Ep 68: Getting to Grips with the Fundamentals of SEO with Rick Steele

Understanding SEO concepts like paid traffic acquisition and intent-based searches is easier than one might imagine, and if put to use properly, these digital marketing strategies can yield millions of dollars. Today’s guest is Rick Steele, and he joins us on the show to speak about how his use of SEO strategies has enabled him to build multiple billion-dollar businesses. Rick is not just an incredibly masterful businessman though, he is also a celebrated philanthropist and ambassador of effective altruism who is organizing a movement of high net-worth business leaders, to bring them together to solve immediate humanitarian and environmental concerns.

He is a bestselling author, has been featured on the Inc 500 list twice, was named Humanitarian of the Year by Harvard Business School, is listed amongst FastCompany’s most innovative companies, and has been featured in Washington Post, Forbes, Entrepreneur, ESPN, Huffington Post, and Fox News. Amazingly, Rick is also a 13-time IRONMAN who has recently just completed seven marathons in seven consecutive days on seven continents! In our conversation with Rick, he talks about his early adoption of online, direct to consumer sales, and takes us through the entire process of finding a product to tweaking the way you market and sell it on your website. He explains how to use tools like Google Ads to check if paid traffic acquisition will translate into profitable conversion rates, and what platforms to use to observe how customers are interacting with your products once they land on your site. He also gets into the difference between Google and Facebook advertising, his humanitarian personal branding, and the future of direct to consumer marketing post-COVID-19. Tune in for this very special episode with a tycoon of digital marketing.




  • The story of how Rick ran seven marathons in the seven days!
  • Rick’s mindset and mentality proved by being able to accomplish his marathon feat.
  • The idea behind SelectBlinds; differentiating oneself in a preexisting market.
  • How Rick pioneered the direct to consumer method.
  • Rick’s idea to insulate his business from the impending mortgage crash by selling a product instead.
  • How to check if there is a market for a potential business idea using Google Ads.
  • The difference between advertising on Google and Facebook Ads; definite versus potential buyers.
  • Intent-based searches: that people search Google for a product they are ready to buy.
  • Understanding click-through/conversion rates, and how to appear first on a Google search.
  • Rick’s two rules for knowing whether a product will work: market size and competitor size.
  • Why Rick’s bedding business didn’t work due to having overly big competitors.
  • Making sure that your website looks good once a customer lands there.
  • Understanding customer interactions extremely deeply using FullStory and CrazyEgg.
  • How much Rick has spent on Google advertising: 94 million dollars!
  • Getting the most out of the first five seconds of a YouTube ad.
  • Rick’s humanitarian personal brand building process.
  • The effects COVID-19 will have on direct to consumer business and personal relationships.


“The idea of going into blinds was what can we sell, differentiate ourselves a little bit from the market, but basically sell online in a marketplace that already has traffic.” — @ricksteeleiii [0:07:49]

“Let’s say I was selling Guns and Roses t-shirts. I go to Google Ads and say, ‘How many people are typing in Guns and Roses t-shirts?’ They are going to give me a number and that number comes with a couple of figures. They are going to say, ‘300 000 people per month typed this term in and the average number one position is a dollar forty,’ which means you would need to spend a dollar forty to get someone to your site if you wanted to own the first spot on Google.” — @ricksteeleiii [0:18:35]

“I can’t even imagine having these capabilities 15 years ago in looking at Google Analytics and watching customers come to a page, see how they interact, how long do they stay, what buttons are they clicking, where are they hung up…”— @ricksteeleiii [0:28:16]

“FullStory lets you watch via a video recording session the customer’s journey so you can see – like if they are on their phone, they are scrolling, pinching and zooming, where they can be hung up on something, so you can really understand their interactions beyond a click.”— @ricksteeleiii [0:28:48]

About Rick Steele

Rick Steele is an American entrepreneur, and founder and CMO of Selectblinds, LLC, an online e-tailer of independently branded window fashions. In 2016, Steele’s company Selectblinds.com, became the first retailer to stop selling corded custom window covering products, leading industry efforts to change manufacturer safety standards and prevent the deaths and injuries that result annually from children who become entangled in window covering cords. He is also a business speaker, philanthropist and author of business and children’s books.


RV: (00:00) Okay. So you are about to meet one of the, the world’s most interesting men. Okay. So Rick Steele I want to let you know upfront, he’s a little bit different from the kind of people that we would normally have on this who are sort of like personal brand experts. You know, they’ve built a personal brand. Here’s what Rick has done. He’s the founder of multiple, multiple billion with a B billion dollar businesses. He’s a celebrated philanthropist. He’s a bestselling author, but he’s really an ambassador of effective altruist. So he has been twice featured on the inc 500, not 5,000, inc 500 list. He was named humanitarian of the year by Harvard business school. He’s been listed among fast company’s, most innovative companies and he has been helping growth minded entrepreneurs create more social impact. And that whole movement has gotten him featured in the Washington post, Forbes entrepreneur, ESPN HuffPo and Fox news. RV: (01:05) And right now he is kind of, you know, he is, he is the founder of select blinds, which we will talk about. That is like his current main business that he is, is operating. And but you know, like he, he really is organizing a movement of high net worth business leaders to bring them together to solve immediate humanitarian and environmental concerns by not only lending their talents, but contributing a significant part of their estate to kind of nonprofit causes. So he is sitting in his garage right now, his, his car dirt with his car collection. And if you’re watching this on video, he also has his gym upstairs. And that is because he has also a 13 time iron man. And the reason we are what we’re talking about on this, cause he’s done a lot, but we’re going to be talking about paid traffic acquisition, search engine optimization, pay-per-click strategies, which is what he, he’s also one of our brand builders group clients. RV: (02:06) And so we’ve had the opportunity to get to know him and he has this ridiculous level of expertise that nobody has. And we’re going to talk about that. But he also just completed in his spare time something that he called the world marathon challenge. He did not kidding. Listen to this. Seven marathons in seven consecutive days in on seven different continents, seven marathons in seven consecutive days on seven continents. And when we started working with him yeah, he was actually one of our private clients. He came to Vaden Villa. He worked with us at the house and he was planning this. And I was like, bro, this seems like a little bit of a logistical challenge, like even, and so we haven’t really talked, so I need to hear just like for a minute, how in the hell did you do seven marathons on seven continents in seven days? That’s insane. RS: (03:07) Well, you, you know, you first have a really really good travel person and the guy that put this together for us, a guy by the name of Richard Donovan done this a few times for small groups. I think you can only do it with a small group because it was chaos, you know, getting, you know, we still had to go through security and had to go through customs at every continent and, you know, make planes and all that stuff. But you know, it, it, it’s a logistical nightmare. Yes. But it’s a, the idea of, you know, picking up and training in the training for it was, was really, I think, harder than the marathons itself. Once we got on, you know, you’re thrust into this group of, there was 35 of us, you’re thrusting this group of people that like 34 of your friends now are not going to let you not do this. RS: (03:54) Right. So you are doing this. And the first one is, Aaron has got a big smile on their face and by the third or fourth, you know, everybody has blisters and shaping and hurting somewhere and you know, so you, but you have, you know, you can go far by yourself. You know, you’ve heard this before, but you can go a lot further with the team. And you know, we had a team of people we didn’t know the minute before we met him and it was a brotherhood, sisterhood. I mean, it was, it was amazing. A group of people that just helped everybody get through this thing. We started in Cape town, we went to Antarctica, almost died in Antarctica. I mean, we literally were in a hundred mile an hour winds in Antarctica. We got delayed there and it came back and went to Australia, Dubai, Madrid for, to Liza Brazil and in Miami where we were met by all of our family members friends or a few hundred people there. It was just, it was amazing, RV: (04:47) Man, bro. Like, we’re going to have to do a separate podcast for, for my, like our leadership podcast of just the mindset and the mentality of training for that, because that is just, well, congratulations like ed to the whole crew. I mean, you’re also depending that nobody in the 35 gets seriously injured and sick and you know, like, RS: (05:10) Yeah, that it was incredible. You know, Kobe had just started in China and in fact there were six members that couldn’t make the trip because they were flying from Beijing and all the flights have been shut down. So they couldn’t participate in it because we had, you know, this was just the beginning. You know, time where the world started shutting down and really China shut down at this point. When we got back, we were about two weeks away from, you know, what we’re going through now, which is kind of a U S shutdown starting in Washington. And you know, it was I believe it was just incredible that we were able to pull it off. It was just the timing of doing it. You know, had we been a few weeks later, it wouldn’t have happened, which would have been okay too. You know, we live in a different world today, so we just have to and get used to what’s happening. RV: (05:59) Yeah. Well I think that gives good backdrop for people a little bit, just kind of about your mindset and your mentality. Mmm. You’re also a nine figure entrepreneur. You’ve built companies that do over a hundred million dollars in revenue a year. Mmm. And you know, there’s just so many amazing things that you have done that has been inspired me. But you and I started geeking out about some stuff and I was like, wow, Rick really knows this stuff. So can you just tell everybody a little bit about select blinds specifically and what you do and how you and your team, I know you have an amazing team. How have you guys built it and kind of what makes select blinds different, you know, from like most blind shops, so to speak. RS: (06:51) Yeah. You know, w we started blinds in Oh three, you know, before that I was doing mortgage, how had an internet mortgage company that we exited and blinds was a, you know, I didn’t want to create something so new, I had to go create an audience for it. So the idea of going into blinds was what can we sell differentiate ourselves a little bit from the market. But w you, you know, basically sell online in a marketplace that already has traffic. The traffic’s there, there’s already intent based buyers typing searches in. All we have to do is find a better way and sell them a better product. And it was easy for us to do back in 2003, you know, this whole I was reading an article the other day, talked about, you know, Warby Parker, you know, kind of pioneered this space of DTC in 2010 and I was like, wait a minute. No, no, me and my buddies, we were all doing this in 2003 it but it’s a RV: (07:48) In DTC, just clarify DTC, RS: (07:51) See direct to consumer, meaning that you are selling only your brand, right? And you are sending it right to the consumer. There’s no store, there’s no middleman, there’s no wholesale. It is drop ship right from you to the consumer. Which allows you to have an intimate relationship conversation, narrative with the customer. It’s so hard to do when you add one component in there. When you start adding that component in, now you’re forcing a sales person, distributor, somebody to share your message with the consumer. So DTC just means I have a direct line right to the customer. They get to know exactly what I’m about. So we had done that mortgage. We’d had that relationship. So we, we didn’t, you know, we weren’t no Nostradamus Domus or anything, but we did kind of see that there was some silly stuff going on in mortgage. RS: (08:37) Pretty much everybody could get approved for a loan. We decided to say, listen, let’s insulate ourselves from, you know, we didn’t know anything about mortgage backed securities or what was going to happen, but we just knew that the fact that home values continue to go up, everybody could get approved for a loan that wasn’t right. So we wanted to insulate ourselves, our team, our company from that impending crash. So the idea was what could we sell? Like what is something we can do that’s fundamentally different than taking a lead online and that was sell a product. And if we sell a product direct to consumer, we can have a little bit more of the control. So that was 2003 we started that thing in our bedroom. And you know, really started building the site, not knowing exactly what products we were going to sell and not knowing all the details about how we were going to sell it but just with enough passion to go out and figure it out over the course of like the next 30 days. RV: (09:28) And this is, this is select blinds that you’re talking about. So, but, but in some ways this is insane. Like you chose blinds to sell on the internet. Like there couldn’t be a more necessary like come into your home, measure it and if anyone’s ever installed blinds, like it’s a, there’s a lot to it. It’s not the, the, the simplest process and there’s lots of different tastes and styles. But to me the, the probably the first major lesson that you’ve already shared here is you went and saw intent-based traffic. Like you made a decision, a business decision based upon there is an existing audience who is looking for something and rather than, rather than starting and saying, I have something and I want to sell it, you said, what is there a market for? How do you do, like how would you do that today? Or like how does somebody determine that, what, what the, the appetite is or what intent there is out there in the market? RS: (10:39) I mean, it’s real simple in Google ad words. I mean, you can go set up a Google ad words account, put no money on it and Google gives you a keyword tool that lets you basically go in and in any region S only worldwide, you know, somewhere in between start inputting keywords. And for instance, if I wanted to start a blinds company today, I would go tell Google, show me how many people are Googling the word blinds. And Google will show me how many words how many keywords there are, what the cost per click would be if I were in the number one position. But then also start recommending a lot of other words that are also pretty accurate. You know, this wasn’t the case five years ago, but today, but man, they have nailed it with the AI. I mean, they know what I’m bidding on, they know what my competitors are bidding on. RS: (11:22) So therefore when somebody new comes in and says, Hey, show me blinds, they can pretty much tell you what the bucket of keywords are to about 99% accuracy from there. You know, really, you just, you gotta become a mathematician, you gotta start working the numbers. You’ve got to start making some assumptions on what the average order value would be. You know, you can get pretty close to that. What’s your expected click through rate would be and what your conversion rate would be. And when you can figure those things out, you can very quickly come up with, it’s a little bit of a guesstimate, but you can come up with what your average cost per order would be to actually close the sale, close an order. So much of that though gets refined when you get into the battle. A lot of it is just, it’s inspiration enough to know. RS: (12:07) For me it would be to say, listen, there’s a market here, and I don’t know exactly how big, but I know it’s a big market. It’s a mantra market. There’s a million words a month for the word blinds. I’m just making stuff up here. There’s a million intentions every month. Somebody type in the word blinds in, I’m going to go figure this out. And then it’s just get on the battlefield and figure it out. Right. Start taking people’s guns, start figuring out where to fire, you know, start figuring out where you need to hide. When your competitors have launched missile attacks at you start, you know, when those missiles miss and you know, they don’t blow up, you go pick one up and keep it for yourself. I mean, it is truly a battle that you have to figure out. But you know, for me, I’ve got so many friends in this in this space where they go out and create audiences like on Facebook and they create new demand for them. RV: (12:59) Yes. And I want to talk about that. Like, can you, can you, can you delineate here like what is the biggest difference between Facebook ads and let’s just say Google. I mean, you really, it’s, it’s really Facebook and Instagram and then it’s really Google and YouTube. So what’s the, what is the thing that separates those two categories? RS: (13:21) I think when somebody comes to Google, they have said inherently when they’re searching for a product, and that’s what we’ll, we’ll, we’ll relate this to when they’re searching for a product. They are saying, I am ready to buy for product based. You know, sometimes that is, I’m ready to just do some window shopping and research, but most of the times it’s, I’m ready to buy on Facebook as an example with running ad campaigns and setting demographics, you know, not talking about retargeting, but in Facebook it’s more I’m going to go put an advertisement in front of somebody that is likely to buy this product. They’re not right now in the market for blinds, but you know, I know them to be a homeowner. They just bought a new home. You know, there’s a lot of different, you know, kind of triggers I can put in Facebook ads that would say get me in front of an audience that is ripe for, for new blinds. Google is these people type the word blinds in. I mean it is somebody literally just walked through the threshold of a store and stood there and said, you know, I’m here to buy. Sure, put me in the right direction. RV: (14:23) Nobody is searching blinds for fun. They are searching, RS: (14:27) They don’t want to see pictures of blinds. Right. I mean say there’s a small small piece that would, you know, be looking for some inspiration because I think they can do it themselves or whatever it is. But dying, you know somebody types in guns and roses t-shirt like their, their intent right now is to buy a guns and roses T shirt right now. RV: (14:47) And that is what we so so the phrase you dropped it in earlier and I don’t think is aware of it would be intent based search. Right. And that’s kind of the, that’s kind of the technical term is they’re typing in something because they are hot, ready to buy or ready to look. You know, they’re seriously interested. And that is the power of what happens with Google. What would you call it on Facebook? Is that just like an awareness campaign? Is that like, is there a term you would use for the, that kind of, RS: (15:18) It would be awareness. I mean we, we run the retargeting and we run retargeting campaigns on Facebook, meaning somebody, RV: (15:24) So hold on on retargeting, let’s talk, let’s, I don’t want to get, I don’t want to get everybody lost on the retargeting just yet. But, but not counting retargeting. Facebook is just like, it’s just kind of like a general marketing campaign. Like if it’s like just kind of a broadcast campaign of awareness, the difference is that you’re able to really narrow down the who versus just buying a billboard on the interstate. You’re able to say, I’m going to show it to certain types of people. RS: (15:54) Correct. And, and, and even with a billboard on the interstate, there’s, there’s some targeting, right? Cause you’re choosing where you want to put your ad on what, but Facebook is a is a is it, it’s a, an exploded view of that. So let’s, you be very specific about who you want that ad to go in front of. I don’t, I have friends have such success with this. I don’t know how they get it to work. It feels like so much effort to me. I’d rather I’d rather work backwards and say, you know, put me where there’s a bunch of intent, a bunch of people looking to buy a bunch of things already saying it and then let me figure out the product. Let me figure out how to improve the experience, improve the product and and be a better company for the customers that on that landscape today. RV: (16:41) And I think, and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on is because I think that the personal brand influencer market has just, you know, completely crushed Facebook ads. And it’s not that they don’t work, they do work, but I think that the intent based search for the most part in the personal brand world, nobody is doing it. And they, they, they, they don’t know how, and they don’t understand it because they don’t, people use Facebook as a user. The average person has never used ad words or done keyword research. And I think there’s a huge frontier here, particularly with Google and YouTube that I think personal brands are sort of missing, missing the boat on. So so you’ve got intent-based search happening. I want to back up a little bit. You threw out some terms about the, the average order value you threw out, like click through rate, cost per order. These are important terms that somebody, somebody needs to understand. So how do you, how do you make a prediction, like RS: (17:50) You’re saying effectively you look for, there’s a lot of demand here and then you’re going to use these kind of key terms to go, how do I make a prediction, an estimated guess of what I think I could, how I could turn that search into money and how much it would be worth it to me. So can you kind of like slow walk us through that, that, that thinking, let’s use, let’s use like the guns and roses t-shirt as an example of that. Let me do some simple math, right? So let’s say it’s a $50, and this is a, this will be a millennial hipster guns and roses t-shirt, right? Probably the guy wearing it doesn’t even know who guns and roses is, right? RS: (18:30) I love giving millennials shit. But they, so it’s a $50 t-shirt. It’s a Mmm. And you understand that you can buy that t-shirt for 25 bucks. So I own the tee shirt for 25. I’m selling it for 50. I’ve got 25 bucks in margin. That’s what I’m going to make, right? And we’re going to start talking about shipping or I’m going to make $25. So now I get to go to Google and say, how many people are typing in guns and roses t-shirts? They’re going to give me a number. And that number comes with a couple of figures. They’re going to say 300,000 people per month. Type this term in, in the average number one position is a dollar 40, which means you would need to spend a dollar 40 to get someone to your site. If you wanted to own the first spot in Google, Google estimates this, but it’s pretty close. RS: (19:17) You would pay less if you want to own the second, third, fourth spot, right? So let’s talk about the number one spot. I want to own it and it costs me a dollar 40 so when I get somebody to the site at a dollar 40 I’ve got two I estimate some conversion rate. I’ve got to be able to know that I have to close. Well, let’s see if I close 5% that’s one in 20 that would cost me $28 it would cost me, so for 20 clicks it would cost me $28 that’s 5% closing, right? Okay. So you’re saying a dollar 40 a click dollar 40 a click, 20 clicks are going to cost me $28 now I need to close more than one per 20 clicks. Right? 5% to get that as those numbers to work out just mathematically based on what the, you know what the profit margin is on the tee shirt I’m selling. RS: (20:09) So let’s let’s say 10 let’s say 10% and that’s, that’s a high conversion rate, but it’s not unheard of with really good skew based products that are quick to buy. You can get in and out of the cart quickly. So let’s say 10% conversion rate at a dollar 40 meaning that it costs me $14 to get 10 people to the site. Once I had the 10 people, there are one person purchased, so I made $25 so my costs per click was was $14 for the 10 people. One person purchased, I made 25 bucks, my profit margin was $9 right on my $50 products. Let me just make sure I got it. So there’s a, RV: (20:47) There is a $50 t-shirt sale, you got $25 wrapped up in your cost of goods to buy the tee shirt that or make the tee shirt that you’re selling to the person and then you just paid an additional $14 to get 10 clicks on that term of which one of those people bought. So you got, you’ve got $25 in the cost of the shirt, $14 in the advertising cost to get the customer and so that leaves you a net profit on a $50 sale of nine bucks. RS: (21:19) Sure. And then you’ve got some fixed costs, you know, your rent, your employees. Like of course you know you have all that stuff you have to fig, you have to factor in. And that’s why it’s good to just kind of get a spreadsheet out and start factoring this in. These numbers start becoming pretty easy to figure out if you’ve got a big enough market to go after. So if I, if I went to, if I typed in Joe Jones yet, right? Let’s say I only wanted to sell Joan Jett merchandise, well I need to first understand is there a market, like is there a big enough market for me to start my own Joan jet website? Right. Very quickly. If I go to Google and Google tells me there are 580 searches every month for Joan Jett t-shirts, I can pretty quickly say that’s not a big enough market for me to start a company on this, but let me look at starting a rock concert t-shirt or you know, picking the top 20 whatever RV: (22:07) Broaden. So basically like if there’s not enough search volume on it on a narrow term, you’d have to broaden it in order to accomplish the same thing. RS: (22:15) Correct. You know, I have two rules. You got to make sure there’s a big enough market and understand that there’s a big enough market for you to make a dent in where you can you can have success whether there’s competition or not. Meaning that if there’s six or seven competitors, you’re just going to make each other better. It’s gotta to be big enough that you can have that success. The second thing I think is just as important, maybe more important, but it’s definitely just as important is you cannot be a product that you’re competing with if you just can’t compete with Amazon. Like, if you are trying to sell something that Amazon is shipping to customers in 20 of their warehouses, same day, good luck. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s almost impossible. I don’t like to tell people you can’t do that or it’s impossible because I don’t believe really anything’s impossible. But RV: (23:06) You also have been kind of the guy who ran seven marathons in seven, seven days. You have to know what you’re up to, RS: (23:11) Right? So it would, you know, it would be silly to go out and try to build a model on competing, and I’ve done this before. We own mean we own a company called betting.com we sold sheets, comforters, blankets. We owned the number one domain name in that space. So how could it not work? I mean, how could we not crush it? And we failed because we started selling products that we were drop shipping. We own an inventory, but we were drop shipping from the vendors and they were getting there. You know, we would have to tell people three to five days, sometimes seven days shipping in Amazon. Zappos, a lot of our competitors have these products in stock. They were shipping same day. Amazon had some of the products they were shipping two hour delivery. So it’s like, how do you compete with that? So you’ve got to, you know, you gotta know what you’re up against and you also got to no, that if you are on a level playing field on shipping, how do you differentiate yourself? How do you make, how do you create a better product RV: (24:07) Now? And, and, and this is part of what I wanted. And just for those of you listening, like most of our audience is not in true e-commerce where it is products and logistics and drop shipping and vendors. Most of our, most of our product base you know, personal brands are selling informational type of products, membership sites, video courses, these things that don’t have the costs. But [inaudible] you need to apply the same type of rigor and thinking it’s all the same concepts that would apply here is to still go figure out what are people searching for. What is there a market for that I’m well suited to serve? I mean, would you agree with that? The same rigor could apply here RS: (24:50) A hundred percent and I think also, you know, when I, when I saw your company out Rory, I didn’t Google Rory Vaden, I Googled a term, I’m trying to remember what it would have been, but I’m pretty sure I was searching for the number one, like who would I work with when I want to work with, with my personal brand that’s going to crush it for me, that’s going to help me crush it. So my search term was probably, you know personal branding, a mastermind or something, right. There was some search, and I don’t know if you know, I found you guys via a paid ad, but I would say what you can do, no matter what you’re selling, even if it’s just informational and you’re using Facebook ads, you know, what is w what are the physical products that you that somebody could search on Google that are somewhat relevant to what you’re also selling in your informational business coaching, whatever it may be that are relatable to, you know, to, to that product. Because then if you can buy those clicks and you can sell a product cheap, you know, that’s a, that’s an easy and cheap way to list build too, right? So you can then sell them a product you make a little money on. Maybe it’s a loss leader. RV: (25:58) Well, that’s what a lot of people do with the book. That’s what the free plus, the free plus shipping model is with the book. But you know, so here’s what’s interesting. We are number one for the term personal branding, but it’s not our website. It was, I was interviewed on social media examiner, which is a monster website, but they did an interview with me and that it, the interview did so well. Plus their audience is so big in general and there’s such a high authority site that when you search personal branding, at least at the time of this interview that comes up. And so I think that’s probably what happened. Cause I know you found like you, you listen to that podcast with Michael Stelzner and then, and then we meet you. But, but okay. Yeah. So, so, so basically you’re going to make a prediction here, right? RV: (26:48) You’re going to, you’re going to have some forecast, you’re gonna throw out some numbers. You’re going to look at go, where’s the demand? How much is it going to cost for the click? That’s a good tidbit. I didn’t realize that the number that Google publishes is the number is the number one position for the click. So what about, so at that point then, basically you just start putting some money into the machine. You’re driving people to a website and you start monitoring how many people visit that page versus how many buy is that basically it, RS: (27:20) Yes. I mean you, you know, you want to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success and having, you know, when somebody lands the page has got to be good, right? You got a good product that’s got an easy way to check out. You know, I’ll equate this to, you know, our first product, full wood blinds there, which are fake wood, you know, they’re like a poly blind. We had this product live the very first day we turned it on to pay-per-click. I mean we probably put 50 bucks in there or something. And we said at an immature, it was like a dollar per click that at that time, you know, bring people to this page for full wood blinds. And we just, we watched it, you know, we sat there, this is before Google analytics, but Google and there was a, there was a competing product before Google analytics where we’ve been watching the traffic. We would see what they were doing. W how much time and RV: (28:11) Okay, so, so what, let me just make sure, so you’re saying that when you first started that it was like a page for pho blinds and you just basically threw 50 bucks in there to sort of test it. Like is that basically what you were doing was to watch to see what happened? RS: (28:26) Sure. You know, we said let’s put 50 bucks on and that’ll give us 50 people to the site. Let’s see if anybody buys. And if somebody does, it’s going to be amazing. We’re all going to jump up and down and cheers that we actually have something that will, you know, that works. And they did. We actually sold to a couple of customers, I’ll never forget it because it was a it was this moment where it was just like this. We knew it was going to work, but we didn’t, we didn’t know conversion rates. We didn’t know, you know, how much it was going to take. We didn’t know what we would need to adjust pricing to be, you know, because you know, you, you could only, you know, if we sold one out of 50 people and that’s a 2% conversion rate. If we sell two out of 50 people, it’s a 4% conversion rate. So we’re able to make better economics at 4% conversion rate of course. But a lot of it was just, you know, today the capabilities are just, I mean, I can’t even imagine having these capabilities 15 year, 18 years ago, whatever it’s been in looking at Google analytics and watching customers come to a page, see how they interact. How long do they stay? What buttons are they clicking, where are they hung up? I mean, you can physically see their mouse scrolls and you can see, you know, kind of RV: (29:36) Google analytics show you hate map. Does it show you heat mapping? RS: (29:40) They don’t. They’re, they’re heat mapping tools RV: (29:42) That you can add in, which is, which we have in and there’s several of them out there right now, like crazy egg. And we use a company called FullStory. Fullstory. Just watch, let’s you literally watch via like a video recording session, the customer’s journey. So you can see like if they’re on their phone, they’re scrolling, pinching and zooming where they pick up on something. It’s so you can really understand their interactions beyond a click or beyond a patient. Wow. That is incredible. I’ve never heard of that RS: (30:14) In this. I liken this to if, if you were a store, like best buy and you had a bunch of people come through the front door and then a lot of people go to, let’s say the TV aisle and then everybody just stood there and looked at this one TV but then walked away and didn’t buy. You would want to know specifically what’s wrong with this one TV and why they didn’t buy. So you can start asking questions. You could start, you know, really looking at that page and saying, what’s wrong with this? And almost always you will find an error on the page. You’ll, it’s priced too high. It’s like, you know, you’re saying something that doesn’t really give them the information they need. So, you know, these tools are truly just unfair competition to like traditional retail. I mean traditional retail really, unless we live in, in like this minority report world where you see where Tom cruise walks in and they start, you know, doing the eyeball tracking and identifying stuff. We are like dozens of years away from that. This is the world we get to live in, in e-commerce when using tools like Google analytics and crazy egg and full story to see a customer’s intentions and behaviors. RV: (31:20) Wow. So, so then basically, I mean, at a high level you’re going to do a little research to figure out what is their intent for. Then you’re going to look at some numbers, you’re going to make some hypotheses about how much it’s going to cost. Then you’re going to build a page and you know, a product and you’re going to put a little money into the machine and then you’re going to watch how it performs. And then after that, it’s basically just this perpetual tweaking and updating and optimizing. I guess would be would be the word. And and then is that, is that more or less what it is just and it’s just that over and over again. RS: (31:57) It is. I mean, and then in one day, you know, you find yourself spending a hundred thousand dollars a day on Google and managing tens of thousands of keywords and you know a lot of time a lot of growth. But that’s it’s, it’s exactly what it is. I mean it is, you know, the direct to consumer brand with millions of customers. Like we are had to start with a couple of people in one sale and then you know, evolve to a dozen sales and then hundreds of sales. RV: (32:22) Can you share how much you’ve spent on Google or like give us like any sort of idea of like how like just how much has your, have you spent on like pumped money into the app? The Google ad machine, me and my, RS: (32:34) Me and my Google, I spoke, I spoke at Google about this a couple of years ago and it’s funny, they asked me to talk about, you know, why we, how we have such good conversion rates and what are we doing? Like what is the thing that gets us to, to move the needle. And I kind of put a joke on my PowerPoint, which was the formula. It’s a three step formula. Formula one is I give Google my credit card, step two is Google charges my credit card. And then step three is I find a way to make all that work as a marker. But my rep and I, every now and then we will w well I will do a screenshot on the account and I think the last time we screenshotted it between our two accounts were just under a hundred million. Right now, $9 million in spend. RS: (33:13) Yeah, $94 million. $4 million. But it is, I mean, every single dollar has been worth it because they have all, you know, it has all been intent-based traffic. I mean, so it is a, I mean, it feels unfair, but I mean, this is where, when you look at Google, I mean these, this multiple, almost trillion dollar company gets almost all of its revenue, right? So just let that sink in for a second. All of its revenue from pay-per-click ads and those pay-per-click ads are dominantly intent-based. You know, customers, I’m looking for this right now. Sell this to me. So it is a you know, it doesn’t have to be blind. I mean, it could be duct tape, it could be a variant of a new product that’s out there. You know, Shopify, some of these platforms give you the ability to spin up a site and have tools that are really even greater than what we architect with. RS: (34:14) I’m so much greater than what, how, what we built in the early days from day one for like 30 bucks a month. It’s, it’s truly insane. The platforms that are out there and that’ll let you spin up a, a really good eCommerce platform. And so does this also, is everything that we’re talking about with Google, does this also apply to YouTube? It does. You know, we do, we do some advertising on YouTube with video ads that are both intent based video ads and then also, you know, retargeting video ads as well. So we have a, a couple of really good high production videos we’ve done that are commercial quality where somebody, when they come into our site, they leave. I mean the best use of YouTube is, is a being there in a retargeting narrative that shares a little different message than what you were sharing on the front end. RS: (35:04) So, you know, if somebody came to your site and they left and didn’t buy your, your ads probably didn’t work. I mean, that’s kind of what the assumption should be is my ad was wrong. So I need to deliver a different narrative, different story on the on the back end. And so it’s the retargeting on YouTube. We get the opportunity to do that in those, you know, if you’ve seen the ads that are, you know, they make you play for five seconds and then skip. Yep. There’s, there’s ways to gain that. Just make sure you get verbally your name and audibly audible, your name and digitally your name in the first five seconds so they hear your brand’s name and, and see your logo in the first five seconds. And if somebody does skip, you actually get that brand impression for free because Google doesn’t charge you for it. So and a lot of people skip, a lot of people get through these and it is, again, it feels like cheating the system, but it’s, it’s best practices with what we get to do. And I’m delivering an impression to somebody that’s not watching the full 32nd ad. RV: (36:00) Yeah. And you’re saying you only pay if they watch more than five seconds? RS: (36:04) Yeah, I think we, we start paying, there’s some level that we start paying at. But, and they don’t have to watch the whole video, but if they skip at the five second Mark, we don’t pay. RV: (36:14) Yeah. And so then you’re literally telling people about what you do for free. Like the Google machine is pushing you out there. RS: (36:24) I mean the first five seconds of our ads has select blinds verbally in it. I mean our logos in the bottom right of the screen, it is you, you will have known what that commercial was about if you skip it. RV: (36:36) Yeah. Well I mean this is so fun. Like we didn’t even get into retargeting like there’s so much here. And it just for everyone to know transparently, I, when I was polishing up our, we have our, you know, we have our, our nine different events. When I was working on our phase three high traffic strategies event, I called Rick because I was like, Hey, I want to bounce a couple ideas off you, make sure I got this right. Like and it’s just, you know, like you were someone that I tapped personally to go help me try to get my mind wrapped around this. And it’s in some ways it’s really complex, but mostly it’s very logical. It’s very systematic. I do have one more question for you, but before that, where, where should people go? You know, Rick, if, if they, if they want to, they want to connect with you and follow you. RV: (37:27) I know your, your personal brand and just so everyone knows, like Rick is not in the business of teaching people this, his personal brand is really about effective altruism. He’s, he’s really driven by making a dent in the world in a positive way. And you know, building a, a network of you know, more or less high net worth individuals who, who have a real desire for humanitarian and environmental concern and help. So if you’re one of those people, I’m sure he’d love to connect with you, but just in general, people want to like follow up and know who you are. Like, where would you direct them? RS: (38:02) Yeah, I would say, you know, best channel is Instagram and that’s a Rick Steele official on Instagram. You know, you’re going to see you know, a brand there that if you hold my Instagram up to select blinds, you’re going to say, wow, this guy’s crushing it and blinds. Where’s this guy going with this personal brand? What’s a personal brand? Right, exactly. I feel, you know, the game of building a personal brand. That’s why we need really great leaders like you and helping us out with this because this is, for me, it feels very hard. I mean, it feels very hard. The, the game of e-commerce direct to consumer, it feels easy, right? Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing that longer and I’ve been immersed in that game for some time, but yeah, Rick still official will be the place to go see, you know, just a guy that I think is, you know, I’m living a hard charging life, trying to be a good dad, good husband, good business guy and and good athlete all at the same time. RV: (38:58) Yeah. And you’ve got a very entertaining, you’ve got tens of thousands of followers, a hundred, hundred over a hundred thousand followers. So you got, you got some good stuff going. And you’re just like, yeah. And like most interesting man in the world, maybe it’s the most interesting man in the digital world. Like it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s pretty incredible. So here’s our last little question for you. Where do you think the future is going as it relates to paid traffic acquisition into and intent based search? RS: (39:32) Listen, if you would have asked me four weeks ago, I would’ve, I would’ve given you the same answer, but with maybe a little bit less enthusiasm. You know, I feel very lucky to be in this game of direct to consumer where somebody orders online. Listen, I don’t know about you Rory, but I’m doing stuff around my house now that I didn’t think I would ever do. Like again, maybe which is, you know, landscaping my entire house. Not that I’m bored, but I just like, you know, I’ve got some extra time. I’m doing some stuff around the house. I would say if you’ve thought about building a DTC direct to consumer e-commerce, this is the time is now, you know, this, this Corona virus coven 19 has, I believe is going to leave a generational Dennis and, and I think it’s gonna be positive. RS: (40:21) I do, but I believe that we are going to be more grateful when we do get to spend time with people that is going to be more quality time. But I also believe on the flip side of that, people are going to be doing more of their own stuff, buying and securing, procuring their things. We’ve already seen this as an immediate pop in direct to consumer and just online search in general across everything. I’ve got friends in different, you know, spaces online. All their searches are up. I think people, this, this has given people the ability to have a little bit of empowerment and say, Hey, maybe this is something I can do myself now and, or, or by myself and have shipped to me. So, yeah, I don’t, you know, I’m a, I’m a small business too, so I still, for me, I want to support small business as much as possible, but I also believe that we’re living in we’re going to come out of this with a little bit different behavioral change then when we came into it with, and a lot of that is do I need to walk into a store? RS: (41:21) Do I need to have a sales person in my home? I mean, there’s just a, it’s a, it’s a real interesting time we’re living in now. So I think the you know, with enthusiasm for me and, and the type of business that ran, love it, but it’s still yet to be seen. I believe the behavioral changes is going to be here to last. I don’t believe this is a, you know, something that we forget very soon. So, RV: (41:44) Yeah. Well, RS: (41:45) If we ever get out of quarantine, if we ever get, I’m in my garage right now. I mean, this is where I’m doing all my stuff is in my garage, so, but I like it. RV: (41:55) I love it. I love it. Well doing business from home, it’s it’s, it’s I think it’s a trend that, you know, clearly was a trend that was happening. I think this has accelerated it. It’s only accelerated it. And given that that’s the case, the insight and the wisdom and the experience that you have just so generously shared with us is, is truly priceless. I think that understanding these basic concepts can literally be worth millions of dollars. They have been to us just understanding intent based search and you know, where is demand and getting in front of it and hypothesizing with some basic ratios and then testing and optimizing like this is, it’s, it’s interesting to see at your scale that, that that’s how you get there. It’s this, it’s the same process. So brother just thank you so much and we wish you the best. I know, you know, some, some of us will get a chance to meet you at one of our brand builders group events in person when we resume our in person events, maybe virtually for the time being. So all the best man. RS: (43:02) Yeah. Thank you. Really appreciate it. Thanks.

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25 of the World's Most Recognizable Influencers Share Their Tips on How to Build and Monetize a Personal Brand

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