Today I have an awesome interview with Matthew Woodward who has been making quite a name for himself in the affiliate marketing and blogging space. I’ve been a reader of Matt’s blog lately and I send him an email to see if he’d like to do an interview on BloggingTips.com and he was thrilled to do so, especially since he’s been a long time reader of ZacJohnson.com! Long story short… Matt went WAY ABOVE the standard in this interview and created a 3,000+ word masterpiece. A lot is covered here so make sure you get to read through it all!
I rarely read interviews because let’s be honest, for the most part they are boring!
This is my very first interview so I’m going to try and break the mould and turn this into more of a tutorial than an interview – a tutorview or interorial or something like that.
Hopefully I can pull it off but I guarantee you will learn something, whether youíre a newbie or a seasoned pro.
1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?
My name is Matthew Woodward I’m 26 years old and live in the UK.
I was recently named as one of Probloggers ‘one to watch’ in 2013 and won ‘The Best Of SearchEngineJournal.com’ 2012 award.
I first got started online when I was 13 years old writing game reviews for a site. This led to a passion for competitive online gaming and I setup my first site for the community to share videos of each other in action – that was years before YouTube to put that into perspective.
I had no idea you could make money on the internet at that point, in fact I had a paper round just to pay for the server!
I just enjoyed playing internet and I was lucky enough to grow up with the dawn of Google when Yahoo ruled the land and link building did not exist.
Over the coming years the internet gained popularity and I developed my skills in various areas. I ended up as head of online marketing for one of the biggest distributors in Europe.
One time I spent a whole day trying to work out how to make a zip file downloadable after uploading it. YeahÖ
That was a long time ago and eventually I grew to lead campaigns for some sweet names with great success.
But in reality, the corporate life sucks!
It has a very slow and rigid structure which just cannot keep up with the dynamic pace of the web. Most of the guys calling the shots just don’t get it.
The independent agile business with a 3 figure budget has an advantage online. That is just a small part of the beauty of the internet!
So eventually I went alone and followed my passion researching, building and ranking over 40 sites in 3 years fascinated by the technical side of SEO.
This became like repetitive shelf stacking and lost its challenge over the years. If I’m honest, I do miss the dynamic challenges and pressure the corporate life brought on a daily basis.
Even if it was mostly idiots whacking themselves off with red tape instead of just getting it done and delivering phat stacks.
Can you tell I got in trouble a lot?
Anyway – I needed something new to chew on.
2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?
I started my blog as my personal playground – the one place where the rules don’t apply, I can give Google the finger and just do what I want.
I already pissed 3 people off including community favorite Dixon Jones (it’s a great read).
Thatís the thing when you’re passionate about something, you piss people off.
Haters gonna hate.
Anyway the blog is an experiment in itself. I wanted to see if I can rank a site about SEO without using SEO with my zero link building case study.
Over the years I have seen many great blogs come and go and I was sick of seeing the same old rehashed advice getting posted on popular sites and forums.
I realized that I wasn’t putting my strongest asset to use which was my vast experience of online marketing, technical SEO & the internet in general.
What I was bored of doing everyday was probably helpful to someone else.
So I decided to create a few tutorials and see what happens with the mantra that each and every tutorial I produce, will be the definitive authoritative piece on the topic at hand.
When I create content I have the end vision that people will say that my tutorials are the best tutorials and better than any products they have ever bought.
The content will be so good they will fall all over themselves to subscribe to the blog.
The content will be so good, they will be excited to share it on forums. In fact, it will be so good they won’t want to share it in case their competitors see it.
So with that in mind I started out with a hot topic and recorded the 2+ hour long Ultimate Guide To Tiered Link Building over my shoulder, step by step.
I spent around 100-120 hours putting that together and gave it away free.
Turns out people quite liked it and the blog grew to generate over $36,000 in its first 6 months with 2 near $10,000 months.
That target still escapes me.
3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?
It’s important for me to reframe this question. Your traffic offers supreme value over and above generating sales/revenue and you should look to extract that value at every opportunity.
For example every user has the potential to offer you-
- A full time subscription
- Social shares (Google+/Twitter etc)
- User generated content (comment/forum post/post ideas)
- New traffic by sharing your content with others
- New traffic from telling their friends in the pub
- Affiliate link clicks
- Affiliate sales
They are listed in order of priority with earning a full time subscriber as the most important and the affiliate sales the least important.
My blog is setup in that manner and I feel like a lot of people try and force things by flipping that list of priorities on its head chasing down the sale.
Like 99.9% of e-commerce sites for example. Evolve or die.
So how do I go about ‘monetizing’ each of those areas?
Full time subscription
A user signing up to your email list is the ultimate sign of respect. You have earnt their trust and they are standing up and saying I want to hear what you have to say.
They are not just a number on a list, they are real people. Treat them like that and do not abuse that trust to make a quick buck with an affiliate offer.
I give my readers a number of options to subscribe to the blog through email (Aweber), RSS and social channels but the focus is on email.
I have sign up areas positioned in the sidebar, at the end of posts, inline with the content of posts and a popup.
Once people have signed up to my list I keep them constantly engaged with me automatically through an auto responder series.
The problem with blogs is quite often your best content gets buried away, so I use my auto responder series to keep traffic flowing around the entire blog.
As you can see I also reach out and ask people things like how can I help them, which tutorial do they want to see next and what do they like/dislike about the blog.
I have a set block of time scheduled every day to help my readers and always ensure I take the time to actually help them instead of providing generic vague responses to their issues.
All of this not only builds trust & engagement with the reader, but allows me to know precisely what my audience wants – more on this later.
As we move to a more social web and Google’s ranking algorithm shifts to lean on social signals and authorship this year we need to prepare for that.
So I have positioned social sharing icons at the end of every post with a clear call to action.
I also have a sweet plugin that asks people to share the post on a social network in exchange for some extra content.
When creating a tutorial I try to put together an exclusive pack of relevant resources to offer in exchange for the share.
These take a bit of work to put together but it really is worth putting in the extra effort to help people out.
All of this grows your social signals and influence which have a huge impact on rankings today, never mind in 6 months.
In an effort to grow Authorship I have also included links to my Google+ profile at key areas of conversion.
Did you know that once a user has taken action once, they will do what you ask next?
So the first time someone leaves a comment on my site or opts into my email list they are asked to connect with me on Google+
When someone shares my content on Twitter, I send them a friendly Tweet inviting them to join my forum for free advice.
What all of this creates is a self-supporting eco system of social signals across the entire site constantly building trust with my audience.
User Generated Content
User generated content is a great way to bolster your position, without actually having to do any work. This can come in the form of a blog comment, forum post or just general user feedback.
One of the biggest problems I faced with my blog was the amount of emails I was getting with SEO/IM related questions
It got to the point where I was spending most of my day answering them while trying to balance the demands for new tutorials which take me 8-16 hours to produce.
So I decided to flip the situation on its head so I could extract as much value as possible for both myself and the readers with that time while freeing up my inbox.
I did that by adding a forum to the site so I could get people to post the questions there and the answers would be for everyone’s benefit.
It would also give me and my readers the chance to make a better connection – itís fantastic to see my readers helping each other out.
But the bottom line is this, the forum now has 703 users, 388 topics & 1,527 replies that has attracted 69,333 page views from 50,815 unique visits.
Guess what happens when you sign up to the forum – you get added to my email list and become a subscriber 😉
Anytime a reply to a topic is made, all users are notified via email, which contains a link to my Google+ profile – and brings all the users back to the site.
See the value I’m extracting here above and beyond monetization?
I actually wrote a more detailed case study of why you should add a forum to your site so check it out.
The other forms of user generated content are blog comments which I get quite a lot of. The Ahrefs vs Majestic SEO 1 Million domain showdown case study attracted over 160 comments in a couple of days.
All of these comments introduce new long tail terms for you to get found for as well as reinforcing the strength and quality of the original piece of content.
Each visitor also has the power to bring you new traffic in a number of ways.
One of these ways is just by asking them to share it with others. Since I started the blog I have repeatedly asked people to share them on forums, blogs and with their friends.
I do this in the videos themselves as well as in the posts and the emails I send out.
Taking 60 seconds to help me reach new people is the ultimate thank you any reader can give me.
Don’t ask, don’t get right?
The Ahrefs vs Majestic argument is one I see come up in forums all the time, so at the end of the article I just added-
Next time you see this topic in a forum ñ feel free to use this post to instantly win the argument.
People like to win arguments in forums – especially when they can do it with fact/data.
33% of my traffic comes from referring sources.
By focusing on the areas above this creates a natural flow of affiliate clicks and sales.
The tutorials I produce feature products and services that I have experience with.
For example I noticed a lot of people were struggling with managing and organising their link building campaigns.
I was having serious problems with it as well – especially managing a huge amount of sites with multiple tiers of links.
There was a serious lack of tutorials about this across the web although it is a problem I know every single SEO has to deal with.
This is a good demonstration of why knowing your target audience is more important than keyword research. If I had just relied on keyword research, I wouldn’t be aware of this opportunity.
Anyway I eventually found a relatively unheard of solution and I transitioned from my clunky excel process and followed up with this tutorial.
That takes people through the end to end process of how to manage their backlinks effectively.
It kicks off by showing people the previous way I managed my backlink profile and the problems that created.
It then introduces the product which demonstrates how effective it is and how much time and effort it actually saves on a daily basis.
So what we have done is-
- Identified a problem the target audience faces
- Explored the problem and how I used to deal with it and the drawbacks
- Delivered the perfect one click time saving solution
- Shown them precisely how to use it in detail
The end result is readers not only click the affiliate links and buy the product, but they also send me an email thanking me for the tutorial and helping them solve a problem.
You would be amazed at how many emails I get from people asking if I have an affiliate link for product x because they just want to say thanks, even if I don’t feature it on the blog!
If you want to take this a step further – start a good relationship with the merchant and haggle an exclusive discount.
With the example I gave above I arranged an exclusive $10 discount for my readers.
Doesn’t sound much but you can’t get it cheaper anywhere else and although I take a $10 hit on commission, it builds long term trust and value with my audience.
I’ll take relationship over monetization any day.
4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?
I wish I knew that you could make money.
Although thinking about it perhaps itís good that I didn’t know you could make money on the internet when I first started out writing games reviews.
I was never doing it for the money – it was a volunteer position.
I was doing it because I loved writing, I loved the internet and I loved playing games. I was combining 3 passions into a fun filled super orgy.
My father always said to me – find your passion in life & then find a way to make money with it.
If you can do that, you will never ‘work’ another day in your life.
Well I was certainly following my passion and I still am to this day although I haven’t played a game in a long time.
I believe this is what separates me from a lot of people. A lot of the people I speak to are purely getting into blogging and SEO to make money.
No other motivation other than to make cold hard cash.
The truth is people that just want to make money quickly will never make any real money or build a long term sustainable business online.
They will buy the dream over and over though 😉
In a strange way I guess I sort of already knew what I needed to know when I first started.
I just didn’t know it.
Follow your passion, not the money.
5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?
There aren’t really any specific blogs I visit daily but I do have a number of blogs I subscribe to and read on the toilet whilst pulling awesome poo faces.
Now would also be a great time to mention that I have followed Zac Johnson’s personal blog for longer than I can remember.
I’m still a subscriber to this day and there is no doubt that his content has had an influence over that time!
I thank you for that!
You can imagine my reaction when he sent me a request for this interview.
I have Inbound.org set as my browsers homepage which is like the Digg of the internet marketing world.
There are always articles with meat on the bone from a huge range of sources.
It is also a great traffic source if you are in the internet marketing niche!
I also subscribe to AffPosts.com which makes for some great downtime reading.
6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?
I have published a list of my tools of the trade so you can see precisely what I use to get the job done.
I have also created supporting tutorials for most of these tools as well so you can get the best out of them and see how I personally put them to use.
However if I had to recommend any tool over any other for a new blogger that tool would be BuzzBundle.
It allows you to monitor blogs, forums, Q&A sites and social networks for any keywords you want.
Once it finds a match you can reply directly from within the software – it will even create an account for you if needed.
Basically how I use it is this-
- When I create a post, I write down a list of relevant keywords/questions people might ask
- For example with my Ahrefs vs Majestic test I have terms like backlink checker, ahrefs, majestic seo, ahrefs vs majestic etc
- I then add this into the list of keywords that BuzzBundle monitors
- I use BuzzBundle to answer peoples questions with my tutorials
That is a great traffic strategy that builds trust and engagement with your audience. Don’t wait for them to come to you, live where they live.
This strategy is explained in great detail in this video-
7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?
Find out what your audience wants and give it to them.
The great thing about the internet is you can find out exactly what people want with nothing more than your fingers.
Spend some time browsing around forums and relevant communities making notes as you go.
For example if you browse any SEO forum you will realize that-
- People are getting wrong answers to their problems
- A lot of answers are generic and vague
- Very rarely is a decent solution provided
- A lot of the information is out of date
- Everyone is trying to sell ‘the next big thing’
I’ll give you a real life example that gets posted multiple times per day-
How do I index my backlinks?
You can guarantee that someone is going to jump into that thread with the answer ‘ping them’
So spend some time familiarizing yourself with the audience, list 3 common problems they face and then create content that solves them.
Engage the community directly with your solution.
I have written a more detailed tutorial that will teach you how to find & engage your target audience online for profit here.
8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?
Over the past few years it seems that people have forgotten all about internet marketing and it has become, Google marketing.
I suspect that is because people are chasing the money and not passion – every man and his dog wants to buy a domain, throw a site together and start building links immediately.
It is your audience that have to get up off their backsides, find their wallet, take out the card, type in the details and buy something to make you money.
I’ve already mentioned it but I’ll say it again – find out what your audience wants and give it to them.
In the first 6 months you should forget about Google, SEO & link building and purely focus on giving your audience what they want.
Engage your users and build trust – the rest will follow suit.
With my blog I decided to give Google the finger, forget about link building and just create high quality content that solves people’s problems.
In August 2012 Google sent me 353 visits across 61 keywords.
In March 2013 Google sent me 10,323 visits across 2,560 keywords.
9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?
In short I would select a niche I’m passionate about, buy a domain/hosting, install WordPress, list 10 problems my audience faces, create the best content that solves those problems and engage the audience directly.
Heck you can probably do that on a $15 budget in any niche!
If you want the more detailed answer then I have got you covered in the near future.
My next tutorial mega series is going to be showing people how to build a profitable site from the ground up over my shoulder step by step with you guessed it, a $100 start-up budget.
I’m going to publish weekly updates and make the site available to you all so people can follow along live, in real time.
It is going to be epic. I’ll look pretty stupid if it doesn’t make any money though ^^
That’ll teach me.
10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?
You can get in touch with me in a number of ways-
This is my baby – soon to be the best internet marketing blog in the world ever inside out back to front times a million!
(in my head anyway)
If You Have Any Questions
If you have any internet marketing related questions head over to my forum and I will personally answer them.
You can also find me hanging out on the usual Social Media channels. But just follow me on Google+ and ignore the rest – I need to build my authorship at the moment 🙂
How many times did your mum shout at you for being on the computer too much growing up?
Thanks again Matthew for taking the time to share your advice and story with the Blogging Tips community. If you would like to learn about other bloggers and how they are finding success online, be sure to read through our blogger interview series.