Big Week for Examine.com

Last week, Examine.com announced its Human Effect Matrix, which “solves over 90% of supplement confusion.”

The response was staggering, to say the least.

Some quick numbers:

  • 100,000 visitors over baseline (so e.g. if in the week we would have expected 50,000 visitors, we had 150,000)
  • 1,000 new followers to our Facebook fan page and 500 new followers to our twitter feed
  • The blog post itself got over 3,000 likes, and we gained over 7,500 likes across the entire site. Our amazing creatine page finally cracked 1,000 likes (next up: 5,000!)
  • 500+ tweets across the site
  • Our facebook page making the announcement got over 150 shares, and over all the other facebook pages that shared us (that I found), we had over 400 shares

And all of it feels good. We’ve always wanted to be the reference site when it comes to supplements, and it looks like we’re getting there. It also leads into …

Why I Do What I Do

I am the immigrant dream. I moved to Canada when I was 14 (starting high school). I dabbled around building websites, and by the time I was in university I had incorporated my first company. I left Canada after graduation and moved around some more (USA, Argentina, USA, then back to Canada), and during that time my businesses grew.

Make no mistake: This wasn’t me luckily stumbling into something that worked. I remember days of programming from 9 am to 11 pm, with chocolate bars and muffins being my primary sustenance for the day.

Eventually, it was fork-in-the-road time: Do I stay in the rat race, accept money from venture capitalists (which were coming after me by then), and go for millions? Or do I retire, let the processes I built run themselves (I always say 5 minutes a day = 2.5 hours a month), and do what I want?

And so I chose the latter. I live a comfortable life, I do what I want, when I want, and that’s all I can ask for. If I want to go for an hour-long walk with my dog, I can ( and I do). I’ve also diversified enough so that I am not beholden to any one source for traffic or revenue.

While all this happened, I also went from fat to fit (here’s my mandatory before and after). And as this was happening, I took notes. Tons of them. And as the notes grew more and more impossible to manage, I eventually teamed up with Kurtis and we formed Examine.com.

That backstory is important to understanding what it is that makes me tick. Corny as it sounds, I’m like a 65-year-old man trying to build his legacy. Fitness is my passion, and I’m trying to effect legitimate change in how people perceive supplementation and nutrition; we get so many angry emails every day regarding our nutrition frequently asked questions that drip with dogmatic belief and no evidence at all.

Examine.com is inching towards 10,000 visitors per day; I always say I won’t be happy until we have 50,000, as at that amount of traffic I feel like we will finally be *the* reference site. And if we can manage that, I’ll feel like I’ve done some good (cue my immigrant thanks for the host of opportunities I’ve been given).

And that’s why I do what I do.

So this past week, Kurtis and I got an article published on TNation, titled New Uses for Creatine. We basically summed up some 101 on creatine (it works, it’s safe), and then talked about interesting research being done using it (neurological, cell-saving, etc).

Being the webdev engineer that I am, afterwards I thought – how can I compare how well-received my article was versus everyone else’s? The comments were effusive, but the # of registered users who could comment is a fraction of the population that saw the article. I don’t have access to pageviews/bounce rate, and so I settled on the simplest metrics we have: Facebook likes and Twitter tweets.

So I got the urls for all of the articles they had published since Jan 1, 2011, and ran it against Facebook and Twitter’s APIs. What follows is a meandering post on the various stats I came across. I had help from my webdev genius buddy Andre. You can find him at Fealty.com.

PLEASE NOTE: I realize that likes and tweets do not directly translate to your bottom-line. But let me have some fun here, okay?

  • Most Liked: Conditioning is a Sham, by a certain Mark Rippetoe. 3949 likes
  • Most Liked Debut Article: 3 Steps to Getting Your Girl to Train by Joy Victoria. Very well-written, it garnered 2146 likes and 94 tweets (we are the second most successful debut with 1043 likes and counting). Joy’s article was actually the second-most liked article.
  • Most Tweeted: Train Like a Man 5: The Real Paleo Exercise, by Martin Rooney. Clocking in at 258 tweets, I feel like “paleo” baited this well. The second most-tweeted is also by Martin Rooney: The Manthalon. Incidentally, he is the only one to break 200+ tweets (with these two articles).
  • Tweet vs FB: Joy’s post on getting girls to train got 2146 likes, where as Mike Roussell’s 27 More Nutrition Facts got 541 (roughly 25%). This is notable because they both got slightly more than 90 tweets each. I would chalk this up to Dr. Mike’s strong twitter presence (~9500 followers). Martin Rooney has ~24,000.
  • Most Prolific: Ben Bruno clocks in at 44 articles, and Tim with 35. Ben’s most popular article was Glutes Gone Wild, and Tim’s was The Simple Diet.
  • Most Prolific, Part 2: After Tim, we get Jim Wendler, Dan John, John Meadows, TC, Mike Robertson, Bret Contreras, and Lee Boyce.
  • Most Prolific, in Likes: For people with at least 5 articles, Rippetoe has the highest average and median of likes (955 and 548 respectively). Martin Rooney is second.
  • Most Prolific, In Tweets: Martin Rooney wins this one hands down. Rippetoe is second for average, but Wil Fleming pulls and upset and gets the second highest median. With no outliers, Wil’s articles on Olympic lifting always get love on Twitter.
  • Most Popular #: A staple of titles is “5 exercises for bigger arms” or “3 tricks to make your legs grow.” The #5 was the most popular, followed by #6 and #7. The most liked for #5 was 5 Surprising Reasons You Blew Your Diet by Shelby Starnes
  • Always Working With Others: There are quite a few co-written articles on TNation. Bret Contreras has co-written with three other people, with Brad Schoenfeld his favorite teammate. The champ is Todd Bumgardner, who has written with five other people.

And that’s a wrap. We analyzed 600 articles from 117 bylines, totaling 119,925 likes and 15,173 tweets.

Examine.com continues to grow, and is slowly becoming the juggernaut I always wanted it to be.

The reality though is that none of this was happenstance. It’s been two years of solid grinding – reading, writing, editing, connecting, responding to emails asap, etc. I’m retired, but every day, from roughly 10am to 4pm, with a 30-60 minute break in-between (depending on which of my favorite tv shows played the night before), I am working away on Examine.com. The drive itself has nothing to do with money – if I want to achieve my goal (make Examine.com the reference site on nutrition), I need to put in the time.

One of my favorite books is So Good They Can’t Ignore You. The basic premise is that one has to work incredibly hard (and intelligently) to become the master at anything. Talent and passion are nice, but they don’t make you a star. Better than average? Sure. But only with a relentless approach can you be the best.

I love reading biographies, and this tends to be the central theme – they all put in their time. LBJ? Grinded? Robert Moses? Grinded. Ahhhhnold? Grinded. [Insert anyone who made it big] – grind grind grind. Hell I’ll even mention Jon Goodman’s PTDC – it’s come out of nowhere to become a major hub. And it’s not like Jon accidentally did it. Send him an email – he will respond. Ask him for help – he will come through. He grinds nonstop, and it’s a big reason why he is as successful as he is.

This is where I insert some kind of inspirational quote on how hard work results in better luck, but you get the damn point. Incremental work adds up.

I will say – we are reaching the point where we are so good that they cannot ignore us (anymore). And damn it feels good :)

“Confirm X action?”

A quick little complaint, but confirming every single action (particularly during deletions) is a slow and cumbersome UI approach. The smarter approach is to let the user do it, but then let them undo it.

Is it more work for the developer? Yeah. Does it make your application that much more useful? Absolutely.

I really really like this quote from Chasing the Perfect:

… I thought about what [Ernest] Becker said and about the four levels of power and meaning that he thought a person could choose to live by. First, he thought the basic level was the personal – the person you talk to when you are alone, the secret hero of your hidden life. The second level is the social, your intimate circle: spouse, close friends, family, dog. The third level he calls the secular; it is your allegiance to al arguer social group, a nation or a party or a corporation, your devotion to science or art. And the fourth, the one he considers the highest level of power and meaning in a person’s life, he calls the sacred: a person’s connection with “an invisible and unknown power, the insides of Nature, the source of Creation, or God.”

… it hit me that a real home – not an electronic showplace but a home – is a place where Becker’s four levels find physical support. In a real home there’s a place for talking to yourself alone. There’s a place for your visiting friend and for her children who climb all over your sofa while eating pudding. There’s a place for stuffing envelopes for the campaign or settling in and reading Gibbon from first volume to last. There
s a place to sit and look at a tree or a leaf and to think uninterrupted thoughts about that tree or that leaf. In short, a real home supports a person’s individual power and meaning.

When I was typing this up, I typoed ‘Creation’ as ‘Creatine’ :) Still, as I transition from the hectic lifestyle and into a more relaxed-paced one, this chunk of text on what a home is really hit close to home.

I don’t have much to say on this, except Alexis Madrigal did a great job putting what I’ve been thinking (for a while) into words: Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong.

We often become so obsessed with metrics that we forget that, akin to advertising in the “real world,” we cannot measure everything.

I would wager that your spread in the dark social correlates to your spread in Facebook/Twitter.

I spent the past weekend hanging out with fitness professionals at the PTDC – Becoming the Expert seminar. I’m not a personal trainer, so you would imagine a lot of it would not have applied to me, but the lineup was full of smart and interesting people (I will post about the event itself later). It was a great event.

Really though, this post is about me (no surprise) and how I’ve pivoted yet again into another industry. As an immigrant (didn’t arrive in North America until 8th grade), it’s been amazing how my projected career path was nothing like how events actually unfolded. Retiring in my 20s being the most obvious example.

“Fitness” (in all of its vagueness) is the sixth major industry I have entered. Two years ago I was at a conference for daily deals. A year before that had me in local search. Three years before that had me at domain conferences. And so forth. Vegas was a second home to me, spending at least a few days there every month, meeting and schmoozing in the variety of fields I dabbled in (with a lot of overlap). It’s been years since I’ve had to do that.

Examine was (and is) a highly interesting hobby for me, but it is now starting to become large enough (~100-125,000 visitors a month now) that it’s taking up more and more of my time. It is starting to graduate from “fun hobby” to “serious hobby”, and I have to admit, as I don’t have to rely on Examine to pay my bills, the immediate need to monetize has been incredibly freeing.

The previous five industries I entered were all very profitable for me. I am very confident in stating that Examine has the best pages on the Internets when it comes to supplements like creatine, fish oil, caffeine, and more. As a generic user, I firmly believe that Examine belongs in the top 3 Google results for any supplement that we cover.

Of course, it’s easier for me as I am essentially retired – I “work” because I find it fun, not because I need to. It’s liberating.

Amongst the dozens of businesses and websites I have launched, none have excited me as much as Examine has. I’m really looking forward to seeing where it is in two years time.

Apple & Mapping

14 Jun
2012

Mike Dobson does a great job talking about the many challenges Apple is about to face with their new mapping system.

The one part I disagree with Mike is the impetus that is driving Apple into this. Beyond the brand, beyond it making sense for Google (with the integration into local search), Apple’s new payment system will be greatly aided by having a door into local.

UrbanSpoon is already doing a great job kicking CityTable’s ass using iPads. If Apple can integrate the iPad/iPhone/iPod into business transactions, they’ll (continue to) do well in the future.

I was puzzled today – Examine had a huge burst of traffic today.

Turns out Dr Oz did a story on “fat burners

One of them turned out to be a supplement we have a page on – Raspberry Ketones. It’s a surge of traffic.

Losing Fat is Easy

29 Nov
2011

It took me longer than it should have (and I’m 90% done), but I’m very cognizant of why it took as long as it did (I’d rather eat nachos with buddies on a Saturday night than not).

It’s really a matter of physics. If you burn more calories than you ingest, your body will lose weight. A bit of intelligent is required to ensure it’s fat and not muscle, but the general premise remains.

It’s also a lot easier to eat 200 calories less than to burn off 200 calories.

And please let’s not get into carbs, paleo, keto, protein TEF, and other shit. That accounts for 10%, not the actual 90%. Even the oft-mentioned hyperthyroidism is naught more than a weak excuse.

So yeah, easy. You have only your diet to look at.

top