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Digital Strategist Robbie Richards Talks Goals and Work Life Balance

Victoria Galperina
Digital Strategist Robbie Richards Talks Goals and Work Life Balance

We are very happy to share with you an interview with Robbie Richards, a brilliant digital strategist, a blogger and an affiliate in our BeRush Affiliate Program. Keep reading to find great blogging and affiliate marketing tips and tricks.

Victoria Galperina: To start off, please tell our blog readers, who might not know you, a bit about yourself.

Robbie Richards: Here's the 10,000 foot view :)

Born in Sydney Australia. Moved to the USA in 2006 to play college golf at Boise State University. Got to travel the country and play golf in some pretty special places. This is the golf team in Hawaii in 2008:

Golf team in Hawaii

During college I interned for 6 months at a large ad agency called Wirestone. After I graduated in 2011 they offered me a full-time job and for the next 18 months I worked on some exciting projects for several Fortune 500 companies. Great experience that made me pursue a career in online marketing.

Shortly after that stint I married my wife Jessica back home in Australia. This is us at the top of the Sydney Harbor bridge:

Robbie Richards Sydney

After Wirestone I started working at Royal Jay as a digital marketing strategist. This has been a fantastic learning experience, building and executing a range of online marketing campaigns for small, medium and enterprise level companies across many different industries, including real estate, healthcare, marine electronics, IT, non-profit behavioral health and more.

But, the main reason I'm here chatting with you all today is because of the online marketing blog I started 18 months ago. It is a place where I share super in-depth tutorials and case studies related to SEO, email marketing and traffic generation.

The blog has grown to over 20,000 monthly visits, 7,700 subscribers (now growing at 700+ a month) and is beginning to generate a nice stream of affiliate revenue (more on that later).

VG: What does your typical day look like?

RR: I'll typically get up around 6 a.m. and work on my blog for an hour or so, wake the little guy up and get him off to school, then head into work around 8:20 a.m.

I'll work at Royal Jay till around 6pm. After dinner I'll head to the gym and hang out with family until about 9:30. I'll squeeze in another hour or so on the blog in the evenings.

Saturday I try to leave open for family activities. Here is a pick of Sylas and I snowboarding in Boise over Christmas break:

Robbie and Sylas

On Sunday I'll try to get up early and work for 4-5 hours on the blog.

That's a typical week for me.

VG: How does affiliate marketing fit into your overall business strategy?

RR: Affiliate marketing has allowed me to generate a nice passive side revenue stream. I have monthly goals in place for each affiliate account designed to help me reach my overarching year-end revenue goal.

For example, I have a goal to net five new affiliate accounts for SEMrush over the next 12 months.  

As a result, a lot of the content, campaigns and email automation I am building out are positioned to meet those goals. For example, this giveaway generated 34 new trial sign ups in 30 days, which eventually turned into a spike in new affiliate accounts.

VG: Can you name one or several things that you have done in the past that made a lasting positive effect on your affiliate earnings?

RR: Three things have worked really for monetizing affiliate products over the last 12 months:

1. Target commercial intent keywords and validate with expert opinion.

A great way to do this is build expert roundup posts targeting keywords with commercial modifiers such as "best." For example, this expert roundup asked 58 online marketing experts to list their top keyword research tools. I knew that a few of the tools I use (and am an affiliate for) would at least get a mention. In fact, SEMrush was actually rated the #1 tool.

Robbie's Resource List

This post now ranks #1 in Google for a number of "keyword research" related search terms bringing in a steady flow of qualified organic traffic each day. Now, notice how I mentioned "qualified?" This goes back to the point about targeting mid-bottom funnel keywords. Anyone typing in "best keyword research tool" is in the consideration phase of the buyer journey and actively weighing options before making a final purchase decision.


The social proof from the expert roundup might give them the final nudge they need. Which brings me to the next point.

Once you have a post ranking for a mid-bottom funnel keyword that has commercial intent, and you have expert social proof, the final step is to make the referral (and get your commission).

I use a couple different tactics for this. First, I offer my SEMrush playbook. Basically, it's this monster SEMrush review turned into an e-book which contains affiliate links. I also provide an exclusive 30 day free trial so people can implement the strategies showcased in the book and decide risk-free if the tool is for them. Finally, I add short video tutorials promoting the tool off the back end of the ebook through my email autoresponder.

2. Write in-depth affiliate product reviews like this one.

They key is to not only highlight the features, but make it actionable and show proof of the results you've achieved with product/service. Offer a content upgrade to segment your subscriber base and re-market the tool in your autoresponder.

3. Promote affiliate products in a giveaway.

This is not only a great way to generate traffic and quickly grow your email list, it can drive a lot of affiliate sales. The key here is to offer a trial or discount to all contestants in the days following the end of the giveaway. This works well because you know anyone who entered the giveaway is interested in the product/ service enough to hand out there email, so maybe all they need is a free trial or small discount to push them to purchase.

4. Use smart links to re-promote affiliate products to relevant email list segments.

This is a feature of Thrive Leads (the tool I use to build my email list). Essentially, you can create custom links that you embed in your autoresponder emails. When a subscriber clicks through to your site, instead of showing them the same lead magnet in your opt-in form (this is redundant because you already have their email) you can customize the form to promote an affiliate product.

For example:

This is what non-subscribers see when they visit my list building tutorial:

List building tutorial

Whereas this is what subscribers see when they click through to the same post from my autoresponder:

Email list growth

Click the button and you're taken to the Thrive Themes sales page. A relevant offer, but now the focus shifts to monetization :) Very powerful!

VG: What can you advise bloggers who are just starting out regarding what to focus on? What is the absolute must-have for any successful website or blog?

RR: There are a lot of things I'd recommend. But, here are the biggies:

  1. Identify your target audience.
  2. Analyze existing competition and assess market potential.
  3. Figure out exactly how you're going to monetize traffic and subscribers.
  4. Focus on building an email list from day one.
  5. Set very specific measurable goals.
  6. START. Don't get weighed down too much by keyword research, competitor analysis and other tasks. Just dive in and get started. You'll make mistakes, but just learn as you go. I made the mistake of buying a domain and waiting four months before I published a single post.

Notice how I mentioned "figure out monetization" before posting content or collecting subscribers? This is HUGE. You need to have a solid monetization strategy in place. You can have thousands of visitors and subscribers, but without this piece in place you'll struggle to make a penny. Trust me, I know from experience.

VG: What impact did blogging have on your business? Did it open up any  great opportunities for you? Did you receive anything cool from it?

RR: Blogging has been one the best things I could have ever done. Aside from the extra income, I've learned a ton and made personal connections with some of the most respected people in my industry. This is priceless!

Here is a picture of me and Ryan Deiss from Digital Marketer:

Ryan Deiss and Robbie Richards

Epic beard, I know :)

I've received job offers, acquired new clients, been given free access to incredible tools and technology. I have recently received offers to speak at conferences and get interviewed on some pretty high-profile podcasts.

VG: What affiliate networks or programs do you use and how do you select them?

RR: The main one I use right now is ClickBank.

I'm actually extremely selective about the tools I promote as an affiliate. I generally won't promote a product unless I use it and get a tremendous amount of value from it.

That said, I am looking at some other networks such as Amazon right now.

VG: What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself and your business in the next year or two?

RR: I have set a goal to triple the size of my blog in 2016.

I'll be focusing on scaling content production and more aggressively promoting affiliate products.

Here are a few of the strategies I'll be implementing and testing:

  1. Recruit a small handful of guest bloggers to 2-3x the blogs content output.
  2. Building out email automation funnels – more short tutorials promoting affiliate products to relevant segments of my list.
  3. Three step affiliate sales funnel ( content upgrade --> Thank you page redirect to tripwire sales page (small $9 video course) --> Upsell into affiliate membership site).
  4. Expand affiliate products and write more review-based content to rank for and promote the products.
  5. Produce more expert roundup posts validating products.
  6. Promote affiliate products more aggressively to my email list (but always be adding value).
  7. Launch three giveaways to build segmented lists and promote affiliate products.
  8. Create a "Hire Me" page that is synced with my Royal Jay email (grow client base).

I'd also love to speak at a big conference.

Thank you for sharing your expertise with us, Robbie!

If you got inspired by this post and also want to become successful in affiliate marketing, join our affiliate program. We offer 40% recurring commission from any SEMrush subscription sales that come through your reference link and an unprecedented 10 years of cookie life. So get on board and start earning with us!

Do you have any questions for Robbie? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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Victoria is the Head of Affiliate Marketing at SEMrush
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