For a part-time blogger, Neil Patel is pretty successful.
But that hasn’t stopped Quick Sprout from exploding in popularity and earning Patel recognition as a Top 100 Technorati Blogger. I’ll profile Neil Patel below and explain how Quick Sprout helps him earn a million dollars a year even though turning a profit was never part of the plan.
What You’ll Learn:
- The benefits of writing confrontationally
- Why SEO is becoming less important by the day
- What makes Quick Sprout’s ‘About’ page so unusual
- The one thing all of Patel’s monetization techniques have in common
Global Alexa Rank: 8,033
Yearly Income: Over $1,000,000
Twitter Followers: 119,000 (@NeilPatel)
Facebook Likes: 45,139
Pinterest Followers: 1,865
(Stats accurate as of 9/5/2012)
Blogger Profile: Neil Patel
Spill the Beans
Have you ever had a strategy that was so effective that you weren’t sure if you wanted to share it with everyone else?
Since Quick Sprout’s subject is online marketing, many of Patel’s readers are bloggers and business owners. In other words, they’re his competition.
But Patel doesn’t worry about keeping his most effective strategies highly guarded. He’ll give his readers the inside track and “lay it all out there” because, as he says, “Sooner or later people are going to know what you know, so might as well be the first one to share the information and get credit for it.”
Write like an Alpha Dog
In business negotiation, Neil Patel advocates being assertive and cutting people off in conversation in order to demonstrate that you are “the alpha male of the group.” He says it helps you come off as confident, nonchalant, and in control.
A similar principle is at work in Neil’s writing. One of his personal favorite posts starts with, “You are thinking about starting your own business because you want to be rich, right? If that isn’t the case, I’ll be the first to call you out on your bullshit.” Why so confrontational? Patel elaborates:
“The key is to hit people’s hot buttons…stuff that they hold near and dear to them…or hate passionately.”
Writing with confrontational confidence doesn’t just attract readers, comments, and social sharing. It’s also just makes for better, more interesting writing.
Write for ROI
The most important decision a blogger ever makes is what subject to write about. Quick Sprout covers two: managing a business and online marketing.
In Patel’s Web Domination interview, he explains how he discovered that the site’s marketing content was making him more money than the business-related content. At the time he was writing about marketing only about 25% of the time, so he set out to make a change:
“My goal for Quick Sprout in the next 90 days is to blog more on marketing related content. I still will do the business content, but I’ll try to do more like 50/50.”
Depending on how you monetize your site, different categories of content will be more profitable than others. You can use Google free analytics tool or Patel’s own Kissmetrics software to determine the most profitable subject for your site… and then start churning out more of that type of content.
Give Google what Google Wants
Patel is outspoken in his belief that the best SEO is based on quality content. He discourages anyone from chasing algorithms, going gray hat, or over-optimizing. Patel elaborates:
“Google hires some of the top scientists, engineers and PhDs in the world every year. The odds of some ‘sneaky trick’ you’ve found on an SEO blog outsmarting this brain trust aren’t very good.”
It’s estimated that Google makes a change to its search engine once every 1.75 hours. Even if you succeed in gaming the system, it won’t last forever. Your energy would be better spent giving Google what it actually wants: authoritative websites that provide value to Google’s users.
You Can’t Rush SEO
Patel has 10 years of experience in SEO and a heaping helping of natural talent. Quick Sprout’s about page reads, “I was born with a gift, in which I am able to help websites get a ton of eyeballs through the web.” Neil Patel’s SEO consultant clients include Microsoft, TechCrunch, and Amazon.
But even he can’t get you on the front page of Google overnight.
“SEO is a race, not a sprint.”
One of Neil’s biggest pieces of advice for people hoping to get more traffic to their website is to think long-term. He advises that you pace yourself while link-building, pay more attention to monthly traffic than daily traffic, differentiate between fads and trends, and above-all be patient.
The Influence that Social Media has on Search is Growing
“SEO has changed a lot and one thing that we can’t ignore anymore is that social is really starting to push how search rankings are determined.”
In a recent article, Patel told a tale of two big websites and their very different approaches to driving traffic. While About.com has become a “content farm” focused strictly on SEO, The Atlantic told their writers to stop worrying about SEO and become social media friendly. While About.com has been diminishing, The Atlantic’s web audience has grown from 500,000 monthly visitors to over 13.4 million today.
Obviously social sharing drives traffic, but it has started to play a major role in rankings as well. Google is actively counting pluses, tweets, and otherwise socializing it search rankings. So while Patel maintains that traditional SEO will always be part of the game, a site’s traffic depends increasingly on content that is socially shareable.
If you’re writing longer, better optimized posts in order to please algorithms, it’s about time you start writing to please your human audience.
Patel Increases Conversion with a Hello Bar
Neil uses the sleek Hello Bar plug-in to get people to a page where he offers SEO consulting. It’s a thin, customizable pixel bar that rests at the top every page on his site and can be minimized with the click of an arrow. Other examples of bloggers using Hello Bar are Tim Ferris, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Nicholas Tart.
You can get Hello Bar for a one-time purchase of $29 or you can use it for free for up to 25 clicks a month by visiting Hello Bar’s site. Keep in mind though, the plugin will only be as effective if it’s well implemented – and for that, Quick Sprout offers a great case study in copywriting:
“Learn how TechCrunch increased their traffic by 30% in 60 days. Click here.”
This short sentence piques the reader’s interest, offers specific results, generates qualified leads, and gives a clear call to action.
Quick Sprout has a Slim Header
In my blogger profile of Matthew Inman, I wrote about how The Oatmeal’s sub-70px header allows more room above the fold for content. But Quick Sprout’s header is even slimmer and simpler: it’s just four links, a search bar, and a logo.
The slim header works both aesthetically and practically, since it’s especially important for Quick Sprout to leave room above the fold since Patel is using the Hello Bar plug-in.
But more importantly, the simple design encourages conversion. Instead of overwhelming visitors with an array of choices, there are only five links to click at the top of Quick Sprout – and two of them take you to Neil’s consulting business.
Make Your About Page into Your Life Story
Quick Sprout’s ‘about’ page does all of these things, but in a highly unusual way. There’s no mission statement. There’s no call to subscribe. And most amazingly, there’s no mention of Quick Sprout at all.
Instead, there’s this self-deprecating caricature and a 2,000 word life story. By the time you’ve finished reading you don’t know the first thing about Quick Sprout, but you know everything about Neil Patel, you like him, and you trust him as an expert in his field.
Another highly unusual thing about Patel’s ‘about’ page? It has 1,405 comments – and that means it’s really making a connection with readers.
Blogging as a Way to Attract Clients
When Neil founded Quick Sprout, he was already making a ton of money per year through companies, investments, and his consulting business. So it wasn’t about the money. In fact, Patel said in our interview that he didn’t “care to make money from it. But, funny enough, the side effect is that I actually make quite a bit of money.”
It doesn’t come from thin air. It’s just that Quick Sprout is a well-oiled lead-generating machine for Patel’s SEO consulting business. Neil explains in Web20:
“Blogging is the easiest way to get big companies. I didn’t have to pitch to Airbnb. They wanted to work with me because of the brand I had built. Thanks to Quick Sprout, people know me as a marketing expert.
“Here’s how: I give away so much free content on my blog that big companies find me and pick me up. Without my blog, Intuit wouldn’t have known I existed. Instead, I have almost a half-a-million dollar contract with them.
“A lot of my best customers come from my blog. They’re reading a blog post, like: ‘This guy seems smart. Let’s hire him!’”
A Blog is the Best Friend of the Serial Entrepreneur
Patel is so ambitious that he sees blogging as limited because a successful blog earns “probably still under a million bucks a year.” Most of us would be pretty happy with that type of income.
Neil’s sights are set higher: “At KISSmetrics, we’re trying to become a $100 million revenue a year business… blogging alone isn’t enough.” A company like KISSmetrics is able to earn more money than a mere blog because it’s set on solving “a huge problem.”
So why does a busy many like Patel continue to maintain his blog week after week? Quick Sprout helps KISSmetrics make more money by sending it well-qualified traffic. But it also does the same thing for Crazy Egg. If Patel were to sell both companies tomorrow for $100 million, he would still have Quick Sprout – which means he would still have a powerful tool in launching, promoting, and monetizing his next startup.
The Best Revenue Streams are Recurring
All of Patel’s monetization techniques implement a flat-fee retainer. Neil explains:
“A flat-fee retainer means that you’re charging that much every month. My mom was always a business person. She taught me that the best money is always money that’s recurring.”
CrazyEgg pricing plans range from $9-$99 per month while KISSmetrics will cost you from $29-$499 monthly. Patel’s consultant fees started at as little as $100 but now he’s worked his way up to contracts of over $100,000 per month.
Recurring income like this is the foundation of financial security and a thriving business.
The Final Takeaway
As I said at the beginning, Quick Sprout isn’t Neil Patel’s full-time employer. In fact, when we interviewed Neil for Income Diary’s Web 20 project, we mostly asked him about KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg.
Off the top of his head, Patel offered up a dissertation on everything from creating company culture to doling out stock options. We only got to talk with him for an hour, but one thing was clear: the man on the other line was staggeringly intelligent and vital.
Above all, this is why Quick Sprout succeeds. Our work is a reflection of our selves. Patel is just so experienced, so multi-talented, so dedicated, passionate, and personable… and Quick Sprout has no choice but to reflect that.
When our interview with Neil Patel was up, we had one last question for him. “Any last words?” Here’s what he had to say:
It’s all about the hustle. Move as quickly as possible and don’t let anything stand in your way.
If you mess up and you fall down, learn from your mistakes and keep on pushing forward.