Hayley: From the millennialmarketplace.com, this is the Wifi Work Ethic podcast, hosted by me, Hayley Alicia. I believe that if you have a strong wifi connection and even stronger work ethic, you can make big things happen, no matter where you come from or who you know. This show shares the stories of online entrepreneurs and influencers, and also dives into business trends and news, with the occasional pep talk thrown in. Find this show on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, and at the millennialmarketplace.com. Alright, let’s get started!
Hey, hey, welcome to episode 38 of the Wifi Work Ethic Podcast. Today we have an interview which I’m super excited about because this interview’s kind of different than all the other interviews we’ve had on this show. I am talking with someone who started his website in the year 2000. So he gives a lot of great insight, and is able to do a lot of comparisons of what the internet started out as and what it is today. His name is Chris Parker, and he is the founder and CEO of whatismyipaddress.com, the number one website in the world for finding your IP address. Chris’s website is one of the top 3000 websites in the United States with over six million visitors a month. Chris started the website on January 4, 2000. For the first five years, his revenue didn’t even cover his internet bill.
In 2005, Chris made $30 from a display ad, he knew he couldn’t give up. In 2014, Chris was laid off from his corporate job and was faced with the scary opportunity to make his website his full-time business. Since then, he’s aggressively grown his site to generate just over seven figures a year in revenue, with no office, no products, and no inventory.
whatismyipaddress.com has granted Chris and his wife time and financial freedom that they use to travel the world and raise their mini schnauzer, Bailey. This is a very interesting episode, like I said, it’s unlike any of the other interviews I’ve done before, because he can truly give so much insight to what he has learned over these past almost twenty years doing business online. And he also ends the show giving a lot of practical advice about security online and protecting yourself, which is very useful. Let’s get into the interview, I hope you enjoy it.
Let’s just start out with who you are, what you do, and then we can dive into what has gotten you there.
Chris: Sure. I’m Chris Parker, and I run whatismyipaddress.com, and have been doing so for almost twenty years now.
Hayley: Awesome! So, let’s go back to twenty years ago, then, and start from the beginning. What gave you the idea that this was something that was needed, and especially when we’re looking at what the internet looked like at that time. I’m just really curious to hear your thought process of creating this website, and what led you to want to do that.
Chris: Yeah, the internet was a much different place twenty years ago. Definitely a much different landscape than today, and I never originally actually started, or never even thought of whatismyipaddress.com as a business. I had really started it as a hobby, the company that I was working for was having some connectivity issues back in the day, when a one-megabit internet connection was a fast connection. These days, anyone whose phone is less than five years old is much, much faster. They needed to know what their IP address was, and I went online, and Google didn’t exist then, so went to AltaVista, and there wasn’t a really good, convenient, easy way for me to find out that information. It’s not something that you can do, you know, inside your network, you have to do it from outside. At least, at the time, you did. And so I thought, you know, I can make a website that does this. And so I set up a Windows NT server that dates myself on my home DSL internet connection, and that’s how I started it.
Hayley: What even is an IP address, and why is it important for someone to be able to access that information?
Chris: The IP address is kind of like the internet equivalent of your mailing address or your telephone number. If you want to send out a request, send a letter to someone and you actually want to get a response back to you, you have to put your return address on the letter. And that’s kind of what an IP address is. When your computer makes a request of, sends out a request to Google, put your query about “cute kittens,” Google has to know where to send that response back to, and it goes back to your IP address. Lots of people want to know it these days, when companies have corporate internet, and VPNs, and things like that, they’re really concerned about security, and they often want to limit the possibility of accessing their VPN services, or their local networks to machines, only machines that they know. So they want people to know, hey, what’s your IP address?
Often I see it on tech support requests from Hulu, like the video streaming services, of trying to troubleshoot technical issues of “why can’t I watch the show I want to watch?” And they need to know your IP address to kind of figure out what’s going on.
Hayley: Gotcha. Okay, so you mentioned that when you did create the website, it wasn’t a business at all. so I’m curious, at this time in your life, were you involved in any entrepreneurship, or were you in a career path, or what did that part of your life look like at that point, when you launched the website?
Chris: At the time that I had launched the website, I was working for a mail-order catalogue retailer, because the e-commerce thing on the internet was just, just at its infancy at that point. So we did 98% percent of our business was done over the phone, and I was helping to build and maintain their website. It was not my primary focus, it was part of what I did. There were a couple of other little gigs that I was trying to do on my own. I started up a website called discountbibles.com, selling bibles at a discount, obviously, and trying to compete against Amazon, which was this thing started at that time. And I learned really quickly, doing that, there are certain businesses that really don’t scale very well, and having books delivered to a place where I can pick them up on my lunch break, because I was working full time, and take them home, box them up, put labels on them, run credit cards, and then drop them off the next day at the post office, or UPS, or FedEx, and then repeat that every day.
It got really tiring really, really quick. I’m like, I don’t want to spend my nights and weekends boxing up stuff, and so that one went away, and I thought, you know, if you can’t beat Amazon, you should join them. And so I joined Amazon’s affiliate program, and rather than actually me stocking, and running credit cards and all that stuff, I just started referring people to Amazon to buy the products. And that was fun for about a year, until Amazon decided we don’t want to risk having to charge sales tax to people in California, so therefore we’re going to drop all of our California affiliates. And overnight, that business disappeared.
Hayley: Wow. Oh sorry, oh no, you go ahead.
Chris: So it’s interesting to me that most of the business prospects, you know, the business ideas that I’ve had have turned out to be short-lived or dismal failures. But the one thing that I had never from the beginning started as a business but just as a hobby, is now what is my full-time income and helps support a number of other people around the world.
Hayley: Yeah, okay, so let’s dive into that. So you launched this website, you saw a problem out there, hey, it’s hard to find your IP address, let me just give people a place to find that. So what was kind of the timeline, or what were realizations you had once it was launched, that something actually could come of it, that there was potential to have revenue from it. Or did that take quite a while to even decide to try to do it with that website?
Chris: It actually took quite a while. I think it probably wasn’t until about 2005 until I ever actually made any money with the site, that was five years after it was launched. Prior to that, I didn’t even think about trying to earn revenue from it, it was just, oh it’s a hobby, and you know, it’s just telling people their IP address, and then I started putting some, hey, you got questions, email me. So I was, you know, emailing response, and obviously kind of not scalable, again, let me just put those responses on some Frequently Asked Questions on the website, and I kind of did that for a while. At some point, I got an alert saying my hard drive was almost full, and I’m like, why is this server hard drive full, there’s nothing on it. This is just this tiny little website. Well, all the logs of all the people visiting the site, and that was the time that I realized, oh, I should put Google Analytics on this site, see what traffic there really is, and I thought, I was like, oh my goodness, there’s a lot of people coming to my little site that I’d never even thought about promoting, never thought about advertising, and I’m like, well, I’ve heard about this thing called AdSense, what if I could put that on my site? So I put Google AdSense on my site, made a couple bucks, and was like, oh I got a business now! It was really exciting.
Hayley: Wow. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I realized I forgot, I love to ask everyone right at the beginning, I realized I forgot to ask you. I love asking this question because sometimes it gives really cool insight into someone’s future, and sometimes it’s totally random, but, I love asking everyone: when you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Chris: You know, I don’t know that I had, you know, I wasn’t one of those kids who’re like, oh I want to be an astronaut, or a rocket scientist, or a cop, or anything like that. I think I kind of had the entrepreneurial gene from early on. I delivered newspapers, you know they were actually paper. And you know, I ran a bulletin board back when the internet didn’t exist. And so I was always trying to think, oh how can I make money? I can buy hard drives in bulk, I can buy, like, ten hard drives, then I can make like $10 a hard drive if I sell to the people I know. None of these things were turned into profitable opportunities, but I think I always, like, wanted that, I want to own my own business. I just want to kind of be in control of my own destiny and not be, you know, stuck in a cubicle somewhere.
Hayley: Yeah. Do you know where that came from? Was there entrepreneurship in your life, or did you just kind of stumble upon seeing that kind of lifestyle somewhere else and it just felt like what you wanted?
Chris: I’m trying to think there’s no one– my older brother later on started working for himself, but when I was at that age, you know, my dad was a teacher at a local college, my mom was a homemaker, you know, all my relatives had very just normal jobs, and I don’t know that I really actually knew people who owned their own businesses. I think it was just the thought of not having to do something for somebody else, just to be able to do it on my own was kind of exciting to me.
Hayley: Yeah, okay, awesome. I just love asking people that because sometimes it gives really cool insight, and sometimes it’s totally random, so I just like to hear, you know, what people thought they’d be doing compared to what they’re doing. So, jumping back in, now it’s about 2005, I think you said. And you realized that you have traffic, and you can utilize Google AdSense to turn that traffic into dollars, so where did it go from there, once you started putting more focus on analytics and advertising. What was the website looking like, and then how did your goals change with what you wanted to do with it?
Chris: I think over time I started to write that content of my own, just kind of expanding those frequently asked questions. I learned pretty quickly that I’m an awful writer. I cannot communicate on paper in ways that are clear and concise, and so I would use contractors to write content for the site. That was the easy way for me to kind of maintain working a nine to five job but still able to grow the site without having to invest a tremendous amount of time, nights and weekends, and things like that on the site. In some sense, I didn’t realize the opportunity that was there. If I had realized, I wish I would have figured out the opportunity many, many years earlier.
But even though I was making money, I think it was still kind of this, oh, this is just a fun hobby, it’s now just covering my cost, it’s paying some bills, it’s just giving me some, you know, go out and have a nice dinner money, or you know, go on a small vacation. It wasn’t, it was really funny, because I didn’t really think of it as, this is going to be this massive business, or I’m going to come up with a business plan of figuring out how to make it crowded, it just turned out to be very organic, and that, you know, people would be asking me questions, I’m like, oh well, gee, I should find someone who could write about that and put it up on the site, or oh gee, that would be a useful tool, let me figure out how to make it, or you know, my brother is a software engineer. So like, hey, hey Rich, can you come out and help me? Can you write this for me, it’s something that was does, dot, dot, dot, dot. And he was like, “Oh yeah, that sounds interesting,”, and like two days later he’s done. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that’s awesome.”
Hayley: Awesome! I’m just looking at your domain, whatismyipaddress.com, and I just love the fact that you decided to make this website on a whim twenty years ago, because I’m looking at a name like that and thinking, there’s no way that you could get a domain like that these days. Like, there’s absolutely no ways, I just love knowing that the internet was, you know, barely anything, and you had this idea, and I don’t know why I’m thinking that’s so cool, but I think just because I know how difficult it is to get domain names, and so… that just seems like, yeah!
Chris: That’s totally anytime I try to buy a domain name now, I think of a simple thing, and I type it, and I’m like, oh it’s been taken for five years, or ten years, or fifteen years. I’m like, what happened to the days when you could just get whatever you wanted, it was there.
Hayley: Right! And that’s what you did with this website! I don’t know why I’m finding that so amusing, but I just think it’s awesome that you were just, like, oh it’s kind of annoying that you can’t quickly find your IP address, there should be a website for this. So, I guess going into technical, because today, if you want to build a website, there’s so many simple solutions to do that, and within an hour you can just pay a tiny bit of money, have your domain name, and have a website template, and have it all laid out, but what, what did that look like twenty years ago, to actually get a website on the internet?
Chris: It was actually surprisingly complicated. Back when I bought my first domain, it’s a four-letter domain, back when four-letter domain, you could actually get them, I owned a few them from back in the day. But you had to jump through all of these hoops to actually even register a domain name. So there’s a couple of components to it. You’ve got the domain name itself, which these days you get through GoDaddy or 1&1, or wherever you want – name’s cheap.
A billion companies, Google, Amazon even sells them now, you can get a domain name anywhere now, it’s ten, twenty bucks a year, something like that. Used to be, like, forty, fifty, sixty, hundred dollars a year. And then you actually had to have someone who’d provide you what are called name servers. The name servers are kind of the yellow pages of the internet. When you say I want to go to whatismyipaddress.com, there’s a lookup done to a name server and that comes back, it says, oh it’s at this IP address, that’s where the server resides. Well, you actually, that was a different service, that you actually had to go out and find someone who now offer you that service, it wasn’t bundled with your domain name, it wasn’t bundled with your hosting. And then you had to host your website, which was hundreds or thousands of dollars a month.
I happened to have a static internet connection, so I figured, well, it would be juist cheaper for me to use an old computer and host it out of my home. In fact, I hosted it out of my home probably the first almost ten years. And, again, you didn’t have things like WordPress, which allowed you to have a website up in minutes. You had to code it all by hand, by yourself, you had to figure out how to use a database server to get it to do things, you had to do all these, a lot more work to get complicated website running back in the day. Now it’s incredibly easy and convenient.
Hayley: Okay, sorry, we’re kind of jumping all around here, but I just think the story is so interesting because, I just love the idea that this was just a random idea you had, and it took off how it did. So you started focusing on ads and analytics, and kind of let it sit for a while, but I know something happened in 2014 with your corporate life that I’m guessing then really sent this little side hustle that you looked at as a hobby into something more. Can we talk about that?
Chris: Yeah, I worked many years for a company that did online life insurance, and I built their websites and maintained a lot of their technology for them, and they got really hard-hit by the economic crisis. People were having less disposable income, they weren’t buying life insurance, there were some significant industry changes, and the company I worked for was, I think they, at the peak, it was fifty, fifty people or something like that over the course of a couple of years. We dwindled down to five of us, and eventually I got the, “Hey Chris, we can’t afford to keep you on anymore. We’d like you to do a little bit of contract work for us, but we just can’t pay you full time anymore.” It was interesting, my wife and I talked about it, was like, well, gosh, but, the website’s, you know, maybe this is a good opportunity to work on my website, but it was also the loss of the full, a good full-time income was lost through that layoff, and we talked about it, we kind of came up with a plan. Like, she was working, so we had a little bit of flexibility, but it was, okay, the goal is within the year, you need to grow the business enough to cover the full-time income. So I had a year to, okay, I got to figure out how to make this happen in the next year. So we set milestones of hey, well, let’s re-evaluate after three months to see if it looks like it’s going to happen.
Okay, let’s re-evaluate six months, after that, let’s see how it’s doing. And ultimately that’s what we did, and by being able to focus on the website forty-plus hours a week really helped me to drive more content, fix a lot of little minor technical issues, get the site running faster, add new tools to it, really work hard on monetization of the site, and within, I think somewhere in the sixth to ninth month range, we had already increased revenue on the website enough to cover my lost day job. And so after a year, we kind of looked at it and said, okay, do I keep doing this? Can I keep growing it? Or do I want to get a corporate job and let this run? Kind of didn’t know will I be okay working from home, sitting at a desk, not having those kind of interactions that you would normally have at an office, would I go stir-crazy at home? Some people can do it, some people can’t, and I had really no idea what there was something I would enjoy doing in for the long run, it’s turned out something that I really enjoy and had to augment other areas in my life to get that kind of social connection that you don’t have if you’re working from home. But it’s been a great ride.
Hayley: That’s so awesome. So, for someone like you that kind of stumbled into all this, and it was just different circumstances that led you to take it more serious and turn it into a full-time income. What sort of advice would you give someone who, today, where now, this type of business structure is a lot more known and people want to actively try to create these websites that then get enough traffic to make money. So from your perspective of kind of falling into all but accidentally, but it becoming successful, what advice would you have someone who wants to be going after something like this?
Chris: I’ll give the disclosure that I’m a risk-averse person, which maybe doesn’t make for a great entrepreneur, it’s worked for me, but it comes from my filter of being risk-averse. I don’t like to take ginormous risks. I’m not twenty anymore, I have a wife, a family, so I, you know, I don’t take the risk, but I used to when I was younger. But I think there’s a lot of differences now. When I started, I remember, when I was running the book stuff online, when you went in to interview for a job, people would ask you, you know, are you doing anything on the side, and if you were doing something on the side, it was basically, well, you know, we don’t want to hire you. Or, it was the sort of the thing is if you didn’t disclose it and they found out you were, they called it moonlighting at the time, if the company found out that you were moonlighting and doing something at the side, it was often grounds for termination. We just don’t want to deal with that. Or they had really weird intellectual property contracts that you had to sign, basically saying any intellectual property that you come up with while you’re working for us, even if it’s on your nights and weekends, it belongs to us.
Hayley: Yeah, well that’s kind of funny, because I feel like now it’s more like the opposite, that I just recently graduated college this year, so I’m in that world, you know, and I feel like, now in an interview, you know, when they ask about things like that, if you kind of give an answer of, “oh, well, after work I just go home and watch TV”, now employers kind of look at that as, like, well, why aren’t you doing something else? You know?
Chris: Why don’t you have side hustle?
Hayley: Exactly! So that’s just interesting, like, dynamic switch! Sorry, had to fill that in there, because that’s funny just to think of how from the employer’s side, like, how that mindset has changed a little bit, where now it’s a lot more, we’re more in this gig economy where it’s a lot more normal and accepted that you should be having things on the side. So that was just, I had to throw that in there, that’s just kind of funny.
Chris: And that’s kind of what I’d seen from some of the younger people that I know my life, that it’s, you know, the gig economy, it’s perfectly acceptable to hold down a full time corporate job and have a gig that you do at nights and on the weekends. And I think that’s great, I mean, to me that’s like, it’s, you know, what a great opportunity to be able to, you know, try things out, to test, and not have to quit your day job in order to test, or like, does this business idea work? There’s even, near me, they’re starting to do some of these, where they’ve taken a what used to be like a Borders bookstore, a large business, they break it up into really small microbusiness that have fifty square feet, a hundred square feet, little tiny places for people to kind of test their business ideas. They have, I want to come up with a handbag line, or a clothing line, or these types of products, they can into these tiny little places, test it, see if there’s a market for what they’re doing, and if it works then they can move into a large thing, where it’s kind of the location that augments their online business so they have a brick-and-mortar presence. You know, you’ve got coffee shops with free Wifi now, the “we work” type of spaces, what are the – office space, just where you can go in and sit at an open desk. I mean, all these things that didn’t exist twenty years ago that are so cost-effective now, that are, they’re such a great opportunity for those who want to do the gig economy. I think, you know, someone’s got the idea, it’s worth putting together, testing it, find mentors that can help you with things that you don’t know. I mean, it’s such a different economy these days, where people want to help other people start their business, to figure it out, it’s really neat.
Hayley: Yeah, well, from my perspective, and we even kind of touched on this with your experience in the corporate world, but you know, coming back from the recession and that financial crisis, I think everyone who was then starting into the working world just had to watch all that happen, and sit and ask themselves, “well, what can I do that if and when this, something like this happens again, my life doesn’t end when my job ends”, and I think everyone just kind of became a lot more aware of what used to be the safest route, the traditional “go to school- get a job – have your career – retire”, that wasn’t the safest thing to do anymore, and now we’ve created this whole new way of looking at work that people are able to find a lot more freedom and a lot more control, was still having, you know, that structure, if they’re going to do a side-hustle… I think it’s just a feeling of security and people now understanding that, “I have to take these things into my own hands in case something like this ever happens again, I don’t want to be left with nothing. I want something that I’ve built for myself.” I think, in my opinion, that has a lot to do with it, almost driven by fear, but more just driven by security and wanting to be in control of your life, basically. That’s how I look at it, anyway.
Chris: Yeah, and I think things have shifted, and if I look at my parents’ generation, it was: you got a job, and you work there, once you got the job, you worked there for probably your entire life. My dad worked at a university for probably fifty years. Yeah, forty, fifty years. You know, now, I’ve had a couple of corporate jobs that were kind of in the ten-year range. To me, like the younger people I know, if you spent somewhere for ten years, well, why did you do that? That’s unheard of! It’s, you know, you should never work in a place for more than two years now, or even a year. And so I think we’re kind of going into this time and culture where people go on to a career, maybe you’re there in the career for ten years, ten or fifteen years, maybe a couple of different companies, maybe a side gig or two. And you go back in, get some more education, come out, do that for another 15 years, I think there’s a lot more flexibility and fluidity to these types of things.
And so I think having the side hustle becomes kind of the stopgap. You know, things that can kind of carry you over, it’s like, oh I got this side hustle, I could go back to school where I can try these other things, and at least my side hustle covers, it would at least cover my rent. And so people have these, you know, I feel like people have more opportunity, more flexibility to try things than ever before.
Chris: People have more opportunity, more flexibility to try new things than ever before.
Hayley: Yeah, definitely. Okay, so if we’re talking to someone right now who’s kind of in that mindset of, “I just want to start something on the side, see what comes of it and my goal is to make at least a little money from it and if it turns into something else, great.” so coming from you, what would be some advice or steps that you would tell that person to take seeing as you do have the successful website and you’ve been able to learn what works and what doesn’t work over the years.
Chris: I think for me, one of the things that—I’ll kind of maybe talk about some things that I didn’t do until more recently. I think there’s ways to implement this and less expensive ways than I have chosen to do it. I recently hired any business coach and he has really helped me to get out of a couple of things, get out of my comfort zone only kind of doing the things that I like to do or might have fun doing or I feel like I’m good at.
But he also sees my business from a very different perspective than I do. I think that’s incredibly a valuable thing. I don’t think you have to pay for it. I do have a couple of guys that I know, one who is at least probably 15 years younger than me. He owns a business and he and I get together and have coffee every other week or so. We talk about our businesses, “What are you doing. What are the challenges that you’re having.”
He is also really good at pushing me to do things that I’m uncomfortable with. “Hey, you have to try this. why aren’t you doing that, don’t be scared, just do it.” and then there’s a an older gentleman who’s probably at least 20 years older, in the kind of wrapping up his career stage of life. I talked to him about my business as well, what’s going on we have coffee and talk about the things that I’m learning.
He’s a little confused, here are some of the things that I’ve learned because he’s been—he has ran his business for decades. These are these are perfectly free relationships in terms of monetary transactions. But I can gain a lot from, I think it’s important that if someone wants to run a business and once one wants to run a side hustle, that they have other people in their lives that are doing similar things. You always want people in three stages of your life.
Three different stages of life for the process. You want peers that are kind of going through the same things that you’re going through. you want people in your life that are five or 10 years ahead of you, who have gone through the things that you’re going through and can give you some of the lessons that they learned in terms of do this or don’t do that and I think we also have a responsibility socially to help people that are just getting into it.
So if we’ve been in our site hustle for five years you kind of got things squared away we should be looking for people in our life that are just trying to figure out a side hustle and pass along the wisdom that we’ve learned, “Here are the mistakes that I made. I incorporated instead of an LLC or I was a partnership instead of an S-Corp and here’s why it was a problem for me.” I think those are valuable things to pass along.
We don’t have to charge for it and have to pay for it. But I think there’s always those people that we can find whether they’re online. I think it’s more important for them to be in person, seeing a person’s face and talking to them in person is different than talking to people online. We all have access to people that we can find somewhere that we can help and that can help us.
Hayley: Yeah, definitely. That’s a great advice. One more practical question I have is regarding traffic because, what I hear from others and what I even ask myself when I’m doubled and starting a few different websites is, getting people to the website. It sounds like for you, you created a destination for a question a lot of people had and seeing as you started it right at the beginning of the internet, you were ready for people to be asking that question of where their IP address was. So definitely correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s kind of like your success with traffic was just because you were one of the only people answering this question people had. As you started focusing more on it and in focusing on analytics and focusing on the traffic, do you have any advice for getting that traffic? Because I know for most people, that’s their biggest concern of, “Okay, I’m going to build this great site but how do I make sure people actually go to it?”
Chris: Yeah, in some sense that’s always as much more of a problem now than it was in the early days of the internet. The early days of the internet, it was really what they call the field of dreams, build it and they will come. It’s a lot harder these days. But I think there’s also a lot more opportunities that weren’t there before. When I started up, there weren’t—you couldn’t run ads anywhere unless you wanted to drop $50,000 on an ad contract somewhere.
Nowadays, you can go to Google AdWords, you can do Facebook ads, you can do Twitter ads. There are so many ways that you can do this, a lot of self service ad platforms. I think for a lot of people that’s where it’s going to have to start is by paying for awareness. Always having a good social media presence helps. Having good quality content and I think doing things like hosting podcasts, being on podcasts, there’s lots of ways that you can get awareness for your site. If you’ve got a product, if you’ve got a service that has a very specific audience. These days you can really slice and dice advertising and really get to that audience if you really know who that audience is.
Hayley: Yeah, I’m glad you said that because I think that people starting out, a lot of people look to the past and they can easily see all the reasons why it could have been easier in the past but totally overlook all the new resources and opportunities that never existed back then. There’s definitely this trade off of well of course it’s easier when there is less competition and less people crowding the space, but you didn’t have A, B and C resource that you now have that takes it to a whole other level.
So I’m glad you pointed that out because I think for a lot of people starting out, they let themselves get hung up on that and you just can’t do that. That’s how it was back then, but this is how it is now. You just always have to keep adapting and keep figuring out what’s working. So I’m glad you said that.
Chris: Yeah. Well, people have to realize that not all traffic is equal also. While my site gets a crazy amount of traffic, it has been extremely difficult traffic to monetize. It not like everybody visiting my website lives in the US and has a $100,000 a year job. Less than 30% of my traffic comes from people in the US. So I get enormous amounts of traffic from India. It’s really hard to sell ads and traffic from India.
So while there’s just parents that gosh, all I need is “Traffic.” traffic in volume is not necessarily the answer, you really need qualified traffic, you need targeted traffic, you need people who are likely to buy your product and service. With an informational website not coming in my website it drove to buy stuff. So there’s more work I have to go through to encourage an affiliate transaction because they come to me initially to buy something.
Hayley: I’m glad you pointed that out because that’s something I haven’t thought of and told just right now when you said that. Your site while it is so successful with millions of visitors a month, it is very far from being a niche site. And so I didn’t even consider that that although there’s those large numbers, once they’re at your site, that would be very difficult to figure out what to do with them and make sure that you’re able to speak to them in such a way because you’re getting such a wide variety.
Of course you never knew what it was going to turn into when you started it but now looking at the success, do you think about that? That you wish it was a little bit more niche or are you still just happy that you can provide this information for whoever needs it or what are your thoughts on being such a broad category I guess?
Chris: Yeah, I mean it has presented itself with complications. Small amounts of traffic is easy to host. But when you have high profile site, it attracts denial of service attacks, it attracts people that are just trying to—they’ve compromised machines and they want to for command and control the machine needs to know its own IP address. So they go out and try to scrape it off of my website. There’s always this cat and mouse game that I got to do in trying to protect my site because it’s so niche depending on how you look at it.
And then I’ve got people that are, the whole reason why they want to come to the website is to get their IP address and that’s it and they just want to leave. When you’re providing free information, if you provide them exactly what they want, well then why do they need to click on an ad. there are definitely things that I would go back and I probably would not have named the website whatismyipaddress.com, I probably would have chosen IP Tools or something like that, something a little bit more in some sense a little bit more broad so that I could put more tools on the website and reach different segments of people not just this one little niche as far as the domain name goes.
One of the things that we recently did as I saw at a conference, Ryan Levesque and he wrote a book called Ask and it really helps people, business owners to really understand the methodology, for business owners to really understand who their audience is, not who they think their audiences but to actually find that little, “Who is the audience?” And it’s really helpful. we’ve ran a number of surveys on the website over the last year asking, this seems kind of silly asking the question of, “Why did you come to whatismyipaddress.com?” Well the easy answer is, “I want to know my IP address” “But why did you need to know your IP address?” And so we got some deeper insights as to why people were coming to the website, what was the underlying reason that they were able to come to the site.
So we’re able to build up content to address those issues and those reason and it allows us to be able to communicate with people in a more succinct way. If you’re selling—one of his examples is golf clubs. if you’re in a business selling golf clubs and you think your audiences is 40-year-olds but your audience is retired 65-year-olds, you’re going to speak to your audience in a very different manner. For a 65-year-old, you’re going to talk about nuances of how to golf when you got back issues. That may not be something that you’re talking to a 40-year-old about.
This imagery that you’re going to use, the music that you’re going to use in your ads to attract 65-year-olds is much different than attracting 40-year-olds. So by understanding your audience much better, you can really communicate with them in a really concise, effective manner, where the audience goes, “Oh yeah, I can relate to that.” And so I think those are things that people can do to again, once you know your audience, you can go to Facebook and say, “Look, I only want people between 60 and 70 who had careers where they’re making $100,000 that are retired who like golf, who live in sunny climates, who also speak French.”
The amazing thing is, you can now target those people and really have a very specific ad for them, a very specific landing page for them, a very specific way to talk about your product. I think that really offsets a lot of that, “I need a lot of traffic.” or “I need a lot of awareness.” If you know exactly who your audience is and how to talk to them, you can go from a 1% conversion rate to a 10% conversion rate or much higher. You don’t need thousands of people coming to your site every day, you might be able to deal with hundreds or even thousands of people.
Hayley: Yeah, I think now with social media and everything, people get very wrapped in the numbers and I’m glad we’re talking about this because it’s really important for people to realize that those numbers are very misleading. And if you have 100,000 people that you don’t know who they are, you don’t know what they want, you don’t know why they found you and you don’t know anything about them opposed to if you have 100 people who you know exactly what they need, you know exactly what they want, why they came to you to get it.
You are going to have such a greater return on 100 true fans I guess you could say than 100,000 random people that stumbled upon you. I think that’s a great place for us to be ending this with. I think that’s where a lot of people get most overwhelmed is they’re so focused on the numbers whether it’s traffic, or followers, or clicks or whatever and I just hope people take away from this that don’t focus on the amount of people, focus on the quality of the people you’re getting and you’re going to see a much bigger return on that.
Chris: Yes, if you’ve got the right audience come to your site, you don’t mean 6 million people a month. I’d be happy to give up half of my traffic in order to grow my US traffic by 25% because I know that for me that’s where value comes from, the US traffic versus international traffic.
Hayley: Got you. All right, well I think we talked about a lot of great stuff but before we wrap up, was there anything else you wanted to touch on or mention?
Chris: I would say, I have a couple of quick tips for young entrepreneurs.
Chris: Things that they can do to keep themselves safe and secure, how about that?
Hayley: Yeah, let’s dive into that.
Chris: Okay so I’ll rattle this off like really quick because I want to help people out here. Some of the things that people think of and are less aware of it. If everyone’s not using a password manager, they should immediately start using a password manager. So password manager is an application that you run on your phone or your desktop computer or your laptop which creates passwords for you for all the sites that you visit. And the reason why you want to do this is basically assume that any website you’ve ever put a password in, assume it’s going to get compromised. As we’ve seen in the last week where is it, Marriott was compromised, Dunkin Donuts was compromised.
Hayley: Yeah, it’s happening a lot.
Chris: Half a billion accounts have been compromised just in the last week with passwords and stuff like that. if people want to scare themselves, there’s this website called Have I been Pwned where the owned is replaced with a P because that’s how hackers speak apparently and you type in your email address and it will show you all the major breaches over the last 10 or 15 years or so where that email address was exposed.
Well let’s say it was a Marriott account, well anywhere that you use the same password as you did with the Marriott account, that account can now be compromised by anybody the passwords are available let’s say. I don’t know if Marriott was that way but let’s assume that it was. And so by using a password manager every website you visit has a unique password and you don’t have to worry about it, it’s a lot less stress, you don’t have to put your 401K at risk with your email password and all these crazy things.
The second thing is use an automated offsite backup software particularly for those that are working in coffee shops and got their laptops in their cars and things like that. Everyone kind of needs to think of, if my laptop were to disappear, someone were to steal my laptop, how will it affect my business. Or worse, my laptop was encrypted with Ransomware. Are you going to pay the $5,000 ransom to maybe get your data back or you’re just going to use your $50 backup service and get your data back in a day or if your laptop was stolen?
A lot of people just kind of assume that, well, I’ve got a backup at home and maybe I do it, maybe I don’t do it. Everybody forgets, it really never happens. But I mean if you do have a backup at home and your laptop is at home, in California we have a couple of really bad fires that it was basically people have minutes to get out of their houses and if your laptop was in your house and your backup drive was in the closet and your house burned down, you really don’t have a backup.
It’s super cheap, $50 or $60 a year. Have an automated offsite backup service that just takes care of it for you. If you ever lose your laptop, it will send you a hard drive for a couple of bucks but they’ll send you a hard drive or you can go on their website and just download your data. So there’s lots of ways that people can protect themselves and a lot of them are really simple and really inexpensive that people just need to do it and get started.
Hayley: Awesome. That was a great place to end on, I think those are very practical and important tips that a lot of people probably overlooked. So thank you for sharing those and thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I’m really happy you were able to share your story and you were able to give such great insight and advice.
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