Sam McRoberts is the CEO of VUDU Marketing, the author of Screw the Zoo, and has been doing online marketing since 1999.
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Seeking Wisdom – Sam’s Top Business Book
Screw the Zoo – Sam’s book
VUDU Marketing – Sam’s website
Connect with Sam on Twitter
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The Mastery Journal – Master productivity, discipline, and focus in 100 days!
3 Value Bombs
1) The biggest gains in SEO are in fixing technical site issues.
2) Know what your knowledge gaps are; study the ones you want, and delegate the others.
3) Figure out what makes you curious and use that path to build a business.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
[00:54] – Sam started out by helping his mom with her eBay business in the late 90’s and learned to build websites at the same time
[01:21] – His area of expertise is in SEO
[01:32] – Share something we don’t know about your area of expertise that as Entrepreneurs, we probably should: For a lot of websites, the biggest issues are on the technical side. The best SEO is great content, BUT the biggest gains actually come from fixing technical site issues
[02:32] – For any given keyword, check out pages 1 – 3 for results because that’s exactly what Google wants to see
[03:12] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: In 2010, Sam worked for a startup online marketing agency. When he found out that his wife was pregnant, he unexpectedly got laid off. For a month he tried to find a job while trying to get his business up and running — it didn’t work out. He was overwhelmed and felt defeated
[05:34] – Refuse to give up!
[06:05] – Know what your knowledge gaps are and fill them in
[07:15] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: From Sam’s down period, he got a job in a different online marketing agency with bigger clients. While working there, he realized that he hated doing SEO fulfillment work but loved the strategy of it, so he did that in his business — he took out the fulfillment work and just focused on audits and strategies. That’s what gave him traction.
[08:15] – Find something that you’re curious about and enjoy doing
[09:12] – Figure out what you love, and if that thing is something people are going to pay for then go for it!
[09:52] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “It’s 2 things — it’s future technology and mental models”
[11:11] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Introversion”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Know thyself”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “I read anywhere from 1 to 3 books per week”
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Seeking Wisdom – “it’s the operating manual for the human mind”
[13:12] – Figure out what your strengths are and amplify those
SM: I am, John.
JLD: Yes. Sam’s a CEO of Voodoo Marketing. The author of Screw The Zoo, and has been doing online marketing since 1999. Sam, take a minute. Fill in some gaps from that intro and just give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
SM: Yeah, so I started helping my mom with an Ebay business in the late ‘90s and learned to build websites around the same time. And I stuck in this space pretty much ever since. Mid 2000s, I started learning more about SCO in particular and kind of niched into that. And that's been my jam for the last 12 years.
JLD: So, what would you say today, after, you know, what is it now? Coming up on 20 years of you working in this biz, what's your area of expertise?
SM: SCO in particular. I do a lot of audits and technical SCO.
JLD: Doing these audits, what's the one thing you just find over and over again that we're doing wrong, Sam? Break it down.
SM: For a lot of sites, it's on the technical side where the biggest issues are. So, I hear a lot, you know the best SCO is just great content, and it's true up to a point. But once you get to that point, your biggest gains will come from fixing technical issues, like page speed or mobile usability. And a lot of sites miss out on both of those.
JLD: What is your favorite tool when it comes to like site speed and then making the proper fixes based on the results?
SM: For site speed, in particular, I really like using Pingdom tools. And then for, like my favorite all-around SCO tool would be Screaming Frog. It's a site crawler that let’s you get a really good view of your site from the perspective of a search engine.
JLD: Pingdom tools and Screaming Frog. So, that was pretty tactical as far as, you know, the site speed, et cetera, but let’s give one more thing that you think is maybe really practical for listeners today that, you know, don't have a big team, don't have a big budget. Like, what's something that we can do to help us out SCO wise?
SM: So, one of the best things you can do for any given keyword that you're trying rank for is go look at who’s already ranking in positions one, two and three. Because that's Google telling you exactly the type of thing they want to see in the content link, the style, the optimization on the page. Like, Google’s showing you this is a map to perfect for this keyword, and that's something that anybody can learn to replicate and take it one step further.
JLD: Let’s take one step in another direction right now, Sam. And I want that direction to be your entrepreneurial journey. Tell us the story of what you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. What is that story, Sam? Take us there.
SM: So, it was 2010. I was working at a start-up. It was a large online marketing agency, and I got laid off. Right about at the same time I found out that my wife was pregnant. And I had been working to build up a side business, but it was super slow going. So, I was unexpectedly thrust into the world of self-employment. I tried for like a month to find another comparable job while also trying to get the business up and running, and it just wasn't working out, so I decided to focus on build up this side business.
And to be frank, that year was abysmal. I think I did a whopping $10,000 in revenue. But I learned a lot of lessons, and one of which was I was not ready at that time to be self-employed. There were too many holes in my knowledge. Too many things I hadn’t done yet. Too many angles I still needed to explore. So, went back to working for other people to fill those holes.
JLD: So, what's the one moment, Sam? Drill down into that. Were you sitting in your parent’s basement? Like, were you in a fast food restaurant, like, crying into a hamburger? Like, what was the moment?
SM: Oh, dude. During the course of that year, I absolutely had points where I was balling. Like, I was stressed.
JLD: So, take us to one. What was one?
SM: I was sitting a basement apartment, actually, and I was just…
JLD: I totally made that basement part up, but that's pretty cool.
SM: And you got it. You nailed it. I felt completely overwhelmed, right? Bordering on suicidal at the time. There were so many things. I had bills to pay, a kid on the way and the business wasn't taking off and I hadn’t been able to find another job, and I just felt defeated. And then I re-read The Four-hour Work Week. Which I’d read once before. I liked it. But this time it really resonated. And so, I took away a handful of lessons from that that I was able to leverage.
JLD: What’s maybe one lesson that you really took away? Like, what was one practical tip you like, Oh, you know, I read this once, didn't really process it. This time I did.
SM: The concept of income per hour worked. Like, it's the one metric that you can always boost and you can disconnect from everything else. So, that led me to process sizing my business and selling things as products instead of hours. Which was huge.
JLD: So, that was really a tough moment for you, and a lot of people, frankly, just give up. You know, they go apply for a job like at the local Walmart, and like, that's it. You know, 40 years later they retire. What was different for you? Like, what was the moment things actually turned around? Like what was the first shiver of light that you saw?
SM: I have always hated dancing to everyone else tune. And so, I refused to give up because that's what too many other people would have done and I didn't want to go back the route of just being an employee forever, but I knew that I still had holes to fill. So, I went back to be being an employee in a specific set of industries to fill the knowledge gap because I wanted to – I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I just didn't know all the things I needed to do it yet.
JLD: Fire Nation, twice now, Sam’s used the words knowledge gap. You have to know what your knowledge gap is. I have knowledge gaps. Tim Ferris has knowledge gaps. Everybody has knowledge gaps.
I was just watching this great documentary by the way, highly recommend it, it’s the new Thick and Grow Rich. You can just Google it. I will say, don't be too surprised when you see JLD there, I was one of the features. But I loved the part where they talk about Henry Ford and how he actually got taken to court for – Actually, sorry. He was called incompetent by the Chicago newspapers, so he took them to court and then in court they kind of gave him like this quiz, he’s like, I don't need to know the answers to any of this stuff because I have all the people around me that are smart that know the answers. So, I just ask them.
So, guess what? Henry Ford knew his knowledge gap, and instead of filling it because he didn't want to, he just hired people because he had the means to fill that knowledge gap. People like myself and Sam, when we started off we didn't have enough resources to hire people. So, guess what? We figured out which knowledge gaps we wanted filled and we filled it. So, what are your knowledge gaps, Fire Nation? Fill those.
Now Sam, let’s shift into what you consider one of the greatest ideas you’ve had to date. Take us to that Ah-ha moment. Tell us that story.
SM: So, it led from that down period, right? I began to think of business less in terms of an hourly service that I was providing and more in terms of products. So, it wasn't until around 2011, maybe 2012, I had gotten a job working at a different online marketing agency focusing more on bigger companies, and I realized doing that I absolutely hated SCO fulfillment work, right? Writing the titles. Sticking keywords in the content, like it was too in the weeds. And I loved the strategy side of it.
And so, I completely shifted what I was doing for my own side business and I started doing only audits and strategies. And so, I was able to make a product and sell these at a fixed price. I never had to discuss hours. I didn't have to tell people how long it was going to take to do. I made sure that I designed the entire product so that it had a very high perceived value and I could sell it accordingly. And that's been amazing. I mean, that's been most of my revenue since then.
JLD: What I love about that Fire Nation, what I really want you to hone in on is Sam actually found something that he enjoyed doing. I mean, he found an area that he was more curious about, that he was excited about, that he was little bit fired up about and he decided to dig deep in that niche. He found the niche and he dug deep in it. What's the niche that get you excited? What's the niche that gets you fired up? Dig deep in that area. Go deep, become, if not the best, become one of the best and then you're going to be sought after because you had that level of expertise that other people A.) probably don't want to have.
Like, I don't want to have a high level of expertise in SCO because the time it would take me to get that high level of expertise isn’t worth for me spending time on other things that I enjoy and I'm good at. So, I hire people like Sam to do that stuff for me because he knows it and he’s great at it, he loves it. How can you do that for you, Fire Nation?
Now Sam, what do you want to make sure our listeners get from that story?
SM: Figure out what you love is great advice, but also make sure what you love is something that people are willing to pay for. So, I made sure that I did that. There were plenty of people who wanted SCO. There were already a lot of people who already had internal teams who could take recommendations and run with it. They didn't necessarily need to hire an SCO agency, or even a full-time SCO person. But they needed somebody who knew the space really, really well who could give them a road map that they could just take and run with. And so, that was a space that wasn't really being filled and it's been amazing. It's a really, really good little niche in the SCO space.
JLD: Sam, what are you most excited about today? What fires you up right now?
SM: Weirdly, it has nothing to do with online marketing. Two things. So, future technology and mental models. I'm pretty much obsessed with both.
JLD: Talk more about it. Let’s hear what's exciting about those areas.
SM: You mentioned Henry Ford. People like him, Ben Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, right? They all were great for looking forward in time and having a mental vision of where things were going to go. So, on the future tech side, paying attention to innovations. Whether it's in the biology sphere, genetics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, crypto-currancies, right? These are all potentially significant innovations that are going to change the future. And being aware of all of them and digging deep enough to have at least a decent understanding can help you to spot where things are going down the road and that's one of the best ways to succeed as an entrepreneur. Is to figure out where things are going to go and get there ahead of everybody else.
JLD: Exactly, Fire Nation. Find out where the world is going and then take a short cut, jump ahead and get cutting-edge and see what transpires. It's a fun, fun time.
Now Sam, I would love to know what you're going to be dropping for value bombs in the lightening round, but just like everybody else, we're going to have to wait until we get back from thanking our sponsors.
Sam, are you ready to rock the lightening rounds?
SM: I am.
JLD: What was holding you back from becoming and entrepreneur?
SM: Introversion. I am very much an INTJ, hard on the I. And so, having to be the face, the spokesperson, the sales person for my business was a very uncomfortable hurdle to surmount. And so, I forced myself to start doing public speaking. Speaking at different events, conferences. To force myself to get over that. It's been extremely uncomfortable, but worth it.
JLD: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
SM: It's probably some of the oldest recorded advice, and that's Know thyself, from Plato. So, sharp dude. And it's a statement that can really be unpacked, but it boils down to the better you know yourself, the better you're able to conquer and surmount everything around you.
JLD: What is a personal habit that contributes to your success?
SM: I read anywhere from one to three books a week and have for as long as I can remember.
JLD: What's your trick to speed reading? Or just getting enough time to do that?
SM: I read pretty fast by default. I also do a lot of audio books and crank up the speeds so I can get through more. And then I make sure I take notes as I'm doing an audio book so I don't miss things.
JLD: Well, Fire Nation, if you're an audio book person, well, what are you doing? Because you like audio, you listen to this podcast and you can get your first audio book for free if you're not currently an Audible member over at eofirebook.com.
On that note Sam, recommend one book and share why.
SM: So, my favorite book by far is Seeking Wisdom, by Peter Bevelin. I've heard it recommended by a bunch of people. And basically it's the operating manual for the human mind. It serves as a brilliant compendium of a ton of other books. I’d actually say that at least 50 to 100 different books I read, I could’ve saved myself those books by just reading Seeking Wisdom.
JLD: Sam, I want to end today on fire with you giving us a parting piece of guidance, sharing the best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say good-bye.
SM: So, I’d say figure out what your strengths are and focus on amplifying those. It's usually far higher leverage to improve your strengths than it is to try and improve your weaknesses. And you can always hire people to counterbalance your weaknesses, right?
JLD: So true.
SM: So, the best way to catch up with me, on Twitter. I’m pretty responsive. sams_antics. I really should change that at some point, but I'm too lazy.
JLD: Well, now that it's on EOFire, you literally can never change it.
SM: There you go. And then, my gift to your listeners. So, I set up a domain name that redirects to a course. I put it together, an SCO course a few months back. So, if you go to scofirenation.com, it’ll take you over to that training course and I'm giving away ten free seats to anybody who hits that link.
JLD: Whoa, whoa. Count nine Fire Nation because I'm hitting that link. Just kidding. I would never take one away from you. Real quick Sam, do you remember who the author is for Seeking Wisdom?
SM: Peter Bevelin. B-E-V-E-L-I-N.
JLD: Peter Bevelin, boom. Fire Nation, get over to scofirenation.com. Grab one of those ten seat and know that you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with SM and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com and you type Sam in the search bar. Everything we talked about today is going to pop up in those show notes, which are the best in the biz. There are timestamps. There are links galore. And Sam, I want to thank you, brother, for just sharing your wisdom and for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
SM: Thanks John.
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