How an SEO community had a positive outlook on the future of my business

This post is about how I joined an online SEO community named Internet Marketing Gold (IMG), won a contest, thought it was a scam, and ended up with a free trip. This is what happened.

In short, for those that don’t like to read, here’s a quick synopsis;

  1. I joined a newly formed online Search Engine Optimization community named Internet Marketing Gold, and a few months later joined their paid level of membership.
  2. Soon afterward, they had a random contest drawing of all paid members where I became a finalist.
  3. 2 of the 5 finalists were selected for the grand prize, an all expense paid trip to Phoenix, AZ to attend the Phoenix Open Golf Tournament with the 3 founders of the community (Kyle Roof, Andrew Steven, and Ted Kubaitis). I was one of those winners.
  4. I thought it was a scam at first and my wife even asked me how well I knew these guys, which was not very well. But I decided to check it out and go anyway. As a business owner I’m a huge risk taker.
  5. I was very happy I went. It was NOT a scam. It was a fun experience, And these guys were the real deal.
  6. I had lots of questions to ask about SEO and business in general but thought I would approach the trip with a different goal in mind. I wanted to get to know these three guys as people, not so much as professionals. I already knew their professional backgrounds and knew they were experts in their field. But my questions were more along the lines of, “Who are these guys really? What makes them tick?  Are they full of crap? Are they just trying to take everyone’s money?” and so on.
  7. There was BEER! Having drinks with people always lowers conversational barriers and people are less on guard during their conversations. The comfort levels with each other became easier to have some open and honest intriguing conversations and I was able to more easily identify who these guys were as individuals and where their hearts and heads were at.
  8. Ultimately I felt very good about the leaders of this community and I came back with a renewed spirit for online tech communities in general, got some well needed business advice, and made some great new friends in the process.

Here are some more detailed thoughts of mine on this community and the founders. These thoughts are purely my own and this was my personal experience with these gentlemen. I was not asked to write this post or to give any testimonial of any kind. I am writing this post as I feel it is important for others to know what my personal experience was like. Especially since most people are just as skeptical as I am when it comes to people you don’t know on a personal level.

TL;DR

Why Community Matters To Us

The idea for community comes from a responsibility we have for each other. As humans, we have a desire to help and take care of others. On the contrary, we also want to learn from others so we can grow as individuals, and then repeat the cycle by teaching others what we too have learned by paying it forward.

No matter which social category you fall into – introvert, extrovert, ambivert, socially adept in every way, or completely socially awkward – something in our souls produce the desire for longful and meaningful relationships with other humans. As humans, we are created for community. Our connections to our family and friends we make at a young age are the stepping stones for your future desires of belonging to other communities.

Physical vs Virtual Communities

In today’s world we have the option to belong to both physical and virtual bodies of communities. We are all familiar with examples of physical communities that meet regularly in person such as associations, churches, clubs, and special interest groups. Virtual groups of communities exist today that connect people together on a global scale. For every type of physical community, there are probably 10 times more variations of that community type available online.

No matter who you are or what your belief system or religious view is, there’s no denying that humans were designed with a deep longing for living in community. And I believe that having “right relationship” with others is very important when it comes to long lasting friendships in every type of community. And this is the foundational point I had in mind when I went on this journey. I love belonging to a community whose purpose is to build each other up and nurture others to develop into a position where they have the confidence to succeed and do great things. I think of the following two proverbs that are highly applicable to most communities, both physical and virtual.

The first is from the Christian Bible;

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17

The second is an old African proverb

“If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go together.”

Even though some of us long for communal connection with others that share the same interest, we may not ever actually find it because we are not sure where to look, afraid we will not be accepted, too comfortable and content where we are, or simply too afraid to meet new people. For others, they have such a burning desire for being a part of community that they charge forward like a bull at a matador waving a red cape. They join the community with so much enthusiasm, want to get involved in every way possible, build their credibility and fame within the community as fast as possible. And then there are others that simply sit back and watch the community from a distance to see who is who.

For example you might have people who are “lurkers” that want to figure out who is playing what role within the community, such as; find out who the influencers are, identify the people that like to cause drama, and who can best help them when they are ready to ask for it. I have been in all three of these categories at one time or another. Which brings me to the real reason I am writing this blog post. Although I am writing this post to a specific community, it is actually a story that can be applied for most any community in general.

All communities are made up of people, and all people are wired in different ways, at the core of our human nature we all share the same basic needs and desires, therefore the leaders of the community are very crucial to the success of the community as a whole. These leaders must not only share the same passions and goals of the members of the community, but they must also stand out in some way, making them servants ready to assist and help other members get what they were looking for when they joined the community in the first place.

What Is The Internet Marketing Gold Community?

The description in the member’s area says the following;

We are a community of professional internet Marketers founded by Kyle Roof, Ted Kubaitis & Andrew Steven. We believe that the knowledge gained from testing digital marketing theory and sharing our findings in a private online community make us all better at what we do.

https://internetmarketing.gold

Who Is In Charge Of Internet Marketing Gold?

IMG was created by 3 internet marketers and SEO specialists named Kyle Roof, Ted Kubaitis & Andrew Steven. How are these three guys connected together?

Internet Marketing Gold

Andrew Steven – Kyle Roof – Ted Kubaitis

Kyle is known in the SEO community for being the first to use scientific testing when it came to ranking factors. Kyle and Andrew are co-founders of two companies. They own an SEO Agency named High Voltage SEO as well as a SaaS company named Page Optimizer Pro which is one of the best on-page optimization tools on the market.

Ted is a software developer and technical SEO specialist. He created one of the most robust SEO correlation software tools on the market, CORA SEO , which measures 1000+ SEO factors and correlates which ones appear to influence rankings the most for your keywords.

Ted and Kyle also produce a weekly live YouTube show named SEO Fight Club dedicated to open debate and peer review of cutting edge SEO research and theory crafting.

Why Was Internet Marketing Gold Created?

I asked Kyle, Ted, and Andrew the following questions and here are their responses in their own words.

In your own words can you give me a short description as to why you created the IMG community?

Ted Kubaitis : “I created IMG to help people.”

Kyle Roof : “For me, I created IMG as a place for answers. I also know that people learn in different ways, so I wanted to have a place where members of the group can get those answers in the form that is best for them. Some people want to post questions and have a discussion, some people want to read blogs or listen to podcasts, others want to see scientific tests or case studies, others want the raw data and to do their own analysis. We have all of those things and more.”

Andrew Steven : “I started IMG because as much as I loved the agency and the software, to me they were a bit lacking in personal connections and starting this group is an outlet for that. But I also wanted it to be more than just a Facebook group, being able to launch courses and do live events adds another dimension of value that others are not really doing yet and this is hugely rewarding.”

What does your perfect community member look like?

Ted Kubaitis : “The perfect member is anyone in search of the truth by way of measuring and experimenting.”

Kyle Roof : “The perfect member is someone who engages. They have questions and post them, they help others when there’s something that they know.”

Andrew Steven : “Someone who gets involved and enjoys giving back to the community.”

What is the vision of IMG for the next year ahead?

Ted Kubaitis : “My goals for the next year are more people and better information!”

Kyle Roof : “One of the strongest features in IMG is the ability to search within IMG. There is already a tremendous amount of content available. Over the next year, I see IMG as the resource for authoritative answers in SEO and digital marketing.”

Andrew Steven : “The next year ahead involves investing into growing the community to over 10,000, helping members to grow their business inside the community, doing more face-to-face events and the rest I’ll have to leave you in suspense for now :-)”

My Experience As A Winner Of The Grand Prize

So we finally get to the part where I tell you about my experience with meeting these three guys, what my expectations were, and what the outcomes were.

First I need to tell you there was a second winner. His name is Tyler Krause and just like me, he owns a digital marketing agency in Tennessee just south of Nashville. Tyler and I had never met or interacted in the group before so I wondered if his reservations and worries were the same as mine were.

Tyler Krause

Tyler Krause and Kyle Roof

So about two weeks before the Phoenix Open Golf Tournament event, I was notified that I won the trip to meet these guys with an all expense paid trip to Phoenix, AZ. As I told my wife about it, she was super skeptical and asked me “How well do you know these guys?”. My reply was that I didn’t know them at all other than a couple of short chats and watching their videos on YouTube, and definitely not on a personal level. That reality hit me and I asked myself if I should accept the invitation. But since I’m a risk taker I figured, why not take the opportunity to see what they are really about. And when you live in Chicago, a trip to the desert at the end of January sounded really good to me. I paid for another flight for my wife to join me as I figured it would be good to spend some time with her in a place we’ve never been and stay a few additional days in Phoenix on our own.

So we got on our 4 hour long flight to Phoenix. I was full of excitement and a little worried for what’s to come. All I knew was that I’d be meeting 4 guys I didn’t know much about, attending a golf tournament which is not a sport I am very passionate about, and thinking about all the questions I should be asking these guys about SEO.

So after we landed at the airport I was told that someone would be picking us up and to my surprise there was a very nice limo driver waiting for us. The limo driver and car were really amazing. My first reaction was, these guys did not need to do this. We got to the hotel and the room was very nice and the hotel they booked us at was brand new.

Later that evening Tyler arrived at the hotel and he sent me a message about dinner so I went to a local restaurant and had a quick meal. During our walk to the restaurant, Tyler and I both talked about how we originally thought about our feelings that this could be a scam, or some other motives were involved. It was a relief that we were not alone in our concerns and both our wives had the same worries about us going on the trip. A short while later, Kyle & Ted sent us a message that they would meet us at the restaurant.

Upon their arrival we greeted each other and ordered some drinks. We sat and talked shop for a while and Kyle told Tyler and I that they were there to answer any questions we have. They reassured us that they simply wanted to get to know a couple of people from the community and give us the best experience possible. So we asked a few questions about SEO and business in general and after a couple of hours we separated and Tyler and I walked back to the hotel. Tyler and I were pleased to know that these were real guys and that they didn’t appear to want anything from us.

Phoenix Open Event Day

The next morning, Andrew, Kyle and Ted picked up Tyler and I to go to the golf tournament. They told us that they had a VIP experience awaiting the day. We arrived at the venue where we drove right into the VIP valet parking. As soon as we got out of the vehicle, I noticed we were surrounded by Ferraris, Bughattis, Limousines, and many other exotic and high price tag cars. It was obvious this was not your typical event or the typical access a guy like me was used to.

Phoenix Open Golf Tournament

Phoenix Open Golf Tournament 18th Hole

We then go our access to the main clubhouse overlooking the 18th hole where all the celebrity golfers ended their rounds. Everyone there was dressed to the nines and the drinks were flowing like a river. I realized at that moment that this experience was not simply planned out at the last minute and these guys wanted us to have a great time. The day started with a lot of SEO and techie talk. But I had already decided that I was going to use this opportunity for a different purpose.

My Real Agenda For The Main Day

Yes, I had a ton of business related questions ranging from SEO topics to comparing notes on running a successful digital marketing agency.  But the more I thought about it, I already knew these guys would be available to answer any of those questions at any time within the IMG Community website. So instead, I shifted my focus to find out who these guys were at their core. I wanted to know who they were as people. What makes them tick? What drives them? Are they family people? What hobbies do they have? Do they really care about others or are they only after people’s money?

Mike Carson, Kyle Roof, Ted Kubaitis

Mike Carson, Kyle Roof, Ted Kubaitis

I wanted to really get to know them on a deeper level so I could find out how authentic they really are. I was in a perfect setting to do this because when people are having fun, and after having a few drinks and talking about themselves, they are much more relaxed and they tend to open up more. So I took advantage of the situation. I got to know each of them and found out they are all in the same stage of life with younger children at home. All are married and talked alot about their wives in a positive manner. They talked about their kids and were proud of their families. I got a great sense of where they lived, how they live their lives, their passions outside of work, and even some things that they are not very fond of. All in all it was a great conversation with each of them throughout the day.

Ted, Kyle, Tyler

Ted, Kyle, Tyler

Later that evening Kyle had booked us reservations at a swanky steakhouse named Durants. It was an amazing steakhouse and it was not a cheap one either. I’ve been in some pretty pricey steak houses before but this one was definitely the nicest and one of the most expensive I had ever been to. For this part of the day my wife had joined us. I was curious to see what her opinions would be at the end of the evening as she is a great judge of character and she does not have any of the business admiration that I had already had for these guys. So she was coming into the situation with no preconceived notions about any of them ahead of time. The food was amazing and the conversations continued into the night. Upon the Uber ride back to the hotel with my wife we discussed our opinions on each of the guys and we both agreed they were very authentic guys that genuinely cared about others. They were just regular guys trying to carve out their place in this world just like all the rest of us.

Tyler, Kyle, Mike & Ted

Tyler, Kyle, Mike & Ted

Durants Steakhouse

Durant’s Steakhouse

 

Durants Steakhouse

Delmonico Steak Dinner

The Final Day

It was Friday and Tyler was set to fly out early afternoon. My wife and I were staying through Sunday so we could do some sight seeing and enjoy some much needed time alone together. We met Tyler for breakfast at the hotel and discussed the previous day and compared notes. Both Tyler and I came to the consensus that these guys  were not only the real deal when it came to their professional experience, but they were also authentic as people too. We were very amazed that we were also not asked for anything in return for the trip. It really was a no strings attached journey. Tyler and I were very appreciative of the exceptional treatment we got from Andrew, Ted and Kyle.

Andy & Mike

Andy & Mike

Friday evening I met with Ted and Andrew for drinks just to talk and hang out for a few hours. We talked about the previous day’s events and Ted made a comment to me about why I did not ask nearly as many questions as Tyler had asked. When I explained to them that I had a much different focus, getting to know who they were on a more personal level, they both sat back in their seats and were puzzled. I explained that not many people are awarded the opportunity to get to know them in this way. Many people follow them on social media, YouTube, IMG, and other groups, or watch them speak at a conference, and that is something anyone can do to get acquainted with them.

However, that only shows one side of a person’s personality, the professional side, which can sometimes be a facade. I was looking for credibility for who they were as people, to know if they were honest, to know if they care about the people community they are building, appreciative of their followers, and so on. Once I explained this they both started to smile and told me they thought that was pretty cool and they were not expecting someone to take that approach with them. They made me feel pretty special while I was there, and I am hoping that my approach made them feel special too.

Andy, Mike & Ted

Andy, Mike & Ted

We then talked about a lot of ideas for the future of the SEO Community at IMG. They were receptive to my feedback as a community member and ideas that I offered. We even discussed having an in person event just for IMG members to attend.

Final Thoughts

My thoughts about Ted, Kyle and Andrew are that they are hard working, honest business people that are figuring things out just like everybody else. They have struggles, make mistakes, and and sometimes have lapse of judgement just like every other person in the world. But they are not afraid to admit those issues and when they make mistakes, they own them. They don’t cover things up or give up. They work together to find better ways to make things work.

All of them are excited for the IMG Community to grow, learn from each other, and for everyone to be more successful as a group. It’s not all about the three of them. They freely share their knowledge and don’t hold anything back when asked.

Over the years internet marketers and SEOs have had a black eye in the world’s perception. And this is rightfully so, because there are a lot of snake oil salesmen and scammers out there stealing every dime they can from every person they can reach. Kyle, Ted and Andrew are looking to change that perception with their community by bringing real credibility with scientific SEO and testing that has been vetted by the community. I applaud their efforts and I cannot wait to see what they have in store for the future of the IMG community.

At the end of the trip I can honestly say that I got some much needed business advice, lots of nuggets of SEO info that I was not aware of, affirmation on some things I am doing right, and I came back super energized and refreshed knowing that I have a support system I can lean on when I need to make some decisions.

And now I can confidently say that these 3 guys are “The Real Deal” in my opinion.

If you’re into internet marketing and SEO, head on over to https://internetmarketing.gold and check it out yourself for free.

SEO Fight Club

Tyler and I were also asked to co-host episode 49 of the weekly SEO Fight Club show on YouTube. Here’s that episode.