Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com. It is home of the ambitious upstart.
And you know, a lot of people ask me, “Who’s listening to these interviews? What kind of people are listening?” More and more, I can point to the people who are being interviewed here on Mixergy and say, “These are the people who are listening.” This is a good representation of the people who are listening–real entrepreneurs, unlike frankly, many other podcasts who are being listening to by wantrepreneurs, by people who are never going to do anything, never going to produce anything and just like to listen and fantasize about starting a company.
This is for people who are actually doing it or going to do it for real. Today, you’re about to meet one of those people. I met Rob Liu a few weeks ago when I was talking to him because he’s a premium member of Mixergy and I wanted to get a sense of what he was doing and what he thought of the site and just to get to know him the way that I do with members and members who have left and former members. I really want to understand who’s in the audience.
As I got talking to him, I said, “Dude, you should be on Mixergy. Your story is incredible.” Frankly, he demurred. I think demurred is the right word for it. He didn’t want to do it. He wasn’t’ sure. But man did I want him on. And then he said yes. I’m excited to have him on here because Rob is the founder of a company called Deals Extra, which is the biggest daily deals aggregator in Australia.
Wait until you hear how impressive this business can be and it started out really simply. A lot of people are going to listen and say, “I could do that. That’s it?” Yeah. That’s it. You could do this maybe. But you didn’t. He did it. We’re going to find out how big he got it and how he did it. The cleverness of his marketing is one of the things that we want to focus on here.
He’s going to get really strategic in this interview and tactical and tell you about the details. He’ll also tell you a little bit about his new side project. It’s called ContactOut.com. It’s a Chrome plugin that lets you find email addresses of people on LinkedIn or pretty much anywhere online where you can highlight their name. I’ll ask him more about that and so much about this business.
This interview is sponsored by Toptal. If you need a developer, you’ve got to check out Toptal. I’ll tell you more about them later. It’s sponsored by Pipedrive. If you want a contact management solution, some software for managing your contacts, I’ll tell you why Pipedrive will let you do that and why it helps you close sales.
But first, I’ve got to meet Rob. Rob, good to have you on here.
Rob: Hey. Good to be here.
Andrew: Rob, you were working for Groupon before, and you went to the higher ups at Groupon and you said what?
Rob: Yeah. I had a bunch of kind of guerrilla marketing strategies that I wanted to implement. I kind of put them out to my senior at Groupon who wasn’t particularly receptive to them.
Andrew: What are some of the ideas that you took to your higher up?
Rob: Yeah. So, one strategy kind of goes back to the days when I was promoting nightclubs. It’s kind of like a slightly guerilla and spammy way of messaging people out Facebook. So, just to take it back to what I was doing with nightclubs…
Andrew: What were you doing with nightclubs? This was in college, right?
Rob: Yeah. This was in college. What I was doing was I was promoting nightclub events. What I would do is–most promoters, they just kind of invite all their friends on Facebook. I took it to another level where I was just walking around to like the library on Campus or public areas with my laptop and I would go talk to people and I would tell them, “I’ll give you a free drink and free entry into this club event if you hop on your Facebook right now and invite all your friends to this club event.”
So, in that way, I might have got in, say, 100 people to do this, and every person had like 300 friends. So, I would have like 30,000 people invited to a club event as opposed to my own 300 friends.
So, kind of took this approach and I went to Groupon with it. I said, “Oh, maybe we could just kind of like run–they were doing like promotions for the Apple Store or something and they were giving away freebies. So, I was like, “Why don’t we just run some people down there and incentivize people to invite their friends on Facebook?”
Andrew: You mean at the Apple Store? You said take a laptop to the Apple Store and incentivize people to invite their friends?
Rob: Yeah. It was one of those Apple launch day events where you have a massive line and people are standing there for like a day and they’re bored out of their mind. I think we ended up doing it, but management wasn’t completely behind it.
Andrew: It seems like management wasn’t behind a lot of your ideas. They were a little bit different, right? So, as a result, you went to your boss and you said what?
Rob: Yeah. So, I kind of told my boss that I have a bunch of these other marketing ideas and he that wasn’t really the directions for Groupon’s marketing. So, he ended up giving me an affiliate contract where I would earn a commission, like an 8.5% commission for any sales that I referred to Groupon and then I went off and started my own website and kind of implemented the marketing strategies that I came up with and got paid by commission.
Andrew: You got paid 8.5% commission on just the first sale or everything that someone you referred to Groupon bought?
Andrew: Which one was it?
Rob: Yeah. So, it would be just the first sale, where they clicked through the link. But because my audience is loyal to my site, the same person might click through to a product on Groupon multiple times. So, I would earn commission for that user lifetime.
Andrew: I see. So, every time the person buys through your link, you get 8.5%, even if they’re also on Groupon’s mailing list, even at this point you’re a customer at Groupon. If you send them, you get a commission. That was your deal.
Rob: Yeah. That’s right. So, as long as I build my site to be of value to users and users are continually clicking through the links to Groupon to my site, I would be earning the commission.
Andrew: How does that commission differ from what other people would get? At the top of the interview I said essentially this idea that you’re talking about, someone else could have done too but they didn’t. Would they also have been able to get the 8.5% commission the way you did?
Rob: Yeah. At that time when I started, Groupon had a pretty open affiliate campaign. So, anyone could register. I guess how differentiate yourself is how much traffic you get and through what methods you use to acquire customers and traffic.
Andrew: Okay. You told our producer, “I didn’t want to be one of these guys going to meetups and saying, ‘Would you be my technical cofounder? Would you be my technical cofounder?'” and really looking around helplessly. Instead, you decided that you had something else in mind. What was that?
Rob: Yeah. I kind of just got sick of a lot of these people saying this. They’re like, “I’ve got this great idea. I’m going to be an entrepreneur. It’s the best idea ever. I just need a technical cofounder.” It doesn’t make sense. It’s just like saying, “I have this great idea but I don’t want to put in the hard work.” So, I thought, “I’m just going to learn how to code.” If I wanted to do a tech business, obviously I needed to know the tech. I could potentially get a technical cofounder later, but I would need to know the technology myself first even to be able to assess who would be a good technical cofounder to work with.
Andrew: I’m looking at an earlier version of your site. I don’t see what it was coded up in. What did you use? What’s the technology you had to learn to create this?
Rob: I used PHP. It was very hacky and rudimental. I pretty much took a competitor’s website and for the first like two weeks, I basically–I don’t know the legality of this, but this is how it got started–I basically took somebody else’s layout. I kind of put it onto my site and changed out the affiliate links to my own. That got me started in the first two weeks and then after I kind of got my site live, then I began writing my own version.
Andrew: Okay. You first version, I’m looking on a big monitor and I can kind of see where the image doesn’t exactly fit on the screen, so it’s tiled with another image but only part of the second image is coming through. It’s just very basic, “Let’s get this thing up and running and see what happens,” type of process, it seems like. Fair?
Andrew: I don’t want to gloss over what you said. You immediately wanted to get lots of different deal sites again, but you didn’t have the ability to do it yourself, to scrape those sites and put the site’s product on your site. So, you scraped a competitor’s deals and you aggregated them together?
Rob: Yeah. So, instead of aggregating like 10 or 15 different deal sites, I just looked at a competitor that was already doing this and then I just kind of got the deals which they have already aggregated and put into categories and just started with that. Just as a disclaimer, this is only for the first few weeks to kind of get me started as quickly as possible and test the concept. Then after that, I built my own code.
Andrew: From what I could see, the first site had Scoopon–is Scoopon part of Groupon?
Rob: Scoopon is a clone of Groupon. So, they’re different companies.
Andrew: So, Scoopon, Living Social, which again is another deals site–Star Deals, is that the Groupon in Australia?
Rob: Yeah. So, Star Deals was what Groupon began as in Australia.
Andrew: In Australia, okay.
Rob: They were fighting a lawsuit–
Andrew: They were doing what? Sorry, the video just froze on us.
Rob: They were fighting a lawsuit to use the Groupon name because some dodgy people in Australia decided they wanted to claim that name and get the Groupon.com.au domain.
Andrew: Okay. Why did you not just focus on Groupon first and then add the others? Why did you want to start with aggregating all these different companies? There are others that I hadn’t listed here.
Rob: Yeah. The core value to the user as a deal aggregator is that you list all the daily deals on one site as opposed to only just the deals from Groupon. So, it just makes it easier for users to come to one site and see all the deals from every site.
Andrew: I see. It wasn’t just that you had ideas for marketing. It wasn’t just that you had ideas for how to organize because that was important to you, to organize all the deals. You also wanted to aggregate and put it all together in an organized, easily searchable site.
Rob: Yeah. That’s the value of a deal aggregator.
Andrew: Okay. And then where did you get customers or traffic to see if this first idea that was scraped from another site, if it even worked?
Rob: Well, I started with the Facebook thing that I mentioned to you.
Andrew: The thing that worked for you in school?
Rob: Yeah, the thing that worked for me for club events. That didn’t work so well. I managed to get some revenues. I think I made like $200 in my first week doing that. But the cost of my time in doing that was too great. With that kind of initial revenue, I might have made like $600-$700 in the first month.
I managed to pitch at a startup event and raise some money. I raised, I think, like $40,000, so not much, a little bit of money. I kind of used that money to scale out this Facebook promotion process, but it didn’t really work. So, that was one of the low points. I ran out of money.
Andrew: Let me pause on that. Where did you go out to get people to tell their friends on Facebook about the deals on your site?
Rob: Yeah. Just public places where people are kind of sitting down and you can talk to them. So, university library, food courts…
Andrew: What would you give them if they told all your friends about your new site, Deals Extra?
Rob: Yeah. So, I was still kind of involved with the club promoters. So, I was offering like free club entry, free drinks.
Andrew: I see. Okay. If they told all their friends about their deal site, they get free club entry. Why do you think that didn’t work?
Rob: It did work in that it generated revenues, but it’s just the process of reaching out to the customers was very manual and it required us being out there on the street and the cost of acquisition was too high.
Andrew: Okay. Right. You said that. All right. So, then that didn’t work, you went and raised some money. You said that you did it so you could try Facebook again, right?
Rob: Yeah. I raised some money to see if this Facebook promotion process would scale and it didn’t scale and I spent like $40,000.
Andrew: You spent all $40,000 on that?
Rob: Yeah. I guess $40,000 is not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things.
Andrew: But that’s all you had at the time. How did you spend it? Who did you hire to go out to events?
Rob: I hired like a team of like four or five people just to run around on the street doing this. So, they were just friends of mine from university.
Andrew: Why do you think that didn’t work?
Rob: Yeah. Like I said, the cost of customer acquisition was too high.
Andrew: Even paying them to do this was still too high to get people to tell their friends.
Andrew: Okay. All right. So, you now spent all that money, what did you do next?
Rob: Yeah. Then I looked at what competitors were doing. They were mostly doing SEO. So, I wanted to replicate their success. How I did that was I used this tool called Majestic.com. Majestic.com, you’re able to put in a website and it will show you all the backlinks or all the other websites linking to that website and pretty much reveal the website’s SEO strategy. So, I studied like…
Andrew: Let’s wait. He is in Australia and for some reason our connection is not super good. I’m not sure why. Let’s give it a chance for him to connect. And if we lost him for good, then I’ll just–
Rob: We okay?
Andrew: No. I thought we lost you for good, but you stalled. You were starting to say what your strategy was. What was your strategy?
Rob: Are we okay now? So, with Majestic, I would put in competitor websites and then I would look at how they’re doing link building and then I would copy their strategy. So, for example, to kind of be specific about this, firstly I would go find other competing websites that have a high page rank, which is kind of demonstration that they’ve built a lot of links and have a good SEO strategy. One example would be MyShopping — let me just make sure I’ve got this right.
Andrew: I’ve got some. It was MyShopping.com.au. It was a page rank six price comparison site in Australia.
Andrew: So, what did you do with them?
Rob: I got their website and I was like, “Oh, these guys are getting a lot of traffic and they have a good SEO strategy, so let’s see what they’re doing. So, I put their site into Majestic SEO. Majestic would then tell me what were the top back links to MyShopping. One of the top back links was Smarty.net. So, this was what Majestic SEO told me. I was like, “Oh, now I kind of understand what their SEO strategy is.”
Smarty.net is like a template website. So, MyShopping were effectively sponsoring these kinds of free software toolkits and template websites. They were also sponsoring other charities. When they’re sponsoring these charities, they’ll get a link back to their main website with recognition that they’ve sponsored a charity.
The thing about these charities is that though they’re very money poor, these charities have a lot of back links and have very high page rank. Some of them might be like page rank seven or page rank eight. So, most of the time, it’s actually worth it to sponsor a charity just for the value of the link that you’re going to get back to you.
Andrew: This was an SEO tactic that was used for a while there.
Rob: Yeah. Technically you could call it buying links, which you are. But I don’t think that Google would ever penalize such a thing in the charity space. I think it’s quite a grey area because you’re actually sponsoring a charity, like you’re legitimately sponsoring a charity and they’re recognizing you with a link. There are charities that have a link to MyShopping where Google has also sponsored that charity.
Andrew: And they also have links there.
Rob: Yeah. Google has a link on the same sponsorship page. Like an example might be like the Linux Foundation, where on their sponsorship page, it might link to some shopping sites and to some other sites who have kind of sponsored.
Andrew: I see you’ve got that. You’re still doing that. I put your site into Majestic and I see the top URLs are Cygwin.com, which is a Linux site. It’s actually Cygwin.com/Donations.html. So, it’s a list of all the people who donated. CreativeCommons.org/Supporters–those are all the people who supported Creative Commons.
And actually I could keep going down the list, but essentially that’s what it is. It’s these donation pages. What you’re saying is you saw your competitor was doing this and you said, “I can get in on that. I’ll go to same places here he’s donating and some others. I’ll start donating also. They will put a link on their thank you page back to me and I’ll get some more Google love because of it, right?
Rob: Yeah. It kind of is a bit of a secretive strategy because the more people that are on those donation pages, the less effective that it is, but seeing as I don’t really focus too much on Deals Extra these days, so I’m happy to just kind of share that strategy out there.
Andrew: Right. You did a couple of other things that we’ll talk about. Let me first take a moment to talk to my sponsors, the people who paid to advertise here on Mixergy. The first of those two sponsors is a company called Toptal.
If you have an idea like Rob did and you want to launch it but you either don’t have developers or frankly your developer team is already busy on other projects you don’t have to wait to find the right developer or until your developers have time. You can just tap into this network of incredible developers that Toptal has.
We’re talking about developers that are so good that they’ve been tested by the best of the best, that they’ve been really vetted, that they’ve been interviewed. And if they make it to the network of Toptal, when you need a developer, you just let Toptal know. They ask you some questions about what you need. They go to their network of developers. They find the right person. They match you up.
If you like each other–frankly at this point it’s if you like that developer, you get to start working. And if you do, you’ll get an incredible who, in my experience, understands the business not just the product, not just the product they want to do. So, they can really think through the process. These are incredible developers. You’ve heard about these guys, Rob?
Rob: Yeah. I spoke to one of their guys about half a year ago about potentially working together. It never went through, but they did leave a very good impression of their services.
Andrew: That’s a good point. I have gotten emails from people who said, “Andrew, what about this? What about that?” And they ask me questions about Toptal, how long you have to commit to–there’s not commitment–all those kinds of things. I realized part of the reason they were asking me instead of going to Toptal is they felt like if they called up, there’s some kind of commitment to sign up for Toptal. You don’t have to.
If you’re at all interesting in hiring a developer, you could go to Toptal.com/Mixergy, put in all your information and you’ll get a call from somebody at Toptal and you can just talk to them. Talk to them about what your strategy is. Talk to them about what you’re trying to build.
They’re not looking for you to waste their time by asking them about them about the weather. But frankly, if it has to do with your business, it’s not a waste of their time and they will help you think through how a Toptal developer can help you. If it’s not the right fit, you could decide just like Rob did, no obligation.
Go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. When you do, you’re going to get 80 free developer hours when you pay for 80 and you’re going to have a guarantee that you are happy. Read that guarantee on the page. And that’s it–Toptal.com/Mixergy. I’m glad that they’re sponsoring.
So, the other thing that you did was you looked at Groupon.com.au to see what their back links were and you discovered that they were also writing some blog posts.
Rob: Yeah. So, I discovered that Groupon had backlinks from mommy bloggers and other blogs where the blog post would say, “Oh, Groupon gave me this $20 dinner voucher to write a review about Groupon.” And it would link to Groupon with the keywords “daily deals” or “deals.” So, yeah, Groupon was giving out freebies for bloggers to write about them and link to them. I was like, “Okay, here’s another strategy that I can copy and use for my own site.”
Andrew: So, this still works today. But the bigger message here is to just do some research on your competition to see what they’re doing and see if any of those ideas will actually apply to you and are helpful. Fair?
Rob: Yeah. I think there’s a lot you can learn from the data that Majestic.com displays. You can pretty much break down exactly how your competitors are doing their link building strategy and there are some gems of wisdom in there and a lot of strategies that kind of would always be fresh and new because you just see exactly what your competitor is doing recently as well. So, the strategies would always change but you can see what is the freshest and newest strategies.
Andrew: And frankly that’s not just Majestic. It seems like it’s helpful for lots of tools. Sometimes within interviews I do reverse IP lookup to see what other domains my guests have. That seems like the kind of competitive analysis you can do. Quick Sprout seems like a good place to go to get a sense of the–let me just say it clearly, Quick Sprout–to get a sense of the social media and traffic strategies that your competitors are using.
What’s another one? Of course I keep going back to SimilarWeb to see where traffic is coming from. Is there another site that you use to look at competitors or to look at similar companies to see what they’re doing?
Rob: Good question. I was primarily focused on doing SEO for Deals Extra. So, it was mostly like stuff in the SEO space. I would use like Moz.com, Open Site Explorer from Moz as well as Majestic.
Andrew: You paid for all those?
Andrew: Moz is a little more expensive. Majestic is pretty inexpensive. We’re talking about tens of dollars a month, right?
Rob: Majestic, I think it’s not cheap. It’s like $60 or $70 a month.
Andrew: That’s not bad.
Rob: Moz is like $100 a month.
Andrew: That’s not bad either. For some reason, I thought they were more expensive. Yeah, Majestic is only, if you pay quarterly, $50 a month for their cheapest.
Rob: That’s not too bad.
Andrew: That’s not bad at all. I’m looking here at my notes. You told our producer the other thing you discovered was a company called HotUkDeals.com, which is a UK deals forum. They created a share on HotDeals button widget, which looks and works kind of like Facebook. How did you use that?
Rob: Yeah. So, another SEO strategy that I discovered from looking at back links was this whole concept of creating an embeddable widget that would link back to your site and then getting other websites to install this embeddable widget and getting a lot of back links. So, what HotUKDeals did was they created a widget that was similar to a Facebook like button, except it was like a HotUKDeals like button and then they would distribute it out to ecommerce sites.
So, for a user of an ecommerce site, if they could click this HotUKDeals like button, the product on that ecommerce site would them be automatically posted to HotUKDeals. That ecommerce site would get traffic. So, it’s a win to the ecommerce site installing this widget because they get more traffic and better engagement and then it’s a win for HotUKDeals because they’re effectively building more links.
Andrew: Were you able to create that? Could you create one of these buttons for other people’s sites?
Rob: I was looking into it, but I never got around to implementing it.
Andrew: Yeah. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would work for you. You’d really have to change what you’re doing, don’t you think?
Rob: Yeah, in a way. I’d kind of have to change my site into a forum-based structure where anybody could post deals, but I was looking at doing that too.
Andrew: Okay. Anything else that did work for you?
Rob: Yeah. The other thing that complements building a lot of links is having a lot of content. A lot of people are like, “Oh, you’re going to have the best content. You’ve got to write all these good articles and create great content. Something needs to be said of just having a lot of content, like a lot of pages. Content could be mediocre, but just having a lot of it so you cover a lot of long tail keywords.
So, what I did was I created a page for every business in Australia that has ever run a deal. So, it might be like Joe’s Seafood Restaurant deals or like skydiving deals, just any business name or any business category and then the keyword deals and then on that page list all the deals that that particular business has run. I might have maybe 100,000 of these pages on my website. What this did is it drives all this traffic, these long tail keywords from Google to my site. I found that was very effective coupled with the link building.
Andrew: And it was just all you scraping data from other sites, cobbling it together and creating pages on your site, right?
Rob: Yeah. So, just kind of scraping all the sites and putting it together in a useful manner. As an example of this, if you go to Google and you type in sites:DealsExtra.com.au/business, you can get a sense for what the business pages look like that are getting traffic.
Andrew: I see. So, thunder jet deals, 50% off oceanic cruise deals–let me click on one of those pages. Oh, immediately what I get is that modal pop that asks me for my email address. And then I see all the different offers that they had. And if I click on one of them to see details, then I’m asked for an email address first. I see. That’s how you’re growing your mailing list.
Andrew: Is that still working for you today?
Rob: Yeah. I still get a lot of emails every month, something like maybe somewhere around 20,000, 22,000 emails a month.
Andrew: A month using this one strategy?
Rob: Yeah. The landing page convert at around 13%, 13% to 14% to email. It gets a fair amount of traffic.
Andrew: Many of these are actually expired deals, right?
Rob: Yeah. Some of them are expired, some of them aren’t. For the ones that are expired, the users kind of redirect it to a similar deal that isn’t expired.
Andrew: I see. I clicked on one that is not expired and I’m immediately asked for my email address. I entered an email address and then I got taken over to Groupon. Actually no, it is expired now. At least I was taken over to Groupon to that offer right away and it says sold out. Now you’ve got my email address and you can tell me about other deals that you have. This is brilliant. It just works, huh? 20,000 a month is a lot. Why do you look so calm?
Rob: I don’t know. I think I still have a lot left to do and a lot left in my journey. So, I don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything.
Andrew: You don’t feel like you’ve done that much, do you?
Rob: Not really. I started out and I made some progress, but I think I still have a lot to learn and a long road of ahead of me.
Andrew: What’s your revenue now?
Andrew: What was your revenue for 2015?
Rob: In terms of vouchers that have sold on my site, it’s $4 million.
Andrew: $4 million worth of these 9D movie experience, oceanic cruise–$4 million worth are sold. Your cut of all that is how much? Oh no, the video froze just as I asked that question. Let’s give it a moment. Oh, that music was me clicking on one of your tabs. Your cut of the $4 million was what?
Rob: So, it depends on the site. But it would be between 5% to 10%.
Andrew: 5% to 10%?
Andrew: So, I thought at the end of it you ended up with $300,000 in profit.
Rob: Yeah. That would be like cash flow into my firm, but then I’d kind of direct it at various other projects and just see what works and what doesn’t.
Andrew: But when you end up with–can I say $300,000? Is that okay for me to have said out loud?
Rob: I don’t mind. I prefer not. But I don’t mind.
Andrew: I saw you hesitating for a second. I thought it was on the record when you told the producer, so that’s why I said it. But if you don’t mind, then I’ll continue. So, you get that, then is that net of you paying your team or out of that you still have to pay your team for getting the software up and finding the traffic and so on.
Rob: Yeah. So, I kind put it into various things. It does vary month by month. But I’d put it into various other projects that I’m working on.
Andrew: Does that include things like Contact Out, which I talked about at the top of the interview?
Andrew: So, everything is going well and then something dramatic happens. This whole thing that you’ve built is built on SEO and then Google comes and kind of not rains on your parade, but basically ends the parade. I’ll talk about in a moment, but first, I’ve got to tell people about Pipedrive. Rob, do you know about Pipedrive? Do you know what it is?
Rob: I know of Toptal better. Pipedrive–is it like a sales tool?
Andrew: Yeah. So, it’s a contact management solution that allows you to keep track of all the people you’re potentially selling to. But what makes it different from all the other pieces of software that essentially address books, what makes Pipedrive different is it’s all about creating a pipeline to sales. It’s all about getting a stranger to buy or a stranger to a goal.
The first thing you do when you get setup with Pipedrive is just create the different steps in your sales process, whatever you think it is. Maybe step number one is find someone to sell two. Step number two is do a little research. Step number three is get their contact information like Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. Step number three could be send them a tweet.
Step number four could be like something they posted on a social media site. Step number five could be send them a complementary email. Step number six is, “Hey, I have this piece of software that could be helpful for you? Do you want to get on a call?” By then the person is a friend of yours. Step number seven–I don’t what number we’re up to.
The next step could be make the phone call, send a card–whatever your process is. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as I just laid out. You just put it into Pipedrive. It could be as easy as find someone to call, make a phone call, close the sale. Whatever it is, you lay it out in Pipedrive and then you start adding contacts to the first step in your process. You set a goal for yourself. I set a goal for me and my team that we have to have ten potential new interviewees in Pipedrive every week.
So, we go in. At the start of the week, we add them. We continue through the week. At the end of the week, I look back and see, “Did we hit our numbers as a team? Did we slack off and only do two? Did we send out too many and then we’re going to have trouble later on if we have too many potential guests.” I can’t interview more than 100 people a month or whatever the number is. So, we want to keep that balance.
And then we see were we able to contact them? Were we able to get a response from them? If we didn’t, then we change our process. If they say yes, but then they don’t follow up, which is something that happened a few months ago, you could see that in Pipedrive. You could see a whole lot of people saying yes and nobody following up and actually doing a pre-interview. That’s what we saw. So, we said, “Let’s add another step. Let’s add a step that’s called the pre-interview process.” You’re going to keep making changes to your process with Pipedrive.
What’s great about it is it forces you to be very process-oriented, very goal-oriented as an individual and if you have a team, as a team. We use it as a team. It’s so helpful. Even a virtual assistant can use it, can add potential guests, can find their email addresses, can help me move people along in the process. Even someone like a virtual assistant from a service that’s never met me has done it.
So, that’s what Pipedrive is. If you want to close more sales, if you want software that’s going to help you do it, you’ve got to go to Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. It’s important to add that /Mixergy at the end because if you do, they’re going to give you a ton of free time to try it out and to see if it really is as revolutionary for your team as it is to me.
My message to you is get committed to it. Look at your stats. Make sure that you’re really using it. It’s going to hold you accountable and if you are accountable, if you do take those actions that Pipedrive has, you’re going to see your sales grow. It just works and has for us.
Cool, Rob. How’s that for an explanation? Do you feel like you now get it?
Rob: Yeah. I’ve actually been looking quite in depth at different sales automation software. So, I think I’d definitely be checking out Pipedrive. Obviously it’s quite related to what I’m doing with Contact Out, with finding leads for sales people.
Andrew: Yeah. Someone’s first step to add prospects to a list. The second step is tell a virtual assistant to go use Contact Out to find each one of those prospects’ email addresses and add it to Pipedrive and when they do, they move that card to the second column and so on. It gets kind of like a game but very serious, very goal-oriented, kind of like me.
All right. All this stuff we’re talking about is very SEO-related. It’s working for you. It’s bringing traffic in. You already have the affiliate deals with Groupon and Living Social. So, you know that if you can get people to buy, you’re going to end up bringing money in. Everything is going nicely and then Google drops Pando on you. What did Panda’s algorithm update mean for your business?
Rob: Yeah. Because my website was predominately based on scraped content–what I mean by scraped content is this content is a duplicate of content on the Groupon site. So, I just take the deal write up on Groupon’s site and redisplay it on my site. So, Google Panda didn’t like duplicate content. They didn’t rank it as highly and they penalized sites that had duplicate content, so hence my traffic would have halved when the Google Panda algorithm came out, which is not good.
Andrew: How did you even know that was the problem, that that’s why you got dinged and stopped getting a lot of traffic from Google?
Rob: I read a lot. So, obviously waking up one day and going, “Where did half my traffic go?” And then just hopping online to various SEO forums, like Moz, like SEO Roundtable, I’d go on WickedFire and yeah, just listening to what other people are saying and seeing the information that other people had written up and trying to apply that to my situation.
Andrew: Okay. So, you discovered it. How did you solve it?
Rob: Yeah. So, the general consensus at the time was that you needed unique content. So, you needed content that was written by itself, it was not duplicated to something else on the web. So then everybody else was talking about, “Okay, let’s create really high quality blog posts.” But that doesn’t really work for my site. My site is a deals site. We don’t really do blog posts. So, I was thinking, “What if I just have mediocre content, but a lot of it.”
So, with things like deals that I was getting from Groupon, I would first have them rewritten by a team of freelance writers based out of the Philippines. Those writers were being paid like $4 or $5 an hour, which is quite a good way to the Philippines and then they would rewrite the deals that I would get from Groupon or from Living Social before it’s displayed on my site. So, when it’s displayed on my site, it’s the summarized version written by the freelance writers. That was a lot better for Google. It was able to gain a lot more traffic.
Andrew: That was it, that one change?
Rob: Yeah. I think as a strategy, it could be pretty broadly implemented for any type of site that kind of aggregates information or even for any blog. As opposed to kind of focusing on really high quality content, people should do that too, but another potential strategy might be, “What if you kind of just aggregate other people’s content and summarize it?”
You’re able to do this really quickly at volume for a really low price and then hence you’re able to cover more keywords. I guess it isn’t really the best for user experience, but purely in terms of acquiring traffic from Google, I think it’s a good strategy.
Andrew: How much did you pay to have this done?
Rob: To the freelancers? $4 or $5 an hour.
Andrew: One of your entries here has a headline and two sentences. What would that cost to have that changed?
Rob: So, it works out to be roughly a dollar per rewrite per deal that is rewritten.
Andrew: That’s a lot, no?
Rob: Not in the grand scheme of things. I think if I had like 30,000 pages rewritten–actually, it’s not even $1. It’s between like $0.50 to $1. But having 30,000 pages rewritten might cost me $20,000. This would increase my traffic by 2,000 hits a day or like 60,000 hits a month, where if I could get like 60,000 hits a month recurring for a spend of $20,000, it’s very cheap.
Andrew: I see, because every old expired link is still a good reason to come find you on Google.
Andrew: I see. But Rob, I’m actually looking at one of the deals that’s still active right now. I’m looking at it on Deals Extra. It says, “$25 for a rainforest treetop adventure with food and drink for an adult.” I’m looking at it on Google. It says $25 for rainforest treetop adventure with food and drink for an adult, the exact same thing. I see the first sentence is, “Experience of 1.5km walk through the beautiful warm temperature rainforest.”
I’m looking at their, “In a nutshell” section. It says, “Experience a 1.5km walk through the beautiful warm temperature rainforest.” Essentially it’s the same thing. It’s not essentially–it’s exactly the same thing, isn’t it?
Rob: Between Google and my site?
Andrew: Sorry. I might be saying Google when I mean Groupon. Groupon and Deals extra have the exact same description for this and for others too. Are you still using this technique?
Rob: Yeah. So, for the deals that are displayed to my users, the current deals that are displayed to my users and that go out in the newsletter, it’s still the same copy that Groupon sends out.
Andrew: I see.
Rob: This is because Groupon’s copy is better. But for the deals on my landing pages that are designed to capture traffic from Google, it would be the content that my writers are writing.
Andrew: I see. And the content that’s just for landing page, is it expired deals from Groupon or is it just the scraped ones that you found?
Rob: It’s both. It’s expired deals and it’s also current deals that are on those landing pages. But on all the landing pages, they’re all like kind of the rewritten content.
Andrew: What I mean is what’s the difference between a landing page and another page on your site? It feels like every page on your site is a landing page of some kind, isn’t it?
Rob: Yeah. There would be like city pages, for example, like DealsExtra.com.au/Sydney.php. That would be a site that my regular users frequent. So, I’d want them to have the best experience and put up the copy Groupon originally wrote, whereas for a landing page, DealsExtra.com.au/business/JoesRestaurant, that would have the rewritten content because it is not a page that is frequented by my regular users. It’s a page designed to capture traffic from Google.
Andrew: I see. It is mostly Groupon still. I see tons of Groupon and every once in a while a Living Social or a Scoopon in there, right?
Rob: Yeah. That’s changed recently because Groupon’s kind of gone on an acquisition spree and just gobbled up everything in the Australian market. It wasn’t always like that.
Andrew: Is that a danger that you’re going to be so connected to Groupon that they could either reduce their payout to you and hurt your business or just say, “No more affiliates?”
Rob: It is a danger. It’s a problem.
Andrew: Okay. Any other changes that you made to the site to get more sales, anything else we should know about how you did it?
Rob: That’s probably the core things that I’ve done.
Andrew: Okay. What about your email strategy? What’s worked for you there? It seems like it’s still a very email-based based business.
Rob: In terms of mailing subscribers? I send a newsletter every day. Users can pick what categories of deals they’re interested in receiving as opposed to get all the deals from Groupon, you just say, “I just want restaurant deals.” You can set how frequently you want to receive a newsletter–every day, once every three days, once a week. Yeah. I guess it’s more customizable than getting an email from Groupon directly.
Andrew: Okay. It feels like you’ve come so far. Before we started the interview, I asked you if you felt comfortable talking about your background, how you were born in China, but now you’re in Australia and the path you took to get there. How did you end up in Australia from China?
Rob: My father came to Australia in 1989 before I was born and then I came five years later in 1995.
Andrew: Your mom was pregnant with you and your dad left to go to Australia.
Rob: Yeah. My dad left to go to Australia because at the time, there was the political events around the Tiananmen Square incident. All the western countries opened up their doors to immigration from China to allow students to come and live abroad. My dad looked at that opportunity and he thought that he wanted to seize it. He went. He wanted a better life for our family.
Andrew: Why do you think he didn’t bring the family along with him?
Rob: Yeah. I think it would have been too hard. My dad, he landed in Australia with like $200 in his pocket and he had to blaze the trails and make a life for himself. Obviously that wouldn’t have been possible if me and my mother were there and he had to take care of us as well.
Andrew: When you met him, was it weird? Do you remember any part of it? Do you ever resent him?
Rob: My mom was like, “He’s your dad. You should go up and hug him.” I just kind of hid away. But it was fine afterwards.
Andrew: Are you guys close now?
Rob: Yeah, we’re okay. We’re good.
Andrew: Really? Is there a barrier between the two of you because of that or something else?
Rob: Yeah. We’re on good terms, but just in terms of our way of thinking, it is quite different. My father and my mother, they grew up in China. They had their first 30-35 years in China and very traditional Asian values, whereas I grew up in Australia, so I probably have more liberal, western values. So, sometimes there can be a disconnect.
Andrew: What are conservative Chinese values? What would they restrict me from doing?
Rob: They don’t really kind of restrict me in any sense, but then things they value and the things I value are different.
Andrew: What do they value?
Rob: I guess they’re more just kind of content with their life. They’ve got a house in Australia. My mom and dad are pretty content. They just do kind of see the neighbors, chat to friends sometime and just pretty day to day things and just like a peaceful and tranquil life, whereas for me, I want to go out there and hustle and make it big.
Andrew: And do more. I see. And take risks–you got a job at Macquarie Capital.
Rob: At Macquarie Capital, yeah.
Andrew: Right. Sorry?
Rob: Macquarie Capital.
Andrew: Macquarie–sorry, I didn’t know how to pronounce it–Macquarie Capital. I heard that you got an internship there. That sounds like the right path for a conservative family and you did something that kind of screwed it up. What did you do?
Rob: Yeah. It was really strange. I posted on my Facebook that I was really excited to be meeting people from McKinsey next Monday and I wanted to go work at McKinsey. Then what happened was the other guy that I was interning with decided to tell my boss. And I wasn’t offered a job at Macquarie anymore because of that. But I guess in hindsight, it’s kind of good because it kind of forced me onto a path of entrepreneurship, which is what I wanted to do anyway out of high school. So, I guess it worked out well.
Andrew: Why do you feel like it hasn’t worked out well enough? Even when you and I were talking in private one on one, I was more excited about how well you had done than you were. Why?
Rob: Yeah. I feel it’s worked out well and I’m definitely grateful for how it’s worked out and I’m very happy with my situation. But I feel like now is not the time to celebrate yet. I feel like there’s a long road ahead of me and frankly, I want to build like a $100 million business or like a $1 billion business. I have a lot left to do. There’s work to be done and I think I have a lot left to learn and I’m working hard every day to achieve my goals.
Andrew: It’s also not a company yet that can stand up on its own continuously without you, like Mixergy couldn’t. That kind of scares me. For you, it feels like your word of the daily deals site is changing so fast and almost disappearing that you’re in a dangerous spot. Does that feel right?
Rob: Not necessarily. I haven’t really touched Deals Extra for the last year or so and it’s going pretty well, mostly because the system itself is quite automated. It sends out an email every day. I have leads coming to me from SEO. There isn’t really much that I need to do. I just need to check on it every two weeks or so. I think in terms of revenues, the industry is consolidating, but there isn’t really too much of a risk that the deal site is cutting off my affiliate contracts. I’m on pretty good terms with them. I guess it’s more I feel I have more to do.
Andrew: Okay. Fair enough. All right. Well, thank you so much for being on here and for, frankly, being a part of Mixergy and being a Mixergy fan for so long. Let me ask you two things. You were saying you got fired from what you posted on Facebook or you didn’t get the next opportunity because of it. I was thinking what I want to do if somebody just ragged on me on Facebook.
I was thinking what would I want to do if somebody ragged on me on Facebook, just tore into me, not that you did that, but if someone tore into me, what would I want? I wouldn’t want to like take them down. I’d want to understand what was the problem. I feel like if they were that angry, there’d be some deeper understanding that I could get from it.
So, let me ask you two things. One is what do you like about Mixergy as a fan and number two, what would you want to fix? This is the kind of question I would ask if somebody ripped into me online. Let’s start with the first one–what do you like about Mixergy?
Rob: Two things–one kind of hearing about things, inspiring stories and people being able to make it big and listening to how they did it and seeing that it’s possible and how these people are not cut from a different cloth and you can do it too–that’s very motivating. And also just the content that is provided, I think there are a lot of really useful gold nuggets of knowledge that come through. I think those are the two benefits.
Andrew: Okay. What would you change to make it more useful for fans, for listeners, for members?
Rob: Yeah. Maybe this is just a problem that I experience. I’ve got a lot of your podcasts and I play them at three times speed and I listen to them all the time. But I feel that perhaps there is a better way to structure the contents. The useful nuggets come through in the clearest manner.
I feel that–I guess this is really, really hard to do, so I don’t know what the solution to this problem is, but in like a one-hour interview, a lot of the talk might just be context and talk about other things and there might be like five or six key points of knowledge that are the most useful points. I think it would just be really helpful if there was a summary of that, like, “What are the key learnings here that go along with every interview?” I think you already do that currently.
Andrew: This interview is a really good example of it. Within this interview is the story of your family, which most people won’t care about, honestly, unless they’ve heard the whole interview and then it gives them a little more context for who you are and how far you’ve come.
But what they would want is the way that you use Majestic, the SEO technique that allowed you to grow, the way that you collect an email address before pushing people to Groupon–that kind of thing is really helpful. You’d want that summarized so someone could at least see that’s in there, understand what it is and then if they want to, listen to the whole interview. Does that sound right?
Rob: Yeah. I think that would be really helpful.
Andrew: I’ve thought of that too. Frankly, I’ve gotten a lot of requests for it. I’m not sure how to pull it off in a way that makes sense financially. Somebody would have to go in and really tag up the information and summarize it for all thousand-plus interviews and I don’t even know how to do that in a world where most people don’t even care about web pages anymore. They go directly to iTunes, they go directly to whatever service we happen to be on.
But maybe someone listening to us is going to have a technique for doing it. I don’t know. What do you think? You’re a guy who used people in the Philippines pretty efficiently.
Rob: I think even with interviews that you’re doing going forward, if there was kind of like an executive summary or something at either the beginning or the end where it would just be a quick recap of like, “Oh, these are the main points that we’ve covered. I think that would be useful. If it was like perhaps maybe like a five minute trailer of everything that was useful in the most core points in the interview that are useful. I think that would really be helpful in helping people determine which interviews to watch in depth.
Andrew: I don’t yet know how to pull that off. I’d like to do that but I think it makes sense. You’re saying I could just do it myself. At the end of this interview, say, “Here are five techniques that we’ve learned.”
Rob: Or even with whoever you’re interviewing, as a prelude or summary or, “This is like what we learned,” so then people could go look at the short version and see, “These are the skills that are taught in this interview. Are they applicable to me? Should I watch the interview in depth?”
Andrew: I see. You’d want that as a separate video to see if it made sense to watch the whole thing.
Rob: Or even at a set location in the main video, maybe at the start or at the end so I can quickly flick to that and watch that first before watching the whole interview.
Andrew: Okay. I see how that would make sense. I’m not sure yet how to pull it off and I don’t want to put more work on myself. I don’t want this to be even more about me working. It’s got to be about the team doing it. So, I don’t yet know how to hire someone, but I’d like to. I think that make sense. All right. Fair point. That’s a really good piece of feedback. Thank you. If anyone has any feedback or any suggestions on how I could do that, I’d love to hear from you guys. The idea is let’s make it easy for people to figure out what’s in the interviews before they commit to listening to the whole interview, right?
Andrew: Cool. Fair point. Rob, thanks so much for doing this interview. Thanks for being a part of Mixergy for so long. Your site is DealsExtra.com.au for anyone who wants to check it out. The two sponsors who we talked about here on Mixergy today are Toptal–remember, if you need a developer, go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. And the second company is Pipedrive. If you need contact management software that will help you close sales, you’ve got to go check out Pipedrive.com/Mixergy.
As you heard me say earlier, a lot of listeners, most listeners now are checking us out on iTunes or whatever podcast app they want. If you want to get every interview automatically delivered to you for free, remember this is a premium site where the interviews are free for a little bit, then they go into the members only site. If you want them for free as soon as I publish them, just subscribe with whatever podcast app you like. You’ll get them for free. You’ll get to keep them forever. It’s one of the best ways to experience Mixergy. I urge you to check it out.
Thanks, Rob. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.