In 2014, I interviewed Matt Paulson for the Niche Pursuits podcast and I was blown away by how successful his financial network of sites was doing. He was earning somewhere around $100,000 a month from display ads.
Matt and I have been in touch ever since. We've met several times in person at various conferences and are also part of the Rhodium Weekend group.
Recently, Matt shared that his business had just crossed the $10 million in trailing twelve months revenue. As a result, I thought it was time he came back on the podcast and share what's working well for his business.
Now instead of a network of sites, he's consolidated them into MarketBeat.com, which is a brand he launched a few years ago. He's grown from a team of 1 (himself) to now 9 employees and $10 million in revenue!
Look at some of these success stats that he shared:
- 15 million monthly pageviews
- 1.65 million email subscribers
- $7.8 million 2019 revenue
- $13 million 2020 forecasted revenue
Matt is one of the smartest guys I know, and so I highly recommend that you listen to the entire podcast.
I love the ideas he shares for growing email ad revenue and his SEO tips as well. If you want to follow along on Matt's personal blog, you can visit MattPaulson.com.
Enjoy the interview!
Notes from the Interview
I asked Matt several questions about his background and current business, you can read his answers below, but you will get a bit more depth if you listen to the interview.
Tell us your journey.
December 26, 2006 -> Launched a personal finance blog called Getting Green
2007-2008 -> Launched several more personal finance blogs. Incorporated the biz.
2009 -> Launched first investing website (American Banking & Market News). Started doing automated financial content.
2010. First 6-figure year.
2011: Google Panda Update. “I can’t rely on Google traffic.” Launch of Analyst Ratings Network (ARN), which later rebranded to MarketBeat. Started collecting email sign-ups.
2012: Started selling premium subscription products.
2013: Hired first employee. Shut down all side projects.
2014: First 7-figure year.
2015: Rebrand from ARN to MarketBeat, First 7-figure year. Hired employee #2.
2016: First in our industry to use web push/browser notifications as a marketing channel.
2018: Shift to advertising as primary email acquisition channel
2018-2019: Team Expansion. At 9 employees as of 8/15/2020.
2019: Launched a second brand called The Early Bird. Major MarketBeat Redesign
Jan 2020: Replaced AdSense w/internally sold ads and saw 250% increase in display revenue.
May 2020: Got MarketBeat’s first office.
August 2020: Hit $10 Million Trailing Twelve Months Revenue
How successful is your business today?
15 million monthly pageviews
1.65 million email subscribers.
$7.8 million 2019 revenue
$13 million 2020 forecasted revenue
You mentioned getting a 250% increase in ad revenue from switching to internally sold ads.
Where/how are you getting internal sold ads?
There are about 20 large advertisers in the financial publishing industry. We have developed relationships with most of them to book advertisements with us. The others are sold through industry-specific agencies that work with financial publishers.
What is your revenue breakdown of display ad revenue vs. paid email subscriber revenue?
51% Email Ads (Newsletter Placements/Email Blasts)
19% Display Ads
19% Subscription Revenue
10% Web Push Ads
1% SMS Ads
Can you give a short primer on how email ads work? Where do you find advertisers, how much do they pay, any other insights in this area of business?
There are a well known set of advertisers in our industry so they aren’t hard to find in our industry. We have met most of them at industry conferences or via a “friend of a friend” introduction once we’ve developed a relationship with one company.
In other industries, you (A) can subscribe to your competitors lists and see what advertisers they are promoting (B) see which ads are showing up often on adsense (or equivalent) on your website and reach out to them about advertising directly or (C) look for affiliate programs to promote via email. Same concept.
Tell us a failure story or a funny story that perhaps not many people know about.
- Phone call w/SEC explaining to them I wasn’t running a pump and dump scheme
- Old man threatened to drive to Sioux Falls and beat me up.
- More funny stuff here -> https://www.mattpaulson.com/2019/07/seven-bizarre-things-that-happened-to-me-while-building-online-businesses/
What are 1 or 2 strategies that have made your business successful?
1 – MarketBeat held 30% of the search positions in Google Finance at one point due to automated content. I’ll talk about this now that it doesn’t work anymore!
2 – We now do really well with data-driven content pages that rank in google for publicly-traded companies. Search for the name of a company followed by the word “stock” (e.g. wells fargo stock, wfc stock, etc.) and we pretty much always rank on the first page. This is a strategy that can be applied to any industry.
We try to maximize the use of Google rich snippets (community reviews, FAQ questions, etc.)
I know you used to get a bunch of traffic from Google news – why did you move away from that?
Like all good SEO hacks, it stopped working one day when the algorithm changed.
I want to hear EXACTLY how you are able to build and rank these data driven content pages?
Ranks for Wells Fargo Stock, WFC Stock, NYSE WFC, etc.
We make deals to acquire financial data and we present it an interesting way.
How could I do the same thing for Niche Pursuits (if you are willing to share another concrete example).
It doesn’t work in every industry. It would have to be something where there’s lots of public data available to gather/buy/borrow/scrape that can be presented in interesting ways.
SimilarWeb.com is a good example. They use data-driven content pages to come up with profile pages for most big websites. https://www.similarweb.com/website/nichepursuits.com/
Another option for your industry would be to gather data about different niches and make pages that list keywords, search volume and competition for different niches.
Where do you hope to take your business in the future?
Our two big projects for the remainder of 2020 are:
(A) brand extension. We are going to launch other financial/investing websites to compete with ourselves for traffic. (E.G. Would you rather be 1 of the top 10 results in Google for a given keyword, or two?)
(B) Media buying. We are looking to figure out how to spend $100,000 per month on ad networks. We’re still learning how to do that effectively
(C) New platforms. Where is the next place we can build an audience of investors? Every time we find a new place to build an audience (e.g. email, web push, SMS, FB group) we can monetize it well.
Are you doing link building at all?
Yes. We are doing some link building.
Are you willing to share 1 or 2 link building strategies that are currently working for your business?
It’s not a strategy I’ve developed, so not something I am comfortable/confident about sharing.
Media buying. When you buy traffic, where are you typically sending people? What’s the main goal of your landing pages?
We typically send people to landing pages and try to get an email opt-in.
Do you think you will ever exit the business? How will you decide when the right time to sell is?
Not currently entertaining conversations about a sale. We’re in high growth mode and don’t see ourselves selling in the next five years. If I sold the business I would just go start another one and I like the one I have.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start a new online business?
Two biggest things are (A) don’t be a me-too brand and just copy what someone else is doing. That never works. (B) Marketing and audience building are much more important than the quality of your website/software. Worry about how you can attract an audience first and worry about the monetization second.