Episode
8

Nemanja Mirkovic

Scaling SleepAdvisor to 12M users a year with SEO

July 26, 2023

Join Nate Matherson as he sits down with Nemanja Mirkovic for the eighth episode of the Optimize podcast. Nemanja is an advisor and investor in online businesses and a co-founder of Sleep Advisor, which grew to 12M users/year (now acquired).

This episode covers SleepAdvisor’s journey from 0 to 12M visitors per year, and includes Nemanja’s reflections on lessons learned from his journey. In this episode, we go in-depth on a number of topics including the steps to go 0 to 1, building backlinks, establishing a brand, topical authority, and more.

What to Listen For

02:39 Nemanja’s background

03:19 Why sleep: Sleep Advisor’s origin story

05:00 Growing Sleep Advisor from zero to 12M visitors per year

08:02 How much content did Sleep Advisor create?

09:33 Sleep Advisor’s link-building campaign

14:17 Domain rating vs. link relevance 

16:07 Nemanja reflects on missteps and lessons learned

18:58 Life after Sleep Advisor

20:28 How to create an authority website in 2023

25:29 How to successfully drive traffic from channels outside organic search

28:09 Nemanja’s thoughts on AI content

30:54 Do experts matter when writing content? Should we use them?

33:14 Lightning question round

Episode Transcript

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

00:00

Viewed from a different angle, you can have an authority niche website. So for me, a niche website means that it's a topical niche of a broader category. So you could have health as a broad category, then you could niche down to psychology, then depression, and then postpartum depression. So postpartum depression is, like, the ultra-niche topic that you can talk about. So in a way, it's your positioning as the authority in this ultra-small topic. And if you're offering a service or consulting, you can charge more, people trust you more, you are the go-to source for that topic. And on the website side, you cover that topic so extensively that people don't really need to go back to Google and search for something else.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

00:41

Hi, and welcome to the Optimize podcast. My name is Nate Matherson, and I'm your host. On this weekly podcast, we sit down with some of the smartest minds in content marketing and SEO. Our goal is to give you perspective and insights on what's moving the needle in organic search. Today, I'm thrilled to sit down with Nemanja Mirkovic. Nemanja is one of the co-founders of Sleep Advisor, a company that started as a side project but ultimately grew to become one of the largest websites in the sleep category, driving over 12 million visitors per year. Nemanja built and scaled the organic search strategy at Sleep Advisor and also led monetization and partnerships before the company was ultimately acquired. In our episode today, I'm excited to learn more about his approach to scaling SEO channels, his perspective on building websites in very competitive verticals, building authority, and more.

Ad Spot

01:40

This episode of the Optimize Podcast is brought to you by Positional. At Positional, we're building tools for content marketing and SEO teams. We've got a great selection of tools for everything from content optimization to keyword research and technical SEO, and you can visit our website at positional.com.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

02:00

Hey, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. It's rare that we get to chat with someone who's grown an organic search strategy like you have. So we really appreciate you coming on.

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

02:10

Thank you so much, Nate. I'm thrilled to be here and really honored to be invited on your podcast. Yeah, and just a short introduction. I'm Nemanja, I started and grew Sleep Advisor, a media brand, from zero to 12 million users per year. I'm glad to be here and sharing that story.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

Yeah, that's really incredible. And there’s a lot for us to unpack on this episode. But just to kick things off, like, how did you get into content marketing and SEO? Like, what made you choose this channel as, like, your career path and focus for Sleep Advisor, but then beyond that?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

02:39

Yeah, so it's a really interesting — I started alone, just building small affiliate sites, AdSense sites, and I had a network of these sites. So I built, like, 50-plus of these sites, and some would even call them PBN, but in reality, they looked way better than 80% of blogs and niche sites, and they still do. I had a team that was building these sites out for me, and when they were idle, I'd offer the service in SEO groups on Facebook. And in time that became an agency, and that's how I got connected with the SEO community and got invited to the first Chiang Mai SEO Mastermind before it became a conference. And that's actually where I met Rob and co-founded Sleep Advisor with him from there.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

03:19

That's amazing. And what made you pick sleep as a category that you wanted to build a website in?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

0:03:25

Yeah, so we brainstormed several niches where we could build, but Rob actually had a website already, a really small niche website reviewing mattresses. It was already successful, and we knew we can do it better than that. At first it looked like a conflict of interest, like, hey, we don't want to do something that will compete with your website. But in the end, he saw the potential of our partnership and we just picked that as kind of like long-term niche, something that will be here in 10 years, 20 years, you know, and everybody needs it. So we just decided to go for that.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

03:59

Yeah, sleep certainly is a big category and also a competitive one. And I'm sure when you were starting Sleep Advisor, it was already pretty competitive. I think it's likely gotten more competitive over time. When you were first starting Sleep Advisor, did the competition scare you at all — knowing that, like, there were already some fairly large and established sites in the sleep space — or did you see that as an opportunity?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

04:20

Yeah, so when we started out, there weren't really that many competitors. There was Sleepopolis and a couple of other niche sites, but there were no generalist news websites like Forbes or New York Times, whatever. Like, they did not review mattresses at that moment, so it was just competing against other affiliates — not even big media companies like Red Ventures: they didn't have any presence in that space. We knew we can build something better than Sleepopolis, and that was our kind of benchmark. We wanted to be better than that, and from there, it was — call it an infinite game, you know, like, we just wanted to make the best website for that and kind of went from one day to another, improving all aspects of that website.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

05:00

Yeah. And I know you were at Sleep Advisor for a little over five years, which is a long time, but also a very short amount of time to grow a website to the extent you grew Sleep Advisor, getting to 12 million or so people per year coming to the site. So you moved very quickly. In the beginning, like, in that first, like, six months or a year, what was the plan? Like, coming into building this website, you know, in that first year, what did you do? And then kind of into years two and three, how did you scale the site to the many millions of visitors per year that you ultimately grew it to?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

05:33

Yeah, so basically the plan at the beginning was to just create as much content as we can. We started, you know, testing these agencies out, testing, you know, various writing services, but it didn't work out. Like, the output was just too inconsistent. So we moved everything in-house. Rob and I edited heavily the first batch of articles. We wanted the launch to be perfect. Then we started adding in-house writers and, you know, educating them how to write SEO content, how to write reviews, how to write best lists. After launch, the first year was creating that startup-like buzz. So we went on sleep-related Facebook pages, we went on Reddit and Quora, just answered everything under the sun over there. And we actually got a lot of traffic, some big spikes of traffic from there; in time that got us out of sandbox, which you probably know what it  … Sandbox is, like, a period where you get basically no results. After getting out of that sandbox — actually, like, one-year mark —  that's when things started really to pick up, like, really fast. And actually I think it's a combination of factors here. We had a tailwind of the sleep industry growing massively in those few years. And we invested probably five to 10x more than an average niche site builder would in content. So that content for that time, you would only see it in big media companies like NerdWallet, let's say.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

06:54

I love that.

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

06:55

Yeah. Like we went above and beyond regular content. So the amount of research that went into that, again, like, was really in-depth, and we wanted to have users’ trust on our side as we grew. And lastly, I would say, like, it’s SEO knowledge — if I had to put a number of, like, one to 100 percent, I would say SEO knowledge played maybe 20% in the whole growth, and the other was actually creating that great content. And later on, we even replaced all stock images, which I despise with all my being. So we replaced all that with custom images that we paid a lot of money for those custom images. So it's like every single piece was, you know, perfected to a point where, like, we didn't really have too much to do on the site. And that's when we started experimenting with InfoProducts and having these awful failures.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

07:48

Yeah, so it sounds like in the first year you spent a ton of time creating content. And then I know that you created a very large amount of content from years two to five. Over that, like, five-year period, how many pieces of content did you guys create at Sleep Advisor?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

08:02

I would say it's about a thousand, but a lot of our work was going back and improving old articles. So periodically, we would go back and rewrite whole articles, about sections, and add more information or if the information changes. So, like, as soon as something changes — let's say the pricing of a product changes — we would get alerts of that, and the team would change that ASAP, so that the users would always have the most accurate information.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

08:27

Yeah, we had a very similar experience at my first company. We were marketing consumer financial products, and we were constantly going back to previously published content and reviews to make sure that they were up-to-date as, like, the interest rates or the terms of these different products changed. And I also agree with you. Like, once you build, like, the foundation of your website, it often makes sense to prioritize, like, going back and improving what's already there versus focusing on creating, like, brand-new pieces of content for the site. If you had to estimate, like, what percent of your team's time was spent going back to those older posts and improving them or keeping them up-to-date versus the time you spent creating new content?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

09:07

Yeah, I would say 50-50. Like, a lot of time went into improving old content.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

09:11

Yeah, and content is obviously, like, the most important first step. Whenever I'm talking to our customers, like, I tell them that if they pick the right keywords, the right topics, and create fantastic content, they're, you know, 80% of the way there. I think if you do those two things right, like, you'll be successful. But then outside of creating content, did you guys focus a lot on, like, building backlinks or building authority to the website?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

09:33

Yeah, absolutely. So building backlinks was essential and I think played a huge part in growth. So I think many SEOs these days claim that you can rank without backlinks, and I agree you can, but it's slow, and the time difference is revenue loss. So if it takes six more months, that's six more months of zero revenue or lower revenue than you could have had if you had built backlinks. At the start, Rob was trying to build a system around that. It was semi-successful. He built maybe, like, 50 links over three to five months, and then he found Mike. So this is an interesting story. So Mike was a digital nomad he met in GMI, and he came in and he worked an hourly wage, but he kept improving the system so he needed to work less time actually. So he automated everything and he said, “All right, so instead of 10 hours or 20 hours, I work two hours.” And we were like, “All right, so it doesn't seem fair that you improved the system and we've paid you, like, two hours of your time, right?” So we onboarded him as a partner from that point. Like, from that time, in about a year, he scaled the whole link building by about 10x. And that's the biggest growth, 2019 and ’20.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

10:47

Yeah, our customers always ask me about building backlinks, and you know, I think it depends, like, which category you're in. I think — I always say to them, like, “Backlinks get you in the running, often like a qualifying time in a lot of different categories. Like, you have to build enough backlinks that, like, you have a baseline amount of authority to go and compete in a vertical, and then you can use, like, your fantastic content to actually really thrive and rank well in that vertical.” And it sounds like you guys prioritized building backlinks from, like, the very start. Is that right?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

11:18

Yeah, we started building backlinks from basically third or fourth month. As soon as we got out of sandbox, we started building links heavily. And in the first month, it was more kind of this social aspect. So we had, like, Medium and Quora and Reddit and all these, like, links, that kind of Web 2.0, call it like that. From that point, like, when we got out of sandbox, we started focusing on guest posts, and Mike scaled that very fast. And then we realized, “OK, so we no longer have — like, we have diminishing returns on these guest posts. So what should we do?” So we started the PR, the digital PR and quantum marketing. We started building these, you know, tools, sleep calculators and statistics and whatnot. One of the interesting posts is we ranked number one for “can you sleep with a fan on,” which is, like, random informational topic, but that got picked up by all the major news sites during summer of 2019, I believe. So we kind of doubled down on that, and we replaced all the images, like I said, improved all the articles, formatting, so that it looks really good. And if a journalist visits the site, they will likely link to us instead of somebody else.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

12:34

I think where you started in guest posting is a place where a lot of website owners and startups typically start, but it is very manual, and it also requires a lot of content. And it's often a good place to start, but you'll tend to, like, tap yourself out fairly quickly, I found with guest posting. But like you said, creating, like, link bait or using, like, data-driven content or telling interesting stories with content that journalists want to link to is by far, like, a much more scalable approach to building backlinks at scale and also at, like, a lower cost or price point in terms of the time you're spending to go out and build these backlinks. In addition to guest posting and link bait and data-driven content, did you guys also do, like, a lot of, like, resource page link building, like trying to find, like, colleges or high schools or other resource pages in the sleep space that would want to link to your content and then kind of building an outreach campaign to them?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

13:28

We tried all of that. Like, we tried all these tactics. But again, like, 90%, I would say, is those two tactics, just guest posts and PR or content marketing.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

13:39

When you think about the backlinks that you built, a question that I always get from, like, our customers or startups is on, like, domain rating. Like, they'll say to me, like, “Nate, like, we only want backlinks from, you know, sites with a domain rating above, like, 55. And, like, I'll often, like, push back on them and say, like, “Well, I actually care more about, like, link relevance in many cases more than I do about, like, the domain rating of a site that I'm getting a link from. When you were building links, how much did you think about, like, domain rating versus, like, the relevance of the links you were getting, even if they were from, like, lower-authority sites?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

14:17

Yeah, so DR is a metric that you can manipulate easily. And some people even prove that on LinkedIn. And you could look at traffic if you want, you could look at DR, but, like, it's more a first filter that you use during your research. So, all right, so it's a DR 70, it has, you know, X amount of traffic, so I'll consider it. So you're not filtering it out completely. And once you have, like, a short list, then you go in and look at the relevance, look at the quality of the site. Does it have social profiles? Does it have the authors? And is it a blog? Is it an e-com? Is it this or that? So the type of website. And I don't focus on just one metric. And again, I was not that involved with the link-building side because we had Mike. Yeah, I learned a lot about content marketing. And actually, I led the content marketing team with our content director, Suzanne, who just crushed the whole workflow.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

15:15

Well, it sounds like you built an incredible team. How big did the team ultimately get, and was this entire team remote, or did you have, like, an office or in-person presence? Tell me about that.

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

15:25

Yeah, it was a 100% remote team and it grew to about 35 people including contractors and all that. So we're scattered all around the globe, you know, in Asia, Europe, America, and all that. So yeah, even in Argentina, we had a graphics designer. So yeah, it grew pretty big and again, there are some management issues that you get when you cross 15 to 20 people. So I would say we implemented EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System, and that was the biggest game changer when it comes to managing a bigger team. And we had to scale back at some point, and then when we implemented EOS, then we could kind of continue hiring and scaling back up again. 

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

16:07

I know that it was, you know, a great five-year run, and the site became incredibly successful. And I think you did, kind of, everything textbook right. But from your view, like, if you were to go back and do it over again, were there any, like, mistakes you made or things you spent time on that, like, looking back, weren’t a good use of your time or resources?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

16:25

Yeah, I'd say the biggest mistake and a key learning at the same time is that we didn't have the knowledge and skills to manage multiple brands at the same time. And we tried acquiring a related media site. It was like a small tool, niche tool, but it never got the attention it needed, so it never took off. And most likely because we tried to grow it with the same team, and now I know it doesn't work that way. You need a dedicated team for each brand, for each business. And if I could do it all over again, I'd start acquiring competition as soon as I got traction with one brand and some excess cash, just pour that in buying competition and just create a snowball effect and grow that as a media company, not as a single brand.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

17:08

I love that. Yeah. And that's a mistake I've made myself in the past. You know, I want to stand up a new website, but then I commit to it when I buy the domain name and build out a little bit of content, but then actually, like, committing and putting a team around that brand or new site that you're building, it requires a lot more resources and focus. And I myself try to avoid getting distracted when we've got a property that's doing so well. But I think that's an interesting point you made about possibly in the future going out and buying other established brands or teams that have built nice properties, like, in your space. And speaking of, like, other companies and websites in the sleep category, and the final question that I'm gonna ask you about your time at Sleep Advisor, what the heck happened to Tuck? I wasn't in the sleep category, but I was following Tuck.com very closely from, let's say, 2016 to, like, 2019. And I know that, like, they were a competitor of yours for a while, but then they kind of fell off the face of the earth in terms of traffic going to their website. Do you have any, like, thoughts or ideas around, like, maybe what they did wrong or why they haven't recovered from, like, the massive drop-off in traffic to their site?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

18:18

Yes, it's an interesting case study to be honest, and I talked to a lot of SEOs about that, and it's most likely a link-related penalty. They had a sleepdecks or something like that domain that was 301 redirected to Tuck, and that resulted in massive growth. And our whole team was, you know, united. They quote-unquote hated Tuck; that was the outside enemy. But yeah, it was really interesting to see that. But deep down I knew — I mean, like, it's easy for me to say that in hindsight, but I kind of had a hunch that they'll get a penalty for that 301.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

18:54

Yeah, they were very good building backlinks.

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

18:57

Yeah, yeah, I agree.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

18:58

And it did work pretty well for a while. It'll be interesting to see what, like, ultimately ends up happening with that site or domain. But yeah, more recently, since you've sold Sleep Advisor, like, what have you been working on lately? Are you still building, like, new web properties and focus on SEO?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

19:15

Yeah, so SEO is definitely a part of everything I do still, but I see it as one aspect of the official strategy, and I try to kind of have it as a good-to-have, but not the only thing to have in a business. So right now I'm building this sort of holding company — it's not still very big; it's just a couple of brands. I'm trying to build this more diversified business that will be more robust and more less kind of prone to Google updates or social media algorithm updates, you know. Maybe I would have a media brand, maybe I would have a service, maybe I will have lead-gen business, a well-diversified portfolio of businesses, if you can call that.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

19:57

Heck yeah. And I know recently I've seen you on LinkedIn and you've been sharing great content on LinkedIn, by the way. I think for all of our listeners who aren't yet a follower, you should go and follow, and we'll put a link to your LinkedIn in the show notes as well. But one of the interesting things I've seen you talk about recently on LinkedIn is, like, building an authority website and, like, what that means. And I'd be curious to get your opinion and perspective on, like, what it means to create an authority website in 2023.

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

20:28

Yes. So this is a really interesting topic for me, and I enjoy talking about that. So from SEO angle, back in the day, people mostly built niche websites, and that meant ranking your main keywords on your homepage. And for some reason, you know, people still want to do that. And it just meant it looked dated and ugly. And in time, Google started favoring bigger and more branded websites. So, the SEOs figured that out, so they started building, you know, a branded homepage and then trying to rank all these inner pages instead of the homepage. Viewed from a different angle, you can have an authority niche website. So, for me, a niche website means that it's a topical niche of a broader category. So you could have, let's say, health niche, or it's not a niche, it's a broad category: health broad category. Then you could niche down to psychology, then depression, and then postpartum depression. So postpartum depression is like the ultra-niche topic that you can talk about. And you can create an authority website that just talks about postpartum depression. So in a way, it's your positioning as the authority in this ultra-small topic. And you can, you know, if you're offering a service or consulting, you can charge more, people trust you more, you are the go-to source for that topic. And on the website side, you cover that topic so extensively that people don't really need to go back to Google and search for something else. Your website is the search engine in its own way for this small topic. And as for monetization, authority brands can monetize with affiliate offers if they want, but it shouldn't be the only source of revenue. It can be courses, communities, digital products, e-commerce, and whatnot. You can do whatever you want once you're an authority. And from the content side, you can also build or produce videos, you can do podcasts like we are doing right now, you can do social media — whatever you think is best for your audience, where your audience hangs out.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

22:28

Yeah, I totally agree. Whenever I'm building a new website, I come at it with a perspective of, like, I want to cover every category within this niched-down topic. Most recently, I built a Kubernetes-focused website. It's an open-source technology, and we covered, like, all 220 different questions or keywords that people had in the Kubernetes space. But then past that, there wasn't a whole lot to write about. But we covered, like, what I think were the core 220 questions, like, very completely. So like you said, like, someone could get everything they would need from our website without having to go back to Google and ask another question. And so it sounds like you agree that, like, to be that authority, you need to cover kind of every topic in the category. And then do you also then need to, like, layer on a backlink-building strategy that's focused on building links from other very related niched-down sites? Or when you're building backlinks, can those backlinks be from, like, you know, maybe a less niched-down site, but still topically related? 

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

23:29

Let's say we go back to our little example of postpartum depression. If you are such an authority and you have all this content, let’s say, or let’s say, for example, you have 200 articles about that topic, you don't really need that many backlinks to rank. If you're doing podcasts, you'll get backlinks from podcasts. If you're doing YouTube, you'll get traffic from YouTube, which is another positive signal for Google, you know: diversified traffic. You can also go, you know, do PR, can do HARO, you can get those backlinks. And you only need a small portion of these links to be super closely relevant to you. So you can go and post on other depression-related websites, so that's related to your niche, but you don't really need to go super-niche into, like, having links from other postpartum depression websites. You could, and it's great if you do, but you don't need a huge percentage of those links to be hyper-relevant. You can just get trust and a little bit of relevance through links, and then your authority and topical authority does all the heavy lifting for you. And in that sense, I believe you'd rank pretty easily.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

24:42

Yeah, it's interesting that you mention, like, views from YouTube having a positive impact on, like, search rankings. And we talked to a guest a few weeks ago who's building an allergy-focused website. And he said on our podcast that every time they went viral on TikTok, they saw, like, a huge spike in the performance of, like, their organic search channel. And that those spikes weren't, like, short-lived, they were compounding. And so they saw a direct correlation between, like, all of the work they were doing on TikTok and then, like, the ranking and performance of their content in organic search. Have you seen, like, similar effects with, like, your websites, where, you know, if you can drive a lot of traffic from a channel that's not organic search, it has, like, a really, then, positive impact on the organic search channel?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

25:29

Oh yeah, 100%. So I have this little mastermind of SEOs that we share tests and whatnot. And they actually have ranked websites with just content and YouTube videos. So just the traffic from YouTube was enough of a signal for Google to rank the websites on Google Search. So they didn't need to build backlinks; they just needed the traffic. And I believe traffic is actually the biggest signal for Google. So if somebody is visiting your site from social media, from YouTube, from TikTok, whatever, and they actually interact and they stay on your site and don't bounce instantly, that's a positive signal. That's probably even a stronger signal than backlinks, in my opinion.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

26:13

Yeah, I totally agree. I don't know, has Google come out and said that, like — I know that Google doesn't come out and say hardly anything, but has Google ever commented on, like, traffic to your website as being like a ranking factor?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

26:27

To be honest, you know, you have SEOs who go out and read all these Google patents and announcements and all that, so I don't really do that. I haven't read a single Google patent. You can say I'm not an SEO, but yeah, I just build brands and kind of do best practices, 80-20 of SEO and things work out.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

26:48

Yeah, and we had a recent guest who, too, said that, like, if you don't already have, like, a strong brand and a product that people want, it's going to be much harder for you to then go and build an SEO or an organic search channel. But if you've already got a brand, you've already got, like, a product that people want, and then you go to layer in an organic search channel alongside of, like, all the other work you're doing, it's going to be a lot faster. It's going to take less resources. And so I really like your approach to building authority websites, and that it sounds like you're building really strong brands and communities around the product and the company, and then you're using SEO as a supplement now to then go and extract even more traffic and drive even more traffic to that brand. That makes a ton of sense to me.

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

27:34

Exactly, exactly. You can have an e-commerce site that is also an authority site for a certain topic. And it can also be a community. They can have a community, or they can have a course. Like, it doesn't have to be black and white. It doesn't have to be just an e-commerce site. It doesn't have to be just an authority site or a content site, media website. My perfect example is Epic Gardening. You probably saw that website. Like, that's exactly how you build an e-commerce brand on the back of the media website. So he had a media website, he built a content brand, and he can build a community or anything he wants using that traffic right now.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

28:09

As far as like, creating, content goes, here with, like, the new sites that you're developing or the current properties that you own, have you found that, like, AI-generated content has been, like, helpful or is ranking well? Is that something, like, you're using here in 2023 as part of the different websites you're building?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

28:27

We ran some tests and, again, in the mastermind, people are using that — ranking no problem. But to be fair, it could rank temporarily. And if you've been around the spun content era — like, 10 years ago, whatever— like, that ranked well. And they used that and ranked so many websites using spun content. But at some point, it stopped working. So with the resources Google has, why would I think they will not figure out, especially the simple prompts — oh, “write me a 1,000-word article on X topic.” Corey said an interesting thing, he would use a 2,000-word prompt that would generate an entire article. And that probably works, because nobody will have that article, you know, because it's such a detailed prompt and uses your data. So if you have your own data and you sprinkle it around the prompt, it should probably have the uniqueness you need to just use it without heavy editing, and rank. But otherwise, you can just use it as an automation and, you know, to make things easier and streamline your writing and just use it as another tool, whatever, you know, and make it faster.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

29:36

Yeah, I totally agree. I think if you're copying and pasting from, like, a very simple prompt, it might work for a short amount of time. But I agree with you that, like, Google has been very good at identifying low-quality content for a long time. And if we go back to, like, the spun content days, like, creating, you know, low-quality content at scale is not as new of a thing as a lot of people tend to make it. I think AI has certainly made it easier, and it's probably of higher quality than spun content. But, you know, generating large amounts of content with a toolset like AI is not completely a novel concept. And like you said, I think using those prompts in depth and, you know, making those pieces original with your own data and making them actually more helpful and accurate than what someone would get from a very simple prompt is probably the way that you win with AI-generated content.

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

30:28

Imagine yourself, you know, you're building your personal brand and you have your own personal blog. Like, would you use AI content on that and kind of risk your reputation saying something stupid, you know, and having some data that's not accurate, you know? You probably wouldn't. So that's how I approach all brands. You know, I want them all to have this feeling of, you know, as if it was written by me using my name.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

30:54

Exactly, and completely agree with you. I think all of the content that we write on our blog at Positional was written by me. And, like, I'm very critical of the content that we publish. And, you know, I haven't been using AI as a means to writing my content. I've actually found that it takes me longer to actually go and edit a piece of content than it does to just go and to write it myself. And so I would actually probably save time by writing a 2,000-word article myself versus using AI to start with, let's say, 3,000 or 4,000 words, and then try to work it down to, like, a finished product. I do think, like, authors are going to be, like, more important, especially with, like, large amounts of new AI-generated content coming into the internet. And if you know a doctor or a lawyer is using AI to create their content but still willing to, like, attach their, you know, name or credentials to that piece, then hopefully they've fact-checked it and assured that it's, you know, of good quality. I know that, like, E-E-A-T is a highly debated topic in the SEO communities, but from your perspective, how important do you think it is to have, like, actual experts, like, writing your pieces of content and/or putting, like, a byline of an actual expert on a piece of content that you create?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

32:08

I think for highly competitive topics like finance or health or even sleep, you need that. Like, that's, you know, that's how everything works. Like, you need YouTube videos for sleep. Nobody wants to even consider your brand with just written content now. At start, only maybe one or two brands had YouTube videos. Now everybody has it. And maybe one brand in 2020 had experts board and now everybody needs to have — all brands need to have an expert board. Otherwise, they just don't look credible enough. And is that something you wanna bet? Like if you get penalized or if you get, like, 50% loss of traffic, like, is that the variable you want to have? And go to sleep and say, “Man, did we get penalized because we didn't put an effort to have expert reviews and the bylines and the about page?” I spoke to Corey recently in Istanbul, and he thinks that's a very important aspect, like, these author bylines and how you position that on the site and how prominent that is.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

33:14

Well, I really appreciate you coming on our podcast. I learned a lot in this episode, and it's been great to get your perspective on Sleep Advisor for one, but also the inputs and, you know, how you thought about building that website and then how you're thinking about building your new properties and building out your portfolio of brands from here. If it's OK with you, I'm going to ask, like, five or six quick questions as part of a lightning round. Does that sound good? 

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

Sounds good. 

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

OK, the first question I have, it's a slightly personal one. Like, when we sold our first company, like, at first, like, I didn't at all miss it. I was, like, very burned out. I wanted to move on and do the next thing, but then kind of two or three years later, I kind of missed it. I missed that first web property that we built. Now that you've sold Sleep Advisor, do you miss it at all? Do you wish that you still owned it, or are you happy that you sold it?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

34:02

And that's a really good question. And I had a whole 2022 to think about that. And now that I'm building a holding company, I believe it would be a nice start for that. Like, it would be a nice way to add that into the whole portfolio, in the portfolio, and then grow from there. But at the same time, I wouldn't really pursue this if I stayed on with Sleep Advisor, because again, it was so entrenched as a single brand, and just tearing it apart and adding it as a portfolio company would mean changing how the team thinks, the company culture. It was a way for me to have a clean start and to start everything from scratch. And in that regard, I don't regret it. I do miss it from — kind of becomes your baby after five years, so I do miss it from that perspective, but at the end of the day, you need resets from time to time. And this was it for me.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

34:52

I know we talked quite a bit about building backlinks on this podcast episode. Do you think that backlinks are more important in 2023 than they were in 2017 or less important?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

35:04

100% more important, because the field has been leveled for content using AI tools. So everybody can create AI content, but not everybody can create quality backlinks. Maybe now that you have, you know, people are building hero links with ChatGPT, maybe they'll, you know, disrupt link building as well. But I think links play as important role, if not more important than before.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

35:27

I'd be curious to get your quick thoughts on Google's new, like, SGE. Do you think, like, it's going to become popular? Like, are people going to use it when it's fully released?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

35:37

To be honest, Google had many changes over the years, and I believe people will use it. Will it get traction? I don't know. Like, honestly, I have no idea. And is ChatGPT going to be a thing in two years? I have no idea. I'm just — I cannot think that far ahead and how fast the technology is progressing. So it's just a matter of, you know, adapting and using what you have on hand. If Google disappears tomorrow, I'll be perfectly content. There'll be something else that comes after it. So yeah, no tears shed for Google if it goes away.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

36:08

I love that. Yeah, and it goes back to your whole ideology of building brands across many different channels and how that's the more sustainable and probably durable way to build an online business. And I know that you're, like, actively thinking about new companies to add to the holding company or companies to build as part of it — like, is there a certain industry or product space that, like, you really wish you had like a business or company in or you might wanna go and build a brand around?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

36:36

To be honest, I'm focusing more — at the moment — focusing more on entrepreneurship, business, finance, and kind of quote-unquote freedom verticals. So whatever kind of enables and progresses that, I'm in and I want to build that. I want to invest in that, I want to build that and incubate companies and business and entrepreneurship or just acquire them.

Nate Matherson (Speaking) Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

37:00

Is there a favorite tool or, like, a tool that you use most often as an SEO?

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

37:04

As an SEO, I just use Ahrefs. You have these two camps, right? It's Ahrefs or Semrush. It's like football teams, right?

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

37:12

My last question is how can our listeners get in touch with you? I mean, we'll obviously include a link to your website and LinkedIn in the show notes. Should our listeners reach out to you via LinkedIn? What's the best way to get in touch with you if they'd like? 

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

Yeah. If you need any help with SEO or you just want to say hi, you can contact me at hi@nemanja.com. So nemanja.com. And yeah, that's just my personal website, my email, and you can contact me on LinkedIn as well. Feel free to DM.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

37:42

Cool, well, I really appreciate you coming on the podcast. Thanks so much.

Nemanja Mirkovic (Speaking)

37:46

Thank you so much for having me. It was really fun.

Ad Spot:

37:48

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More Ways to Listen

Optimize Episode 008: Nemanja Mirkovic on Scaling SleepAdvisor to 12M users a year with SEO

Jul 26, 2023

Join Nate Matherson as he sits down with Nemanja Mirkovic for the eighth episode of the Optimize podcast. Nemanja is an advisor and investor in online businesses and a co-founder of Sleep Advisor, which grew to 12M users/year (now acquired).

This episode covers SleepAdvisor’s journey from 0 to 12M visitors per year, and includes Nemanja’s reflections on lessons learned from his journey. In this episode, we go in-depth on a number of topics including the steps to go 0 to 1, building backlinks, establishing a brand, topical authority, and more.

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We used to create outlines for our posts, either by paying a consultant $75+ each, or by spending 1-2 hours researching and creating each one ourselves. With Positional, we can create the best outlines for our target keyword clusters and get alternatives within a couple clicks.

Louis-Victor Jadavji
CEO & Co-Founder at Taloflow

Positional has proven indispensable in our SEO strategy. Its rapid optimization capabilities for our blogs led to noticeable improvements in search rankings within a month. From planning to making our content better, it’s like having a teammate. Our team loves it!

Varun Varma
Co-Founder at Typo

Positional is a must-use tool for any growing startup that cares about SEO. It's simple and easy to use but as powerful as anything out there. Plus their customer support is next level.

Matthew Busel
Co-Founder at Whalesync

Positional's tools are an essential supplement to any search-driven content effort. They help us save time and produce better content for both our company blog and our clients.

Karl Hughes
CEO & Co-Founder at Draft.dev

We used to create outlines for our posts, either by paying a consultant $75+ each, or by spending 1-2 hours researching and creating each one ourselves. With Positional, we can create the best outlines for our target keyword clusters and get alternatives within a couple clicks.

Louis-Victor Jadavji
CEO & Co-Founder at Taloflow

Positional has proven indispensable in our SEO strategy. Its rapid optimization capabilities for our blogs led to noticeable improvements in search rankings within a month. From planning to making our content better, it’s like having a teammate. Our team loves it!

Varun Varma
Co-Founder at Typo

Positional is a must-use tool for any growing startup that cares about SEO. It's simple and easy to use but as powerful as anything out there. Plus their customer support is next level.

Matthew Busel
Co-Founder at Whalesync

Positional has been an amazing addition to our SEO and Content team's workflows, enhancing our overall efficiency. We particularly love using AutoDetect and Internal Linking on a daily basis!

Lindsey Barnes
SEO Manager at Klay Media

Nate and the positional team are the best of the best in SEO, content marketing, and helping you grow your organic traffic. The combination of their expertise and the SEO and content tool they’ve built has allowed us to build a scalable content engine. Reach out to me anytime for a testimony. They are truly phenomenal.

Alan Zhao
Co-Founder & Head of Marketing at Warmly

As an SEO novice, Positional makes it easy. I can quickly go from keyword research, to clustering, to content outlines, then go focus on just making good content. I felt like it helped bridge the gaps between what would’ve taken 3 or more tools in the past.

Kevin Galang
Head of Growth at Definite

The first time we used Positional's toolset was to revamp an older but important piece of content. We used Optimize for optimization, and Internals for internal linking suggestions. We went from position #6 to #1 with the changes and increased our organic search traffic to the page by 400%. Today, Positional is an integral part of our blogging strategy, from topic generation to blog renovation.

Nate Lee
CEO and Co-Founder at Speedscale

Positional has been an amazing addition to our SEO and Content team's workflows, enhancing our overall efficiency. We particularly love using AutoDetect and Internal Linking on a daily basis!

Lindsey Barnes
SEO Manager at Klay Media

Nate and the positional team are the best of the best in SEO, content marketing, and helping you grow your organic traffic. The combination of their expertise and the SEO and content tool they’ve built has allowed us to build a scalable content engine. Reach out to me anytime for a testimony. They are truly phenomenal.

Alan Zhao
Co-Founder & Head of Marketing at Warmly

As an SEO novice, Positional makes it easy. I can quickly go from keyword research, to clustering, to content outlines, then go focus on just making good content. I felt like it helped bridge the gaps between what would’ve taken 3 or more tools in the past.

Kevin Galang
Head of Growth at Definite

The first time we used Positional's toolset was to revamp an older but important piece of content. We used Optimize for optimization, and Internals for internal linking suggestions. We went from position #6 to #1 with the changes and increased our organic search traffic to the page by 400%. Today, Positional is an integral part of our blogging strategy, from topic generation to blog renovation.

Nate Lee
CEO and Co-Founder at Speedscale

“We’ve been moving up the search rankings. When we first started using Positional, we had about 1,000 visitors from organic search per month, and today, we have over 12,000 visitors from organic search per month. And obviously, Positional has played a large role in our growth.

Alex Bass
CEO & Co-Founder

Positional takes the guessing game out of our content and SEO strategy. It allows me to do extremely quick keyword research which I can then turn into detailed instructions for our content writers through their Optimize tool. I love the speed new capabilities are being added!

Phillip Eller
CEO & Co-Founder at AccessOwl

I've been using Positional since its closed beta, and it boosted our SEO results so far! We've published over 80 articles with Positional and it has gained traction very well. The "Optimize" tool is my favorite — it ensures we use the right keywords for better rankings. The "Content Analytics" tool is also great for showing us exactly where we should improve our content.

Yuta Matsuda
COO & Co-Founder at Genomelink

Positional's tools are an essential supplement to any search-driven content effort. They help us save time and produce better content for both our company blog and our clients.

Karl Hughes
CEO & Co-Founder at Draft.dev

“We’ve been moving up the search rankings. When we first started using Positional, we had about 1,000 visitors from organic search per month, and today, we have over 12,000 visitors from organic search per month. And obviously, Positional has played a large role in our growth.

Alex Bass
CEO & Co-Founder

Positional takes the guessing game out of our content and SEO strategy. It allows me to do extremely quick keyword research which I can then turn into detailed instructions for our content writers through their Optimize tool. I love the speed new capabilities are being added!

Phillip Eller
CEO & Co-Founder at AccessOwl

I've been using Positional since its closed beta, and it boosted our SEO results so far! We've published over 80 articles with Positional and it has gained traction very well. The "Optimize" tool is my favorite — it ensures we use the right keywords for better rankings. The "Content Analytics" tool is also great for showing us exactly where we should improve our content.

Yuta Matsuda
COO & Co-Founder at Genomelink

Positional's tools are an essential supplement to any search-driven content effort. They help us save time and produce better content for both our company blog and our clients.

Karl Hughes
CEO & Co-Founder at Draft.dev
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