Is it possible to take a brand new website to millions of visitors a month through organic traffic along - all within a year? The answer is "yes" if you are Ameer Rosic.
Ameer is the Founder of Blockgeeks, an online learning platform and community for people interested in blockchain coding.
Building on his years of experience as an entrepreneur and marketing strategist, Ameer took Blockgeeks from zero to over 3 million organic visitors in a year - all by creating high quality, educational content aimed at a niche audience.
Listen to the episode here, or read the transcript (below), to learn more about how Ameer grew Blockgeeks' online audience.
Here’s what Anthony and I discussed on this week’s show:
Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome to the Inbound Success Podcast, this is your host, Kathleen Booth, and this week my guest is Ameer Rosic. Ameer is a serial entrepreneur, an investor, a blockchain evangelist, and founder of Blockgeeks as well as the founder of Rosic Media where he advises clients on marketing strategy. Welcome Ameer.
Ameer Rosic (guest): Thank you. Thanks for having me on.
Kathleen: Yeah, I'm excited to have you on. It's amazing how many different things you're involved with, and I can't wait to kind of talk about and touch on some of them. Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background and what you're working on these days.
Ameer: Yeah, my background...I always like to say my ADD has ADD. And I always get bored really easily, but for the last, let's say seven plus years I've been in the online space. I started off my journey in affiliate marketing like most people. Clickbank back in the day, then a bunch of summits. Spent about three to four in the health space, so I spent a lot of time in that space, and moved to eCommerce from that had an underwear company in Hong Kong. And then focus on a bunch of different SaaS and membership products and businesses online, and then in the last two years ... well, I was three years in the blockchain space knowing of it, but the last two years refocusing my intention, and in the last year and a half I launched Blockgeeks.
Kathleen:And quick word about what Block Geeks is for people who might not be really familiar with-
Ameer:We are the premier educational platform for training developers around the world.
Kathleen:Alright. And Rosic Media, what do you do there?
Ameer:So, that is on the side. I'm not too involved with that, but whenever people need help with it I consult on marketing, growth hacking, strategy, content marketing, SEO, whatever it may be. CRR, CRO. I do that on the side for medium sized companies.
Kathleen:So not only are you somebody who's actively applying inbound marketing strategies to a business like Blockgeeks, but you're also somebody who advises other companies on their own marketing.
Ameer:Yeah, companies that I like.
Kathleen:It's great when you get to that point in your career where you can pick and choose isn't it?
Kathleen:You and I talked a little bit before this interview about how we want to pick apart some of the strategies that you've been using with inbound marketing that have been really successful. I just wanted to turn it over to you. Let's start there. Tell me a little bit about what you've done that you feel has gotten really great results.
Ameer:So for Blockgeeks, first of all, it had two iterations or organic evolutions. Number one, the reason I created it was, I was going down a rabbit hole of how do I educate myself in blockchain, all aspects. What it is, the coding of it, how does it work from a security aspect. How does it work from a technology aspect, how does it work as money, etc. etc. and I keep on getting the same answers, go to Reddit, go here, I'm like, "I don't want to waste my time there."
And I couldn't believe it, because at that point Bitcoin's been around for like six, seven years. No one has really created something like Blockgeeks. I'm like, "Okay. My background's this, I'm going to start creating it for myself." So we start doing content marketing and then halfway through that we realized that we have a need for developers. Like a huge need, because there's only maybe four or five hundred legitimate developers in the blockchain space. I'm like, okay we're going to pivot there and hire physical trainers and create online content like Udacity.
So for me, our biggest focus has always been teaching people, because the learning curve is massive. So for our industry, it's like, "What is Blockchain, what is Crypto, what is Bitcoin, what is Ethereum." So the process of educating people is a long process. So we double downed from the beginning, like we are going to create amazing guides, put in a lot of resources, time and money and energy to create these guides and promote these guides and that's been our strategy from day one.
Obviously there's high level strategy with SEO and marketing, etc, but the main focus is how do you deliver the best pieces of educational material possible to help people.
Kathleen:I love it. That's absolutely what's at the heart of inbound marketing as a methodology. I always think of it as "stop selling and start teaching and building trust," and if you do that well you won't have to work so hard at selling, because your products and services will kind of sell themselves.
I think that's how some of the best businesses do come about. Who is the audience for Blockgeeks, because I'm very much like a novice person interested in the Blockchain. I have been for several years, but I'm really not technically inclined and I have found it incredibly challenging to understand it, because a ton of the content out there is very technical in nature. And so I'm curious, is the audience the non technical crowd? Is it the very technical crowd or is it a mix of both?
Ameer:I would lean towards technical? But not technical like you need to learn ... like, our courses are for coders period. If you want to learn coding, whether that's Solidity, C++, Crypto Economics, you're a coder, you're a developer. But our free guides, our content marketing, that is a mixture of maybe like 70% for developers and 30% technology enthusiasts who aren't developers, but they kind of get it. That's our main audience, per se.
Kathleen:That's interesting. So when you say that your audience is developers, are you trying to train skilled developers who maybe are not in the Blockchain space but are-
Kathleen:And so you're creating a lot of this content aimed at that technical audience. Tell me a little bit about some of the content that you've created that's been successful at attracting the right kind of audience for you.
Ameer: To be honest, it's the "What is" type of guides. What is Ethereum? Breaking that apart. What is Bitcoin? Breaking that apart. What is Cryptocurrency, what is a Smart contract, what is Blockchain? What is...fill I the blank. Those have been our most successful guides and we take our time and we don't publish frequently. People think we publish everyday. We're not a content mill. We don't have journalists, we don't have writers. We have two people in payroll who spend a lot of time creating these content pieces for us, these guides, and we maybe publish every 10 to 12 days. Two guides per month we publish.
Kathleen:When I was doing some research for this interview, I noticed that you're published with a fair degree of frequency on other platforms like Huffington Post for example.
Kathleen:Are you syndicating content that you've produced for Blockgeeks or are you creating original content?
Ameer:Original. Nothing syndicated. I don't believe in syndication. I can scratch that. There's a rare occasion where syndication makes sense. Where there's a joint brand partnership, that makes sense. But you syndicating your content somewhere else, I'm not in favor of that whatsoever.
Kathleen:Is that mostly because you're concerned with duplicate content penalties from search engines or is it more about protecting the brand on your platform?
Ameer:Protecting the brand and also you want to attract people to your platform that you have. Why should you give up your content that you worked so hard at Huffington Post? They benefit off it. You don't benefit from it whatsoever. You think you get search traffic from it? You get nothing. There's a no follow link so it's worthless. Most of these news agencies are no follow links anyways.
Kathleen:Right. Now you're also publishing on Medium I saw. What is the strategy behind all the different platforms where you're creating content? Are you using them merely to drive traffic back to your main site?
Ameer:Yeah, it's not really traffic, you don't get too much traffic off of that. It's not even really good for link juice to tell you the truth. What it's really good for is brand building. So the whole idea is, let's say we publish a guide. Some people won't read that big guide, it's like 4000, 5000 words and you've got to spend 20, 30 minutes, maybe read it twice to get it.
So we like to make short synapses of that and then put that content on Medium. I like medium, I like the flow of it, the feel of it, I like everything about it and our audience spends time on Medium, so you've got to go where your audience is. Our audience is on Twitter, it's on Medium. Some of them read Huffington post as well. But we don't syndicate, we summarize what we wrote on those guides.
Kathleen:Going back to the guides for a minute. Are the guides gates or are they-
Ameer:No. They're open. We sought email capture, I'm actually quite aggressive when it comes to email capture.
Kathleen:So, I want to talk about that for a second because I've talked to a lot of companies in my capacity at a marketing agency and I have worked with a lot of companies in the cyber security space and spoken to a number in the Blockchain space, and one of the commonalities between all of them in the different verticals is the audience is very hesitant to give out their email address.
Kathleen: How do you deal with that? What have you done to enable the successful collection of emails from an audience that naturally doesn't want to share them, they're very privacy focused.
Ameer:We haven't done anything special. Most people give out a lead magnet. We don't give out any lead magnets. We're just like, "If you want to stay in the loop. If you want to have access to our community. If you want to get the latest guides, if you want to get a job in the space, if you want to learn from us?" Come on in.
Kathleen: Do you attribute the fact that people are willing to give you their email address to the quality of your content?
Ameer:Don't get me wrong, let's say 15% might be bounced emails, bad IPs, fake emails. We do-
Ameer:Yeah, we do IP scrubbing every 60 days anyway so-
Kathleen:That's interesting. It's an ongoing challenge in those spaces. The desire for privacy is such an inherent part of that audience, but obviously to continue to market to them you've got to find a way to stay in touch.
Ameer:Well there's many channels right? You can do pixeling of them, you can get chat bots going on, and that's why it's good to build up your brand equity. What's the saying? "Know, like and trust." Most people are just too aggressive without adding any value at the beginning, like for us we have exit technology on our pop ups. No pop ups on mobile. Actually we don't do email capture on mobile whatsoever. It's just desktop.
Mobile, I'm not really sure what the future of mobile is, especially with Google AMP. Once AMP goes and you can't really control anything on AMP anyways. So that's going to be one big issue and I've done my own internal studies and AMP actually doesn't increase our rankings whatsoever.
Kathleen:It's funny, I just read an article recently about ... it was a magazine ... and I can't remember which one it was off the top of my head, but they were having too many technical challenges implementing AMP on their pages, and so they decided to take it away entirely and that just saw their traffic increase.
Ameer:Yeah. We don't have it whatsoever-
Kathleen:The jury's still out on that. But, taking a step back. You're creating this great content. What percentage of your inbound traffic and leads is coming in organically versus through other channels? Are you doing any paid promotion of that content?
Ameer:Only paid promotion we do is to re-target everybody from our pixel on Facebook.
Ameer:76% of our traffic is internet search off of Google. 3.5 million visitors a month within a year and two months.
Kathleen:Wow. That just really speaks to, you found a niche that nobody else is in and-
Ameer:Well what I did, what I did ... yes, but there's a couple of things, you can do this in any niche and you and I were talking about this. Content marketing isn't for everybody, it depends on what you're selling as well, for us it's a massive learning curve.
So what I do is, since I'm in the industry, there's key phrases that people kept saying, like smart contracts, ethereum, etc. and Google Trends wasn't really picking it up yet, but I knew for a fact that these are the major key phrases that's going to be huge within a year or so. So I started doubling down on commonly used phrases inside the industry. I just did a little bit ... one of my favorite tools is Ahrefs, so I searched around Ahrefs, see what other people are doing, see what my competition pages are like, etc. nothing complicated. People think content marketing is like this, "oooh" not really.
And then basically doubling down on knowing for a fact that this is going to be high search volume in the future for these search phrases, and just writing the best piece of content possible.
Kathleen:That's interesting. So most of the marketers that I talk to say, "well we go immediately for high seach volume, low competition," but it sounds like you went for-
Ameer:I went the opposite.
Kathleen:Low volume, low competition knowing that it will come.
Ameer:I knew for a fact it will come, yeah.
Kathleen:Yeah that's great, so it's a bit of a blue ocean from a-
Kathleen:Right? So, they come to your site, they read your content, they may or may not opt in to-
Kathleen:... Stay up to date through, is it an email subscription or blog notification subscription? What happens then? Are you nurturing these leads?
Ameer:No. There's not really nurturing. I used to do a lot of funnel optimization. It does work depending on what you're selling.if you're doing paid traffic and you have a capped LTV ratio and you're building a lot of money then yes, depending on your customer acquisition costs, depending on your margins, supplier costs for your product then yes, split test everything, do the funnel. Figure out who your clients are, the psychology of them.
But for us, ours is more developers, it's soft selling, were trying to get them in on a yearly plan, more like long term commitment. So we email people maybe every two, three days with ... because we do have a small forum on our site, so what's happening with our forum, if there's new questions, answers etc. So about every two to four days you get an email from us.
So for us there's no funnel. I don't think we will have a funnel for a while. It's not needed. I think it complicates things for us to tell you the truth. It's like, if you're in, if you're a developer, if you're interested there's a link on our website and there's a small soft link on every email that would go out, start your free trial.
Kathleen:So what does that look like, if somebody's opting in and deciding to participate-
Ameer:It opts in, it says "Thank you so much for opting in, I'm the Founder Ameer. This is a personal email from me. If you haven't read all our guides, read our guides, click here" then it goes to the guides. Also, "if you're interested in learning Blockchain coding and becoming a developer, start your free trial here." That's it.
Kathleen:And the free trial gives them access to the training.
Ameer:All the courses for 7 days.
Kathleen:Okay. And then beyond that it's an annual subscription?
Ameer:You can choose, it's $49 per month or $400 a year for now.
Kathleen:Okay great, so you've set a pretty low barrier for entry.
Ameer:You have to.
Kathleen:Yeah, okay. Great, now going off of your site. We've got the content on the site, it's getting a lot of traction, you're in a pretty wide open space. What are you doing off the site, we touched on Huffington Post and Medium, but I want to-
Ameer:We're doubling down on YouTube, so I love YouTube.
Ameer:So in January, we're going to have a couple of teachers, a videographer - we actually have a movie studio being built as we speak in our office over here - and basically really going hard on video marketing. So syndicating our videos from YouTube to Facebook, Instagram, etc. also Twitter. And then we started last week doing live coding webinars, which we used Wirecast and then we syndicate to YouTube and Facebook as well.
Kathleen:So with YouTube, how many subscribers do you have right now? Offhand.
Ameer:Well we just started, literally-
Kathleen:Okay, so it's still going to be small.
Ameer:It's 3,000 I think we have right now?
Kathleen:That's pretty good for having just started. And did you use any particular strategies in order to acquire those 3,000 or did that also happen fairly organically for you?
Ameer:But I know YouTube SEO pretty well too. It's ... I'm so shocked that companies don't do this. It is the wild, wild, west of optimizing SEO on YouTube, still.
Kathleen:So I was going to say, geek me out for a second because at my agency we have a goal for YouTube followers.
Kathleen:And subscribers, and I would love to hear.
Ameer:Alright, so before getting into any geeky stuff, one thing you've got to understand is YouTube is about experimenting and really figuring out what your audience wants. That's the first thing. So experiment constantly with different formats of videos, with different delivery of videos, with different cuts of video, etc. - that's really important. Don't just assume because it worked on that channel it's going to work for your channel and your audience, that's really important.
Next thing is consistency. You know you're doing this great. You're going to come out with one video every Tuesday, great. You better stick to it. If you don't, you'll fail. And YouTube's becoming a content mill, so the more the merrier to tell you the truth. Live is always big, it's going to grow bigger and bigger and bigger and YouTube just rolled out something called YouTube Communityand I think they're going to somehow massage and transform in some type of like social network. I don't know. That's the game plan. We'll see if that works. Google Plus was a horrible failed experiment.
Then, once you have that down, then the SEO is quite simple, to tell you the truth. You can go to Google, you can look for your long tail keywords, you can see the search volume people are searching for. Usually what we like to do is if a pre-existing video shows up on page one or page two, and this is for like a pre-established industry. For us it's not really pre-established, so for us we just do whatever, but lets say we're talking about marketing videos right?
Kathleen:Super competitive industry.
Ameer:Super competitive right, but basically go and Google and you look for keywords like how to do content marketing or how to do conversion rate optimization, etc. and if you see a YouTube video ranking on page one, page two or even page three, you realize how Google's actually acknowledging those keywords on YouTube and ranking on Google. I go after that video.
So basically you can use VidIQ to do a diagnostic of that video, you can see the keywords for that video, you can see the title they're using, you can see the quality of video. And your job is basically to make a better video. Your job is to fill out the description better. So you're allowed 5,000 characters, you better fill out every single character possible, the tags as well, and then start promoting it. So it's not really complicated to tell you the truth.
Kathleen:I mean it's basically the same thing as the skyscraper method for written content, where you find the best piece of content on the internet for something and then you one up it.
Ameer:Yeah, but you technically do a little bit better too. The title's better, the hook is a better, the marketing is better, the tags are better, the description's better. Then obviously the video has to be better.
Kathleen:Right. The tool that you mentioned is VidIQ?
Ameer:VidIQ to scrape the video tags and also to scrape what has been shared, yeah.
Kathleen:Okay. Because I've used TubeBuddy in the past, but I've not used VidIQ.
Ameer:TubeBuddy yeah, yeah.
Kathleen:That's really interesting, so you've got a couple thousand subscribers on YouTube, what formats are you finding are working best for you on video? Short video, long video?
Ameer:It depends on your audience. For us it's going to be longer, because we're teaching coding, so it's not fancy. It's a combination of them seeing your face and then doing screen cast of us doing a coding session.
Kathleen:It reminds me of ... I have an 11 year old who constantly watches people on YouTube playing video games. I feel like it's a concept of your little bubble in the corner and there you go.
Ameer:It's quite similar. At the end of the day you've got to experiment, you've got to see what people like. Our industry's a little bit different, we're purely educational and the only way to teach coding is to show coding, so I can't just sit here and talk about it I have to physically show you what's done. But my goal is truthfully, y summertime I can realistically see us having 70,000 to 80,000 subscribers.
Kathleen:Now you mentioned earlier, you're creating video for YouTube and you're going hard on that, but you also then had a comment on video on Facebook and I want to dive into that a little bit because what I've been seeing is that Facebook is rewarding video that's being uploaded natively, and not so much video that's shared from YouTube, so how are you handling that. Are you sharing your YouTube videos on Facebook or are you uploading video directly?
Ameer:Same video. I just upload it to YouTube and even if we do live streams, we'll do Wirecast and we'll do YouTube and Facebook exact same time.
Ameer:And then we'll do a boost post or target an audience that we have or maybe we'll just do re-targeting for an uploaded email list that we do. That's it.
Kathleen:You're uploading that to a business page on Facebook?
Ameer:Yeah, Blockgeeks' business page. Sometimes we'll do look alike audiences, if that makes sense for us, but for the most part we just want our pre-existing audience to see it.
Kathleen:The YouTube thing is so interesting to me because in certain industries it's easier to grow a following fast and in marketing it's getting really challenging, so we might have a side conversation about that at some point. So any other tips as far as what's worked well for you with inbound? Or what hasn't worked well, like have you conducted any experiments that failed?
Ameer:Yeah, we're relying on Freelancers, so content creation has failed. It took us a long time to find good writers with a tone that we liked and who really understand the space and then we locked them down.
Kathleen:So do you hire developers to write for you?
Ameer:I want to say developer by day, but technically gifted - that understands it. But writer first, so it's a rare mix. Technical writer.
Kathleen:That is a unicorn.
Ameer:Yeah, technical writer. Then we lock them down. We've tried everything, so we've found just finding those and training them a bit, and then putting them on our payroll is most important to us. What has failed? That's the biggest failure. One advice that I have to anybody, Reddit's your friend if you like it. I personally don't spend time on Reddit, I just don't have time. But nurturing the community, being a part of or giving value, like if you have a brand ambassador that's part of your team. Or something like a human happiness division as I like to call it. Spend some time on Reddit. Add value to your Sub-Reddit. They can make or break a website to tell the truth. Same thing with Hacker News. Hacker News is great.
Let's say you're in the marketing industry. What are some forums? Like the two biggest forums you have, growthhackers.com, you have inbound.org. Figure out ways you can position yourself in there. Figure out ways you can add value in there. That's my advice for anybody for that. Add value first, don't look for instant gratification.
The SEO and the traffic didn't kick in until nine ninths later when I launched, it wasn't from day one.
Ameer:Nine to 10 months, this is recently.
Kathleen:You're obviously getting fantastic traction. So it's been interesting hearing about all the different strategies you're using. I'm curious, when you think about educating yourself about marketing, staying on top of changing technology and the way search engines are ranking things, where do you go for information? How do you educate yourself?
Ameer:I just talk to people. I don't have time to look through all these different articles online and for the most part, I've been in SEO for a while, it hasn't really changed to be honest. The traditional stuff, search volume, competitive keywords, out marketing your other pages from your competition, getting more back links, bounce rate, yadda, yadda, yadda. That's been in place forever, so there's been nothing crazy in the last few years, like "Oh my God, new algorithms and everything has changed blah, blah, blah."
For me, I've got a lot of friends who run massive marketing agencies, so they run a ton of tests every single day and they have massive budgets to run these tests, so they see first hand exactly what works and what doesn't work and I just talk to them. "Hey, what's working?"
And obviously marketing strategy is different in every industry like if I had an eCommerce industry I wouldn't be spending this much time and money on the content that I am right now.
Ameer:Because if my product's maybe 20 bucks, I'm going to do paid traffic. For every dollar in maybe I break even and so then I'm tracking my paid acquisition. I'm tracking my customer acquisition costs. I'm tracking my CAC-LTV ratio. And then yeah I'm going to do more content marketing but I'm going to put very minimal resources and money into that, because I can track every dollar in paid traffic and see how much I make in the back end.
Kathleen:Yeah. I want to go back to that because we've talked about that before in our pre-conversation to the interview.
Kathleen:You have some pretty strong opinions, rightly so, about content or inbound marketing and when you should and shouldn't use it. Can you go into that a little for me?
Ameer:Yeah, like I said it really depends on your industry. It depends on your margins of profit that you make off of a product. No matter what, you should be doing content marketing period. The question is how much energy, resources and opportunity costs will you be losing or gaining by doing content marketing?
In our industry ,it's learning period. It's a massive double down on content marketing. If you use a product like, here, "I'm going to sell this cell phone case." I'm not going to be spending $800 on a guide or $2000 on a guide. I'm going to do paid traffic. Maybe I'll hit some influencers out. Maybe I'll write a couple of pieces in Huffington Post, that's it. But to double down and spend on payroll paying someone $80,000 a year to write non stop? It's not worth it for me.
Kathleen:Yeah there's no ROI in that.
Ameer:There's no ROI in it for me whatsoever.
Kathleen:Fair to say that it's dependent upon the price point of the product as well as the amount of education involved in the purchasing process?
Ameer:Yeah, so it's price point x industry x the profit that you make. Also sale cycle too. Our sales cycle is long.
Ameer:So content marketing, if you have a long sale cycle, if you have a very long sales cycle, a high LTV, content marketing is your friend.
Kathleen:Yeah. Who do you think is doing content marketing really well? Companies or individuals?
Kathleen:Tesla? Really? Which aspects of what Tesla's doing are you-
Ameer:Content marketing is very easy, well, the mythological template is easy, but actual execution is hard. What I mean by that is when you look at content marketing, it's storytelling. That's all it is. I'm a firm believer in ... Religion has a very good framework that you can get a lot of good inspiration from. If you look at successful companies, they have a lot of things in common.
Let's look at for example, Apple and Tesla. You have a Messiah, Steve Jobs was a Messiah. Elon Musk is the Messiah. So people look up to these individuals as God-like figures. Number two. Around these Messiah's you have individuals as part of the council, right, the group, the disciples, very close individuals to them, like the PayPal mafia with Elon Musk. Then you have your own verbiage and language within Tesla that they use.
Then you have this whole ideology of where we're going in the future and how it's going to look and how it's going to feel and you create this cult-like environment. So for me when I look at marketing and I look at these companies of people who pull it off the best, they do it organically. This isn't planned, like "Oh guys we're going to do this like this." They're structured literally like a religion.
Kathleen:So the advice for anybody that wants to really blow it out is position yourself as the next Messiah?
Ameer:Well no, well yeah. Yes and no. What I tell people every company has an AC. An AC is an "attractive character." Who is that face? People are attracted to human beings, they're not attracted to your company. I'll tell you what, if Elon Musk left Tesla, Tesla would not be what it is today. Period. Same thing with Apple, same thing with any of these companies that people admire. It's a human being they admire, it's not the company itself. The company itself is dead, it's innate.
So every company regardless of who you are, if you don't have an attractive character that is going to conferences and speaking at conferences, running workshops, speaking to the media, speaking to PR, telling the story, nurturing people. What's the saying, "Spreading the gospel?" You're missing out, you need that.
Kathleen:Well you are doing a really good job of drinking your own cool aid because when I google you, you are all over the place and so you've got a really strong personal brand and I always think its nice to see marketers who are walking the walk and not just a lot of talk. So kudos to you for that and I definitely encourage anybody listening to Google Ameer. I'll put links to some of the different sites in the show notes, but you've been involved in a lot of different things, you've been involved with some really amazing companies and I think there's some great lessons to be learned here so I really appreciate you sharing-
Ameer:Hey my pleasure, anytime.
Kathleen:Great, well if someone has questions and they want to find you online, what is the best place to do that?
Ameer:Email. So Ameer, two E's A-M-E-E-R @blockgeeks.com,
Kathleen:Alright great. Well thank you very much. That's it for this week and if you know somebody else who's doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @workmommywork I'd love to interview them and we'll see you next week.
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