John Rampton describes himself as an entrepreneur, connector and online influencer. He has written thousands of blog posts and articles for Entrepreneur, Forbes, Inc., Mashable, TechCrunch and other publications, and has over a million Twitter followers. Get his take on marketing yourself and building online influence.
You’ve built up a huge following online and established yourself as a thought leader in the world of marketing. How did you get where you are today?
I got where I am by blogging and writing. I’m an entrepreneur. I buy, sell, build and craft companies. I wanted to share my thoughts, to help other people. So I started writing for different sites. One of the first sites I ever wrote for was Search Engine Journal. Then everybody started telling me I should start my own blog to make money and get clients.
I started blogging three times a day. I didn’t make a dollar for literally almost a year. That’s when I started getting more into SEO and online marketing. I saw Huffington Post open up, and I started working my way from one blog to another. Now I write for some of the top publications in the world: Inc., Entrepreneur, Forbes, Mashable, TechCrunch. I’ve written for pretty much any and every site out there.
So writing is the way to get noticed, but how do you get your foot in the door?
I did it by working my way up. I worked on some social things, but it’s just a lot of grunt work. It’s a lot of me emailing people, me networking. I’m a pro networker. I do everything I can to network with the right people and get introductions to the right people. Once you start writing for a couple of publications, you can email people you’ve met and helped along the way and get an intro to the right person.
People want to read what’s interesting to them. How do you continually come up with enough good topics that others want to read about?
I use a great tool called BuzzSumo. I type in keywords of relevant, hard-to-go-after niches. I’ll type “mortgage” or “real estate” or “hosting” and I’ll pull it back five years and look at the top socially shared content for that keyword. Then I’ll rewrite the title because if it worked in one, it most likely will work in another with a little bit of a tweak.
Even though 50 or 100 people have covered a topic, it doesn’t mean that it’s been seen by that many people. Inc.’s top posts get 1.1 million page views in a month. That’s not a whole lot of people. There are billions of people on this planet. So if only a million people read that blog post, it most likely means that if you rewrite it — write a similar type thing with your own spin on it — that 99 percent of the people who read it have never read that subject or topic before.
How many page views is optimal?
I would look less at the number and more at the time spent on site. Obviously, we want people to read it, but if a million people are reading our blog posts and not one purchase is made, it doesn’t matter. Eventually, somebody’s got to pay for that time.
I would say one of my best blog posts ever was for my payments company. It gets about 30 people coming to it every month and about 22-30 people sign up and become customers. Is that blog post gold? Is it an amazing blog post? Hell yes! Is that successful on most people’s metrics, to get 30 people coming to it a month? No, it’s an utter failure. That’s one person a day. But for me, that’s one of my most successful blog posts. It has driven millions of dollars in revenue.
How did you amass so many followers on Twitter?
In the early days, I would follow interesting people and they’d follow me back. I’d comment on their stuff, and they’d comment back.
When I’d write interesting content, I’d find that for every piece of content I wrote, I’d get, on average, 100-300 new people following me, so I’m getting 600-800 new people following me every day.
It was the content. I worked a lot with the publications, so I got to know the social media people at all the different publications that I wrote for, and that was a huge key to my success. I’d go in and talk with the social media person and make a plan with them. I’d tell them, “I’m going to retweet you, you’re going to retweet me.” I took that person out to lunch and I invested in that relationship. I did that with every person for whom I wrote.
For every blog post, I asked them to @ my name. That way, I’m tagged on all the blog posts. Also, any time I posted my own blogs or on my company blog, I tagged myself. Then I engaged in my community. I have a person on my team who retweets for me, but in the beginning, it was all me.
I also post a lot. I use Buffer, but you can use Hootsuite or other tools out there. I automate a lot of social, so it keeps me very active. I also put up a lot of images; images get people engaged.
What do you to help manage your online reputation?
Reputation takes forever to build up and second to be torn down.
Most people don’t focus on their online reputation, but I focus a lot on my online reputation. I have my own website and I’m getting my name ranked on every publication for which I write. I’m writing hundreds of times; that’s hundreds of backlinks. So if anybody wrote a scathing or a negative story about me, it wouldn’t penetrate the top results for my name, just because I’ve worked so hard at that over the years.
It comes down to you and what you’re doing. Twitter ranks quickly; publications rank quickly. If somebody has an online reputation issue, I like getting them to write five or six blog posts in a major publication. Typically if you do that, your name will jump to the first page and start outranking those negative results.
When somebody writes a scathing story about you, Google will immediately index it and it feels like the end of the world, but it will start going down. It’s the same with good stories about you. They’ll just start dropping to the bottom.
If you have that online reputation issue, go into Twitter and schedule 200 or 2,000 Tweets, and start tweeting 30 times a day. The more quantity and quality you have, the more it will outrank those negative things.
You just have to be prepared; not everybody is going to like what you do. The online world is a weird place. There are always going to be haters.
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