Share This Episode

Jon Rognerud & Jason Hornung: Search Engine Optimization, Paid Advertising & Unselling

I’ve got two guests for you. It is Jon and Jason. They are the guys responsible for getting found online. It's like you're getting a show that’s two for one because Jon specializes in SEO and organic getting your business found online through Google and other places. Jason is a performance marketing expert. What's interesting about Jon is he's actually from Scandinavia and had a top ten rock hit in Scandinavia, moved to Hollywood and yet found himself in the world of tech and SEO. You're going to find that fascinating. Jason had very humble beginnings on getting started. If you were to say, “Will this guy be successful based on his beginnings?” He's not the guy that you would have picked and he will surprise the heck out of you. He's also going to teach you a thing or two about paid advertising and what to look for when it comes to hiring.

There are also a lot of insights outside of their expertise. Good old-fashioned persistence, staying the course and pivoting, if that weren't a contradiction in itself. Also, we talk about investing. Jason surprised me as an entrepreneur being able to take money out of his business and put it into other vehicles. I like to say this is a cornucopia of different strategies, ideas and you're getting a two for one. With that said, let's get to it.

Dustin
Several years ago, Jon, you were looking to up your game. You want to understand how this performance marketing works because you're an SEO and organic guy, so you do what a guy or a gal do with maybe not as many means. You go on the internet to find a course. You find a course and it happens to be a torrent. For my friends that are uninitiated, this is a pirated course. This is a course that you find online and you download this course and it's not all there. Because if you pay for it, you get it all. When it's a torrent, you get bits and pieces of it. It happens to be Jason's course in performance in ad marketing. You want to get better there. You take this course, you download it and you get as much as you can out of it. Yet, you forget about this course only to come back to this many years later and introduce and meet the guy that created the course and you proceed to give him a lot of money, which is interesting. Take us back to the moment when you were getting your education on it and you're turning to a torrented course. What's going through your head at that moment?
Jon & Jason
Thank you. It's embarrassing now. I’ve been called out, but it shows you where my head was at that moment in time. I was like, “I'm not going to pay for anything. I’ll snoop in and get this stuff.” It was exactly as you described. What I wanted to do is get insight for Facebook and there were only a few folks in that space and still is now. Back then, Jason, a top guy back then, I didn't know it. I downloaded it and consumed some of those materials in pieces, never fully engaging. I captured some essential pieces of it. That was the marketing strategies at the core, but also some of the techniques that were different than the traditional Google AdWords realm of search intent, etc. It’s more interruption-based. I took that course, consumed some of those modules, put it aside and realized that this is going to ultimately help me and us at the agency fast forward. When we're talking about speed to market for our clients to get more volume of traffic, more targeted traffic and ultimately more conversions through paid media, which was not my forte. SEO and organic being the mainstay and still is, but we've switched. Back then, it was all about trying to find those assets and those resources that were not only credible but had actionable tips and insights that did something.
Dustin
I can tell that you know your stuff, your chops and it will be my job to translate some of this for the folks who are getting started into it. I did this growing up too back in the day. I remember getting Photoshop off the torrents or whatever it was, LimeWire or whatever it was called that back then. How did you then come full circle and to now like you subscribe and you pay Jason and you guys work together? How did you go from pirating his course to now working with him or working together?
Jon & Jason
What happened was I put it aside and continued developing more strategies on the SEO side. As the paid media came more into focus and certainly Facebook, 2012 was its own place for Facebook in the advertising platform. I realized I need to take this to the next level for the agency and myself. It was a very short turn. I knew where to go. I had already obviously looked at it. When I contacted Jason several years later and then ultimately signed up for insider secrets to Jason's programs and want to learn more, I went full board for the higher-end programs, including some of those baseline programs. I bought all of it because I felt that not only is this an appropriate thing to do, but I probably didn't tell Jason this either, but I felt bad.
Dustin
Jason, I'm curious to get your read or your thoughts on this because as a content creator myself and those reading that have created something, there's a lot of work that goes into it. The idea that is getting pirated by people never sits well because we could be selling those courses. I'm curious on your take as to this whole process of Jon finding you.
Jon & Jason
I’ve been doing this long enough now where we have had so many pirates of every course that I create. When it first started happening, it pissed me off. We had a company that we hired to try to get those sites taken down. All they can do is get them de-indexed from Google. People still end up selling it and then they put it on another domain and it keeps popping up over and over again. We were de-indexing 500 links a month that was pirating my stuff. I post on Facebook and I wear my heart on my sleeve, so I’d commiserate about that. I had some friends that are other course creators and they're like, “It means your stuff's working, so you should be okay with it. Maybe people will come around.” The bottom line I got to was you're never going to stop people from doing what they want to do. There are always going to be people that want to steal and then there are always going to be people that want to get something for free. There's a market for that. Every now and then you get a gold nugget where somebody steals and then they feel bad about it and then they have a recompense of sorts, I guess.
Dustin
I remember when my first course was pirated and I remember first feeling like I made it, a smile on my face. Shortly after there, I was in piss mode like, “I'm not getting paid on that.” It hit me. I do remember it is like a badge of honor that you are well-enough-known for someone to pirate a course.
Jon & Jason
The part that annoyed me the most was I would get people that would email us saying, “I bought your course and I didn't get it.” They would think from these fake sites that it was my stuff. It devalued my course because they were selling them for $30, $40. It’s a $2,000 course. It devalues it, then it was also creating all these customer service nightmares at the same time. That was the part that pissed me off more than anything.
Dustin
It's interesting because I used to think that the adage was people that would pirate a course, they're not going to be your buyer. I’ve heard this story now, not as prevalent as someone buying a course and then transforming into a higher paid customer. I’ve heard this enough now where some people don't have the means at the time and they find it's like lead generation. They find that piece and then they end up becoming part of your biz.
Jon & Jason
I’ve had numerous circumstances that have been reported to me. One that was interesting was because I have some courses that are cheap, one is $17 for example. A guy had bought this course and he gave his friend access to it. I got this email from the friend who apparently used what we taught in the course to promote a timepiece that he was putting together on Kickstarter. He ended up doing over $1 million on Kickstarter. At the time, it was the most funded timepiece project in Kickstarter history. He emailed me to tell me, “I used my friend's course to figure this out. Thank you.” That was it. He didn't buy anything else for me. It happens all the time. The one thing that I got to the point of was I could feel good about the fact that something I created made a difference in somebody's life.
Dustin
I want to dig into your personal life here. If my research has it correct, you were a rocker. Are you still a rocker?
Jon & Jason
Yes, but not as active, but I gig at home. I don't ever not become a rocker once you’re a rocker.
Dustin
Can you go un-rocker? Can you become un-rocked? That's a good question.
Jon & Jason
You go more jazz.
I actually did more jazz.
Dustin
There's a little twinge of accent in your voice and that's the Norwegian in you, is that correct?
Jon & Jason
Yes. I'm born in Australia but grew up in Norway.
Dustin
You had a top ten hit. How do you go from being this rocker with a top ten hit into optimizing websites and SEO and organic? Tell us how do you go from being a rocker, traveling the world, playing music and doing all that to SEO?
Jon & Jason
It's simple. As I’ve learned this industry, the advertising, marketing sales, online, digital, all of it, at the core it's creativity. As long as I’m playing music, I didn't know my future ending up here in Los Angeles from Norway, etc. All along, there's this creativity that drives. Being a musician is not that big a leap to this industry, but obviously there was a big leap in terms of miles. It was Norway to LA. The music brought me to LA because being on the top ten in Norway and we traveled all over Scandinavia, not the world actually. We were number four for five weeks and then straight out and then I went to music school, all of that. It didn't pan out. I didn't get the spots at the conservatory for classical musicians and whatnot, “What am I doing now?” My brother was in LA. He knew Stevie Wonder, John Travolta through Scientology, which is a whole other story. I decided I'm going to go there and spend a few months maybe and then go back to the band because we were on TV, radio. We’re heading up. Then I could go ahead and leave right at the top. I knew I was going to come back. Of course, that never happened. I ended up staying a few years before I got the Green Card.
Fast forward, back and forth here. Ultimately, music and creativity sit still here. It was that along with having nowhere to go, ending up as an administrative assistant at a computer company and started it all in Culver City, Ashton-Tate back in the day. That led us over to a startup company out in Malibu where we developed a compiler 4D-based back then. I was developing apps, traveling, speaking on stage, setting up offices in Tokyo and England and Germany. I went back to Norway and then coming in through the software side back then was the transition to tech. Ultimately later, as I exited that and started my own consulting company, it was all about how do we help companies grow and not just aid. Do you need more traffic? We can do that. Do you need more leads? We can do that. Let's help you grow, so bottom-line metrics. This was math and creativity, which now it's psychology. It's math. It's creativity. I'm in a perfect spot and that's why you're hearing me elevating my voice because this is super exciting, it's never boring and it's challenging at the same time.
Dustin
I want to get into it. I imagine those reading now that start off working a job and wanting to make that jump into entrepreneurship. You started off administrative assistant, you were working for companies and then you jumped ship and then you started your own agency, your own thing. Talk about that jump. What finally pushed you over the edge and said, “I'm going to go do my own thing now?”
Jon & Jason
This is one of those things where I hope it would sound a bit more scientific or proper and well-thought-out. Not so much, it's more, “The wind is blowing that way. We’re going that way or we're going this way.” It was very back and forth, but what it was that drove me through all of that and these intermittent and weird transitions were friends and communities and mentors, which we're going to probably talk more about the importance of that. You can push yourself to the next-level mindset. It's like, “Where are you at now? Where are you going?” That path never is a straight line. How do you move from that spot to the next one? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
All these expressions that we hear Tony Robbins and all these mindset people talking about, I had none of that, but it felt like it was the right thing. That transitioning from administrative to corporate and then out of corporate. I worked at Yahoo for a few years, heading up the corporate ladder and then leaving all of that. Ultimately, getting back to the creativity and working with individuals and companies and business owners, executives that I could ultimately help provide so much more energy for the next level. Every time I saw an executive smile because the balance sheet looked better or, “We provided a great solution for more traffic,” or whatever that thing was. I got to do more of that. It was inspiring myself to the next level based on the feedback from mentors and clients and people in my life.
Dustin
I want to come back to that story. Jason, I want to give people a little taste now. When I started reading your story online, it's a crazy heartfelt story that I think a lot of people could identify with. Maybe they haven't walked in your shoes and lived it, but your upbringing was incredibly tough. What do you care to share in that story that you think would benefit people?
Jon & Jason
In terms of my upbringing or how I got to entrepreneurship?
Dustin
I would say even your upbringing. I understand that your parents weren't the best role models. Yet, here you are successful. You understand ads, you have an agency, you've helped so many people with names in industries, in niches. One look at your life story probably wouldn't have bet on you.
Jon & Jason
That's what my therapist even said. I’ve been working on trying to unpack all of that because he specifically said, “With everything that you've gone through, the fact that you've been successful at this level is mind-boggling.” I don't know how to try to encapsulate that into anything useful.
Dustin
How did you determine this was going to be your path versus so many things that could have been passed that were in front of you? It would have been very easy for you to check out and live a different life. How did you come to find who you are as a person and achieve?
Jon & Jason
I had my first child when I was seventeen. For whatever reason, I'm an analytical person. I was spending all my time looking at my parents and trying to figure out why they weren't engaged and didn't spend time with me and everything was negative. When I had my daughter, it made me love her so much. I didn't want to give her the same experience that I had. That put me in a spot where I was willing to do whatever it takes. I went to college early. I graduated high school that semester and I went to college. I followed my girlfriend, the mother of my daughter at the time, who's now my wife of several years. I followed her up to Minnesota and during that time, my parents weren't helping me, so I was going to school full-time. It wasn't enough for me to pay all my bills and everything. My dad tells me in his infinite wisdom, “You need to get a job. I know all these people that work full-time and they go to school full-time. That’s super easy.” He was talking about technical college in Wisconsin, not the University of Minnesota taking seventeen credits.
I get a job at Circuit City, the competitor to Best Buy, and they worked on commission. For whatever reason, sales were easy for me. I started selling a whole bunch and I was making a ton of money. I was the number one sales guy there within a week of working there. They had me on the small electronics and then they put me over into the cellphones. This was back in ‘99, right when cell phones started getting big and got the first free phone offer. I started selling cell phones like crazy. I was making $8,000 a month at nineteen selling cell phones. I'm going to college full-time, I got a kid and I'm like, “This doesn't make sense to go to school anymore.” I don't enjoy it. I'm just partying and I like having the money better.
I stopped going to school. I didn't drop my classes, so I ended up getting all absents and lost my student aid. That put me in the spot where I'm like, “Now I can't even go to college anymore at all.” In my mind it was like, “What do I do now?” Because society tells you that you're hosed if you don't have a college degree. You're not going to get a good job. How can you make any money? I'm sitting there like, “I'm already making good money and I'm selling. I'm just going to stick with sales.” I went hardcore into selling wireless phones. I ended up getting to this company called Ultimate Wireless, which was an independent contractor. They would give us our commission reports and they would show us how much money they were making on top of what we were making. I'm looking at this and I'm like, “This doesn't make much sense. These guys are hardly ever here and they're making four times the amount of money on the stuff I'm selling that I'm making. What the crap?” I was sitting there the whole time I'm thinking, “I need to own my own business.” I was working at different wireless jobs thinking that.
It came down to one day I was working at this place called Select Wireless and they had kiosks in malls. This is in Minnesota. If you’ve ever seen the movie, Mallrats, I was working in the mall that they filmed that movie in, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota at a kiosk. I was doing fine. I made $5,000 to $7,000 a month with the commissions and everything, but I was bored out of my gourd. I kept trying to think, “How do I own my own business?” One day, this guy comes in and he's this big huge dude. I thought he was a football player. He had this big diamond ring. It looked like a Super Bowl ring on his hand. I ended up selling him phones for him and his whole family and we had to special order the phone that he wanted because he wanted the brand-new Blackberry. We had to get that on two-week special order.
When it came in, I called him up and he came down to come to get it and he's walking around, he starts asking me, “Have you ever considered other career opportunities?” I said, “I'm always for hire.” He's like, “I'm an American Family Insurance district manager and I think you'd make a great insurance agent.” I was like, “Okay.” He's like, “You'd be your own business owner.” I'm like, “That sounds good.” He's like, “A typical agent within a few years can make $250,000 a year.” I'm like, “All right, cool.” He's like, “All you’ve got to do is you've got to get licensed for insurance in a couple of weeks.” I was like, “What do you got do?” He said, “Let me know when you get your licenses and I’ll hire you.” I go off and I look it up online. It's like with insurance classes, you take these three-day courses and you can get your license. I went and signed up for the courses, took them all, got past all the tests, got my licenses within a week and then I called him. I was like, “I got my licenses, Dean,” and then that's how I end up becoming an insurance agent. That's how I started my own business.
Dustin
My partner, Andy, one of the founders here, has a very similar story about becoming a financial planner. You feel like these folks are the super-qualified to educate or guide you. When you look at it and you hear stories like this, you're like, “That's a three-day class and now you’re an expert on insurance.” This is why WealthFit exists because a lot of people don't know that. They don't hear that story or don't realize everything that goes into getting a certificate or being licensed. I don't want to slam every industry or niche out there, but there are some that it's not that substantial.
Jon & Jason
I had to get a Series 6 and 63 licenses as well. For all these tests, you only have to get 70% to get your license. That's C-level material.
Dustin
Thank goodness for that because like I said, we wouldn't exist and that's why we are here. Jon, I’ll throw it back to you because I resonate with the next part of your story, which is you had a business with partners and they ended up taking off essentially with the money and left you holding the bag. My situation wasn't that same, but I had built a previous business and at the end of the day it didn't go out like you see on Tech Crunch or like you see in the movies with some big payday and me ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. I want to bring some awareness to that around partnerships and structuring things differently. What of that story can you share with us? What would you have done differently?
Jon & Jason
It was a sore spot over the career if you will. I listened to many of the stories in marketing and advertising, you have the hero story. You’ve got to share a lot of pain points and trying to resonate with your audience. Jason has a much more sinister story and hardcore learning as I know it compared to myself, but at the same time, I'm a very positive guy. When this started as a relationship to get $500,000 investment into the agency, I come from a small town in Norway, 3,000 people. I'm not an investor. I'm not a business guy per se. I'm a musician. Coming into this and learning my way over those years and doing quite well for myself, but at the same time at partnerships, that’s a whole different ball of wax.
What made it “easy” was the fact that, and this is the big warning here, is that one of the partners was family. That is a tricky thing. That doesn't mean do not involve partnerships that have family associated with it, but I probably would not go there ever again. I don't need to now. As far as those partnerships, getting investment money that early on and playing corporate when we had a lot more to prove, that was the biggest takeaway for me. The money that was taken out and left me with $1,000 in the bank account starting all over in 2014 was not pretty, but I had this. I knew how to take this to the next level, but the fact that happened threw me off for a few months, but it inspired me to kick butt. Those partnerships are very challenging. I know, Jason, you've avoided some of these partnerships in your career.
I sold my agency for $1.5 million and then had the person default on it in a few months.
Dustin
Whatever you're allowed to share, but did you take it back? Does it now become back yours? What did you do?
Jon & Jason
It was a seller finance deal. We didn't go through the attorneys because part of the deal was I was consulting with them and they weren't doing any of the things that I was telling them to do. I'm watching the reports and I see my client’s performance declining. Within a few months, they lost 60% of the bulk of the business. The ones that were left were people that were friends of mine, clients I had developed good relationships with. I'm seeing them represent my name, my brand poorly. I went to him and I was like, “Let's call them all again. I'm going to take these clients back. You can keep this one over here. I don't even want them back. Go ahead and work with them. I'm going to take these guys back and then try to help them out.” I went through a process of reworking my agency model six times from then until now. I sold it again.
Dustin
What did you learn to prevent that from occurring in this next round?
Jon & Jason
Are you having someone default on a bought business?
Dustin
How did you structure the deal? When you sold it, you had seller financing, you watched it crumble. How do you prevent that moving forward?
Jon & Jason
Don't ever do a seller financing. That's the lesson. I could have gone after him. I chose not to because I didn't want that. Here's a thing. I’ve earned enough where I could retire now. I invest and I’ve saved my money. I didn't blow all of my profit from my business like I see a lot of entrepreneurs do. They reinvest it back in their business or whatever. I see that a lot. I was like, “I could put this guy and his family out in the street over this, have all of that negativity, spend all the time, get all worked up and angry about the fact that he owes me and us money or I can let it go and be cool with the fact that I have the ability to create whatever income that I want and I don't need any money from him to exist.” I felt like that was a much better position to take in my life.
Dustin
Jason, I needed you as a mentor earlier in my career. I was one of those guys, a business owner, an entrepreneur that was investing it back into the business. I’ll give myself some credit. I have some stock in real estate and stuff like that, but I was so focused on this magical exit occurring. This is a message that I like to share here because I don't know that a lot of entrepreneurs get this message. We're always told to put everything back into the business. Let's get a sale or at least I think we are. Wisely, you're in stocks. You got some land and things like that. Was it your upbringing? How did you come to realize you needed to take money out of business and put it into other vehicles?
Jon & Jason
In my insurance business, I didn't have any money going into that. I went into a lot of debt building up that business. I was about breakeven when I came out of it. I had to cash out all of my retirement accounts. I even went further into debt when I started my marketing agency. That was high pressure. I had made money, basically went down to nothing and I came from nothing and I didn't want ever to go back to that place again. Once my business started making money, using my training from being a financial representative, I strategically paid all of my debt off first. I went and built up cash reserves. Once I got to six figures of cash reserves, I started strategically peeling some of that off and I started by putting it into all of my qualified plans first until I had those things maxed out. When I had extra cashflow, I started putting it into non-qualified stuff and then growing it. After I managed enough of my own stuff for a while, I started working with a financial professional to add in different areas that I can expand on those things. You have every little trick in the book that you can do for someone that does seven figures a year in income to max out all of your retirement savings and tax advantages and all that stuff.
Dustin
Is there an investment on, so to say the bucket list that you haven't placed yet or any vehicle that you think you'd like to do?
Jon & Jason
No, I tried Bitcoin for a while. I didn't like that. Bitcoin to me is a speculation, not an investment because it's so weary. I do a lot in different stocks. I buy individual stocks, I buy a lot of mutual funds, ETFs. My favorite is to do S&P 500 index funds, low-cost stuff. That's what I use for my long-term strategy. My short-term strategy, I buy a lot of individual stocks. I follow The Motley Fool. I bought their stock advisor newsletter. I opened an account April 20th of 2016. Over the course of several months, I put in $200,000 of my own money. From that time and I’ve made some withdrawals, but the account has grown to over $430,000 now. I’ve over doubled the money in the last few years. That's buying some individual stocks following their advice.
Dustin
Do you try to let some entrepreneurs, maybe closer friends of yours, that say that message like, “Jason, I do it but I got to put it back into the business?” Is there anything that clicks for them or do you invest time to try to make these people aware you need to do what you're doing? What are they receptive to? What wakes people up?
Jon & Jason
When I show them my bank account, that's usually the big one. The thing was I set up a schedule. We make a profit and loss statement. I have financial people that do that stuff and we get it every month. When we have profit, we have a plan for how that profit gets spent. We allocate percentages of it. Part of it goes back into reinvestment in the business. Part of it goes into maintaining cash reserves because I like to have minimally one-month worth of operating expense in my business checking account, in case crap hits the fan because I don't ever want not to be able to pay my people. We fill all that stuff up first and then what's left after that then we've got strategic investing. We could go deep into that.
Dustin
Maybe we will and I want to make sure that we give folks some of your expertise in other areas as well. Jon, I'm going to kick it to you. We've got business owners, entrepreneurs in the audience and then people that are considering taking that step. What did they need to know about your specialty, your expertise in SEO and organic? What are some things that they need to consider? What are the opportunities for them that exist by focusing on getting better in this area?
Jon & Jason
I'm going to make this a bit broader in the answer. It can get very specific. What niche are you in? Are you in any of the stage of education? Are you just out of school and you've studied marketing in school and it's all wrong thing? I don't know where you are at. It’s a broad stroke it but here's the summary. For SEO, what has changed over the last several years? Where is it heading? It hasn't. Back in 1998 with Brandon Page, it was all about authority links from citations, creating profiles and content that was expert, authoritative, trusted, etc. It hasn't changed. It's the same thing now. However, the truth is if somebody is starting out and is fairly new at this, they get sucked into tools and we've got optimized tags on the page. I'm not minimizing that. Get your title tags right. Make sure that your architecture and your structure is right. No duplicate content. Be clear about what that should represent for your market very specifically, not just, “I'm going to write about health,” and then let it rip. Get specific, drill down, but think about what the users want. Who knew how novel? It's like you're writing for your audience, not for yourself.
Back in those days, I was so on the tech side and I had to be geeky about all the tags and the on-page factors and back when Alta Vista was around before we had kicked off. It was all about spamming and keywords everywhere and white-on-white text, trying to make it all work. You get sucked in. You can't help it, especially from a software background. As those years progressed, I realized it's all wrong. It's about the end-user. What's the value they are looking for? What can you provide as an expert? That is where it gets into your content, meaning your expert level. Are you brand new at this? You can go and get educated. There are courses. There are books. The truth though is at the core sits this notion of how can I serve with my content and make sure that is technically sound? From an SEO perspective that you obviously have, your tags and those things in place, you don't have to overdo it. Get it out there.
The biggest thing and I don't think we leverage that enough as an agency in the beginning years was reach out to partners. Get link partners. Link building is huge still for SEO and making sure that those come from authority places. Instead of having a thousand links coming from other places on the net, get ten solid ones. One link from CNN over ten Bob's Hardware Store down the street has nothing to do with your niche in your irrelevancy space. Skip all of that and be smart about it. In a weird way, it's about sales. Positioning relevant content in front of that audience that is for you and then making sure that you're reaching out to partners who can provide context, relevancy but also those quality links back into you and not to the site but to pages. This is where it gets a little more technical architecture, but everybody talks about getting links to your site. It gets links to a page and then that gets ranked, that brings traffic. If you have a sales funnel developed around that, then you can sell something.
Dustin
There are a lot of things I want to ask you. I’ve had this experience to go to ESPN. It's one of my favorite places to go or insert your favorite site and there are comments at the bottom. There's always this knucklehead selling their get rich quick business opportunity. What I heard you say is go to reputable sites and create links back to your site. You want to partner with them and make them organic, but are people benefiting from leaving comments with the link on these sites, like an ESPN or CNN, if they have comments turned on and whatnot? Is there a benefit to writing a whole bunch of texts there on someone else's site and putting a link to your site or not?
Jon & Jason
There's an A and a B answer to that. They're both complimentary. Let's say that you're on ESPN and you have a sports site. It’s sports, ESPN and your sports, your site and you’re leaving comments, you’re constructively adding value to the community and you're going for the links because SEO links are valuable. You're getting first the value out there. You're seen as an authority. This word authority comes up a lot. It's like, “I like this site here that I see these links too but more than that, I like his engagement or her engagement.” Secondly, that link may or may not be valuable. I forget how many years this was, but it started with Wikipedia was being spammed for getting backlinks because it's a highly trusted site. Google came in and said we're going to add a no-follow tag to this. We're going to editorially say that's a zero, that has no value for the link. Somebody could, from an SEO perspective, say, “Now we're lost.” No, we're not because you got, A) That engagement. You've got, B) The link and then, C) The traffic that comes from it because it's relevant hopefully. It's not about the link, it's not about the ranking. It's again back to the community and adding value. The traffic is yours to have. If you have a conversion engine happening, maybe you get some sales.
That was an SEO strategy back in the days. Some of those comments thing, they can have the following on there. You can go to these sites and put the comments with your link and get the link juice is what they call that fun stuff.
Dustin
Maybe I'm wrong here, but you guys correct me. What I see is, Jon, you're like SEO, organic, long-term. I know there are strategies for quicker results but generally a longer-term, I think of that as a wealth-building strategy, an equity strategy. Yet, Jason, which we haven't gotten to your expertise, you’re a paid and performance media expert. Meaning you can give Facebook $1, $10, whatever and you can get your ad in front of people, whereas the organic SEO generally takes some time. You're the quick short-term results and it's not either/or. People could make that mistake, “Should I do this?” It's to do both as long as you don't get overwhelmed. Do you guys feel like that's the right characterization of this relationship here?
Jon & Jason
Absolutely. Jon's a paid master himself. He downplays that. The fact of the matter is you should be doing both. This is a human tendency that I see. People think binary like this or this. I taught my clients you shouldn't be thinking of this as and/or situation. You should be thinking of it as an and situation. In most cases, you can do both. You need to figure out how to put them strategically together, so they're playing nicely.
Dustin
I want to ask you about this. Is there not a place for certain businesses with paid strategy? Would you say that or can everyone benefit from it? Who would not benefit from a paid strategy on a high level?
Jon & Jason
The biggest one that comes to mind for me is people that have no proof of concept behind their product or offer. I see that quite a bit. For example, I had this gal that came to me and she wanted to put out a course in the personal development space on basically an idea that she had. She's never tried this idea with anybody. She has no proof that it works, but her claim is that it's a revolutionary new way of doing personal development and it works and nothing else before it does. I see people that they have these ideas like this that they want to bring to market and they're usually convinced that's going to work. Anybody that's at a spot where they don't have proof of concept to their offer, I don't recommend that you do paid traffic, especially if you're thinking about hiring somebody else to do it. The metrics almost very rarely work out. The timeframe that's involved, most people don't understand either. If somebody comes to me with a brand-new offer that they want to build from scratch and get it to work, it will take a few months. Most people expect you just put it up and you fire up an ad and sales come in tomorrow. If you don't do it, then you must be terrible at your ads.
Dustin
Let's go a little deep here. Let's talk about the budget. Is there X amount of dollars that one needs to show up with or they do not show up at all? Two, is there a price point? If I'm selling a $9 physical product, do ads make sense because they're expensive?
Jon & Jason
You can construct models for almost every situation. We have many circumstances where we work with eCommerce companies that are selling things. I don't recommend that your front-end product is less than $20. That's pretty hard. If you have a sales funnel like Jon was mentioning before, where you have what's called an upsell after somebody buys the initial product for $20, you can then increase the average order value and then you can make paid traffic very profitable day one. If your product's good and it's something that people need to consume over and over again, you get repeat buyers and you can grow and scale a business very nicely with paid traffic, even with small products like that.
Coming back to your question about the budget, let's answer it from a meta-perspective first of all. Whether you're doing eCommerce, you're selling coaching, you got information, it doesn't matter what you're selling. You should always go into your project with an overall budget of this is what I'm going to spend to try to make this whole thing work. If I can't get some proof of concept, meaning I’ve made enough sales to at least cover my investment in ads so far, by the time I’ve spent this amount of money, I'm going to kill the project. I tell people $5,000 to $10,000 is, in most cases, more than enough. I had a guy that was messaging me where he's like, “My product is this $30,000 thing.” I'm like, “You're going to need to spend a lot more than $5,000 to $10,000 figuring out if you can sell a $30,000 thing.”
Dustin
Do you find a lot of people come to you and they haven't thought through the metrics or even a backend product and you have to tell them, “You ought to go do that first?”
Jon & Jason
Absolutely. I did this before even starting to watch the show, Shark Tank. One of the first things I take people through is I developed this process I call the Guaranteed Profitability Formula. We can look at their sales funnel and if they've been running traffic already or they've got data on the funnel, we can plug it into this spreadsheet that I created. It will tell us exactly what our metrics need to be in order for it to make sense and if there will be profit based on their current numbers. If they don't have it, we can use standardized benchmarks and we can tell. Nine out of ten people have no idea whether their thing can even be profitable the way they've designed it or not. Over half of them have a model in place where it doesn't even allow them to be profitable with paid traffic and they wanted to run paid traffic. There are far more people that don't talk to me than do. I know this is one of the biggest issues I see is most people, their idea there is so clouded that they don't even run the numbers. This is why Shark Tank get the numbers right away. They slaughter everybody that doesn't know their numbers because that's all that matters. A lot of these people are putting businesses together and expecting to build it off of paid traffic and it can't even work.
Dustin
It blows my mind the folks that don't invest in the numbers. I think even for me in my previous venture, not knowing the metrics to the nth degree was the downfall for me, not knowing. Because I didn't have the confidence to go out and put more ad dollars into it because I was uncertain what's going to happen in this case. I want to echo that.
Jon & Jason
On your point on that, Jason has saved me also a lot of money for this level of pre-calc, the campaigns. Frankly, we walk away from deals now and I see a lot of this, “We nailed a $10,000 deal or $2,500 or $5,000 a month and it's all awesome.” A few months later, it's to hell in a handbasket. It's an incredibly powerful place to come from as an authority and a leader in your space, as you should be, to come from that place to educate your client and, “Maybe this is not the time.” Come back to a few months later and they don't forget you. You provide strong value, good value to that conversation.
Dustin
This is a question for both of you. We'll start with Jon. When you spoke, you know what you're talking about. You threw out some terms there and I could see people saying, “That guy's smart. He knows what he's talking about.” My question for you is if they're not going to learn it, the business owner or the entrepreneur, but want to benefit from SEO, from organic or even paid, because that's part of your background as well. How do you recommend people vet companies or agencies or even consultants to know if they're legit? There are a lot of charlatans out there. There are guys that take three-day insurance courses. That's the truth. There are guys and gals out there that they get a certificate and now they're an expert. As a business owner, how do we vet that person? What's your advice and recommendation there?
Jon & Jason
Let me have Jason speak to the paid side. I’ll talk about this specifically. I know there are some similarities. Ultimately, at least for us, and I’ve learned the hard way on this is when you are talking to somebody or they're talking to you or vetting certain agents or individual consultants, etc. You can Google everywhere and you can know that five things to ask or whatever, but they can take that and they can have answers up the yin yang. What you need to do is a business owner or somebody who's trying to venture in and finding the perfect SEO guys, obviously, look at case studies. That's number one. What do you have you done? Also get into philosophy or approach, what's your process look like? What do the systems and processes look like? Then have them show you that. That coupled with case studies and one piece that I think is not talked about a lot or enough is how do you meld at that mindset level? Are you similar in approach?
Perhaps the client’s just looking for somebody to rank in a week and it's a three-month project. You need to educate the client. The client needs to be aware of that. Setting expectations is going to be very key. It’s also making sure that you have those goals established. If the business owner goes in and says, “I want to rank number one for this keyword,” they need to be educated about how that process works from the agency, but also a level set of what that looks like in terms of goals.
The ranking is a piece of it. Traffic is a piece of it. The growth curve, I keep getting back to sales on the backend, what does that look like? If somebody is talking to an SEO agency or consultant, that can help map all of that out through case studies, systems and processes and also talk about what the revenue should look like based on keyword criteria. Keywords are central now still. What does it mean to be ranked for a keyword? It's not just traffic, it's what is the conversion capability of that keyword? It’s the eCom intent. All of these things need to be understood and asked by the consumer, “business owner.” I know it's tough because they don't know necessarily what to ask. Hopefully, they're reading WealthFit and they'll learn a sense for what needs to go into this and that they have to do some research. One of the things that we have gotten into a few times over the years is we're looking for vendors, “Can you submit an RFP, a proposal?” “We're talking to three other agencies.” Sometimes that's true, but they try and put that out there to mess with you. To have you come up with all this pre-work and send them a heck of a proposal, “Thanks very little. We were taking that elsewhere.” Make sure that you have somebody come back with a very direct equation for what it would take and also what the process systems and case studies look like. That will be a good way to go in.
Dustin
I’ve been in some of these situations where I’ve asked for stuff like case studies like, “Show me something.” They're like, “My clients are private and they can’t be shown.” Is that a red flag to you? I know that some clients don't want you showing their stuff, but what is the business owner supposed to think when they respond that way?
Jon & Jason
We've used that technique, but actually it's something we might use when we realize this is not a great client. They're going to have to fight to try to get into us to get closer to this and see if it seems like it's not a fit, “We can't divulge that,” or whatever. It's like, “We want to work with you guys.” We've learned a lot over the years and now we're like, “Here it is.” There's no wool over anybody's eyes or curtains or anything. It's like, “Here's our world. If you like it, great. If not, we might have a great referral for you.” There's no sales pressure. In fact, a lot of this stuff that I’ve learned from Jason too is almost using un-selling as the successful onboarding with a new client. It’s like we don't want you but we do, but we're not going to be very direct about it. We're going to try and help you first and see if that comes to be.” Imagine we have an onboarding process as well, which is not always easy to get through and that's part psychology, but also frankly a way that we can get to higher-end clients that we work with.
Dustin
What's your response, Jason, to this vetting the companies?
Jon & Jason
It’s largely the same as Jon. We definitely want to try to get case studies from people. I would ask for references, which was one thing that you mentioned. Most people that aren't hiding anything are going to be able to give you a case study. I don't give those out before and it was for the exact reason Jon said because I didn't want to work with the person, push them away. Usually, when people are asking that thing, they tend not to be the client that I want to work with usually. I found them to be more micromanaging people typically. If you're a consumer, these are things how you can protect yourself. Another thing that you can do is look around on the web, look at their Facebook page. Look at the reviews on there. Do you see negative reviews when you Google their name? Stuff like that. Do they even have their own web presence built out?
There are a lot of guys that call themselves an agency and they don't even have their own web presence. A lot of them are outsourcing the work to places in the Philippines. If you want to ask questions about like, “What's your process for how you develop the campaigns? What's your communication process back? Who's on your team? Who do I have access to? What specifically are you doing and what specifically am I doing?” The reason I'm giving that as advice to somebody who is trying to become a client is that they come in expecting that the person that's buying media is going to be doing everything for their marketing. They always have misaligned expectations. When you tell them the sales process, “No, we don't do this.” You give a contract that says, “We do this and we don't do this,” yet they still expect you to do these things that aren't there. That's always on the client-side, but you can mitigate that too if you're the agency side.
Dustin
I want to talk about that because it went off in my head and I'm not responsible for this at WealthFit. I do remember when we were hiring agencies at my previous venture that you'd have ad agencies placing the ads and then generally we were responsible for on-page copy and taking the click and then creating that experience. There's a blend and there's a balance. It always was tricky for me. I'm like, “Should the ad agency be doing it because they understand the traffic?” How do you do that in your business? What is the expectation that is set? Is this collaborative? Are you offering opinion and advice if the ads are working but they're not getting sales?
Jon & Jason
We ended up creating multiple packages. I started by doing it all. The first package I did was $1,000 a month and I would build people's funnels. I wrote all the copy, I put it all together myself. I would build all their ad campaigns and buy all the ad campaigns for them.
Dustin
Is that offer still available on some page on the internet that I could find?
Jon & Jason
What we ended up doing was I got into the point where I didn't want to be working on the funnels and then we'd also start getting hiring clients where they've got their own team that handles the funnels. We tried to navigate that balance by saying, “We'll consult with you on the funnel.” What happens is you get two types of clients. You get one where they do everything and they do it right away and they get results and you got others where they don't do it or it takes them forever. They're still mad at the crappy results when all the numbers are pointing to the funnel being the problem. You get in this weird fighting spot with the client too. We have two different offers. One where we do the media buying, only one when we’re doing the media buying and the funnel. If they've got a team in place, we vet them and they're responsive, they get stuff done, then we'll work with them under that program. Even under that program, we still have to sit here and tell people, “That's out of scope,” all the time.
Dustin
I remember when I first got started, you're so happy to get a client and you want to make them happy and you often end up they run you ragged if you're not doing what you do.
Jon & Jason
Establish boundaries.
Dustin
You've got to do that. I want you to both look into your crystal ball. Jon, in your estimation, what are the opportunities that are coming for people, business owners, maybe even agency owners too? What is the opportunity that exists with organic with SEO? We've got mobile in play, VR, augmented reality, all these techs that are coming out, new social media platforms. What do you see are the opportunities that are coming that would want to make somebody take a hard look at organic and SEO?
Jon & Jason
Before I get into that, I have a point on what they should ask bit. This is somewhat sneaky and we've done this and so I know about it. Not black hat, although we know and understand because we have tested that a lot. It works for a month. Essentially what you can find is companies out there who are good at SEO, but they're just creating your reputation management, a layer of sites and blogs and whatnot so that their sales pitch is just searching our name and you'll see us everywhere. You go to the sites and truly the first page is filled with their stuff. You go to the pages, it's a thing. You get this uneasy feeling, but they're like everywhere. You want to watch for that too. I know business owners we speak to, “We tried this other company and when we Google them, we will be on the Zoom meeting and they're all over.” I can see almost in seconds this is garbage. You've got to watch out for that as well, just a little tip there.
As far as going forward, this is the first thing I think of when you asked that, “Is SEO dead?” How long have you heard that? Unless you have some drastic change of platforms where people are not using the web anymore, SEO is not going to change. It's going to change in terms of the way that they interact. You mentioned mobile. Desktop, mobile, tablets, all that, but the voice. Voice in your home. I'm in the car, I'm talking to my phone and I want the classic pizza near me thing. Hairdresser and all this local search stuff are huge. For businesses who are in the local space, this is something that they have to make sure they address, not just Google my business and get everything set up and the images, the address, the NAP, Name, Address, Phone. Make sure that everything responds correctly to anything typed in or voiced. That is essentially a place for them to make sure that they are very visible and easily accessible.
That could be as simple as somebody asking for a business near me and the full number is not right. There are all these little small things that as an aggregate add up to a total value that we see as the big opportunities. That hasn't changed. We deal with this all the time. Business owners are busy. They work in their business or on their business, not in their business. It's hard for them. Having a trusted partner, somebody knows not only how to fix those immediate things, but also learn where they should be going with their business in terms of how their growth works. Also, how our organic can help them through something like voice. Voice is big. I think that anybody who's a business owner should consider looking into all of those options.
Dustin
Jason, the platforms are proliferating. The TV is dead. Money is flowing in different directions and yet Facebook Ads, because people now are finally moving into the space. Big companies, I should say are moving into the space. They're driving up the prices for ad spend. What does the future look like for companies that aren't Nike or Apple or big companies? Paid and performance ads in marketing, where's it going? Where's the opportunity for the small guys?
Jon & Jason
There are a couple of big things that they need to be doing. One is having a multichannel marketing ecosystem put in place.
Dustin
Do you want to define that?
Jon & Jason
That's a term that I created. It's having an organic and a paid strategy that works together. What you got to do is you've got to get narrowly focused on your paid side of it. What you're doing is you're doing paid on multiple channels: Facebook, YouTube, Google, Instagram, the big four. You've got your organic stuff on those channels as well. You can repurpose the same content into both areas. That's a process that we teach our clients. That way, you can take one piece of content and you can have an ad for Facebook. You can have an ad for Instagram. You can have an ad for a YouTube. You can have an organic post on your blog. You can put it on your Facebook, your Instagram and your YouTube organically. You can repurpose that content in all these different areas. That's the key for the small guy because then they're not creating separate things for all these different places and they can get the benefit of all this stuff working together.
What you’ve got to do is you have to be narrow in your targeting and your exclusions along with using the bots that they include to automate a lot of the running of the campaigns. That's where most small business people get messed up because they're doing it themselves. They don't look at it very often and they're wasting a lot of money in areas. You can automate almost all of the running of the campaign, especially when you're doing it on small budgets, which most individuals are. This allows you to utilize your budget a lot more efficiently and take a lot of time off of your plate that you would spend managing the campaign otherwise.
Dustin
Thank you big time for that. I feel like we're just scratching the surface and for sure we are. We could go a lot deeper into each of your area of expertise. For folks that want to continue the conversation, Jon, let's start with you first. If they want to look up you and I will give you a plug here and for my friends over at Entrepreneur. Jon is a fellow author and put out a lot more books with Entrepreneur than I have. If folks want to continue the conversation with you, SEO, organic and even some of the paid stuff that you're up to, where's the best place for people to find you online?
Jon & Jason
Obviously, you search my name. I should be found on Google. If you want to set up a fifteen-minute free strategy session, we have that available. It’s Chaos Map. That's the agency, ChaosMap.com/talk. Jump on there and they can book an appointment and it's all good to go.
Dustin
If they want to stalk you on the social media, they can find you by Googling you first and then you'll have all the social media stuff. Jason, same to you.
Jon & Jason
AcademyOfAdvertising.com, that's the best place to find all of my information and also JasonHornung.com. You can Google me as well. Get to my Facebook, all that fun stuff.
Dustin
Now I have a big open curiosity and it's something that's underlined in my sheet, but we didn't have time. In the short version, what is the Academy of Advertising?
Jon & Jason
That's a membership site where I house all the training material that I put together on stuff going on with different ads. A big focus of it is on Facebook ads, but I'm publishing new videos in there, basically weekly training people on what's working now.
Dustin
I appreciate you guys taking the time to share your wisdom. I appreciate you helping the tribe and other people that are out there living the dream and entrepreneurship and doing what they do. Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.
Jon & Jason
I appreciate you having us. Thank you.

RELATED TRAINING

 in 

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

podcast
Connecting Extraordinary People With Extraordinary Lifestyles

Go behind-the-scenes with real estate agent to the stars, Rod Watson. This former athlete shares his humble beginnings helping struggling families with short sales to now working with high-end clientele. Meet the L.A. VIP Agent and hear his personal branding secrets.

Connecting Extraordinary People With Extraordinary Lifestyles

Listen Now
Digital Nomad

Digital Nomad

How To Free Yourself From the Ordinary, Travel the World, and Make Money Online

Laura Petersen

Watch Now
podcast
Dirty Windows, 'The Pit' & How To Decide

Former options trader, Chris Beer, reveals her journey from the trading floor to consulting business owners how to "escape the grind" by optimizing their business, based on numbers.

Dirty Windows, 'The Pit' & How To Decide

podcast
The Opt Out Life

Rethink success, reinvent rich and realize the life you want by "Opting Out." Listen in as Nate Broughton & Dana Robinson share how to create your own path in life.

The Opt Out Life

article
Business Valuation: How Much is Your Business Worth?

Learn how to value any small business using this simple formula that applies a business’s EBITDA to it’s industry multiple.

Business Valuation: How Much is Your Business Worth?

Nathan Wade

Read Now
podcast
Being Unemployable, YouTube Secrets & Automation Hacks

Renaissance man & Solopreneur, Michael O'Neal discusses lessons to be learned from good old-fashioned football, how to make money with Youtube & how to reclaim your freedom through automation.

Being Unemployable, YouTube Secrets & Automation Hacks

podcast
Intrapreneurship, Excellence & Innovation

Tap into the wisdom of multi-billion dollar companies and recent research in the fields of excellence & innovation, with José Pires.

Intrapreneurship, Excellence & Innovation

Personal Branding

Personal Branding

How To Create a Brand That Opens Big Doors, Attracts True Fans, and Makes Selling Easy

Michelle Villalobos

Watch Now
Product Branding

Product Branding

How To Create a Product Everyone Knows, Likes, Trusts … and Buys From

Rick Cesari

Watch Now
Credit Secrets for Entrepreneurs

Credit Secrets for Entrepreneurs

How To Use Business & Personal Credit To Launch Your Startup

Gerri Detweiler

Watch Now
podcast
Feeling Invincible, Marketing Martha Stewart & Dropping 76 Pounds!

Once Sayan Sarkar finally quit his full-time job, his side hustle business took off and generated 10x the amount of money he was making at his office job. He shares tips and tricks to how he was able to make this happen.

Feeling Invincible, Marketing Martha Stewart & Dropping 76 Pounds!

podcast
Born To Sell, Tripling Revenue & the Silver Tsunami

Are you investing in home care marketing? In this episode, The Hurricane explains why this industry is worth your hard-earned money.

Born To Sell, Tripling Revenue & the Silver Tsunami

Joint Venture Marketing

Joint Venture Marketing

How To Boost Your Sales Through Strategic, Low-Cost Marketing Partnerships

Ridgely Goldsborough

Watch Now
podcast
Conquering Cancer, Making Movies & Selling Businesses

This Cancerpreneur didn’t let the bad news of illness get in the way of his entrepreneurial spirit and positive mindset.

Conquering Cancer, Making Movies & Selling Businesses

Free PR

Free PR

The Hustler's Guide To Capturing Media Attention & Getting Eyeballs on Your Brand

Nicole Dunn

Watch Now
Persuasive Copywriting

Persuasive Copywriting

How To Write Words That Capture Attention, Create Desire, & Sell Your Product Like Crazy

Mara Glazer

Watch Now
article
How To Build Your Business Credit Score — To Get Loans & Low Interest Rates

Learn how to build your business credit score so you can get access to business loans and credit cards with low interest rates.

How To Build Your Business Credit Score — To Get Loans & Low Interest Rates

Michelle Black

Read Now
article
Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur?

In her new book “Women with Money,” Jean Chatzky gives us the top 5 traits of successful entrepreneurs. [Excerpt]

Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur?

Jean Chatzky

Read Now
Idea To Income

Idea To Income

How To Start a Company and Turn Your Entrepreneurial Dreams into Reality

Didi Wong

Watch Now
article
How to Fund Your Business with Government Grants

Who doesn't want cash from their favorite Uncle Sam? Here's how you can find grants and fund your business with free government money.

How to Fund Your Business with Government Grants

Ian Chandler

Read Now
article
How Much Do You REALLY Need to Start a Business? The Answer is Less Than You Think.

Think starting a business takes TONS of money? It doesn’t have to. Here’s how you can build your empire without breaking the bank.

How Much Do You REALLY Need to Start a Business? The Answer is Less Than You Think.

Jon Westenberg

Read Now
article
Bootstrap Your Startup & Kickstart Your Success

Launching a startup without investors may seem like a one-way ticket to failure—but it’s one of the best ways to kickstart your business.

Bootstrap Your Startup & Kickstart Your Success

Ian Chandler

Read Now
article
Learn 5 Key Ways to Onboard Employees

Your employees are your most valuable asset. Protect your investment in them with an effective and efficient onboarding process.

Learn 5 Key Ways to Onboard Employees

Nathan Wade

Read Now
article
How to Lead Employees to Greatness: Your (Hormonal) Strategy for Success

Consider and stimulate (the right) hormones for your team. Embrace leadership tactics that foster healthy hormonal teams.

How to Lead Employees to Greatness: Your (Hormonal) Strategy for Success

Jill Huettich

Read Now