Chris is an entrepreneur who has spent over 10 years running a very profitable online business. His company WhatsMyIPAddress Is highly instrumental in protecting many websites and individuals from hackers, scammers and all kinds of online fraudsters.
Chi: Hey guys. Welcome to another fantastic episode of the Bulletproof Entrepreneur podcast. My guest today is Chris Parker. Chris is the founder and CEO of whatismyipaddress.com, it’s the number one website in the world for finding your IP address. According to Alexa ranking, Chris’ website is ranked at top 3000 websites in the United States with over six million monthly visitors and over 200,000 visitors a day.
Chris started the website in January of 2004 and for the first five years, he didn’t worry about it, he didn’t focus on trying to generate revenue or anything. But in 2014, when Chris got laid off from his corporate job, his back was to the wall and he decided, “You know what, I have to actually get aggressive and make something grow out of this my side hustle.” Within a short few months, he turned the site that barely generated any income to generating just shy of under seven figures, and then he had just been on a non-stop […] from there.
I’m pleased to have Chris on the show today to tell us a little bit about himself, his journey to building his company whatismyipaddress.com, his entrepreneurial philosophy and anything else he has to share. You’re going to get a kick out of this show, so with that said, Chris, welcome to the show.
Chris: Thank you so much for having me on the show. I’m glad to be here.
Chi: Awesome. Chris, now I mentioned that you started this website in 2004 and man, this is almost back in the dinosaur age of the internet.
Chris: It was.
Chi: Tell us what you were doing in that period of the turn-of-the-century, why you decided to get this website and then why did you neglect it so much before you got into it maybe 15, 16 years later.
Chris: At the time, I was working for a online catalogue reseller, over the phone–those days, and just starting to get the company up on the internet and I needed it to be able to fix an IT issue in the company and I needed to know the internet IP address of the companies I have connection there, and there really wasn’t an easy way to figure that out. Google didn’t exist then. You had to go to Alexa, and you had to know exactly what you were searching for to be able to find it. I thought, “You know what, let me just put together a really simple website that just tells people what their address is.” I never even thought of it being the business opportunity.
Chi: I know even back then, even making a website was an ordeal, correct? There was basically nothing at the time.
Chris: That’s right. It actually ran off of an old Windows 2000 server that was sitting at my home on a 1.5-megabit DSL connection. Heck, third world phone connections are faster than that now but that’s what it was running on at the time.
Chi: Wow. So, you started the website and then what happened? Did you get any traction with it? What people come into it? Was it helping you a lot in your day-to-day in the course of your job? What was going on?
Chris: It was actually interesting. Once I got it up and running, I had a few other business things that I was trying to run. Whatismyipaddress.com was never a top of mind. One day I got an alert saying the hard drive space was almost full and I’m like, “Why in the world is the hard drive space full? There’s nothing on this machine.” And it was the logs of all the people that were visiting whatismyipaddress.com. I was like, “Oh, wow. I can actually start doing something here.” I added a little contact form on there if people wanted to reach out to me and that resulted in lots and lots of questions, “Hey, what does this mean? What does that mean? How do I do this?” and I started just answering frequently asked questions on my website. “How do I change my IP address? What is an IP address?”
I started writing content about those things and the traffic grew, and the traffic grew, and at some point, I realized there was this thing called Google AdSense and I could put ads on my site. I didn’t have to be a salesman, I didn’t have to go out and find the advertisers, Google took care of that for me and that was kind of the beginning of, “Hey, this is actually a business. I could make a little bit of money from this.”
Chi: You were getting some side money from that while you were still working corporate, correct?
Chris: That is correct.
Chi: Awesome. Now, we skip on down to 2013, 2014. What was the circumstances like in your corporate job and what led you to being laid off?
Chris: As many of us know, there was a nasty downturn in the economy. My fulltime employer hoped and prayed that it would just be a six-month or a one-year thing and they were kind of afraid to lay people off in such a bad economy. They actually, not to their advantage, hurt them, but they kept everybody fulltime for about a full year of bleeding money. Then they started like, “I’m sorry. We just can’t keep paying everybody.” And so, they sequentially just started letting groups of people go.
At one point, they were like, “Hey, Chris, you’re one of the few ones left but we can’t afford to pay you fulltime anymore. Can you work part time for us?” That was kind of my moment that my wife and I sat down and thought, “Is this the opportunity that I need to have some fulltime income but also have a big chunk of time available that I could start working and growing the business?” We talked about it, we came up with a plan of like, “Well, let’s give it six months.” If I can grow the revenue for the website over that six-month time, we’ll reevaluate then and decide from that.
That’s exactly what we did. I worked part time for them for a number of years actually as kind of a side gig sort of—or side gig, full time, half gig, whatever you want to call it—and that gave me a nice bit of stability to have. My wife was working fulltime so we could afford the dip in fulltime revenue, but it really gave me the opportunity to invest in my side hustle and realistically, at that time, it didn’t take 20 hours a week working on it. If I had 40 hours a week, I’d be twiddling my thumbs or not making use of my time. It happened to be an incredibly opportune thing.
Eventually, the company that I was working for went out of business, and my wife and I again, kind of reevaluated this and said, “Oh, should this be my fulltime gig?” I was making some decent money out of it and we decided, “Let’s do that. Let’s give it a year. If I can grow the business and make more on my side hustle than what I would have been making getting a fulltime job out in the world—a corporate job—that we’d go ahead and do that.” That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
Chi: Awesome. Now, one thing you’ve shared that I really liked about your story is that even though you did not jump right into your side hustle right away and […] steady cash that was coming in regardless of the fact that the economy was doing bad and the company wasn’t doing that great also. Because these days, there’s a popular narrative that once you have your side hustle, you just need to quit everything and just jump in 100% but you took a measured approach. You consulted with your wife who was very instrumental in the building of your business.
From me listening to other podcasts you’ve done; you guys came further. You decided that, “You know what, get the steady income.” You have that base and then you can still use the free time on optimizing, make effective use of it because if you left and you said, “Okay, you dedicated 100% of your time to it,” most likely that 100% of your time would even amount to 50% of the time. Because as entrepreneurs, when you’re trying to do something 100%, if you run in full speed on that, you find that there’s so many distractions that come in and they don’t necessarily help you achieve the goal you want. I love the fact that you were able to take some time, work on the fulltime side hustle job, as well as build your company on the side until things got to a position where you could just 100% jump in without missing a beat in income.
What I want to ask you now is, what were the steps you took to grow the website, make it more popular, generate more traffic and of course, generate higher revenues with Google AdWords?
Chris: I think even in the, similar to the approach that I took in going from a fulltime corporate job to working for myself fulltime, it was a very measured approach. I’ve always viewed my business in the terms of measured approach and really looking at the long-term game and trying to avoid the get-rich-quick, the, “Hey, let me just do something that will make a ton of revenue now but won’t benefit me in the long run.” And so, kind of the measured I took was, “Okay, I need to be consistent and diligent about producing good quality content.” I contracted with a couple of great writers that have done a tremendous job making complex topics simple and easy to understand for those who aren’t technically inclined. It’s just this consistent working to build and make the website better for the users really, interact with them and finding out how they’re using the site, what are they using it for, how is it impacting them, and what would be more beneficial for them.
There have been a lot of opportunities over the years of advertisers approaching me of, “Hey, you could put pop-ups all over your sites and make lots of money.” While those can make lots of money, it’s a horrible user experience. I really worked very hard and continue to work hard to really balance the experiences that the users of the site have with how much money I can make. I’m sure I could make more money, but I would lose my audience. There’s lots of people who’d be like, “You know what, it isn’t worth it.” Even when you’re going to a free website there is a cost. There’s the ads on the site, there’s the attention, there’s the effort. If at some point you just make it too difficult to use the site, people are going to go away. I’ve worked really hard to make it usable and stay current with technology, but also just make it a good, easy user experience.
Chi: True. We were talking earlier about why you started What’s My IP Address and you mentioned that one of the main things was for due diligence and verification purposes because of course, being on the internet, it’s the Wild, Wild West. One thing that has to do with internet commerce especially is when you’re trying to pay for stuff online and you find that dishonorable or just basically fees around that spoof reputable website and then give them your credit card and you start to lose money and I’ve experienced that. I know you’ve experienced that. There was a little bit a part of the benefit of using What’s My IP Address to mitigate those types of risks that people find themselves in when they’re trying to do business on the internet.
Chris: Yeah. I think there’s a couple of aspects to it that over the years I’ve run across. People that have unfortunately fallen victims to a wide variety of scams. I remember talking with one poor woman who met some people online, they befriended her, and said, “Hey, we’re going to go on a vacation.” And they claimed to win the lottery in London while they were there but because of where they lived, they couldn’t take the winnings, so they put it in her name and then of course, there’s all these fees in order for her to get the money released. By the end of the day, she had gotten a second mortgage on her house, and her entire life savings was gone into these scammers. It’s horrific because just the loss that people have gone through because of the scammers.
I know for one of my own stories of being vulnerable here on the podcast with you is I had an advertiser or someone who claim to be from a reputable advertiser approached me. I recognize the name of the company so I’m like, “Oh yeah. I know who that is.” Set-up him of running ads on the site and about a month into it, about the time that I should start getting paid for it, the relationship started to get squarely, stopped responding to emails, things just weren’t working right. I started to dig and found out that what this guy had done was totally replicated this reputable company’s website and put it up on .net instead of .com and changed the phone number on the site and that was it. It looked exactly like this company’s website. I made the mistake of not doing my due diligence.
My initial response was, “I’m going to hire a lawyer. I’m going to war. I’m going to make this guy’s life miserable.” But I think with most of those things, I would’ve spent way more time and effort trying to get nothing back from the scammer. But I ended up saying, “Okay, what’s the expensive lesson I learned from this?” and it was, “I’ve got to do my due diligence.” As an entrepreneur, if something looks, in this case for me it wasn’t like, “This is too good to be true.” But if something looks too good to be true, that’s got to set off your radar.
You put up your website and the very first day someone wants to buy $100,000 worth of your product, you should be worried about that. Anytime that you get the biggest order that you’re ever had, go to whatismyipaddress.com, “Where did this guy come from?” “Oh, he claims to be in Los Angeles, but his IP address is coming back to Afghanistan, and he wants it shipped to Norway.” Things just don’t start adding up. You, as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to watch out for that. One of the great things is most of these ecommerce platforms these days will let you know the IP address of the person who’s shopping on your website.
Chi: Okay, because I was just going to ask you about that. How would a layperson, because a lot of people are not very tech-savvy so they may not know how to dig in and actually get all that data.
Chris: Most shopping platforms will give you the IP address of the person who placed the order. It’s always worth just double check…
Chi: Taking a second.
Chris: Yeah. Take the couple minutes it takes to look it up and make sure there’s nothing suspicious about it. “Is there a lot of traffic from that IP address being used to post spam on the internet?” That could be a warning sign that something’s not quite right, that you need to give it a second thought, make a phone call. Let the order sit a day or so before you ship it out and not run headlong into losing a lot of money.
Chi: True, very true. In terms of running the business today, just give us a flavor of what are the main components of the business for you today apart from AdWords, what else? Do you provide any services or anything else on the platform?
Chris: There’s some really neat new advertising technology. One of them is called Header Bidding which allows other ad networks to compete with AdSense and it really, for those of you who have a lot of traffic, it can be a very beneficial addition to their advertising portfolio. I’ve worked to build affiliate relationships with other products and services that are in my vertical. I learned early on with another business, trying to have inventory and shipping and receiving, it didn’t work for me, and all the time and effort spent packaging.
I really wanted to have a business that I don’t have any products, I don’t have anything that I have to fulfill myself, and that allows me to be able to travel. If want to take a week off, I can take a week off without things falling apart. Whereas if you got brick and mortar physical products, it becomes a little more complicated with that. And really built the business around offering to the people who come to my website is to offer that for free to them. Where I make my revenue is from the advertising and the affiliate relationships on products that would be of interest to my users.
Chi: Awesome. In terms of looking at the business overall now, how are you defending or protecting yourself from competition? Because I know there are many other IP verification websites out there. How do you stay on top pf the competition and stay ahead when things are changing rapidly and it’s making it easier for more people to jump into your space?
Chris: That’s always been a worry of mine. I think I have some advantage that I got into this space very early on and was able to establish a strong position then. But I think, one of the things that has worked in the past and will continue to work is to continue to produce great quality content. Make sure that I’m continuing to upgrade my tools, add new tools to the website that provide more use to my customer base.
One of the things that I’ve started this year is there is a master’s class that I became a part of, The Ask Method by Ryan Levek. It has offered surveying the people who come to my website and the people that use a particular tool on it. It’s yielded a tremendous insight into why specific people are coming to the site, exactly what they’re there for, what they’re hoping to achieve, and the natural language that they use in talking about their circumstances. That natural language that I learned from those surveys really helps me to refine my content and that helps with conversion rates, on the affiliate programs.
When people are searching, it’s not just IP lookup, but they’ve got other language on what they’re trying to do or what they’re trying to not do. If they’re wanting to find a VPN, they’re talking about being afraid of being tracked. Rather than saying, “Hey, I want privacy and security,” there’s a very specific nuance. By having that nuance in the communication, it really helps people to like, “Okay. He knows what my problems are. He gets me.” It allows me to be able to interact with my users on a more personal basis.
Chi: You’re basically speaking their own language. The fastest way to do business with someone is when you’re speaking the same language with them. The trust barrier is reduced and then you guys have a better rapport to create an affinity to want to continue the relationship further.
Chris: Exactly. It’s something that anyone can apply to new markets. You don’t even know how that market talks, you apply this methodology, and you really learn what that insider language is. That really helps you to be the hero for that community.
Chi: Great. Chris, as we start to […] on the show, we’ve talked a lot about you, we’ve talked a lot about your background, we’ve talked a lot about the business, now I want you to give advice to people that are still struggling to start an entrepreneurial business. What are some of your best tips for someone that’s trying to build a business and they’re still struggling to get their venture off the ground.
Chris: A couple of things that I’ve learned in the last year is, I hired a business coach and he’s really helped me to understand that I really need to connect with people that are kind of entrepreneurs but are nothing like me. Our human nature is to, “I want to connect with people that are just like me.” That’s just the way humans work but as an entrepreneur, I think we really need to be exposed to ideas, thought processes, ways of doing things that we’re not familiar with. Part of that is by being in the community of people that are kind of in the same position of their life, in terms of being an entrepreneur, but they’re really looking at their markets very differently. They’re approaching their business differently and they have different insights than we do. We have to realize that as entrepreneurs, we don’t have the answer to every question, we don’t know everything, and we need to find those gems out there that we can give to them and they can give to us.
Chi: Okay. Looking back on your journey thus far, is there anything that you could have done differently to help fast track your path to success?
Chris: I should have been paying more attention to the traffic of the site early on and that would’ve allowed me to jump further ahead and kind of get to the game sooner. I wish I had hired my business coach sooner. Again, it just really helped open up my eyes to a bunch of different ways of doing things. In my life, I generally have not been a learner type of personality. I didn’t do great in school, I didn’t really enjoy school, but over the last couple of years, I really started to dig into books on personal productivity like Ryan Levek’s Ask Method. All sorts of things to really help me to expand my horizons and be better at what I do. I wish I had learned those things earlier on. I wish I had been more organized and really kind of almost realizing that what I thought wasn’t an opportunity, really was an incredible opportunity, that I could’ve leveraged much earlier in my life.
Chi: It’s so interesting looking back to see the things that we can always improve on knowing what we know now.
Chris: Yup. Hindsight is always 20/20.
Chi: Yeah. What does the future hold for Chris Parker and whatismyipaddress.com? Where do you see you maybe transition in or adopt into business in the next few years?
Chris: I think with the growth of the internet, that will naturally lead more traffic to my site but personally, I’ve been more interested in the recent times of really being able to help people out with their own privacy, their own security, their own best practices to keep them from being scammed online. Unfortunately, I’ve heard way too many stories about people being scammed. I’m grateful that I’m in a position with my business that I’m making enough money to take care of my family. I really want to have the opportunity to start giving back and educating back, and kind of enter a legacy phase of my life. Part of that is going on podcasts and producing content that will really help people avoid pitfalls where there are scams or for young entrepreneurs, things they can avoid large setbacks in their business.
As an example, I was working with a company and they weren’t doing any backups of any of their computers. The CEO’s laptop crashed and it’s like, “Okay. Now, the CEO is unproductive for a week while we try to recover the hard drive.” Luckily, we got everything back, but it cost them a week of productivity. That’s thousands and thousands of dollars of his expertise time that he wasn’t able to utilize when it could have been just as simple as, “Hey, just install an inexpensive $60 a year offsite backup program.” Because you know, if you’ve got your backup driver right next to your computer and your house burns down, you don’t have a backup, so it’s got to be offsite.
Chi: That’s true.
Chris: There’s little things like that that aren’t going to cost an entrepreneur an arm and leg. It aren’t going to cost you and me and just the everyday person an arm and a leg, but it’s kind of almost like insurance. You don’t need it everyday but when you need it, you’re glad that you have it. It will save you a ton of money when you have insurance.
Chi: Yes. For sure. With that said, Chris, we’ve reached the end of the show. I had a lot of pleasure talking to you but before I let you go, I know you’re not selling anything; you don’t have any products, books. Actually, before I let you go, you’ve mentioned several times that you’re a big fan of producing content; content has been the number one driver of your website, tell us a little bit about your content-production philosophy or mindset. What guides you to create great content that people want to read again and again? How does that feed into the traffic? Because we all know about writing content or creating podcast, but people find it still very daunting, and a lot of people still don’t believe that it can drive the amount of traffic they need delivered to their website.
Chris: My philosophy at least in my niche—because IP addresses and privacy and security can be a tremendously technically complicated niche—is the philosophy has always been making things simple. Explaining things without using the technical jargon, no geek-speak but to really use analogies that everybody understands, “It’s kind of a like a telephone. It’s kind of like the yellow pages.” Of course, yellow pages don’t exist anymore, but analogies that really speak to what everyone does. I think that really helps people to be able to connect with their audience, being authentic is incredibly important. I think when you’re really writing content with the mindset of, “I’m trying to help the person who’s reading this,” as opposed to, “I’m trying to help them buy something from me,” that really resonates with the readers. Like, “Okay, I like this.” It becomes more shareable, more interesting, and they’re willing to tell, “Hey. Gosh, I read this, and it totally made sense.” That’s kind of the philosophy that I’ve worked towards content.
Chi: Awesome. Chris, where can people find you, get to know more about you, your business, and possibly reach out to you if they want to talk to you one-on-one and get just some advice or words of wisdom?
Chris: Yep, I’m happy to talk to anyone who wants to reach out to me. They can obviously visit whatismyipaddress.com and if any young entrepreneurs or anyone listening to the podcast wants to reach out to me directly, they can email me [email protected]. If you’ve got a challenge related to privacy or security, would love to talk to you about it.
Chi: Awesome. Thanks for coming on to the show, Chris. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Chris: Thank you very much. I had a great time today.
Chi: Awesome. Hey everyone, thanks for tuning into the show today. If you love what you hear in today’s episode of the podcast, go to iTunes and leave a review and a comment. It helps other great listeners like yourself find the show. Of course, you can always find more episodes of The Bulletproof Entrepreneur podcast at www.odogw.com.
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