Update: Scroll down to see the entire transcript of the AMA with Neil Patel!
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The AMA with Neil was held on July 12th, 2017. This transcript has been edited for punctuation, grammar, etc.
Neil, welcome to OG. Thank you for doing the AMA. Have you done anything tricky to market something recently?
I haven’t recently, but in the past I have.
Top tips for reengaging a list that has been hit hard over time?
If you want to reengage a list, make sure you use casual subject lines like, “I need your help…” – best way to get opens through the roof. Make sure you also over deliver before you try and sell anything.
If you were starting over today what area of business would you get into and why?
I would get into the hedgefund space.
In a world where it seems like everyone is trying harder and harder to promote their content, what would you suggest to a company that has the ability to create good content, but doesn’t have a clue on how to promote it, and eventually get it shared as much as possible?
neilpatel.com/million-blog-visitors/ – that video will teach you how to promote. It’s the exact strategy I use.
On a strategy level though? How would you build out a pipeline of content targeted at reengagement? Attractive subject lines are nice on a tactic level.
I would survey my audience to find out what their biggest issues are and then create content around that, as it is what they are most likely to open and read.
My question is a bit technical – what role, if any, do you see data science playing in the future of SEO and/or digital marketing as a whole?
I do [see a role]. We have a data scientist at our company. They analyze data like what keywords get the most clicks in title tags.
Re: getting into the hedge fund space, I don’t mean to be aggressive, but what does this mean? Were you born rich? How would you get into hedge funds in a start over scenario?
I wasn’t born rich, but I am great at hustling. I think I would have made way more money if I worked in the hedge fund space, climbed the ranks and then started my own once I got some experience.
What’s been the biggest contributor to rapid list growth? I’ve leveraged things like partnerships, but often the growth just isn’t fast enough. How have you rapidly grown your list?(Let’s assume you have a really solid content base and 10mm traffic/month)
Exit popup… check out the one I use at neilpatel.com/blog (converts really well).
Do you think these email popups are getting out of hand? I think it kills uximo.
Maybe, but it still works. As long as you provide really good info, people will be ok with it.
Just saw you on House Hunters the other day on HGTV!
Must have been my twin. 😉
When you use ghostwriters for your self-promotional content, what are your top three tips for making sure the content meets your needs?
If you are going to use ghost writers then you should give them a writing guideline in which you break down how you write posts, your tone of voice, the structure, etc. then from there test them out on a post… have them first outline it… once you approve then have them write the intro… keep giving them feedback till they get it right, then let them write the rest.
Neil, how do you approach micro-moments, from a strategic and/or tactical sense with your content marketing? Smaller articles, catchier headlines, value at the start of an article, mobile optimizations???
It comes down to the headline. That is the key with these smaller pieces of content… from there I optimize on one thing I want them to engage on, such as becoming a lead or calling a number, as it is difficult to provide multiple options on a phone.
Better question – who are your ghost writers?
Do you think the SEO market is growing or shrinking?
I think it is slowing down from the number of companies trying to do it, as many have given up, but from a budget standpoint it is growing. Overall, it is growing internationally, but in the US it has slowed down.
What’s the number #1 thing that you see agencies doing wrong?
Not surveying their clients each month asking them how they can improve and if they are happy. This would help reduce churn, which most SEO companies have issues with.
This is great. Hope you hydrate well during these things.
I need to. I have the flu right now. ☹
Do you use a dashboard to get a pulse of your company(s) on a daily basis? If so – what are the most important KPIs to you? If not — why not? How do you get a quick pulse of your company(s)?
I do use a dashboard to get a pulse on each of my companies. KPIs vary from daily visitors, sales numbers, churn, signups, etc. KPIs should vary depending on what is important to you.
What do you think of niche blogs/ websites nowadays? Are they still a good source of “passive” income?
Niche websites are still a great source of passive income. They still do really well… better than they have ever done before.
When it comes to analytics in content marketing, what data points are the most valuable?
I look at click through rates of a headline, email open rates, social shares, time on page and number of comments. Of course, I also look at visits.
For the dashboard, any specific software you use to create it?
Nope. We just create our own version using custom code.
We’re seeing a steady drop-off of email engagement. I want to survey our blog & newsletter subscription list and ask them what type of content they’d like to see. Should I send a short survey? Do a plain-text ask (I don’t have their 1st names)?
Send them to a Survey Monkey link, and make the survey short and to the point. But ask enough detailed questions where you get what you need.
Your content/everything you do is just fantastic – especially in six figure consulting by RamitSethi. In your opinion, what should a home page contain for a service? I’m an industrial designer (designing physical products), and my clients are international.
Your homepage should showcase your work and address the problem that your potential customer maybe experiencing.
What are three good channels to increase email subscribers for a B2B company?
LinkedIn, Facebook and Google (paid or SEO).
How do you split up your workday (and how many hours is it typically)? From a broad sense – in the trenches vs biz dev vs personal branding.
I work from 7am to 11pm. Spend most of my days in emails, phone calls, meetings, or blogging.
Which tools do you think are the absolutely necessary in today’s online-marketer job?
Google analytics, SEMrush, Ahrefs.
What’s the most important technological change we’re going to see in the next five years, and how is that going to change the way marketers do their marketing?
Social media is going to be connected to everything. For example, when you walk into a restaurant, it will show you what your friends ate there and liked, and they will make recommendations to you. Everything will be personalized.
How do you see the potential of Brazil in content marketing, and what needs to be improved, in your view?
That market is still new to content marketing. They need more intro/beginner content. It will be a big market in three plus years.
What are the top five books you’ve read?
I don’t read enough to answer this question. I mainly watch the news and read blogs.
SEMrush or Moz… which one do you choose?
They are both great. I use SEMrush more. I also use Moz.
How do you take a break from work (if you do)?
I don’t. ☹
What’s the best way to get into the niche content space? Most of the content seems spammy, and I’m wondering how high the bar is.
The bar is really high. You get in by writing amazing content that everyone wants to read. There is no other way.
For a solopreneur wanting to get exposure online for their service(website), what elements of online marketing should they keep in house in your opinion?
Ideally, all, if you are just starting out… focus on the channel you want to work on first, and then expand later.
Top 5 blogs then?
TechCrunch, Economist, BBC, Backlinko, Fortune.
What are some of the productivity methodologies you follow? For example, one we have is that you never mark an email as unread, once you’ve opened it, you take action on it.
I also do the same thing, and it is my main have. I also use RescueTime, which helps a lot.
Who are some of your influencers?
Matt Mullenwag, Mark Zuc, Elon, Gates, and Jack Welch.
What are your thoughts on investing in side projects as sources of leads?
I prefer to focus; I have found that side projects are just a distraction.
As a freelancer/solopreneur in the field of online marketing, do you suggest to specialize as much as possible or undertake a wider range of tasks to break into the industry?
Yes, you should specialize as much as possible. That is your best bet. jake-arcalea
What are some of the productivity methodologies you follow? For example, one we have is that you never mark an email as unread, once you’ve opened it you take action on it
What would you suggest to someone, who comes from an engineering background, just starting to learn about all the growth/marketing concepts, feels passionate about this new domain, wants to find a team to work with, learn from them and gain some hands-on experience?
Go to networking events. That is the best place to meet a team that you can potentially work with.
If you were starting out again as a freelancer/soloprenuer today, what online marketing channel would you focus on?
Content marketing. Works well in the long run.
Any idea on why Pokemon Go got so much viral? Any lesson to be learned from it?
People love games and they did something that is innovative/new. Plus, Pokemon has a big brand… lesson to learn, always innovate and invest a shit ton of money into branding.
What about sideproduct: when a company uses smaller apps/ tools/ sites to send traffic to their main app/ tool/ site? E.g.: Buffer’s Pablo, Unsplash for Crew.co…
You can try all of that… I see it as another marketing channel that you can just test.
Who might be three relatively new players in the B2B SaaS space that have crossed your radar and appear to be doing it right, and why?
The older school players tend to be kicking butt more. The big thing that these new SaaS companies aren’t focusing on is sales and branding. That’s why the old school guys are able to do billions in revenue (forget valuation), while the newer school ones cap out.
Do you know of any good resources on how to interpret that data that comes through Crazy Egg to improve conversion?
We have videos that teach you how to interpret the data… some of the features we have launched to certain users is mouse tracking (videos) and a/b testing. We are going to be rolling it out to everyone soon.
What are the best methods to test UX ?
I like starting off with getting user feedback and collecting data first to figure out where there are issues, then coming up with tests.
This is a tricky question, but do you think that the flood of new content is going to slow down for better, more qualified long-term content? Likewise you are publishing really frequently, do you imagine that in a near future you might be able to slow down (if so, why)?
I don’t see it slowing down. Eventually people will write more and have the quality increased, too. That is my goal, as well.
Conferences–there are so many, it’s hard to know which ones to go to these days. Do you go to any that you don’t speak at? Out of those you’ve been to (speaking and attending; which I assume is A LOT), which in your opinion offered the most value?
I don’t go to any that I don’t speak at. I prefer networking events with people in my industry over conferences, or just hitting people up online in my space and sharing secrets.
What software potential in the digital marketing space do you still see? (e.g. competitive analysis / CRO / SEO / content distribution)? Or put another way, say you had $10mil lying about and you were going to try and crank out a new product, where would you invest it?
I would try to create a software that truly automates marketing and makes the changes on your site for you. that is where the future is going.
Isn’t that what Hubspot is trying to do? 😉
They’re not quite to the point of making changes on your site for you though; it’s still pretty manual. No solution crafts your emails for you and send it out automatically. No solution says “you have X SEO errors,” and then just fixes it for you… Hubspot mainly focuses on email.
If you were an unknown, how would you learn about relevant networking events and how would you hustle your way in?
I would Google for them. Just keep going to them and people will want to talk to you. A lot of people at these events feel that way.
What SEO strategy do you think works best in your experience, fat-head or long-tail strategy?
Long-tail by far. I push out unique content for each channel. I’ve found this performs the best.
What passions do you have outside of work – that you’re able to pursue in those remaining 7 hours of your day that you’re not working or sleeping? 😉
Basketball, hanging out with friends, tennis, formula 1, football… jake-arcalea
What passions do you have outside of work – that you’re able to pursue in those remaining 7 hours of your day that you’re not working or sleeping 😉
Posted in #ama
We work similar hours, so I am curious…do you struggle with burnout, and if occasionally so, how do you rebound?
I don’t. I love working… everyone in my family works long hours, so I have always been used to it.
How do you have the time to write it all? Is that why you work 16-hour days?!
Yes, but I also have people helping me add the content into WordPress, editing it, making sure we cite the right sources, coming up with ideas, etc.
What really grinds your gears?
Trying new things. For example, I am big on international expansion right now, because no one else gets it or understands why it is so valuable. I am investing more into that than anyone else in my space. Just look at neilpatel.com (bottom right corner there is a flag). I spend 50 to 100k a month on international expansion.
You suggested the future of marketing apps is kinda full automation. What limitations do we have before such apps appear on the market?
Can a computer understand how to fix things? For example, if your title tags are off, knowing what keywords to put in there to increase CTR is great, but if it doesn’t read well or isn’t attractive, then people won’t click. It’s hard to teach a computer creativity.
What drives you that you are able to work such long days without ever burning out (or do you)?
I am not sure… I just love working and I don’t know what else to do…
What do you use for project management? Have you any experience with Scrum?
I haven’t used it. I know my team uses Trello, Basecamp, Slack and a few other tools. I myself just use email…
jake-arcalea What do(es) you(r) biz use for project management? Have you any experience with scrum?
You seem to spend a good bit of time building your personal brand. Any tips for someone trying to do the same successfully?
Start off with blogging – evergreen content is where you should start. Then after a year or two, expand into speaking. and of course, as you build your blo,g build your social following.
The smile thing, is that something you borrowed from Guy Kawasaki’s advice (he always suggeststo smile)?
Nope, I just naturally do it. But Guy knows his stuff…
What methods/tests would determine how to effectively weed/vet out potential prospects/clients that do not fit a freelancer (i.e. price, etc.),without putting viewers/prospects off from contacting me or filling out a form, specifically on a landing page?
Revenue, budget, company size, when they are looking to get started, what services do they need… The reason you ask for revenue is that it helps you determine if they really have money (a lot of people lie about their budget, but less lie about their revenue). jatinder
@neilpatel: What methods/tests would determine how to effectively weed/vet out potential prospects/clients that do not fit a freelancer i.e. price, etc.. without putting every viewer/prospect off of contact me or filling out a form, specifically on a landing page?
There was a lot of criticism about one of your ads https://inbound.org/discuss/should-neil-patel-take-down-this-ad-is-it-sexist-downright-offensive. Did you ever respond to this? Or is your tendency to not respond to such criticism? Curious on your take on responding to such things.
I didn’t respond to it. I always ignore responding to criticism unless it is on one of my sites. If people use data and fact or even voice their opinion (even if it isn’t on my site), I take it into consideration, but I usually try to never respond. It just fuels the fire… inbound has tons of threads on me personally.
I got a lot of shit for girls holding up signs saying, “Who is Neil Patel?” What people didn’t point out is that men held up signs, too, as well as teachers, food people etc… Sometimes you have to just figure out what is best for you and go from there. I am not saying the people are wrong, you just have to look at the data.
You did a post a while back about how buying expensive clothes increases your net income… (which is pretty rad that you tested it!) Just curious, do you still feel investing in designer clothes works? Have you continued to test? https://www.quicksprout.com/2014/12/10/how-spending-162301-42-on-clothes-made-me-692500/
I hate that it works, but it still does,really well. I got tons of emails from people telling me how spending 500 bucks made them more money…. it’s crazy.
Home vs. office? Remote vs. local?
Remote. Ihave offices even in the home. I like working from my couch. Right now I am working from my kitchen counter.
Do you see marketplace (Amazon, eBay, etc.) marketing taking a bigger piece of the action?
Yes, I do… marketplaces are a big part of the future… just look at Uber.
Thanks, everyone for coming – appreciate it.