Episode 0075 · September 19, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.


[Unedited Transcript]

Rich Ziade: [00:00:00] Paul, I had friends over yesterday.

Paul Ford: Oh, that’s, I love friends.

Rich Ziade: Sometimes. I had friends over yesterday, and uh, he’s a very accomplished guy. He’s a partner at one of the big accounting firms. Like, one of the biggest in the world, actually. Very successful guy. Had lunch, and then he went and flopped on the couch, and he’s sitting there on his phone. And he’s… pretty intensely on his phone and you know usually you have to kind of ask if someone is if I’m a guest at someone’s house I don’t know if I’d like focus in on my phone for 20 minutes straight

Paul Ford: Yeah, that’s a long time. Like that. Oh, so not just like

Rich Ziade: no no he like flopped on the couch and just stared at

Paul Ford: didn’t say excuse me for a minute.

Rich Ziade: No, no, we just, I don’t care by

Paul Ford: get it. I get it. This is an old friend. No big deal. No big

Rich Ziade: deal. And I walk over to him like, Hey, everything good? Is it, is like work stuff crazy? And he turned to me and he said, I love TikTok so much.

Paul Ford: [00:01:00] Oh, no.

Rich Ziade: I’m not even kidding. I’m not even kidding.

Paul Ford: He didn’t know. He didn’t know. We used to call this going, when it was just YouTube, I called this going into the Y hole. Because just time vanishes.

Rich Ziade: And he’s like, it’s so good. And you understand, again, I will repeat. He is a partner at a global accounting firm. Probably in his 40s is my guess. Got a family. He’s got

Paul Ford: Yeah, yeah.

Rich Ziade: Beautiful family. And he loves TikTok so much. Which leads me to a question for you,

Paul Ford: Mm hmm.

Rich Ziade: If I’m a small business or I’m a freelancer and I built a good career, do I still need a website?

Paul Ford: I’m glad you asked. All right, so I’m Paul Ford.

Rich Ziade: I’m Rich Ziade.

Paul Ford: This is Ziade Ford Advisors and [00:02:00] okay, so do you still, let, let me just find, so what here’s, let me, let’s talk about what a website used to be. Website used to be like, I need someone to find my business when they search for a business in Google.

Rich Ziade: The world’s a global directory. So

Paul Ford: when someone says like, New York City dog walker, my dog walking business needs to come PDFs.

Rich Ziade: Roving Rovers.

Paul Ford: Yeah, perfect, perfect. My website needs three out of date PDFs and some flash files because God knows the last thing anybody wants to know is where is the restaurant and what does it serve? Um, so I think like, first of all, uh, the, the answer to, the short answer is yes, you should always have a website.

The secondary answer is you should actually understand what a website is in 2023. And you should plan accordingly.

Rich Ziade: Oh.

Paul Ford: So website used to be Roving Rovers and it’d be rovingrovers. com. And I should, I should click this button and send them an email or call them. Right? Like that was, [00:03:00] that’s not what websites are for anymore.

Rich Ziade: You could look up an address and a phone number. Google’s gonna pretty much step in to the flow there and just say, I got this, don’t worry about it.

Paul Ford: See what I would, exactly. I’m going to, I’m going to take you over to maps. I like when you go to maps and like, you can’t find where the website is. Like, it’s just like one link that says website.

Rich Ziade: yeah,

Paul Ford: Um, and, uh, you know, or people and what people do is they’re on Instagram or they’re on Facebook and you’re supposed to have your business there as well, etc.

All of those platforms will tell you, you don’t need anything else. You can just build your business

Rich Ziade: In fact, there are, there are platforms that are really designed for different types of businesses. If you’re a design freelancer, there’s excellent platforms that showcase your portfolio. If

Paul Ford: I mean, there’s places like Upwork that will actually complete the transaction for you. You can get paid through them, right? So it’s like…

Rich Ziade: so there’s intermediaries, which is, you know, that’s part of the free market of the web There’s a pretty well known startup called bento box that is for restaurants And it takes [00:04:00] care you check the boxes and you get you know link to resi and link to doordash and etc, etc Yeah, so why am I

Paul Ford: it, because, um, it is absolutely in your best interest to have exactly one place on the internet that you fully control.

Rich Ziade: Oh, okay. How about I do it’s called link tree

Paul Ford: Yeah, so this is actually fascinating, right? So if you’re into, if you follow anything and you look at YouTube videos of people like, you know, fixing toy cars or playing with synths or selling you headphones. Check out my link in bio. So this is a crazy aspect of our future that we live in, which is that instead of allowing people to use the rich hypertext capabilities of the web,

Rich Ziade: on the web.

Paul Ford: you let them have one link, but see, the problem is if you let people hide links and like do normal link things in unstructured user generated context without a lot of moderation.

They’ll just put in scammy links. They’ll go, someone will come in and be like, check out these hot ladies [00:05:00] dancing. And here’s the link to learn more. And it’s like, what’s your credit card again? And it’s just, so, so we have this situation where like, you can’t allow too much linking and they don’t want to, and they don’t

Rich Ziade: of messy and Linktree is, what is

Paul Ford: so when I hit link tree, it’s like five links that I control.

And so it’s like, I’m a YouTuber and I, I promote. Uh, I talk about food. I’m talking, I talk about spice. I’m just into spice. Well, you can go to my, uh, you can go to my homepage. You can go to my, um, LinkedIn profile cause I have a spice business. You can check out my spice store and it’s like those five or six links.

And then Linktree is a really basic product. It’s like five links, but it functions as a kind of de facto homepage for you pointing to all of the other platforms.

Rich Ziade: It’s a list of links.

Paul Ford: It also, if you look at the features matrix on it, it does things that influencers. Find very useful, which I include some analytics or linking to tools that allow for digital paid downloads and like managing that stuff, so

Rich Ziade: is a big business. [00:06:00] It’s actually a very big

Paul Ford: It’s like a couple billion dollars,

Rich Ziade: Yeah, it’s a big

Paul Ford: Yeah, so

Rich Ziade: a billion dollars is anymore in startup world. I feel like that’s… A word that people say and like is Linktree can can Linktree go on eBay and sell itself for a billion dollars? Who knows

Paul Ford: People like to make the sound buh with their lips more than they, because it’s less, you know, that’s the thing. Let me make a, no, no, this is an important point. I think that the reason we like unicorns is that it actually takes a little more human effort to say muh, like it’s to say million.

Rich Ziade: Put your lips together

Paul Ford: it’s actually like an extra calorie gets burned.

And if you say billion, you don’t even have to say it. You can just say buh. It’s a buh company. And humans are so lazy and dull witted that it’s easier for them to just It’s worth a billion dollars. So

Rich Ziade: also, it’s worth reminding everyone, which we will do every so often on this podcast. Unicorns aren’t real. They actually don’t exist. There are no horses with horns coming out of their heads.

Paul Ford: no, not, and if you saw one, it would be a genetic freak and you’d need to [00:07:00] shoot it immediately because clearly it’s coming for you, right? Like if I see a horse with a horn, I’m freaking out.

Rich Ziade: Okay, so let me be a business owner.

Paul Ford: Uh huh.

Rich Ziade: um… Um, I have a physical therapy storefront in Brooklyn, New York, and uh, somebody said where’s your website? And I was like, oh gosh, I gotta go get a website, and then, and then I went on GoDaddy and I feel dirty and I showered for an hour afterwards. Like what, do I need a website?

Paul Ford: do. Don’t build, don’t build anything. If you are a truly a small business owner, right? Like we should talk about the website we built for our product because that’s a whole nother world, right? So what is, what is the function of a website? Well, when somebody types in the function of a website, I would argue in 2023 is to validate that your business really exists and really has really does what it says it does on social media.

Rich Ziade: a little bit of control that you’re asserting on the

Paul Ford: It is. So when someone types in [00:08:00] Rich Ziade Pencil Store, because you sell pencils in Brooklyn and they’re bespoke. Some of them are fur covered. It’s pretty cool. It’s a whole thing. You’re in Williamsburg selling

Rich Ziade: Sustainable wood.

Paul Ford: When somebody types in RCI pencil store, the about page on pencils are us comes up and the address is there and they go, you know what?

’cause I was gonna buy 500 pencils for the Christmas party giveaway.

Rich Ziade: But let’s face it, the days of like, coding up and hiring an engineer and a designer to make my physical therapy

Paul Ford: unless you know why you need to do that, unless you know like that, there is a, a return for you on doing that. You don’t do that. You spend $20 a month, you use a template. And you can change the template a little bit.

Rich Ziade: 20 a

Paul Ford: I would frankly just point people to Squarespace. There are others, but it’s like, just use a

Rich Ziade: There’s Wix. com, there’s Squarespace.

Paul Ford: commodity website publisher thing.

Rich Ziade: and their templates are pretty polished [00:09:00] nowadays,

Paul Ford: You should not spend more than let’s say 1, 500 getting everything together. Take cell phone pictures. You probably need somebody who can use a little Photoshop, tidy things up. You can find this kind of worked


Rich Ziade: too, for like, cleaning up photos and making social media stuff.

Paul Ford: And then what does it have? It has links to all your platforms. It’s, it’s maybe, you’re not an influencer, so you don’t have Linktree. This is just like, it’s your business.

Rich Ziade: you’re an HVAC… Shop in upstate New

Paul Ford: and now it’s, and now it shows up in a healthier, and, and make sure that you’re filling out all the little forms that they give you for like titles and descriptions and all that stuff. Because if you behave well, then all the search engines will find you. And when Google Maps, when somebody clicks, and they find you on Google Maps, and it pops up,

Rich Ziade: the website.

Paul Ford: it’ll put the picture that you have at the top of the website in Google Maps and the, and the ratings and so on and so forth.

And then they can go to, people can find your Instagram and they can find your site. Now think about that. Is this worth 2, 000 [00:10:00] in, because you would get, let’s say, a hundred new leads over a couple years?

Rich Ziade: a no brainer.

Paul Ford: I mean, unless it’s like a real, like, low, like, unless you, you really have enough dog walking business and it’s only you.

Maybe you don’t need one because you’re not, you’re never going to close that 2, 000 gap. But if you’re the HVAC business, yeah, and in fact,

Rich Ziade: business. 50 mile radius. I can’t get the word out any other

Paul Ford: but here’s a tricky thing. Yeah, because who’s looking at the yellow pages, right? Like, you’re, people are on their phone typing HVAC and like looking at

Rich Ziade: HVAC Troy, New York.

Paul Ford: that, this is the, this is the twisted thing. If the, if there is, if, go look at your competition because the HVAC company where you go and it’s like a website from 2002 and it just has like the logo and five links and none of them work.

That’s still actually a pretty reliable HVAC company. Cause you’re like, yeah, well they just don’t update their website.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

And they’ve been around for 20

Paul Ford: Yeah. And it’s just like, it’s all in Times New Roman, italic, bold, right? Like that whole thing.

Rich Ziade: Still works.

Paul Ford: fine. [00:11:00] The problem is if, and so you’re like, why don’t you need to update that?

Cause I still got lots of calls. The problem is if there’s an other HVAC company with like a square space size that just looks a little better. And they show a picture of like Johnny, Johnny, the HVAC

Rich Ziade: The van,

Paul Ford: the van.

Rich Ziade: the van pulling up.

Paul Ford: reality is you and me, we’re calling Johnny because it’s like, ah, he looks fine.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, that’s right.

Paul Ford: So it’s, it’s

Rich Ziade: Okay, so get the website. It’s worth noting sites like Squarespace, sites like Wix. You can get the domain name right

Paul Ford: And you should be paying for, you should be paying for it like out of the checking account. It should not be a major thing.

Rich Ziade: exactly.

Paul Ford: know, it should be, it should cost about as much as like… I don’t know, like, you know, like any other service for your office, like coffee.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, I, I, I’m wondering how many of our listeners think our audience is interesting. It goes beyond technologists. And I think this is for them. It’s boring advice, but it’s good advice.

Paul Ford: just… Mm hmm. And I do? Just tell people to listen to this [00:12:00] podcast. Now, let’s take one minute and just talk about our case, okay? So, we’re a software startup. We’re the sponsor, which, you know, we’re the co founders of

Rich Ziade: worth noting, we are not, uh, Squarespace nor Wix are sponsors of any

Paul Ford: No, no.

Rich Ziade: are just easy, good tools

Paul Ford: We’re just We are Aboard. com, right? So we’ve built this software tool for managing information. Okay. So we had to build a website at Aboard. com. Okay. So we bought it. We, we’ve talked about this on previous podcasts. We bought the domain name. It was expensive. Not, not like bananas expensive, but it was definitely expensive.

And, um. Okay. So we buy a board. com and now we have a website and the website has been through multiple iterations. It has modules, it’s built custom in WordPress, and we have spent again, like not a shocking amount of money if you’re in this business, but like, let’s say more than 10 X what you would pay as the HVAC company

Rich Ziade: For sure.

Paul Ford: sure.

Right. And so it has, let me tell you some of the things it has. It has modules. that break up the page into individual pieces that I can, and I can sort of edit [00:13:00] at the data level. I can go in, it has all these little pieces that I can true up. It has custom tracking, custom art.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: As people come into it and then sign up for the product, we’re able to measure that.

We have analytics.

Rich Ziade: yeah, much more bespoke.

Paul Ford: Working back, and a lot of SEO, we really, and it matters much less that we’re on Google Maps.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, no one cares where we are.

Paul Ford: What’s the difference between these two worlds? Why would we spend all that money and time, significant amounts, much, much more, uh, to get a website that’s not, it’s not much longer, not much bigger than a good HVAC website?

Rich Ziade: Um, I think the service that we sell is, is truly, like, our potential customer base is the earth.

Paul Ford: OEM. Yes.

Rich Ziade: Um, whereas the HVAC business in Troy, New York, the customer base is Columbia County or wherever, you know, wherever they are located. The radius of reach there is just much, much, much

Paul Ford: We actually [00:14:00] only exist on the web.

Rich Ziade: We only, we have no storefront.

We have a business address, but it’s not like we’re hosting people. Uh, we’re building the thing.

Paul Ford: you know, I asked recently in our newsletter, I’m like, hey. Yeah, there’s a aspects of the product that people just aren’t using very much. So I just went to the news and I was like, tell me why you’re not using this. I’m curious. And I got great responses, like 10, 10, 10 or 15 people wrote these like long explanations.

And, uh, what I realized is we have to, when you’re doing a product like this, And I saw this pattern and very few people said it explicitly, but essentially like, hey, before I invite other people to collaborate with me on this, I don’t know if I trust you yet.

Rich Ziade: Mm.

Paul Ford: That is what I heard. I heard, I don’t really trust you.

You’re, you seem like good guys. I, you know, I, you used to run an agency. Like I used to read your blog back in the day. But let me be clear, I’m giving you my data and I’m not going to bring my good friends in until I really know that I can trust you without the website. If I’m just putting stuff on Instagram, if I’m just putting stuff on [00:15:00] LinkedIn, whatever.

If I don’t have this anchor that shows people that this is like thoroughly thought through, exists. Here’s the terms of service and the policy, privacy policy.

Rich Ziade: right. I mean, you know, a lot of times the HVAC will have a, we’ll have a refund policy on the site sometimes. Um, but for us it’s key. Like it pretty much is how we introduce you and get you to calm down and trust

Paul Ford: No one, no one will believe us. That they should give us their data, even with the website necessarily, but without the website, there’s no

Rich Ziade: Yeah, I think we’re a completely different animal.

Paul Ford: But what we’re focused on in building it too, is understanding how people come in, what they learn from it, what they look at. Are they interested in this or that or the other? And then how does that convert to people maybe eventually giving us money, but today signing up for the product.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, I mean, it’s all forms of lead gen, right? Like, even the HVAC, some HVAC site, or like if you’re doing, you know, you need a pool put in, they see you as a lead. A [00:16:00] lot of times that little chat bubble pop up is like, Hey, you looking to swim this summer? Like, pit us up, do you want to talk to us? Um, and so, We’re dealing with that on a much more granular level because the product is there.

Paul Ford: A big, a big part of our future too is SEO, is writing blog posts and newsletters and saying like, and then advertising against them and saying like, hey, if you’re curious about this, go Come on in. So different structures. I think what gets really confusing when people get asked for website advice Is that there are two fundamental realities.

There’s and actually frankly what’s been what’s wild Right is like they’re both basically in the context of larger social media and other platforms So reality one is kind of you are an endpoint When you go out and you promote, uh, yourself, like, you need some place to just sort of point

Rich Ziade: Instagram

Paul Ford: so that people believe you’re real and are willing to pick up the phone and call [00:17:00] you and then you should also do your Instagram and your other stuff.

The other part is more, the other, our, our situation is more dynamic, which is like, we’re going to spend money to promote aspects of this website. We want SEO to catch us. We want, we’re going to live inside of this. Bigger ecosystem. And so we actually need like a big solid foundation that we, so we can go do all those wacky things you have to do in order to promote and market a business in 2023, 24.

So, okay. So go build, if you don’t have a website, have a website.

Rich Ziade: meat and potatoes

Paul Ford: personal website. What do you think?

Rich Ziade: I had one for a very long time. I used to write on it, like your website, I still keep the domain because it’s a good domain.

Paul Ford: hard to let go of domains.

Rich Ziade: go of domains. I use it for my email, the

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: Um, but, uh, I mean, to me, when you ask about a [00:18:00] personal website, I think about a blog,

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: if you are, you are ready to, like, talk to the world, here’s the worst thing.

Let me give you anti going to think you’re going to want to do it, and then you write three articles. And then nothing happens for four months? Don’t bother. Don’t feel the pressure. It’s a sense of perpetual failure. If you’re really gonna go out there and say your piece, you’ve picked a cause, or you’re an advocate for something, or you’re a consultant, or a therapist, or, uh, you know, a mindfulness expert, or something, and you’re gonna constantly talk to the world, it’s a great thing to do.

There are other platforms for that too. That’ll just

Paul Ford: No, but even here, I would argue it’s at that point you’re a business. You should have your, you should own your own space.

Rich Ziade: I agree with that, and WordPress is a great solve

Paul Ford: Yeah, exactly. I would say anything where like your expression is also your resume, right? Like it’s good. It just

Rich Ziade: you’ve crossed that one, if you think you’re going to do it but you’re not sure, [00:19:00] be sure you’re going to do it. Because you’re going to put all this work in and then you’re going to feel like you’re failing.

Paul Ford: you know, who, you know, who solves this is the academics. Like academics know they have to keep their CV updated. Like, and so a lot of, a lot of like academic websites are essentially digital CVs. Like here’s my curriculum vitae. Here’s papers and so on. That’s the model to follow. Here’s my publishing.

Here’s everything I do. If you have any questions about me, go here first. And then you can reach out. So I think like that’s the model, but yeah, own your own voice, keep your own site. At some point I definitely want to make the, like, take my old website and just kind of list all my writing. I started using our product aboard for that.

I think it’s good for it.

Rich Ziade: It is,

Paul Ford: and so.

Rich Ziade: a great way to evolve your

Paul Ford: Yep, that’s, that’s, you know, cause the days of me being a 20 something blogger are over, but like here, here I am and I’ve done a bunch of stuff and it’s nice to, nice to have a place to look at it. All right, there we go. We solved it. We solved websites for everybody.


Rich Ziade: We mentioned Aboard. com a few times. Check out Aboard. It’s a really great way to collect, [00:20:00] organize, and collaborate on things you collect on the web or ideas you put down. Check it out, Aboard.

Paul Ford: It’s almost like this is the Aboard Podcast, it’s a crazy world.

Rich Ziade: Maybe we should do

Paul Ford: We’ll have to talk about that. All right. Ziade Ford on Twitter and or X or whatever the hell it’s called this week. Um, hello. It’s Ziade Ford. We’re glad to hear from you. We love you. And we’ll talk to you soon. Bye.

Rich Ziade: Bye bye.

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