Hear Matt Diggity’s Origin Story

In this season opener, I sit down with Matt Diggity and we chat about how he found himself in the SEO space.

“There’s nothing that I learned in engineering that’s useful anywhere in real life. I mean, what’s useful about knowing equations about things you can’t even see with your eye, electrons and stuff?”

Matt Diggity, Make SEO Simple Again S01E01

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Full Transcript

Host: Hello everyone. My name is Daniel K. Cheung, and I am the host of Make SEO Simple Again, where ironically we do not really talk about the SEO itself, but dive into the personal stories of people who work within the digital marketing field. In this episode, I sit down with Matt Diggity, founder of Diggity Marketing and Authority Builders. He’s also the name behind Chiang Mai SEO Conference, and has a marketing agency called Lead Spring, and is completely dedicated at building, monetizing, and flipping websites. But that’s not all, and I’ll let Matt list all the things that he does because the list is quite long. I asked Matt for his origin story of how he was an electrical engineer and achieved what most of us would desire as an annual salary, to give it all up with digital marketing. There are some big nuggets in this episode and I won’t spoil them for you. But did you know that when a friend first gifted Matt with Tim Ferris’s book ‘Four Hour Work Week’, he threw it in the garbage. To hear Matt Diggity’s story and more keep on listening. Oh and one last thing, there may be a few naughty words here and there. So if the kids are about, you may want to listen to this in private. Welcome to the podcast, Matt.

Matt Diggity: Thanks a lot, thanks for having me.

Host: Thanks for flying all the way out to Sydney.

Matt Diggity: Ah, it’s not that bad. Thailand’s just around the corner. I’ve always needed an excuse to come to Australia.

Host: Nice. And I’m sad to say that it hasn’t put on the best weather for you, but I hope you have at least a day or two to soak it all in.

Matt Diggity: Yeah. That’s what tonight and tomorrow are for. I got to do the basic rounds. Like what do I need to see?

Host: The opera house, the bridge, the beach. Bondi possibly.

Matt Diggity: Okay, I’ll do what I can.

Host: Take the new multimillion dollar light rail. It’s taken like six years to build.

Matt Diggity: Okay. I’m on it.

Host: Sweet. So for those who don’t know who Matt Diggity is, given like in a nutshell, who are you and what do you do?

Matt Diggity: So, I’m completely embedded and immersed into search engine optimization. SEO. I have a few companies, first we would say the umbrella brand, Diggity Marketing is basically houses my blog, and then we do some other things underneath that, like the Chiang Mai SEO Conference. It’s a annual conference we have in Chiang Mai and I do consulting under there as well. Beyond that, I have a marketing agency called Lead Spring. It’s basically in a affiliate agency, media group, whatever you want to call it, completely dedicated to building, ranking, monetizing, and flipping affiliate website. And beyond that I’ve an agency called the Search Initiative. I have a back link outreach service called Authority Builders and I think that’s, that’s it.

Host: You’re a busy man.

Matt Diggity: Yeah, it’s busy. It’s just trying to cover all the bases with SEO. I love it. I love it. Absolutely.

Host: Okay. And for those of us who don’t know what affiliate marketing is or what affiliate site is, what exactly is that?

Matt Diggity: Affiliate marketing. It doesn’t need to be done through SEO. There’s many different channels you can do affiliate with. But basically what you would do is you would get traffic to your website, you would recommend a product, and then if someone clicks on your link to that product and purchases it, you get a cut. It’s kind of like being like a marketer or like a salesperson for a particular product. There’s benefits to it, right? So if you want to recommend a particular software for solving a problem, or you want to recommend a coffee machine that you like, you don’t have to go out and build the coffee machine. You don’t have to build that software. You just recommend the thing. And then you’re going to take a portion of the cuts, sometimes five, sometimes 15, sometimes all the way up to 50%. So there’s pros and cons. I mean the great thing about why I got addicted to it and attached to it is because passive income and, you know, there’s the ability to make money 24 7, like even when you’re sleeping.

Host: Fantastic. So touching on that, I want to dive into, I guess your origin story, for lack of a better word. How did you get started in it? And maybe the more important question is why are you still so heavily invested in it? What keeps you going?

Matt Diggity: All right, let’s start with the first part. So before I was ever doing affiliate marketing, SEO, anything like that, I was an engineer in the Silicon Valley. And I studied electrical engineering, got the Bachelor’s degree, and then started working out in the field. And then I just noticed, okay, well let’s look around the office. Let’s see the peers, the best, the top dogs in this building all have Master’s degrees. Okay, I’ve got to go back to school and get this Master’s degree if I want to get ahead in life. I mean, this is the only evidence I had of how to make money. It’s just like degree, work, climb. And so I went back for the Master’s degree and then came back, joined the field, and got some good promotions. I mean, so to speak within the industry, like got doing what I wanted to do. Like I was doing marketing slash sales, slash technical support, for a software company that was used to design microchips and stuff like that. And even though that was the best I could find in that field, it still drained my soul. Like it was just completely just boring work. Not interesting, barely like any kind of human interaction and grueling. So 60 hour weeks were a good week. Just being indoors all day in the or little cubicle like office, no windows. It’s like, that’s typical. And just thinking to myself, right? Like, all right, I’m climbing this ladder, I’m getting paid more. I’m earning six figures a year.

People should be jealous of this income, but I don’t even have time to spend it. Right. And I was never a very good American in the sense that I’m not that big of a consumerist. I didn’t have those things that could make me feel better about the grind that I’m putting in. I never went out and bought a Benz to coat my sadness or anything like that. So, eventually just started breaking. A buddy of mine handed me the Four Hour Work Week and I threw it away, like literally threw it away. I was so insulted by the title, really, Four Hour Work Week? I’m working 60 hours and I still don’t have anything that I want. Right. But eventually I ended up picking it up again. Bought it myself, read through it, and it was just kind of like eye opening. It was like, there’s different modalities to making money on your own time and with freedom of time with freedom of location. I got to try this out. And then eventually quit the job and started my first experiments with different things.

Host: And how long ago was this?

Matt Diggity: I would say this is about in 2009.

Host: And between the first time your friend gave you the copy of Four Hour Work Week, and the time that you picked it up again, had a lot of time passed? And what experiences shaped you to want to revisit it?

Matt Diggity: I took some time off the job and started traveling. I instantly saw when I did some long-term traveling, I’m talking about like three, three weeks at least. And sometimes up to two months is like I really tasted again. Like, what are the spices life that actually are fulfilling? And traveling was my thing for me. So then Four Hour Work Week goes a lot along with traveling and stuff like that. So, ended up picking it up again. And especially as soon as I got back home and got back to the grind, I was like, Oh my God, now I really can’t do this anymore. And so yeah, I picked up the Four Hour Work Week and then just the first modality of making money online I ever did was affiliate marketing via SEO. Just struck a cord right away and I loved it.

Host: Okay. In terms of SEO, how did you learn it all? Because from your engineering background, SEO is not exactly the same thing.

Matt Diggity: Very true. There’s nothing that I learned in engineering that’s useful anywhere in real life. I mean, what’s useful about knowing equations about things you can’t even see with your eye, electrons and stuff? So, sorry, electrical engineers, whoever’s listening to this. But yeah, there was nothing conceptually that helped me. But engineering a lot of the time is about like black box, right? I don’t know how the inner workings of this work, I’ll all apply a stimulus and look at the output and try to figure out what happened in the middle, which is the crux of good SEOs. Good SEOs operate that way. So in some kind of sense, I did have an advantage because of that background, but how I learned actual SEO techniques and best practices and stuff like that. There is a course called the 30 Day Challenge, run by this marketer named Ed Dale, which I believe is from Australia. This course was brilliant, back in the day you would up email opt in, and every day that they’re going to email you a different lesson in the chain of setting up a website and getting it ranked on Google.

Day one, register your domain, here’s where you go, Go Daddy, whatever. They got a commission on that. Brilliant. Day number two, you sign up for hosting. Here’s Host Gator if it’s a 30 day free trial, but after that kicks in, they get a commission for that. Brilliant. Win-win though. Like I definitely got some wins out of it and so did they, but eventually go through day 30 and you’re building back links and then the goal by the end of day 30 is you would have made the dollar on line. And I did. And so maybe that’s why I stuck with it.

Host: Wow. And I guess your advanced understanding of SEO and the practice of it, how did you actually gain that?

Matt Diggity: 90% doing and experimenting and testing, and I would say probably 10% networking. There’s a certain point in the beginning, intermediate stages like reading blogs and stuff like that which can give a lot of good foundational understanding, but at a certain point like the common knowledge that’s there online is it’s only going to take you so far. You’ve got to really get dirty with things. You’ve got to experiment. And then I find a lot of great sources of knowledge these days from going to conferences, like the one I’m at right now with you. And especially in Master Money. Master Money has been incredible for me.

Host: Like I love how there is a theory and then, but what you really push is the testing. Doing it yourself and finding an answer for yourself, and I know myself as a learning SEO or marketer, we tend to always want to default to, Oh, what’s the right answer? What’s the correct answer? And from formal education it’s kind of beaten into you. There’s a correct answer to everything, but when it comes to anything marketing or any human behavior, there’s probably a million ways to achieve the same thing. But given the right context, there’s probably one preferred way to get there. How do you approach your experimentation or testing stuff?

Matt Diggity: Most of the time it’s single variable testing. So, there’s right and wrong ways to deal with SEO, I mean in a ideal situation, if you think back to high school science, you got your control and you’ve got your experiment. Everything in the control you leave as normal. Everything in the experiment you tweak one variable and then you’re looking at the outcome and trying to see which one did better. Right? The thing with SEO, a lot of people get this wrong is they have control group of a small size. There’s so much random going on in SEO all the time. You could just have backwards answers just because your sample size wasn’t big enough. So the best thing you can do is have large control groups, large experimental groups, and then you look at the average result of all these things in order to come to conclusion. But yeah, it’s mostly single variable testing.

Host: So I want to shift gears now from talking about SEO marketing into more about Matt Diggity. And I guess the first question is what drives you?

Matt Diggity: Well, there’s, I would say there’s two aspects to it. One is, one’s going to make a lot of sense and one is going to sound cheesy, but the cheesy ones actually holds more weight. The thing I really like about SEO is just, it’s like video gaming. It’s like a leaderboard. Literally the leaderboard is on the first page of Google and you get addicted to these graphs and there’s a dopamine hit that comes along with doing well in Google search results and getting results with a consistent process. Like I’m huge into gaming back in the day, World of Warcraft and all these kinds of things. And there was always a competition aspect that got me into it. So I feel like I’m still gaming these days with Google and it’s fun. It’s straight up addicting. The second part about it is right now I’m super geeking out on, and enjoying and being completely fulfilled by building teams and bringing other people along with me on the journey. So I have quite a few businesses that were listed off earlier, and I’m very proud, protective and all of the above positive adjectives about these teams and the culture that we’re building. I think it’s much more rewarding to give freedom and success to other people than it is even to yourself.

Host: So true. And how did you learn how to build a team?

Matt Diggity: This is so new. Like, I was terrible about this like a year and a half ago. Little bit of trial and error, but honestly it’s completely hockey stick and turning the corner when I just took some proactivity and got a little bit of training. So, read some good books. So I mean E-Myth is like standard, you got to read the E-Myth and some, some are just escaping my mind right now. But one thing that’s really been a game changer for me is I got a consultation with this guy, Matt Singers. He’s a management consultant, but he works a lot with agencies and SEOs, so he knows, he knows our triggers, he knows what issues we have. So sat down for a weekend with all my department heads and senior managers, stuff like that, and just worked on management theory. Okay, you’re not supposed to assign tasks. You’re supposed to assign responsibility, and you’re just supposed to let the other person figure it out and take ownership of the other tasks. Don’t tell them how to do everything because they won’t take pride and they also won’t have any, it won’t be their fault.

You told them what to do. They did it and didn’t work. Right. So just things like that, which are no brainers but it’s just like, not for me. Like I don’t have any experience with that. So that’s really helped. And then in the last year getting really serious about hiring. Like we have an A player only policy now. So like really if you don’t reek of excellence in the interview process we’re not going to bring you on. And that’s been propelling in terms of the growth, and actually really, really good in terms of company culture, knowing that everyone I’m communicating with is freaking an ACE. Like you don’t have to worry about following up on people. You get to have that pride of being a part of an elite team and stuff like that. So those two things like management science and then finally like working on A player teams, it’s been really a game changer for me.

Host: Great. How does an interviewee demonstrate excellence?

Matt Diggity: Man, I don’t want to say this because you’ll just like hack my interviews.

Host: In vague term, for example ..

Matt Diggity: Dude, I don’t even know. I think it really, because like there’s a book called, Who the A method for Hiring. And once I read that I was like, Oh my God, there’s just logical steps for all these questions that you need to ask. And like there’s ways to ask the question to make sure you’re going to find out all the dirt. So like for example, I could, I could say like, the last job you worked at, who was your manager’s name and how do you spell that? They’d say, well, John Smith, J O H N S M I T H. and I would say, well, what would he rate you on a scale of one to 10 when I follow up with him later? So you’ve got to answer correctly. You have to say the truth. So, genuinely, like most of the time, anyone who says like seven or below, like it was probably a four, right? So that’s like just a filtering step that took seconds, right? This book is full of that. There’s a couple other books that have been great for hiring, but in terms of what the interviewee can do is just not have sucked in the past. I mean, there’s no hacks to it. The process will clear it out.

Host: It’s got to be the best. Which reminds me of when I did apply for a role that you released last year. I must’ve been too honest and put a seven, now it all makes sense. Why didn’t Matt get back to me? Now I understand.

Matt Diggity: Here’s another hack. Like, okay, so people are hiring writers all the time, right? Especially an SEO. Like have an online form that says like, okay, what’s your English level on a scale of one to ten? Seven or higher is required for the job. You’re not going to take the sevens. It’s content writing. You’re going to take the ten. So then it opens people up to answer honestly and then you just get the tens.

Host: Cool. So as a guy who has many things to juggle, how do you keep sane?

Matt Diggity: It all comes down to management too, sort of like I’m not assigning tasks, it’s responsibilities and finding the key people to take ownership of things. Really moving into, you know, like when I’ve taken an A player approach, it’s like, it’s also ROI too, yeah, A players are more expensive, but the more money I can spend on A players, more money comes into the company. So it’s getting easier over time. That said, we’re doing a lot of work, we’re doing more work, but it’s getting easier.

Host: And what supports have you added to give yourself this ability to get the best and turn out the best work as possible?

Matt Diggity: What supports in the sense like?

Host: People, team, your daily habits, anything? Is it a mindfulness technique or do you subscribe to a certain way of prioritizing things in the morning and not looking at your phone?

Matt Diggity: So here’s an interesting process. Once a quarter, what I’ll do is I’ll get out a notepad and for two weeks I’m going to write down every single minute what I do, what I’m doing. So if I wake up and I start emailing from 8:03 to 8:07, I write down emailing. And I even write down what business that was regarding. And then I don’t know, later I get on Facebook. I did that for 10 minutes, and so eventually after two weeks I have a full snapshot of what it looks like per week on a per week basis. I do two weeks because they take the average of it, but I see, okay, I just spent three hours Facebooking per week, I spent two hours doing email marketing or like get a complete breakdown like this. From that, I can see, okay, how much did I work? I worked 40 hour weeks. How much did I make in a week? I made X amount of money. Now I can see what’s my worth per hour. I made that much money per week divided by 40 hours.

So that’s my value per hour. Let’s say a thousand bucks. Now each one of those tasks that I can outsource for less than a thousand bucks, they’re gone next time. Never doing it again. And so it’s like, I’m not that insightful or ominous or omnipotent to the sense of where I know really what’s going on at the time. But this process, get it all on paper and really just, it’s a slap in the face too. Like I really spent all that time doing just bullshit. Right.

Host: I’m going to copy that. That’s, that’s brilliant. I think I’ll be horrified at the time I spend doing things, certain things.

Matt Diggity: It’s terrifying. It sucks.

Host: I mean, how did you get that idea to do something like that?

Matt Diggity: I don’t know. But it’s talked about before. I think there’s like a book about it or something. Yeah, it’s a process that other people do as well.

Host: Great. And how long have you been doing that?

Matt Diggity: For about five years, something like that.

Host: Wow. Wow. And you’ve probably seen a great shift in how you do spend your time, because of that practice.

Matt Diggity: Yeah, for sure. Also, I’ve taught this to a few people and some people just take that process and do it full time, like always track what they’re doing because it keeps you in line. Like you know this is going to be looked at later. So I was like, okay, should I get on Facebook or YouTube? I’m going to be tracking that. So you opt not to. So it kind of helps keep people in line.

Host: Cool. Last random question Matt, what do you do for fun?

Matt Diggity: For fun? So travel, mostly travel. So like, yeah, I’m married. Me and my wife, I like to travel a lot, go to Europe, Asia, good Launchpad for Thailand to go to different countries in Asia. And then the next month I’m expecting my first. So.

Host: Wow.

Matt Diggity: That’ll probably be a lot of fun.

Host: Big Shoes.

Matt Diggity: Yeah.

Host: Exotic slash horrifying, slash terrifying.

Matt Diggity: All of the above.

Host: Well I wish you all the best and congratulations.

Matt Diggity: Thank you.

Host: And thank you for your time.

Matt Diggity: It’s been a pleasure. Cheers man.

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