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Intro: Welcome to the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast with JP Stonestreet, episode #21.
JP: In this podcast episode, Matt Giovanisci from Swim University shares some of his content marketing secrets, especially how he uses YouTube to drive traffic to his website. But before we get into that, I am going to make a public service announcement. If you want to become an entrepreneur or if you have a new business and you want to energize it, go to the next level, I have created a series of seminars and workshops designed especially for you. The first one is called the Wantrepreneur Energizer Seminar and it’s an hour long presentation where I walk through the process of figuring out what business you should start. If you have no idea what business to start or may be if you just want to sanity check the business you are planning on starting that seminar will help you figure it out, make sure you are doing the right thing. The next one is called The New Business Energizer Intro and it is designed for new business owners or people who are just thinking about starting their business, they have got their idea in mind; it will help you start your business or energize your new business and do all the little things that will help you put your name on the map. Those are the first two, I have other ones coming in the pipeline and I will be sharing those as time passes. If you would like to RSVP for any of the free one-hour seminars, I manage through Meetup.com. If you go to JPStonestreet.com/meetup, it will redirect you to my Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Meetup Group and that’s where I will post the events that I host. So, go there, check that out and I hope to see you at one of my upcoming events. So, now it’s time for our guest du jour Matt Giovanisci. Hopefully, I am pronouncing his name correctly. He owns Swim University as well as another financial based website. He is an information marketer. He generates traffic to website, sells products, and gets affiliate revenue. He is your basic form of a content marketer and he is doing fantastic job of it. His website is purely for people who own spas and pools and need to maintain them and they don’t have a pool boy or maintenance crew that comes in to do it for them. He teaches people how to maintain their spas and pools and he makes a living from doing that. He drives most of the traffic to his website from YouTube and he shares how he does that in this podcast interview. So, without further ado, let’s welcome Matt Giovanisci.
Welcome Matt to this episode of the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast, how are you doing today?
Matt: Good, how are you JP?
JP: I am doing fantastic. The temperature just bottomed out here in Colorado. It was 68 degrees yesterday on my walk and I am guessing it’s about 17 right now.
Matt: Yes, and this weekend was – I’m in South Jersey or Philadelphia as we mentioned, but the whole weekend was nice. People were outside with shorts and doing yard work and today it’s snowing.
JP: Yes, this weather is crazy this year.
Matt: It is.
JP: All right. So, let’s talk about you and your entrepreneurial journey and your business. So, why don’t you just start out by telling us who you are and why you do what you do?
Matt: Okay, my name is Matt Giovanisci which is a very long last name and very hard to pronounce for some people and I have been all my own for about two and a half years now – actually no, two years in April, two years exactly in April.
JP: In running your own business?
Matt: Yes, I run a website called SwimUniversity.com which is a website that I started about four to five years ago where I teach people how to take care of their pools and hot tubs through video articles that I write, infographics that I create, all those sorts of things.
JP: Cool, great.
Matt: I also have another website which I started in – I teamed up with a business partner back in October-November of 2013 and he had a website going, it was called ListenMoneyMatters.com and we turned it into podcast and did some video work, and I started writing articles about personal finance. So, doing the pool and hot tub thing and also personal finance. So, two blogs that I run.
JP: Wow! Do you also do like physical services around the Swim University or is it purely online now?
Matt: Purely online. I spent all of my time in sweatpants in front of my computer 26 hours a day.
JP: Yes, what’s that saying that “If you work hard enough 8 hours a day then eventually you will get to be the boss and work 16 hours a day.”
Matt: Exactly, yes and I enjoy it. I like working. Actually it allows me to – it’s my escape, it’s my stress reliever which is odd for some people to hear, but yes.
JP: Yes, I am the same way, I love to work and it’s I love working lots of hours. I am usually working 7 days a week. On the weekend, I don’t work as many hours, but I am usually working.
Matt: Yes, same here.
JP: Yes, I love it. When you love what you do, it’s not work.
Matt: That’s true. If you love what you do, you will never work a day in our life.
JP: Okay, so let’s dive into Swim University a little bit more and how did you get the inspiration for that? Do you have background in this? How did you know how to take care of pools and hot tubs?
Matt: Yes, I started in the pool industry when I was 13 years old sans child labor laws at that time I guess. I was getting a regular paycheck. I worked on the weekends when I would leave school, stock shelves on the weekends, I would test water. I would just help people take care of their pools. I learned just by working in a local pool store in my town and it actually was pool and janitorial supply store. So, I know a lot about cleaning supplies too, but I didn’t think that was a good website to start. So, yes I started when I was 13, worked until I was about 16, became like the pseudo-manager of the store and then I decided that it was time to move on to bigger and better things which means going to another pool store which happen to be a lot bigger. So, I went down the street and I was 16 at that time and I applied for a job and I turned 17 and they hired me on the spot because I had experience, which is weird for a 17-year-old kid to have experience in something to get hired, but I was hired there, became assistant manager. It was a pool store. It was a service company. They have multiple locations and during that time, I had this other passion, side passion, I am also a musician and I was lead singer and guitar player of an original rock band that I had created and we needed a website. So, I decided to take some time and learn website design which in the pool industry, especially in the northeast, the wintertime isn’t really that extremely busy for pools because they are all closed. So, there is a lot of downtime and I spent time learning how to design websites by reading a bunch of books, going online and I had really never used a computer before. I had a computer, but when I decided to try and attempt to go to college, I figured it was time for me to actually own my own computer. So, when I did that’s when I started learning website design and then I went and worked for a website design company for about six months until my boss at my old pool company hired me back to do marketing. So, I actually spent about four to five years being the marketing director for the pool company I was working for. So, I did print art, I did the website design, ran the website, social media, I did television commercials, filmed and directed those, and after that during that time actually I had this idea where I wanted to create a website about pool care where I could take the way I presented pool care at the store level. So, customer would come in, they would have a problem with pool algae and they would ask me what to do and I have all these anecdotes on how to compare it to real life things and had a different way of explaining it that I was taught by my mentor, Alice, who is the manager at the store I was working at and I wanted to take that idea of the personalized pool care experience and education end of it and put it and just basically present it to the world or as many people I could possibly get and it was like I had this passion design websites and this knowledge of how to take care of pools and hot tubs and I just married those two worlds together and that’s where Swim University came from.
JP: That’s cool and how long ago again was that – four or five years ago that you launched that?
Matt: Yes, I think I launched it in 2007. I launched it because I had the idea for about two to three years before that and it started as – and I really didn’t know much about how to make money online. I just knew that I wanted to create a site that was educational and I thought may be I would charge people to get on the site almost like a membership style site and I quickly realized that no one is going to pay for pool care. No one is going to pay to learn that. So, I decided to make it free and I said “I will just recommend products to people like I did in the store.” When somebody came and they had an algae problem, I would say “Here’s what you would need” and I would just do the exact same thing on the website and hope that there was way to make money, which there is, and then I started creating my own products to educate people to get a little bit of a deeper experience and now I didn’t really start working on Swim University fulltime until about two or three years ago. When I first started it, I was writing really, really short articles and I was not really giving it what it deserved. Then a few years ago, I was like “I am really going to put my effort into this fulltime” so I did.
JP: Was it generating revenue at that point, at least some revenue?
Matt: A little bit, mostly AdSense revenue, not enough to live off of and even when I decided to do it fulltime, it wasn’t making enough money and I just took a gamble. I said “If I put enough time into this, if I have a full day to put into this and write really big articles and start doing my own videos because a lot of the videos I was putting up were other peoples videos that were really not that great and I knew I could do a better job.” So, I started to focus a lot on video and graphic elements which is what ended up taking the site to the next level.
JP: Yes, so let’s talk about that. The biggest challenge that a lot of people I talk to and even my own challenge is driving traffic to my website at least enough to generate a substantial amount of revenue. So, what are one or two pieces of advice that you can give the listeners on how to do that?
Matt: This one’s easy, this one’s very easy. Focus all of your energy on content, all of it because I will tell you what – I could have written a bunch of – actually this is what I did, this is how I started and this is something I don’t like to tell people, but I will. I did a lot of Black Hat SEO stuffs in the beginning and it wasn’t because I was trying to beat the system, but that’s just how I was taught. I don’t even know – I think a lot of websites out there were kind of telling you this is how it’s done. Go write a 300-word article, put it on an article site, an article directory with two backlinks and just keep doing that constantly and that’s exactly what I did and I was – I got a lot of traffic from it and then Google said “We don’t like that anymore, we are going to change the way we do things and it was for the better,” at least for Google and the people who are searching on Google and I realized I was getting this really bad information for a very long time, I thought this was the way to do things and I feel like an idiot now because I don’t even know why I thought that, I guess it’s because you just get wrapped up in whatever you are learning and I said, let me really sit back and I want to really – I guess I was trying to make a quick dollar and that was sort of the blinder that I had on and then I realized “If I just create content that really helps people, that is completely different from what they could get at the store level or what they could get from a friend or a neighbor, if I could describe and educate somebody, they will appreciate it and it will spread and Google will love me and I will raise up in the rankings and what have you.” So, that’s exactly what I did, I took – and then you can go online and you can search how to get rid of pool algae and you will find a bunch of articles, but I feel like when I wrote them I did graphical elements where I described why things were – why algae is a problem, how it occurs, why – what gets rid of it and how it works and I did started to do videos and all said when I started doing videos, it just – everyone just – I started getting e-mails, people thanking me like I could not – my pool was green all year until I found you on YouTube and now I am like – I didn’t realize how easy this was and when I started – and I just continued doing that, I just continued trying to create content that would help people and not – just like stopped focusing on SEO and all these tricks and gimmicks, I just stopped, I just said “I am going to create a user experience that people will actually learn from.” When I did that, I turned off – and this is sort of bad, but I just stopped focusing on the traffic building stuff. I did not go out and build links, I did not do guest posting and spin articles and all of that nonsense that I used to do and my site grew, I will admit slower than before, but it grew and it was much more meaningful and then I started to monetize those sites or those posts and those things that were getting lot of traffic and I monetized them in a way where I wanted to help people. So, I wouldn’t just promote a product that I thought I will make 50 bucks of this product; I only promote products that I personally used in the past. So, I want people to know that when they come to my site, they are getting what I think is the best and I know a lot of people do that now, but it took some time to learn that and when I did, things change, all of a sudden the site started to rank in Google really high on keywords that I didn’t even think of and I wasn’t trying to stuff my articles with keywords, I wasn’t trying to even target keywords. I was just trying to make helpful information and I just imagined that Google would somehow find it and present it to the right audience. So, I left it up to Google to do the work for me really.
JP: Cool. Okay, so you talked about content, focus on content, but I can tell from what you have said that it’s not just written content, which is what a lot of people when I say “You need to have great content on your website,” they think blog and writing. So, tell us about your other types of content because you do YouTube, you do the podcast, do you still write? Is that part of it too or do you just focus on one or more of the others or what do you do?
Matt: Yes, the core of my content is writing and it’s unfortunate because I am not a writer. I have been criticized through – I failed pretty much every English class I have ever had, I can’t even tell you why, but I am just not good at writing, but most of my content is writing. I now consider myself a writer; I am paid to write now. So, most of it is writing because you do – no matter what type of content you produce whether it’s a video or an infographic or something, there is still writing involved and you should still write a blog post to accompany the graphics or the videos that you are doing. So, if I go out and create a video on how to vacuum your pool, it doesn’t end there. It’s not just I am going to post up a video on my website and you just watch the video. I post up the video, I write an entire blog post underneath the video in case somebody can’t watch it at work or whatever the case may be and so that Google has more words to pick up and that video will rank better and even with like infographics and graphical elements, for instance like if I talk about how to shock a pool. I will film a video on how to shock a pool, I will break that into photographs, like step-by-step photographs. Like step one, pour shock into a bucket and I will show a picture of me pouring shock into a bucket, which could just be a screen grab from my YouTube video or something that I take separately, but I feel like the more rich content you add to a single blog post, it’s not – whether you think it’s because Google is going to make you like a God, that’s fine, but really I just focus on if I had a pool, but I don’t ironically – if I had a pool, what would I want to see as far as education is concerned, like how do I want to be taught? And that’s exactly I want a video, I want to be able to read something and I want to be able to see photographs or some sort of graphical representation of visual aid for whatever they are talking about.
JP: Yes, that’s great advice and I do that too with my podcast and also I have started recording videos because everybody is telling me I should and so, I have started doing some videos and what I do is I do what you just said. I post a video or the podcast on my website, I write – what I do is I write may be two or three paragraphs about the podcast or the video and then I have a transcriptionist who transcribes the whole – all of the content, all of the things that were spoken and then I put that on there as well so people can read the transcript and I haven’t seen a great improvement in my page rank or positioning yet from that, but I have only been doing it for a couple of months.
Matt: Yes, it takes time because I spent the entire last year writing content for Swim University, filming videos, I really didn’t do any podcast, I did have a podcast for a short amount of time, but I realized that people didn’t want to listen to me talk about how great swimming pool care is, they just want to see it, they need to see it.
JP: Yes, it’s a visual.
Matt: It’s a visual thing, but it took time. There are now posts that I have written a full year ago that are now just becoming really popular in Google and people are searching out. It took – everything whenever I write something I say “It’s going to take at least six months for this to even be beneficial to me” and of course when you write something and you put it out there and it’s popular, great, you get a surge of traffic and it’s a wonderful feeling, I have had it happen to me a couple of times last year, you just watch your stats like just go through the roof which is great, but then it dies out. It’s that initial input and then six months to a year later, that initial input that got you all those backlinks and people continually talk about it sporadically over the course of the year, all of a sudden Google just says “This is probably a good thing” and it ends up – they obviously change their algorithm a lot and it just works and like I said, “I don’t focus on trying to keyword target,” I just feel like it’s too much research, it’s not helpful to the people who are reading my stuff, it’s only helpful for me to be in Google or whatever. I feel like if I write an article, I do a good headline, I have good content, I have a good video, I have good graphical representation, Google will find me. I have to put my faith into them because if you do it the other way around then I think you are setting yourself up for disaster.
JP: Yes, their new algorithm is really intended to rank things based on how well people would want to read it, how much people would want to read it and how people read, which means you have to write real content. Now, you can’t fake it like we used to.
Matt: Right and that was a hard lesson to learn.
JP: It is yes. You have to write content that people want to read and it does take time. Unfortunately, you can’t – I have been in the web business since 1995 and so back in the early days, it was so easy to get ranked in search engines because you just keyword bomb a page, you spam a page or you put 50 keywords in the keyword field, meta tag and all that stuffs is gone. You can’t cheat anymore. You have to be real and authentic and useful.
Matt: Yes, and it reminds me, I just – I write a lot for industry magazines, for the pool industry and they published one of my blog posts about – I said “How to be a successful blogger in 4 years?” Because everyone thinks – they get this information where they say “If you want to make money, you need to start a blog” and they are like “Great! I will start a blog.” They set up a WordPress site whatever, they put some content up there, it’s like a 150-word post, it’s worthless and they go “Well, blogging doesn’t work, it sucks, I hate it; it didn’t work for my business.” Yes, it’s because you tried to make a quick buck, you were looking at the short-term and that’s how I thought originally. So, I said – when I wrote the article, it was like – it’s sort of telling a hard truth where I said “You have to write stuffs that really helps people and you have to write it for a very long time” because I have had this site since 2007ish and it’s just now a lucrative business opportunity for me. Like it took that long and I have been writing for three years, like really hardcore for three years and I only have 200 blog post on my website and it’s not that much, but each blog post I feel is over 1000 words and it’s got other pieces of information and that you will not find anywhere else. So, I focus everything I can on content because I know that it brings in traffic and people – when I started getting e-mails from people who have pools and saying “Thank you, you saved my life with this pool” and I know it sounds more drastic than it is, just a pool, but that’s what keeps me going because I am like “Okay, obviously I am doing something right.” People are learning from me, people are sharing it, people are telling their friends about it, great. That’s all I care about. I don’t care if Google ever ranks me again as long as I have this tight core audience of people who just listen to what I have to say and are educated by what I say and use what I say.
JP: Okay, Matt this is a very specific target market that you are focusing on. It’s pools and spas maintenance, not just pools and spas, but maintenance. So, is that something that you would recommend that you pick as a niche that’s that tightly focused?
Matt: That’s a great question because I struggle with this a lot. One of the issues that I have with being so niched and especially this is a little bit different because taking care of a swimming pool is not a passion for anyone. No one’s excited to read the next blog post about how to get rid of cloudy water, that’s not their – it’s not like a hobby for anybody and it’s really hard to target people that owns something. If they don’t – because they are not online and they don’t have a profile that says “Hi, my name is John Doe and I have a swimming pool.” That’s not like something you could actively target in any sort of marketing. You know what I mean?
JP: Yes, may be Facebook if they subscribed to something, but other than that I don’t know how you could.
Matt: Yes, and it’s really hard because a lot of people don’t even take care of their pools. There are guys who own pools and they just hire a company and they come take care of it and they don’t need my site whatsoever. So, it’s really hard for me to target people who are looking for pool care advice because there are no forums, there are no people who are passionate about it, I guess is the answer, but as far as recommending to be niched down, absolutely, I think it’s super helpful because when you craft your message, you can really target what you want to say to that one person because you know that person so well. So, when I say – I think on my homepage of my website, I have a headline that says “Take care of your pool without going broke.” So, I am actively targeting people who – they move into a house that has a pool and they don’t know what they are doing or they have this pool and it’s just sucking them dry as far as money is concerned and they just – and every time they go to the pool store, they end up leaving with like 200 dollars worth of chemicals that they probably don’t need half of…
JP: …and don’t know how to use.
Matt: …and don’t know how to use, right. So, I am targeting even a more subset group of people even within the niche that I am currently in and I think that it just allows a website owner to specifically talk to somebody so that when they arrive at your site, they are like “Oh, this dude knows exactly what I am going through, whatever this guy has to say, it’s probably going to be super helpful.” So, I think niching down in that way is really helpful because when you start to go broad I have another website ListenMoneyMatters.com where I talk about personal finance, a ridiculously huge topic. It’s not just a website about getting rid of credit card debt, which would be super niched in that particular genre, and it’s really hard to find a core audience because you talk about so many different things that not everyone needs. So, it helps to be very, very specific in your message when you are write.
JP: Yes, I totally agree with that. I can’t tell you how many people I have spoken to when I talk and I ask them about their target market and they say “Everybody is my target market” and it’s just a recipe for disaster and I think that you are the perfect example and your business is a perfect example of just how niche you can get and still do well with your business.
Matt: And that wasn’t my intention when I started. My intention wasn’t I am going to find a category that’s super niched down. It was – I was kind of, I wouldn’t say born into it, but I was kind of like, I was already doing it.
JP: Yes, that’s what you do.
Matt: Yes, and it just seemed like a no-brainer for me to just say “Okay, why can’t I just do this online?” Just take what I do in the store and just put it online and I think that’s what you have to do, like I am also a homebrewer, I brew my own beer, but I do it with small batches. I do one gallon batches as opposed to 5 gallon batches. So, that’s like taking a hobby and a thing and then niching it down even smaller because not everybody can brew 5 gallons of beer. They can only brew 1 gallon of beer because they are in an apartment or a condo or some urban area where they don’t have enough room to do to hold 5 gallons of beer. So, I would say that yes niching down is super important because it allows you to be incredibly focused and it almost crafts your blog post for you. It makes it very easy to write.
JP: Yes, let’s talk about that for a second. This is such a niche market. How do you continually find new things to talk about? Are there 200 ways to clean your pool?
Matt: No. There is a – it’s funny; I don’t even have every aspect of pool care covered with my current blog. It is – I go to a lot of conferences, I try to read up on – I read all the trade magazines, I just see what other people are doing and I get asked questions. That’s where the content comes from. It’s when a customer – actually somebody on Twitter the other day just tweeted out a thing that said “Thank you to @SwimUniversity because without his videos I would not have been able to take care of my new hot tub” and I was like ”Wow! That’s super-great” and then she had like three to four other questions she hit me on Twitter with because I said “If you need any help, let me know.” So, I get questions, at least one question a day whether it’s through a social media site like Facebook or Twitter or even just through my e-mail address and I just – I usually just write them back personally and then I think “You know what, I never covered this.” This is something I have never covered. So, let me write a blog post about it or let me film a video about it, but not only that, there’s are tons and tons of products out there for pool care, like there is a product that I love, it’s a solar-powered floating pool skimmer, it’s a little pricey, but what it does is it requires no power, it runs on the sun and it skims your pool all day long and people don’t know about this incredible invention that exists and I want to be the person that says “Did you know that this thing is a thing?”
JP: Yes, so it’s like a Zoomba for your pool.
Matt: Exactly yes like Roomba, right.
JP: Roomba yes.
Matt: Except it’s not battery powered, it is powered by the sun, which to me anything that’s like eco-friendly in that sense I am like wet on water, I am like all over it. So, there is that and then there is also health benefits to swimming in either a pool or a hot tub. So, there is a whole another thing area that I cover where I have a website that has – if you are having any ground pool, if you are having any above ground pool or a hot tub, you can go in and you can learn the basics, you can learn how to vacuum, how to skim, how to brush, how to shock, how to – all these things, but then I had this other side which I call just the blog, which is more about the lifestyle of owning a swimming pool or a spa. So, the benefits of hot water therapy, the benefits of working out in your pool, there is a whole range of things you can talk about that have to do with pools and the reason I go in that direction is because that’s the only way that I can bring people into my site for pool care because if I do an article, like I did an article recently on “How to get rid of a headache using your hot tub” and if somebody sees that and they say “Oh! I have a hot tub, I want to read this article” and they read the whole article and they go “Oh! Well, I am on a website that talks about hot tub care, I am going to go look into more information, why is my hot tub cloudy, why is it green?” And then they turned on to this whole different thing, so I have to sort of think outside the box in order to reach my target audience and that’s what I do with the blogs, my lifestyle blogs.
JP: Okay, so this is brilliant and this is something that my listeners may be listening here and thinking “Wow! He is talking a lot about his pool stuffs,” but the important part here you got to apply this to your own business, this can be used for any business what you are doing can be modeled for any business whether it’s an information business like yours or if it’s a brick and mortar business, some of the things that you said I thought were great, you read the trade magazines, you go to trade shows, you are always reading and looking up information and you write things that are relevant, you find new things like new inventions and new ways of doing things and these are all great ideas for content that you can create for any business, not just an information business.
Matt: Right and I will also plug something else that I have done which is on Swim University, I tend to try my very hardest to think outside the box. So, I could easily write about vacuuming 400 times a day, but I always keep in mind that I worked in the pool industry for years and it’s very scientific and it could be very snooty in a way, the way people educate and I always try to keep in mind that swimming pools were created to swim in, to actually have fun in, right? So, I started thinking about ways to incorporate just the idea of fun into a site that really isn’t about fun, even though it is, it is about fun. It’s like having a blog on cleaning your basement. The basement is fun like you do, you can stuff down there, but cleaning it is the not so fun part. So, earlier in 2013, I released a rap video about pool care and it went sort of mini viral within my industry and I have been written about because I decided to take something that’s so not fun and just make and present it in a completely different and unique way and it just like – for lack of a better phrase, it blew up within my own industry and then I started to think “Okay, well, what are some other ways I can take the idea of just pools in general and just present it in a fun way?” So, I did another infographic that was called 50 Ways to Jump Into a Swimming Pool and I sat down in my office with my white board and just thought of like the most weirdest way is that when I was a kid how I jumped in a pool, I did a jackknife, I did a back flip, I did a cannonball, I did a swan dive, like all your basics and then I started thinking like “Okay, how can I use a pool noodle” and I created the Harry Potter where you just put the pool noodle between your legs and you do like a Quidditch sort of thing and I came out with these wacky things, but my goal was just to come up with 50 and I did and when I put it out there, Guy Kawasaki, the former guy from Apple, he tweeted it and put it on Google+ and Facebook and it just like went crazy. Now, what I will say is that anybody in the world can jump into a swimming pool; you don’t have to necessarily own one. What I created to not specifically target my market, but what it did was get me a ton of backlinks so that people who did own a pool and needed to take care of it could find me in Google because Google trusted all these backlinks that were coming in and it also helps because yes, creating a blog post about vacuuming is extremely boring. You have to as a content creator do something to just engage your creativity and who knows it’s going to – even though it didn’t bring targeted traffic that day, it has paid for itself over the course of the year because now I have backlinks from these really, really popular websites who would not normally link to me, like Esquire linked to me. Why would Esquire ever link to me if I was just talking about pool care, but because I did something a little different, I am now getting backlinks from these major, major websites and that just helps people who do have pools find me easier.
JP: Yes, so that’s great advice too is to do things that are not necessarily directly related to your core business, but are related may be indirectly because obviously 50 Ways of How To Jump Into a Pool is not really related to pool care, but it is indirectly related to it because it is about pools and it’s entertaining and fun and you get all those backlinks and it doesn’t matter what the backlink is for; it’s just the backlink that matter. So, it can be a backlink to your about me page, it doesn’t matter.
Matt: Right, it doesn’t matter.
JP: It doesn’t. So, that’s the goal and if you can do things that are creative like that especially using video because videos have a tendency to go viral more than anything else and I need to get those links from you for both of those for your infographic and for your video that you’ve mentioned and I will put those on the show notes page for this podcast so people can kind of get an idea of what you are talking about.
Matt: Yes and not only does it help in – it helps indirectly, but it also helps you as a content creator because if I would have sit there and write article after article about robotic pool cleaners and just cleaning a pool, I would get stifled. My brain would stop working at some point. So, I feel like it’s almost – it’s like taking a little vacation from what you normally create to do something that is more creative, something fun, something completely different, but yet still helps your business in the long run and I don’t think a lot people do that and I think they should.
JP: It’s because people are so focused on the core task that they don’t think to think outside the box.
Matt: Then they are worried about making money and I think one of my benefits is that money has never driven me, which is a bad thing too, I will admit, it has his flaws, but I just thought this is a job for me and as soon as I start thinking that way, I am going to lose interest in it, so I wanted to keep it fun and the money I always said – I had this quote on my computer and I don’t know where it is now, but it used to say “If you do something that you love to do, the money will find its way” sort of something along those lines and the idea is that just keep putting out stuffs, just keep doing it and doing it and creating and building and making things useful for humans and eventually money will come and it’s not – I took a huge risk by leaving my job to do something where I really didn’t have an idea on how. I had ways to make money and was making some money, definitely not enough to survive, but I am a risk taker, I just said “I don’t want to work for anybody anymore” and this is my goal in my life, if I keep procrastinating on it, I will never do it, so let me do it and I think by jumping without a safety net sort of forced me to hustle and get it done.
JP: Yes, you burned the ships.
Matt: Yes, basically yes. Burned bridges, no turning back.
JP: Okay, so this is a nice segway into my next question, which is how do you monetize this? What do you do to generate revenue?
Matt: Quick answer is affiliates. So, I had mentioned before that when I talk about getting rid of pool algae, I will mention products that I have used personally to help you take care of that problem and I will link to them and I will give a big button that says “Buy this here, here is a great place to buy” and then I get commissions based for that affiliate income. That’s really one way now. Because it’s a seasonal business, I really don’t make any money during the winter, very little and that’s just the pool industry in general and I kind of knew that going into it. So, I make most of my money between April and September and then it kind of just dies off because even the hot tub industry is more popular in the summer than it is in the winter which always surprised me. So, that’s one way. The other way is I have a product – I started making a product. So, I have one now called The Hot Tub Handbook which is a PDF 55-page full color, fully illustrated book on how to take care of your hot tub from start to finish and I sell that for 25 dollars on my website.
Matt: So, anybody that come to a post about how to take care of their hot tub can see this link and they go to it, there is a landing page and they can buy the book. That’s the second way. The third way is I have sponsors. So, there is two 300 x 250 pixel ads on my sidebar, there is a upper position and a lower position and I charge for the year for companies and the pool and spa industry to advertise there and it really helps the people who are advertising my website because there is really no place on the internet that is very targeted to people who own pools and hot tubs. So, it makes a lot of sense for a company that sells robotic pool cleaners to advertise on my website because everybody that hits that page probably owns a pool and has some use for that product. It is very targeted and I would say right now that’s the biggest, majority of my income comes from sponsorships.
JP: Okay so at what point were you able to get sponsors because sponsors don’t care about websites with no traffic. So, how do you charge for that and how did you – at what point were you able to start charging for that?
Matt: All right, I love this story because it doesn’t really happen to everybody, but it was kind of, it happened organically, I was writing this website and I gained a lot of attention in the industry for it, never asked, never went out and sold advertising at all. I went to a trade show and one of the companies that I had been working with basically just creating free content and never asking for a dime said “We want to advertise in your website” and I said “Oh! Okay, let me go and figure that out, let me figure out how to do that.” So, then I went to another booth to another company that I was friendly with and I had mentioned to them that I was just over talking to an advertiser of mine; they go “Wait a minute, you have advertising in your website, how come I didn’t know about this?” and I am like “Well because I literally just – they just became one right now.” So, she is like “Oh! Send me an invoice, whatever it takes.” Okay, and then all of a sudden I was like “I didn’t have to sell anything, it just kind of happened because I had everyone liked what I was doing and wanted to be a part of it” because I was doing something that was very different in my particular industry and it made it easy, it just was like I didn’t even have to sell, people just asked me about it and then eventually – that was the first year and then the following year I went out and asked for – I put together a package and hired like a Real Deal sort of magazine style marketing and it was like cake, people were just “Yeah, whatever it is.”
JP: So, that’s an important point to make is that there are a lot more advertising dollars available for online advertising than these businesses are able to spend because they are simply aren’t enough good places to advertise, especially niche products like what these guys are selling and it’s like that for lots of different things. So, if you can create a good content-based website around a niche market and you get traffic to it, that’s the key, you got to have traffic because if they know about it, they are going to want to advertise on it. If nobody knows about it, nobody is going to want to advertise on it, it’s not worthy; it is not even worth their time to talk to you.
Matt: You know what though, I will disagree with you for just a split second because I would say that when you write content and you do something that’s really different, there are a few companies who will just believe in you and it’s weird and I – a lot of these companies didn’t even ask for my numbers, they didn’t even care how many people were coming to my website, they just knew I was onto something, they just knew that what I was doing was important, it was helping people and they said “We are basically sort of like donating this money to you” and I wasn’t asking for a lot – very, very little, and to these giant companies who are spending a lot of their money on TV advertisements nationwide because that’s the only way they are going to reach the audience, having someone small like me who had a very target audience and not a lot of people, but very targeted, they didn’t care. They just said “You know what, we will help you out” which was weird to be honest with you.
JP: Yes, they knew about you before though, right?
Matt: Yes, they had – like I said if you create really stellar content, I think it kind of just starts to sell itself at a certain point because you are doing – if you are doing something that’s like radically, not even radically different, it doesn’t even have to – there’s a bunch of websites that talk about what I talk about, but I just present it in a unique, friendly and personable way that no one else does.
JP: The point I want to make though there is that they knew about you, which in their minds meant that you are successful and they didn’t even have to ask you for your traffic because they figured “Well I know about it, so everybody must.”
Matt: Yes, good point.
JP: Yes, so that’s the thing is that you had credibility walking in and a lot of people that I meet, they launch a brand new website and their monetization strategy is to sell ad space to sponsors and for a brand new website, if nobody knows about you, you are not going to get that and that means you might not have any traffic, you probably don’t have any traffic on a brand new website and if nobody knows about you, they are going to ask “Why would I want to pay you?” But if they know about you and you have a reputation, you have credibility in the field, they don’t even care about your traffic numbers, they just assume that you have traffic because they already know about you.
Matt: Right and I will say that if you have a new website and I have started plenty of websites, and if your goal is to get sponsorships immediately, that’s not the right way to monetize. I think you could do it with affiliate links that’s easy enough, but it’s low income. I think the best way for someone who is starting a brand new website to generate any sort of income is through creating their own product and that’s what we have done with Listen Money Matters; we created a book called Mastering Mint which teaches people how to use the free software Mint.com to do their budgeting and manage their personal finances and it’s a program that both myself and my partner Andrew, it’s the program that we use every single day and I said “There is no real guide on how to use this.” There is a guide on how to use Evernote and there is a guide on how to use all these other like programs, but there is no guide for this one that’s been around since forever. So, we wrote it and we are a small website that gets very little traffic because it’s brand new, but we are already making money because people are finding out about this book.
JP: Yes, that’s cool, I love it, I use it too. In fact, I was doing that this evening; today is Bill Day.
JP: So, yes Mint is great. I will put a link to that and also to your – it’s ListenMoneyMatters, is that it?
Matt: Yes, ListenMoneyMatters.com and like I said, it’s a site that my partner Andrew had had for about a year and then I came onboard, we redesigned it, we started a podcast, we started creating it. We have two products, actually one’s free and one’s paid and we’ve been writing blog posts and doing podcasts for about six months now.
JP: Cool, great. I will put links to all of that as well as – what’s the name of your podcast? Is it also the same thing?
Matt: Yes, it’s Listen Money Matters.
JP: Okay, I will put a link to that on the show notes page as well. Okay, so we have a few more minutes left. Do you have a mentor or a coach or somebody that helps you think through your decisions or somebody to bounce ideas off of?
Matt: I have a few, yes. I started out with zero because I was by myself and didn’t really have any friends in the online space or the online entrepreneurial space and no one I know personally before was doing what I did. So, I really had no one to talk to, but since then, yes my partner Andrew who runs Listen Money Matters with me, he was huge influence on me and helped me to like start to make money because he is more of a – he started out as a money guy and I knew I was bad with money in the past, so I needed somebody like that and we just became real fast friends through a company called Fizzle.
JP: Yes, I know about it.
Matt: Yes, so Fizzle is where I learned a lot of the techniques that I now employ. There were some sites before that that I was using and then I sort of jumped full board onto Fizzle. There is a gentleman that you know, Omar.
JP: Yes, Omar.
Matt: Omar and Nicole. So, I also met Omar through Fizzle. We became fast friends and we bounce ideas off each other all the time.
JP: And Fizzle is – that’s with Corbett Barr, right?
Matt: Yes, it’s Corbett Barr, Chase Reeves, and Caleb Wojcik.
JP: Okay and so you would recommend that?
Matt: Yes, most definitely. If you are doing the type of work – if you are a blogger or you are trying to create any – even if it’s just like a physical product and you are trying to sell online, it’s definitely worth it for educational purposes, especially if you are just getting started. I would say I learned some much from those guys and I don’t use the site as much as I used to because now I am so focused on doing the work that I have learned through them that now I don’t have enough time to be educated anymore and I don’t even know if I could handle anymore, but yes absolutely and that’s where – and even more important than the education was the community. So, I was part of the forums and I was never really a forum guy, but that’s how I met Andrew, that’s how I met Omar, that’s how I even started talking to the owners of the company and started reaching out to a few other people and just made all these like-minded people who are doing what I did, but just in a different niche or different category and they were all super helpful. Everyone has been – some has been helpful to me in some way, shape, or form more than anything. So, really it’s all about networking with like-minded individuals because you will learn a ton.
JP: That’s great and I will put a link to that on the show notes page as well, Fizzle.com because I have been thinking about joining that because Omar mentioned it and I read about it through one of Pat Flynn posts on The Smart Passive Income. I am sure you know about him too.
Matt: Yes, Pat Flynn is another guy who I started listening to when I was first getting started and it’s Fizzle.co.
JP: dot co.
Matt: It’s a really great website.
JP: Are there any books that you would recommend, book that may be inspired you or changed your life?
Matt: Life-changing books? There’s a lot. The 4-Hour Workweek was huge. Somebody had recommended that to me a while back and when I read that I go “Oh! Well, so everything that I want to do is people are already doing this.” Everything I have dreamed about from when I started working for a boss till now, it’s like “Oh! This is the thing, lifestyle design, I get it.” So, yes that was huge. Getting Things Done I recently read. I think it’s Gary Allen and that helped a little bit because I have – I am an ideas man as they say. So, having all these ideas in your head is a really bad place to store ideas and so being able to the idea of brain dumping all of your ideas into a trusted source was super helpful for me. So, sometimes I will just sit down and Evernote, which is like a program that I live by and I will just spew words onto the page on just ideas like I will go – I don’t drive that much anymore since I work from home, but I will drive for like an hour just to think and then I will just record everything in Evernote just as I am texting and driving no, but with the vocal recorder.
Matt: So, that was helpful. I am reading a book right now called Daily Rituals which is really cool, which is – I am very ritualistic person. I don’t even know if that’s a word, again I failed every English class.
JP: I think it’s a word.
Matt: Okay. I have a lot of rituals throughout the day since I can do the same thing and I have nobody looking over my shoulder. So, reading about other famous creatives and their daily rituals has been really eye-opening because I didn’t realize how many people from like the 1800s forward drank coffee to start working. I thought that was just like – I know a lot of people drink coffee, but I didn’t realize like it was sometimes like the pure inspiration for some of the great works out there. I always thought it was marijuana because I listen to The Doors and I am like “It’s got to be LSD,” right? So, that’s a really cool book that I am reading right now, just filled with a bunch of creative people’s rituals, they are famous people. Ben Franklin was a good one. As far as – I have a list of books.
JP: I think that’s great and I will put links to those on the website as well. Okay, we have time for one more question. What is the most important piece of advice that you can give to someone who wants to start a business or may be wants to follow in your footsteps and create an information- or content-based business?
Matt: Wow! I think about this a lot. I think about it a lot because I think you have to be a special type of person. There’s a lot of people who they have these ideas and they come to me and say “Oh, you know, it would be cool if I had, if I did this” and I go “Cool do it.” They are like “Yeah, I will get around and do it” and they never do it because something gets in the way. I think you have to look inside yourself and just decide if you are that type of person or not. Some people are perfectly happy going to a job, collecting a paycheck, coming home, zoning out, having the weekends to themselves and that’s fine. There’s no – it’s not me, I can’t be that way. Even when I worked fulltime for a company, I would still come home and work on projects and do stuff on the weekends and I was often criticized for “working too much”. But to me, it was just a hobby for me. So, I think asking yourself that really tough question like “Are you that type of person, can you really do it?” is important, it’s a little self reflection. As far as like tactical advice for entrepreneurs, getting started is the hardest part. So, if you trying to start a blog for instance, don’t worry too much about the design right away, start writing, start creating content, it’s honestly the most important thing ever and even today I have to remind myself that when I start to get on these other projects I go “You know what that project can wait because content is way, way more important because without content you have no traffic and it doesn’t matter how good your website looks no one’s coming because you have nothing to say” and that’s coming from a person who loves designing websites and I will take whatever detour I will just to redesign a website. I am quick to do that, but it’s sometimes you have to ask yourself what’s more important and it is always content.
JP: Yes, and that’s one thing that I have noticed too is that I tell people it’s good if your website looks professional because that gets a credibility, but if you do a search on Google for any topic, I guarantee you in the top ten search results at least two of those websites are going to look terrible, completely unprofessional, but they have great content and that’s why Google ranks them.
Matt: Yes and another thing is that don’t put all your eggs into one basket. So, as far as monetization on a website – because obviously I don’t think anyone’s in the space wants to start a website just for the heck of it, they want to start a website with the idea that they are going to make money off of it at some point and if your – and this is how I originally thought so I can commiserate. So, if your original idea is “I want to get sponsors and I am going to make money off of affiliate links,” you are going down the wrong path, you need to readjust, you need to come up with your own product whether it’s an e-book or a video course or an actual physical product that you make or a piece of software or whatever you can dream up, make that thing and sell that thing on your own website as another – so you should have multiple streams of revenue. So, you can still do your affiliate links, I still do them. You can do your sponsorships may be down the road. I didn’t start with sponsorships; I took three to four years to even come into fruition and then having a product that you have these three channels of revenue and some will make money and some will be low, but they will fluctuate and as a total package, it’s a good income. I am sure there are other ways to do it, creating software for instance. There is another way that I haven’t looked into yet, but it could be one. So, there’s a lot. Like I said, “I wouldn’t focus putting in all your eggs into one basket.”
JP: Yes, diversification is the key.
JP: Matt, we are out of time, but this is a fantastic interview. You gave us lots of food for thought especially on how to content market and how to monetize this, lot of great information. I really appreciate your time today.
Matt: Hey, no problem, it was my pleasure.
JP: Yes, you bet. We will talk soon.
Matt: All right, thanks JP.
JP: Did you get some YouTube marketing ideas for your business? I sure got a lot for mine and one of the important things, one of the best messages I took away from that is if you record videos, it’s good to record videos specific to what it is you are doing, but it’s also good to record videos that are loosely related to what you are doing like 50 Ways to Jump Into a Swimming Pool, that’s nothing to do with cleaning a swimming pool, but everything you do with what a swimming pool owner might be interested in. So, keep that in mind when you are recording your YouTube videos. I think that’s it for today. Thank you once again for joining me on this episode of the Smart Energized Entrepreneurs Podcast. See you next time.