we are back with another interview session and this time we got the opportunity to have the conversation with Zac Johnson.
In this interview we have discussed about his passion, what he thinks about digital marketing and about his successful journey.
Lets start the conversation:
Varun: How did you get the passion for digital Marketing?
Zac: I always had a passion for entrepreneurship and making money online. Fortunately the internet came together at the right time -which is while I was in high school. I knew there was a way to make money with it, I just had to figure it out.
Long story short, I came across affiliate marketing through the Amazon Associates Program. This worked out really well, as I had a big celebrity site that was ranking well in Google. The problem was, I was only making a few dollars for every sale I was sending their way.
I then came across affiliate marketing on a CPA scale (through smaller affiliate networks). I was then getting paid $30 for a new credit card signup or $1.50 for someone to complete a free survey. This was back in the late 90s and still fairly all new to everyone. You can see some of my first check here.
This continued to grow and scale over time. During this time I did everything from SEO, websites, email marketing, my own lead gen sites, launching my own affiliate programs and more.
This went on for about a decade before I launched my next big project, which was launching ZacJohnson.com. You can read more on my story and history here.
Varun: According to you which branch of digital marketing you understand the most and why?
Zac: SEO has always been fun and interesting. When I first started making money online, it was due to ranking my sites and content in Google through SEO and getting free organic traffic. This helped me in generating over six figures in sales for Amazon while I was still in high-school — all of which was accomplished without the need to spend any money on advertising.
SEO is more competitive these days, but it’s also still rewarding if you have authority sites and know how to create content that converts. At the same time, paid advertising is a better option for new sites or people looking to focus directly on leads, sales, and conversions — while also having some money to spend. Again, SEO is great, but there is a lot of waiting around before a new site will see any movement.
Varun: Name some of your successful projects and what did you learn from them?
Zac: My MySpace Resource Site — In 2006 I launched a myspace resource site that went on to generate over $800k profit in just four months. This site was created with over 10,000 pages of pure HTML and NO coding or databases at all. The lesson here is that simple sometimes works best. This was the last website I created before using WordPress.
Zac Johnson Blog – Deciding to launch my own brand and blog in 2007 was one of the best decisions I made. It opened up a whole new world of opportunities and also made my business not reliant on any specific advertiser or industry. This was also my first site using WordPress.
Rise of the Entrepreneur – A few years ago, podcasting was the big thing. I already had a big following online and lots of traffic to my site, so I figured this would make for a nice addition as well. I did around 80 episodes and had some awesome guests on the show like Gary Vaynerchuk, Timothy Sykes, Neil Patel and many others. Long story short, it made for great content and also did really well for branding and connections, but I ultimately put the show on hold for the time being, as it just wasn’t something I was super passionate about.
Varun: What motivates you when some of your projects aren’t working well, how you measure or make out your weak points in a particular project?
Zac: It’s always important to remember that this is a LONG process. It’s also important to put in the time and effort to plan out your new project before going live with it. All too often we see people jumping around to different projects just because they see someone else doing well with it. Do all of the boring analytical and research beforehand, so you will likely see more success with each project. It’s also important to be somewhat interested in what you are working on, otherwise it’s just more work.
Varun: How you prioritize your list of tasks? Which are the most important 3 things you keep in your checklist?
Zac: I’ve never really been big on lists or daily tasks. I just complete what I know what needs to be worked on, and where the money/focus currently is. The key takeaway here is to not spread yourself too thin and forget about what is actually working and scalable with more focus and effort.
Varun: Your piece of suggestion which you would like to share with both experienced and newbies in field of digital marketing?
Zac: Starting a website or blog is easy. Making money with a website or blog is not. The same is true with affiliate marketing or any business online.
While the cost of entry is really nothing, and the opportunities are limitless, you are also competing against the whole world that is seeing that way as well. If you want to find success online, you need to treat it like a real business and be willing to work 80-100 hours per week. Don’t get blinded by the fake stories of the ‘laptop lifestyle’ where people work four hours per week.
Varun: What is your take on email marketing? What do think about the future of email?
Zac: Email marketing is also great. It’s extremely important to have an email list and a great call to action on your site. With around 70% of site traffic never returning to your site, email is the only way to keep them coming back for more.
To get the most out of your email efforts, spend a good amount of time on planning out a great autoresponder series and don’t try to pitch or sell right away. Also start using remarketing ads to target users that are on your email list. This works like wonders and greatly improves ROI, while keeping ad costs low.
Varun: What according to you is most ignored and overlooked ranking factor in SEO?
Zac: Content creation and promotion. Too many people are focused on creating content, and not as much on the content promotion aspect. With more than a billion active sites on the internet today, there is already way too much information out there. Spend more time on creating long-form content, promoting it, then promoting it even more.
Varun: During the Initial phase of your digital marketing career, what were the top 3 mistakes you made?
Zac: Tough to say, as you learn from everything along the way… but here are three that I can point out.
- Not buying a ton of generic domain names back in the 90s
- Not creating a big software or agency and selling it early on
- Not starting a blog/personal brand early on
Varun: Has Google core Update affected your business, how did you overcome with them?
Zac: Overt the past 20 years, Google has made a ton of updates. It’s all about adapting to each of them and not having a business that is reliant just on Google. There are way too many different ways to make money online or target an audience to let something like an ‘update’ destroy your business. Create something real and valuable and you likely won’t be affected by any upcoming updates.
Varun: Important tools which you think digital marketers should consider the most?
Zac: SEO tools are good. I like Ahrefs and SEMrush. Google Alerts/Keyword-WM Tools and UberSuggest are good free options for anyone without a budget as well.
Varun: On Which platforms you prefer to promote your blog content after publishing it? and what are the other important & beneficial promotional activities that you think should be done after publishing the blog.
Zac: Social media is always important, but I tend to focus on getting backlinks and mentions from other websites. I also like doing paid social media options as well.
Varun: Share your experience about your very first affiliate venture Pacific Coast Feather Company?
Zac: This was really just one of the first affiliate programs I came across. They offered .01 per click, and you wouldn’t get paid until you hit their $100 minimum payment threshold… which was 10,000 clicks! Needless to say, I’m sure they didn’t pay out much to affiliates… and who the heck wants to click on ads for a pillow company! But, this was all back in the mid-to-late 90s, so it was fun to experience!
Varun: Share your story of ZacJohnson.com. What was the inspiration and motive behind starting the website?
Zac: I had the domain name for a while and finally decided to launch the blog in 2007. This was an attempt to become a personal brand and also help other people make money online as well. More than 10 years later and it’s still one of the best business decisions I made.
Just like any site or project, it started out slow, but the site now has over 3,000 live articles and continues to bring in a ton of traffic and new opportunities daily. After a few years of seeing the success behind ZacJohnson.com, I then acquired the domain name Blogging.org and launched that as another how-to resource site as well.
Varun: What are the apps or services that you are using these days and why?
Zac: Automation and making your business accessible from anywhere is extremely important. So I’m always keeping an eye out for new and exciting tools that can help with this/.
Right now I’m using WordPress to power the majority of my sites, Trello for management of different projects, Zoho for email/internal reports and day-to-day operations. Also using Skype, Gmail for Business and lots of other tools and software for getting more done. I also like SnagIt for screenshots and Screenflow for video recording/editing.
This was really an amazing interview, we really thank Zac Johnson for his time.
You can also read the interesting interviews of other influencers of the digital marketing world like Rand Fishkin and Neil Patel here.