085 | Turn Your Hobby Into A Successful Business| Driving Massive Traffic To Your Website | Chris Parker

Today we’ll be talking with Chris Parker. And I’m so excited to have Chris because I’ve been using his product for a long, long time. The Chris is the founder of “what is my IP address dot com.” A tech friendly website attracting remarkable, 6 million unique IP seeking visitors a month. And in the year 2000, Chris created this website as a solution to a seemingly simple problem he faced at the time, which is finding his employers office IP address. When Chris launched his website, initially as a hobby, it attracted thousands of users. And as a result, Chris explored ways to grow it as a side hustle. And I’m sure that many in our audience are users of this website. In 2014, Chris was laid off at his full time employment. And rather than panic and use focus, he sees the opportunity to devote himself full time to his website. Today, what is my IP address.com is among the top 3000 websites in the US. Chris enjoys the fruits of success, generating close to seven figures annually and living the dream him travelling the world with his wife.

 

Welcome, Chris.

 

It’s great to be here.

 

Awesome. So, you know, we went over the story, but let’s hear it from you. How did it all happen? How did you put it together? And, you know, take us through that journey of phenomenal growth of your website.

 

Yeah, so the website originally started as actually just a solution to a problem that I was having. It wasn’t really thinking of it as a business or even a side hustle. When I launched it, it was just a, a solution to a problem that I didn’t think many people had. But it turned out quite a few people did. And I initially launched it on a little Windows NT server box sitting in my home on a on a on a 1.5 megabit DSL connection. So if anyone has a cell phone, it was faster than that, or was slower than that.

 

I do remember to those days.

 

Yeah, it was quite funny looking back at it, that it was just sitting next to my desk at home for quite a few years that’s all it sat until I started getting alerts saying that the hard drive was almost full on that box. And how could the hard drive be full? And it turned out to be logs from all the people visiting the website?

 

Right, cool.

So for some of the, you know, audience, who are not technically savvy, can you tell us you know what this is all about? You know, why do we need IP addresses? What is the use of this website, so that, you know people who are not in the tech sector, they can get get initiated and come to know about your site?

 

Yeah, probably the two analogies that work best for most people is an IP address is kind of like the return address on a on a postal mail or caller ID when you make a phone call, tiny little bit less like that. But when you send a message out across the internet, it goes to and from, where it’s coming from, and where it’s going to based on the IP address, and then order for the response to come back to you it needs to know where to go. And that’s your IP address. So every time that you connect with a website, it sees your IP address, every time you post on the forum, sees your IP address, you go on Facebook, it sees your IP address, in order to facilitate that facilitate that two way communication.

 

Yeah. And now, you know, there’s been a lot of talk about security, and people are paranoid. And you know, even in these CSI shows, you see, I’ve talked the IP address so I can get you so that was a little bit about that, you know, how much of this is reality how much of this is just fake.

 

It’s funny, there’s, there’s a certain amount of it in the way that they do it on the the criminal, the police shows that is totally not reality. But there’s also a portion of it that is potentially surprisingly real. For most people, if you were to visit my website, it will show you it will show you exactly what your IP address is. And that will usually be able to come up with 25 miles 50 kilometres from where you’re actually at. That’s kind of assuming everything is normal. Now, if you are using your cell phone, you’re often broadcasting where as part of that you’re making the GPS coordinates of your cell phone available. And so you may be unintentionally sharing your actual location within feet or metres of where you really are, as a good example, someone was doing graphics work for me. And he was testing something and he came back and look at the looked at the website was like, oh, wow, it’s it’s pointing at my kitchen window.

 

So the thing that my site can’t tell you is whether that particular IP address is dead on or if it’s a dozen miles off, 100 miles off, or 1000 miles off? Really, the only one who knows really where you’re at is your ISP, because they have to maintain the connectivity with you. They’re the one who’s providing you that dinner connection. So they’re the ones who know for sure, exactly where your service addresses. Yeah.

 

And, you know, there are a lot of services out there who are trying to hide your IP address and make you anonymous and, and things of that nature. So how do those work? And are they useful in hiding your identity?

 

Yeah, there’s a couple of different methodologies for that probably the most popular currently is using a VPN service that basically routes all your internet traffic through your VPN provider encrypted, meaning anyone who’s trying to sniff the traffic along the way can’t see what websites you’re visiting, they can’t see what you’re doing, they can’t access that data. And it pops out on the internet, on the public Internet, wherever that company has a server. So if you wanted to appear like you’re in Southern California, you can use one of their services, Southern California, if you wanted to appear like you were in South America, Israel, you could do things like that. And so those services are usually pay, the are a couple of free services that offer you a very limited bandwidth. And then there’s companies that offer you free services with no bandwidth caps. Those are the services that you actually have to watch out for, because maintaining a robust technical infrastructure potentially cost millions of dollars a year. And if they’re not getting the money from you, it’s kind of like people talk about Facebook, if if you’re not paying for the service, you are the service. Yeah, some of those those companies have been found out as sharing all of your surfing behaviour. And that’s how they’re making their money. So that’s, that’s the most popular way. Another way that people use these days a lot is Tor, which is good for web browsing. It’s a specific browser, that routes your traffic through a number of servers that are all everybody knows where the servers are. And so your traffic just gets mixed in with hundreds of millions of other people that are using the servers, it’s generally slow. And some websites intentionally block traffic from Tor servers, just because there’s a anytime things are kind of anonymous, it kind of attracts some malicious activity.

 

Yeah. Let’s talk about that. So are these VPN services legal? Or can they be? I mean, are they legal, First of all..?

 

so it really depends on where you’re at. If you’re in the US, or Canada like we are, it’s not a problem. There. They’re perfectly legitimate services that have good sound reasoning for it. If you’re in company in countries with more restrictive internet policies, Canada, I’m sorry, I racked North Korea, Turkey, China, Russia, Iran, countries like that. They can either just be they can range anywhere from being kind of restricted. Like you can only use government run VPN, which kind of defeats the purpose, or certain VPN or allowed, varying all the way down to imprisonment, if you use them. So you really, if you’re in a country where it’s illegal, or you think it might be illegal, you really need to figure that out and make that decision for yourself. Whether or not what you’re doing is worth the potential punishment for it.

 

Yeah. So there’s this perception that, you know, wrongfully so that VPN services are closely associated with malicious activity. So that means it’s generally depends basically, what kind of service you’re using, what purpose you’re using for, right.

 

Yeah, I mean, the fact that you’re using a VPN doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re, you’re trying to hide criminal activity. Unfortunately, some people do try to use VPN to hide criminal activity or at minimum malicious activity. You know, they’re, they’re trolling on websites, they’re just being miscreants, and being obnoxious. But for a lot of people, they’re trying to use VPN for purely legitimate reasons. If you’re wanting that extra layer security, to make sure that you know, you’re on the mom and pop maintained Wi Fi network at the local bagel shop, you know, I don’t trust that mom’s great at maintaining network security, I’m there because I like her bagels. So you might want to use a VPN in the situation like that. There’s also people who are trying to access location restricted content. And that’s not necessarily I’m trying to get around, you know, government monitoring. But sometimes you have situations where local televisions, TV stations will stream their station for the local consumers. And that might be your hometown, where you grew up, and you’re not there anymore, you want to watch it. So you might use a VPN. And the same sort of thing could happen with professional sports, things like that. And then you have the people who just don’t want, I don’t want my ISP, knowing what websites I’m on, I don’t want my government knowing what websites I’m visiting. I just want that that extra layer of privacy on my behaviour.

 

I see. And the most usual one that I hear about this Netflix, because people want to access Netflix content in various countries. So what is your opinion about that? Is that like, you know, maybe in Canada, a lot of shows are not available to me, which are available in the US and vice versa. So is that is that something that’s legal or not?

 

Well, legal is a government criminal category categorization. So technically, those things aren’t illegal, but it’s that it but it is, if you read the Terms of Service with any of these providers, I’m sure it’s not according to the terms of service, there’s definitely been a long running kind of cat and mouse game between Netflix and other streaming services and VPN companies. That’s, you know, once they identify, that’s a VPN, they restricted, the VPN kind of tweaks their technology a little bit gives new servers and they start using they can start using the surface again. But yes, that’s a very common usage for it. Yeah, you know, if, if I’m a US resident, and I have a US Netflix account, and I just happened to be overseas, I’d be able to access Netflix. Yeah, you know, that would be the argument that people would make.

 

Sure. All right. And now, if I’m not wrong, you’re also started providing another service to hide your IP address or something along those lines.

 

Now, we don’t actually provide any of the services. Like I said, before, it takes a lot of money to maintain those infrastructures. And so we refer out to companies that we’ve done research on that we think are reputable in being able to provide those services because I don’t have the infrastructure to be able to provide them. And it’s, it’s not the business I want to be in personally.

 

Sure. So now, let’s talk about your business then. So you know, your website is available for free. I’m assuming there are no paid services? If there are, let’s talk about that. But if there’s not, how do you make money? How do you? How do you monetize your website?

 

Yeah, I have absolutely no pay services on my site that I offer. I’ve always tried to kind of look at this with, you know, how can I provide a service to people and not charge for it, I like free stuff. That’s part of what the internet is about. But in the sense that there is a cost to it. And that cost is being able for me to be able to put advertising on the site. And so there’s two predominant forms of advertising that I use. One is display advertising, and everyone’s familiar with that those are the, the banners for, you know, banner ads for everything, from cars, to shoes to whatever it is. And there’s a variety of really neat technologies these days that track interest. So if you’ve been surfing looking for a new car, you’re going to see lots of ads for cars, and therefore I’m going to make a little bit extra because of that, or if you’ve been searching for VPN, and you’re on my site, it might those pages written about VPN content, my draw ads for VPN. And then the other thing that I do is I affiliate partnerships. So with many of the VPN companies that I have on my site, if I get someone to sign up, they pay me a small commission for that for promoting their services.

 

Great. And now, you know, obviously, you, you’ve been tremendously successful, you launched this as a hobby, and it turned out to be a very successful business. What will you say to some aspiring entrepreneurs who want to replicate your success? Like, are there any niches left today that, you know, that can have such a simple sort of implementation, but can grow into something meaningful in a few years?

 

Yeah, I think there are, there’s always new niches, there’s always new technology coming out, there’s always new products, there’s always new categories of things. For me to suggest one, by the time this airs, that won’t be a new niche anymore. But but it’s not like I started this website, and I was a millionaire Three years later, I, I don’t think I made a penny the first, you know, probably third, first three or four years, I probably made no money was even trying to make money. So I think if, you know, it kind of depends on what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to grow your reputation, or, you know, just become familiar with a particular sector particular interest, sometimes doing it for free, almost works better, because then you’re not looking at the ROI of it, you’re doing something because you’re passionate about it, you like it, its interests you. And so you’re not thinking well, an ad here or promotion there. Because that can sometimes read through to your audience really easy of like, oh, they’re just trying to sell me stuff. Yeah. And that’s always kind of the view that I’ve taken with my site is I don’t want it to read really heavy that I’m constantly pushing products and services on people that I want to make it you know, if they’re interested in that it’s available. And I’m happy to accept a commission from it. But I don’t want to be the website that’s beating them over the head every three seconds with an advertisement for something.

 

Right. You were in the corporate segment for a long, long time. Did you have to unlearn any, anything that you picked up in your corporate job that does not apply to entrepreneurship?

 

I think it’s more that I had to learn others, I had to learn entrepreneurial skills as opposed to unlearning corporate in the corporate, you generally don’t go to work thinking, How do I keep the company in business? You think more of like, Well, how do I just do my job, and at the end of the day, I can go home and not think about what I did all day long. What you’re an entrepreneur, it often is I jokingly tell my wife, I work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now, it doesn’t mean I’m always sitting in front of my computer. But you know, there’s times that I’m up, I wake up spontaneously at three o’clock in the morning, wondering if a hard drive failed? Because Well, it’s my website, and I’m the only one who’s going to take care of it. So, you know, I think there are those aspects to being an entrepreneur have more responsibility in terms of the overall outcome. And that can either be daunting and scary, or that for some people that could be very freeing of like, well, I’m in charge of my own destiny now, as opposed to, you know, gosh, I really don’t like the way my boss runs his business, but at least it pays the bills. Yeah. So you don’t have any employees. I have no direct employees, I have a variety of contractors that I work with from around the world. I’ve got people here in the US that are happen to be right down the street from me. And then I also have a couple people in the Philippines and one person in India, and each person has a role that I’m very grateful that they provide they provide a great service at a rate that if I were having done here in the US, it wouldn’t be scalable for me. So it’s, it’s really been great to be able to provide for people and help them kind of achieve their entrepreneurial dreams, where they live. It also helped me to do the same thing here.

 

That’s great. Yeah, I tried to do the same and it can be satisfying to, to help them out. There are a lot of countries around the world are not as fortunate as we are here. So it’s good to go to work with them and you know, help them out.

 

Yeah. And I think I think that’s a great opportunity for people in third world, countries outside the US and maybe Canada, the UK, of what services can I provide at a rate cheaper than someone in the US can provide at the same quality, because because there is a lower cost of living in places in the world, you can get away with charging less per hour, and still make a very good living where they are exactly as well as providing great service.

 

And then there are a lot of other problems. You know, I’m working with a few people in Venezuela, and the political situation over there is horrible. So they have no jobs, they have, you know, very limited resources there. So I, you know, try to work with them, because it does provide some sort of a help. Yeah. All right. Now, moving forward. So how did you how did you get this much traffic? Let’s talk about that last, how did you grow this into such a prominent website over the years?

 

Yeah. So I think first that I should state the obvious is that when you are the first one of the first companies, entities in a space, that definitely helps. So the site’s been around for in January of 2020, the site will be have been around for 20 years. But I think a lot of it just has to do with my philosophy of trying to provide content that’s valuable to the people that are using the site, that am I solving a problem for people, am I making something easier to understand and producing content around that. And so that’s what I’ve, I’ve strived to do for many years. Initially, it was responding to emails, and then taking those emails and turning them into facts on the website. And that just kind of working my way out from there.

 

Right. So do you provide like, other type of content? Like do you write blog articles, and you implement SEO techniques?

 

Yeah, I mean, I don’t do a whole lot of writing for other other websites. I’d rather for the most part, I’d rather keep my content on my website. Yeah. But I’ve really tried to when it comes to SEO, really operate with best practices, I’ve avoided buying links from people I’ve avoided, you know, crazy link building campaigns, but just really, I think part of its just really trying to build engaging content that people want to link to. And that is that it’s technically easy for the search engines to understand sometimes we remember the days when people were making websites entirely out of flash, not that anyone has it anymore. But there was nothing for the search engines to index. So they didn’t rank well. And then there’s people that, you know, the the HTML code is so messy, it’s a little more difficult for the search engines to understand, well, did they intentionally close a tag? Did they not close tags? Is this the title of the page? Is this a footer? Because they’re trying to do weird kind of, you know, funky things, if you just kind of best practices, keep things clean, I think that that has benefited me very well over the years.

 

And I think, you know, you, you had a very unfair advantage, which is the name like that’s exactly what people are looking for, when they when they type it in, in the search engine, what is my IP address, and you know, your website is generally right at the top.

 

Yeah. And that has, that is definitely advantage. But it’s also in some sense of disadvantage, because with a website of what is my IP address, com, I’d want to sell cars, I could ever sell cars. So because it is such an exact match domain, it’s very limited as to what I can do with the domain. And people coming to find out their IP address. They’re not coming, they’re necessarily shopping for products and services. So you really have to look at it intent behind what your users are doing. So I wrote a website about reviews about DSL cameras and everything digital camera wise and degraded the lighting accessories and filters and lenses and cases. Well, those people there because there are no buying mood. So those advertisements are going to be much more clicked on. Affiliate affiliate links are going to be clicked on it, people are going to buy more. So while I might have more traffic than a lot of people, I don’t have people coming to my website saying I want to buy an IP address, because that’s just not the way it works.

 

But will you recommend new entrepreneurs looking to launch their company to find this type of demeanour? Is that even possible anymore?

 

Yeah, I think it’s always possible is particularly if it’s if it’s a new niche, if you know, there’s a new widget that’s come out, and it’s never been talked about before you can you can get you know widget com or whatever it is have to realise the limitations that exact match domain may have with for you in the future, if you want to grow beyond that widget, you’re gonna you might have a hard time doing that. If you’re a there’s a there’s a lot of there was a company I used to work for called club back, and they sell sold Macintosh computers. Back when Apple didn’t sell directly when they didn’t have the Apple Store. And they decided they wanted to expand it to selling PC is also well, who wants to buy a PC from club Mac? It becomes a branding problem. So you have to think about what do you want to do with your brand? Or what are the possibilities for your brand? 510 15 years down the line? If your website’s a smashing success, but it’s only in this one little vertical? You may limit yourself by having an exact match domain not to say that you shouldn’t do it. But there is definitely a cost associated with it.

 

Yeah. All right, not well, let’s talk about your journey. Along the way, did you make any mistakes? Because it seems like you had a very, very smooth growth period and still growing? So did you run into any problems? Did you make any mistakes?

 

Yeah, I think I’ve run into a number of problems that I’m I’m happy to share about because I think it so my mistakes will hopefully not be someone else’s mistakes. And some of it has to do with kind of the age of the internet. Well, my website was growing is for too many years, I ran the website out of my house. I had multiple internet connections coming into my home office, I had a half rack server. And because of that kind of infrastructure, I was prone towards denial of service attacks, technical issues. And part of that I was okay with because to me, at this point, it was just a side hustle. It was fun. I like the technical aspects of the hardware behind running websites, stuff like that. And that’s not so much what people do anymore. People aren’t running their own DNS servers, their own link balancers and techie things like that. They’re just, I’ve got an AWS instance somewhere that they don’t even know about. It’s just, it’s just there. So having that physical technology that I had to deal with moved to a colocation facility wasn’t a really scalable, scalable thing. And so because of that I had, because I knew I had a technic, technical issues with the physical infrastructure, I worked really hard to build a very streamlined backend for the website. So the entire website was all hand coded, every single page was hand coded, there was no CMS, there was no WordPress element to it, there was no none of that available, or there’s none of that none of those things weren’t available at the time. But because those things are relatively database intensive. And it was sitting on a machine in my home, I went away from those kind of setups and went to hand coded, many years later, now that I’m trying to bring on writers and people to do work for me, well, I’m still in the position where someone wants to make a spelling correction, they’ve got to send me an email, I’ve got to go into the box, get onto that box, changed that file, save it, make sure there’s a backup of it. So it’s really in terms of being able to produce content and and grow the site, it’s really become a thorn in my side, which is, as we’re talking right now, I’ve got a had to hire a team of people to migrate my migrate portions of my site to a CMS that will allow other people on my team to actually be able to, to work on it so that it’s not all falling on me. So I think that’s kind of one of the lessons that I I wish I had learned earlier is it’s that kind of that Forward, forward looking at again, is, you know, what do you do when your business scales? Are your processes scalable? Have you document documented what you’re doing such that you can hand it off for someone else to do it? Or is it even possible for someone else to do it? You need to think about those things before you have to do it. Otherwise, it takes away from running your business when you actually have to do your business.

 

Yeah. And you brought up cloud computing, which has been, you know, exploding in adoption. So will you recommend that people go with the cloud, cloud infrastructure as they are launching the new website new products? Or should they consider their own hosted facilities?

 

It kind of really depends on what you’re trying to do, I think you need to at least look at those options. Some of the cloud services can be, depending on your website can be prohibitive prohibitively expensive. Well, that’s something that I’ve had to deal with, in terms of like, Can I go to a cloud computing platform? I get somewhere in the neighbourhood of Gosh, I think the number is hundred 100 million requests to my website in like a 72 hour period of time. Like 99% of that are not human users. It’s, you know, malware that people have written script kiddies, all sorts of weird stuff. So if I were to take my site and try to just drop it on an AWS instance, the the infrastructure costs, the per request cost would just would blow up my bank account really quickly. So I’ve had to work or you know it, but it really depends on me, you’re most people are not going to be in that situation. So something like putting on AWS or Azure, for many people is a probably a very good solution.

 

Yeah. All right. And how has this success changed you like, you know, are you still as driven? How has your mindset changed over the years now that you have had this success?

 

I think one of the things that has been a mind mind shift, for me, is really starting to think about how can I facilitate other people’s goals and dreams? Not that I not that I don’t want to have more in savings or something like that. But I’m trying not. I don’t want my success being like, well, how much do I have? But rather, how much can I help other people? And so I think it’s been exciting. Being able to starting to work with contractors and bring people on to various parts of the world, to me has been a really exciting thing. And you know, my wife, and I look at that, like, well, in what ways can you know, hey, what more could we give to charity? If the business does better? And rather than kind of line our own pockets of how can we help out those around us? We’re taking care of we’re happy, we don’t need more, how can we help other people? So that’s kind of been our mindset. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to be in that position.

 

That’s great. That’s a that’s unusual in this world, for sure. So thanks a lot for doing that. And now what about habits? Like what kind of habits have you developed? Did they contribute in your success?

 

Yeah, I mean, one of the things that that kind of I laugh that is, throughout my life, I’ve tried to read business books, I bought a number of business books and never really been able to put them into practice. I’ve tried kind of productivity books over the years, and it just hasn’t worked. Within the last couple of years, I’ve really been able to start using methodology, just like GTD getting things done. Yeah, Alan. Yeah. And trying to keep myself from being distracted by Oh, gosh, what was that documented? Get out of my head. One of the things I recently did is I have no social media on my devices. And I still post a social media through applications to do that. But I I don’t get, you know, I don’t get notification when there’s tweets, I don’t get friend requests. And I think that’s really helped me to be able to settle down and be able to have larger blocks of my time where I can can be focused on, okay, I’m writing content. Okay, I’m coming up with a five day challenge for privacy and security. And it gives me these larger blocks of time to be more effective at what I do rather than Oh, wait, there’s an email. Oh, wait, there’s a tweet, oh, getting distracted by all these things. I think that kind of thing has really helped me starting to use project management platforms like Trello, to be able to move things along trying to think about how can I be, like we talked about before outsourcing tasks that I’m either not good at? Or don’t want to do to people that are good at it? And I could do it for less than my time.

 

Awesome. That’s good. And will you consider yourself success or your success in the making?

 

You know, I think I consider myself the success independent of what the business is, I hate to think that that I define my success by whether or not my business is profitable, not profitable. I tried to define goals of success by relationships, people that I know, my ability to be able to help people, whether that’s with my time or with my money. I mean, I definitely feel that the website has helped facilitate that. But I would hate to think that like, Well, you know, like with anything on the internet, if Google changes the algorithm, I could lose significant portion of my traffic overnight. Does that make me no longer a success? And so I don’t really want to tie my success to financial things that I don’t necessarily have a control over, but more of how am I contributing to the lives of the people around me? So in that sense, yeah. I feel like I’m a success.

 

Awesome. That’s great. And what are your plans for the future now?

 

Well, I’m really excited, like being able to get a portion of the site on a CMS and to be able to really start growing content, providing more content, we’ve got some great plans for kind of like programmes for people to go through at no cost to, you know, here’s 20 things that you can do to harden your own security that are achievable by anybody, you don’t need to be a geek, you don’t need to be have a technical background, but just simple practical things that people can do to make sure that they’re, you know, get their best practices in place.

 

Awesome. That’s great. Well, thank you so much for being with us today and sharing your story and educating us about IP addresses and whole bunch of other things. Now, before I let you go, can you tell us how people can reach out to you?

 

Yeah, obviously people can go to what is my IP address calm but if someone wants to reach out to me directly, they can go to my personal website, CG Parker dot com when I talk about kind of some of the behind the scenes there, as well as any any of the social media platforms and all that you can find me on.

 

Awesome. Great. Well, once again, thanks for being with us and sharing your story.

 

Great, thank you very much. Had a great time.

 

Links & Mentions From This Episode:     ‘

 

Chris’s Website: https://whatismyipaddress.com/                                                                               https://www.cgparker.com/

TetraNoodle consulting services: https://bootstraptechstartup.com

TetraNoodle professional training: https://courses.tetranoodle.com

 

 

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