel that’s a more effective thing. So the problem with search is that, you know, you could, if you look at ‘bargaineering’ today, it is not as popular in terms of traffic as it was three years ago. It avoided penguin and panda, it avoided most of the damage that a lot of personal finance sites saw from the algorithmic changes, but it got caught up in the last one, and so it maybe lost like 20 or 30 percent of the traffic, all of it to search.
And it just– it used to be much easier to control, and so now I just think, well, if I want something to control it’s an e-mail list, right. There are still issues with e-mail, like there is deliverability and people opening it and things like that, but it’s a lot more within your control than search, and that is why I have emphasized it.
Steve: Interesting, so if you are building links to the same landing page, you are not really concerned if that page gets penalized for example.
Jim: Yeah, it doesn’t get any search traffic right now.
Steve: Okay, okay interesting.
Jim: But it also means like I only want to go and write posts on sites that have traffic, and I don’t care if it is a no follow link, I don’t care, as long as it is a link in there, when someone clicks on it they make it to the landing page then I’m happy.
Steve: In a way that’s actually what Google wants you to do these days, right? Get links for the sake of exposure as opposed to ranking in search.
Jim: Yeah, what stinks is that, I mean, you know, you don’t want to behave differently in your business simply because a third party has their impressions like the reason why Google has all these talks about all this is like fear and certain doubt about algorithm changes and back links, and what’s manipulative and what isn’t, is that they don’t have an algorithmic way to detect it.
So right now they are just painting with a broad brush and you have a lot of– we see it a lot in personal finance these blogs just get decimated. They haven’t done anything truly manipulative like I have seen in other industries. Like they aren’t building tons of links on a massive scale that super directed that’s clearly paid for or whatever, but you get caught up in it. The best way to avoid it, is not to play in that world, at least now until things sort of shake out, and build another asset that you know for certain will have value and that you can control. And that’s the e-mail list.
Steve: That’s very good advice. So that’s actually a different approach than I have been taking with my online store, because we kind of got caught up in some of the search algorithm changes last year as well. So we’ve been completely transitioning over to building our list, and building up our social media presence as well. So it sounds like our strategies are kind in line with what I have been seeing evolving last couple of years at least.
Jim: Yeah definitely, I think that’s smart, I mean, you don’t want to ignore search, but you only have a limited amount of time each day, and so if there is an opportunity to your left in e-mail then you should try to focus and get as much of that as you can, and the search stuff like it’s still there you can still a little bit, you can do a little bit for it. I mean, the two are not mutually exclusive, and so you focus on the one with the greatest amount of opportunity.
Steve: Yeah definitely, that is definitely good advice. And speaking of advice, since you’ve kind of gone through this all before and you are trying to start another blog from scratch, what sort of advice would you give to some of the new people who are starting online businesses. To kind of give them that extra little boost to make them successful.
Jim: I think what’s been really important, and when I think about, you know, starting microblogger and when I started bargaineering, or any of my efforts, it’s important to network with people and talk with other entrepreneurs, other people in your industry, other people outside of your industry, because that support network is absolutely crucial.
And what’s funny is because, as I have talked to more and more entrepreneurs and learned sort of – not their secrets – but like things that they themselves credit for their success, often times it’s something they learned talking to someone else that they didn’t know. Like, Steve, we talk often, and we share ideas back and forth, and in the sharing of those ideas we have other ideas right there, we probably wouldn’t have thought of if we were all stuck in our own little offices thinking about our own problems all the time.
And I feel that if you want to succeed you have to get out there, network with people, you have to talk with people that you don’t necessarily feel like at this moment will help you in your business or otherwise, but if they can be there for emotional support or just someone to talk to then there is value there.
I know that in creating bargaineering, I talked a lot with ‘Five Cent Nickel’, fivecentnickel.com, and there were ideas back and forth that I think without him and me talking as often as we did, we probably wouldn’t have built our sites to the sizes that they were.
Steve: So actually, how do you meet people outside of going to conferences?
Jim: Well, that will take research, I think that social media, especially Twitter and Facebook are great for interacting with other entrepreneurs, but you could start very simply. Go on Google, search for other blogs in your niche. Eventually you’ll start seeing hallmarks of larger and larger communities that maybe you didn’t know existed before, right.
So for example, I am not a food blogger. I want to learn, I start to search for food bloggers. I talk to Lindsay and Bjork of ‘Pinch of Yum’. I find out that they have an entire membership site just for food bloggers, to teach them how to do it and whatever. I’m not going to create a food blog, but if I were, and I was just looking around at other food bloggers to talk to, and I saw their membership site, and I was serious about it and I thought that it had value for me, maybe I’d join.
That already is a built-in network of people that you can now become friends with, interact with. If it works out great, if it doesn’t cancel your membership. You could find forums that people talk in, Facebook groups, all these things. Like just go out and meet people.
Steve: Yeah, that is very good advice, for me at least, I find it very difficult to find the time to actually go out on these forums and become a regular. So, for me at least, I find that going to conferences works well for me because I dedicate a very focused four days to just go out and meet as many people as I can.
Jim: Yeah, that is– going to conferences is probably the best thing you can do for the shortest period of time in order to build connections or build relationships.
Steve: All right so, I’ve already taken up a lot of your time, so I thought we’d wrap things up a little bit. Do you have a favorite business book or some sort of piece of writing, a blog that has really influenced you in any way to start your online business?
Jim: That is a good question. It’s funny because I ask this to people often, and I’m not really sure if I have an answer for that. I’ve constantly– so this is something that I have started recently is I have been trying to read a lot more, and the one thing we did was we took the television once we moved out of our other house into the new house. We took the TV out of the bedroom, and every night now I read before I fall asleep.
And I have just been reading so many good books, I think probably one of my favorite, and one that I see myself going back and reading over and over again is ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini. Just talking about how to influence people, and it sounds manipulative, but it’s not, but it is all scientifically based, some of it is a little outdated, I don’t know how effective it is, but, and how all of it, in terms of effective ness, but it is worth taking a look at. I learned a lot reading that, and it made a lot of sense to me.
Steve: I think I read that book many years ago, I haven’t opened it up recently, maybe I’ll fire up again.
Jim: Yeah, it is a fun read. I also like ‘Behavioral Finance’ books, ‘Behavioral Economics’ books. So like ‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely, ‘Undercover Economist’ by– I forget the author, but its– yeah I forget the author.
Steve: I will look all these up and put them up in the show notes for sure. I have to go and check them out myself.
Jim: Yeah, they are fun.
Steve: Yeah, are there any online services that you use for any of your businesses that you just can’t leave without.
Jim: Google analytics, that very powerful, it sorts early even if you are not going to build, you know, use every last bit of it. I will say like Aweber. I’ve been playing around with other e-mail systems for the other businesses that I’m a part of. MailChimp is pretty good too, but I think for your initial beginning blogger, it’s tough to beat Aweber.
Steve: Nice, all right Jim, you know we are coming up to forty minutes here and just wanted to thank you for being a part of the show. If any of these listeners want to be able to contact you or find you, where can they find you online?
Jim: Sure, you can find me at microblogger.com, and if you are on Twitter, love to hear from you, let me know what you think of our chat, it’s at wangarific.
Steve: Wangarific, it attracts me up every time.
Jim: Glad no one took it before I did.
Steve: Yeah, I’m sure it was in high demand…
Jim: You say that, it doesn’t sound like you believe me, it is in high demand.
Steve: All right men, thank you for coming on the show, and I’m sure I will be talking with you very soon.
Jim: Yeah, this was fun, thanks again.
Steve: Thanks Jim, take care.
Steve: What I like about Jim is that he is an avid learner, and he is always willing to try new things, and in fact, he’s got a whole bunch of other online businesses that we didn’t even really talk about today. And as a result he’s extremely knowledgeable across many different disciplines, plus he is just a really nice guy also and very personable as well. So how Jim and I met is actually one of the big reasons why all of you should be attending conferences. Now both Jim and I will be at think-on and I hope to see you all there.
Meanwhile don’t forget to sign up for my podcast giveaway, where I’m giving away a lifetime membership to my ‘create a profitable online store’ course, as well as free consulting. For more information go to www.mywifequitherjob.com/podcast-launch. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for listening to the mywifequitherjob podcast where we’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.