Howdy folks – it’s time for another old WTF interview. And this one’s especially interesting.
Check out this chat I had with Charles Floate back in 2016, all about how he started making money on the web at 12 years old, and what he thought about the best ways to link-build in 2016. What’s changed since then?
Find out for yourself below…
April 2016 – WHAT THE F**K MAKES YOU TICK? WITH CHARLES FLOATE
Our fifth interview is from someone I think will really excite all of you. Forever scandalous, brazen, and captivating, many of you are already aware of the infamous Charles Floate. A notorious and well respected online guru, our interview proved to be exciting and thought provoking.
Sharing new ideas and insights, I am fascinated with his beginning in the online marketing world, resonated with his methodologies, and loved bouncing ideas back and forth during the time we spent talking with one another.
One of the more diverse and intense interviews of the series, I was glad to get his input and advice on what the future could and will mean for many of us. You really have to read this one all the way to end folks!
John: Charles, you’re an entrepreneur, consultant, and online marketer packaged all into one. How did you start off in the online world?
Charles Floate: Well I was kind of already interested in video games and stuff from a pretty young age, and I used to play a lot of World of Warcraft. I basically had about 4 characters in World of Warcraft that were goal-capped. I started learning a lot of the other side of World of Warcraft, which is the player versus environment, and player versus player stuff from a company called Zygor Guides and these are like a massive, massive World of Warcraft company.
They had like 100,000 live members on it, and it’s like $47 a month or something ridiculous. Basically I joined this community and realised that you could sell the product. That you could be an affiliate for them, and you get a commission by selling that product to the people.
That’s how I first got my first set of money. Basically I made a YouTube video on a gaming channel that already had about 2 and a half thousand subscribers on it, of me reviewing Zygor Guides. Then I started using Reddit, which I just kind of stumbled across around that time.
I started sharing it on Twitter and Facebook and stuff, because I was in quite a few World of Warcraft Facebook groups. Not many people have heard of this stuff. I actually ended up, because there was a really good, lengthy video and I had to edit and add a professional intro; and I was like 12 or 13. It got like 200-something sales and each sale of this Zygor Guides Product product was like $20 commission. Then you could even earn a recurring monthly commission from that, through ClickBank back in the day.
Yeah. Then I started building out that gaming channel with various other gaming reviews and getting Adsense from the videos and ranking them and stuff. The most successful one ended up getting half a million views.
J: I think that’s actually really interesting. I think that a lot of online marketers that started at a very young age probably started when they first realised that in-game currencies, in games like WoW or Runescape had a very real value.
When I first started doing stuff online, I was an admin on a forum that was solely dedicated to training stuff on Runescape, and people were making absolute fortunes with guides, bots, in-game currency, etc. And that was really the eye opener for me as well when I saw that, like “Hey, wait a minute, I can automate this thing generating an in-game currency, and then sell it for real money?” So, that really got me excited back then. I was not smart enough to start off with YouTube advertising back then, but I wish I had.
C: Yeah, talking about Runescape actually, Todd used to own Runefort, if you remember that forum. And Todd and I used to run project RS06 and project RS Classic, as well, which are like two of the biggest Runescape servers of all times, back when I was like 14 and he was like 19.
J: That’s brilliant. I actually went to an interview with Jaggex as soon as I turned 18 because I really wanted to work with them when I was still very romantic about the industry, and all of that. I completely blew it because I basically told them that I thought that what they were doing was really stupid, which over time I learned is that it really doesn’t work in your favour if you go to the creator of something and tell them what they’re doing isn’t right…
C: So true. We never had an interview to work with them, but we did definitely have a few legal letters from them.
J: Well, moving on from doing that in the beginning, was that really what sparked your interest in affiliate marketing?
C: That’s what kind of first introduced me to affiliate marketing. I remember reading stuff like Shoe Money and just being like, “What the hell am I watching here?” It was just (ClickBank) was the first that got me into it and I just kind of listening to the (ClickBank) podcasts and various other podcasts about affiliate marketing. I remember Entrepreneur File when it first came out, I was reading all of these blog posts and listening to all of these podcasts every week. I think ClickBank was the main thing that got me into affiliate marketing, even though I’ve completely strayed away from ever using it again, now.
J: Yeah. That makes sense. I think it’s, ClickBank especially, a platform that a lot of people use when they first start off because a lot of the processes are very easily laid out and they tend to be very helpful as well when you’re starting off. Like you said, they’ve got great documentation and podcasts to help you get started. Once you sort of go to a much bigger scaling method it’s probably better to work, either as a drop or directly as an affiliate with businesses, right?
C: Yeah. Also, generally if you join affiliate networks outside of ClickBank, things like Mr. Green’s, F5 Media and stuff, you get a dedicated affiliate manager, which you don’t get inside of ClickBank (which is a main reason for being an affiliate with, it’s a main reason for what I do). Because I can organise a conference call with my affiliate manager with an affiliate network, and 30 minutes later, I’ve got a really targeted ad campaign that I can promote of the basis of my traffic and everything that I can get personally, I can [then] get targeted ads and things for my personal projects; if you know what I mean.
J: I’m with you. Having that direct line to somebody that helps you manage your campaigns is also a massive advantage because in my experience affiliate managers have a huge influence on payouts.
C: Yeah, definitely. You can message them for five minutes and you can get it raised from 25 to 30 and that’s a massive difference if you’re doing a couple thousand dollars a week or something.
J: Exactly. So, sort of taking a step back. When you first started off (you were saying you were 12-13 when you started seeing this with the WoW affiliate) do you think it was the money and the excitement, or really the challenge that motivated you to keep pushing on and finding new ways to monetise these online properties?
C: I think I’ve always been a sucker for a good challenge. I think I just like the feeling of accomplishing things for it, and obviously, you know, when you’re 12 or 13, and you can buy a brand new Alienware laptop off of making a few YouTube videos, it’s a pretty good feeling, as well.
J: Yeah. So, a trend that I’ve noticed is that people get discouraged when their first project doesn’t see substantial returns. Do you think that stamina is a key ingredient in online marketing and what would you suggest that people do to not become unmotivated?
C: Most people when they start out go solely for one project, and once that project has started earning money, they invest everything they have into that one project. I think if you can get property to do $2000 a month, that you can equally then turn that $2000 into four new projects that can generate even more revenue than your first one. I think it’s a really good idea to keep investing in the property if it’s really great, but most people don’t see past a certain limitation that that property might have or niche they might have. They tend to start off in too big of a niche.
Like you see so many people who come straight into the industry and want to go after keywords like “weight loss pills”. It’s just not going to happen when you’ve read the beginners guide to marketing, if you know what I mean. I think that main challenge in keeping yourself motivated is that even if you don’t see a $10,000 check at the end of every month, you still have the potential to reach that, because someone else already has, and it is possible. There’s no limitation on your income because people have gotten to every target you’ve ever set yourself.
J: Adding on to that, I think that one of the biggest issues is that people who start out, the only success that they can see is if they make something like $2000 or $5000 or $10000 because that’s what the people that they’ve learned everything from are making. But I think that one of the essential parts to having a successful mind and not losing your motivation is to break your projects down into very small achievable goals that you can achieve; where every time you achieve one of those, you’re going to become more motivated rather than becoming less-motivated.
C: Yeah, you know, if you just started out a YouTube channel and you expect to make $10,000 the next month from Adsense, then you need to be a bit more lenient with the challenges that you take.
J: Yeah, I think you’re going to have a bad time if you’re trying to make $10,000 from YouTube on your first project.
C: It’s possible though, but?
J: Well, that’s the thing though, isn’t it? I think a lot of people also don’t appreciate the amount of time and dedication that goes into nursing and nurturing these projects. And I don’t think that matters massively if you are pursing it with a ‘black hat’ method or a ‘white hat’ method.
I think that, especially while you’re starting out, you’re going to have to be very dedicated to your projects in order to see results.
C: Yeah. Something I think most people don’t see when they’re just starting projects, if you’re doing an affiliate project and your main source of traffic is Google, building an affiliate site and ranking it, that’s not just the job that you have on hand. You can build the site but maybe you need to continue to blog a bit. Maybe you need to add new reviews to it. Maybe you need to start continually creating backlinks, you need to have an email newsletter, you need to look at paid advertising, you need to look at social media marketing. Once you get your own socials profiles up, there’s all these different things that you need to look at.
Even if you’re just starting out in affiliate marketing, and it can be overwhelming for most people. It’s something that I think you need to break down into – well, this is what I did when I first started making my own affiliate properties. I split up the amount of time that I put into each one, for example, I’d spend 20 minutes on social media, 20 minutes on a blog article, 20 minutes on link building, everyday. That would mean that I’d have that amount of time to both learn the resource and then also implement anything I learned on that day to the property. Over a period of a hundred days or something, you’re implementing a huge amount of helpful material and helpful rankings in social media and everything, to list a few, and your property does get more traffic and you get more sales.
J: Right, but I think that’s also the next step. The fact that you need to plan to have essentially review sessions on the work that you’ve done yourself to be able to take a step back and look at it and be able to say, “Okay, I generated a thousand visits to this new site and I’ve only got a 1% conversions rate, right?” Then rather than being like, “Hey I need to send 10 times more traffic to this because then I’ll make 10 times more revenue,” you should also ask yourself, “What can I do to raise that conversion rate? Where can I optimise my funnel so that out of those 1,000 people, I make more money?” I think that that’s a really big issue that people just concentrate so much on generating traffic that they’re not actually optimising the conversions that they could be making.
C: I think that people who go into CPACRO think that it’s this massive hard thing of changing the colours of a button and stuff. The main kind of CRO that I do is traffic CRO. So I’ll go into analytics, say like you said, if you have 1,000 visits and you have 1% conversions, but you have 50% of your conversions from one of ten different traffic sources, then you can concentrate more on that traffic source, rather than getting the same amount of traffic. Instead of spending, say if you have ten sales on your face accounts but only two sales from organic, maybe it’s better to invest in face accounts than it is to link building methods.
J: Right, right. I’m with you. That makes complete sense. Sort of moving on but kind of staying on the same subject. As the Google algorithm has changed, I think that the players in the game have also had to massively adjust their attitudes toward marketing stuff online because you no longer can just use pure spam to rank a bunch of sites. And if you do, it comes at a risk that you can’t really get away with doing this for clients. You can only really do it for affiliates, which I’m not saying is wrong. Do you think that the days of ‘pure black hat’ marketing are gone?
C: No, because even if you’re not doing spam, but say you’re doing PBNs or you’re doing expensive SAPE links, that’s still pure black hat marketing. In fact, I’d argue that buying links is probably more black hat than creating them on a web 2.0 that 10,000 other people have created them on because you’re directly paying into a black hat economy. Whereas GSA you’re not doing anything. You’re just paying the $69 fee to the GSA every year and you’re buying the VPS which is paying into a different kind of economy than the black hat underground links economy is, which is more beneficial to buy SAPE links than it is to buy GSA links.
C: It also helps the actual economy of the black hat trade as well. That means people who create the networks or create the sites, that are available to buy links off, will create even more of them.
J: Right. I’m with you. I think that using PBNs, and using SAPE is something that every marketer should at least experiment with and should test out and see what they can do for them. I know that a majority of very successful marketers probably have and probably do use them, whether they want to admit it or not. The questions I have though is with things like outreach marketing and social media marketing being massively on the rise. I think that now, with finding that even the biggest black hats are using more of a mix in their marketing campaigns for their clients, because it’s a lot easier to justify the white hat stuff that you’re doing than it is to say “hey I got you some SAP links.”
C: Well if you want to see some link that kind of proves all this, I recently did a survey for 2015, called the 2015 SEO Survey. When I started analysing through all the people’s answers that they’d given me, I found out, well one of the main questions asked was, “How much money did you make from SEO this year, in 2015?” It turned out that the people made the most money were all doing a similar kind of SEO, which was essential, they were using a very white hat website, large amounts of content, large amounts of pages, info graphics, customs videos, that kind of stuff. Then a tier one of white hat links, but then a tier two of completely black hat links. So they’d have tier one blog posts for a massive brand, you know huge betting brands and that kind of stuff, and newspaper and guest posts links that they’ve gotten legitimately or naturally but then they tier two all of that with hidden 301s, and SAPE links, and PBNs, and massive Web 2.0 spam, and that kind of stuff.
They were going at it really, really hard on tier two, on the black hat stuff, but then making a lot of money from the big genuine sites because they were ranking really well and they were ranking very long term because obviously the tier one links were a buffer towards the black hat spam and they’re not going to hurt your site in the end.
J: Right. That makes a lot of sense. So essentially, what you’re saying is that the study, and I hope that we can link out from the blog post to this, is that the people that have made the most money this year are using a mix of the white hat stuff that you can justify and very easily show and explain to clients. Behind the scenes, they’re juicing those up with, say PBNs and Web 2.0 etc?
C: Yeah. And most of those people using that technique are making over $200,000 a year.
J: Yeah. I think that really concludes that question.
So I think that another thing that is a very big issue is the cost of doing SEO. I think that a lot of people think that just because a process is manual, it has to cost them a lot of time or a lot of money. I think that the biggest issue there is people don’t spend the time initially to systemise and simplify the task so they can pass it on to somebody else, like a VA or PBN Butler to do the work, to save on resources, and speed up the ranking processes. Do you think that if people spent more time initially setting up their campaigns and tutorials they’d be more successful?
C: I think firstly, the cost of SEO, it’s going to keep going up because if you want to either a) naturally try and achieve it, then it’s going to cost a lot more to get up in the organic ranking because you need to be doing things like creating massive content and becoming an authority (and you can’t do that very easy naturally). And I think b) for black hats to be able to do it, Google algorithms and fooled Adsense teams are getting a lot better at finding various techniques, patterns and footprints and kind of taking out certain players or certain techniques out of the game completely, which means it’s a lot harder to rank.
So, it then becomes a lot higher of a price to buy back links. It becomes a lot harder to build a back link that actually becomes useful to ranking your website in Google. I think in terms of time and learning you can never invest enough time in watching tutorials and watching guides. Back in the day, I used to literally go to work at a junior SEO job when I was 15, from 9 in the morning till 5pm at night, wouldn’t get home till half 6, and then I’d eat my dinner and be reading till 2-3 o’clock in the morning. I’d do that every single day and have 4-5 hours of sleep a day. I was learning in the background, so I’d eventually have the capsule for this job to invest in what I wanted to do properly.
J: Right. I think that brings me to a really interesting point. I think a lot of people see the – let’s call them ‘idols’ – in the industry, who now have the big PCs, the big cars, and are able to travel around all year. I think that what they’re missing out of that picture is the 18-hour work days where you’re researching, you’re working with clients, and you’re doing all these things every day. I think that a lot of people miss that. I also think that that’s probably the most essential part, because spending money we’re all really good at; but, making it is the hard part. Very few people have started off by having a 40-hour work week. They started off by working 16-17-18 hours a day, 7 days a week.
C: Well yeah. I think that Mr. Green put it very well when I was speaking to him. He said, “Instagram shouldn’t be a representation of someone’s life.” And I think that’s a very true fact, because if you were to look at Mr. Green on Instagram, you can see him on the beach and all that stuff, quite often. But realistically, I’ve seen him online on Skype for 20 hours a day, and he’s also managing all his affiliate managers and posting content for them and organizing all the events and stuff.
Same with me. Last Monday, I did a 21-hour work day and literally passed out and had to go to the hospital. That kind of stuff is exactly why you need to limit yourself, but also, kind of just list and invest yourself as much as possible. Because time at the end of the day is your number one cost, and it’s the number one benefit you’ll have, especially when you’re starting out because, trust me, once you get to have a couple thousand fans or a couple hundred thousand dollars business, it becomes extremely time dependent and you don’t get to do a lot of stuff you want to do, like learn and read all the latest updates and stuff.
J: Exactly. And I can only echo that. When we started off with PBNButler, we saw a need and we wanted to fill that need. We’re affiliate marketers as well. We said, “Hey. Why don’t we just fulfil this need and we’ll do that about three hours a day and the rest of the time we can just work on our projects. That’s great!” And now we’re down the line working with usually about 800 SEOs and SEO agencies a month.
Now we’re at this point where we’re like, “Hey. What’s happened to this affiliate marketing stuff?” At the same time, it’s a great feeling of fulfilment when you get to work with people, you get to work with affiliate managers, etc. and they recognise the fact that you have put in the time and you have put in the effort to make it work. So, let’s take a quick look at the sort of agency side of the things. We really work in an industry that I think is massively saturated by great and not-so great marketers. In your opinion, what do you think somebody should do in 2016 to stand out?
C: I think that it depends on what kind of business model you’re going after. So if you’re deciding to run a local agency, then standing out locally is going to be your best target. Basically you need to go with your best target audiences, and also, as much as you can, try and build the target audiences so you have some level of control over it. So, building Facebook groups or building anything that you can, to be able to harness that as a continual resource of traffic means that you’ll be ahead of the marketing game for everyone else. They are trying to get traffic from places that can go away or places that can change, whereas if you have something where you can get continuous traffic from, and you give value to that community as well, you’ll earn a lot back.
J: Right. So, essentially, if I want to go after the local market, for instance, and I want to do that for my particular city, what I would do is start a blog and start a Facebook group that is attached to that blog. Then on the blog I would write about giving out value and giving out tips on how to improve your conversion rate, how to improve your website design, etc. Then say, “Hey, if you’re really interested, I hang out in this Facebook group, where you can ask me questions.” I funnel people into that Facebook group, and hopefully find a way to get their email addresses, etc, and then by the time that they have a requirement for their services, they’re already sold, because they know that I’m the authority.
C: Yeah, exactly. Especially if you’re local. There’s a great example of a town near me, and someone created a location Facebook page, which literally is the town name + updates. Literally all they do is, they have a Google alert or something that alerts them there’s a bit of news for that area. Then they just steal the picture off a news article, Twitter, or wherever they can find a picture about it, post a 10 sentence update to the page every day, two or three of them every day, and have built about 30,000 likes on their Facebook page. Then anytime he or she wants to look at business, they can very easily, post that businesses information. So, he not only posts his own business information there so that they can get customers from local communities (especially in a very rich area) but he can also post other peoples’ businesses on there at a price because they know that that is going to get the most reach if they can post it there rather than to like Google. Because obviously if you’re a plumber in an area and a page had 30,000 people specifically from that area on it, but you only get 100 monthly searches on Google, where are you going to go to? You’re going to go to the place that has the 30,000 geo-targeted people already there.
J: So, this is essentially a social media press release system, right? Which I think is really a great idea, because like you said, you’ve got a bunch of people who receive your updates on a daily or weekly basis that they really like, which is by the way, something you could automate or outsource to an intern or a VA and say, “Hey. Follow these Google alerts, and every time something comes in, I want you to rewrite it and post it with an image.”
I think though that in order to get great conversions, the ideal scenario would be then to try and build a story around the business that you’re trying to promote on that, right? Because in my opinion, if I had just posted that business, the people that need it, yes they will be responding to it. But if I was able to build a story around it, and say “Hey, we had a leak in the office today, and this guy was out here within 45 minutes fixed it” and then get like a picture with him and yourself or something, and posted it there, that sort of social connection is going to make a huge impact isn’t it.
C: Yeah that’s a brilliant idea. Definitely, yeah.
J: Lastly, in 2016, for somebody who is starting out in online marketing on a small budget, what do you think they should pursue other than reading your blog to make an impact?
C: I think they should look at what they spent, what they are currently spending, and only spend a very limited amount of money. So if you’re say making $500 a month, I suggest reinvesting that entire $500 a month but trying to invest as much time as you can rather than spending the money to do it, because you’ll get so much more out of learning how to do something than you will out of getting someone to do it for you by paying them money.
It also means you can keep all of the money you’re earning potentially if you are doing everything yourself. Then, once you’ve done everything yourself and you know everything you can do, then you can train your own little VA army to do all the tasks that you were doing and you’ll be able to grow on a lot bigger scale.
J: Right, exactly. As far as, you know, the actual SEO aspect of it goes, do you think that people should be pursuing that sort of model of a first layer a first tier of white hat links that you earn by doing guest posts etc., and then backing those up with properties like SAPE and PBNs?
C: Yeah, I definitely think that that is the best scenario, as far as ranking in Google, is to do very clean tier ones that you can’t be penalised at all for, but then back them up with like PBNs and tier two stuff. And also, you can practice that SEO for your own social profiles and your own properties, which means that you become more of an authority within the industry because brand mentions in Google are becoming a lot more popular, and are becoming a lot more trusting than Google with brand mentions and news about your brand and press releases.
J: Yeah, I totally agree. Thank you so much for taking part.