Sramana Mitra: When you double-click down on that goal and thought about what kind of a business would fit that model, talk to me about all the different ideas that went through your mind.
Kean Graham: A lot of ideas.
Sramana Mitra: That’s precisely what I want to do. What was the process of figuring out which one of those you wanted to execute on?
Kean Graham: I was looking at the world like an entrepreneur. I was looking for problems around me which are, in turn, opportunities. There are many things offered in South America that are not offered in North America. There’s also a lot of things offered in North America that aren’t being offered in South America. There are a lot of opportunities there.
However, my goal was to go back to Canada and learn. I came up with the goal to solve the problem of under-monetized businesses. I wanted to increase the revenues of businesses in a measurable way. I bolstered my skill set of SEO, analytics consultation, customer usage models, UI design, and UX optimization. What I decided to do was use my old employer as a case study.
Digging deeper, it came to me. The majority of their revenues, about 80%, are coming from banner ads. They’re only running Google AdSense on there. They’re not even that targeted. I could add other alternatives to compete against AdSense for every single impression. If you look at simple economics, supply stays the same but you increase the demand, you’re going to increase the price of every single ad impression. That was that eureka moment. I went to my old employer. I told them about my idea.
They said, “That sounds like a nice idea but we can’t really afford to hire you because we have been laying people off.” I said, “How about I charge you based on a percentage of the increase in revenue? If I don’t increase revenue, I’ll charge absolutely nothing.” I, pretty much, applied that model and tried many different techniques and see what stuck and see where I could get traction. I did some AdSense optimization. I was able to increase it 10% the first month. Then I added a new ad network and I was able to increase it by 25% the second month. It kept going up and up. Over a two and a half year period, I was able to meet the additional million.
Sramana Mitra: What was your deal with them?
Kean Graham: 25%
Sramana Mitra: Cool. What kind of traffic base were you working off here? What is the size of the traffic base that you were optimising?
Kean Graham: It was about two million unique users and between 50 million and 60 million page views per month.
Sramana Mitra: What was the segment?
Kean Graham: This is online classifieds. The vertical would be shopping.
Sramana Mitra: The first thing you did was just optimize AdSense. Then you introduced some ad networks to compete for those eyeballs. Before you knew it, you added million dollars additional revenue.
Kean Graham: Yes. I tested other ad optimization strategies. There was a lot of little ad optimisation techniques that I implemented that added to a sum of a huge increase.
Sramana Mitra: So you got $250,000 out of this gig.
Kean Graham: More than that because it was in the millions.
Sramana Mitra: So this continued down the spot?
Kean Graham: Yes. However, a slight mistake that I made was I projected myself as a one-person company. That ended up biting me later on because they looked at me as just an old employee. They knew me as a previous employee. They saw the money I was making, and they were very unhappy. They didn’t focus on the amount of money that they were making in addition. They were focusing on this cost.
They were angry because I was making three to four times more than I was as an employee. They wanted to cut into this immediately. We had to renegotiate that commission. However, the increase just kept on going. Six months later, I was earning the exact same amount I was earning before. Then they got mad again. Then we agreed to a flat retainer where I offered the services.
I think I could have avoided that strategically by communicating my company as a company. Since then, I’ve definitely switched the communication strategy to that. We are actually a company with many different team members. That was a very important lesson. That communication with the client is so important. It’s important to be strategic and think long-term.