In this week’s Publisher Profile, I spoke with Tyler Benedict, owner and founder of bikerumor.com
We talked about how to find your website’s tone of voice, why the SEO basics are still fundamental today, and how he created an a-la-carte paid content strategy.
If you want to watch the full interview, it is embedded below.
Finding your website’s tone of voice
Tyler says that finding your website’s tone of voice is important. And he’s not referring to your individual writing style, because all of the writers on bikerumor.com have their own style.
While he wants readers to be able to identify which writer the writing is coming from, the overall site has to have a consistent tone of voice of how they cover topics across the entire website.
There might be slight nuances, but he keeps a framework for all his writers to follow, along with a content writing guide they use as well.
In the beginning, Bikerumor covered a broad variety of topics, and then they whittled down their content strategy to primarily be about products and the tech.
Profile highlight: Tyler: (16:41)
“So, the one rule I have is to write as though you’re explaining this new thing to your friend, you know, so we don’t need fancy phrasing in English literature. We need casual, conversational tone because that’s how I would want to be talked to. And like, that’s how I’m telling my buddies when I’m out riding.”
High volume of content + being the first to publish news topics helps SEO
Tyler said that in the beginning, and even now with his team of writers, his goal is to have the home page “flush” with new content.
What this means is that his team produces 8-10+ new pieces of content Monday-Friday. This strategy has allowed him to become the leading cycling news and tech blog averaging over 1 million visits per month.
Additionally, outside of basic SEO fundamentals, Tyler says that in the beginning, being the “first” to cover product announcements and industry news helped build traffic quickly.
This same formula can be applied to most niches.
Pro Tip: Unless you have a big budget, avoid using Facebook to try to get your articles traffic in the beginning. Growing your site organically provides better ROI in the long term.
Organic “reach” on social platforms is difficult, especially since Facebook has made it harder and harder to appear on people’s timelines without paying to boost your posts.
Creating an a-la-carte paid content strategy
Tyler admits that Bikerumor was late to the paid content game. But now, he and his team has created an a-la-carte offering for advertisers of the “types” of content they can choose to sponsor.
They have content segments like “Ask a Stupid Question” and “Reader Survey Contests.
Below is an example of “Ask a Stupid Question” segments that were sponsored by different brands.
This method turns the paid content method on its head. Instead of waiting for an advertiser to tell Bikerumor the type of content they want created, Bikerumor stays true to its readers, and simply offers a handful of “options” for the advertiser to choose to sponsor. In essence, Bikerumor has created an a-la-carte offering for advertisers, and it’s been successful so far.
This way, it helps keep the integrity of the content and also maintains the content series that readers enjoy.
Stick to the SEO fundamentals
In the beginning, Tyler’s main focus was just to pump out as much content as possible. Then as time went on, he learned more about SEO, and says he’s continually learning as it’s always changing.
“There’s no magic bullet strategy,” Tyler says. Stick to the basics: headline and image tags, title tags, subheadings, and content structure.
Additional reading: Content Writing Guide
Profile highlight: Tyler: (44:05)
“Ultimately, it’s just focusing on the basics. Is your headline good? How is your content structure, H2 headings, other headings, etc? Right. Because if the headline sucks, nobody’s going to click. There’s also a missed opportunity for publishers to identify low hanging fruit by doing simple things like naming their images something that relates to the image itself, instead of a random string of numbers.”
Read the full interview transcript below
We like to ask this question to everyone starting out, but how did your journey as a digital publisher begin?
Well I’ve had, I had a couple of beverage companies before this, and honestly, those were, you know, they range from like a powdered sports drink mix for athletes up to, you know, ready to drink energy drink product. And I’m being totally honest. Those were largely excuses to be mobile and be able to go around to different cycling events, you know, because I was always a big mountain biker and stuff, and just really like riding and traveling to cool places and stuff. And so they were essentially a marketing tool to be able to justify going to races all over the U S and just hanging out and riding more which is probably why those businesses both failed. And so when the last one was kind of saw the writing on the wall with that, I wanted to do something. And like I said, I was really into cycling, but what I found is that, like, there was very little out there that was a blog cell format in a cyclic space.
And so we’re talking about 2008 is when I started, you know, 2007. It’s kind of like the Genesis of the idea and we’d launched in ‘08, but it moved pretty quickly from idea. So I was a big fan of the in gadget blog and, you know, in the bike space, there was nothing like that. You know, there was a lot of new sites and things covering the cycling industry, but not really any that were using that kind of blog roll, just like rapid fire use what’s new and not really any that were just really a hundred percent focused on the products. And so while we started trying to cover like a little bit of everything, you know, advocacy and industry news and racing news, we pretty quickly figured out that our interests lied in the products and the technology. And so when we started to just focus, almost exclusively on that stuff is when we got really good. And when we really started seeing our readership go up. So yeah, that’s kinda how it is. I mean, honestly, like I didn’t even hold WordPress was when we started, I sketched out what I want the website to look like, and I sent it to a developer and they’re like, Oh yeah, that’s a WordPress site. I’m like, great. What’s WordPress. And you know, so it’s just, I relied on somebody else’s expertise to help us pick the platform. Cause I was thinking it would have to be something totally custom built.
So, you know, correct me if I’m wrong, it seems like you just kind of identified an opportunity based on something you knew you were already interested in. And there was a lack of that in this space. Is that right? Yeah.
Yeah. More or less. I mean, if I wasn’t interested in it, I wouldn’t have done it. I’d be like, it’s really hard to do something day in and day out that you’re not really truly interested in. And if you’re passionate about that, it’s even better because it makes all that hard work and easier. And you know, like it is a lot of hard work. Like I I’m coaching a couple guys that are launching websites sometime. And like one of the biggest things is like, look, you know, you might think you can hire some writers, but if you’re not willing to sit there and crank out the content or whatever it is that you’re gonna be doing for like the first six months to a year, just constantly, like you have to do that yourself. I think in order to not really just like find your voice, right.
And it’s not just your personal voice. Like I have my writing style, all of our other writers have their own writing styles. And for the most part, I kind of let that slide or not slide, like let it go. Right? Because I want people to be able to identify where the content is coming from the writers. But ultimately this site itself has to have its voice, you know, like bike rumor has a tone of voice on how we cover and how we talk about things that’s consistent across all of it, whether or not, you know, like, and then we have our own little individual nuances that get applied to that. But you know, you need that framework. And like, like I said, like we started covering everything and then we slowly but surely whittled it down to her only focused on the products and tech and that’s part of our voice, right?
Like your voice is what you’re going to cover. And if we had to start there to get to there, you know, because we didn’t really realize like why some of our contents sucked and wasn’t getting any thing until we realized like, Oh, you know, it’s, cause we just don’t really care about that so much. You know, like we don’t really care about the racing news and don’t really care about like the who’s getting hired in this brand. We just like the shiny stuff. And so yeah, so that would be kind of part of it. And then the other part is you, you asked about the name, like how did we come up with the name? And honestly it was looking around to see what was available. But what I wanted to do was I’d seen a few other sites have different, different categories, but with a similar naming structure.
And so what I started looking at was not only could I get, could I get bike rumor, could I get, you know, ski rumor and skate rumor and BMX rumor. And you know, at one point I had like obstacle course rumor and it was just kinda like sup rumor, right? Like all these different things. I mean, I’ve started whittling away when I realized like there’s nothing ever going to happen with it, or it’s just not enough interest, but like I had like 99 different root something, rumor.com domains, you know? And we had like with bike rumor, I went ahead and got you know, the plural, so bike rumors.com. And for many of them higher interest ones, the ones that I thought maybe we’ll do something with one day I had the plurals, but then like for this, I also had like the, the UK spelling.
So it was bike rumor. Right. And then the plural of that, because the last thing you want is for somebody to come in and kind of see that you’re having some success and then kind of co-op your naming style and your, your theme and be able to sort of confuse the marketplace. Right. So I would say, you know, it’s, it’s gonna get harder and harder if you want to.com because it’s like, it seems like all the good names are taken. And then if you’re trying to find a bunch of similar ones that are related, man hits like good luck. Right. But yeah, it’s a, I think it’s important if you want to protect your kind of identity in the space and it also, it gives you room to grow, right? Like you could, ultimately, once you find your voice, if you had the right funding, you could hire people to go create the content in these other verticals. And really instead of building like a website, you’re building a media company, so sort of, it depends on what your long-term goals are.
Absolutely. And the next question I was going to ask is, you know, what strategies did you use to grow your traffic in the beginning? But you already touched on that a little bit. I think in your last answer where you said in the beginning things were more broad. You were covering more and then as time went on, you seem to focus more on, on, on certain things over others. Can you touch on that a little bit?
Yeah, sure. So it’s, I wish I had some kind of magic bullet strategy. Honestly, it was just pumping out as much content as possible, but like our, our strategy and I say our like for the first year and a half or so, it was really just me. Like my strategy in the beginning was just pumped out as much content as humanly possible. And you know, at some point you’re going to hit something right. With SEO. And then when you learned about SEO and so our strategy really has been, just pump out a lot of really good content. And as we learn more about SEO, which, you know, every year we learn some new, every week we learned something new, it seems like is just make sure that you’re getting those SEO basics, you know, like headline and image tags and image titles, and subheadings and like structure.
And I mean, there’s, there’s so much that people think I see all I got even no, right. But like, you know, there’s like 10 key things that are pretty basic. And if you do all of those with every post you’re going to rank, right. And when you get something out first, you’re going to rank higher. And so that was our goal really was to just be first with new product announcements and news and, you know, kind of some, you know, play up the rumors and do some spy shots and patent profiles and stuff like, or patent findings and stuff. You know, so as far as like growing our traffic, honestly, I think I’ve tried boosting some posts, maybe six or seven times over the 12 and a half years we’ve been in business and probably only spent like 500 bucks to do it, you know, cumulative.
So it’s, it’s really all organic growth. Now I will say that any site that was around in that, like maybe like 2010 through like 2014 time period really benefited from Facebook’s push to make people use Facebook as a source for news, because anything that was published, they would almost like self promote. And then they started getting to the point where like, okay, you got to pay a little and then to pay a little more and then pay a little more. Now it’s like almost pointless to try and expect any kind of organic reach on social media and Facebook, especially. So we really benefited from that as did you know, like pretty much every website out at that time. So, you know, for social now, I would say if you’re not willing to pay to boost stuff, then I would not count on social doing much for you in terms of growing your audience, unless you’re you know, the only alternative to paying I think is that actually pay somebody to be on there and engaging with your audience just constantly, because you can, you can kind of gain the numbers a little bit through a lot of engagement, but one way or another you’re paying for social media, you’re either paying somebody or you’re paying social.
Yeah, absolutely. And so, you know, you, you spoke on how at the beginning, your strategy was kind of just like pumping out content being first to cover something how has that evolved now? Is, are there things you do now differently that you would have never imagined doing in the beginning or, you know, comparing the two,
One more video and that’s kind of a separate topic in that. It’s just sort of like another Avenue for getting your content out there that has becoming more and more important. And so, you know, we’re admittedly pretty late to the game on that compared to, you know, there’s been an upstart, it’s just like we disrupted the traditional website type media when we came up with a blog format and for many years kind of like led that. And we had people following us now we’re kind of falling into people that came in from a video first standpoint and have grown in their YouTube channels to, you know, almost 2 million subscribers in some cases. And we’re way, way, way below that. And so that’s, that’s one thing that we had to change. I instead it’s almost just like adapt and add as opposed to change.
But one thing I’ve noticed is, you know, like people started catching on and have for years now that getting the news out first is hugely important. Right. Because what it does is it not only do you kind of win with SEO, but it trains your readers to go to you first, right? Like you say, okay, if I want to get the news, like I know I’m going to go to bike run. And I see almost all the new stuff before anywhere else and stuff. And so, you know, it’s, it’s not rocket science and other websites will start to copy that. So it’s kind of it’s almost like trying to beat people on price, right? Like there’s diminishing returns and ultimately it becomes a race to the bottom or it’s just, everybody has a same basic info out at the same time as everyone else.
So then what it ends up with is, okay, well, who can write a better post and you know, a lot of that’s with SEO and structure and all that. A lot of it’s just like the tone of our writing, right? Like which one do you like reading? You know, we all have our favorite authors and bloggers and YouTube and all that. And a lot of times it’s because you feel a connection with the way they communicate. So that’s why it’s sort of important to actually have a tone of voice, whether you reach everyone or not, you’re going to have your fans and your followers and the people who choose to go to your website or YouTube channel or whatever over everybody else. So that’s one, you know, we kind of do that. And then the other strategy for us is like, all right, well, if we’re not leading on being first all the time anymore, what else can we do?
And, you know, for us it’s okay, well, we can try and get more reviews out. Because reviews are, you know, it’s not like a who’s up first type thing. In most cases, it’s, who’s got the best review or who’s reviewing the most interesting items, you know, the highest interest items. Yeah, it’s, I’d say it’s something we’re constantly figuring out and evolving because it changes all the time. Right. Because you have like, what’s new is now a commodity. Everybody’s got it. So we’re not, it’s not special anymore. It’s not what separates us anymore. It’s now it’s trying to branch out into tangential categories, like, you know some automotive kind of like overlanding van life stuff is pretty popular for us. And so it’s, what can we stretch into a little bit that’s related and super interesting, but not alienating.
Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned tone, and then earlier you said, you know, each of your writers have their own style, but as a brand of bike rumor, you guys all keep the same tone. And so that kind of alludes to that. You currently, you have, you know, you’re not writing all your own content you know, just by yourself. And I was gonna make that two-pronged in the sense of a question of like, in the beginning in 2008, 2008, did you write all your own content in the beginning and compared to that, you know, now what does that look like for you? Do you have a team of writers and then, you know, going back to the tone, how do you kind of ensure that that tone stays the same amongst amongst writers?
Yeah. So, yes, to answer your question. I started, I was definitely writing all of the content myself. I mean, I started this up in a living room basically, and while the beverage company was going down, this started going up and I just figured I would just keep producing content and see see what happened, you know, people like that. So I saw that there was potential and it was kinda like that, you know, you get your first a hundred dollars ad since check and you’re super excited. And then you realized like, okay, well, so there’s something here, right? Like, let’s, let’s just keep going on this. There’ve been a few times when I’ve put out kind of like a call for writers. And what I found is the best writers that I have and the ones that have been with me the longest, some of them for many, many years now they’re the ones that reached out of their own accord and said, Hey, you know, I just, you guys looking for writers or could I reviews, you know, help out whatever.
And you just ease everyone into it because having put a call out and gone through a lot of time and energy to train some people only to literally they’ll do one post. Sometimes there’s sometimes no posts for us because once they realize how work it actually is to write a story, they’re like, Nope, ghost, you know? And so it’s, that’s really tough. And I think that’s, it’s probably not getting easier based on, you know, I’ve got a 12 year old and 15 year old and they do not write, they don’t read. Right? Like they watch video. And so I think trying to find writers coming up, and this is actually a challenge that we’re facing. I think a lot of other cycling sites and magazines and everything are facing too, is that we see, it’s not I don’t even know what the word for it is, but basically it’s like, there’s just like, you know, somebody is writing here for a minute and then they’ll like go to work for a PR agency or they go to work for a brand and then they’ll come back to a different website or magazine.
And it’s just, it’s the same people bouncing everywhere. And there’s very little fresh talent come in the cycling journalism space. So we’re like, we’re hungry for new talent, not just us personally, but like, if you’re a cyclist and you can write technical product information and actually have a personality, like please reach out, you know, like we’re all looking for good, good content producers and stuff. But you know, like for us to maintain kind of a site, like I have a style guide and a writer’s guide that says like, look, this is how we do it. This is, you know, it’s a lot of, it’s really SEO, heavy to train people on structure and stuff. But then the other it’s just explaining, say, look like, here’s what, here’s the two things that we do at biker. Right? Like we don’t, we’re not holier than now.
You know, there’s some sites out there that are like, we’re the experts, here’s what you need to know. And this is the way it is. And we’re like, look, here’s this new product. Here’s, what’s cool about it. You know, here’s a little bit of background. Here’s all the information you need and make your own decision. Right. Like, you know, you know, what’s right for you. I don’t know what’s right for you. I don’t know where you ride. I don’t know how you ride in on a, how tall you are short. You are big you or whatever. Right. So, you know, we just try and prove to them that, and we do it in the conversational tone. Right? Like the one rule I have is like, look, talk about, right. As though you’re explaining this new thing to your friend, you know, so we don’t need fancy phrasing in English literature. We need casual, conversational tone because that’s how I would want to be talked to. And like, that’s how I’m telling my buddies when I’m out riding. I’m not like, well, this particular bullet blogs like do this thing.
Yeah, absolutely. You kind of mentioned, so you’ve, you’ve had writers in the past who you, you made a call out for writers. They come on, maybe write a thing or two and realize, Whoa, this is way more work than I thought I’m not going to be involved. And so you’re kind of like, well, there goes a writer, but for the ones that you’ve retained and brought on, you know, how do you measure ROI for their writing? Is it, is it page views? Is it, do you see the quality SEO wise? What does it look like for you to re retain a writer? And, and how do you measure success for your writers? We don’t,
We’re so low tack on in terms of measurement, honestly, it’s, you know, like what I’m looking at are our page views steady or growing, and if not, why, and sometimes it’s just, honestly, it’s like the volume, right? Like if we’re a little slow on posting, we’re not posting as much the volume drops and you know, or the, you know, the traffic volume drops a little bit and some of it’s seasonal too, which we can get into later if you want. But honestly, I don’t measure it and it’s partially because lazy is not the right word, but like, I’m just, if we’re doing well, then that seems like a lot of extra work to put in measurements. And I know some sites have KPIs around like total page views per day. And so for that, then it becomes this giant, like, like he said, it’s like, you know, a view meter, I call it a stress meter.
Right? Like you can only control so much. So like, what are you going to do if you’re not quite at that number of page views you need, like, are you going to, you could, I guess you could hop on social and pound out a few like promotions and stuff. Like there’s a lot you probably could be doing to drive those numbers up too. But ultimately I think why I’ve been able to retain the people that I have is because it’s a pretty low stress environment. I mean, there’s times a year in certain events when you’ve, you’re crushing it and we work harder than anybody else, I think. But then the rest of it’s like, look, as long as we’re getting the news out, when it comes in and we’re doing this, like I’ve got one guy, you know, my right hand, man, it’s pretty much Mia this week because he’s moving, you know, literally he’s moving four houses down the street, but he’s still moving.
He’s got an eight month old at home. So I’m like, you know, like I’m not bugging him saying, dude, come on. Like I do something tonight and it’s just like, do it, you know, if you can help out and break, but yeah. So we try and keep it super key. Everybody knows what’s expected them. Everybody knows why we’re doing it and why speed is important. And you know, like that’s the thing is you have to kind of trust your team to do it. And you know, I think any entrepreneur, founder, or, you know, somebody who starting up a site is going to have some control issues. I certainly do, but I’m learning to let go of them and say, look, you know, good enough is good enough. And these people are going to do it differently than me. The important thing is that we’ve got that story up and it’s accurate and it’s timely.
Yeah, absolutely. So you don’t focus too heavily on like KPIs, success measurements, but you did mention something I picked up on was the volume aspect of what you said of like, you think that your, your stability or growth is due to volume. And that kind of bleeds in a little bit to my next question, which was when you first started bike rumor, what did your, like, how did your monthly content production look back then? Was it just a few, a few articles that was it compared to now, like if you could look back on both, what would your, you know, first few months of, of one month of content production for room or look like versus now, like how can you gauge how much you would do then versus now with your team
More now? Because I have a team, you know, when we started, it was just me. So, but when we started, I was probably trying to get four to eight things out per day, because like I was the one filling the homepage. And so the one, I will say the one thing I look at and I DJ yeah. Weekdays, you know, we don’t, we really don’t produce anything on the weekends. Like again, that’s probably a growth opportunity because as our traffic is like this every week, right. So Saturday, Sunday are usually pretty low, but you know, maybe that’s because we’re not pushing stuff out, but also maybe it’s because people aren’t sitting in front of the computer because our highest traffic times are also us work hours. Right. So people are just going to work and look, I don’t think they’re looking at it as much when they’re at home, which is good.
They should be out playing, but yeah. In terms of volume. So there is like one very loose measurement I use metric is like, and it depends on the layout of the site at any given point too. But like, ultimately my goal would be to have the front page flush, right? Like I want, if somebody checks us in the morning and then they come back the next morning, I want that whole first page to be new stuff that they haven’t seen yet, because I feel like that’s going to get people to click the page two. And that’s obviously when you get pages per visit, that’s key now that said a lot of people are coming in on search. So a lot of people aren’t even coming in at the homepage. No. And then if they click around, like we try and do some things to get them to click around there. But yeah, that is one thing where like a personal goal is that I would love to see the front page flushed every day. Now, if you have 50 posts on your page, like we had for one, for awhile, we had only nine posts showing on the front page and that’s pretty reasonable, right? Like if you have four or five people contributing, everyone’s doing one to two per day, then you can, you can accomplish that.
What’s, what’s the size of your team, roughly? Is it like,
Yeah, me, I’ve got Zach Corey and Jesse Mae, that’s kind of the four core people. And then we have a handful of freelancers that contribute here and there, you know, sometimes it’s nothing for months, sometimes it’s three or four per month. So yeah, it sort of varies the ones that are reliable or, you know, the ones that are basically like this is their job is the four of us. And honestly, I, I don’t produce nearly as much daily content anymore. I think my average, I should just pull all this data up. I was one of the lowest average daily posts of the four of us for the past two months, because I’m trying to focus more on like actually running the company and stuff. And so I will say that the nice thing is like, I’ve built this team that can do what they need to do without very much oversight.
Yeah. That’s really impressive. And I guess as a digital publisher, who’s, who’s scaled over the years that a lot, a lot of people, that’s the goal, right? It’s something that with the right team in place, you can step away if you need to strategize, do things that are outside of the most time consuming part of being at a digital publisher, which is the physical creation of the content. And it seems like you you’ve done that. We, we both know that we’ve done, you’ve done that pretty successfully. But I also spent some time on my own kind of digging into your website and I wanted to get into some specifics I saw on your website that you have an ask a stupid question section, you know, what was the thought behind having this? Additionally like on top of just having a contact form section.
Yeah. So it’s every Friday we publish our ask a stupid question and it’s one of those things where readers can send in whatever questions we’ve got, like a huge list of questions. I’m pretty stoked on the uptake of that. Like, people are kind of into that. Especially when we answer their questions, you know, because it’s what is what it is, is like we realized that, you know, ask me, anythings are pretty popular, it’s a popular kind of format. Right. and a lot of people call it AMS and ask me anything. So I didn’t want to call it the same thing, but, you know, I just kinda liked the quality of asking a stupid question. And then it’s nice that the acronym actually kind of sounds out ask, you know, so it it’s just, that was sort of fun, but the point of it is we realized like, look, we have like this gateway, right?
Like you have the brands and the companies that we all ride their products here, and you have all the riders and consumers over here, and we’re here in this middle where like this gateway between the two. And so like, you know, Jack or Jill rider over here, can’t just call up Shimano and say, Hey guys, like, you know, tell me about this. Right. Or here’s my problem. Here’s my question. Here’s, what’s going on with this new product. We can, like, we can call up this about any brand and they’ll answer the phone, they’ll tell us the answers. Right? So like, let’s take advantage of this and let’s, let’s be this fun gateway for our readers to get feedback from the brands. And then it’s also a pretty popular sponsored topic too. So brands sponsor it pretty frequently and a particular topic like the one last Friday was Richie components about gravel bike, handlebars and gravel, like cockpit set up and stuff. And they did a really good job with it. And so for that, it’s like a popular topic. It’s universal information, but it just so happens that we’re going to talk to one brand for the answers instead of reaching out to like four or five brands and trying to get this kind of like composite answer. So that’s the that was sort of the reason behind that one.
Yeah. That’s awesome. It’s kind of it’s, you know, you gotta get a double whammy in terms of the benefit, you know, you are getting engagement from your readers and the writers, and then you also have the the opportunity when brands want to be the people to sponsor those, you know, those answers. That’s really cool. Yeah.
And, and I’ll, I’ll tell ya, I should back up a little bit from that because I mean, nevermind just that it’s a cool content piece, right? Like a cool format. What we were really late to the game on was paid content like advertorial, you know, sponsored content, whatever you want to call it and stuff. And the reason why is because we saw a lot of media outlets doing a really, really bad job of it, you know, it was just, you know, like felt dirty to even see it, let alone read it. And like if I were brand, I wouldn’t want to be involved in that, but a lot of brands wanted that stuff. And a lot of media companies were making a lot of money off of this stuff. So I had to step back and say, okay, look like we have to do something, you know, paid contents, going to be an ever increasing really important part of our revenue strategy because banner ads continually drop in value.
And a lot of people are coming either blocking them or becoming banner blind or whatever. So there’s a lot of reasons why you need to diversify your revenue off of banner ads. And so we’re looking at it as like, well, what, what can we do, right? Like we’re not going to just run some crappy advertorial. So it was really looking at creating instead of like having to come up with some custom, every time we like, look, we have this, we have our ASQ, here’s this package, right. We have our reader survey contest. Here’s this package, here’s the price, here’s the price, here’s the price, all the card. What do you want to do? And it was just, it made it so easy for our advertisers to look at and say, I get that. Right. Like, that’s easy to understand. I see the value in it. And I know what it is. Boom done. It’s in our budget and it’s been really easy for us to sell to. So I think that was honestly like, that was the reason why we came up with it and then, you know, it was just kind of fine tuning it to make it something that our readers would actually enjoy.
Yeah. And I think that’s really, really, that’s a very smart decision. And I think most publishers should, if there’s one thing to take away from this interview, it’d probably be what everything you just spoke of because of the fact that a lot of publishers think in reverse of where I want to be a digital publisher and I want to make money. And so you, then you might, as a reader, you might come across these sites who have these kind of like thin content. Those advertorials, that are really just serving the advertiser. But the way you just describe it to me, you have it all a cart where the content is there. First, the audience already enjoys it. And then the advertisers approaching you where you’re saying, Hey, this is what we produce. And here’s what you can, you know, attach yourself to is something that you could sponsor. But it really doesn’t change the quality of the content or its relationship to the reader. And I think that’s a really, really smart business decision on your part.
Yeah. That’s a good way of putting it. And that was ultimately like, I have to hear our view, right? Like it has to benefit our readers and then has benefited the advertiser. And if both of those two criteria are met, then it benefits us. Right. Because we get better page views, we get more traffic because the readers like it, we get paid because the advertiser likes the concept. So ultimately if the readers aren’t interested, like don’t even do it, you know, it’s got to be good for the readers first.
Absolutely. so I know we, we’ve kind of fallen onto this topic of sponsored content monetization. I wanted to ask, you know, how did you monetize your website in the past, maybe in the beginning and you know, how do you monetize your website now? What are the differences between
Yeah, I think we started like everybody, which is ad sense. Cause it’s, you know, there’s like no reason not to and pretty much anybody can sign up for it. So if you’re just starting out, just sign up for an AdSense account because you’ll get paid pretty much from day one. And then it was kind of like, you know, once you actually social traffic and stuff, you’ll have ad networks reaching out to you and they’ll all promise you the same thing, you know, Oh, we’ll give you more revenue and stuff. And so like, I literally had a waterfall spreadsheet of like, who’s paying what per position and all this stuff. And I’m like, you know, inside DFP, which is, you know, if you’re not familiar with kind of like Google’s next level up from AdSense is their, their platform management thing. That lets you run your own ads and then also run network ads and it’ll choose kind of like you can assign buys and stuff.
Like there’s plenty of information out there about it. But like, you know, at one point, like I think up to five different ad networks, you were running and stuff and we gradually got better and better ones, you know? And it got up to the point where we were prior to going to Ezoic, which is like a next level of kind of like add customization. Or I guess like, you know, all the customization that these Ezoic allows and kind of like real time automated customization, you know, I’m, I’m feeling it the right words for what you guys do, but we had like some pretty good networks and we were making decent money. And then I think whoever was for me is a hook. I forget her name that signed us up. Right. She eventually bugged me enough that we signed up for it and it was literally like we doubled our ad network revenue overnight.
So nobody’s once I saw the sample, we just turned it on a hundred percent and stuff. And then like now I pretty much ignore all of the other sorry, let me cancel this call. Yeah. And so that was, you know, basically what we did is we just worked up to better and better ad networks as we grew. And you know, a lot of sites will find out as you grow, like your, a lot of them look at your traffic. And so when you hit a certain threshold of daily traffic or weekly, monthly traffic, right, then there’ll be like, okay, or we can work with you and they’ll get better and better and stuff. And then I would definitely take a look at these sewing system when you have the traffic to justify it.
And I know you said you were kind of late to the game for sponsored content. Are there any other no revenue streams or diversification that goes on now that maybe you didn’t touch in the beginning when you were just on AdSense?
Yeah. Affiliate, we’ve been trying harder this with that. I mean really specifically this year, because you know, the band rates dropped so precipitously when COVID hit that we were like, what else can we do? So, because even the contents died, you know, the sponsored contents. So I dried up because a lot of people put their budgets on hold. So we had stuff scheduled. Everyone was just like, eh, let’s just put a hold on that for now. So that stuff’s rolling on the back end now here in November. But it’s yeah, the affiliate side is like, I had talked to some other sites before that actually had like a full-time affiliate manager and like really, cause I know how much time and energy it takes to put an affiliate link on something and like we’ve got good traffic and we’ll make like five bucks, you know?
And they’re like, Oh yeah, patient pays full time for their job. And we’re still making thousands of dollars a month and I’m like, Oh, we’re must be missing something. So it was honestly, it was just kind of like my wife does most of it. So we’ll do like a weekend kind of mega deal, weekly mega deals that’s posted on a Saturday morning, most Saturdays now, not every Saturday. And you know, obviously you want to take advantage of things like black Friday deals and Memorial day sale was crazy good for us, but it’s just time and energy, you know, like getting set up with all the affiliate programs and then just checking it. I mean, it kind of, it’s like everything else, how much time and energy do you want to put into it? And what’s the opportunity costs. So for me personally, like it doesn’t make sense for me to go and try and create like an affiliate deals, Roundup posts, but it does make sense for if I know we have an affiliate deal with a brand and are already written a story on them to just like copy paste that affiliate code into it.
Cause it takes five minutes and maybe we’ll make some money. But yeah, you just kind of have to weigh the time. Cause it does take a considerable amount of time to actually manage a good affiliate program and put some effort into it. But then you have sites like I don’t want to name it, but there are sites out there that, you know, it’s like a gear site that is almost entirely an affiliate revenue play. Like, because it’s almost all top 10 lists or best everyday carries or best this best that, and it’s such thin content and it’s all affiliate links, right? Like it’s almost, I really, obviously it works because they’ve been around for a long time, but I really wonder how you don’t fatigue your readers on that because like I signed up for all their emails just to see. And I’m like, literally I don’t need every day to see the top 10 deals for outdoor gear for like five or six different categories. Like I’m not shopping all day every day. I don’t know.
Yeah. And not only, and not only that I think as well. Just from the perspective of what we saw with, with COVID with ad rates falling the way they did, I think in the long run, like publishers like yourself and others who think more long-term instead of the immediate, like what check can I get this month? It’s gonna add longevity and allow the brands that you’re you guys are creating and publishers are creating to, to survive and, and really thrive when you learn how to diversify your revenue. Because if you have all your eggs in one basket you know, that’s when you can get into trouble when things like COVID happen, where if you’re relying a hundred percent on display ad revenue, and then that’s cut and you know, by whatever 50, 70%, and you have no other streams of income, you might’ve set yourself up for, you know, some, some rough weather. And the same thing goes for like when Amazon, you know, cut their affiliate affiliate earnings by around the same time period. So,
Which doesn’t make sense cause they’re having like record year, but
And then the only other thing I’d add to that is you just gotta run super lean, right? Like the one I had the beverage companies, I’ve spent a lot of stupid money on stupid things that didn’t move the needle in terms of sales. And ultimately that really was a big contributing factor to why those brands and companies failed. So with bike rumor, I’ve been super lean. Like I took and continue to take a very small paycheck and use the resources to try and hire people or pay my team well, but ultimately like none of us are getting rich off of this. It’s it’s, it’s a passion play. I mean, you can build a big publishing house and you know, a big digital media brand and company. But you know, if this year has proven anything, it’s that if you’re not running lean and you’re not making every dollar count, then you’re gonna struggle.
Like we’ve seen over the past three years, we’ve seen a lot of really well-known well-established cycling websites and magazines go under right. Or they’ll get acquired for nothing. Right. You know, most of them just folded and it’s because they were doing stupid stuff, they were spending stupid money or they just weren’t, they didn’t understand that you can’t pay some people like 70, $80,000 to write about bikes, you know, it’s kinda silly. So yeah, so that’s the thing it’s just like run as lean as you can. Like, you don’t need stickers, you don’t need promo t-shirts to give away and stuff. So like, I mean, we just don’t do any of that stuff.
How do you measure and evaluate what’s what’s worked for bike rumor and what hasn’t yeah.
It’s, it’s some experimentation, right? Like from a content side. So this year we tried doing like taking one of the girl that writes first out of the UK. Jessie may like, she really wanted to race the Enduro world series. So we’re like, all right, we’ll try it. We tried to get some brands to sponsor it. And you know, we bought the plane tickets, paid for the entries and all this stuff and you know, like all in all, it was quite an expensive experiment. And then we built a con storyline around that. Right? Like she would do multiple multi-part video series and like, ultimately the content was really good, but the interest level was super low and it’s a shame because it’s a fun story. Right. And there’s a lot of people that I think wonder what it’s like to try and race it as a pro on the, on the world stage level of writing.
But we’re not the only ones that weren’t able to make that succeed. You’re like one of our biggest competitors in a site that’s arguably way bigger than us in many measurements is tried something similar. And you know, we’ve talked to a lot of the brands that sponsored that one and bar none. And they were all disappointed with the outcome. Right? Like they didn’t get the ROI from sponsoring it. I don’t know how the traffic was for them, but you know, if you’re not able, unfortunately if you’re going to try and a big, expensive content gamble, and you’re not able to justify in terms of revenue, then you can’t. So if the brands aren’t gonna sponsor it, and that’s what we found, right. Like when we started explaining what we’re doing, they’re like, well, we tried something like this with the other one and we didn’t get any ROI.
So it was, we like maybe covered our costs on that. But then if you look at it, right, like, okay, so we broke even, but you can’t grow a business breaking even, right. Like, so we could’ve put that same time and energy into other things that have clearly shown over the past years to produce more revenue, help us grow our site, traffic, you know, grow YouTube subscribers and this, that, and the other. So it was an experiment and you have to try these things. You just have to make sure that why you’re trying these things, you’re still doing all the stuff that pays the bills. And so that’s really key. And then as far as just like measuring, right? Like I think ultimately the true measure is that somebody’s going to sponsor it so that we know that our ask a stupid question series and we know our reader survey contest. And some of these other things work for us because people keep coming back to them and we, we sell them out pretty frequently. So that’s, I would say it like if it’s selling, it’s working. Yeah,
Yeah. No, that’s, that’s very, very true. Are there any, you know, big mistakes or regrets of things that you would’ve done differently along this journey?
I’ve been a little more careful where we sourced our content. Sometimes we sorta have some places that didn’t appreciate the fact that we were sharing their content. So we got some bad, bad vibes in the industry for a little while from doing some of that stuff and got called out on social Psalm and it hurt, right? Like when somebody is trashing, you personally trashing your site, then you know, you have to explain to your writers that like, look I F the up and I know this is affecting you. They were far more stressed out about it than I was. But you know, yeah. You just gotta be careful, especially now. I mean, everyone’s, everyone’s racing to try and cover similar to the same stuff that you just have to really do your own thing. And you have to be really careful that you’ve got everybody understands, you know, copyright and you understand, you know, just all that stuff.
So I think that’s the biggest one that anybody who knows our history would probably agree. You know, and it’s been a long, long time since any of that. Like we put some really, we learned hard lessons, but the thing is, we codified it. We said, look, this is where we messed up. This is how we can avoid this in the future. Don’t do these things. Here’s how you do it. Right. And we put that all into the writer’s guide. And then we trained everybody say, look, this is, these are the reasons why we’re doing things the way we’re doing. So everybody understands why. And that’s, I think that’s key, right? Like it’s hire somebody and say, Hey, yeah, right about this. And then if they don’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing in the way you’re doing it, then they’re just going to probably make a lot of the same mistakes and cause a lot of pain.
If you could tell your old self, any advice before beginning your publishing journey back in 2008, with what you know now, what would you say?
Don’t yeah. The stuff I just talked about would be the big one. Yeah. But I think the bigger thing is like really more how to run the business. You know, like I’ve learned so much in the past few years, just like how to run this as an actual business. I mean, it was, and in many ways still is a lifestyle business, right? Like I have a really good time. I make enough money, but I get the in normal years, travel the world, riding bikes in amazing places, get wined and dined by the brands. And so does my team and we have a killer time. Like it is the ultimate lifestyle business that we just happen to get paid to do. So it’s kind of a dream come true for a lot of cyclists. You know what the cyclists don’t see on the back end is all the hard work. And so like if I had realized many, many years ago say, look like you could go screw around on bikes and just have fun today. Or you could put in a couple hours, extra per week to do these things, to grow the business. The business would probably be a lot further along now. You know, like with the content side, right? Like I ignored paid content for far too many years. I ignored video for far too many years.
And I have one final question for you and it kind of leads in a little bit to what you were just speaking of, but you know, there’s a lot of, you know, SEO experts and people in the digital publishing space that are always spouting off advice when it comes to building a website. And then they’re also a lot of publishers on the other side who have what we call SOS, shiny object syndrome, where publishers gravitate toward, you know, whatever is the next best thing to get traffic, to make more money. And despite all of that, you know, what would be one piece of advice that you think it’s important for publishers to remember to achieve sustained, you know, website growth.
I mean, it’s pretty simple. Like we don’t, we try not to touch the shiny stuff with that because like I get, you know, like we used use premium or, you know, for the SEO plugin. So I get the emails and every week it’s like, you can do this and this and this. And I like, I’ll click on it. And I’m like, , why did I click on that? And I’ll waste an hour reading about something that we’re never going to do. Right. Because it’s, this infant has small little tweak and it’s all this extra stuff that you got to do all these steps. And I’m like, ultimately just focus on the basics. Right? Like the basics to me is, you know, top down, right. Like we’re from tucked down, is your headline good? Right. Because if the headline sucks, nobody’s going to click once somebody clicks and they’re in there, right.
Like there’s the structure. Good. And there’s, you know, there’s some pretty simple things you can do with structure is like, if I’m scrolling through the page, right. Like if you see my headline and you don’t all, this is text right here. You’re probably done. Right. So it’s like headline picture. Right. And then a little bit texting, what do you see? Like right here, right at the bottom of the screen, just barely teasing. Right. Another little subheading or a picture of something. Cause you’re like, Oh, what’s that? Okay. Let’s, let’s scroll that into view. Right. And then this one gets here and then like, Oh, what’s this, you know, it’s just like, he, people coming down the page, like keep showing them a little something when they get to that point and you got to make sure that’s, you know, that that’s working on mobile and desktop and everything else.
I’ll probably almost, I’d say more mobile than not now. And it doesn’t have to be images. It could be anything bullet, pointless, whatever. Right. Like visually you have to pull readers down the page if you want to get them through the article. And there’s, you know, like there’s a lot of nuances to how to do that. But that’s the basics, right? Like the basics though, are name your images. You know how many, I try not to tell my competitors this, but like, you know, like I can tell the images and even the brands, this is what kills me is the brands I’ll, I’ll pull an image from a brand’s website if we’re covering their product. And the image file will be like a string of letters and numbers that makes no sense. Like that is the lowest hanging fruit. Just name your image, something coherent about what’s in that image.
Right? Like it should not be, I am G five Oh four nine. It should be like new, new Trek, full suspension, mountain bike, blah, blah, blah. Right. Like, because what’s going to show up in search. So like will often show up in search better than the brand that makes the product just because we take two seconds to rename the image, you know, it’s like, just that it’s just basic, right? It’s not fancy, just do the smart, simple stuff. And you know, and I should say like, we’ve grown to be one of the largest bike websites. I would say the largest cycling tech blog in the world. And it’s a hundred percent organic growth from just doing the basics. You know, we don’t pay for any traffic whatsoever.
That’s awesome. And I feel like a lot of publishers might be like, Oh, well there’s no, there’s no secret sauce or something. And in reality, if you want to do it the right way, it’s everything that you speak of. So I really appreciate, I really appreciate you joining me today, Tyler and having this conversation is there anywhere people listening can, can follow you follow bike, rumor. You had any social channels you want to shout out.
Yeah, sure. So by bike, if you’re into bikes, you know pedal bikes, not motorbikes it’s just at bike rumor on all the socials. And if you want more like content strategy stuff. I do a lot of that with my newsletter and everything. And I’m just at Tyler Benedict. So @TylerBenedict on all the socials. And yeah, I checked that out and give them a content marketing newsletter.
Awesome. Well, I really appreciate your time. Thanks for having this conversation. And I look forward to speaking to you soon. Thank you. All right, Tyler take care. So that is all for today’s a Ezoic publisher profile. I appreciate you guys joining me. If you haven’t already let me know what you think of Tyler strategies below in the comments, give the video a big thumbs up down below, and also hit that big red subscribe button. And if you didn’t see last week’s episode, I’ll go ahead and put that up in the corner of my interview with John for lease of Cubs, insider.com. And I will see you guys next Tuesday.
Allen is a published author and accomplished digital marketer. The author of two separate novels, Allen is a developing marketer with a deep understanding of the online publishing landscape. Allen currently serves as Ezoic’s head of content and works directly with publishers and industry partners to bring emerging news and stories to Ezoic publishers.