We have a special treat today on the Niche Pursuits podcast.
CopyBlogger owner and Sober Nation founder Tim Stoddart joins us to share some awesome tips and insights from his success in building multiple income streams online.
You do not want to miss this one, as Tim’s story is sure to inspire.
He learned about content marketing and SEO by reading the site Copyblogger. He then applied these strategies to his own site, Sober Nation – focusing on what they’d do (how they’d structure articles, etc.) just as much as what they’d say.
He initially used these strategies to gain traction through Facebook by sharing user stories. But, he soon realized that traffic doesn’t always translate to revenue.
So, Tim decided to transition Sober Nation to a directory model to generate revenue, listing treatment facilities, and generating revenue through exposure.
(Do not miss his awesome tips on how to build profitable directory sites!)
This allowed him to monetize the website in a creative and effective way. And it also sparked the idea to start an agency to help related facilities with their marketing needs.
Tim explains how he used Sober Nation as a branding tool to build his agency, Stodzy. And by leveraging the success of Sober Nation, Tim established his agency and attracted clients.
He did a similar thing after acquiring CopyBlogger. Again, instead of taking the traditional ad and affiliate route, Tim chose to use Copyblogger as a lead generation site for his agency, Digital Commerce.
Tim’s specialization and finding unique angles in the marketplace have been key to his success.
He also highlights the importance of having a core group of trusted employees and workflow to ensure the business runs smoothly and efficiently.
He discusses his different revenue models, including free media to build his email list (for sponsorships, etc.), front-end products, and high-end services. And by diversifying his income streams in this way, Tim has created a stable and sustainable business model.
Hope you enjoy and take notes!
Watch The Interview
Topics Tim Stoddart Covers
How he got started creating online content
Getting into SEO and lead generation
How he started Sober Nation
Creating viral content in the old Facebook days
Copying other creators
Trial and error
Importance of technical SEO
Tips for monetizing content
Racing to the top
Niching down sites for organic success
Importance of URL structure for directory sites
Becoming a lead aggregator
How to drive organic traffic to directory sites
Importance of building a long-term team
His business funnel
And a whole lot more…
Links & Resources
Jared: All right. Welcome back to the niche pursuits podcast. My name is Jared Bauman. Today we are joined by Tim Stoddart. Tim, welcome.
Tim: Thanks man. Glad to be here.
Jared: This is going to be a fun one. I mean, you’ve got your hands in a couple of different really cool things. Uh, I, I’m curious to see how we’re going to take this directionally because there’s so much we could talk about.
Um, you are with copyblogger. com, uh, a name I’m sure a lot of people have heard of. You’ve also started a very successful website called sober nation. com and then you run an agency. So, um, man, welcome to the podcast and thanks so much for joining.
Tim: Yeah, I’m, I’m really thrilled. Um, yeah, those are all of my projects and I’m, I’m, I’m an open book.
So any way that I can be of service to your listeners, I’m, I’m looking forward to it. I
Jared: feel like I should start by asking how you managed to do it all, but maybe we’ll get to that a little bit later. Um, give us some, some back, like we’d like to start the podcast if we can, by just learning a little about you, maybe catch us up to maybe the last couple of years or where you started a lot of these projects you’re working on now.
Anything you think is, um, is relevant. I
Tim: think where I started is a good story. Um, because people hear sober nation and it’s not the typical kind of media company that you hear a lot on Twitter. Uh, so how did I get involved in such a strange industry? Well, I, I, I got sober. I’ve been sober for a little bit more than 13 years.
And basically what happened is, I mean, my life was. I mean, it wasn’t like terrible. I’m not trying to make it dramatic, but I was just always in trouble. I was having a really, really hard time. Let’s say that. And so I had a cousin who lived in South Florida. I’m, I’m born and raised in Philadelphia. And, uh, this cousin of mine was also getting sober.
He was sober like two and a half years, I think. And so I just crashed on his couch. I made it about six months, you know, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. With not just my life, but like. Like I was, I was a degenerate, you know, so I didn’t really have a lot of direction and I was always a writer.
My mom was a writer. She wrote poetry a lot. And, um, I’ve, I’ve had a habit of just bringing a notebook with me everywhere. I go a lot of times when I do podcasts, I mentioned the side of my office. I got stacks and stacks of notebooks. I journal every morning I have been for my entire life. And, uh, you know, so it was something that I just always did.
I was given a. Membership to success magazine, which actually, yeah, 10 years ago. Well, it was 12 and a half years ago at this point used to come with CDs in it, which blows my mind that like kids these days don’t even know about CDs. I guess I actually am getting old, you know, but, uh, this one particular CD had an interview with this guy named Seth Godin, and I don’t know who this guy was, but for whatever reason, I put it in, in my CD player.
It was a laptop that I bought at a pawn shop, and I don’t really remember the interview. Um, I remember being really into it. And at the end of the interview, they asked that kind of typical question, like, what would you say to somebody who wants to get started? And he said, start a blog, don’t tell anybody about it and write in it every day.
And there was just something about that. Well, I was like, yeah, I don’t know why I should do that, but I’m going to do that. And so I started up a blog spot for all the OGE content marketers like myself. And I just wrote in it every day and there was no direction. There was no nothing. Like I would write the most random stuff, you know, how to make a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I remember I wrote a story about my dog. I had a dog that had traveled across the country with me. And, you know, I wrote about my dog a lot, basically, and living in Florida. Cause I never really. Been out of Philly before. And, uh, so whatever. And then eventually I was writing about sobriety and, you know, getting sober and how weird it was and all the crazy thoughts I was having and randomly people started commenting on this blog because they were like, yeah, I feel the same way.
Like I can’t get my life together. What should I do? And, you know, you got to remember, I didn’t tell anybody about this. This is part of the deal. And that’s how I discovered SEO. That’s how I figured it was, it was happenstance really where. If I’m not telling anybody about this, how the hell are they finding the blog?
And so, you know, long story short, that’s, that’s Sober Nation. That’s, that’s the birth of it. Um, eventually I got better at s e o. You know, eventually I, I learned about lead generation and I learned that, well, actually what happened is I discovered copy blogger.com and Copy Blogger was this new idea where, Back then, if you had a website, you were monetizing through ads, basically.
It’s just like what you did. There wasn’t a whole lot of sophistication. And this guy Brian Clark had this idea that like, no, really what you should do is no ads. You should use your content to become an authority in something. You should write to build an audience, which is common, common knowledge now.
But, you know, 12 years ago, this was still a pretty new idea. And so I just went with it. I said, Hey, maybe I can be an authority in sobriety. And then the timing was also good. Obviously, you know, people have followed the last 10 years. Opiates really took over the country. And so there was a huge, I mean, let’s just call it a demand for treatment services.
A lot of people were struggling with the same thing that I was struggling with. And so I was building this huge audience with people and they were looking for help. And randomly treatment centers and behavioral health care centers started. Contacting me and being like, man, how are you doing this? How are you getting these people that like kind of need our services?
And I was just like, I don’t know. I’m just writing shit. I’m just expressing myself. I’m building a community. And, um, and it just happened. Like I worked really, really hard on it. But the timing of it was good as well. And, and timing I think is really important. Um, my honesty, I think was really important because at the time treatment and addiction was way more stigmatized than it is now, like nowadays, everybody knows somebody, right?
But I was called a junkie all the time and you just, it just wasn’t something that you could do and be, be cool. Right. And I, uh, I just, I went with it. And so that’s how sober nation started. And I’ve been working on it ever since the site is 12 years old. It’s, I mean, it’s still thriving all of, all of these years later.
It’s, it’s probably the project that I’m most proud of. I don’t spend as much time on it as I used to, but it’s, it’s still a huge part of my life. What were
Jared: the, what were the initial articles or topics or, like, was there, what, what caught fire in the beginning? What, were you able to identify certain things that really caught on?
Um, because a lot of people are, you know, really struggle to get a website off the ground. And they go about it from a very SEO standpoint from the outset. But you went about it from the opposite. You just started writing about what was on your mind and sharing thoughts about things. Like, what caught fire that…
Allowed you to turn the corner and start thinking about it from an SEO standpoint.
Tim: Sure. Things caught fire. One was Facebook. So this was pre the doom and gloom days of Facebook back when Facebook was actually fun and cool and they didn’t ruin everything with algorithms. So, you know, I’m preaching to the choir now because Facebook is still free.
And I always laugh when people complain about changes to social media, like, Oh my God, how could you do this to me? It’s like, you don’t own the site. They can do whatever they want. Nonetheless, what happened to me was that. At this time, the reach on Facebook pages was way more than it is now. Now if you have a page, it’s like one to 2% of the people who follow your page, see your stuff.
But back then it was like, I don’t even know how much, maybe 50%. It was a lot. And uh, when I started going, people would send me these pictures. Of their sobriety dates. And I called them sober stories. And so I would get pictures from people that I would just post them on Facebook and say like, Hey, Jane has been sober for three years, like wish her a happy anniversary.
And it would just do like completely go viral in a way that I’ve, I’ve never been able to replicate sense. And again, that wasn’t necessarily something that I planned. I was just, I was, I was just letting other people speak through the site. Really? I was just letting. I figured that everybody wants. To feel cool for a moment, right?
Appreciated. And I just, I used it as a platform to tell other people’s stories. So that really, really helped. However, that didn’t really compound the growth of the site because even today, the half life of social media content, it’s just so short that when people build their entire brands on social media, I find it very dangerous because who knows?
It’s, it’s just on a knife’s edge. And so the true growth was. Again was copy blogger. And I tell this story pretty like, uh, honestly about how unoriginal it was, but the founder of copy blogger was a guy named Brian Clark, who I just really looked up to. And anytime an article is published on copyblogger, I would take the article.
I mean, I didn’t plagiarize because they’re two totally different topics. You know, like how do you take an article about content marketing and translate it into an article about sobriety? But I stole, you know, like great artists steal. And so if there was a… I mean, I don’t know. It’s hard to find an example.
I’ll just use something off the top of my head. If it was like something where a copy blogger would write an article, like five ways to know if you’re meant to be a writer, you know, I don’t know. It’s just, it’s a bad example, but it’s the first thing I thought of. Yeah, I would. Yeah. I’m just running with it.
Yeah. I would just take that same exact thing and then do like five ways to know if you’re meant to be in recovery. And. I would take the formatting like exactly I would learn where to put the headers and I would learn where to put the bullet points and I would see, Oh, why are they putting a block quote there?
And I started to understand that people read differently on the Internet than they do like a novel and they scan and you need to use these headers and these page breaks and these pattern interrupts to stop them in their tracks and to capture their attention. And then eventually I learned about email marketing and I learned that I can build a newsletter from it and then I figured out email.
How to use email to sell products. So sober nation actually have products. It was a lead generation site. Um, but nonetheless, I would take the same concepts and figure, okay, like I can create automations, I can put a CTA here and I can start measuring these things. And so the brand growth, let’s call it.
Came very much from Facebook and I can’t take credit for that. I was just telling other people’s stories for them, but in terms of the technical marketing, uh, what’s the word? Ackerman Ackerman that I got from it. I would just like, I would just. See what copyblogger did and then like I would just do exactly that in the most rip off way I possibly could and that was my strategy and honestly, I’m like still doing it till this day.
Jared: it’s the greatest form of flattery, you know, so I think it’s uh, I think there’s something to that. I think that people listening can probably take. I mean, um, it’s uh, it’s fascinating when you really deep dive. Whether it’s companies or people that have spent a ton of time in that specific area.
You know, I mean, Copyblogger was known for masterfully, masterfully teaching exactly how to create and structure content in a way that was readable, digestible, and that got people to engage. So, uh, I think it’s, it’s really, it’s really good tip there. Let me ask you if you could, like, if anything you’re willing or able to share about where the site is at now.
Maybe we can use that to unpack some of the strategies that you use, like in terms of whether it’s traffic or, or, or revenue, or, or in terms of how you’ve structured the site to, uh, you know, you talk about email being a big deal, like, just give us an idea of where the site is at right now. The site
Tim: does great.
Um, it never turned into like the multi gazillion dollar business that I would dream about at night. You know, so I personally make probably. Like 250 grand a year from it after taxes, but what the site, so the real value of sober nation and it’s a thriving business and 250 grand is, is a lot of money and I’m very grateful for it.
I’m not like minimizing that at all, but the real value from it was that. All of the lessons that I’ve learned in terms of what to do and what not to do and all the experiments, it’s kind of one of those things, as it always is, where if I know what I know now, and I were able to go back 10 years, like the site would be a huge, huge monster because I never would have made all of the mistakes that I made and just gone right Right for the, for, for the good stuff, right?
Like right for the meat of it. I tried so many things and all of it failed basically. Um, but I learned technical SEO, which is different from blogging, which is different from telling stories. And I learned technical SEO through the directory that we built. So essentially the business of sober nation is listing treatment facilities.
That are looking to get their services in front of people that may be struggling with substance abuse or substance use disorder. And, uh, those facilities like to align their services with people that are looking for their services, just like any other business would. And so the, the way it monetizes a lot more technical, so I know it’s a little bit nuanced, but it’s like an important lesson for people that may be starting out to get, because traffic does not mean money.
And this is like a huge, huge, huge lesson where I used to be able to write these posts about like a list post or something. And I would post it on Facebook and I would just look at the analytics, the live analytics and see like, there’s 3000 people right now reading this website. And I posted it 10 minutes ago, but I’d always feel a little strange about it because nothing happened, right?
Like nothing happened from it. I guess I could have put ads on the site and become like the Huffington post of recovery, but I, I don’t know. I didn’t want to do that because the idea of. Of copy blogger and content marketing and selling your own products and services were so ingrained in me that I just felt like I was cheating.
And, uh, and so understanding the model, understanding that there’s a difference between traffic and serving my customer was a huge lesson for me. And it was a hard one for me to learn. Really. It took me a long time to really just put the pieces together. Whereas sometimes we have this dream of having this, this vision where I can just express myself creatively.
And everybody wants to do that, but that’s not going to help you pay your bills. Maybe it will. It’s doubtful that it will, like, you might just find an avenue where it works. And if that’s you, then awesome. I’m happy for you. Uh, that was not my experience. And so. You know, the, the, the magic of sober nation in a lot of ways, isn’t the actual revenue that it generates.
It was just those hard fall on my face lessons that actually made, that made me a better entrepreneur to execute and tackle the other stuff that I’ve started. I’m glad
Jared: you mentioned the directory on the site, because as I was… Preparing for the interview today, I was, I was, I, I, I, I ran into that and it seems like a really good way to take what you’re doing.
A lot of people listening are going to be maybe more on the content creation side of things where they create content, but exactly what you talked about traffic becomes the modicum of success. But then what do we do with that besides maybe putting ads on it? Where does it go? How, when did you learn that your content that you were writing, um, the style of content you were talking about at the beginning, when did you learn how to transition that into something that could be monetized so that you weren’t just getting a lot of page views?
And maybe, you know, if you could share some tips with people who are probably maybe struggling with the same thing.
Tim: When did I learn it? I, I can’t recall a particular moment when it clicked for me on Sober Nation itself, but this will tie into Stodzy a little bit. Sometimes when I talk about things, it seems like there’s a million pieces, but I promise they’re actually like much more connected than it seems.
And it’s, it’s not as, as crazy as it seems, but sober nation. Was almost like a lead generation for my clients, but also for myself, because it’s one of the other unsung values of having a media site is people just know you, they know about you for a particular thing. And so word was getting out about me.
Like, Hey, this guy has really cracked this code in this, in this industry. And so through the people that were contacting me, I would say, yeah, sure. You can advertise on my website, but you don’t have a website. Like you don’t have anything. I don’t even know what you want me to do for you. And so I thought, huh, why don’t I just create a service business that serves these These facilities, these behavioral health care facilities, because I’m going to get into the weeds here a little bit, but most treatment facilities and even hospitals and anything, they’re all run by clinicians and clinicians are academics and they all suck at marketing.
And I’m not saying that to insult them. Like they’re just, they suck at marketing the same way I would suck at writing like a 30 page research paper. This is not what they do. And so, and so, okay, I’m, I’m really getting to the point. Once we started this agency, I was doing what a lot of agencies do, where you try to get traffic and you try to get social media shares and Hey, look at all of these likes that we got for your facility this month, like really cool.
And the response I always got was great, but my phone’s not ringing. And that was hard, man, because. I’ve had this conversation a few times with people where it’s not just a realization. It’s like a real looking at yourself in the mirror moment where you just have to face yourself and you have to face the truth where agencies in particular, but all businesses, the ones that succeed are the ones that actually are brave enough to measure their success against the metric that their clients give a shit about, because a lot of times you just say, Hey, I’m going to do all of this stuff and it’s going to be so cool.
And you know, like I said, look at all these retweets I got, but who cares? Right? The phone wasn’t ringing for for my clients, and every time I get an email, I get so anxious. And by the way, this was years and years ago. This is probably like 2. 5 years into it. So like I was just I was a beginner. I was figuring it out.
You know, I wasn’t wasn’t at the point where we are now. Um, and so I, I encourage anybody who’s just figuring it out to learn this lesson fast. And we just, we just had a moment where I had a small team and it’s still the same team that I have now. And like, I love these guys. They’re my brothers and sisters.
And we, we just looked at each other and be like, nobody gives a shit. Nobody cares about what we’re talking about. All they care about is phone calls. So are we going to be like everybody else that’s constantly cycling through clients and trying to convince people that they have this new, cool, creative Snapchat filter, or I don’t know, insert what’s cool today, like Tik TOK thing.
Or are we going to be the client that just figures, are we going to be the agency, excuse me, that just figures out how to generate results for our clients and measures our own success against that. And that was the moment when not just me as a person and like as an entrepreneur, but the success totally took off because it’s a hard thing to do.
Like it’s hard to look at something that you care a lot about and be like, this isn’t that good. You know, like what I’m doing isn’t that good. And you can always find ways to make the argument why, yeah, but look at what we’re doing over here. And like, it’s still worth this much money. Somebody should pay for it, but.
Really, they shouldn’t, they should fire you and they should find the person who’s having that hard conversation with themselves and is actually generating that KPI that they pay for. And, uh, so I never had that moment. Like you said, with sober nation in particular, that moment came through Stasi and really it came through the anxiety that I would feel when clients would send me emails.
About like, Hey, what’s going on here? Like, when’s this going to start working? When am I going to get the results that I’m paying this money for? And then it took me another couple of months to build up the courage to actually, you know, like do the damn thing and, and, and acknowledge it. But I don’t know exactly when that was.
We were all still in Florida together. It was in the office. So, I mean, seven years ago, probably 2016, something like that. Um, but I remember the moment. Very well
Jared: for the majority of, uh, like if you had to bucket sober nations kind of revenue, is it from these listings and from these ad placements that companies get to have, or is it from other types of traffic?
Tim: No, it’s, it’s, it’s exclusively about exposure. That’s a, I could, you know, that’s, it’s one of these things where you have to stay focused on something. And I love the site. You know, one day I’m, I still hope I can get rid of everything and just work on sober nation. But as of right now, it’s, it’s singularly focused on the directory.
And, uh, and I’m, I’m totally fine with that. Like that’s in a lot of ways. I also think about why would I change anything because everybody’s happy and like, why would I make life harder for myself? But I, I have a really bad habit of like fixing problems and then finding new problems to put into my life for like no reason at all.
Jared: like you’re learning. It sounds like you’re learning. I could take a page out of that playbook. The, um, I mean, I would say from afar, you are clearly like, you’re kind of a, a bit of a masterclass in specialization. Um, like you have a website that did really well because you honed in on a certain topic and you grew that audience and then you started adding pieces to that puzzle that solved their problems, which were listings and directories for, you know, for, for rehab facilities.
And then you started solving these people’s problems by opening an agency that could help them with their marketing. Because for most people, probably, or for at least a lot of these rehab places, just a listing in your directory might not be enough to drive traffic. I think, I’ll speak for myself when I say that maybe a lot of people listening haven’t specialized that much, or where they’ve seen success with their Website with their brand with their business.
They haven’t kind of doubled down over and over again. Um, how did, like, how do you look for that in what you’re doing and how did you, and I’m trying to unpack here, like directories, that’s probably something that’s got a lot of people’s minds going that they haven’t even thought of, um, actually offering services to the clients that their website is attracting is probably something that people haven’t thought of, or at least a lot of people listening.
How did you keep finding this? And again, any tips for how to, how to keep diving down that road?
Tim: I look for them for sure. Uh, there was, uh, on my podcast, the guy, um, Oh my God, I’m totally forgetting his name. I just talked to him like two days ago. This always happens when I’m live, uh, exploding, exploding ideas that CEO, he had a really good line about the angle when he’s, he looks at something like, is there something different that I can bring to the marketplace?
And for me, it’s not really, uh, Eric, Eric is his name. Jesus. Thank God. I was getting really nervous. I was never going to remember that. And, and I think that’s so valuable because everybody can do the regular thing. And I think what people miss is that your angle doesn’t have to be big at all. If you have a thousand people that are following you for a very, very particular thing, you can totally build a business if that’s what you want to do or at least make a living.
You can provide for yourself with a thousand followers. Granted, it’s in an industry that has motivated buyers, but, um, but the, the answer to your question, I’m brainstorming this a little bit is that I look for them, I don’t do anything that is, is generic again. That’s another Seth Godin thing that I keep top of mind real quick.
Where you can’t Amazon, Amazon, you can’t like out commoditize the huge commodities basically of the world because that’s a race to the bottom. And being a race to the bottom, sometimes that’s a good race to be in. Like if you win the race of the bottom and you get to be the most affordable, most commoditized widget company in the world, that’s really, really great.
Most likely you will come in second place or third place or fifth place or 10th place, and that’s the absolute worst place to be because like, you’re not the cheapest, even though you’re trying to be the cheapest, you’re not the fastest, even though you’re not trying to be the fastest. And so I always race to the top.
Anything I’m doing, I, I’m very, very meticulous about finding a way to race to the top. And so you can see that, uh, you mentioned directories and, you know, we, we don’t have to talk about directories, I’ll kind of hint on them. Oh, I wanna , but sation, so that’s like next three directories
Jared: are the best I wanna hear about
They’re, they’re the best. Seriously. Um, so Sopr Nation was actually the first directory that. And I say, we intentionally, uh, if you go to recovery, local. org, there’s actually four of them that we built. So getting a little technical with SEO sober nation is like the biggest media site, but in terms of the directory, it’s SEO for drug rehab keywords.
Uh, there’s detox local, which is SEO for drug detox keywords. There’s your first step. Which is SEO for addiction treatment keywords, as opposed to drug rehab keywords. Google these days basically sees those phrases as like the same exact thing. But every time Google tells me about like semantics and hummingbird, I’m, I’m, I’m always skeptical because anytime I do an experiment like this, where I just create mirrors of themselves and separate the keywords very specifically, they rank for different things.
And so. I still am on the side of the argument that like, yeah, Google’s pretty smart, but be specific with your keyword and tell Google exactly what this website is about and it’s, it’s paid off for me. And then, um, medically assisted. com goes after. Uh, basically like suboxone clinics or, uh, Vivitrol clinics.
So like people can take shots these days to make it so that they don’t want to drink. Uh, and then we’re actually building another one about mental health facilities. There’s, there’s a huge mental health problem going on in the country. And so we’re building another one. And then after that, we’ll probably do something in the eating disorder space.
Uh, I have me not personally, but eating disorders have affected people that I love very, very much. And it’s, it’s, it’s brutal, man. It’s something that I’m like really passionate about. So we have all of those directories going, but look, we built directories for moving companies. Um, I’ve still building a directory for stem cell clinics.
Uh, that’s something that I’m like really, really passionate about. The problem with that is just the FDA in America is a lot stricter with stem cell clinics than they are in places like Panama and stuff. So every time I, every time I, I, I get it going. I have to book a deal with somebody in like Panama or Germany who can actually buy the phone calls or, or buy the listings.
And it’s just not there yet, you know, so there’s, there’s a couple of roadblocks on that. I mean, shit, go to your boulder. com. That’s a local business directory site that I built for Boulder, Colorado. Um, pick anything, any city, any industry that there’s a guy, his name is, um, Chris something he, he even just made a course called, uh, Successful directories or something.
He goes about them on selling feature listings on a directory. And that’s definitely a way you can do it. My approach has actually been the opposite. My approach has been a free directory. Get as much content and as many pages as you can. And each one of those pages is SEO for a certain key keyword and like a certain location.
So cities, townships, whatever, uh, and then use that traffic. To sell something. So you can either sell tickets to events. If it’s a local directory, like your boulder is, uh, sometimes the directory, even just. Creates an email list, which is really what your boulder does with a directory itself is just all of the traffic, but it’s such hyperlocal specific traffic that people sign up for the newsletter.
And then, you know, I sell ads against the newsletter. So yeah, for me, I know I’m getting kind of dorky right now, but I really love directories and I love the technical aspects of them for me. Directories have been, I mean, just. And nobody does them because they’re not sexy, you know, because they don’t look cool on Twitter.
And I don’t know, this is like a little side rant a bit, but there’s so many times where I want to take people and just slap them and be like, stop, like build a business that makes money. Stop chasing this weird thing. Like you don’t have to be Gary V. Like, I don’t know why you would even want to be Elon.
Don’t do that. Just make money and live a life, you know, and like be, be content and successful, but. I don’t know. What do I know? I’m just building these boring ass directories that all make a ton of money. I
Jared: would like to know more about these incredibly boring businesses you have that make money. Let’s say that I have a website that has traffic and I have ditched down to some degree.
So I have an audience that. That comes, that is about something specific. Um, I think we all probably know the high levels of what it takes to make a directory and you know, there’s plugins that can help, there’s technical SEO you have to put into place, but what are the things that most people miss when it comes to starting a directory?
Like I’m thinking I have a website in my mind right now that would be, I feel like perfect for a directory, but I feel like if I went to go set one up, there’s probably one or two things I would miss
Tim: along the way. Yeah. Uh, URL structure. Is probably the biggest one. And it’s a tough nut to crack because there’s some really good directory.
Plugins, even platforms out there. Uh, one of them, the one that I’ve used the most to start directories, it’s, it’s, it’s really just called business directory plugin. That’s what it’s called business directory plugin. But, uh, but the URL structure on it sucks where let’s say I’m building a location based directory.
What it’s going to do is url. com slash location. So that’s the first, uh, variable that the plugin itself is going to put in, slash the dynamic variable that I tell it to put in. So let’s just say it’s Boulder, you know, let’s say I do a national directory. And so one of the categories is the states, right?
So the URL is going to be url. com slash location slash Denver. That’s the, that’s the one that I put in there. And then slash. That’s the, again, that’s the one that the directory puts in there slash name of the listing. So name of the business. So your four, your four variables deep where really what it should say.
Is url. com slash Denver. The one that I manually put in there slash name of the business, just the two, the high level category, and then the title of the listing. And it’s been a huge problem with, uh, business directory plugin, because it’s the easiest to use is the easiest to set up, but it’s hard to SEO it because the keywords in, in the slugs are, are so deep that I’m not even sure they ever get registered.
And so the first thing that I don’t even want to say people miss, like the first, uh, wind against your sales, sort of speak, is that if you really, really want to do it, really do it right. The first time you should. Make every page, assuming you’re using WordPress, which I use, just make the whole thing static on pages, you know, so let’s use the same example, make a page that is for Denver and then on that page list All of the subcategories, whatever they’re going to be.
And you can even just put bullet points and links. Like eventually you want to get more sophisticated, but if you’re doing this to appease Google, you can just add all the listings as bullet points and links. And then those links will go directly to the actual listings. And so, yeah, you have like not a very good looking, not that helpful of a directory, but once you get the URL structure and the page structure figured out You can go back and build the page templates.
So then the state pages, right? These page templates, you can make it so that they’re not just links on a page. You know, maybe you, you create like cards for them so that you have different categories within that city, you know, like contractors or electricians or whatever. Um, and then design it and make it more user friendly.
But you’re, you’re better off getting the URL structure right first. Okay. And then messing around with the design, then you are messing around with the design and then trying to fix the URL structure afterwards, because that’s for for technical SEOs. You know that that’s like impossible. It’s an impossible thing to do.
If you get the URL structure, the URL structure right to begin with, you can do anything. But if it’s not right, then you’re just always trying to you’re always trying to I don’t know what an analogy, like, like fix holes in the wall when you’re better off just ripping the house down and building a new one.
Jared: Yeah, you’re constantly plugging holes in the boat rather than trying to just, you know, you gotta start with a
Tim: new hole.
Jared: Um, I mean, are you just doing this manually now, or is there a plugin that’s more robust to handle it?
Tim: Um, we do it manually. Yeah, for sure. So like I said, we, I have a developer and he’s basically built his own.
Uh, he’s built a couple of things. He’s built a WordPress theme. He’s built like this, this functionality on directories that we’ve, uh, I don’t know what it is, copyrighted or protected. Um, so yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a much more sophisticated process now, but I still totally, totally advocate anybody who’s listened to this to start off doing it manually and it’ll suck, man.
Like it’s, it sucks making these links and. And trying to structure these things perfectly the first time and, and, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s worth, it’s worth doing. It really is. It’s really worth doing
Jared: URL structure and categorization and organization aside, what does a good page, a specific contractor page or listing look like, uh, on a directory that actually is able to garner traffic from SEO?
Tim: Yeah, man, I love that. You’re like asking the real specific questions because this is the stuff that I’ve just learned the hard way before you understand that you have to understand the purpose of your directory is your directory selling feature listings, selling exposure to an advertiser. Or is your directory generating leads within itself?
So one of the business models is you have this huge directory. Let’s just say we’re doing electricians in Denver, which, by the way, my view is still the biggest opportunity for people just getting into space is to work with contractors, local businesses. Because everybody needs an electrician and electricians don’t know how to market themselves, right?
So plumbers, contractors, electricians, if I could start all over and just have a magic team in front of me that already isn’t optimized for what we do, this is exactly what I would do. So after that, once you decide. If, if you’re selling a featured listing for a contractor, an advertiser, you need to make sure that the feature listing is worth buying.
So you highlight that featured listing and you put that at the top of the category, right? Let’s say we’re doing contractors in, in Colorado. I like location based directory. So then you have a whole category page for Denver. Well, the people that are paying extra, they need to be at the top and the listing itself needs to have a way to generate leads for the customer.
So that means their listing needs to have a lead form. Their listing needs to have like a very easy to see phone number that when somebody calls it goes to the contractor directly, uh, you want to make sure there’s a map on it. And you can API into Google maps to do this so that they can get the directions right from their phone.
But if somebody calls the phone number on their listing, you still get credit for it and not Google, like, so you have to track all of those numbers, which you can do through call tracking metrics, or you can even do it through like voice or excuse me, Google voice. Um, okay. So that’s assuming that you’re selling advertising.
If you really, really want to make money. Then you build the directory for free. You make every listing as, as dope as you possibly can, provide as much free value for all of these people as you possibly can to the point where they don’t even know that you’re doing it. And, and if you’re gonna do it this way, I really recommend not sending them an email because I just get those emails all the time and they always feel like, okay, well, like, what do you want?
Really? Like, just make it for them. And don’t tell them about it and make it as good as you possibly can. And then send all it. So put a phone number at the top of the website and that phone number either comes to you or it comes to a call center. And now you’re a lead collector and you’re a lead aggregator.
And so really what you’re selling is business. You’re, you’re working with the contractors that contact you and you’re just routing the phone calls to them. So there’s two stages to that. First, you’re going to start collecting the phone calls yourself. Because nobody’s going to buy them from you because I don’t even know who you are.
And really, you’re going to give a lot of these phone calls away for free. Like I had a, a form and I would collect these leads and then I would just call some of the people who are closers to me and be like, Hey, I’m Tim. I run this website, uh, coloradocontractors. com. I have this person who needs some business.
Can I send them to you? And then, of course, I’m going to email that contractor from my email address. It says Tim at Colorado contractors dot com. They’re like, shit, I just got some free business. Who’s this Tim guy? And then you keep doing that for a couple of months. And before you know it, you have the goal, the idea goal where I’m getting with.
And you can tell I get really excited when I do this. I’m talking too fast. So forgive me. But the goal is to make it. So those phone calls just go directly to the contractor themselves, and then they pay you for the phone call. So you can skip, you can skip yourself, right? You’re not responsible for all of that anymore.
Now, all you’re responsible for is. You know, the, the phone calls from Denver go to this contractor, the phone calls from Boulder go to this contractor. You, you can do it. Have you won? You can send the whole state to one person, whatever, but then your, your responsibility is tracking the phone calls and then billing them, right?
So then basically your job just becomes generating phone calls and chasing money and generating phone calls and chasing money. That is one of the downsides of the business is you’re chasing money a lot. But if that’s my biggest problem today, I’m, I’m fine with it. So basically the
Jared: model is advertising focused or lead gen focused and you’re saying lead gen focused is definitely the most profitable of the directory models.
Tim: Oh yeah, no question, but it’s the hardest.
Jared: It’s the hardest. Yeah. Um, are you also writing articles around these? So you got, you know, 25 contractors in Denver and are you writing like the top 10 or are you doing features on each of them? And like, you know, Uh, a contractor spotlight and you do like a feature in the internally link back to it, or you just kind of let the directory go because everything about that directory, just in case in itself, does it, does it work for you?
Tim: Both. There’s certainly a parader principle where no matter how many articles you write, if you focus only on the directory, you’ll still be better than if you. Like that time that you spend on the directory dollar for dollar is going to be more than the stuff on the articles. I choose not to do it that way because there also is that game with SEO where you put all of your resources in this directory and then one day Google just doesn’t like you anymore, you know?
And so like you have no backup plan, you have no organic content to generate traffic a different way. Uh, but you nailed it. Yeah, certainly. So, you know, top 10 contractors in Denver. Write that article, right? Um, how to find out if a contractor really knows what they’re doing. And then the important part, and this is more copy blogger ask.
The important part is within that content. Understand the formatting, understand the CTAs, understand that your customer is the contractor. So the point of the article, although the content within the article is serving the person that isn’t a contractor, right? The purpose of the article is to get that person to the directory to call the contractor.
So these are the things I was talking about before, where you have to figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing, but It’s, it’s like anything else. It just takes practice and then you figure it out and it’s easy. So,
Jared: man, I feel like we just got an awesome 15 minutes in directory building. And I’m sure a lot of people, if you’re like me, you’re thinking about some project you have that would probably benefit from something like this, if not a new project, which is a whole other topic.
Um, but I, I do want to ask you about how you do, um, prioritize your time. I am taking a step away from directory specific and now looking, because you have three things going on. We’ve touched on two of them, we haven’t touched on the third yet. We’ve touched on, on SoberNation, we’ve, we’ve touched on your, your agency.
Uh, but you’ve taken on a third project, which is CopyBlogger, and I just, I’m dying to hear how you… Uh, how you balance your time and how you, how you pick where to put energy and focus towards. And again, people listen, you’re going to lean into this because we typically all have a couple of projects we’re working on and we have a couple of things that we’re trying to balance and structure.
Tim: Just wrote. I have a personal newsletter that I write every Tuesday and I just wrote about this this morning. So here’s, I’ll. I’m happy to answer this and I’ll dive into all of the specifics, but here’s the foundation of that question. There’s this idea of multiple income streams and I write about multiple income streams all the time.
I, I’m like fully in the boat that wealth is created from multiple streams of revenue. It’s just, it’s like just data. Almost everybody who is wealthy has different things working for them, right? That’s the goal. You got to get stuff working for you, but don’t get me wrong. The vast majority of my time is spent on Stodzy because Stodzy is the cash flow.
That makes the rest of the things possible. And so I don’t want anybody to ever lose sight of their cashflow mechanism. And, and like, just to say sometimes that means having a job, like if somebody has a job and they’re making 150 grand a year, like you have your cashflow set up, but I’m not, I’m not saying quit your job and start a business.
I’m also not saying. Like play it safe your whole life and don’t start a business. I’m just pointing out the technicalities behind how to get different sources of revenue working for you. And the most important thing to have is a steady stream of cash flow. And that’s why Stasi is still the vast majority of, of my time.
But look, basically. What we’re talking about is the same thing I’ve already done. Sober nation turned into a revenue stream within itself, but it mostly turned into a branding tool for me to build an agency. And so when I saw a copy blogger, the first thing copy blogger. com is, is just a blog in the old days, copy blogger was a part of like a bigger conglomerate.
Of websites and all of those websites with the products like copyblogger within itself was never actually a business. It was basically just the blog that sold the product. So there was studio press. com, which sold WordPress themes. I think they had like a hosting business as well, but like copyblogger as an, as an autonomous entity, wasn’t actually anything other than the awareness, other than the media and the audience.
And so when I bought it, I bought it with nothing attached to it. I knew there was no business. But I said to myself, sober nation built an agency for me. And copyblogger can do the same exact thing. And so there was a guy named Johnny Nassar who was similar to Brian Clark. He was one of the old school copyblogger guys is a guy who really looked up to us to listen to his podcasts every morning when I was driving to my office, when I lived in, in Boca.
And, uh, I knew this guy had like a boutique SEO agency. And so we had a couple of conversations and we inked a deal basically. And so that’s how digitalcommerce. com was built. That’s an SEO agency that I’m a large partner in. But if, if Stasi focuses on behavioral healthcare facilities, digital commerce focuses on SAS products.
And membership sites, basically enterprise SAS products and enterprise digital sales, digital product businesses. And so like, I know I’m getting a little bit stuttery here, but I really want to hammer home the point that it’s the same thing that I’ve always done. Copyblogger is just the audience. And I knew if I could have a service business, I could close deals.
I knew if I had a good SEO. If I had the ability to sell a really, really good product, a really good SEO product in a space that I really understood, I could do that through copyblogger. And so that’s the first thing I did. And so, well, I don’t know if you heard that horn, that was crazy. And so copyblogger really started off as a lead gen site for digital commerce.
And that’s how we got our first clients. And that’s how we, we broke a million bucks a year. And it was all just using copyblogger as a lead gen site. So I didn’t go into it with this idea of like, Hey, I can build like the next hustle and build the next media company. It was very dry and to the point and to the basics.
Once I did that, then I was able to just put copyblogger into the same system as everything else, you know? And so. So I’m nothing without my team. If there’s one thing that I’ve done well in my entrepreneurial career, it is like very, very intentionally gone after employees that I know. And like, and trust.
And it’s, it’s been the same group of us for the last 10 years. You know, there’s five of us basically. And like, yeah, sure. Employees come and new people join the team and get bigger and bigger and bigger. Right. But I have never fallen into that trap of, you know, there’s someone better out there. I need to hire like a better executive.
It’s been my core group of my core group of people the whole time. And so anytime there’s something else to add into it. Sure. Like new players join the team, but this, the center of all of it is Stasi. And the center of all of it is like my family, my people that, that I build this stuff with. And so, yeah, it’s, it’s a big machine.
Don’t get me wrong. And there’s like a lot of different names and stuff like that, but it’s, it’s a lot smaller than you think, just in terms of like the analogy I have is people running around the office and there’s, there’s. Piles of paper flying all around, you know, and there’s like information going everywhere.
It’s, it’s, it’s not that there’s just a small group of us and the information we call it workflow. The process of work we, we treat workflow is basically what it is that we serve to people, the process of workflow and information going from one department to another is, is very, very systematic and calm, mostly calm.
Jared: Get that impression from you. It’s, it’s, it sounds like it’s all about the model and you’ve figured out the model of traffic and audience generation, which you did with sober nation and then translating it to a product. Obviously you have a product on there, the directory, but really another, a different product, which is Stodzy, the agency.
And you, you saw that same, uh, that same line of thinking and that same approach that could play out when you, when you saw a copy blogger come up for sale.
Tim: Exactly. And I was lucky enough to, well, not lucky, fortunate enough to, to learn from other people. So Ethan, um, Ethan Brooks, he used to run trends and that’s why I mentioned the hustle.
He used to run the hustle. He just had a real insight. On the technicalities behind media. And he showed me that there’s the free media, which is the newsletter, right? And so I was able to sell sponsorships on the copy blogger newsletter. And then I took that and I did the same thing for sober nation. And so now sober nation does have a newsletter and we sell sponsorships on it.
So there’s the free media, which monetizes through sponsorships. There’s the front end product. Which is like affordable and accessible. Uh, and so I already had that on sober nation without necessarily knowing it. And that was the feature listings or the directory, you know, it’s, it’s accessible. You can do it easily and it’s affordable.
You’re not going to really go like, ah, you’re not going to think too much about it. You’re just going to buy it. And for copy blogger, we created the copy blogger Academy, which is the membership site. And so, you know, the model replicates there’s the free media. Well, there’s the traffic first, then there’s the free media, which in my case is almost always newsletters.
Then there’s the front end product, which in sober nation is the directly listings and coffee blogger. It’s the membership site. And then there’s the backend product, which is expensive and, and not exclusive. That that’s the word. And I don’t personally have a product like typically for membership sites.
This would be like your mastermind, you know, this would be your 10, 000 mastermind or whatever. Um, I like agency businesses. I know that, like I said, they’re not very cool these days, but. I’m not the kind of guy that’s going to borrow money from somebody and create a SAS product that’s like probably going to fail and go bankrupt.
And so my backend product is high end services. And so it’s the same thing for Stasi. You know, our minimum deal is like eight grand a month for digital commerce, it’s about the same. And so it’s just this same replicated model of traffic, free media, front end, back end. And then the whole thing just feeds itself over and over again.
Jared: I have so many other things I could ask you about, but I feel like that’s a perfect place for us to close out. And, um, man, what an hour that flew by. I, uh, I learned so much, Tim. Um, Hey, where can people follow along with you? You kind of teased a newsletter you send out every Tuesday, but where can people catch up with what you’re doing and follow along?
Tim: Yeah. Tim stods. com. It’s a priority for me to continue to write and to continue to be humble and stare at the blank page. And get frustrated about how bad of a writer I am, like every writer does, you know, so if you want me and my insights, basically, I just share my, my story. I share what I’m working on.
So timstodds. com, T I M S T O D Z, uh, Twitter, LinkedIn, it’s all timstodds. And, um, follow along. I answer every email by the way. So I, anytime somebody replies to my newsletter, I always answer them. It’s, it’s another like priority of mine. So if you got any questions, you can always chat. Tim, thank
Jared: you so much for coming on and sharing so much.
Um, I’m sure a lot of people will be inspired and I’m sure a lot of people will have a lot to add to their to do list now. So appreciate you coming on and we’ll catch
Tim: up with you again soon. All right, Jared. Thanks, man.