In this episode, media buyer extraordinaire Mike Hill shares his non-politically correct and candid opinions and advice on how to buy traffic to your website. We talk about how the industry has changed, how you should be buying media, paid traffic strategies, and just how profitable that can be.
Transcript: How To Buy Traffic To Your Website – With Mike Hill
Welcome to the Project Ignite podcast. This is your host, Derek Gehl, and today’s episode features someone that has an absolute wealth of knowledge on media buying online. It’s an interview I’ve been looking forward to, because this is an area that I see people screw it right up, honestly, and lose a lot of money on. There’s a lot of lost opportunity. The fact is, that if you want to scale up your business reliably, you need to know how to buy media. So today I get to pick the brain of Mike Hill. He’s a media buyer extraordinaire, spending over $1m per month on media, he’s also the founder of a massive Facebook group called the Internet Marketing Super Friends. Maybe a little corny, but I think there’s a story there. So Mike, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much. I really appreciate the invitation and you letting me be here. Just for clarification, we’re down to about half a million dollars per month spent on media because we’re eliminating a lot of our clients.
Oh, wow, okay.
You’re probably always gonna get a bit too much information from me.
Hey, dude, a half million is solid. I think we can still go on with our interview. So before we get into the how-to – you’ve been online I think as long as I have. Give us the story. How did you get online and become this authority in buying media?
I’ve been on for about sixteen years now. I was living in a barn in the mountains, and I was on unemployment insurance, which was about to run out –so I thought, “man, I’ve got to get a job.” So I looked in the paper, and I found this ad for a receptionist for an ‘Internet company’.” This was in 1999, right, so I thought, “I’ll be working on some Internet dating site,” or something like that. So I looked up the company, and found out that these guys were actually super connected.
So I applied, I got the interview, for a company called AdNet International, and I started as their receptionist for $6. I said, “I’ll start as your receptionist, but in a year, I’m gonna be running this company.” And they kind of laughed and said, “we like your balls, kid. You’re hired.” So within a year I was VP, and within two years I had kind of outgrown my mentors and had become sort of a mercenary for hire for conversion and traffic things, and I’ve been doing that for fourteen years now.
I remember the name AdNet from back in the day, and I can’t remember what happened to them. But the name rings a bell. So you left AdNet, and people started hiring you as a conversion specialist. Now you run your own agency?
Yeah, I’ve been running my own agency for close to ten years now. What I’ve found out is that I was originally hired by people to increase conversions on their website. Once I did that, they didn’t really know how to buy traffic. So they asked me to do that. So I started an agency, and low and behold, we were really good at that too. So things started working out all over the place.
It actually started with a guy named Carlos Garcia, the first person to hire me after I left AdNet, and it worked out so well that his business exploded. It just kind of went from person to person, and they just seem to always hire us at the right time.
So you keep mentioning conversions but you do also do media buying. Those two go hand in hand. So when you’re working with a client, and they say that they want to buy media, and you know it’s not going to work, what’s your message to them?
The direct answer is very frank. Very candid and curt. You say, that page sucks, here’s the six things you need to change. Here’s what you’re probably having happen, and this is what will fix it in my experience.
It’s a difficult conversation, but what happens every single time, is the client says, “shit! I knew it! I was telling you guys!” And I become the saviour, because I was the only one with the balls to say something. They pay me a ton of money to go in and check everything across the board.
I totally respect that, Mike. Cause I’ve worked with media buyers in the past, and in most instances, they don’t care where you drive the traffic. It’s very short-sighted. And conversions, I’d love to go down that road with you because the amount of landing pages and offers you’ve had experiences with you is huge.
But let’s step over to media. Right now, let’s talk about the average person–they head out to AdWords, or Facebook, or wherever. They spend $100, make a banner, see pitiful results, and then they give up. Why do you succeed when 98% of people fail at it. What do you do differently?
So there’s two answers to that. The first is the politically correct answer, and the other is not. Let’s start PC. I have the experience to know which details I need to pay attention to, and how I can use those details to refine my media buying. So you said it perfectly–they’ll start out and they’ll fail miserably. I don’t see anything as a failure.
What did I learn from that $100? But I need to have all the pieces in place to make sure that I do learn something from that $100. So when I do it again, I’m not spending it on those ten keywords, I’m spending on the individual keywords. Things that I can get actual insights on. The data that I glean from that $100 spend will make my next spend better. Instead of losing all of my money, I’d only need one sale if it was $100 product. The key to succeeding is data driven, and my experience tells me which data points I need to be watching. That’s the politically correct answer.
The non-politically correct answer is that most people are too damn lazy to spend a little bit of investment and set everything up right so that they can track it all. That laziness is why they don’t succeed.
Dude, that is so true. Okay, so, let’s talk details. You said that you know which details to pay attention to. What are those details that you look at?
All of them. Literally. Here’s an example: if you have an orchestra, with tons of people playing and it sounds great, you can’t take anything away from that. If you take one section of the orchestra away, you lose the value of the entire piece. It’ll sound okay, but it’s not the same beautiful, rich sound from when everything was humming in harmony. It’s the same in media.
So people ask me what I’m using to track my metrics. The answer to that is Kissmetrics. The reason for that is Kissmetrics collects every single data point that is taking place at the consumer level in addition to properties and values for each event point. So I track my page to page conversion ratio via each variable. Age, gender, mobile device, marital status. Specifically. My 54 year olds convert better than my 52 year olds, and I have no idea why. My sample size is big enough, it’s accurate. So when you ask which data points I track, I track them all. And I look to see how they affect page to page conversions in short and long terms.
For the average person getting started out, what is “all of them?” Give me some specifics here; if I was going to start a Facebook campaign, driving traffic to a landing page, and we were doing this in North America with some great product. What’s step one?
Step one, identify every single key touch point for you and the customer. Where will the customer end up experiencing me? There’s the landing page, the home page, the about page, your terms and conditions. All of those matter. So track and measure specifically at least the landing page and home page and each subsequent interior page of the process. Opt-ins, offers, trip-wire offers. All of it, when you’re getting started. We call those events that took place. Someone did something.
So I look at the conversion ratio of each of those landing events, and then at the properties and values. So if you’re doing the Ryan Levesque survey-style opt-in, you can then track their marital status, their age, their age range, their devices. My iPhone conversion this week is 1.72%. Android is .42% iPad is 5%. My married conversion rate is 3.1% and my divorced rate is 4.5%. So who am I going to go buy? Divorced people on iPads. So next week, I wouldn’t have been buying with intelligence.
So for everyone listening – you set up an ad to reach customers that you think will be your demographic. You bring them to a landing page congruent with their reason for being there. Then you use Kissmetrics to effectively track every move that they make on that page. This is where you win – most people are tracking, visitor came to page, and this many visitors took an action. They don’t drill down into that finite detail about who these people really are. Let’s take Facebook for example. Now that you know that divorced people on iPads are your target, you can buy more ads for them.
It’s pretty sick, isn’t it?
It is! And I’m trying to drive home to people today that are just getting into this, saying, “I want to target moms, so I have an ad for moms, and someone opted in, and I don’t really know why…” This tells you why. So Kissmetrics versus Google Analytics. Night and day?
Uh, yeah. Analytics does not allow for personally identifiable information to be passed through. Kissmetrics’ entire core is based on that information. Google Analytics gives you very pretty canned reports, but media buying isn’t about canned reports. That’s why you don’t go buying divorced people on iPads, because that’s only what works on this specific funnel.
For sure. To summarize, one of the key things you’ve said is when you buy media and it doesn’t convert, it’s not a failure, it was a lesson. That is so key. You might be one tweak from a breakeven or profit. The second thing, don’t be lazy. You have to track everything. Because people are lazy, and they don’t make the effort to truly understand what’s going on.
So you’ve had tons of campaigns across tons of industries. So I think a common misconception is that people think they’re going to buy media profitably. They think they’re going to buy an ad and see money go back into their pocket on the first sale. In your experience, are people buying media today profitably within the first transaction or is it more of a lifetime value?
Are people doing it? Yes. Those of you looking for the flaw in the conversation, yes there are people that make it work. Those are the people making outrageous claims that you should buy their shiny crap. So yes, it can be done, and people will do it just for the sake of selling products. But the majority of professional media buyers understand that customer acquisition cost needs to be measured in lifetime value, not daytime value.
Our most successful clients understand that customer value will come in for four months or so. You’ll keep generating revenue from them for that long. Don’t try to circumvent the customer research cycle. If you want to forge a real relationship, it’s going to take time.
Most people have a long term funnel, with things set up for future income from them. Maybe 5 years ago, lifetime value versus day zero value earners were maybe 50/50. Today, it’s 90/10. Buyers understand that value will come in over time. They play a longer term game. There’s maybe 10 per cent out there making profit on day zero.
My experience in media buying has always been about lifetime values. Even if you break even on that first sale you’re high fiving. It takes awhile for first time buyers to understand that. To be dead honest, a lot of the offers I have seen that convert profitably on the front end, are not offers that would pass the scrutiny of the FTC.
In so many cases I’ve been so disenchanted with the CPA world. It’s tough because if you want to play there, it’s almost hard to play the legitimate game because you’re competing against guys doing illegitimately. It’s an interesting world. Are you doing anything there?
Hell no. I actually made a course for people called CPA Tsunami so people could get in and fill the CPA network with good, ethical, promising offers. But the problem was, there wasn’t enough of us. I don’t recommend anyone go into the CPA world anymore.
I’ll back you up there. So today, let’s talk about sources. Places to buy media. We’ve got Facebook, PPC, where are you spending most of your time?
You don’t need to go any further than free publishers. Facebook, Google, and Bing. You’re good. The only thing you have to be careful of is remembering that the policy department isn’t going to take the time to do full investigations. They’ll just shut you down. That’s pretty much it. So your offer and claims need to be absolutely compliant to a complete idiot. Could someone potentially misconstrue your claim?
Anyone that’s been in the Internet marketing space for any length of time has gone down that road, maybe with AdWords. Especially with AdWords, it’s kind of a rite of passage. If you haven’t lost an AdWords account yet… [laughs] So those three networks, there’s lots of others out there, like SiteScout.
But why? I just want to put that out there. You’ve got the three most profitable websites out there, why would you go anywhere else? I know about all of them. We have chosen to focus 100% of our effort and energy on making sure that the big three love us. When I was spending $1m per month I had teams of people. Now, two people buy my traffic. Why mess around with the other stuff when you can get a way better scale and data analysis by just focusing on three?
Okay, where does retargeting come into play?
We do retargeting through GDN and Facebook. I don’t do any Bing retargeting. Bing is like the “oh… are you still here? okay…” But they bring important traffic in! Especially in financial spaces. But the others are going to bring you better algorithms for the best customers. You can’t get any better value when you’re just starting out than with those two. If you’re a ninja, you can go crazy with other networks, but if you want value, just stick with the big three.
Okay, we’re going on a bit of a tangent here. But let’s talk about mobile. How are you treating mobile than you’re treating desktop?
They’re not the same at all. I used to go back and forth –which I do. All the time. Move with the data. A few years ago, data said you needed a different page for each device. And then everyone said, just make it responsive! Now, it’s about specific pages for specific device types, to make sure that the conversion rate across the whole looks good. So I have tablet pages, mobile phone pages, desktop pages, and ideally I’d want to write different sales letters depending on the device someone is using. Because I know for a fact you’d write different letters for Android versus iPhone users. The psychology of those users are completely different.
Yeah, okay. How are they so different? I get that the iPhone user is typically a bit more affluent… But what have you seen?
How are they different? If I want opt-ins, I target Androids. They give up data so easily. If I want buyers, I target iOS users. But with Androids I get 30% to 50% less conversion through a paid customer than with iPhones. The income level and purchase behaviour patterns that exists for Android versus iPhone reflects the cost of the phone they buy.
Last week we did a campaign analysis and found that Android users were far more likely to fill up five pages of data including social security numbers to a factor of over 100% conversion rate, while iPhone users were nowhere near as close. They were so much more valuable because I didn’t want the sale, I wanted the data.
So what’s the speculation behind that? Why?
Marketing wise? I think they probably have less money. I know that’s a generalization. But iPhone users have more purchase activity and credit card activity on their devices than their Android counterparts. And Android users have higher opt-in rates.
I hope we’re all taking notes here. This information comes with a lot of data analysis that you get to skip now. What I love today is that the tools and info we have available to us is night and day to what it used to be. If you had to compare media buying today to ten years ago, what are the biggest changes you’ve noticed?
The ability for us to hyper-target specific individuals is insane. People that say, I tried media buying and it didn’t work, are the lazy ones. Or, they haven’t found someone that can do it for them. The insight and analytics that you can use to turn into an actionable media plan – this is unprecedented. It’s never been like this.
And my message is, you need to know this stuff if you’re going to buy media. If you’re in a niche where there’s not a lot of competition, high five, you’re set. With competition, you’re not going to beat the person that’s doing what Mike is doing. When you combine that with the ability to outspend your competitors, you cannot lose.
When I do events and stuff, everybody wants to hear how to rank in Google, how to get free traffic. And I mean, I’ll take all of that free traffic, but I compare it to the real estate market. One of my businesses is a real estate investing niche. I compare it like free traffic is like generic growth in the market. If you’re in real estate and your only goal is to make money by the market going up, that’s not reliable. If you want to make money, you need the skills to go out and buy traffic and convert profitably, and then scale it up. You’re manufacturing growth.
That’s why I think this interview is so valuable. I hope people are really listening and taking this to heart. Not just buying the next shiny product. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about learning and data.
Data drives sales. A lot of people tell me, “great, but how can I compete against people that can cash flow three or four months?” I say, wake up. You can. What would the bank need to give you a loan? They need data. You can compete against anyone with a business plan that you create with data. You show that to the banks, your proven profitability, you have a pretty high likelihood of getting that loan. You need a plan and data gives you that plan. Once you have that data, you can compete. You have to take action!
I second that. I got nothing to add to that. Now’s the time to wrap, thank you so much for being here and sharing so much so candidly with us. That’s what I really appreciate. Thank you for being here.
Absolutely. Thank you for having me on, and I hope this was helpful to everybody.
Alright, there you have it, guys. Oh, Mike! Where can people get more information about you?
I don’t sell anything and I give everything away, but I get yelled at because I don’t actually have an opt-in… Or I didn’t, but my guy just set one up for me. So you can sign up to get my inner circle emails where I share stuff like this. That’s at MikeHill.me. You’ll find the opt-in link there. We don’t spam or sell stuff, we’re pretty straight forward. You want to learn, we’re here to help. You want excuses, go somewhere else.
Great. And your group, the Internet Marketing Super Friends, a list of about ten thousand people.
That’s a massive story. I try to say, go here and I’ll let you in, but it never works. Go find us on Facebook, try to join, and cross your fingers.
Guys, just do it. Get on the wait list. It’s an awesome group. Entrepreneurs actually helping each other. It’s definitely worth being on that wait list. Guys, I hope you’ve taken a lot away from this podcast, I know that I have. I can’t emphasize the value and mindset of what we’ve talked about today enough. We’re gonna wrap this up. If you like this podcast, go over to iTunes and subscribe, leave a review. Again, if you head over to ProjectIgnite.com/podcast, you’ll find this published there as well as our Show Notes. Have a great week and we’ll see you in our next episode!