Interview with James from Mum Network Ltd
The following post is an interview with James, Director of 3 successful digital media marketing companies in the UK.
- Hi James, Introduce yourself and What you do
One is my own that I have for tax purposes.
One is called Inbound Digital Marketing (inbound.co.uk) formally SMEMarketing.com which offers inbound marketing services to offline Companies (I am the branding director).
The last one is called Mum Network Limited which is a collection of mothering based premium sites such as babynames.co.uk, pregnancy.co.uk,babies.co.uk, mum.co.uk (the list goes on!) – we also own a bunch of other premium domains that we keep in our inventory for sale/development (I am the operations director). This is the business I spend the most of my time developing.
- How Has your SEO/Website Strategy Changed in 2012?
It has changed a huge amount – I personally think at my age and in this industry if you don’t look at what you were doing 6 months ago and laugh at how much more you know and how your strategy has changed you are getting complacent. 2012 has been a funny year for SEO – Google have cracked down on a lot of shortcuts when it comes to ranking – most people complain and I am not going to pretend we haven’t been hit on some of our newer sites but I think their changes have been for the best. It has allowed me to focus even further on building a complete marketing campaign around my sites rather than simply basing strategy off search engine traffic. My website strategy has become a lot more about the big picture than chasing rankings/traffic – I look to have good engagement metrics so the visitors that come to my sites come back over and over, I look to build the sites as brands on their respective social media platforms and also finally starting to sort out an email strategy (which has been due for a long time as we have a decent member database).
- Most, if not all of your websites are monetised through CPM campaigns. Since this blog is called AffiliateFYI.com, can you let us know why you’ve chosen CPM advertising over CPC or even affiliate marketing revenue?
I have to say it is definitely my preferred model. There are a few reasons for this:
To start with I think the affiliate/cpc model has clear conflicts in interest between the user and the webmaster. With a typical affiliate model you want to push the visitor off the page and to your highest paying affiliate program as quickly as possible. Whereas the visitor typically wants to be the best informed they can be and go to the best platform for them to play. A great example of this is how very few poker affiliates will push PokerStars that heavily because their affiliate scheme is pretty shocking however for a player it is probably the best place to play poker online. While this might not be true for every affiliate site you will find the majority of really large successful ones will push customers to affiliate programs that are in their best interest and not the customers.
CPM actually rewards you for good engagement metrics so you don’t get this conflict, I try to design my site to keep the user on the site reading my information as long as possible with the intention for them to come back through a bookmark or type in. The more page views/return visits I get from each of my users the more money they will make me so I have a much higher incentive to provide really great unique information to them – this in turn makes the site a much more attractive prospect to advertisers.
There are a few other smaller reasons such as the fact that I think CPM sites are much easier to sell for a higher yearly multiple and Google prefers the CPM model. I also know that a really great CPM site will hit critical mass after a period of time – meaning you get to the point where advertisers send you opportunities rather than the other way round. If you have money to spare and the time to wait I would definitely recommend going down the CPM route of site creation for the largest gains in the long term.
- I know you’ve managed to do a Book deal and negotiate exclusive media deals with brands such as AOL. Can you let us know how these came about and any tips for others with regards to media deals?
I am a big believer in the following saying – “the harder you work the luckier you get”. Over the last two years we have been approached and done deals with some of the largest companies in the UK and I would love to say it was because of my great salesmanship or charismatic character but that’s simply not the case. I mean it is crazy to say that we are publishing a baby names book with one of the UK’s largest publishers and that book will be in major stores for Christmas! All you have to do is create something truly exceptional in the niche you are expanding into. Forget about creating a 10 page site and ranking it for “keyword phrase” – create a site about a niche and aim to be the best in your market. Most offers and opportunities we get are because people see our websites and contact us. We do have an advertising agency that will handle a lot of our CPM/sponsor deals as well but again those deals are mainly received on the quality of the network rather than blagging numbers.
- You mentioned earlier in the year that you were investing more in the social media side of things? Hows that going along for you and do you have any tips for others?
If you talked to me around 12 months ago I would have told you that we didn’t have a good social media strategy – mainly because I didn’t understand how to build a strategy behind it. All I can say is now…. I LOVE social media! Hands down – if you have a good social media strategy you will have a good search engine strategy as a consequence. At the end of the day search engines wants to rank what people like and a non-manipulated social media campaign is the purest form of that. It also allows you to get instant direct feedback from your community.
The only real tip I can give you when it comes to social media is consistency. If you are consistent with your social media you will see good results. To give you an example – we went from updating our fan page from 0 times a day to 1 time a day. This resulted in our social reach (people who saw our page) going from 5,000 people per day to over 40,000! With just one post a day! It was incredible to see what potential we had been wasting from our fan pages. On our pregnancy page (much newer site) our rate of likes quadrupled from one post a day (from around 1 to 4 per day).
- Obviously you must invest quite a lot in your premium domains and websites. Do you have an exit strategy and how do you decide when the time is right to sell a site? For instance, you sold MobileInsurance.co.uk earlier for $xx,xxx.
I am of the opinion that everything is for sale at the right price. When starting up the business we invested a lot of money into our domain portfolio – at one point we had 400+ premium domains in our portfolio. We did this for a few reasons – firstly investing in a lot of domains gives you a lot of choice of what you want to test/develop and then you can find a niche you like and continue to invest in more domains/sites – it also meant we could be selling things every month for a profit. I look at it a little like a game of monopoly – on my first time round the board I buy every property I land on, once I realise what sets I want I will trade/sell the excess property I have in order to get the sets I want. Most sites we develop are for sale at the right price and that will depend in the position you are in within that niche. For instance MobileInsurance.co.uk was a fantastic site but we had made a conscious decision we didn’t want to continue in the insurance niche so we decided to sell – this was the same case with Gold.co.uk.