- In the past I talked about Code Canyon
to go get tools and release them on your website.
When you give away tools for free
that people are used to paying for, it does really well.
Now what you can do is you can just use ChatGPT
and have them code you up a tool.
It coded up the game pong in less than 60 seconds
and you're off into the races.
(light hearted music)
- Neil, tell me about NP Digital's mission
and how did you arrive at that mission?
- When we started, our overall goal
was to do marketing, right.
I'm a marketer and I was tired of paying marketing people
to help us out and they just weren't doing it right.
And when I say it was just to my standards,
whatever they may be,
and I'm not saying my standards are great or bad or good
people can judge them on their own.
And I was just looking for people who are scrappy.
I was tired of hearing, oh, you need more budget,
you need to spend more.
I'm like, okay, how about you get creative?
You need budget.
Your competitors spend way more than you.
So then I want to build a team that was creative
and who were willing to try
cutting edge experiments and tactics.
because I know a lot of marketing stuff can be unethical.
- Yes. - But more so cutting edge
and try to produce results for people
and be super creative while doing it,
and leverage technology to be more efficient.
That's how we ended up starting.
- On the ethical point.
I spoke to Seth Goin about this in Episode 200
and we talked a lot about empathy,
and he talked about generosity.
Now I noticed that you are very generous,
not just in terms of say donations,
you're more generous than most people I know,
but also in terms of your content,
and in terms of the value you try and give to your audience.
So can you talk a little bit about that?
It's not spoken about enough,
generosity and empathy in business?
- Yeah, so I'm generous, and money is debatable.
I know you said it, but it's really a percentage
and there's a lot more richer people
who donate a much bigger percentage than me.
So I don't really consider us generous right now.
Maybe when I'm closer to death than we give everything away.
Then maybe I'll be generous,
but also giving away content.
I love it.
Selfishly, I don't just do it to help people out.
I also do it because I love educating,
and I learn just as much as I'm giving because
all those comments and people are like,
oh, I tried this and I did that and I'm having fun.
I'm not a saint.
I'm doing it because I love it.
I'm doing it because I love helping people,
but I'm also learning a lot too.
And people don't think about that
when it comes to content creation.
It's a two-sided marketplace.
You create content, you educate, you build relationships,
you learn more, you become wiser.
I meet a lot of young people,
kids who are doing some really cool stuff
because they see my content
and then they teach me stuff
because I'm starting to get old and,
but even when it comes to using this like iPhone,
I'm not the best person to figure out this kind of stuff.
So just imagine all the other cool technology
that's out there.
Getting to know some of these young kids
is great because they teach me a lot
that I'm not familiar with.
- Oh, you learn more when you teach
or as much when you teach as you do
when you actually intend to learn.
Neil, how do you guys decide on
who's going to be an NPDigital partner?
- I don't know.
Like you said, you're a partner.
I apologize, I didn't know about that.
Also, when you have seven eight hundred employees,
it's really hard to keep track of everything
and you're expanding globally.
I don't know everything that goes on
in the business day to day.
It doesn't mean I'm not working day to day.
I probably work 60, 70 hours a week on the business.
It's just, I don't know everything that goes on.
- I'm loving your honesty and your transparency
and it's totally okay that you don't know.
I completely understand that.
- No, but I should, and I'm sorry about that.
- No, you don't, I don't think so.
I think as a CEO of the business, your job.
- I'm not a CEO, I would be a terrible CEO.
But yes. - Okay.
As a leader in the business,
I think your job is to set the tone, set the direction,
and look for opportunities and drive growth.
I don't know that it's possible
to be across everything, although we certainly try.
It's not always possible to be across everything
and you have hired people to do certain things,
so that's fine.
Let me ask you this.
What does an ideal customer of NPDigital look like,
and what problem do you solve for them?
- A global company is looking for more traffic
in sales or leads from the internet
and they need to tackle this in
multiple regions and languages.
That's ideal customer.
Technically we can do it in any region,
and technically we can do it for companies of any size,
but that's ideal one.
Because I think what makes us dangerous is, we can do
international work extremely well.
And if you look at most holding companies
who are our biggest competitors,
they're only able, they're able to do,
but it's not in a way where all the international divisions
work well together, because a lot of the ways they expand
is they acquire companies and they're put in silos,
and the teams don't want to work well with each other
because some people are on earn out and some aren't.
So they're fighting for the revenue
or how much goes to them?
It's pretty much my company.
I don't care if someone pays us
in Australia or India or the US or Brazil or Mexico.
I want to do great amazing work from
wherever they're based and I'll help them out globally
and I don't care which division they paid.
- Yep fair enough.
- They don't have the bureaucracy in essence,
A lot of those guys have to hit financial numbers
when you're in these global ad agencies and the regions
work separately and in silos.
So they're competing for the revenue.
So it'll be one region collects the majority of the revenue
and then they assign work to the others
and then they're fighting saying, hey,
but you're getting the revenue on the books, we want more.
And then they argue and they don't put as much time.
We don't have those issues because we're not publicly traded
and it's just me who's a decision maker for most things.
I technically the team is the decision makers
and they're amazing at what they do.
But if you just look at it from a shareholder perspective,
I'm the majority.
I can dictate whatever I want,
and I want to dictate what's best for our customers.
- And I was going to ask you this question later,
but I'm going to ask it to you now
about public versus private.
But before I do, I just wanted to mention
that is an advantage of staying private
because as I understand it, if you're publicly traded,
there's all these transfer pricing issues
and stuff that come into play.
I'm not sure, I could be wrong,
but I'm not sure that applies for private companies.
I'll need to look that up.
It's been a long time since
I looked at accounting principles.
- You're talking about transfer pricing
when you're working at a company
in different regions, right?
- When you're like you said company,
internal parts of the business fighting already.
- We're required to use transfer pricing.
- You are required to do it?
- What CFO says, maybe I'm wrong,
but I know for a fact he says
we need to do it and you got to allocate.
But again, my CEO came from
a publicly traded company so he may be
saying that because that's what they do.
I don't care either way of what they do or they don't do.
I just care that the clients get results
and we are doing what's best for them.
- That's it, I love that simplicity of the approach.
Talk to us about why you've
chosen not to go public and stay private.
- We've had offers when the market was good.
We still get offers.
And when I say offers,
I'm talking about not like the Canadian Stock Exchange,
like the TSX for Toronto.
I'm talking about the,
some of the exchanges in the US people want to do SPACs.
It's not about money.
It's about money from a growth perspective.
because then I know I'm doing better,
but it's not about a money.
Like, oh, I got this big payday and I got this checks.
I went public.
I look at that as, and when you go public,
you can liquidate your shares over time.
Maybe you can liquidate more at the beginning
depending on how you do it.
But I look at that as a pain.
Who wants to answer to all those shareholders?
It's not even what the money is.
It's like this just sounds miserable.
I don't want to answer all these people.
Oh you want to expand internationally?
Your quarterly numbers are terrible.
Why do you want to do this?
I'm like, I don't want to answer it anymore.
I just want to do what I feel is best for the business
and the team feels is best for the business
and best for our customers.
- And I feel exactly the same way about external funding,
and that's why I've never accepted external funding
because the minute you do, you lose independence.
- Unless you get it from the right people.
There's a lot of stuff in wealth funds out there
that just give checks and they stay out of your way.
That's the dream.
How do you give this more capital to grow faster?
Just stay out of our way?
- That's it.
I dunno how common that is, but from what I've seen,
if you bring in VCs and stuff, they generally,
after the honeymoon period's over,
it's shown me the money,
and then there's a whole lot of pressure.
And then you're not running your business anymore.
You are working as someone's employee,
and then you ask yourself why
did I corporate in the first place.
- That's correct.
- A lot of our listeners and viewers are,
say six figure five figure business owners.
How do they increase sales in this
interest rate environment and this challenging economy?
- The same way you would do
it if you were in a good economy.
You do things like SEO and omnichannel marketing,
and participate in the social web
or run webinars or run paid ads
and optimize your landing pages in your conversions.
There's not much that changes in a good economy
versus a bad economy.
It really is the same fundamentals.
You just got to make sure
you're okay from a finance perspective and you're healthy.
- How is the SEO changing
in this rapidly evolving artificial
One thing is for sure when it comes to content creation,
which is intricately linked to SEO,
we need to infuse more stories
and more experiences into our content.
It's not just going to be about tactics
because you can just get that from ChatGPT or whatever.
But what else are you doing besides that, if anything?
And how do you see artificial intelligence
impacting content creation down the track?
Do you see AI being able to do this stuff that we are doing,
which is infusing stories and stuff,
say six months or a year hence.
- I don't really see the AI being able
to that six months to a year ahead.
Where they're integrating stories that are so
amazing that people want to read them.
I think people overestimate what AI can do
in the short run and they underestimate
what it can do in the long run.
I do think AI is going to change a lot in the long run
and it's going to blow people away.
But in the short run has a lot of work to be done
and it's still really new.
The way search is changing is
people are adjusting their queries more than anything else.
Forget about how Google's showing results for a minute.
It's very rare that in the past,
because we track a lot of the keywords
and the search volume and data.
It's very rare that people say,
I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old,
and I live in Las Vegas
and I'm looking to do a summer vacation
in a place that's not more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Where should I go that would work out really well
and is affordable and would cost less than
$100 a night or $200 a night?
You get what I mean?
This is like so specific.
That's not how people search,
but that is how people are starting to search because of AI.
It's answering their questions.
That's the big thing that we're seeing shifts in.
What we're also seeing shifts in is the results
in how things are placed.
Just like how you had the knowledge graph
and things like Google saying,
what's the weather in Las Vegas,
Nevada or Sydney Australia?
It used to be where you would
click on weather.com to see the weather.
Now they just show you the weather.
If you ask them what's two plus two,
they just give you the answer.
It's a similar thing.
So that may decrease some clicks,
but this will also cause more usage in Google,
which in theory in the long run should
still drive enough traffic
and they'll generate enough revenue.
I think in the really long run,
and they're so far away from this,
if you type in I want to buy some red trainers or shoes,
the AI will know that this is your size,
this is Neil searching, you prefer Michael Jordan's shoes.
So here's all the Jordans select one, boom.
You click a button and you buy it through Google Pay.
I really believe that's what search
will end up coming to in the long run.
I don't see that happening in the next few years.
That is going to be really hard for them to read my mind
and predict exactly what I want and what know what size
that I am and know that I prefer the next day
because of my calendar,
and I need it for this basketball game.
So that is what I see in the long run.
But we're far from there,
and they're not going to kill off their big revenue generator,
which is ads.
And even if they implement all this stuff,
they'll figure out how to move to more of a CPA model
and still generate that ad revenue.
- So just to be clear,
when you said that people aren't typing in,
I have a kid that's three and 11 and all that sort of stuff.
- They're starting to now.
They weren't in the past.
They weren't getting that specific.
- So people are actually typing
that much detail into a search query?
- Yes, because they want the AI to just give them the answer.
- So AI you don't think already
has all this information on them,
and assumes that these are their demographic
and psychographic traits when they type in the question,
they have to actually type it in at the moment.
- The more specific they get, the better the AI is.
AI is not a place where you can be broad
and get amazing answers that worked for everyone.
But when you get super specific,
the answers are really good.
- ChatGPT versus Bard.
Can you share your thoughts on that?
- I've been saying this for a long time.
Google has the biggest index out there.
They have a better data set, it's more fresh,
they're going to win.
Your output is based on your input.
Their inputs are better than ChatGPT.
So their output should be better.
They've been working on Bard for a very long time.
I get the first version they botched it.
I still believe that they're going to be a winner.
They showcase what the recent stuff is,
and it looks great and it looks better than ChatGPT,
but I believe they'll win in the long run.
And yes, more people are using Bing,
but Google's not losing any traffic.
And it's not like less people are losing Google
that's really off when people are like, oh,
they're going to go from Google to Bing.
No they're not.
We're not seeing any of that.
We're looking at the traffic sets and the data
and we're not seeing any of that stuff.
People can make whatever assumptions they want.
- Now, Google is going to be scanning websites
less frequently going forward
to be more energy efficient and so on.
- Better on the environment.
- Yep, so what does this mean for us as content creators?
If we publish content or update our content more frequently?
Does that mean our website is more likely
to be scanned more frequently by Google?
Because Google picks that up.
- They want to update it when it's as fresh,
but there's a lot of websites out there
that don't update their old content.
And if they have a history of doing that,
Google doesn't need to crawl it as often.
But there's a lot of up websites
like Wikipedia that continually update them.
And I bet you Google will still crawl them very frequently.
It's just fine tuning it so that way
they're not wasting energy when they don't need to.
- And that's one of the best SEO hacks I've come across
that I don't see people using enough.
And that is go back and update your old content.
- And it is not even hard.
Just go to Google search console
and look at your year over year traffic
and look at the pages that decline the most,
and go up those first.
because then you're more likely
to recover your traffic and grow it.
- That's such a simple hack.
Speaking of simple hacks,
In terms of growing email lists and growing an audience,
you talked about using Code Canyon
to get cheap or free software, which you can then use.
- Sorry to cut you off,
but you don't need to do that now.
So you're right, in the past I talked about
Code Canyon to go get tools and release them on your website.
If you look at my email database, because I have tools,
the tools at least 200,000
net new emails a month, which is a lot.
But the reason we do extremely is when you give away
tools for free that people are used to paying for,
it does really well.
And we don't give everything away for free,
but the majority of the features are for free.
Now what you can do is you can just use ChatGPT or Bard
and have them code you up a tool.
It coded up the game pong in less than 60 seconds.
You can have them code you up almost anything.
Or you can pay Code Canyon 10, 20, 30, 50, a hundred bucks,
whatever it costs.
Usually doesn't cost a hundred,
usually much cheaper than that.
And you're off into the races.
- So talk to us a little bit about
that model where you offer
people some kind of a utility in terms of software
to build an audience and get them to use your website more.
- So figure out what people are paying for in your industry
that you can make for free,
and give it away for free.
And you'll naturally just get traffic
without doing any marketing over time.
It takes time.
It won't, you won't see the results in one day.
- And that helps you build a brand,
which is another thing you say is very important.
And I completely agree with,
if you can get searched for via your brand
or if your business becomes a verb, Google it.
Or as you often say,
Nike is searched for far more than the word shoes.
So building a brand like that is critical.
Would you agree?
- Yes, I think it's very critical.
- From an SEO standpoint, business standpoint.
Google's Magi update, what's that about?
- So Magi is their new project.
It's, remember the example I gave with shoes?
Red basketball shoes,
it just shows you what you're ideally looking for.
More prompt based, question based.
That's what they're working on and
that will really impact search.
But I think it's years and years away from being amazing.
I'm not saying Google's doing a bad job.
This is hard to read people's mind.
You can't do that stuff in one day or one year.
It doesn't matter how long they've been working on that.
- Yeah, look, last question,
Sam Altman's recent senate hearing was quite an eye-opener
and some people were concerned that AI
could be a threat to humanity.
I'm curious to get your take on it.
- I leave that for the smart people.
I have no idea, I don't think it is,
but I don't know any better.
Elon Musk and Bill Gates and people like that
will have a much better perspective than me.
- All right, we've talked about quite a few things.
I'm just going to do a quick roundup.
We talked about profit versus revenue,
the importance of building a good team,
and how you find good team members by looking at
team members who work for multiple competitors
and have risen through the ranks
because they clearly have a skill.
We talked a bit about NP Digital's mission.
We talked about your approach to profit versus revenue,
the importance of brand, a bit about Google, AI,
how to create better content.
Is there anything else you want to add
and any quick action steps that our listeners can take
if they want to get better
at building a brand and a business?
- I think we covered a lot.
This isn't going to answer your question,
but if I was telling people to build a brand in business,
obsess about your customers,
create amazing product or service,
and in the long run that's how you win.
It's not marketing, it's not SEO's
it's not paid ads, it's not social media.
All those things help you.
But what you really need is amazing product or service.
Without that, it doesn't matter how much marketing you do,
you're not going to win at the end of the day.
- I think that's a great point to close on.
And if you are watching or listening,
check out Episode 222 with Derek Sivers,
who built and sold CD Baby for $22 million,
completely driven by a customer based approach.
And his story is remarkable,
and he shared it all on the podcast.
So Neil, you've been generous as always.
Thank you so much.
It would be great to have another one of these conversations
sometime down the track and check in
and see what's been happening in your world.
- Sounds good. - All right buddy.
Thanks so much for your time.
Ciao. - Thank you.
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