Today's guest is John Rampton of Search Engine Journal! Listen to the interview audio as Happy Dog President Ryan Boog and Online Marketing Specialist Brooke McDonald interview John. Or, if you prefer, read the interview transcription below!
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8 Questions with John Rampton
Ryan: All right, thank you everybody. Welcome everybody to the Happy Dog blog. Today’s 8 Questions is with John Rampton. He’s the managing editor of the esteemed Search Engine Journal. John Rampton is also an entrepreneur, self-proclaimed computer nerd, PPC guru at Maple North and the founder of PPC.org and blogging.org. He’s been interviewed by Forbes Magazine and Channel 9 The Broadcast, written for the Huffington Post, and has been profiled as one of the "Top 25 Most Influential PPC Experts in the World" by Hanapin Marketing. John’s also taken the podium at major conferences like Blog World, Affiliate Summit, SES, and others.
So welcome to the Happy Dog Blog John! How’s it going?
John: It’s going very well. Thanks for having me.
Are you at Palo Alto right now, or where are you at?
You know, I’m actually in Vegas right now.
Party it up!
Yeah, party it up!
You and I were just at Joomla Days San Francisco. I was just kind of wondering first right off the bat, what were your biggest takeaways from Joomla Days San Francisco?
You know, some of my biggest takeaways were mainly people. I get to meet great people like yourself. Two of the really good people that I’ve worked with online but really never met in person, for example, Jennifer, one of the organizers, as well as several other people. Primarily relationships, and those are what lead to business and what lead to actually doing things.
Yep, there were a lot of good people there. It’s a fun event. There’s a world conference coming up - are you going to make it out there, or is your schedule really booked?
It really depends on what’s going on at work.
Okay, cool. The next question I have for you is what was your doorway into the digital world? How did you get started with this stuff?
My doorway into the digital world. When I was younger, I used to love computers, love getting to know everything about them, and essentially, kind of hacking computers, and manipulating them to do things to help my life be easier. So, I guess I really, I got into it at a young age.
Awesome - so how did you go from there to be so specialized in blogging and pay-per-click?
I kind of went from there, it was kind of a natural progression. I basically was working at a start-up, at the time basically they hired me and said “Hey, sell this product. We know you’re good at selling things. Sell it or we’re going out of business in 30 days.” So I was like, all right! So I had no choice but to sell. I called people on the phone, like, for hours and hours and hours. It only made so much sense. You could only call so many people before your day ran out. So then I used computers to my advantage and I started scraping websites for phone numbers. And I built a text server. So I was using technology to scrape websites and put their phone numbers into a database, and then a server to basically auto-text message those people to make my job easier. Now nowadays, you can’t do that anymore, but back in the day, I could send out a hundred thousand text messages, and it would be no problem at all.
Basically, I then learned affiliate marketing really well, and I basically learned, you know, I took my sales numbers from, you know, 7-10 sales a day to when I left the company, I was doing almost 600 sales a day, and the next highest sales rep was doing 11. So they couldn’t figure out what I was doing. I became an owner of the company, and we grew the company from around $2 million in revenue to almost $60 million in revenue. It was a big leap. And I used all technology to do that.
That’s awesome. And pay-per-click, was that part of that technology?
You know, pay-per-click actually came after that. Because some of the things I was doing like text messaging wasn’t allowed. But I used to be putting banners on people’s websites with phone numbers so it automatically put them into a database. So, but then I switched from that to more, like, being able to put banners on people’s websites. It was just a natural progression.
I’m also a numbers guy. I love numbers.
Regarding advertising in particular, pay-per-click, but actually I think it falls under all advertising in general. I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of people criticize PPC advertising and say it’s intrusive, it’s not user-friendly, or it’s kind of annoying. There’s ways to block ads, like this new Ad Blocker we just saw on CNN recently. It’s supposed to take off all the ads on a website. I kind of want to know what your take is on a device like that.
I mean, kind of what I’ve said to it all along, there’s going to be devices that go up. Google is amazing, and they’re going to adapt to technology, and they’re going to basically not allow that on their browsers. I’m not too worried about it, honestly. I think too that technology’s going to change and evolve. So I mean, now 30% of all advertising now is on mobile phones. I mean, how are you going to install that on your mobile phone when Apple won’t even let you install an app, you know? Advertising’s going to evolve. It’s evolving over time. There’s nothing you can do about it. So just adapting to those changes and being up with technology and learning, oh, ad blocker does this, so here’s ways to get around it. Or, here’s ways to advertise to new people. Or ad blocker blocks ads but do they serve up their own ads? I mean, you know.
You actually answered my next question. My next question after that was, do you think it’s going to get banned, or get shut down, or how is Google going to react to this? I think that’s great - in Chrome, they won’t allow something like that, and they’ll forge relationships. It’s a great point about mobile, because everybody’s going mobile now, and you can’t really plug this into a phone.
Yeah, I mean things like that are great, but sites like Facebook aren’t going to allow that. That’s how they make their money. All these sites make their money. That’s why Ad Blocker runs on Gmail - because it’s free. And all their email accounts run on Gmail, which they don’t pay for. It’s shooting themselves in the foot, but oh well. I think that ads are a really good thing - not just because they pay my bills, but ‘cause they make everything awesome. I mean, back in the day, you used to have to pay for email. Back ten years ago, you paid $10 a month for an email account. It was just known that that was what you had to pay. Just like now you pay for, I mean, there’s going to be new things. Right now you pay for your cell phone. Potentially in the future, I mean, $30? All they have to serve a relevant user is a $1 an ad a day. Will cell phones become free? Will cars become free? I mean, all that could be potentially paid for with ad revenue.
That’s mind-blowing. That’s crazy.
Give me a free car and you can tell me where to go for lunch every day! I’m sure Google will charge Arby’s a dollar, but Arby’s will increase their revenue tenfold. Because now all the cars are saying, “Hey, food,” and Arby’s will be on top, and that’s going to be the majority of what people choose. Is it worth it for Arby’s to pay an extra dollar for that advertising to drive a customer there? I think so.
And I think that’s the way that everything’s trending, too. Ads are going to be there regardless, and you live with it, and have a better experience with it, and I’m sure you feel the same way. Brooke’s got a few questions for you too.
Brooke: Speaking of new things and adapting and changing, we live in a time when there’s new stuff all the time. You’ve been called kind of a startup addict. Tell us a little about that. Why do you love to start things?
I love to start things… you know, once an organization gets too big, there’s too much politics in it. It’s not fun for me. You get a company up to 150, 200 people, and I don’t enjoy it as much. It’s not that start-up growth - you don’t see the huge numbers, you don’t get to see the growth, and also once you get past a certain point, the relationships start not being as strong.
Do you have any start-ups in mind right now that you’re itching to get going? Where are you at right now with your love for starting things?
A start-up that I’ve been working with is Organize.com. They’re based out of L.A. They’re a really cool start-up that… I guess there’s not a start-up, but they’re still in that start-up kind of stage. Just bringing a little bit of my expertise to it and really trying to grow it.
What do they do?
Organize.com helps people organize their lives. So they sell anything organization. So storage boxes. Organize your closet, organize your kitchen, organize pretty much anything. I mean, they even sell furniture. Pretty much anything to organize your life, they sell.
Everybody go to Organize.com!
They’re like the Amazon.com of organizing.
I might have to check that out - I love organization.
It’s not for me, but my wife would be all over it.
You’re the editor at Search Engine Journal. Talking about blogging and content a bit. When it comes to creating content that people want to read and share and promote, you have a lot of experience with that. I’m sure you’ve seen articles on your site be really good and be received well, and also not be received well. How much of an article’s success is the topic you pick and the topic you’re addressing, and how much is just getting in front of the audience that will think that topic is interesting? What makes an article successful?
Well, I’ll put a caveat on here. You have to have amazing content. Really good content. The rest of it is getting that content in front of the right audience. Whenever You need to bring value, you need to actually help the user out. Assuming that you’re always putting up amazing content, I’d say the majority of it is finding the right audience. You can put up the most amazing content in the world, and if you don’t have it in front of the right people, it’s going to go nowhere and flop. That’s what sucks about a lot of businesses. A lot of businesses are sold by SEO experts who say, “Put up amazing content! Do this, do that!” But they’re not in front of the right audience, so nobody’s going to see it. So they could put up the most amazing content in the world, but if nobody sees it, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same point speaking to the right audience and if they’re putting up shitty content, it’s going to go nowhere. If you’re putting up bad content, it’s going to go nowhere, even if you’re in front of the right audience, and it’s actually going to damage your brand more than help it. But I would say always have amazing content, and then find the right places to promote that content. And never sell your product. Don’t ever try and sell your product. It’s just like that person, that one friend we all have who you go to dinner with and all they do is f-ing talk about themselves the entire time. You’re never going to go to dinner with them again. You can handle it for about two seconds. Even that one person. If they blast themselves or if they say one thing about themselves, you’re like, “I hate that. I hate Bryan.” There’s always a Brian. You’re like, “I hate that kid.” Sorry if your name is Bryan.
But it’s that guy that speaks about themselves all the time. All of us have a friend that always speaks about themselves. They’re doing this amazing thing and they’re doing that amazing thing. If that’s all you do, or if you even do that one percent of the time, your readers will fall off. Get rid of the self-promotion in your businesses and be about the customer. Do amazing things. Give away everything. Here’s everything I know, I mean, if you read a lot of my articles Here’s everything I know. People are too lazy. They’re not going to do it. They’re too lazy. They’re going to recognize you as the expert right off the bat because you’re giving them everything. And then when they need real advice, they’ll come to you, and you can charge them a flat fee. But if you’re like, “Oh, here’s a little bit about myself,” and then you say, “find out more, you need to pay me,” people are gonna be like,“That’s bullshit! I don't care! You’re not an expert because you haven’t sold it.” But if you’re like, “Here’s everything, step A-Z…” Like, everything.
I’ll take an example on Search Engine Journal. So on SEJ we had a guy named Alan write a post. This post was about recovering from Panda. So your site got slapped, it’s hurting, you can’t rank for anything. Big detailed step-by-step outline. I think it was like an 8,000 word post. “Here’s every step you need to get out of this.” How many people read that post? Right now we’re up to probably about a million people have read the post. Not a ton, well actually that is a ton. But the majority of people drop off after like five or six minutes. That means they’re not reading the entire post. How many people has he attributed to actually coming from that post to his site? Last time I talked with him, it was about 18 people. He charges $10,000+. It’s not because people don’t know how to do it or can’t do it. He details everything in that post. People are too lazy. So give away everything, and they’ll always come back to you and recognize you as the leader.
So kind of going back to that amazing content, put up the most amazing content and then find the right audience. So give away everything and don’t be self-promotional. In that article, he doesn’t even mention his company or his name once.
Do you have any tips for, let’s say there’s a company, and they’re writing great content, they’re working really hard, what are tips on growing your audience or getting in front of the right people?
Go interact with them. The biggest fans that you could get, go find them, go find out who they are, and pay attention, and comment on their blogs, and Tweet them, and Facebook them. But don’t be like, “Hey cool, I saw your article, by the way, check out our product.” No, just be like, “Hey, that was an awesome article. Here’s a very valuable comment about that. Or “This is amazing, thanks.” And then share it with your audience. That’s how you get your audience. You start by becoming the leader.
I like it. Switching into more personal questions. What’s a day in the life for you, managing all your responsibilities, being an editor, what’s a typical day if there is a typical day?
Yeah, no real typical day. Probably my typical day involves, I typically get up around 5 a.m. I exercise, like I eat breakfast, exercise usually for about 30,45 minutes, and then I get to work. I usually try to start work at least by 5:45, 6 a.m. And basically you can get your entire job done by like 8 or 9 before anybody even shows up to the office. And the rest of the day is responding to emails and stupid meetings, and dealing with politics of things. I mean, realistically, that’s my average day, and I think if anybody else, if they got up that early, they would have the same schedule. But a lot of my day involves responding to emails, putting up posts, editing posts, reading a lot of news, and then deep-diving into numbers. Yeah. A lot of my job for pay-per-click is basically setting up the account, and after that, a lot of that is automated with script.
Do you have a favorite part of your day? What’s most exciting for you?
I would say that some of the most exciting things I do is coming up with promotions or really cool things for the projects that I’m working on. For example, like yesterday, we put together, for Organize, we put together a really cool little Instagram post. Now, it may not seem like that much. We put it on Facebook and it’s up to like 400 shares on one day. It’s coming up with really cool things to interact exactly with our customers in the way that they want and need. So it’s finding those cool things and actually building really cool shit for our customers. I mean, you look at most of my things, and it says “Create amazing.” Creating those amazing things for our customers and for the project I’m working on. We try to do like one a day for every single project. Like one pretty amazing thing, and like one a month, super amazing.
Sweet. All right, I’ll wrap this up. I heard from a little birdie that you like to bowl. Are you a good bowler? Tell us about your bowling credentials.
You know, I love bowling. I’m actually on a bowling league. I know, it’s kind of my nerd, it’s what I do to chillax. I typically bowl between a 180 and a 210. So, on average, probably that’s like 5,7 strikes a game. So, I’m okay at it. I’m not like a pro.
So you could beat me throwing left-handed.
Um, yeah, I could.
Awesome. So is there anything besides Organize.com that you’d like to promote?
Uh, I mean, Organize.com, other projects we have are PPC.org, that’s kind of where I rant about my, like, you know, “Hey, here’s this really cool thing that I’m working on,” or “Here’s this really cool thing,” typically in the pay-per-click world, those are kind of my projects.
Okay, and if someone was an aspiring startup, and they didn’t know how to get in front of the right audience or wanted somebody to help them really launch, could they get ahold of you as well?
Yeah, just @JohnRampton on Twitter. Message me and I can help you out. I’ll basically kind of look at what you do and just be like, “Hey, here’s what I would do.”
Awesome guys, you know what to do. You’ve got your homework. You go to Organize.com, ppc.org. or get ahold of John if you want anything at all to launch yourself into the stratosphere. Thank you again John for coming on Happy Dog blog. You’re awesome times a thousand.
Perfect, thanks guys, thanks for having me.
Thanks for reading. Come back next Friday. We'll have another interview for you!