I’ve just had the opportunity to interview Ricky Kesler from IncomeSchool.com.

This is an interview that you’re not going to want to miss because he has a huge announcement – Jim is leaving Income school!

While the news is about a week old now, we’re going to hear a lot more on what’s been happening behind the scenes.

Ricky is taking over full ownership of Income School and all that the business entails. That includes multiple successful niche sites, Project 24 (their niche site course), the Income School YouTube channel, and everything else associated with the business and brand.

Listen to the interview to find out what Jim is going to do now, why Ricky is taking over, and what it means for the future of Income School.

We delve into the big announcement, but more importantly, we get the Genesis story of Ricky, including how he got started in online business, how income school began, and how he and Jim built it into what it is today.

It’s a great interview – you’ll hear the story of Income School and the big changes that it’s undergoing. Ricky shares how they’ve built it into a 6-figure+ per month business and what his plans and for the future. I know you’ll enjoy it!

You can join Income School’s Project 24 Here.

Interview With Ricky Kesler

In the podcast, I dive into a couple of areas of business that I want to learn more about:

  • How they grew their YouTube channel – what were the strategies they used?
  • What are the things they do differently with their niche sites relating to keyword research and link-building strategies?

Hearing Ricky’s story is encouraging as, like many of us, he didn’t come from a web design or development background. He wasn’t in any way trained to build out websites, blog, or market products online. However, through a lot of hard work and persistence, he’s done really well.

Other topics we cover:

  • The future of Income School
  • The YouTube videos that caused the most growth of Income School
  • Pros and cons of controversial YouTube videos
  • The accuracy (or lack there-of) of keyword tool traffic estimates

And a lot more! Wherever you are in your online business adventure, you will no doubt enjoy and be helped by this interview with Ricky Kesler.

Resources mentioned in the interview:

Read the Full Transcript:

Spencer Haws: Hey everyone, it’s Spencer here. And I just had the opportunity to interview Ricky Kessler from income school.com. Now, this is an interview that you’re not going to want to miss because Ricky has a huge announcement. The day that we recorded this today is when this official announcement was made. And I’ll go ahead and share that with you now, even though by the time you listen to this, the announcement will be about a week old.

And so if you follow income school, you’ll know that. Jim is actually leaving income school. So Ricky is taking over full ownership of income school and that entire business, which encapsulates a lot, a lot of niche sites, project 24, the income school, YouTube channel, and everything associated with that.

And so listen to this interview to hear what Jim is going to do, why Ricky is taking over and what that means for the future of income. And so during this interview, we, we touch on that big announcement. More importantly, we get the Genesis story of Ricky and how he got started in online business, how he got involved in income school and really how they built that business.

And in particular, I dive into a couple of areas of business that I wanted to get his opinion on and get his strategies on one is how did they grow their YouTube channels so much? How much success are they seeing there and what are a couple of strategies? And he does not disappoint, you’ll get those strategies.

And then number two, what are some things that they do differently with their niche sites that maybe others don’t do? And in particular, we talk about their keyword research strategies that they utilize and their link building strategies that they utilize. And so it’s a great interview. You’re going to hear lots of business tips directly that you can apply to your business.

But as well, just hear the story of income school. And it’s very recent changes that are happening right now as of today and what that looks like for the future. And so if you want to hear how Ricky has helped to build income school up to a six figure a month plus business, this is the interview for you.

So I hope you enjoy it.

Spencer Haws: Hey, Ricky, it’s great to have you on the niche pursuits podcasts now for those not familiar with you can you give a quick summary of kind of your business background and then maybe how you started the income school business.

Ricky Kessler: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll try to be brief. Yeah, my business background it really starts out.

I went to college, I got an engineering degree, not really a business thing, but while I was there, I started gaining a lot of interest in entrepreneurship. I started participating or at least watching at the university where I went at BYU. They have all these cool competitions. They have a business model competition, a business plan competition.

And my cousin who was in the business school just started inviting me to those with them. And I just thought they were the coolest thing that college students were starting up. And so I got interested. I took an entrepreneurship class as an elective, and then I went off and I started working as an engineer.

Spencer Haws: What year did you graduate?

Ricky Kessler: BYU 2010. Okay.

Spencer Haws: Just to ask, because I’m a fellow BYU grad for listeners out there. So I was, I was just a few years ahead of you there. Nice, awesome.

Ricky Kessler: Yeah. Yeah, it’s great. I loved it. But then I immediately, I mean, I started my job, my engineering job, and I immediately wanted to do something more.

So a couple of friends and I, we were all engineers at a chemical plant. But we started up this little like paintball rental gig. We were in an area where he had like tons of national forest. You could play anywhere, but like basically almost nothing around, but a lot of college students at Virginia tech wanting to play and anyway, it was fun, nothing real big.

I was only there for a couple of years. But it just kinda got that rolling. After a couple of years, I started business school. I went and earned an MBA from the university of North Carolina chapel hill, they have a pretty cool program MBA at UNC it’s delivered online. But it’s now actually fully integrated into their business school.

So online students take in-person classes if they want to. And vice versa. It’s pretty neat. But I went and I did that and while I was doing that, I moved to Texas work working at the same company, but taking a more of a business job. So marketing market analysis, more like when you work in marketing at a big company like that, that’s a business to business company.

It’s not really about like TV commercials. It’s more about understanding your industry setting pricing properly understanding the competition and their cost models, et cetera. So just kind of a different, totally different approach to, to, to everything.

Spencer Haws: so you probably spent a lot of time looking at data and running numbers and spreadsheets.

It’s coming up with some conclusion.

Ricky Kessler: Exactly. I, I graduated the school and right around, right. Actually right before I graduated is when income school started when Jim and I started working together. I got, I had the opportunity to move back to Idaho, took a job, working for HP, the computer and printing company.

And did that for almost three years before income school really got to where it was enough. And I could leave that. And so my business background, you know, includes business school, but all along the way, there were those little ventures, like the paintball thing where I was just kinda trying to find something I knew I wanted to do my own thing.

But, and I also knew that I was developing the skills to do so, but I just needed to get there. I needed to get far enough. And so income school was the opportunity. I was, I’m more of the business person. I didn’t come in from a website building standpoint. I came in from a business standpoint and learned all the website, builds SEO, all that stuff along the way.

Spencer Haws: Right. And so how did you and Jim sync up for the first time to, you know, start income school? What, why did you guys partner up?

Ricky Kessler: Yeah. Again, I’ll, I’ll keep it brief. There’s, there’s kind of like all these things that sort of fell into place that neither of us could have planned. I’m a religious person.

And I do believe in some divine guidance and I think there was a lot of that happening. But basically a multitude of things. I hadn’t seen Jim in a few years, we were best friends in high school. We caught up a few times after that. We actually both were missionaries at the same time in San Paulo, Brazil, but in two separate missions, two separate designated areas.

So like, we’re, we’re, they’re like miles apart, but never saw each other. Right. But still like we sinked up a few times and, but not a whole lot. And I knew what Jim was doing. I thought it was really cool what he was doing with improved photography. But that was kind of the extent of it. We had a chance to run in when I came home one year at Christmas time ran into him, we were just chatting had lunch with his family.

He kind of told us his backstory a little bit of how he got into the blogging and we told them what we were doing. And I thought, you know, I thought it was pretty impressive what I was doing. I thought I was like, you know, I’m this super smart guy doing this engineering stuff. And you know, I remember Jim’s wife saying something like, so what do you do?

And I explained it and she’s like, that sounds really smart. I was like, yeah, thanks. And then meanwhile, you know, Jim’s blogging and I’m like, cool, Jim, you know? Right. You know, it, it didn’t take long. Early. That was when he was first had decided to not pursue continuing with law. He finished his degree, but that was, he was going to pursue blogging.

And I was like, Hey, that’s fantastic. I really was happy for him, but I was like, okay. Yeah, we’ll see. Just like everybody else. Right? Yeah.

Spencer Haws: It’s kind of a different thing, right? It’s not that normal to hear at least back then, right?

Ricky Kessler: No, but I, I had to do a, I had to do a paper for an entrepreneurship class in business school and I had to interview an entrepreneur and I was like, you know what?

Business school is hard enough as it is. I’m going to go the easy way. And I’m just going to call up my friend and I we’re going to have a conversation. And so I interviewed him, wrote a paper and I just have more intrigued. So I started looking into everything that he was doing listening to him, podcasts and stuff.

And then Those encounters kind of, I think had me there sort of forefront of his mind and he decided he wanted to do income school. He started getting the ball rolling, started a podcast, wrote some articles, but it was too much. And he wanted a partner and I was there at the front of his mind. So he calls me up, text me rather out of the blue and says, Hey, I want to talk to you about a business proposition.

We talked on the phone. I was like, you bet, I am a hundred percent on board. But at the time it was like this little tiny thing, right? This little side thing, I was going to write articles every day. I was going to work on content for the site and podcast with him. That was like the extent of it. But it just grew a little bit at a time from there.

It took a few years to become anything of substance, but I mean, that’s what it was, all these kinds of things happening that lined us up. So when he was ready to try to bring on a partner, he fought, you know, what of all people that I could bring on to partner. I think Ricky’s the guy. And I had built the skillset with both business school and my, my background, I have that really analytical background, highly organized type person.

And just ended up being kind of the, the right balance for Jim. And what year that was it?

Spencer Haws: What year was this that you, you came on to income school.

Ricky Kessler: We officially started January 20, 15, so six and a half years ago.

Spencer Haws: Okay. And, and back then, you said it really started as a podcast and a blog.

Ricky Kessler: Yeah, correct.

Yeah. And we didn’t even podcast for that long before we kind of, I mean, it was some things happened. I actually got laid off from my job there in Texas from cutbacks and it was actually one of those other kind of, again, I think sort of divine hand sort of things, because. I immediately got a new job in Idaho where I wanted to be, I was dying to get home.

And if I hadn’t moved back when I did, if I’d had to stay there for a couple more years, which was the plan and come school, wouldn’t have it. Wouldn’t have had the opportunity to take off with the time that it did.

Spencer Haws: Yeah. And we’re going to talk about some of the things that have allowed it to take off like YouTube.

And I imagine having both of you in Idaho to record videos together is a big piece of that. And we can go into that, but before we go any further, there is a big announcement and we should just sort of share that here kind of upfront with a podcast listeners so that the rest of the discussion, you know, they just are aware of what’s going on with income school.

And so I’ll leave it to you here. Reiki, why don’t you share with people what’s kind of this big announcement and what does the future of income school look.

Ricky Kessler: Yeah, absolutely. The big announcement is actually, you know, I, I keep talking about Jim because he was the Genesis of all this. The big announcement is that Jim is leaving the company.

He’s decided that he’s going to go build up. We, we built up as originally a case study. We wanted to practice more YouTube. So we built up this outdoors brand backfire built mostly around shooting sports, but kind of molding from there into a little bit more of just an outdoors and men’s brand is kind of the direction Jim’s taking it, but it started off as that sort of a side thing.

Jim is taking that and basically he’s going back to doing what we’ve been teaching. Just, full-time just completely doing in the name of like full transparency this wasn’t Jim, just taking off and saying, Hey, you know what? I’m, I’m moving on. I think people sometimes get that impression. Cause Jim’s like this super like ambitious, but also like highly creative, just he’s a starter in the YouTube video where we announced this, he said that he says, maybe I’d just start things.

He’s really good at that. Right. And so there’s maybe this impression that Jim just kind of dropped it on the one day, Hey, I’m going to go. That’s not how it happened. Really over the years, there’ve been multiple times where he’s alluded to maybe a need for that happening someday. But in this time it was actually me.

I in business it’s partnerships are, can be great, but they can be really hard. You probably know Spencer in business, just, it can be really hard to work with a partner and in a 50 50 partnership, you gotta be in lock step. Right. And we have worked really well together for a long time. We still do.

But people who have been following us closely may know that early this year Jim and his family need needed. They felt the need that they needed to move away and they did, and we’ve been working hard at it, making it work. And it’s been really good for the most part. But it’s been harder to stay in lockstep.

Right. And it, anyway, so if there’s not a partner that has a controlling interest that can just run with the company you know, they have to agree on everything basically is very hard. And so I just reached a point where I realized this company is going to do better. If one or the other of us is at the helm calling the shots.

And I was perfectly willing to be the one to leave, even though I love it. Engine does too. And in the end, as we talked about it he, he, I left it up to him to make the decision and he felt like the best thing for both him and for our business would be for him to be the one to move on. And it’s hard for both of us because we both love it.

We’ve built this thing together and we’re still friends. I mean, this was not a, not a combatitive thing at all. Right. But but in full transparency, want to say, Jim, wasn’t just like, I’m in abandon everybody. Right. I’m out of here. Good luck, Ricky. Right. This was this was something we really thought through and But that’s what’s happened.

And in terms of where income school goes from here initially I don’t think you’re going to see much of a difference. Other than that, Jim won’t appear in YouTube videos. We have our project, 24 membership. Everything that’s in there stays in there. We’ve been doing a lot of A lot of connection with our members that we were doing masterminds multiple.

We’re calling them masterminds, but they’re just opportunities to get together, to call in over zoom and participate with someone from the team. Oftentimes about a specific topic whether it’s an internet marketing topic or just kind of networking with other people in your, in your niche. I’m in there doing Q and A’s as well as talking about stuff all the time in these masterminds.

And those have been really, really, really good people are going to see those continue. We have an awesome team. Anna, she works here. She’s she’s kind of over the community. She’s over project 24 and she’s spearheading all that and just doing amazing. We have our writing service where Nathan is, is running.

And we’re just writing so much content, both on other people’s sites and on our own and just testing new things all the time. We have Nate who works on our channel, maker’s YouTube channel, who is just testing the limits of YouTube and trying to understand everything that’s going on there and who’s doing a phenomenal job.

So we’re not going to see like dramatic change, but I think all we’re going to see is continued growth, onward and upward, and that’s for the YouTube channel. Same thing. You’re probably going to start seeing more of the team show up on the channel, right? Each member has specific expertise in the areas where they’ve been working hard and and we have a good dynamic here.

And so people that have loved seeing the Ricky and Jim dynamic over the years, I think are still going to be able to really enjoy the dynamic of the team that we have here too. So that’s really it. I mean, yeah. The direction’s not going to change that much.

Spencer Haws: Yeah, no, that’s, I mean, it’s a huge announcement obviously.

And this is, this is fresh, right? Like the day we’re recording this, like your YouTube video announcing this just came out like a couple hours ago, I think. Exactly. So, so this is very, very new you know, to, to be able to discuss this. And so I’m glad you brought up the team. We’re going to dive into the team just a little bit here in a second, but just to kind of clarify with Jim’s involvement, it sounds like he’s no longer involved.

You know, he’s moving on to another project. Is, is he still kind of on the backend and it’s small owner like, you know, just sort of a silent owner, I’m just kind of curious or is it, you know, sort of all been moved over to, you know, your ownership percentage.

Ricky Kessler: It’s actually fully moved over to my ownership at this point.

And I, I think that’s really kind of. Jim needs. It’s like, I think it’s hard for him to he’s gotta be all in or kind of all out. And so we worked it out and I, I’m now a hundred percent owner of the company and complete have complete management control of the company. And Jim’s a hundred percent moved on to the next thing that said, I mean, we’re still in communication.

We’re, I’m looking forward to, you know, bringing him on and talking, you know, as a case study, talking about what he’s doing, I think people are gonna want to know for sure how his business is growing over time, but it will be more like this. Right. You know, you bring me on to talk about my. It’ll be me bringing him on to talk about his business and sharing things that he’s learned and discovered as well.


Spencer Haws: Well you know, it it’s, I’m not sure what if congrats is the right word per se, but I mean, it’s, it is sort of like it, it’s a big announcement. It’s, it’s a big change. It probably feels like more responsibility for you. But also a big opportunity, I guess, for you and the income school team.

So, so there are certainly that level of excitement that I guess maybe congrats is, you know, partially an okay word to use. I think

Ricky Kessler: so in this case, right.

Spencer Haws: So let’s, let’s talk about YouTube to stern because I don’t think. Almost anybody talks about income school without bringing up the YouTube channel.

It’s huge. It’s grown phenomenally well. But it sounds like from the very beginning that wasn’t always the case. It started as a blog. It started as a podcast. So when did you start the YouTube channel and when did you really start to see traction on that channel?

Ricky Kessler: Yeah. Jim started the channel almost immediately.

Even before, I mean, there was like a six month window that he started building up some content before. He decided that it was either get a partner or abandoned. That was where it was that. And so he started it almost immediately and just put out some content. If you, if you go back to the oldest videos on the channel, you’ll see.

There’s a couple one where he like, shows exactly how to set up a podcast. You know, what microphone to get, how to hook it all up. All that kind of stuff. And that was probably the first video that gained any traction. I think just through kind of the YouTube search people, looking for that piece of that type of content, there were a handful of other videos.

I don’t even remember what they are that just basically did nothing. Once I moved back to Idaho, so we started out, we started podcasting. I was remote still at the time I got laid off around the same time he had a lot going on. And we just kind of took a little bit of a hiatus while I was kind of getting settled after I got back.

We started getting together weekly with our families. We’d get together, have dinner. And then Jim and I would go work for a couple of hours once a week. That was it. And at that time it was we weren’t really podcasting anymore. We’d kind of let that slide but we started making some YouTube videos and I don’t, I mean, Yes.

We were still writing blog posts separately at the time, but they just weren’t catching on. And it was a struggle because Jim was used to blogging and it works right. But for some reason in this space, you know, making money online, it’s just, there’s a lot of competition. It’s just hard. It’s so competitive.

Spencer Haws: I’ll just echo that it is difficult.

Ricky Kessler: That’s right. So we just started, I mean, he knew YouTube was working cause he’d done some on improved photography and it had worked. So we just started filming some videos based off of the things we had. We’d learned. I felt like at the time, at the very beginning, I felt like a lot of early internet marketers when they’re getting started, whether you’re a blogger YouTuber, I kind of felt like an impostor.

At the, at the beginning I was teaching what I knew based off of what I’d seen Jim. Hmm, that was it. Meanwhile, we were, we were building new sites, but at the time I was still kind of an imposter and we didn’t know how well it was working. We weren’t paying attention. We didn’t have a lot of subscribers.

But after I’d, I’d moved back and we’d been there for about a year when we launched our niche site school, which was sort of the early version of what’s now taught in project 24. And we put that out there and we sold a few here and there, but it came with a survey where you filled out. Here’s what I want to do for my site.

Here’s the topic. Here’s some basic information about what I want to do, but one of the questions was how did you hear about income school? And after that had been going for several months, We started to notice a trend that almost all of the surveys we got in said it was from the YouTube channel. Wow.

And it was just a couple of videos that really did it. I mean, we did, we made one about keyword research tools and one about backlinking. I mean, those are kind of two things where we took a little bit of a controversial approach from the very beginning. And it was just novel and refreshing to a lot of people to hear a different perspective.

But we didn’t know what we were doing on YouTube. We approached YouTube like bloggers. So it was like, you know, what would work well in a blog post, we would make that kind of a video. It took us a long time to discover that YouTube is a little bit of a different animal. And I think when we discovered that then things started to even turn another corner.

And that’s where kind of the success started to take off. We see a lot of people kind of move from blogging. Doing YouTube people that are teaching blogging and they go onto YouTube and, and they, I think they make that same mistake a lot. And I think it really holds them back. YouTube just works differently.

And we only had 12,000 subscribers when we launched project 24. But we launched that and had a six figure month. The first month we launched it with 12,000 subscribers because we had built just like this connection with our audience. And so from there, we just knew it was working. And when I quit my job and went full-time, I mean, that was the focus.

And we’ve been students of YouTube ever since as much as we are also students of blogging and Google and search and all that. We’ve been students of YouTube ever since. And I think we’ve what we’ve learned in the last year with Nate looking at it full time. I think really propels things forward much more.

I’m actually really excited about sort of the future of that channel, because I think it only improves from here.

Spencer Haws: Yeah. Can you give people kind of an idea of the success of the YouTube channel? You know, certainly number of subscribers, but maybe number of either monthly or daily views or type of revenue that you’re able to, you know, attribute to that or whatever you’re willing to share to kind of share the success currently

Ricky Kessler: You know, the channel right now is at about 160, a little over 160,000 subscribers views per day. I’d have to pull up one of the numbers I, that we look at pretty closely is when we put out a new YouTube video. How does it do in that first week? Nate talks on his channel a lot about A number that he calls baseline of views, which is, if you look at, you know, your last, whatever, 10, 20, 30 videos what is sort of the, the low, low number that you seem to get on about every video.

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Right. And then there’s other sort of out of time, right? They always do kind of just sort of level off. I mean, some videos will continue to show up for months and even years, but most of them kind of level off after your audience and a certain number of other people have seen them. And so we look at that number a lot.

And for us in the first week we expect every video to get at least about 10,000 views. And that’s pretty normal. We have very few videos that don’t achieve that 10,000 views in the first week number. I’ve got, I just pulled up my, my YouTube. Yeah. I’m, I’m curious because I haven’t been looking at.

You know, the views or the, the watch time sort of on a per day basis. But what I’m seeing here is on a normal day of the week, about 8,000 views a day, whenever we put out a new video more like 15 to 16,000 views in that day that’s big. And the thing is that on that channel, you know, the revenue we earn from it is usually about $4,000 or less a month, which would be exciting to a lot of people.

It’s not really a number that we think about much because what we really get from this channel is this is like our main funnel, right? For a lot of internet marketers, their blog, I mean, their blog is what attracts the traffic from Google. And then through the blog, they start earning revenue whether it’s surfacing ads to those people funneling them to some affiliate products or even their own offering for us.

It’s the YouTube channel. So we have that address. But mostly where we can teach all of our, I mean, we teach a lot of things there and help a lot of people, whether they buy anything or not. But a certain percentage of people that subscribe to the channel will eventually sign up for project 24. It’s, it’s their way to find us and the earnings from that.

Usually it’s six figures per month, just from project 24, whether it’s new members or recurring subscriptions, it’s just, that’s the phenomenal business model that YouTube allows us to do. And I think a lot of YouTubers bloggers get that YouTube is don’t so most YouTube are relying too much on ads and merge and some that do a really good job, make a lot of money from sponsored videos for us, because we were marrying the two.

If we can succeed on YouTube, but then funnel people properly to a good product, like a blogger knows how to do we’ve. We just made fantastic business model. Yeah. You’ve kind of

Spencer Haws: got the best of both worlds. And so w th the strategy on YouTube in terms of funneling people over to project 24, is it just that you, you know, you’ve got a link in a description after all of your videos, because certainly most of your videos, you are not mentioning project 24, but you know, if you read the description, you can probably find a link there.

Do, do you think it’s mostly kind of just coming from that, or are you actually doing like launch videos when you have, you know, open new enrollment or have a big announcement for project 24? Do you see a big push in that regard? Yeah,

Ricky Kessler: really. We do. I mean, it’s in the description of every video we do have on YouTube, you can set a default description and we have a handful of things that just always show up in every description that doesn’t drive a lot of sales other than once somebody decides I’m ready to go.

There’s a convenient link for them. What works really well for us is we have some videos that we’ll put out occasionally that we treat as we call it like a hub video, you know, the hub and spoke model. People use it in blogging as well. But it’s a video that other videos will often point people back to.

Not always. We have a lot of videos where the call to action has nothing to do with that. And sometimes, sometimes I’m bad about even remembering to put a call of action, call to action in a video, which is really bad internet marketing. I get so focused on like, sharing that sometimes I forget. And, and it’s still okay.

Because really what’s happening. Most of the time, what we hear from people is they found us through some video, they got intrigued, they watched another, and within a week they’ve spent like 40 hours watching income school videos. Right. And by then they’ve built a connection and they’ve probably heard multiple times, but at that point about project 24, that said, like you said, when we, when we launched and then about a year later, we made a remake of it.

We did a webinar it’s out there on YouTube and a lot of videos, point people to that because it, what it does is it kind of walks you through. Our process. Now I need to make an update of that because our process has evolved. And so I need to make a new version, but we do have some of those. And every time that we like put a new course or update, do a substantial update of a course in project 24, we’ll make a YouTube video that is on the same subject.

So for example I’m soon going to be adding a new sort of affiliate marketing course within project 24. We focused a lot on content and traffic. And I tried to add more monetization content. So there’ll be a new affiliate course that just teaches good practice for affiliate linking. When I do there will be at least one, if not a handful of videos, On the YouTube channel that are about affiliate marketing, the cover specific aspects of it.

And when I do I’ll mention in that video, this course just dropped in project 24. So all of you that are members go make sure you go check it out. Well, I mean, that alone is a signal. It’s not even me saying, Hey, you need to go by project 24. It’s me saying, Hey members, go check it out. There’s a new course for you.

And everybody else says, oh, I, I want that. I want more of this. Give me the whole course. And so again, it just, that alone gets people looking into it without having that sort of push a sales tactic. Yeah.

Spencer Haws: Now that, that is a that’s great. That makes a lot of sense. There’s, there’s sort of two things that I want to.

To here. Because I do think when people think of income school, they certainly think of the success on YouTube. So I would be interested to hear one or two specific YouTube strategies, you know, maybe that have worked really well for you guys that maybe you see other people aren’t doing, you know, you talk specifically about bloggers and I can put myself in this boat.

Right. I’m a blogger first. That’s how I started, you know, I’m trying to go over to YouTube at least get some traction there. Like maybe what’s something that I should be focusing on. And then I want to make sure we get to niche site strategies here as well. So let’s tackle this one question on, you know, what’s one or two sort of YouTube strategies that you think have been critical to your success.

And maybe that you see other typical bloggers, maybe not doing it.

Ricky Kessler: One I’ll just mention, cause I already kind of described, it was that hub and spoke model works really well for various kinds of channels. We did it on the backfire channel to where we do a product Roundup, but then you know where there’s multiple products and we’re comparing them.

And but then there’s a video about each product. And so as people either come across them because they’ve done some searching or, you know, they’re specifically doing searching, or it’s just a related, interesting video, they come across any of those. And every single one of them is going to say, Hey, you know, this product is good for this bad for this, but Hey, if you want to see how it stacks up compared to the others, go watch the other video too.

Well, that feeds the YouTube algorithm like crazy. Cause YouTube is all about how long people stay on the platform. And so if before I pushed people to my site, I get them to watch at least two videos YouTube. Isn’t so upset about me sending them away at some point. So I’ll go into that one much more just cause we’ve kind of hit on that a little bit earlier, but really the next one is because YouTube, the way that videos are surfaced to people is so different than, than, than on the web in search.

You have to. You have to approach them that way. So in search, you know, people are looking for something specific, they type something into the search engine and they’re looking for results to that question. YouTube has that. But what you’ll find with, with the mature channel is that the vast majority of use don’t come from that in the first day or two, the majority will come from your own audience, your subscribers, but then they’re going to start showing up more from those suggested videos, whether it’s sort of the up next that if you’re on a desktop, it’s what shows up in the row on the right.

And that that’s what will auto play if you have auto-play turned on or there’s the suggested videos that show up below, or like on the YouTube homepage with somebody just goes logs into YouTube on their phone or on a desktop there’s videos recommended to them based upon what they like. And so because the, most of the views come from that.

Your video has to be intriguing and enticing. That doesn’t mean click baity, but it does mean that we need to be, we need to write titles and make thumbnails specifically that are going to make people do a double-take. They’re going to make them look back at it and say, oh, I want that. This does lead some people to go sort of too far in that direction.

And every, we were, we were assessing some channels recently. I was talking to Nate and we were looking through some other channels and we found somewhere like every thumbnail either has a dollar amount or like a number of page views of, you know, on every single one. And because it works, you get a lot of views, but the problem is, if you go too far that direction, you start to look a little bit, maybe a little bit sleazy, but also in order to do that, oftentimes these channels end up covering.

Too many things, and they don’t sort of have one thing that ties them together. And because of that, they get a lot of views on each video, but there’s not that there’s never a connection built. And so while they get a lot of views and may grow faster on YouTube, it’s harder for them to go sell that info-product or have something where they’re really connected to their audience.

So there is a balance there. And you, I think the biggest thing, and I’ve, I keep coming back to this where the difference between blogging and YouTube, but the biggest thing is like, you, you want to be original, unique and all that, but you also have to give people a certain amount of what they expect to see.

So, you know, if there, if there’s somebody in that industry that you’re, that you’re going into, you know, that’s doing really well and you see that, you know what, in every thumbnail they have some of these elements and it really signals to the viewer. That, you know, if I see this, I know what I’m going to get.

Right. I know that this video is about this topic. For example, most people that teach YouTube, they’ll often put the little YouTube play button somewhere on the thumbnail image. And that little thing just signals, oh, this is a video about YouTube. A lot of successful YouTubers use some of those elements on their thumbnail, the color schemes, the fonts and everything that make it clear when someone sees it, oh, I know what this video is about because this, this is what other videos are about when I see that.

And so we design our thumbnails intentionally, at least in recent times, we’ve gotten better at this. We try to design them intentionally to build a bit of a, a bit of a brand, some recognition, but also to make it really obvious to the person that sees that. What they’re going to get, they’re going to get exactly what they’re expecting.

And I mentioned also, and here I am, I’m just like spewing information. Well, this is great. Also, also sort of the in the early days, what worked so well was we had a couple of videos that were a little bit controversial. Controversy can be effective, but it can also, we’ve seen it on YouTube.

Really. It can, it can really backfire on you. And so what I would say with that is. You know, if there is just something that people in the industry generally say, this is what you have to do, and you have a different approach. It’s, it’s good. It’s good to go out there and make your thumbnail and your title be a little bit, you know, the highlight that there’s a difference there.

But then be careful about being overly antagonistic. But, but still, if you can offer that other, that other point of view, there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to see, you know, sort of that widely held industry, you know, what everybody thinks is true. And they’re going to see something that counters that, and it’s going to be intriguing enough to get them to, to want to click and at least give the video a chance.

And so if, if you have something that you legitimately teach that you think is different or better than what the industry holds this sort of correct. Play on that. Definitely use it. Don’t exaggerate it though. Don’t, don’t be too antagonistic about it. So there’s a handful of things. Yeah.

Spencer Haws: Those are really great strategies.

Something that perhaps listeners out there can implement on their own channels. And I, I want to talk about a couple of, I don’t know that they’re necessarily controversial, but the thing, a couple of things that you mentioned, Hey, here’s some things that income school does differently in terms of niche site strategies, then perhaps, you know, other people are doing, or maybe it’s slightly different than the generally accepted strategies that are out there.

And so maybe you can share what a couple of those strategies are and I’m thinking well, I’ll let you share, but keyword research, are there some things that you do differently there and then maybe link building as well? Are there some things that you do different.

Ricky Kessler: Absolutely. Those really are the two things that sort of launched the channel early success and were really refreshing to a lot of people.

So, so I’ll talk a little bit about what, what those look like for us. One is the keyword research. Our approach to keyword research does differ from most peoples maybe not as much today as it did then, but really, you know, we, we’ve known for years that sort of the keyword concept, that name, it’s almost a misnomer, Google, isn’t it.

I’m looking for specific words, those little meta-tags and stuff that you used to use to signal to Google what your content was about where you’d use the same word or phrase over and over in your article to make it easy for Google to know you know, that that’s kind of long past. And so we have taken a more topical approach from the beginning.

It’s not about finding a good key word. It’s about finding. A good search query. However it’s worded you know, Google has just only gotten better and better and better with semantic search understanding more of the intent. They don’t get it right every time that’s for sure. But understanding more of the intent behind the search.

And so synonymous searches are, you know, they’ll, they’ll surface generally the same results, if not the exact same results. Very, very similar. And so our approach has always been to just look for search queries the keyword research tools aspect of it. Especially then a lot of the numbers that most of these keyword research tools provide whether or not they’re accurate.

We found them to be misleading in the sense that, oh, this keyword only has a search volume of zero or 50 a month, or like, yes, but the topic. You know, think of all the synonyms for that. And, and so first of all, the, the search volume numbers, aren’t going to be totally accurate. They’re all based off of a subset of searches.

They’re all based off of the data that they’re able to get, which is a lot, but certainly not not complete and because it’s a subset when you’re more likely to end up as an outlier where the numbers either going to be higher or lower than reality more substantially. And so for a lot of people building these niche websites, it’s actually less helpful because the numbers are less likely to be accurate. The smaller the search term is.

And so that was, I mean, that’s a statistical thing. That’s just a lot of statistics, but so that was kind of the mentality there today. Some of these tools have gotten a lot better at identifying. Other search terms that are similar to this one. They just have gotten better. I don’t think it’s necessary for every blogger to go sign up for a hundred dollars a month product.

There are other ways and we teach them some on our YouTube channel as well as in our membership. But I also won’t go so far as to say they don’t have value because they do have a lot of value. And if you’re at a point on your blog where you can afford a hundred dollars a month membership, yes, it could absolutely be worth it to use them as long as you understand the limitations that they have.

You know, if if a certain search term or keyword says search volume is low, you got to explore it a bit further to try to understand the topic. And so that’s where our approach just differs. We take a very topical approach and I think more and more people have started coming around to that way, just as Google has gotten better and better with semantic search.

So that’s where I say, I don’t know that we’re as different as we once were. Right. But it is something we highly focus on. So yeah.

Spencer Haws: Is kind of the takeaway there is, you know looking at topics like you said, but, but maybe just deciding what topics you want to cover on your site and almost covering those IR regardless of search volume that may show up on a certain tool.

Ricky Kessler: Yeah. It, it really is the way that we found to identify whether something’s going to have search volume is usually to write the article and see if it worked. And I know that feels a little bit like you know, throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks mentality we do have, we do have a few ways that we try to sorta spot check We in our blogging course, we’ve recently added some using just Google trends to get an idea of you, based on the amount of data, Google trends shows is kind of an indicator of how frequently this is searched.

So we’ve, we’ve got some there. I definitely think that the tools can be an effective help there as well to identify, but really it’s just, is the topic something that a reasonable person is likely to search. And beyond that, we’ll look at the broader topic and try to get a realistic idea of, you know, how, how big the audience is likely to be.

So, I mean, You mean just a basic thought exercise. You can figure out, you know, how many people are likely to do a search about you know, visiting Yellowstone national park. Well, you can, you can find some numbers online to see how many people actually visit the park every year. And there’s a good starting point.

And so then do a thought exercise around that to see, well, okay. So how many, how many annual and therefore monthly searches are there likely to be around that topic? And so from there for specific questions about Yellowstone national park, I can, I can get a gut check idea. Is this likely 50 searches per month or a 500 or a thousand or 2000 searches per month sort of thing.

Spencer Haws: Yup. So link building, what, what is sort of the differentiation and maybe strategy that you guys have

Ricky Kessler: for us? You know we recognized and acknowledged that Good backlinks are still one of the top ranking factors for Google. We have found though that if we take a content first approach, that we get a lot of organic backlinks without ever having to do any outreach.

And then as we create content and have sort of a critical mass of content on a site, you know, then there does come a point where, especially in some of these niches where authoritativeness is really important for ranking everything kind of that falls under Y M Y L for Google. In those, we do have an approach that we take to building up that eat that authoritativeness and trustworthiness that expertise.

But that does include some outreach. It includes you know, going and being on other people’s podcasts. And you know, in the show notes, getting a link back to your, to your site. But it depending sort of on your niche and the need for that, we just don’t make it a priority, especially at the very beginning.

You, you can spend a lot of time trying to build links where you would have been better off writing two or three more articles. And so for us, it’s not an afterthought, but for a lot of people building websites, it’s just not as important as a lot of people make it out to be. So I think that’s where we differ.

It’s not that we think links are bad. We certainly will advocate for any sort of backpack, black hat link building. Right. But regular industry outreach has a lot of value in some niches, more than others. We just kind of put that in. After you’ve spent time creating content. Rather than I wrote three articles, now let’s go see if I can get some links to them, which seems to be at least where the emphasis is for a lot of people.

Spencer Haws: Yeah. I agree. A lot of people, I mean, that’s, they think SEO, they think backlinks, right? That’s what comes to mind. What I like about some of the strategies that you guys have is that you’re not only teaching, but you actually are building a portfolio of sites. So can you talk about kind of, what are you guys working on either behind the scenes or, you know, publicly you know, how many sites are you guys working on?

What does that kind of portfolio look. Yeah,

Ricky Kessler: absolutely. For a little while now, as we restarted up our writing our creative studio, we started off building some of our own sites, some to keep on hold for a long time. And some that we actually, like, we built a site, wrote a hundred articles on it and immediately sold.

We had a handful of those. We sold them off to members of project 24 at, basically for the cost of the content which isn’t a great business model by the way, because it’s worth so much more if you’ll just give it some time and monetize it. But mostly we were. Testing things out and getting our our content writing up to speed.

And at this time point we own between some sites that we purchased as well as mostly sites that we’ve built in our building right now. We have I believe the number right now is 16 websites that we’re working on. Our strategy with those at this point is to hold them longer term. Part of that is because we need to be able to test stuff.

So one that we announced a long time, well, you know, awhile back, I guess maybe like a year ago this is called cook for folks.com and it’s a something in the cooking space and we know recipe sites are highly competitive, but we’re taking a little bit of a different approach to, to cooking. It’s a site where Anna, who again is our project, 24 lead there.

Learning everything she can. And she’s actually going through our blogging course lesson by lesson, even though she’s been with us for a year and a half, she’s going through lesson by lesson and making sure that she. One sort of validating that the lessons are what we intended them to be, but also then making sure she’s implementing them.

So she’s writing content for that site in addition to our other writers. And that’s one that we’re going to hold for a long time. We also have another one that I’m really excited about. It’s called suggested by locals.com. And we have these writers they’re college students, and they come from all over the place.

And one of the biggest problems with a lot of these like recommendation sites is you read an article about things to do or great things about a certain place. And you wonder, is this person ever even actually been there? Right? Well, so when somebody new comes to work for us, we say, well, where are you from?

And then, well, great. We don’t have any content about that. Here are kind of the five search queries that we’d like you to write articles for. It’s a good training ground for them. It’s our own website, but then we get an insider look at that city or that area. And so over time, that’s just going to become a really, really big website with a wealth of information about cities all across the country and even some places across the world.

And you’re going to get information about, you know, whether or not you should move there. Is it a great place to live? What, you know, just all sorts of cool insider information. So I’m excited about that one, but we have several other websites that some that we’ll hold maybe for another year or so as we monetize them, but a handful that will probably hold for a really long time.

And I think that’s really important every time Google puts out an update, like we need to see how it impacts not only one site, but it’s great to see that all the analytics for a handful of sites in addition to serving our own community and stuff too. So that’s kind of the strategy for now is build and hold we’ll, we’ll have a portfolio really.

Nathan has a goal right now. This is this kind of internal, but it’s, I think it’s cool. But his goal is to have the portfolio, just the income from the portfolio, not even from selling the sites basically pay for all of the writing service, all the writing stuff that we do. So the passive income pays for it.

And then anything that we sell any articles we sell, it’s all, all gravy, it’s all profit on top. Right. So that’s what he’s working toward right now to which I think is pretty

Spencer Haws: neat. Absolutely. So I love that you guys have a portfolio of attractively building and you’re learning from, and of course you’re making money from so you’re, you’re practicing what you preach.

Right. And you, you mentioned a number of times your team. And so I do want to just ask a little bit about your team. Maybe you can tell us how big the team is, but maybe the bigger question, both for me, and maybe for listeners that are getting to the point where they think they’re ready to hire, you know, how do you know when it’s the right time to hire somebody for any particular person?

Ricky Kessler: Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. We have a full-time team of we have Nate, who’s our YouTube guy. We have Anna, who’s our project, 24 guru. We have Nathan who’s been over our writing service. He’s been over that for a long time. In fact when we first hired him, it was to be a manager at our Rexburg office when it was first open and that’s where he got his start, we’ve actually already hired one person under him to manage writers who works for us full-time as well.

And then we, we have Andrea who works on our team. She’s, she’s our, she’s our creative she’s. She edits our videos, but she also there’s a lot of graphic design and photography. She’s just fantastic for that. And. I hope I’m not like I shouldn’t be missing someone. Right? No, but there is one that I have to mention.

Carissa, Chris is our support person. She’s actually been with us for almost since the beginning of project 24, but she she works from home. She’s a contractor. She was, we hired her on as a VA, which I think is probably most people’s first hire. But she’s here local. I know her personally. And so you know, she’s, and she’s just been with us ever since and works a couple hours a day, but the load she takes off.

Pretty enormous for me. So anyway, so there’s our, there’s our full-time team. And then in terms of writers, I mean the number ebbs and flows because they’re college students. And right now we’re kind of in sort of in-between semesters, but the, the goal this fall is to have a writing team of a hundred writers working for income school.

So we have we have two offices now, one in Rexburg, Idaho, and one in Princeton.

Spencer Haws: So the, the writers that you hire is both for your sites and then for project 24 students or other people that want to use your writers, is that correct? You have a contract service, right? Yeah,

Ricky Kessler: we do. And that, so that services, content where you’re dot com.

That seems to not matter how many people we hire that service is like constantly sold out every time. And part of it is that we, we don’t want to get into a position where somebody orders an article or a batch of articles, and it takes two months for them to get them back. And so we have a maximum two week turnaround time or it’s free.

And so because of that, we carefully monitor inventory. And so if, if we couldn’t turn it, return it within two weeks, we don’t take the order. And because of that, basically throughout the week, every week, we’re adding in more inventory. But it just gets bought up really fast. So we’re, we’re scaling up because there’s, there’s a lot of demand for it.

Yeah. But that’s open to anybody. But it, it does get bought up really fast. Yeah.

Spencer Haws: So how do you know when it’s the right time to hire a new person?

Ricky Kessler: Yeah, that’s probably one of the difficult, most difficult questions in often in business bringing on an employee is a substantial investment especially in this sort of business where most, there’s not a degree that really prepares people for working in an internet marketing business.

You know, so everybody can bring skill sets, but to learn it all as a lot. I would say though that if you’re, if you are at a point where. You can no longer focus on creating content. You now have other administrative things, especially if you are selling a product of your own and have any sort of support needs that almost immediately, it’s probably time to bring on at least a virtual assistant who can handle that, the communication, the support emails, and such, and even then, there’s sort of an onboarding period where, you know, every time they get an email, they’re going to come to you and say, okay, what do I do with this type of a question?

And you just have to build a system around that so that they, they have. They just know what you would say if you were them. And that’s what we did with Carissa. It started off with a Google doc where she would type a question on there and then she would message me at the end of when she was working and say, Hey, I’ve got five new questions in there today that I don’t know how to answer.

And I would type out my answer. And then now she has the answer forever. And that has worked tremendously well. And it, like I say, not handling support or email, even just all of the affiliate offers that come in and all of the just everything, not, not having, having that filtered before it gets to me really took a huge, a huge burden off of my shoulders.

It’s not that hard for her, but for me, you know, when people are emailing in frustrated about something, something that I created, right. That’s, it’s hard. I’m, I’m happy to get the feedback. But I, I having the sting taken off because she softens it up before she gives it to me is, is great. And so, yeah, if you’re ever at a point where you can’t do the main thing that only you can do, which is usually creating your content That at that point, it’s you just got to start bringing on team members.

And I would say while, even though there’s a cost to it, the sooner, the better, just because there is going to be that onboarding period. So if you wait until you need it and it’s probably too late, because it might take a few months before you’re able to get back to what really matters, right?

Spencer Haws: Yeah. I like that a lot.

Figuring out what your core competency is, what are you the best at, you know, creating content. I agree as often that thing and making sure that you have time to do that thing and by surrounding yourself with other team members that can take other things off your plate is a great advice. So Ricky, it’s been great having you on the show.

We’re going to wrap up here with just kind of one final question, just open-ended. Is there anything else that you would like to share? Any final tips that you’d like to share for any entrepreneurs out there listening, and then just where would you like to send people if they want to stay in touch with.

Ricky Kessler: Yeah, absolutely. You know, kinda my final thing you know, I, I don’t want to sound cliche or anything, but the reality is, is if you have that goal, if you have a drive to create something for yourself and you’re, you’re in that path you know, we talked about income school in the beginning. It was like three years of hard work on the side before, before it really did anything before I really even took home any sort of a paycheck.

It could be that if it could be longer in many cases, fortunately, it it’s shorter than that, but it isn’t always going to be, but if that’s the thing that you want, and that’s the thing that is really gonna make you happy in life, then learn what you need to learn and do what you need to do to make it happen and learning what you need to learn often means.

Kind of maybe humbling yourself enough to, to know they’re, to recognize that their skill sets that you might have to develop. There’s people that you might need to listen to. It can be hard to, it can be hard to think or to, to realize that that that you may not have everything you need to know today.

So be willing to learn from wherever wherever the right people are that are teaching, be willing to learn from them no matter who they are. And if you, if you do stick through with that and learn the things you need to and work hard at it, it, it is very high chance it’s gonna work out eventually.

It just won’t always be the easy path, get rich quick. Isn’t isn’t really a thing. So there you go. Where to send you, frankly, probably the best place to stay in touch would be just to go to the income school, YouTube channel. Obviously can go check out income, school.com. We are starting to put more content up on the site all the time.

We’ve been very focused on YouTube and you can find us there. There is a contact form where you can reach out to me directly on that website. But really if you, if you just go follow us on the income school, YouTube channel that’s where you’re going to get the best and most up-to-date stuff from us.

Spencer Haws: Ricky, thanks again so much for coming on the niche pursuits podcast. It’s been a pleasure having you on here and about your big announcement and everything going on with income school and just the whole story and strategies that you shared. So thanks so much. Thank you, Spencer.