Steve Kamb is an extremely successful fitness blogger who runs Nerd Fitness, which is not only a great blog for fitness fans, but also a six-figure business. Steve Kamb has guest lectured at Google, Facebook and TEDxEmory.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Steve Kamb, and I’m the rebel leader over at NerdFitness.com, a community dedicated to helping nerds, desk jockeys, and average Joes level up their lives. I’ve been running the blog for three and a half years now, and it’s been my full time job for almost two years. I’ve spent the last 18 months traveling the globe, visiting six continents, fifteen countries, and crossing some pretty incredible things off my Epic Quest of Awesome (the nerdy name for my bucket list). I’ve guest lectured at Google, Google Dublin, Facebook, and TEDxEmory in Atlanta, GA.
What was your fitness related experience (if any) prior to Nerd Fitness?
I started strength training when I was a Junior in high school. I had just been cut from my basketball team and decided I needed to get bigger and stronger to compete the following year and make the team. After almost killing myself on the first day in the gym (bench pressing with WAY too much weight), I fell in love with the concept of strength training and getting a little bit stronger each day. However, it took me six years of mistakes and wasted effort until I finally figured out how to combine proper nutrition with strength training that finally resulted in a body and life that made me proud. At that point, I decided I wanted to help people avoid the six years of mistakes that I had made, so I got a basic personal trainer certification, started helping out friends and family get healthy, and even picked up a client or two.
It was around this time that I started writing content for Nerd Fitness and eventually turned it into the community it has become today.
What was your blogging/online marketing related experience prior to Nerd Fitness?
Zero! One day while at my old day job, I wrote a blog post about a travel experience I had with the company; they loved it so much that they put me in charge of the company blog – this is when I discovered my love for creative writing. After that, I decided to use NerdFitness.com as a home for my fitness/adventure related ideas and just started writing. I’m not technically inclined, so I had a friend help me set up a wordpress installation at the site and then just started cranking out content.
What is your process for creating a great blog post (from getting the initial idea to hitting the “Publish” button)?
My ideas come to me from the most random places at the most random times: in the middle of the night, while taking a shower, or while playing a video game. Once I have an idea, I try to block out a few hours to create the article in its first iteration. I often write articles that are 3000-4000 words long, so they take me anywhere from 4 to 8 or even 12 hours to write. I’ll generally start by creating the different section headings that I’ll split the article in to, and then I’ll begin writing each section based on whichever one excites me the most.
I do my best writing late at night, so around 11pm i’ll put on some music that gets me in the “write like crazy” mood (these days, its mixes by PM . After I get through the article once, I’ll take a few hours off or come back to it the next day and rewrite giant sections of it. Once it gets closer to completion, i’ll track down the photos I’m going to use in the article at photopin.com – usually they’re pictures of star wars characters or indiana jones or legos…something nerdy and applicable to the article.
After that, it’s another round or two of edits , before finally hitting publish. I’m quite the procastinator, so a lot of the articles I publish are finished a few minutes before I hit publish. Fortunately, I just brought on a managing editor to the Nerd Fitness team so he’ll be able to help out with content editing, formatting, and so on. I’m great at creating but I really hate editing my own work and going back to fix things I’ve already done, so this editor is really going to help me spend more time creating new content and less time on fixing old content.
How did adding a forum to your blog affect the growth of your business?
I think the forum has been a tremendous asset to Nerd Fitness – instead of just “a boy and his blog”, it’s become a full blown community of people from all over the world working and helping each other out. These are the most loyal and invested members of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, and are often the people that bring their friends and family in as well. I don’t charge anything to be a member, and I’m sure most people on there will never buy any of the products I offer, but that’s okay! As long as Nerd Fitness is helping people get in shape and live better lives, I don’t care how they get there as long as they’re having fun with it.
What was your marketing strategy in the early days of Nerd Fitness and what is your marketing strategy now?
I honestly don’t really have a marketing strategy. I have yet to spend a single dollar on any sort of advertising, so all growth with nerd fitness is through word of mouth and google traffic. I don’t really know much about SEO, but a lot of my articles show up at the top of the first page on google due to so many people linking in. For example, if you search for “paleo diet” on google, I show up third, after the wikipedia page for paleo diet and paleodiet.com. This results in over 100,000 visits per month to that one article alone. It’s not because I’ve learned to game the system, but rather because I write content that people want to share!
That’s my real marketing strategy: I know that if I write GREAT articles full of helpful, actionable information, then the content will get shared in office spaces and emails around the world – new people come to the site, sign up for email updates, and then decide if they want more specific help by purchasing a Nerd Fitness product.
I also make sure to email everybody back that emails me – although it results in hours of work for me each week, it gives me a chance to personally connect with anybody that takes the time to connect with me. I just love helping people get healthy – I work on that and the rest of my ‘marketing strategy’ kind of works itself out.
I do occasionally write guest posts for bigger sites, as that’s a great way to have the potential for new readers. About 18 months into my site, I had a guest post published over on Art of Manliness that almost doubled my audience overnight, and I’ve probably published half a dozen guest posts across other sites as well….though I put almost all of my focus and effort on content creation for Nerd Fitness and relationship building.
How do you monetize your blog, and what are the biggest money makers on Nerd Fitness?
I have three ebooks for sale through my Nerd Fitness store: the Rebel Fitness Guide, Rebel Running Guide, and Rebel Strength Guide. These ebooks account for probably 80-90% of my monthly revenue. I also sell t-shirts and sweatshirts featuring the NF logo, but I look at this revenue stream more as advertising/relationship/community building rather than income producing.
I am diversifying in these next few months with a few secret projects, but the ebooks still produce almost all of my income per month.
Are there any legal dangers in fitness blogging, like, if I read your post on parkour, try to do a kong vault and injure myself, can you be held responsible for that?? How can fitness bloggers protect themselves from any legal ugliness?
I have a pretty extensive disclaimer at the end of my site, in all of my fitness products, and in my about page (where I go out of my way to explain that i’m NOT a fitness expert, just a guy who likes to help people). Although I don’t anticipate any issues with people trying to scam the system by saying they got injured following Nerd Fitness (as I explain my information is for entertainment purposes only, they take their own risk, they should see a doctor before starting any physical exercise regiment, etc), I also have small business insurance should a dishonest person decide they want to try and attack me or Nerd Fitness.
I think if somebody was to run his own fitness site, he should put some thought into their disclaimers and be careful about what kind of promises he offers up with any products. On top of that, he should put thought into the type of clients he’s looking to attract. I don’t spend any money on advertising and I’m very picky about who I let become a Nerd Fitness affiliate marketer. I only want honest customers who understand that they won’t get in shape overnight, which would be tough if my customers were made up of people who clicked on dishonest ads and expected to transform within a few days.
What would you say were the biggest mistakes that you’ve made in your blogging career that slowed down your progress dramatically and how can others avoid repeating them?
I didn’t start a serious email list until probably 18 months into the lifecycle of Nerd Fitness – I had RSS and feedburner email, but I really didn’t encourage email sign ups until then…and I wish I had! My email list is my most valuable asset, and I can reach my most loyal and dedicated readers whenever necessary.
If you’re starting a blog and serious about it becoming a business, pay the 10 bucks a month and create a great offer to encourage people to receive your emails from the start – a free email series, exclusive resource, and/or PDF download. Your best customers will come from this list!
What do you think are the key reasons for your success here in the blogosphere?
On top of that, I’ve put my focus on certain things: not on marketing, or SEO, or any of that stuff, but rather on creating insanely helpful content that has specific advice that people can apply IMMEDIATELY to their lives. I know I could write short 400 word articles with “Top 10 foods for this!” or “banish your belly fat here!” to get more pageviews, but I’d rather have really dedicated readers that take the time to actually read through my 2000+ word epic posts – it’s a built in filter to get rid of people who only want to skim articles and get quick fixes.
I love helping people, so I don’t try to sell them on some secret formula; you can see it in my writing and interactions with potential customers and clients. I tell plenty of people who email me not to buy my products because I know they’re not a good fit for those particular people, and I think that honesty goes a long way, especially in an industry where outlandish claims, false advertising, and dishonest marketing are the norm.
Last, but not the least, what would you say to our readers who’d like to start fitness blogs and eventually turn them into full-time businesses, but are at the very beginning of this path?
Nerd Fitness was a 6-figure business in 2011 and business is on track to at least double in 2012, without a single dollar spent on advertising, SEO, “how to make money online” programs, or sleazy marketing tactics.
You can create an incredibly successful business that helps people and allows you to sleep with a clear conscience at night.
Here’s the key: write insanely helpful content, be incredibly helpful to anybody that asks for your help, have a wonderfully unique perspective on fitness and health so you stand out, and don’t ask for anything in return until people start asking for your services. Carve out your own niche and put your effort into helping and interacting with anybody that comes to your site. If you want to attract the right kind of customer, create content, products, and sales pages that reflect that. Yes, it might take you longer to build an audience that way, but 100 of the right kind of people is worth more to you and your business than 1,000,000 of the wrong eyes who just want quick fixes and won’t put in the effort to change.
Thank you very much for sharing your insights with us!
- People, really, re-read the paragraph where Steve explains his process for writing articles three times. I think that everyone can learn a lot from his dedication to valuable content. It’s no wonder why he has such a successful site and loads of loyal fans!
- It’s clear that being approachable goes a long way. The more popular you will get, the more time-consuming answering your e-mails will be, but don’t look at it as “wasting time on e-mail”, look at it as “building relationships”.
- Starting your own forum might be a great idea once you have enough traffic, because this way you build a community around your website.
- Make sure to start building an e-mail list as soon as possible. It’s interesting that many famous bloggers mention not starting an e-mail list sooner as their biggest mistake. Really, drop those 19$/month for Aweber, if you’re serious about your business.
What did you guys learn from this interview?
Answer in the comments!