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How Larry Ludwig Used SEO and Affiliate Marketing to Sell InvestorJunkie.com for $6 million

By Spencer Haws |

I’m excited to have Larry Ludwig on the podcast!  

Larry has been building websites for decades.  He was doing web development and web hosting in the 90s.

However, he eventually started building his own blog, InvestorJunkie.com.  He grew this site from scratch to a 7 figure exit in 2018.  In fact, he sold the business for $6 million!

That’s a life-changing amount of money!

So, during the interview, we dive into the weeds on how he built the site.

We discuss why he built the site, keyword research, content strategy, why user intent is so important, the type of team he built and so much more.

Larry is really an expert in affiliate tracking.  Tracking where affiliate sales are coming from on a granular level really helped him ramp up his income.  So, we dive into how to set up affiliate tracking if you would like to do this for your own sites.

Finally, we also dive into what retirement means and whether Larry would ever retire, even after having such a huge exit.

If you would like to learn from Larry, he does offer 2 blogging course.

First, Full-time Blogger is an in-depth blogger course that last 7 weeks that includes live elements.

Second is SEO for Writers. The course is for every blogger, writer, or editor who wants to learn how to master SEO. It is for independent contractors who write for others or entrepreneurs who write their content. 

Watch the Entire Interview

Discussed with Larry Ludwig

Read the Full Transcript

Hey, Larry. Welcome to the niche pursuits podcast. Yeah, it is great to connect. we had a mutual friend introduced us, Tom Drake, shout out to him. I appreciate that very much. And as I looked into some of your experience and what you’ve done, I really want it to be able to have you on the show just to share your expertise, your knowledge, as it relates to SEO.

Building websites and even exiting a business. And so I’d like to jump into that a little bit. but first for people that are not familiar with you, why don’t you just give us a one or two minute kind of introduction into your professional

Larry Ludwig: background? Sure. I mean, I’ve, jeez, I’ve been developing websites since 94, 1994.

So I’m one of the OGs and the OGs. Category. So I’ve been developing websites for a very long time. not for myself necessarily. I, you know, th the time I started developing for, I worked for an ad agency called poppy Tyson and started developing, websites and the very first websites in some cases for very big corporate brands, because they were just realized the capability at the time of the internet.

And again, that was really at the early stages where most, most businesses were looking at just purely to get it online, get a presence of some sort and not do anything transactional or commerce wise. So I was there from the very beginning and I just, from that. I realized I wanted to always own my own business.

And in late 2000, really 1999, decided to venture off onto my own business. And that was a web hosting web development business and did that for about 10 years. And, or even actually technically after that. But after about 2009 Konica bored with what I was dealing with, just the stressors of a web hosting web development business.

It was really just not a good business. Yeah. And realized that I wanted, why don’t I can’t, why can’t I do it for myself? Right. Why can’t I. Monetize a blog and create one and do it for others instead of doing for others, I should say, do it for myself. And that’s kind of where the blonde investor junkie came about in 2009 and built it to where it was zero traffic to gees, I think over 300,000 unique visitors every month and sold it in 2018.

Spencer: Yeah. So I want to jump into investor junkies. So you kind of explained part of the reason why you created it. You know, you decided, Hey, I want to be building my own blog instead of just servicing other web owners webmasters. I want it to be the webmaster, making all the money, but why did you go into the invest?

Larry Ludwig: I had always an interest in investing in personal finance, you know, ever since college. You know, sitting there using Quicken, you know, personal finance app Jesus in my college days. And you know, a lot of my friends were looking at me. Cross-eyed like, what are you doing? You know, we’re still in college while you’re worrying about money at this stage.

And so I guess I always had a fascination. I just wanted my, one of my poor driven factors was making sure I didn’t have the same issues my parents had in turn finance and looked at in 2009, that will. Why don’t I just mix the two interests I have together. I obviously have a great passion for technology, but also have an interest in personal finance and looked at what was in the landscape.

At the time. There were a lot of personal finance, blogs, or blogs about getting out of debt, but not necessarily investing. So I looked at it as an opportunity and kind of. One you don’t want to pass on top of, I didn’t really see any blog that really spoke to me at that point. I was past the basics of, you know, the baby steps of Dave Ramsey, the basics of how to do, you know, getting out of debt.

I had, you know, a sizeable nest date at that time. So I was kind of thinking about, well, okay, there’s gotta be others also have the same issues I’m having, you know, where can I find a blog that speaks at a more of a basis level than just discussing the advanced topics? I mean, granted I to discuss those as well, but I wanted to really.

Talk to everyone in a common language, not try to complicate investing. And that’s kind of how investor junkie was born.

Spencer: Yeah, I think that makes sense. You found a need in the market. And usually that’s what I’ve found is that a personal need, like a problem that I find in my own life or business, like that ends up being like a good idea.

You know, it’s just something you have intimate knowledge with. You were in the space where, Hey, doesn’t appear to be a lot of people writing about investing. So you went into that niche and clearly it’s paid off. So you said at its peak or close to its peak, it was about 300,000 visitors a month. Is that right?

Traffic wise. Yeah.

Larry Ludwig: Yeah, definitely. It was, I think it probably was a little over that, but let’s just say 3000 a month for 300,

Spencer: 300,000 a month. Yeah. And, primarily SEO,

Larry Ludwig: 90% of it at the time of my exit. I was starting to do, you know, paid traffic and trying to really ramp up that also. But let’s say about 10% of it was paid.

Okay.

Spencer: So I want to jump into the SEO strategy, right? percent of the traffic roughly is, is coming from organic sources. How did you do it? Well, like what’s the primary SEO strategy. Somebody particularly somebody that’s starting and looking at, Hey, I want to build a large website. Like, how do I think about SEO?

Larry Ludwig: Well, I mean, STO I think that, well, one of the, we can definitely talk about his intent. You know, intense is a huge factor in SEO, especially this day and this day and age it’s even more so than ever. Right. But also I think realized people go out and you search for solving a problem. I think it’s even a grander purpose of why SEO and why search engines exist is they’re trying to solve their problems.

So I think you have to look at the keywords to go after the pages or documents you create on your site. And think about solving those problems. So I think all that comes down to another grand topic is user experience. Making sure you, you solve their problems through your website, and it’s more than just purely content.

I mean, I’ve always been more than just writing to a content. I think it’s important. I don’t think that’s the only factor this day and age because content and ultimately as a commodity, I think you need to add more functionality features to your site. Then just purely you writing 3001 words where the competition’s writing 3000 words, everyone else is doing the same thing.

You’re going to get the same, you know, homogenized results. So I think in the end, it’s really about the two intent and just making sure your solve the user’s problems.

Spencer: Yeah. And so let’s dive deeper into intent a little bit. Do you think about each article as an individual sort of entity or are you try and I guess the skews a little bit way from intent, but talking about topical authority as well.

Like, do you try and like group, you know, if you’re going to write about a specific investing strategy, do you write a group of. 10 or 15 articles all about the same thing to sort of show Google that, Hey, you’re an authority on this stuff.

Larry Ludwig: A little bit of both because of obviously an article can be a landing page or an entry page into your brand in itself, but to Google, that is, you want to make sure you have.

You really are domain authority. You have some expertise in that set space. You can’t just write one article on cryptocurrencies, let’s say, and all of a sudden Google’s gonna rank you for that set article. It just doesn’t work like that. So I, I looked at SEO was kind of divide and conquer as you really set out to really go into the depth of said topic and cover all the different aspects of it, and then go on to another category and not instead of going really wide, I mean, a common issue.

I see with many of my, my own clients that matter. There’s a lot of them go into the, really the broad categories they’ll cover X, Y, and Z topics. And not really go deep on one set topic first and then cover the next one and then cover the next one. And I think that hurts the overall. Ranking in Google and Google does kind of doesn’t know what you’re about or what you’re trying to stand for.

So they kind of then overall hurt you hurt your overall rankings. So that’s kind of one of the things I would suggest if anyone’s just starting out is really make sure you cover one topic and go really deep on that topic first, before you go off and covering every other thing. I mean, you may have bigger goals and bigger plans to do so.

But just don’t do it right away. Right.

Spencer: So how do you go about finding topics to write about keyword research strategies and understanding the intent, knowing exactly how to write that article? Once you’ve found sort of

Larry Ludwig: keywords. I mean, when I first started the tools that are around today didn’t exist.

So we definitely have some advantage and disadvantage because everyone else and their brother has the same tools as well. Very true. But I guess if I was starting today, to me, H refs is an obvious. No choice. You do keyword research in that tool though, I’ve found some of the H ref search capabilities kind of limited, or doesn’t have the results on liking where I’ve been using now as of late, also KW finder, which is a competitor to that tool on top of using surfer SEO as well.

And really that. Mine, all those tools together, I think really saves me time. Instead of going out where, you know, previously with surfer STL, you’d have to literally go into an audit Dawn to do research and technical analysis or technical STL, and literally go to every article ranking for said, keyword and figure out how many keywords, how many words they have in our article.

What topics are they mentioning or not mentioning and really making sure. you’d cover all those aspects in your article where surfer does it for you and save so much time in my eyes.

Spencer: Right. and so about how many articles did you end up having on investor junkie? If just roughly

Larry Ludwig: about thousand? I think it was the end.

I mean, they probably have more now with the new owners, but I mean, in the end, believe it or not, and something that, I mean, you probably aware of this, but a lot of people just starting out aren’t it’s a lot of it was updating existing content. Yeah, it was really, I would say 80% of it was updating content, improving that set article, or just updating the review, let’s say, and making sure that we’re kept current.

To me, that was a huge factor. Is that the whole recency, you know, making sure the content was updated accurate, where someone to be nothing’s worse than going to a webpage, reading that article on a review of a product when, you know, Well, I just reading all the articles. It’s not the most up-to-date article to me that just hurts the user experience.

So it goes back to the, again, that user experience issue. And so it was really meticulous on that and making sure we are constantly updating products and pages to make sure we were accurate as much as possible if ideally that same day. So for betterment, for example, came out with a new feature. I wanted to make sure we had it that same day on a review.

Spencer: Wow. and so how did you manage all that, all that content, all that updating, did you have a large team? give us an idea of it was all involved. So

Larry Ludwig: I had, I had really one editor and I had a lot of contract writers and it was myself as well. So it was really a skeleton crew in that sense.

Spencer: How much is a lot of.

freelance

Larry Ludwig: writers. I think at the peak, I want to say 10 or 12, I forget

Spencer: the exact amount. So I’m sort of at the peak. Were you more just assigning you weren’t writing the, the content, yourself.

Larry Ludwig: No, mostly I was managing editor. I mean, really my Matt just telling my, my editor, the day-to-day making sure we covered these topics.

Make sure we plan out the editorial calendar, making sure we would go update existing articles, you know, stuff like that. I wasn’t, I was more doing, if anything, the technical behind the scenes, making sure we were developing a system to make it easier to manage these articles and update them and manage the products themselves, because that was a huge issue.

Is. I mean a common issue with you get a product review site is you have, you know, a pricing of a said product on one page. You gotta make sure you update it and all the other pages. And that was something I’d made sure we put into a database and use WordPress to that advantage. So we really developed a lot of systems, make it easier to manage and update that content as opposed to, again, commonly with most WordPress blogs is you have to update it in 10 different places.

And it just takes a lot of time and a lot of it’s error prone. So. Yeah.

Spencer: And I know related to that, another thing that a you’re well known for is really tracking your affiliate commissions, kind of knowing where the clicks are coming from. What’s converting, what pages are actually driving the revenue.

Can you talk to that a little bit about yeah. What you built and what you do that, that works to track those affiliate

Larry Ludwig: commissions? I mean, I’m all about 1% incremental improvements over time. To me, that can be huge gains. And especially in affiliate marketing, if you’ve got the traffic, obviously if you’re just starting out to me, You should be just worrying about getting the basic level of income and getting the site going where, where I was with the business wise, when you start getting five, six figures a month in income, let’s say you want to make sure you’re optimizing your site and you want to make sure in the end, it’s not just purely optimizing for revenue.

It’s optimizing to make sure it’s the best user experience you want to make sure everyone in that transaction’s happy. If your affiliate marketer, you want to make sure. The merchants happy the visitors happy. And of course, you’re happy that to me, you can develop a site like that and be very effective at it.

And to me using tracking allowed me to do that. Whereas most people get a monthly report saying they have five from versions from said merchant, but have no idea where, where on their site, that those conversions

Spencer: mentioned that in 20 different pages and don’t know which ones are actually converting.

Right? Yeah. Yeah.

Larry Ludwig: And it’s just crazy in my eyes, especially if you’re doing paid traffic, if you’re starting to do paid traffic to any means. You want to know where, where your pages are converting. In some cases, it may not be obvious where you may have a best of, let’s say, listing of a listicle of 10 best products to review and mention, and then link out to your review reviews of those as well.

Sometimes people would convert on the review page, not on the first page. So you’ve got to give them options, not just purely, you know, limit yourself to just having a listicle of 10 affiliate links, because people don’t necessarily convert on that first page.

Spencer: Right. so how do you do that? I mean, how do you track those commissions?

Larry Ludwig: I mean, there’s different tools. I use look meter in my case, there are other tools as well out there that, at least for mine, it’s flipped meters. To me, at least the best horse in the blue factory. I just, the best way to look at it is while they’re not perfect. You know, I’ve extended their services to really make it much more automated, much more manageable, but it does serve the purpose.

It’s one of the things I look at is APIs. Do they have ability to extend their service? And to me, I blew a bunch of different services in together to get the analytics and get the immersion tracking that I needed. And with click meter. It just seems to be the best option out there. I mean, I’m looking at perhaps some point off also offering or implementing click magic as well, but right now they don’t have an API.

So that just makes it a non-starter right. But services like pretty lights, for example, most people use it doesn’t mean it can’t do any of that. So you’re just getting a click, your tracking report, which is again, fine for that first level of affiliate marketing. But when you start getting into it again, five, six figures a month, you want to know.

Where your conversions are happening and that’s kind of where more of the advanced tools come into play.

Spencer: Yeah. So a click meter, I know it works on like affiliate networks, like commission junction impact radius, I think. And you know, some of these other networks, you can, you can sort of sync up your account.

Right. but what about like third-party affiliate programs? Like, So like on niche pursuits, like I’m an affiliate for a lot of just individual software tools like jungle scout or helium 10. Right. And they have their own affiliate program. They’re not on a network.

Larry Ludwig: It’s a, it’s a mix, especially it’s interesting digital marketing, you’re laughing because in additional marketing, it’s, it’s the, the plumbers plumbing.

It seems like in this space, which I find fascinating because of you’d think in digital marketing, you would have things like the ability to do a sub by day you’re past that data. Thank you from our affiliate and get conversion tracking. But some cases they may not even offer that, or it’s some homegrown, you know, built system that doesn’t have any other than a monthly report through some UTM code.

And it’s just crazy in my eyes that you’d think they would want to get more advanced than that. So it depends on the system. I mean, I guess flip me around in the box has some basic level, you know, post backs, but at least for me, I’ve been implementing everything through API APIs. To me, API APIs have much more data.

Have much more reliability and have data such as, instead of getting, when you get the post-bac you get the actual conversion date, which matters more for, you know, when you start really looking at, what day did you get that conversion? What day did you do the ad spend and stuff like that. So you can really get down to that level of detail on top of the API as well for stuff.

In some cases, even. Email or, or full contact information of the person who ordered. So therefore you want to be able to then re possibly remarket to that person as well, or even send them bonus. I mean, if you’re, if you’re doing something where you’re, you’re saying, we’ll give you a bonus. My example, I use Bluehost, right.

I actually have them they’re on my mailing list. I’ll get a conversion back from blue hosts and I actually subscribed them to my course automatically. And there’s nothing I need to do on my side. So it does. It makes my side from affiliate marketing much easier and treats it as my goal with affiliate marketing always has been treating as if it was our own product and making sure we have the same conversion metrics, the same availabilities.

As if it was your own product and that’s, I think most people don’t think affiliate marketing in that way.

Spencer: Yeah, no, I, I don’t myself and, and maybe I should, so I want to dive deeper into that. So you mentioned blue hose, somebody signs up to blue host, you know, through your affiliate link, you register them for your free course.

How does that work? You know, from the user perspective, they maybe came to your website. Once they clicked on an affiliate link, sign up for blue host, and then they just get an email and like, do you just kind of. What is the

Larry Ludwig: welcome. Yeah. I mean, depends on those cases. You have to gate it with the email sign up first, right?

You can’t just depends on the affiliate system. Thrive card. For example, does offer the email of the person who signed up. So first and foremost, it depends on the affiliate system. The purse the merchant is using. If they’re using a system that gives you the email, obviously you should grant permission or say, Hey, we’re going to send them out an email as a bonus.

You know, let’s make sure you’re aware of this, then just purely doing it. You can’t sign up people to a mailing list without them recognizing they’re going to get on a list. So that’s first and foremost, you have to be transparent. Second is again, usually I didn’t read. Require people to sign up to a mailing list on my side first, it’s just the easiest way to guarantee a tracking and guarantee.

You can get them on say a membership area or a course after they sign up, but you can have that full data. That’s the level of detail you can get and conversion tracking. Didn’t just purely to me, the one and done is most, you know, the affiliate marketing for most people is they looked at, they have one click and one conversion, and they’re done with that person.

Whereas to me, You should be building more relationship again, going back to as if it’s your own place.

Spencer: Yeah, I agree. And I know a lot of my listeners they’re affiliates on Amazon associates. Right. And you just don’t get any data at all. Really?

Larry Ludwig: I consider it the, their, their affiliate of last resort. I know that gets a lot of flack when I say that, but it’s just.

While the conversion rates to be pretty good. Yeah. The past low, the conversion tracking is nonexistent and the cookie is very limited. So at minimum, what I would recommend for anyone who is using, Amazon for their, their, affiliate marketing is at least test at some level alternatives and see what happens, you know, do AB testing and see which one works better.

And some cases you might be surprised Amazon. May do really poorly because they, a lot of people with Amazon is they go to the Amazon site and did he literally get lost in a site and never come back or they don’t buy the product that you told them to buy or recommended to buy. So therefore they’ll buy something else where, you know, if you send them to a product page for some merchant, it could be literally a dedicated page that that’s the only thing that can buy either they buy or bounce.

And that might be a better user experience. So you have to try that out. Yeah.

Spencer: Yeah, I agree. It’s always worth testing, seeing what converts better. And, at the end of the day it makes you more money. So when you were building investor junkie, did you bootstrap at all in terms of, you know, you use the revenue from the site to hire more writers, or did you put a lot of your own money in before it was profitable?

Larry Ludwig: I’m trying to remember now, I guess, I mean, I had the existing web hosting web development business, so I, that was a business into itself. And I already had some infrastructure from that and used it for investor junkie. Initially I traded an investor junkie as well as kind of a showcase, Hey, here’s what we can do to scale a blue, you know, a WordPress blog.

And here’s the way we can scale it and load balance and all those things. And. Obviously it turned out to be much more of a business into itself, but I guess outside of that, yeah. I mean, that’s, there was some of that bootstrapping in that sentence, but really, you know, I grew it as the business grew and, and initially I wasn’t sure myself when it started, whether or not it was really.

Possible, even though I heard of other bloggers, I mean, the example I always use is bank of holic, right. Bank of Holland sold. And I remember that one, 2008, I want to say for 12 million on officially, I think it was a little less than the end, but let’s just say 12 million. So I, I realized the guy was just one.

Person operations. So I knew the opportunity was there, but I just, I didn’t necessarily believe it at the time when I first started. So it was kind of, even though I had some affiliate marketing experience, even beforehand with my hosting business. So it took me a while to really get into the groove and get it.

I always say it took me about. A year to two, almost two years before I finally got into that groove and realized this was a real business and then therefore hired additional staff to help me along the way.

Spencer: Yeah. What was kind of that point where you realized, Hey, it’s a real business. Was it a revenue amount?

You know, it’s making a certain amount or was it like a traffic amount? And you felt like, Hey, this has got traction,

Larry Ludwig: the revenue amount, it was with a stockbroker called trade chain at the time. Oh, yeah. I think I had a special promotion in August. I want to say of 2009 or 10. I forget what year it was, but one that I did like a little over 10,000 in that month with them alone.

I kind of, yeah, just with them. And I kinda realized that was just an opportunity. I knew that then from there on, this is definitely a possibility and it was just a promotion. It was actually not even a review. It was literally just promoting. Their service and saying they had a special deal for, I forget what it was.

I think $50, you know, cash when you signed up or something like that.

Spencer: And how did you do that promotion? Was it just a blog post? Did you have an email list at that point?

Larry Ludwig: I had a little mailing list. I did that partially, but it was mostly through SEO.

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Spencer: Yeah. Okay. Just wrote up a promotional post and, and, it clearly worked.

so what other sort of on-page SEO strategies, did you employ that and feel like work really well now that that people should be focusing on?

Larry Ludwig: Well, the, the thing that a lot of people find fascinating is I didn’t do any really backlink outreach initially for first. Jeez. I think I started outreach only in 2016.

And since, you know, a good five years into it, that’s not to say I didn’t ask her so often for a backlink here and there, but I never really proactively, you know, did a whole campaign. A lot of my focus was on what we could control and that was the whole user experience and making sure we can control the, the back lanes the way we set up the pages, the review, and really focused on how good we can make.

Our goal is to make our reviews better than the competition and add more information, add value where others weren’t. So that was really the primary focus. Believe it or not, it was not, it was not about getting back lane in this day and age. If anything, it’s shown more and more, you can have a somewhat moderate, you know, moderately, backlink profile and have.

Really good ratings, just because you’re considered the expert in that said topic. I mean, nowadays backplanes, while are important, are not as important as previous and becoming less and less. So, so it’s definitely something, you know, it’s important, but it’s not as important as it has been. I mean, if anything, you know, a product like yours with back links, do you have links within your own site?

It became more and more important.

Spencer: Right. Yeah. It’s really interesting to see how Google is evolving. Right. It seems like they’re understanding the English language or any language better and better, and they can not perfectly, there’s still a machine, right. But they’re, they’re getting better. They can understand that.

Hey, this is. Has better topic coverage, this article right there, they’re mentioning all these words that we know should be closely related and doing other things that I don’t understand.

Larry Ludwig: Yeah. I mean the whole thing, that’s funny that a lot of people years ago when I first started, especially, was you able to do.

You know, literally repeat this word 10,000 times at the footer of the page and texts and you are guaranteed to be ranked. This is even before Google, in some cases that you are guaranteed to be ranked high on that topic. And you know, again, you can’t even, I find it fascinating. I still see SEO people recommending, well, you got to match up the keyword to be exact.

And it’s not really about that. The same age. It’s much more with NLP and Bert. It’s really much more about. Just being, you know, natural writing, good content writing content. And like you said, making sure you cover those topics that Google is kind of expecting. So you want to make sure because the competition already has, you know, ranking on that said topic.

If you’re not covering, let’s say what’s the pricing for a review of the said product. You got to make sure you cover that pricing and your review as well, because that’s Google saying that’s an important factor.

Spencer: Right. So it sounds like surfer, SEO is one of your go-to tools for that. is, do you always kind of just make your article longer?

Like how important do you feel that article length is?

Larry Ludwig: well you gotta be within the bell curve. If you’re looking at the competition again, using surfer SEO, if they’re, they’re saying on average, the top 10 or even higher. Top say 48 or around 2000 words. Right. And you only have a thousand, that’s clearly a case where you’re missing content, right?

I mean, that’s not to say with any tool, like, as like surfer. To have, you have to have exactly 2000 words or else you’re not gonna rank. That’s not the case. You might be able to write effectively, but it’s telling you at least some twos of all right, you didn’t cover these topics. You didn’t have this amount of words because yours is clearly much less.

You didn’t have these H two tags and your content as much as the competition and even backlinks to a degree as well. So you’ve got to make sure. Your Google’s telling you, and again, Surfer’s helping you speed up the process. What keywords or topics are perhaps missing and use those cues to say, Oh, I gotta be sure to include those as well.

So it’s not really necessarily a word count or any, you know, hard, you know, hard and fast hardened metric to say, well, you didn’t mention that keyword. You gotta mention eight times, like surfing mentions or else you’re not going to rank. It doesn’t work like that. Right,

Spencer: right. It’s it’s more of a sort of guesstimate, right.

A general guideline of, yeah. There’s a better way to look at it. I like how you put it within the bell curve there, right? Like if everybody’s writing a 3000 word article and you’re coming in at 1000 words, like it’s

Larry Ludwig: clearly, clearly, well that’s, I mean, this is all. If you really look at everything at Google and I use this analogy as well, I mean, even stuff that we start getting to eat, eat, you know, expertise, authority, and trust.

Especially in your money or your life with, I was dealing with, with investing in personal finance, right? You got to make sure you’re on Mark. On the sediment. Google really looks closely at sentiment nowadays. And what I mean by that is let’s say you’re writing a review on or discussion about 401k plans.

And you’re saying 401k plans are the worst thing in the world. You hate them. They’re absolutely horrible for Google’s to write you. It’s going to be pretty unlikely because of the sentiment out there for foreign K plans. Is there. By very nature. Good. Right. So Google’s, don’t say, well, this person over here is writing a bad article.

It’s not really a good 401k or the we’re not there to rank them. Even though it might be to you good content and some valid arguments, the likelihood of you ranking for what does the 401k plan are almost zero. Right? So you’ve got to really look at sentiment as well and making sure you’re in the bell curve of what the expected results of that topic or are as well.

A good thing, but also it can be a bad thing in Starship, which is a whole other topic into itself. I mean, same thing with, you know, COVID recipes or COVID solution, how to solve COVID or how to get better from COVID, you know, Google’s kind of looking really closely at that content because of, again, it’s an important topic.

So for you to write some miracle cure about COVID the chances of you ranking or zero.

Spencer: Right. That that’s true. And, and that’s, what’s, important to look at, you know, Google’s like we say, kind of getting smarter with the machine learning, and you know, it’s fascinating because we can always look at the first page of Google and kind of understand, Hey, this is the type of stuff they’re already ranking.

And I know you’ve mentioned this a little bit, but. Can we make it a little bit better than what’s already there. Right? Maybe take some of the same sentiment. You know, we’ve got some other guidelines on, maybe this is how in depth the article needs to be, but how, what fresh ideas can we bring to the table?

Well,

Larry Ludwig: yeah, the analogy I always been using is you don’t have to outrun the bear. Google you have to run your competition. And that’s really what search SEO has been always about is you’re making sure your content is better than your competition. It’s not purely content itself either. That goes back to the whole idea of functionality to me, functionality.

Is becoming more and more of a moat that you can protect your business than purely writing content. Because again, everyone can easily see what you wrote and then copy that content. It’s a little harder. If you write a comparison app, let’s say to compare like I did, I traded a whole betterment, all the robo-advisors and literally say here’s the different, robo-advisors how they compare and allow you to rank them on your desires.

What’s your considered important metric. And that was something again. No one else really had at the time in that space where again, it’s anyone from writing an article on betterment review and really write a good article and detailed and cover it in every aspect.

Spencer: Right. So, you mentioned that you didn’t do a lot of link building early on.

You started to do a little bit more, it sounds like maybe the last couple of years, do you feel like that really helped out a lot or, it’s just a matter of sort of getting your name out there even more than it

Larry Ludwig: already was? Yeah. I mean, kind of where I was at is the business wise. I actually, originally I did all the SEO in house and did it myself.

And then I came to a time where I was like, okay, I want to hire a firm to. That had the same beliefs in STL and hire them to actually do a lot of this work for me. And part of it was the outreach program. So it was initially not part of, it was just time constraints really. But the other is, again, I looked at what could I control directly?

What had the biggest bang for my buck as an entrepreneur, you got to look at where, you know, what’s the best time you can spend on something. And my case was, I felt like the user experience was more important because we should again, control it and make it better than what was out there currently.

Spencer: Right.

and so you’ve talked a lot about sort of user experience. Is there any sort of broad strokes or thoughts that you can give on that? I mean, is that focusing just on site speed and sort of, you know, making sure everything is, is green and Google search columns.

Larry Ludwig: I mean, I would say the best thing to do right is.

Most people don’t use a service like crazy egg and praise aid. All those a paid tool does now, even Microsoft, it could do it for free. There’s a polarity of it gets cold. That’s okay. So don’t be deterred that you may not have a budget to bio crazy. I do. You can easily do it, but you should be able to get a heat map on a page and really look at where the users falling off.

What buttons are they clicking on or not clicking on? In some cases you’ll find that they’re clicking on certain things on your page. That you don’t want them to click on, or maybe it’s a cue for you to say, maybe we should add a link there or add a topic there, or add more content there because people are really engaged in that part of the page.

So you really have to look at, let the users tell you what’s important or not. Because in the end you may have some good ideas on what a user experience should be for a page, but the end, what you may think and what the users tell you are completely completely off. And a lot of cases is. So in the end, I always say, let the data, tell you what to do.

Spencer: Yeah. And it sounds like, I mean, that’s probably, how you optimize your site so much. you know, 300,000 visitors a month is a lot, obviously, but it’s not like huge traffic numbers. Right. We have sites making millions of visitors a month, that sort of thing. But I know in the investor space, The value per visitor, it can be extremely high, right?

Because they’re opening up investment accounts or other things that they have a high payout.

Larry Ludwig: Well, I mean, to me there, and that’s where affiliate marketing really, I think lends itself very well compared to other means to monetize like CP you most or ad most. Blogs or most sites are CPC based, you know, cost per click.

Right. And the problem is it’s all based on a pure numbers game of, we need to get more visitors to convert better, or get more traffic and therefore get more money where affiliate marketing rewards you for the quality of that traffic, because you don’t get paid unless they convert. So there’s no point in sending a person to a service that is just.

No, there’s no way they’re gonna convert. I mean, a good example with say personal capital. And one of the services I worked with, they had a requirement of a hundred thousand dollars minimum, not deposit, but like to set up, have, linked up accounts with that amount of money or else you didn’t get any commission at all.

So therefore you have to make sure you send the right people to that said service. It’s not about purely. You know, getting the most people, most eyeballs in front of that product, it’s about sending the right person to the right product. So quality much more wins out in, in affiliate marketing than quantity.

And to me that’s always been my mantra as well is really again, making sure the three people in that transaction are most happy, really happy. Otherwise you really lose in affiliate marketing. And again, that’s the merchant, the, the visitor or end, or you.

Spencer: Right. So, any other sort of blogging tips, that you have to share either SEO wise or, or otherwise, that, you know, people that either have an existing blog or trying to squeeze a little bit of more money out of, or trying to get more traffic?

any other thoughts there?

Larry Ludwig: I mean, again, going back to what we’ve just talked about, I, again, look at your traffic. And really made sure you track where the clicks indoor conversions are coming from. And if you’re not, to me, that’s a, usually a huge opportunity, especially when we start getting into higher income levels, if you’re not doing it.

And again, it seems like most affiliate marketers. Aren’t that to me, is that an easy win in my eyes because you can look at, you’ll be surprised. You may think that diversions are happening on one page. When in fact they may be entering on this page, but they’re converting on a totally different page. And that to me is a critical factors.

You want to know. Where are they eventually converting? Because it may not be the first touch. Even it may literally be, you know, six, seven times they come to your site and they finally convert after clicking on a link in an email that you mentioned that said product, you’d be surprised. It’s, it’s something that most analytic tools don’t really have that level of detail.

And that’s something that, again, I consider going back to treating as if it’s your own products, the same things requiring your own product. You need multiple touch points. Before someone converts.

Spencer: Right? So it sounds like an entry level point is, is maybe people can start with click meter to start getting a little bit better data.

If they can get access to API APIs and actually, build better sort of in-house tracking that’s. Even better, but that’s a whole rabbit hole, I guess that as people dive into, there’s a lot of technical aspects too, that, you know, can take

Larry Ludwig: a while. I mean, I’m not going to pitch it. I do offer my own. I do offer software to help assist with click meter and make all that stuff easy for everyone.

So literally you just insert affiliate link and it does the whole tracking for you. But I mean, in the end, yeah, there are, you could do it yourself. There’s third party services as well to do at some level the same thing I’m offering. So there’s, I’m not the only one out there, but in the end you want that level of detail because it, without the stuff you’re flying blind, it’s no different than flying an aircraft without radar, without sonar.

And having nowhere, no idea where you’re going.

Spencer: So if people want to check out, you know, your tool that you have available for affiliate tracking, where should they go?

Larry Ludwig: they can go to Larry linwood.com. So if you go to Larry ludwig.com, I have information on the site.

Spencer: Okay. sounds good. So in 2018, you mentioned you sold the investor junkie.

I don’t think we mentioned the figure. How much did you sell it for and why did you sell it? I sold it

Larry Ludwig: for 6 million. We didn’t, yeah, we didn’t mention it. Why did I sell it? The question was, I think I achieved everything I wanted to do at the time and realized that if I wanted to be a bigger business than what it was at the time, it would had to been a much different business, both in terms of, you know, staff, but also really business-wise I think at the time, I really maximized what we could do in affiliate marketing.

And you know, to me, I looked at, okay, do I lock in my games and sell to a prospective buyer that was really interested in my brand and we’re done, we’ll keep it. Or do I keep doing what I do? And maybe look at it. Because usually buying sprees like this happened in waves and it’s usually every five to 10 years.

And I was like, do I want to wait another five to 10 years before the next round of buying spree happens in this space? And like, I think it’s time to sell. I think I saw the oldest, the problems I want to solve in this market and wanted to move on. And that’s kind of really the end of it. I mean, it was nothing I wasn’t burnt out.

I mean, I did, I was really happy with what the business and what we achieved, but in the end, You know, as an entrepreneur should, like you’re, you’re just looking at, okay. I think I, I, again, in order to be at the next level of business, it was going to be a business I didn’t really necessarily want to be.

Spencer: Are you able to share who you sold the business

Larry Ludwig: to? yes, we can discuss it’s web pals is a company that are Israeli based. They have multiple other brands. They own brands like bill roller, money under 30, the own, a few other sites, greedy rates, which is a Canadian credit card compare site. So they offer, and they have a lot of other sites as well outside of the personal finance as well.

I think they have, I want to say around a hundred different domain names they own. Wow. Yeah.

Spencer: And so did they approach you, how did that come about?

Larry Ludwig: that was interesting. I mean, the, so I wasn’t actively looking to sell and they contacted me. And this is after a fin con meet-up with another merchant at that.

So I met her through a dinner party of that said, merchant, I’m not going to name the merchant because of they’re a little annoyed that they sold, but in the end, you know, what, what I can say is the, so we met up through this party and, you know, one thing led to another and they were interested in mine, inquiring my site.

Yeah.

Spencer: Awesome. No, that’s huge. I mean, to be able to have a $6 million exit, obviously that’s a huge amount of money. life-changing amount of money, you know, did you take a break after that? Did you sort of a little vacation or something?

Larry Ludwig: Well, I did reward myself. I mean, that’s the plastic entrepreneur.

You have to do something extra like that. And I did buy, I bought a Porsche nine 11. All right. It’s something I always wanted. I mean, so I did that, but outside of that, no, it kind of took it easy. I mean, I had commitments for, you know, within a certain timeframe after that and just in the end. you know, I started another business, another personal brand in my case, my own domain name, but didn’t really been now after three years into it almost, starting to build that up, but you know, really?

Yeah. I didn’t outright take a vacation cause I guess it’s one of those things, like the classic of a, to me retirement in the traditional sense, right? Is you just sit there and, you know, play golf all day is to me boring. You have to keep engaged at some level. So now. You know, I’ve always wanted to help other entrepreneurs as well.

So that’s kind of what I did and, and, you know, built up my own personal brand to do that.

Spencer: Yeah. You know, that was going to be, my question is, you know, after you get a, a large amount of money like that, that you could live off for the rest of your life. Why, why keep working? And, you know, you touched on that a

Larry Ludwig: little bit, so, I mean, you have to have, yeah, you have to have some internal.

And we’ve mentioned this even before the call is, you know, I looked at the example of the Pollo moon lenders, you know, the astronauts who landed on the moon, they had this huge goal of getting to the moon and once they did it, they’re like, okay, what’s next? You know, what’s the next. Thing, because this is a huge milestone, right?

And I guess there’s entrepreneurial. You have to look at that next milestone and the next goal to keep yourself. Ultimately happy. I think you have to have some goal to kind of achieve, and it doesn’t have to be some grandiose goal, even just something to say, I’m going to do this. This is my next mission in life.

And you know, I think people like that in their careers. They want to have some, you know, they want to feel like they’re doing good in the world. Right.

Spencer: Yeah. You know, there’s been a lot of studies on happiness and one of the core themes is having goals and, and striving to achieve something and usually something bigger than yourself.

Right. And so being able to have that, I agree, you know, the traditional idea of retirement and, you know, reading books or going on walks all day, like

Larry Ludwig: can get old pretty quick. I don’t know. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many people who have done the traditional retirement, literally die months later. I said, but that’s me.

And I think even retire in, in Latin means death. I want to say, or something like that. I’ve heard that somewhere. It’s kind of scary in the sense of, if you want to have some sort of goal. Where again, I’ve seen many people have that traditional nine to five job. They work, you know, get that, that gold wash in their pension plan and then die off, you know, months later.

And it said you don’t want to do that. You want to have something again, it’s what you said bigger than you. And have, you know, just because I sold a business for a nice seven figure sum, which is great. Don’t get me wrong. It’s, you’d have to have something more than that. I think you have to have other missions and just purely that it’s, again, something that ironically.

You want to make sure it’s not the, the Apollo moon Lander, you know, astronauts having that, that ultimate goal of landing on the moon, you want to have some sold that business. So it’s like, okay, now what you want to have something else outside of that, right?

Spencer: Absolutely. So you started Larry ludwig.com.

How’s that going?

Larry Ludwig: Doing good. I mean, to me again, it goes back to the mission we were just discussing is again, helping other entrepreneurs. I think a lot of. Small and large businesses just don’t effectively monetize online. And again, what better since I’ve been doing this for so many years, what better thing to offer is help other entrepreneurs with their businesses?

Yeah. And

Spencer: so I know you’ve got, I think three courses, on your site there. what are they and who are they for?

Larry Ludwig: so I have three, I there’s one, it’s a free course for getting started, you know, as a blogger. The next is I have an SEO course and that’s really, and it’s really geared towards writers.

I mean, the thing that a lot of people in SEO. or people with a writing background get fearful of STL. It’s really technical and really developed a course that doesn’t get into the technical aspects of SEO. It really looks at it from their point of view. So I developed that course, which is working out well.

And then on top of that, the whole idea of, okay, you have a blog. You’re established at some level, but you’re not really full time. Your goal is to get full time. Hence the name of the course is full-time blogger and that’s really helps them. It really teach. I teach the foundations of how to start from a very base level.

Of, you know, where you are currently to again, how to do tracking how to do better optimization of your blog and really how to grow that business into a full-time business. And then some,

Spencer: so that SEO course for writers, would that be something good that I could just send my authors to like, Hey, if, if I want to train you on how to do SEO writing, just go read this course.

Larry Ludwig: Forced. I mean the thing, and I’m actually in the process of updating too. I mean, but most of the stuff is timeless. It’s not something, I mean, I, I’m trying to make sure when you write a course, and this is with any course trader in this space, especially in digital marketing is making sure it’s not outdated.

You know, two months later, some new technique comes around. I mean, granted you have new tools like surfer, STL. I’m going to be adding to the course. but. In the end, the concepts are still the same, you know, that’s the beauty of ethic. SEO. A lot of the core concepts are really been around for about 10 years.

Now, if anything, Google is getting more and more so down that path. So things like intent. While when I first started, it did matter. It matters even more. So this day and age, right?

Spencer: So Larry, I want to thank you for coming on. The niche pursuits podcast has been great. Being able to pick your brain here about your business, your growth, the exit, and everything else.

Your thoughts behind that. If people want to follow along with you or get in touch with you, where should they go?

Larry Ludwig: Easiest place. Larry ludwig.com.

 




Niche Business Ideas

By Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws is the founder of NichePursuits.com. After getting a degree in Business Finance from BYU (2002) and an MBA from ASU (2007) he worked for 8 years in Business Banking and Finance at both Merril Lynch and Wells Fargo Bank.

While consulting with other small business owners as a business banker, Spencer finally had the desire to start his own business. He successfully built a portfolio of niche sites using SEO and online marketing that allowed him to quit his job in 2011. Since then he's been involved in dozens of online business ventures including: creating and exiting Long Tail Pro, running an Amazon FBA business for over 3 years and selling that business, founding LinkWhisper.com, and co-founding MotionInvest.com. You can learn more about Spencer here.

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