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Oct 27, 2006
Case Study

How Two SEO Experts Launched a Paid Sub Site With No Advertising

SUMMARY: Want to launch a paid subscription site but don’t want to spend a dime on advertising?

Discover how one startup generated seven figures in subscription income in just one month using:
-> Valuable content as a teaser, not just another pitch
-> A network of affiliate partners to send email announcements to their opt-in bases
-> Open-source code so others could pirate the content if they wanted

Plus, how to add a viral aspect so the blogosphere goes wild over what you’re doing.
A monthlong campaign using no paid advertising to generate paid subscriptions for an online training course is a tall order. Especially when the topic is search engine optimization and Web site conversion.

Sure, the company came armed with the strong expert recognition of founders Brad Fallon ( and Andy Jenkins (A Squared Artifacts Inc.). Their 10-CD "Stomping The Search Engine" series and remote elearning "The Apprentice Program” also bolstered their efforts.

But with so many get-rich-quick and Web-marketing-from-home players to compete against, how did they rise above everyone else’s big-sounding promises?

Using a steady stream of free but very valuable content, Fallon and Jenkins’ team followed seven strategies to build the buzz:

Strategy #1. Create a three-part free video series

A free video series on search engine optimization called “Going Natural” was the key driver for them.

The first video, “How I Went From Zero to $16,000 a Day in Sales,” was released in early September. They followed this with two more installments. With each video release, their pre-built network of 10 affiliate partners sent emails to their own opt-in bases to let readers know of the free offer.

Word about the videos spread throughout the blogosphere to prospects as well as other affiliates who were interested in the potential commissions.

Strategy #2. Give away seriously valuable content, not ‘guru mentality’ hype

Next, they wrote a sales letter on the site with the headline, “This Space Left Intentionally Blank,” as a way to suggest that the 12-month program was not merely another get-rich pitch (see creative sample below). The letter evenincluded audio testimonials from previous clients.

“We didn’t want to get grouped into the ‘guru mentality’ or the ‘here’s the software you use to make money shoot out of your computer’ line of thinking,” Jenkins says. “These weren’t infomercials or teasers. This was serious content you’d usually have to pay to get. For instance, we got into topics like latent semantics analysis as a mechanism for optimizing on-page factors.”

Fallon and Jenkins also appeared in the videos to help authenticate the offer. As just one example, they showed actual metrics involving traffic and sales to personalize the offer.

Strategy #3. Don’t require email registration

The team decided against requiring viewers to provide an email address or any other personal information in order to watch to the presentation. However, viewers could sign up if they wanted to be notified of the next video in the series.

“It was actually kind of controversial with some of our partners because they wondered how you could give away this content without at least acquiring an email address,” Fallon explains. “But on the other hand, this made it easy on the affiliates because they could say, ‘Hey, I don’t know how long it’s going to be up, but there’s some really great free content that you should check out while it’s there. You don’t even have to opt in.’ ”

Strategy #4. Limit participation to raise interest

The team then informed their audience before the launch that a limited number of seats would be available in the program. As a buzz builder, they also kept mum on the price of the program until the day before signup began. They created an early notification email list for people who wanted to make sure they got a seat.

Strategy #5. Use Open-Source Code to Aid Viral Aspect

Both the three-part “Going Natural” and case study videos were repurposed across the Internet at marketing blogs, Google Video and YouTube, among other destinations. By using an open-source technology to run the videos, they didn’t do anything to discourage the pirating.

Strategy #6. Bring in third-party case studies/testimonials

The team made dozens of case study videos with third-party narrators available at

“The case studies were important because it wasn’t just like a testimonial – these people were being interviewed in-depth for 20 to 40 minutes,” Fallon says. “They were showing their real sites, telling their story – what worked, what didn’t work – and then showing their search results.”

Strategy #7. Turn Feedback Into Marketing

From day one, Fallon and Jenkins’ team surveyed buyers on the back end to determine demographics and other data to help with renewal/loyalty marketing. This was crucial because most subscription marketers make the mistake of not capitalizing on this moment when customers are most involved and, therefore, most likely to tell about themselves.

But they began learning about their audience even before that. Video watchers who opted in were sent to a landing page at that was tied to the company’s “Ask” database system, which allowed them to submit questions about anything emarketing-related. The team ran a query against all of the entries to find the most used keywords to decipher what were the most pertinent questions.

The questions and their detailed answers were compiled and made available to their blog audience. Affiliates also emailed their lists about the opportunity to see the Q&A for free – once again, without any opt-in requirement.


Limiting the number of seats in the program, a strategy often used by print publications, worked like a charm: the 1,000 spots available for the 12-month program sold out in 11 1/2 hours. 10% of the total membership signed up for the full year program.

By the time of the launch, 430,000-plus unique visitors had viewed the 30-minute videos, 40% of whom opted to join StomperNet’s database. They estimate that 18% of the overall campaign traffic came from other blogs, Google Video, YouTube and such.

“We were fully aware that we were giving away information that could have easily been resold for a few hundred dollars,” Jenkins notes. “We wanted people to pirate from us. That’s part of the reason we made the content as strong as we could. If they were like infomercials or a thinly veiled sales pitch, they would have dropped off the planet.”

Traffic peaked the day before launch with the release of the $797-per-month price point.

Once they actually opened the gate to accept subscribers, StomperNet thought five servers would be enough to sustain their shopping cart flow. They were happily proven wrong. However, the day the program went live, a whoops occurred: 218 subscribers accidentally bought multiple packages while getting stuck between page refreshes.

“I don’t know how many companies refund six figures in a day, but that was the position we found ourselves in,” Jenkins says.

Useful links related to this article:

Creative samples from StomperNet’s campaign:

Brad Fallon’s MyWeddingFavors site:

StomperNet’s blog:


See Also:

Comments about this Case Study

Oct 30, 2006 - steve wa of wa tech says:
My number one suspicion, if these guys have already made so much money, why are they taking the time to sell and teach a course to other people? why aren't they just kicking back on a beach somewhere, or keeping all the knowledge for themselves and charging people money to do it for them? at least their sales letters (as shown in the samples) and not 14 pages long, like most of the garbage is... I liked that part.

Nov 05, 2006 - Brad Fallon of says:
Steve, LOL, we make most of our money actually running ecommerce businesses. I don't know when the sitting on the beach part starts. I hope soon. :-) Thanks for the comment, Brad Fallon

Nov 05, 2006 - Matt Haslem of GoogleSuccess says:
Well steve, I think that they got to a point in which they were hitting there limits. They were ranking well for both their teir 1 & 2 keywords, increased conversion through testing. Their's only so much you can do... Maswell share their knowledge & make some more cash on the way. I think what they've done is great, nice work boys. Of course we all now have wedding favor stores (only jking brad! there's a few in my street who don't have one)

Nov 09, 2006 - Yaro of says:
I think the whole sitting by the beach scenario is a bit silly. Yes people like the beach, rich people too - for holidays and so forth - but ultimately humans want challenges, to be creative and to interact with other humans and feel like they are giving value. That's why I believe Andy and Brad do what they do. Yes for the money too, they wouldn't do it without the money, but there is more motivation and perhaps the e-commerce stores were not providing why they wanted outside of a big income. Yaro

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