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The sixth podcast episode is now live on iTunes. In this podcast episode I speak with Sujeet Patel who runs a massive network of sports related blogs. His blog network is comprised of over 50+ blogs!

On this podcast Sujeet talks about how he first got started in this business by browsing various internet marketing forums such as Digital Point and Sitepoint and quickly began building various websites. Since that early time of trial and error while building websites he ultimately helped to build up a massive network of more than 50 blogs in the sports niche.

He offers some great advice for those of you looking to build an internet business with a focus on creating and managing dozens of web properties. I hope you enjoy it!

Items Discussed In This Episode:

Steelers Gab
Commission Junction
Text Link Ads
Slam Dunk Central
NFL Gridiron Gab
Let�s Talk Wrestling

How To Get The Podcast:

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or via RSS to get future episodes automatically

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When you’re done listening please leave me an honest rating or review on iTunes – I really appreciate it and it helps to get more people to listen to the podcast.


Intro: Welcome to the MakeMoneyOntheInternet.com podcast where you learn tips and strategies from the pros on how to build your own online business. Now, here is your host
Chris Guthrie!

Chris: Hello everybody Chris Guthrie here and I�m very excited to have Sujeet Patel on the podcast who I met back in June he contacted me for some advice on his network of sports websites. Welcome to the show!

Sujeet: Hey Chris, good to be here.

Chris: I know you run a network of sports websites and before we really get into that kind of the challenges of running a huge network of sites I�m just kind of curious who did you actually get started making money online in the first place?

Sujeet: Wow. Well, that probably goes back to 2003/2004, I flirted around the DigitalPoint forum, SitePoint, sites like that and I just started playing with websites trying to figure out, you know, how do I get people to them, how do I monetize them. Prior my first foray into that was Commission Junction things of that nature. And I wasn�t making huge money but it was kind of opening my eyes to how the internet had changed since the last 90s when I was involved with it before.

Chris: Okay. And so, are any of those sites that you start way back then, are they still in your possession or do � or were kind of more just tests and you don�t really use them anymore now?

Sujeet: Yeah, for the most parts they were just sites that I started when I had no idea what I was doing. I started a site actually they are focused on a new model of Porsche that was coming out and it was really successful until I got a cease and desist order from Porsche North America. They are very protective of their brand but it was a cool experiment kind of got me involved in the automotive affiliate niche and you know, back then I was using DreamWeaver. We didn�t have things like WordPress like we do today or if they were they were in really early stages and I wasn�t aware of them. So I chalked it up to a learning experience and you know went from there.

Chris: Okay. Actually that�s kind of curious because that kind of brings up another point. I talk to people all the time when they�re asking for advice on what type of websites they should build and whether or not to use company names. So for this Porsche website did you have Porsche in the domain name or what was it that caused you to get the cease and desist specifically, did they mention that or�

Sujeet: Yeah, they actually had about 9 or 10 different points that they brought up. They didn�t like the name Porsche in the title, they didn�t like the name Boxster in the title; they didn�t like the fact that I had a silhouette of a Boxster which I guess they even have copyrighted the image and silhouette of the car. They are really protective with their trademark and I know they�d, at the time, they had gone after about 70 different sites that had any sort of connection to Porsche whether or not it was you know, in a good or a bad way. In our side it was really we were promoting the new model that was coming out, giving a lot of information and even getting some insider information from actual Porsche engineers over in Germany. So it wasn�t like we were trying to do anything detrimental to their brands but you know sometimes you can�t argue with a company that size. They just � they�ve got their mindset on how they want to control the flow of information and everything and you know, I didn�t want to get into a legal battle over a site that was basically just a hobby site making a couple of bucks here and there.

Chris: Yeah, yeah. I was going to say it�s interesting I guess when you deal with these larger companies that you could be talking to one team of people and they are all [agog] and excited to share their information about their product, in this case a car and then the other side, legal side which is kind of not talking to the other group that are out there, taking all the sides down that they�ve been in talk to, so.

Sujeet: Absolutely.

Chris: So I mean would you, in the future, when you�re writing these types – if you�re trying to advise someone would you generally recommend not to use a company name in a domain name then or would you � what do you think? I supposed that almost kind of moves into the next thing talking about your sports network. I mean if you ever get any problems with your sports network of websites using team names?

Sujeet: No, we�ve actually been really careful with how we named everything and I think that that early experience taught me what not to do which is to not really encroach on any sort of trademark name and I think most of the team names if you look at them are fairly general terms that it would be hard for specific team to go after us for � but yeah, to any person out there that�s looking to create a new site save yourself a lot of headache because the last thing you want to do is, two years down the line after you built a brand, to have a company coming after you and saying you�ve got 30 days to change your name. All the back links, the SEO work, just the name recognition is all down the drain.

Chris: Yeah, definitely because I know in some other cases when they do a cease and desist they also require you to give them domain name as well. So it�s not like you can use the 301 redirect and just kind of hope the link juice can pass you know long enough but you know if they take the name then you�re definitely kind of in a world of [___].

Sujeet: Yeah, I mean and that�s exactly what happened with Porsche. They took the name and everything.

Chris: Yeah so then. So after this Porsche experience is that kind of what you eventually got into doing this sports network of sites? What made you think to build a network of websites? I know you have NFL Gridiron Gab and then 32 other individual team related sites as well.

Sujeet: Yeah I mean it was just kind of an organic thing. What happened was I was and still am to some degree in the ticket broker space. Back then I actually had an actually company where we sold concert tickets, sporting events and all that good stuff through our website for the most part. The concept of having a standalone building was getting kind of antiquated and there is a whole lot of overhead just doing it online. So what happened was I was advertising on a number of sport blogs just trying to you know build up our online presence, drive people to the site and everything else and I thought it would be an interesting idea to create a sports blog of our own since one of our staffers was involved in the sports media world for about 15 years in Cleveland market and I said hey, how about we start a site obviously keep it you know, under wraps because we don�t want to aggravate our you know ticket brokers that you have any idea that I�m actually involved with this, you know put up some good content and try to sell some advertising to some of these other guys and make a little cash on the side. We never really expected it to grow into the monster that it�s become today. We started with just three sites to start off with NFL Gridiron Gab which is our NFL site, Slam Dunk Central which was our NBA component and then a wrestling site called
Let�s Talk Wrestling and that was really started just because my business partner has been a WWE fanatic since he was a little kid and thought it�d be a thought outlet and there weren�t really a lot of sites out there serving that kind of demographic.

Chris: Okay. So, real quick though, what time were these sites started if we can�

Sujeet: Yeah, this was June 2006.

Chris: Okay.

Sujeet: And, what happened after that is I mean the NFL site just took off like no one ever expected and we started getting coverage in major mainstream publications USA Today, Sport Illustrated, ESPN, you know things of that nature. Really high level sports media companies that you know the who�s who of the business. So in �07 we thought well this is really cool, we got a decent amount of advertisers, we�ve kind of built up a name for ourselves in the industry but we�re serving a lot of different people under a single brand and wouldn�t it be better if we kind of broke that site down and offered you know tightened [___] a site just for themselves, an Eagles site just for those people that liked the Eagles and so on and so forth. And you know, the benefit to us is now we have 32 new sites where we can sell advertising on and that�s really how the team sites came into existence.

Chris: Interesting so then how � when you�re selling advertising how, who are you selling it to? Were you doing direct company relationships where you got into some type of a banner ad network and selling you know eCPM based banner ads or how did you first get those initial advertisers?

Sujeet: In the beginning, you know, I would just go to other blogs that were already selling advertising see who they were, who were they advertising on those sites and then I was just contacting those companies directly. In the beginning it was probably a mixture of ticket brokers, betting companies, handicappers because really that�s what sports blogs cater to, those type of audiences and we played with affiliate marketing that time but conversion rate were pretty much atrocious and we figured that space was better served by just more like Text Link Ads and stuff of that nature. So I would say probably for the first two years it was all direct sales that we were just soliciting people that we knew were already open with the idea of adverting online and it probably wasn�t until �08 or �09 that we actually approached an ad network to do CPM deal. Now we kind of do a mixture of both but with you know, Panda and everything else we�ve kind of moved more towards the CPM based ads and less focused on the Text Link Ads.

Chris: Yeah, yeah. I now understand the Text Link Ads are kind of getting more and more difficult to really run effectively whereas the banners ads are a lot less of concerned to Google when you do it that way. So that�s kind of � it�s interesting I mean that�s a great suggestion for anyone who�s listening that has a site that�s got some additional, or get some decent traffic and traction to just look at the other niches that are around you and other websites and just simply contact the existing advertisers. You know kind of hustle it that way to get your first advertisers. That�s great. At what point how much traffic did you have before you really contacted those advertisers, I mean, I know you said you started in 2006 was it pretty much right after you started or�

Sujeet: Yeah. I mean our first couple of ads I would say came within the first three or four months and you know, I�m kind of a big proponent of fake it till you make it model. If you�re putting out daily content and it looks good you can kind of imply a bigger organization than you might actually have and you know, I mean you�re honest if someone ask us what our traffic numbers are then, you know, we�ll be happy to give it to them. But especially back in those days people were a little more interested in your page ranks. So, if you had PR4 or 5 they assume that you know, you were good to go and it was going to help their search engine efforts so it really wasn�t as hard as one would think.

Chris: Okay. So I know then you mentioned you have these 32 sites how are you able to deal with managing this many websites and I know this is just a section, a chunk of your entire of sports websites so how do you deal with this many websites?

Sujeet: I mean I�m not going to lie it�s a daily struggle. You know you�re mentioning the 32 we�ve actually got 65 sites in total. But let�s go back to �07 when it really were only about you know, 35 sites or so and at the time it was me and my business and a handful of freelancers writing for us. So we had two real struggles. We had the how do we get content on a pretty regular basis on all these sites and then how do we manage it, both from the server standpoint, the administration, you know WordPress update, server patches things of that nature and you know, really, at the end of the day it just came down to a lot of careful planning and a lot of late nights and you know kind of building a structure such that we give a lot of people a lot of power to do their own things and we just kind of manage things from a higher level if we try to micro manage everything there wouldn�t be enough hours on the day.

Chris: Yeah, definitely. So I know you mentioned in total you have about 67 sites, that was the number right?

Sujeet: Yeah, it�s somewhere around that I think it�s like 65 the last time I checked.

Chris: Okay. So how many writers do you have across all these websites?

Sujeet: I mean writers come and go. I think right now we have probably somewhere around 30 writers and like I said they�re all pretty much freelancers. They have various forms of compensation but I would say nobody that�s writing for us is doing it for the money. They�re doing it because they love the sport. A lot of them are aspiring journalists that are looking for a way to get their name out there. And the blogosphere is just an amazing vehicle to do that for today�s aspiring journalists. You know, we have a couple of interesting stories, if you don�t mind.

Chris: Yeah, yeah. No, I�d love to hear some about the writers that have worked for you before.

Sujeet: Okay. One of our biggest success stories is our editor of our Pittsburgh Steeler site, Steelers Gab. I was actually approached by a fairly large publisher back in, I want to say it was late 2008, early 2009 and they were doing a series of books specifically catering to the sports fans. And, they pitched him an idea of doing this book A Hundred Things Every Steelers Fan Must See And Do Before They Die. And they loved the content that Matt was putting out and they said would you be interested in doing this book for us. Offered him an upfront advance, royalty [from] the back and basically gave him a six months deadline and you know, sort of asked to be this many words and cover these topics. So, he went along did a lot of research, wrote the book, publisher was thrilled with it and it�s just been a raging success. And this year especially with the Steelers making the Super Bowl the books were just flying off the shelves. And, I think, the last I heard it it�s in its second or third print already and he�s already blew away all expectations from the publisher and you know, he�s making quite a bit of money on it as well. So, you know, here�s an instance where he�s writing about the team because he loves them, I mean, the guys got a room dedicated to the Steelers in his house that I�ve actually seen firsthand and it�s pretty scary. But, I mean, you know he lives and dies by this thing and it just kind of shows you if you�re passionate about a topic good things can happen to you.

Chris: Nice. So, he�s obviously taken you know � just a good example of having a passion, you know, starting with writing for the site and then kind of using that voice on the website to kind of leverage it into something else, and did a whole book deal as well. Probably I�m assuming does he do that fulltime or does he also have a day job as well that he does?

Sujeet: At this point, he�s doing it fulltime. He was juggling some part-time jobs before but you know, he was a victim of downsizing at a radio station a while back so. This just kind of happened and happened at the right time.

Chris: Okay. And I know you said there is another interesting story you had with another writer that still work for you.

Sujeet: Most definitely. So I think everyone out there that doesn�t live under a rock knows who Jenn Sterger is. And, for those of you that don�t, you know, she was involved in a �sex scandal� with Brett Favre from the Minnesota Vikings. What most people don�t realize is Jenn actually worked for us for a little over a year back in 2006-2007 and at the time I had approached her because the only person, the only people that knew her knew her from her appearance on ESPN as, you know, some hottie that some cameramen zoomed in on during FSU game and what she was really trying to do was, you know, show that I�m not just a pretty face but I know sports. I love it and I want a vehicle to help me take my career to the next level. So we gave her that medium. We said here you go, we�re not going to give you a whole lot of parameters just write about what you want to, show people what you can do and let�s see what happens. And I mean it was a great experience for us because from the traffic standpoint, you know, pervs across the country are searching for Jenn Sterger and they�re stumbling across our site and then they�re actually seeing that, you know, she is a really talented writer. And she really knows what she�s talking about. And, eventually she ended up getting a job offer, you know, from the Jets. And, I think, she became like their sideline reporter or something like that and that�s kind of how she got introduced to Brett Fevre and you know, how everything kind of went down from there.

Chris: Yeah. [___], I mean that�s another example obviously there�s the unfortunate incident there but it�s another example of kind of be able to take a passion and then kind of parlay it into something even bigger. So, I know, you’ve mentioned a couple of times how you found some of your writers. I mean, where do you find typically other writers at this point the size of your sports network are people just contacting you because they know that you use freelance writers or �.

Sujeet: It�s kind of a mixture. I mean, sure people do contact us and if we have a site that is in need of some additional writers we�ll usually put a post on the site or put a banner up on the corner and just tell people that we�re looking for writers. You know, if you�re interested or you have a friend here�s our email address let us know. Send us a writing sample. That�s probably the hardest thing that we have to deal with because a lot of the people we deal with are college aged. They may be in school now they graduated, now they�re going on to their first fulltime job and they can�t really handle the responsibilities that we�re imposing on them. So, it�s kind of a rotating door. We do use like Twitter. We�ve had pretty good success trying to find people that way. But honestly, that�s probably the biggest thing that we struggle with on a daily basis is how do we find the writers and how do we find the good ones and how do we keep them.

Chris: Yeah, definitely. So, have you actually had some pretty good success just using banners on the site do people come in that way because I run other sites where I don�t really have any of a writing in them but I�m always kind of looking for ways to better find writers. But I guess is that that�s one [___] just putting a banner up saying we need people to write for us?

Sujeet: Sometimes. I mean I’m not going to say it�s the most successful thing we�ve done but I mean, we have sites with that banner might sit up there for three months but then the right person sees it, clicks on it and contacts us and we�re like wow where have you been all your life.

Chris: Yeah. So then I know you have kind of – some people are freelancing, some are paid and some are not paid. How do you kind of determine just how to incentivize these writers to work for you? Do you just kind of tell them the stories of these other people that have had success writing for you and doing � using it kind of as a career launching pad or, what do you try and do to incentivize writers to work for you.

Sujeet: I think it�s kind of what you just touched upon. You have to show them that you know, there are the benefits to writing for us. If you�re just in it for the money there�s a whole lot of easier ways where you can make money and this is not the place to do it. A lot of people you know, they just love the game and they�re not in it for the career, they�re not in it for the money, they�re just in it because they love the game, they love talking about with other fans and you know, whereas can you make a post and get 50 comments from other rabid Vikings fans. It�s hard to do and we�ve watched people say oh I can do this on my own and they go and they start their free Blogger site or whatever and they start churning out content and then they realize hey I�ve got, you know, 10 visitors in a month. So, we�re saying hey we�re going to give you an audience, we�re going to give you a fairly big audience and we�ve got a lot of important people reading our sites, you know, from the media and so on and so forth. So, you know, there�s career opportunities, there�s an audience that you�re trying to reach and you know, we�re a pretty cool group of people and there�re some neat perks that come along with it, whether it be you know, media credentials and to a game you know, interviewing other players, or just associating with other bloggers that we kind of deal with in our circle.

Chris: Nice. So then how, I was curious to then I mean you have these NFL websites and obviously there are other companies, huge media conglomerates that run NFL style websites as well. How do you compete against them? Is it kind of just a mixture of what we talked about before or I mean, what do you think differentiates yourself enough to be able to compete against these other huge companies?

Sujeet: I mean I don�t think you can compete against these other companies. If you look at you know NFL.com and every stories got 4,500 comments and I mean they�ve got access that we could never dream of getting. And, I don�t think we�re trying to compete with them. I think we�re trying to offer an authentic, unique voice that�s a little bit different than what your traditional media companies are going to put out there. I mean, if I just want to read a game recap I can go to ESPN and read that in 30 seconds. But if I want to read an opinionated piece from someone that, you know, is a true fan that loves the game and not just doing as a job then I would go to one of my sites because you�re going to get kind of a different perspective. And, I think that�s what a lot of people identify with, it�s just the writing style of the person you can really you know feel the enthusiasm that they feel for their team. And, it�s just a slightly different experience and that�s not to say that our own writers don�t go to these big media companies and read some of their stuff too. Because absolutely you know, news is coming from every angle and you kind of have to see, you know � you have to see what everyone is saying about it.

Chris: Yeah. And, I assume too then a lot of then the traffic that you get is also [___] have come to your websites like the audience or, rather like the voice of the writer and then kind of decided to continue reading that type of a site because they prefer that more of a personalized approach, I guess, and the content.

Sujeet: Without a doubt. And I mean I think our Viking site is probably the best example of that. They�re such a strong community there. I�ve never seen anything like it. It just seems like the editor there has really bonded with his readers and I mean, he can make a saying hey guys I�m taking the weekend off, I�m a little burned out; I�m going to spend some time with my wife and kids. And, you�ll get a hundred comments you know, hey Adam, have a good time. You know, you deserve a break. And you know where else are you going to see something like that. It�s so bizarre but you know, we love it because these guys are never going to go anywhere. They love the site, they love the editor, they love the content and those are the people that are going to be our best advertisers and telling other people about hey you got to check out this awesome Viking site. VikingsGab is unbelievable.

Chris: Yeah. So I know we talked about your NFL type sites was the desire to build other sites just the kind of have something when there�s an off season for the NFL or kind of what made you think to go into that, to the other area?

Sujeet: We�ve always had a main NBA site from day one. But the thought to actually branch it out and break that down under the team level was partially to try to protect ourselves against the potential, the possibility of there actually been a NFL lock up that continues and shuts down the season. You know, it�s a very grave possibility even though we�re cautiously optimistic that this will get resolved in the next couple of weeks. You know, I’ve been in situations in other businesses where you know, you put all your eggs in one basket and then something catastrophic happens and you�re just left holding the bag. So here we in the last year I think we�ve launched about another 20 odd sites that you know, have more of a focus on baseball, basketball and even hockey to try to diversify our portfolio a little bit. You know just in case.

Chris: So, I know then you started with those three sites � NFL Gridiron Gab…

Sujeet: Slam Dunk Central was the NBA site and Let�s Talk Wrestling was our WWE site.

Chris: Okay, yeah. So you started with those three then basically and so would you suggest to anyone that�s listening and trying to think about maybe even building up their own network of sites around one type of sports; maybe not sport we�re [going to leave that with you]. Maybe one type of niche or something, will you say you know start with just one or two and make something big and then try and use that to parlay into you know building out more network sites or what might you suggest to someone that�s thinking about going with a network approach.

Sujeet: I would almost try to dissuade them from doing that it�s a ton of work and knowing what we know now I think that this lower approach is definitely the way to go and you know, I would say start with the site that has a broader reach and if it gets to a point where you need to diversify, you need to break it down and make the sites more niche at that point you know branch out and break them down but we made the mistake with the football sites we launched all 32 on a single day and we didn�t have the writers in place, we didn�t have the infrastructure exactly in place and there was a lot of catch up, trying to just figure what are we doing and how do we make it right. And I would say probably six months we�re lost trying to get everything right. Whereas if we took a more methodical approach launching the sites when we were ready, when we had everything in place it would have been a lot less of a headache.

Chris: Yeah, definitely. I think that is some good advice. What else might you say to someone that is out there listening still kind of trying to decide what to build, what to start with doing their first type of website. Do you really think it�s � are you kind of a believer in going after the passion or what do you think is the best approach for someone that�s looking to start out?

Sujeet: I think passion has a lot to do with it. This is essentially going to become your fulltime job so if you don�t like what you�re doing you�re just kind of be miserable doing it and at the same time you have to kind of make sure that what you�re passionate about has a potential to make money and you know the sport niche is kind of funny. Like I said earlier on the affiliate side of things not a ton of ways to make money. You know, you can sell jerseys and hats and t-shirts and make okay money you know, 5%, 6%, 7% maybe. But not a huge market. So I would do some research first and make sure that the niche you�re going to go into can be profitable, that�s something you�re going to enjoy and that is not overly saturated and you know when we started the network the reason we kind of stayed away from baseball is because out of all the sports it seems like baseball is definitely the most covered and had sites as far back as like the mid-90s. So trying to jump into that niche seem like a hard thing to do right off the bat whereas football we felt like wasn�t been as well-represented so we figure we come in and you know show them how it�s done.

Chris: That�s good advice. I don�t want to take up any more of your time but I�m curious to see where would anyone like to be able to get in contact with you if they want to kind of follow along with your projects or see what you�re up to, is the best place just NFLGridironGab.com.

Sujeet: Yeah. I mean NFLGridironGab.com or SportsGabNetwork.com, just click the contact link and send me an email. I mean all the contacts go right to me and you know, I�m happy to talk to anyone that�s interested in you know, doing their own thing. I�ve had a lot of people help me along the way and I kind of feel like that we should all pay forward.

Chris: Awesome. Well, thanks again for coming on and talking us about running a network of sports websites and the challenges of managing so many writers and everything. I think it was very insightful.

Sujeet: Great. Well, thanks for having me.

Chris: Thanks. And that was the podcast. Thanks again for listening through the entire thing and as I have asked before if you would like to review the podcast you can do so by going to MakeMoneyOnTheInternet.com/itunes and every honest review that we receive helps us out in terms of the search results for this podcast and more people are able to see it. So, thank you again for listening to the podcast and sending in your emails and I�m able to answer your questions, it�s been a lot of fun and I will see you on the next podcast.