Become an affiliate marketer.
Larry Ludwig is the Founder and CEO of Ludwig Media.
Larry has had a long, successful business and entrepreneurial career. He is always at the forefront of technology, digital marketing, and online business. Larry's passion is helping other business owners leverage technology and digital marketing.
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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. Stick around to the end of the show; we'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
All right with us right now. We've got Larry Ludwig, and Larry, you are the founder and editor in chief of investor junkie, up until your exit a couple of years ago. Congratulations on that. We'll be talking about that. And you are the CEO and founder of Ludwig media. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you, Josh. So Larry, you're what we're going to talk about today is how someone might build up a great platform, you know, in a website using some social, you know, working with brands and then you know specifically I think with your background you know how you were able to do that so successfully with investor junkie and then eventually building it to the point where an exit made sense for ya. So I'm really excited to have this conversation. Can you start I guess by talking about how Investor Junkie came to be and this was back in 2009?
Yeah. Um, well, out of my frustration I had a current web hosting web development business and developing websites for others was just really frustrating in the sense of the the the issues were there was just not being appreciated for the talent work we were putting into these sites. And from that, I said, Well, okay, I saw this extra for this other site called Banco Holic calm was the spice that sold in 2008 for 12 million, also based on affiliate marketing I'm like, Okay, if I'm working for these other sites and making them successful, why can't I do the same for my own site and build it out through affiliate marketing. And that's kind of where the two in two came together. And I created investor junkie, because I also had that interest in investing as well. And had my ducks in a row was not interested in about getting out of debt, or, well, there's more issues that most people deal with in personal finance. I wanted a blog to speak to me on invest inside and I didn't really find one did. And that's where Investor Junkie came about in December 2009.
And tell me more about the content on Investor Junkie.
Well, initially, I started off as more just talking about my own personal experience with investing and also what's going on with the markets and initially for the first year and a half, like it didn't really work so well and really got my voice and really a year and a half, two years later, where I decided to switch it more towards reviews comparisons, really allowing more people to prepared the products out there as far as robo advisors, stockbrokers, banking services, and really going from there and grew it to a site that eventually sold in 2018.
Well, so maybe you knew this, maybe you didn't. But you know, when you're doing reviews and comparisons, this certainly presents some opportunities for monetization. Yes.
Yeah. I mean, yeah, that was also too. I mean, it was not the sole factor. But I looked at, in fact, I had an ex business partner, tell me specifically do not, you know, go into the investment spaces with a blog. If there's too many people out there already doing that it's a crowded space, don't bother doing it. And obviously proved him wrong in the end, but with the I mean, it's fascinating that Yeah, I kind of I knew that one. In terms of monetization, that was the way to go reviews comparisons, in terms of affiliate model, so I was gonna go that route, otherwise traditional, say ad banners would have worked, but I didn't want to go down. I mean, I had ad banners on the site, but it really wasn't that effective and really, at one point, just removed it completely. And really from a So that was the only other options. These are monetized through affiliate marketing or through ads and based on the bank a Holic website sold previously, I said, Well, why don't just do it fillip marketing, and therefore the idea of reviews came about.
And so how do you decide what to do reviews on? And knowing that? Yeah, I mean, obviously, we would like to build and grow revenue here.
Yeah. Um, well, I mean, I did affiliate once that had affiliate programs and ones that didn't, I mean, I purposely did reviews, no matter whether they had affiliate programs or not a good example, this was meant the personal finance application didn't have affiliate program. And it just made sense to really be comprehensive, and call, you know, quote unquote, loss leaders and those ones that didn't have affiliate programs. So I did that anyway. So it was really comprehensive, and fairly review the services first, monetization second. And in the end, you know, we would always compare like on a pro, like a service like fidelity that didn't have an affiliate program. We purposely have other You know, comparisons as well, just to say, hey, fidelity is this option here, we're giving you extra review. And then therefore these other comparison tools out there, say TD Ameritrade as well, and in some cases, people to convert, and it wasn't the purpose of it. But the whole point was to do comparisons as well, because people would love to see. All right, they're at fidelity, but they want to look at what other options are out there.
And so how do you decide then, you know, which, which products to pursue? are you receiving a lot of inbound opportunities from affiliate managers, you're like, hey, write a review on us. I see that you have some traffic.
Yeah, that happened. I mean, the plastic build it and they will come that was a common misperception that we had to really teach them about that just because if we got 300,000 unique visitors a month, didn't mean that we were going to instantly by putting a review on our site instantly convert that traffic. It was because it was a lot of our traffic was SEO based but also, it really dependent on the needs, you know, what we're going to cover and what we're not going to cover Like, for example, we're not we weren't going to cover our active traders. We were not really interested in that audience where other blogs would do really well with that. Yeah, that was really the key was Yeah, we always got these inquiries, these queries about, you know, various affiliate offers, but a lot of them we rejected just because it didn't fit our brand and overall website, I mean, a perfect example for slight like this is talking about credit card debt. It just I purposely narrowed it down to investing and only investing. And yet, you know, we would still get people interested, Hey, would you like to put a credit card on site and it just didn't fit? It didn't fit the brand.
Wow. And so you knew to say no to those things? Oh, yeah. But someone might argue, what does the web who cares like you've got unlimited space?
Well, yes, I'm but you're also competing. I mean, I look at you're always competing other brands and to me, you want to make sure your your, your brand is in alignment for what you're standing for. And in this case, since I purposely made the name investor junkie, I didn't want to have to veer into other areas that just didn't make sense if I was a general personal Finance, like sure, and many other sites out there were like that, you know, one of our competition was nerd wallet. And they primarily focused on credit card debt if you look at their branding and their ads, it's almost all about credit card debt where the investment part of their site is so small it's minuscule in terms of revenue and you know, overall space and I wanted to really cut you know, carve out a niche to be the expert in that space.
So then you're you continue to build Oh, but I was gonna ask you so how do you recall doing reviews that were patently pretty negative and you still you know Capita an affiliate link on there and Yeah, probably still made revenue from it.
Well, yeah, I mean, that's the thing that I mean, you'd have people that would comment, the affiliate managers, you know, that they didn't like the review that we gave in the end. I didn't care. Yeah, I The thing was funny, is it sometimes negative press works to your advantage? Yeah. The whole point is there's been research to show you know, even a negative review especially small, newly formed companies smaller form, doesn't have a huge brand or following a negative review can even help. And it did in some cases, people still did convert, even if we gave it a harbor review, people still signed up.
What did your team look like? I mean, you obviously started with just yourself, and then who do you start hiring? And how big of a team did you build?
It was pretty small. I mean, in the end, so I started with the first person I hired on the team was an editor. So I tapped to be editor in chief. And from there, I had her, you find other writers in terms of consultants to actually write for the site as well, besides just me, because of a good portion of the site was not only making sure we wrote new content, but constantly updating the old content, not only for SEO reasons, but, you know, the very services we're trying out new features and functionality almost on a monthly basis, especially categories like real estate or robo advisors. They were just constantly coming out with new functionality, and we had to stay on Head of that game, we wanted to be the goal was to try to be as current as the day they announced that new service, and then update or review to reflect that were, in my eyes, nothing looked worse than going to a site and looking at either inaccurate data in terms of like rate tables or whatnot, but also features and functionality is missing from the review, like you're looking for this review when you're searching for it. What does it include that new feature or functionality. And so a lot of the writers and a lot of the editing really focused on that aspect. And then after that, I decided to hire an affiliate manager just specifically on my side to help manage the relationship because in the end, I think we had at least over 100, I think we came down to 2018, like 120 130, different affiliate relationships, those a lot. And it's a lot to manage, because if they're constantly changing programs, they're you know, some would swapping in and out in terms of disable or enable their programs. It was a lot of work. So I made sure we really focused on that from making sure that we kept up to date on the services and what they were offering but also the affiliate relationships themselves.
Where did someone find an affiliate manager? Or
she worked for Rakuten. So it was really perfect. And her and her parents already and worked in the personal finance space. So it was a perfect match.
Wow. So then you're coming up into like, 2017. You're growing, your traffic's growing. Money's growing. And when do you start getting inquiries from people? They're like, hey, let's let's like to have a conversation with ya.
Um, I mean, it was early, actually, even before 2017 was probably around 2014 2015 Oh, wow. Yeah, every few months, you'll get an email saying, Hey, we like your site. We like what you have to offer we're interested in to require you and it just didn't really go anywhere, or I didn't think there were serious offers. And I was approached in 2006, late 2016. And then 2017, again by the same company that eventually acquired the site. Hmm. So, I mean, it depends on these seem to go in waves I have a bunch of other friends have also sold their personal finance sites. It seemed to go on every three to four or five years as far as waves of acquisitions.
Yeah. It seems like we're kind of in one right now at least I've heard of a few. It's so why personal finance as as a, you know, as a niche be for me or Yeah, I mean, what do you like over the, you know, if you were advising someone who's like, okay, I am definitely starting a blog. I'm interested in personal finance. But I was also thinking about race cars, and, you know, whatever, right. They started listing off all these other things. What is the inherent advantage of being the personal finance space?
Well, I mean, there's disadvantages to me, I can't speak on my case. You know, I really had an interest in investing. So it definitely helped to be able to speak about that topic. That's not to say you can't hire writers Also do it. But I think you have to have at some level interest or engagement in that said topic or niche where I already had so that definitely qualified. Like I'm actually looking to acquire new blogs, as well. And it's you have to have like, I looked at one recently and it was a, it was all great. It was pet related, and I found out was cats. And I'm like, not interested in cat sorry. So where if it was a dog, so it would be a different scenario. So I think you have to have at your active interest in it. That's a topic but outside of that. I mean, there are other niches that do very well and should be as esoteric as I have a friend who does pool, you know, pool supplies, and rating of various pool equipment for pool and hot tubs. And it's it really depends on I mean, I think first and foremost, you have to look at the niche. If if it's popular already, if someone's already talking about it on the web, I think that's a good sign. If you're looking at a niche that no one's talking about it. I think that's a warning sign that maybe you need to do more research and maybe there's no one out there for traffic. Because there's no interest in it. So I think that Donald has a unique idea. I think when we get that clear out of the way that I think unique ideas just don't exist anymore, you what you need to do is better execute on those ideas and find what niches or what areas are being, you know, not properly fulfilled. In my case, it was reviews and products and services out there, and really properly organized it. So therefore, people can find that information on the web. It really didn't, there wasn't at the time a site that really did it. They did it for other sites like credit cards, or for bank loans, if you will, and as far as the personal finance space, but not really in the investment space. And that's where I saw that, you know, investor junkie to focus on.
So you're approaching an exit. I mean, in your mind, are you thinking? Yeah, I'm gonna get a big payday. But what am I going to do with my life?
Yes, no, I mean, as an entrepreneur, it's a it's a disease I call it I think you always have some, you know, You're always thinking you have gears, turning your head always for something else going on. And I definitely have that issue. It's like, my wife has the exact same questions like, okay, you're gonna sell this site we're going to do after? Well, I said, I'll take six months off. It didn't take six months off. real excited to Yeah, I took maybe vaguely three months off if that and it was really just still thinking and doing things.
What did you do during the three months?
Um, we did a vacation I think we did disney world at that time. I'm trying to remember exactly the sequence but we did disney world we did. I just very I just did a lot of reading at the time as well did some research. And meanwhile, I also had some work involved or commitments for the previous site. So after that, you know, I just knew that I wanted to go into also helping others. I think a lot of entrepreneurs don't really effectively monetize or really understand you know, online marketing. And I think that's where I've done obviously very well with investor junkie and with my background for many years I've been doing this, I think, you know, I can help others. as well.
So you're the quick little break, you went to Disney World. And so your work primarily started advising other blog owners. Is that it?
Yeah, I mean, yes, other blog owners, I mean, really just helping them outside of the personal finance niche because I have a non compete until here. But yeah, I'm helping others, you know, better monetize their blogs, in some cases through affiliate marketing. In other cases, they have their own products. I mean, I think the way the thing is interesting about affiliate marketing I think a lot of people get wrong is they treat it as if it's a one and done and they don't really think of it as obviously with review site, you need to have some independence, but in terms of the actual monetization part of it, I think you need to understand and properly track this stuff as if it was your own product and services, meaning knowing where on your site converts better and I think a lot of people just happy enough to just get Hey, we got five conversion systems. wanting to be done with it. And the detailed level of detail we had was pretty insane as far as conversions and the source of those conversions. And I think that's really critical when you start getting to the higher levels of income. And affiliate marketing is making sure you really, really, really understand where your best traffic is coming from and making sure you send the right person to the right service in the end.
Yeah, so. So Larry, I've got this other company savings Angel. I've done so much work, you know, over the past 13 years, you know, for between 2007 and 2017, we ran a membership side of it, and so we grossed over $6 million with that. And really kind of affiliate was kind of an afterthought, and same with banner ads, display ads and that sort of thing. And so since then, since we shut that down because people were no longer interested in saving money with coupons. You know, there's some opportunity I mean, we do okay, traffic We produce about, you know, one to two pieces of original content a week I've got my syndicated column, but I'm kind of in the doldrums with the thing and I'm not sure what to do with it you know, it makes you know makes a little bit of money I would if you were me What would you do?
So this is a coupon based site that's a membership only
No, no that the membership side since closed and so now it operates is pretty much just, you know, it's got 1000 pieces of content on it, you know, over the past 13 years that we've created and most of the traffic comes from search. Yes. Oh, yeah. Um,
I mean, if you're not doing affiliate marketing now are you at some level
you know, a little bit and and I just don't think that we're very well coordinated. Like I just haven't extended, I haven't invested any resources into it. Other than just you know, producing I do produce a podcast and that actually gets the savings Angel so actually gets that's actually not bad. As far as you know, traffic goes for a podcast. I mean, the website, you know, give me gifts, maybe, but it's not huge anymore, but I'd say maybe about five to 800 visits a day.
I mean, in terms of coupon sites, coupon sites are very popular with affiliate marketing. Yeah, it's usually SEO based almost all SEO based. Because you have the one transaction and they disappear. They really, they're looking for that discount. So they're not trying to get them close to the, the, you know, the, the low end of the sales funnel before they convert, which is great. But they're, there's no brand loyalty, if you will, right. That's the biggest issue you have, or how do you create unique content and add value? So I mean, most people, I think, focus on content play with SEO, right? Like, really, it should be about functionality, like what functionality to add with coupons. It's not out there ready?
And I should say, cuz coupons are just a part of it. I mean, I've kind of known as the guy who can get you a deal hookup or upgrade on anything like I just love working the system and getting deals and upgrades and stuff. So a lot of content is around that. Even though a lot of our inbound stuff is people Searching for Burger King coupon or whatever, like we'll get I'm like, okay, like we had something. It's actually kind of outdated still sitting there. But like, I don't know.
I mean, there's sites out there that do they've made it more into an app and where you as the user can submit coupons as well, yeah. And then therefore, some of them are affiliate based, some of them aren't. And again, that's a way of adding value. So you've got to think of ways to make it more interactive, more than just purely content because a content play in my eyes is the commodity you know, I looked at investor junkies, where's we added your comparison tool, and added, you know, reviews the role automated, so therefore, I would update that content, and would propagate through the whole site. So therefore, it made it very easy to manage. We had a really stilted staff compared to other sites out there. And that just made it much easier to manage. And I would think the same way for a coupon site is more than just, you know, pushing out more content. It's not to be okay, how can you be more How can you add value to the readers as far as coupons and maybe it's a way to alert them of new coupons for some, you know, product or service. They're interested in like a Starbucks or something like that.
Yeah, that's all food for thought it's one of those tricky things, you know, obviously very, very busy with, you know, this other company. That's and I don't know, if you've encountered that with people that you've advised on, it's like, you know, they've got multiple streams. It's like, jeez, I've got this. It's like, great potential here. But you know, I left
the entrepreneurs curse is you always have, like I said, the gears running in your head, like you have these new ideas, and you're always off to the new idea. I mean, in my case, I actually did out of investor junkie, because I felt I did everything I wanted to do, company. And I felt that it was just time to do something else where again, you know, thinking of new ideas and ways to help others.
And so Larry, tell me about, you know, so I'm on Larry Ludwig comm I just clicked on make money blogging, you got a lot of great content here. You know, if someone's listening or conversation like I like this, Larry guy seems pretty smart. Where would you recommend that they click on the blue button. I mean, this is quite an epic post here that you have It just kind of breaks it all down into all the different ways that you can make money with your blog.
I mean, I created a link specifically for your podcasts you can go to learn a little bit calm up my influence. So,
Larry ludwig.com slash up my influence. And let's let's see what we get here. You get to a look at that. free stuff. I love it. Just before we went live. Yeah. And you know what, I know some of these. I know some of these great people you got here, Ryan, Ghana, Tom Drake, each former guests on the show friends and people that we partnered with. You get it? You got some pretty smart people that like you.
Yeah, I mean, testimonials obviously help. Again, I've been around for many years. So it helps that you're my taste in the personal finance community and well respected. So you definitely want to. I mean, it goes a long way. You know, the trust in people, you know, the testimony. Is that people give you know that you're not some finite fly by night operation you just started yesterday. You know, the classic of the, you fake it till you make it. I really hate those entrepreneurs.
I agree. Just go out do the thing. Create the thing. earn some authority, my my young man. So alright as well Larry Ludwig again, you're the founder and editor in chief of Investor Junkie up until the end of 2018. Congratulations on the exit. Now you're the CEO and founder of Ludwig media. You're on the web at LarryLudwig.com and go to Larryludwig.com slash up my influence. And you're going to get some freebies here as he gets your free guide to seven mistakes to avoid in affiliate marketing. All good stuff. Larry, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you, Josh.
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