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Off The Clock: Rae Dolan

February 19, 2019

By Hope DiNatale
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Who knew that using her Dad’s computer to research for her son would lead Rae Dolan into digital marketing. Today, she is a marketing veteran who helped build the affiliate and SEO community to what it is today.

Rae is the co-founder of PushFire with her husband, Sean Dolan. She’s spoken at multiple events like Webmaster’s World, SMX, SearchHOU, Affiliate Summit East, LeadsCon, SEOClass Workshop Series, and has regularly written for Search Engine Land, as well as Marketing Land. She’s won multiple awards and is seen as a thought leader in the industry.

With her successful career behind her, Rae is now excited about her future in the real estate industry. She is the co-owner of AMI House Buyers and AMI Investments, as well as a real estate agent through Buying Katy. Her passion now lies in flipping houses and helping people out of difficult housing situations when all hope seems lost.

Listen to last week’s digital marketing news in Marketing O’Clock episode 57, Google Assistant Ad Delivery – Ep. 57 >

Show notes:

Rae in Action:

Must Read Article:

11 THINGS MY SON TAUGHT ME ABOUT LIFE AND BUSINESS by Rae Dolan

Lightning Round:

Read the Full Interview:

Greg: Welcome to this week’s episode of marketing your clock off the clock where we take a look at the journey of somebody within the digital marketing space. I couldn’t be more excited for today’s guest and it’s gonna be a little bit different this week as we have an industry veteran. Who really helped build the SEO community, made it to the top of the profession, and then left at the peak one year ago. Welcome to the show, Rae Dolan of AMI House Buyers. Welcome, Rae.

Rae Dolan: Thank you. How ya’ll doing today.

Greg: I am doing fantastic. How is it down in Texas?

Rae Dolan: It is cold or at least our cold. It’s not ya’ll cold. It’s our cold down here for the last week.

Greg: I hear you on that. So in case you’re confused to any listener out there yes I did say AMI House Buyers and Rae, what is the elevator pitch if you were on a very short elevator, what is AMI House Buyers and what are you currently doing.

Rae Dolan: So AMI House Buyers. So what am I currently doing, there’s multiple things. AMI House Buyers, it’s a company that buys properties off market so they buy them off the MLS. And so a lot of times what we’re dealing with AMI are what we refer to as distressed sellers. So a seller might be facing foreclosure and be three or four weeks away from auction. There’s a multitude of different things that can constitute a distressed seller. And so we work with them and we’re upfront with them; we solve a problem that they have and we acquire the property at a discount. These properties usually are in need of work. It’s very rare that you know they’re super nice well-kept up to date houses. They’re usually either very dated or they have very expensive repairs that the homeowners couldn’t afford to do long before they stopped paying their mortgage. So know the issue sometimes can compound themselves. And so that’s what we do with AMI. And then I also. Got my real estate license so I also do standard realtor work and a lot of times I will offer if somebody is distressed but has the ability to still sell on market I’ll offer for them to do that even though it’s less money to me at the end of the day but so the reason that I have my house buyers requires these properties is because we either renovate them and flip them or we keep as rentals or sometimes we sell the actual contract. So I put a lot of offers out and sometimes I’ll have more offers accepted than I realize. And so we get all of our money through private money lenders so not banks not hard money just people that we know they’re looking for you know a good return on their cash. And so that’s how we purchase the houses but sometimes we end up you know all the money is full and working on other projects and we’ll have a contract come in. So sometimes we sell the contracts too which in the industry is referred to as wholesaling but typically the houses are like stray cats to me I get them and I want to keep them.

Greg: Okay yeah that was like the best elevator pitch ever. I think you covered that all. And folks this also is not a real estate podcast but we’re going to get into it. So that’s a little disclaimer here but this is very much a marketing podcast. And we’re going to hear why and how Ray is kind of here today but that that’s perfect. So it sounds like you can up a little bit all the different facets from flips and wholesaling and buying hold in the real estate space and we’re going to get to how you got there today. But before we do Rae, is there one job that people don’t know, that any time in your life, is there a job that people don’t know you’ve had.

Rae Dolan: So it’s interesting because I’ve been self-employed almost my entire adult life. So and I know you know there’s a lot of posts where I mention that I used to be a waitress. So I did. I worked as a waitress at a lot of places. But as far as like that a lot of people don’t know my first job ever was at Dunkin Donuts and I couldn’t eat donuts until I was probably in my mid 30s because I worked at Dunkin Donuts from when I was 15 to 16.

Greg: All right. And I know that you are now I believe brand loyal to Tim Hortons. So that is something that is a little embarrassing but that’s that’s awesome. Okay. And before obviously after Dunkin Donuts I know that you were started back in the pre 2000 era is when you had initially gotten into digital marketing and your stories is a little different than some others it wasn’t like there were masters in SEO from different universities. What brought you online in the first place back in the 90s.

Rae Dolan: So originally so I had my first son in 1997. So I have four kids but my oldest was born in 1997. And so he was born perfectly healthy but he suffered a massive bilateral stroke when he was two weeks old. And they they they never did find out why. But so back then pediatric stroke was thought to be a lot rarer than they would later find out that it was. And so my dad initially gave me an old office computer of his so that I could get on the internet and research my son’s condition. So that was kind of how I started on the Internet. You know I’m on a dial up I was in my late late late or sorry early 20s before I ever got on the Internet. So through doing that I ended up long story short, I founded the first international support group for parents and families of pediatric stroke survivors to ever register with the American Heart Association or the National Stroke Association. So I ran that online for a few years and you know I was just trying to do, I was just trying to find other parents who might need our information.

And so you know and in reality I was marketing but I didn’t know that’s why I was marketing. Or you know that that’s what I was doing. And I remember like. You know people would contact me and say they found the page and I can never figure out like you know how they were finding me and they were finding me in the search engines for a long time. I would find articles that I could find about pediatric stroke and I would link to them from this website so I had you know a resources page which was basically all the research that I was able to find on the Internet. So I kind of created this little mini niche directory category I guess you could call it. And so you know at some point that the national organizations like the National Stroke Association and the American Heart Association which owns the American Stroke Association. They actually were linking to my web site because I had the largest collection of pediatric stroke information like housed in one spot. So I started with that and that was really taking a lot of my time and I couldn’t hold a full time job because my son was in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. And so I said well you know there’s got to be a way to like make money on the Internet. I can do all this other stuff on the Internet, there’s got to be a way to make money on the Internet. And so I looked it up and I actually didn’t find SEO and I didn’t find what I found was a program called Cognigine. And so they basically had a Web site called ld.net, but what they did was they sold long distance plans.

So that’s how old I am in this industry is back when you use that to pay to make long distance phone calls. And so they sold long distance plans. And so I thought I was like you know if I can just get like the parents that belong to the scorecards sign up for long distance plans then you know maybe that’ll make it so that I can just spend my time you know doing this web site and getting this information together. But as I got a little deeper into what Cognigine was and like looking at the options as like you know I don’t I don’t I’m really comfortable with crossing the streams and mixing those two. So I went on to the message board at the message boards a Cognigine and I said hey guys you know I found this program I want to promote it like how do I promote it. And somebody said well you need to build a website. So I said okay. So I came back a week later and I said I built a web site and this was by the way like 20 hours of my life every single day. You know kids sitting on my lap at the computer desk like every spare second that I had I was at the computer desk and so I come back in about a week and I said okay I built this website, what do I do now. And they said well now you need to learn a SEO. So you’re talking you know this is late 90s early 2000s. And so you know I go I come back in a week and I’m like okay, I put you know meta keywords blah blah blah all this cool SEO stuff that I did. And this guy hits me up on the message board like in private DM. And he says did you really learn all that in the last two weeks. And I said yeah. And he goes well I think you’re going to be able to do really well in this industry. He’s like so I’d like to be someone that that mentors you and maybe you can come in because a lot of the affiliate programs have you know second tier and third tier where you get paid off the people you brought in. And so he goes you know and maybe you sign up under me for something one day. And I was like okay. You know unbeknownst to me the guy that contacted me was actually Mike Mackin who received the Affiliate Marketing Legend Award from Affiliate Summit a few years ago.

So I had no idea who he was at the time but you know he he reached out to me and he introduced me to some people and they never taught me how to fish or sorry I should say, they never gave me fish, they taught me how to fish. And so you know really like and I tell Mike this still to this day that like that DM changed my life you know and Michael always joke back and say well you know you would have done it whether you met me or not. And I said well yeah but you know it gave me you know he said I would have done it with an anchor around my neck that I said. But it gave me you know this this great start. And Mike kind of introduced me to the world over at webmaster world. And that was where I kind of really started to hone what I was doing SEO wise and I was ranking like top of the serps for all these different long distance terms. And then one of the guys that Mike introduced me to is this guy named Rod B. And Rod introduced me to the world of Fenter Beam. And so that was actually the second industry that I ever played around in and it was the second industry I ever tried to rank in and anybody that that hasn’t been an SEO for a long time. Back back then we used to joke that you know there were the three big industries PPC; porn, pills, and casino. And those were the three hardest industries to rank in and they were the three hardest industries you know they were they were full of the most spam and Googles baby days when you know they weren’t as good at fighting spam. And so what kind of made me known to two people in the industry was that I was, I didn’t know anything about spamming. I just built websites and did things the way that Google you know that that people said you were supposed to do you know what we would refer to as white hat SEO. And so I how I kind of made my name was I was that girl who ranked number 1 for phentermine using white hat methods. You know nowadays they might be looked at a gray hat but back then you know they were called search engines so. So yea that’s kind of why I fell in to affiliate.

Greg: And was that approach of saying I’m going to do this in this this you know this White Hat format was that something you had thought through was something you made that that conscious decision on that you’re going to take that path.

Rae Dolan: No that wouldn’t be until you know it’s interesting. So I I I didn’t I didn’t stay on that path. Not my entire career. So no I mean I kind of just you know the way that that Mike and Rod you know the the way that webmaster world was back in the day I remember one of my big things and you’ll probably laugh at this one of my and one of my big things was I found this post that was like it was something like how to do SEO from a to z. And I remember sending Rod a message on AOL and I was like hey I found this post like is it really accurate. And he was like he goes yeah I think you can trust the guy who wrote it. And he laughed and I said why are you laughing and he goes he goes you don’t know who Brett Tabke is. I was like no I have no idea like who. Who is Brett Tabke who’s the guy who owned webmaster world. So I mean I just kind of used that as a Bible but where where I was good was figuring out what link development. Right? Like figuring out ways to get links that were within their guidelines at the time. So like on the phetermine site, I created this ridiculous weight loss internal. Which was basically just like you know PDF’s it is like a PDF thing of like that you could print out and then use to like you know document what you ate for the day. And I don’t know. You know Greg I don’t I don’t know how old you are but back in the day there were all these free sites that you could go to that would show you like free things you could get on the Internet.

Greg: Oh yeah.

Rae Dolan: And so I basically just submitted this thing to like tons of free sites and that was how I was getting all of these links you know natural links to the web site without paying for them and without doing comments spam and things along those lines. So really that’s that’s kind of been my strength. But in 2004, the Florida update happened which was it was a Google update and Google used to update like every six to eight weeks. Right. So now nowadays I mean and you all have no idea how how spoiled you are like you can make a change to your website and like three days later you can see whether or not it’s affecting your rankings. Back then we have a thing called Google dance. And so every six to eight months Google would shuffle its data centers and whatever the results were when it stopped dancing was what the results were going to be until the next time it shuffled its its index. And so if you ranked number one for phetermine at the end of that that six at the end of that shuffle that’s pretty much where you were going to be for the next six weeks no matter how it was that you got there.

Greg: You’re gonna have a few good months.

Rae Dolan: Exactly. Like you were. You kind of knew like I can afford steak. So but so the Florida update was this update that Google did that just wiped out every one of my sites like all the sites that I spent all this time doing things you know according to their guidelines all of my sites were wiped out and a bunch of my friends were spammers and they were all fine. And so. I had no way to know at the time Google would end up realizing that that update actually was a bad update. And so two months later they would roll it back with an update called Brandy or least that that webmaster tool called Brandy. And so they would they would you know all my sites came back in brandy but I didn’t know that was going to happen when Florida first happened. And so I was kind of like well if I have if I have the risk of losing either way I may as well play fast and loose because it’s way easier to rank and it doesn’t hurt as bad when you you lose that. And you know when when you’re when your sites get tanked so you know from 2004 I’d say to like 2006 or seven. You know it’s funny when I did my retirement post I had to sit down and figure out all these dates but for the next few years. I did, I spammed the hell out of Google and had its own algorithm for a while and then MSN I think was still using inktomi when I first started spamming and then they flipped over to their their own algorithm shortly thereafter. But yeah so I spent the next two years basically as we used to technically refer to it spamming and jamming you know until I finally realized that Google was making huge progress in the war on spam.

Greg: Yeah. And that that to me is one of the things where I know there would always be these panels and you have you know some some affiliates like yourself and then some of those other spammer jammer type folks. And you know to me I always thought of you as that what you had talked about before with with the way to create content in a way that would kind of stand out and work organically. So you know you did the the dark arts for a few years and then you know after that you went back and say a few years afterwards and focused in on those affiliate sites and again doing it according to Webmaster Guidelines.

Rae Dolan: Well yeah and that’s kind of how so for for a while there I owned the largest prepaid cell phone site on the Internet or I should say the one with the most reviews so and that kind of came from, so I’ve been spamming for a few years Google was definitely getting better. I mean it used to be throw a 100 sites against the wall 90 of them would stick. When we got down to like 40 of them would stick. I was like OK this is a this is this is a lower low ROI coming at this point. But there was an industry that I had been spamming in which is prepaid cell phones because track phone had a prepaid or had an affiliate program for their phones. And I had noticed that like nobody was doing it content like nobody. I think at the time it was like c-net that had a page that had like four of the prepaid phone providers like listed on it but they weren’t doing any reviews and so there was there was no in-depth content on it and nobody was doing any reviews on it. And so I said you know I think I’m going to create a review site to kind of promote track phones because I already knew it was profitable if you could rank because I had done it with the black hat stuff and so I was actually at WITS which was a conference called webmasters in the sun. It was mainly spammers. A few of us that weren’t. And so we used to go twice a year we would go to San Diego and then the other time we would go to Barbados Spain and so I was in San Diego on a boat talking with one of the guys a guy named Jimmy who was a good friend of mine and so I was telling him this idea that I had. And I said I want to create this review site. And so. Again to anybody who’s super young listening to this you know WordPress wasn’t really a thing.

We Had Google type definitely weren’t any review plugins there weren’t you know there there was not in the I mean it was it was a custom code job that was the only way that you could really create a review site back In 2006. And so I had said to him I said No I just because I knew he had a programming background and so I said I’m just I’m like a person that that doesn’t speak a foreign language trying to hire somebody that’s an expert in that foreign language. I was like so like how much should I be paying for this etc. etc. So you know he gives me an amount that I can expect to pay to have a review system I need to develop and I said well is that something you can do for me. And he said you know he goes he goes You’re my friend so I’m going to tell you the truth. He’s like you’ll be way better off just hiring somebody he’s like because if you bring me in and I’m involved he’s like I’m going to want half of the company. And I said Well you know I knew he was like really successful in business and he was he was a really good person to me so. And we just we got along very well and worked very well together. So I was like You know actually I’d rather have you as a partner and I’d rather you know learn what I can from that relationship and I’m I’m perfectly happy to to you know give up half the company to have you as a partner because I just felt like he had so much you could teach me. And so we did we went and started that Web site. And by the time that we sold it in 2013 it had over thirty thousand reviews from people who had used you know the various I think we had like 23 or 24 prepaid cell phone providers. And it was it was interesting because one of the guys who he was my first hired MFE he worked for me for he worked for me at MFE and then he moved with me to push fire and now he actually works with the CEO team at CBS.

Greg: Cool.

Rae Dolan: And I hired him he hadn’t done any SEO. He just he had an English degree. He had actually like quit his job in a rage and just decided he would find something else and I hired him on Craigslist and I think the joke with his parents for the next like seven years was when he was going to go out and get a job because you know he worked from home full time but it was interesting because one year and again this is like you know where we took the extra mile right. So there was this research that came out it was like this market research and it was like 25 hundred dollars. To buy this market research on the prepaid cell phone industry and like demographics and who uses it and blah blah blah. It was like this really in-depth research. And so we bought it and we spent you know it or you know I should say Joe spent the next several months you know really like parsing through this information and so we had all this information coming out that wasn’t common knowledge on the web. You know about the carriers and the providers and the future and mergers and things along those lines we just had all these this information that wasn’t anywhere else because we had to pay 25 hundred dollars to get the information.

And so we actually ended up with an off line column in a print newspaper called the prepaid pressed and then I sent Joe to a prepaid cell phone conference one year and I remember him coming back and he just found it so hysterical that like everybody there knew who he was and he was like we really are the thing for for the prepaid cell phone industry and I’m like Yeah this is is pretty awesome. And so prepaid that that website was making. A hell of a lot of money. And Jimmy I worked really well together. So we were like well let’s let’s go out and. You know build some other websites and do this in some other industries which we did and we formed MFE interactive and went on to build multiple other sites. I think at our height we were getting like 4 million page views a month. That’s crazy. So between ads. Yeah between ads and stuff. I mean it was like it was me Jimmy’s you know programmer and wherever he was and you know two or three guys that worked as eye contact guys and link builders and so we had a four million page views a month. So between ad sense and then the affiliate programs which which our play was more the affiliate programs right. And so it’s just different things for conversions to like on the prepaid cell phone site. You know every page was built that we had an overview. About the provider and then underneath of that there would be links and so it would say like shop for plans, visit their official Web site, and then add sense would be listed after that. So my my primary focus was the affiliate stuff like Get off my site go buy something. But if you’re not going to do that by all means click on the ads.

Greg: Yeah. And so it’s really it was like kind of the first wire cutter dot com you know where it’s being just super helpful getting all that information compiling it and in doing this for the user not necessarily you know the search engine which is which is awesome.

Rae Dolan: So yeah but we also we also kept an eye on conversions. So like for instanse on all these. So not every every provider that we had on there had an affiliate program right. I’d say probably half of them did. I mean all the big name ones did so. But we put that if they were a prepaid cell phone company they went on the site because again we were trying to be the complete resource right. But there were there were interesting little tweaks that I made that now that I’m out of the industry I feel more comfortable discussing. But like so on every provider’s Page was the provider’s logo. Now if there was an affiliate program we linked the logo to their Web site. If there was not an affiliate program, we would not link their logo to the Web site. And that came from click tracking studies that just showed us that people kept clicking on the logos. So we’re like well if there’s an affiliate program we want we want the cookie dropped on your machine. So like by all means like accidentally click and go to whatever that program was.

But we didn’t want to be you know having them immediately exit if we weren’t if we had no no incentive to do so then we wanted to keep you on the site longer we wanted you to hopefully click on one of the ads or click on another provider or you know. But we you know we still link to shopping for their plans and we still link to their Web site. Every page was uniform but it was it was little tweaks like that like you know like I said link being the logo was on the affiliate pages not linking them on the other pages. That kind of helped us maximize you know the revenue. My my joke back then was Engadget with a huge blog back then. And so I Engadget was like everything technology and they didn’t do any affiliate marketing and they were probably like the thing that made me cry myself to sleep at night the most because I would always say like God just give me Give me the reigns at Engadget for like six months and we will be producing so much income via affiliate programs like it was just it was crazy it drove me nuts drove me nuts that that site at its height was not doing any type of affiliate. I don’t know if they eventually did later but I know when they were at their height we’re like they were the big dog. They were not. And it drove me absolutely mad.

Greg: I Can hear that today still. And we’ve talked about so far really just a lot of these organic efforts and you know is that mainly how you drove all of the traffic and where the majority of the revenue came from was on the organic side. I know back in the day you could do a little more with paid as well. But did you do mainly standard SEO.

Rae Dolan: Oh yeah I was. I was definitely you know it was interesting because I considered myself an SEO. Like up up until I’d say like 2009 I don’t think I ever really referred to myself as an affiliate. I referred to myself as an SEO and it was interesting because then I think that’s one of the things that kind of helped me build my reputation was that you know that in my experience a huge portion of affiliate marketing is done through pay per click because it’s hard to create you know unique content centered around the affiliate program it’s it’s hard to create that that content resource that you can monetize through affiliate. And so a lot of affiliate marketing is done through you know e-mail lists e-mail blasts pay per click etc. And so I100 percent did mine through SEO. Actually that’s not true. So there was this time back and I want to say it was like 2002 and I had a buddy that was killing it on affiliate with PPC and he like legitimately copied his PPC campaign and said here just run it you know there’s multiple spots and this was back when it was overture. And it just wasn’t my thing. It was not my thing I did not have a talent for that but with SEO it was like you know how like Neo looks and other people see you know he sees like the matrix and that’s me with SEO like I loved it I loved every second of it. You know I I I ate it I breathe it I slept it. It was it was all I wanted to do.

Greg: You took the blue pill.

Rae Dolan: Yeah I did. And I was very much you know known as an SEO. I was the SEO who did affiliate marketing. I wasn’t an affiliate marketer so to speak. I think the first time actually that I went to an affiliate summit was in like 08 or 09 and that that was really the first time that I’d ever been to an affiliate centric themed. And I was like holy crap like there’s so many people that do this. But in the end the SEO community and I think still to this day in the SEO community you know affiliate marketing is misunderstood by probably half the SEO community so or at least you know they only have a very high level working knowledge of it. And so yeah I mean I was great as SEO you know and I kind of fell into speaking at public conferences. I had never actually pitched to speak at a conference when I spoke at my first conference.

Greg: What conference was that?

Rae Dolan: That was webmaster world God it was in like 04 I think. But it was at one of the I know it was at one of the pub cons. I believe it was in Vegas but don’t quote me on that. But there was a panel that they were doing they were doing a site review panel. And actually Tim Meyer from at the time I don’t know if he was with Yahoo. Tim Meyer who used to be with Yahoo who now I’m not sure where he’s at but he used to be like the Yahoo rep.

Rae Dolan: And so anyway he was on this site review panel and or he was supposed to be and he had a last minute emergency that he couldn’t show up. And I was standing in the hallway talking to somebody and I see Brett Tapke who by now I know and he comes walking out of the door he like looks around and he sees me he goes Rae come with me and I’m like OK I’m like following him into the thing. And the next thing you know I’m sitting on stage being told that I’m going to do a live site review. So that was kind of how I got into speaking at SEO conferences you know by the time my career was over I had done well over 100 presentations probably closer to two. And you know kind of just fell into it but I didn’t you know I did it as a give back because again you know if if Mike hadn’t reached out to me in that that forum and if I hadn’t found webmaster world made all the friends that I did there and traded all the info with the people that I did there. You know I’m not going to say that I wouldn’t be where I was because I’m pretty determined but I probably wouldn’t have gotten there as fast as I did.

Greg: Absolutely. And how did how did that just getting thrown on stage. How did you perform.

Rae Dolan: Oh my God. I do not. You know it’s interesting because I spoke a few times after that and they were always site review panels which for whatever reason I was I was fine with sitting down behind a computer because I had kind of just block out that there was anybody in the audience. You know I’m just looking through to see you know where they messed up what they did etc. etc. And so the first time that I ever had to give like a speech speech like you know PowerPoint deck standing at the podium was at SES search engine strategies Toronto. And I remember being absolutely horrified terrified like the night before. I swore telling Chris Sherman that I wasn’t going to speak. I just it was it was completely nerve wracking. And I remember going in. I remember speaking I don’t remember anything that said I didn’t five seconds after my session I didn’t remember anything I said. And so people were coming up to me and they were like wow that was a great job and I’m like Thanks. What did I say. But yeah. But over the years obviously I got you know now I do it and it’s it’s second nature to to speak in front of large groups.

Greg: Well that’s awesome. That’s awesome. And that’s great that you know Brett told you to go up there and and you did and went from there. I mean again you’ve helped so many folks with that so so thanks. And so so let’s just back to the affiliate side of things. You know it’s roughly let’s say you know the late or early O’s however you want to say that and you know things are going good on the affiliate side. You know you’re kind of killing it with MFE and then you also had started a an agency with two partners and kind of going after both the client side work and also kind of sticking with the affiliate work as well. Correct?

Rae Dolan: Yes. So I always I always kept my affiliate sites throughout that entire thing as far as even even when I pushed fire I still had later I still have my affiliate sites definitely they they were you know we used to call up call it affiliate crack right. Like once you once you tried it you had to have more so yeah. Definitely wasn’t something I was giving up. But I mean I guess it was one of those. I was like I would have people contact me all the time and want to hire me to do audits or you know to to do consulting work for them and it just wasn’t. I mean there were a few times that I said OK. And I did some consulting work but for the most part you know I just didn’t like having to answer to anybody like frankly I was very spoiled entering the industry as an affiliate right because I didn’t answer to anybody but itself. There were no phone calls. I didn’t feel like working that day I didn’t work. So going into you know having clients it was just you know it was definitely not the trajectory that I was like. That’s what I want to do instead of doing whatever I want whenever I feel like it. So no. So actually the two people that I own that agency with they actually decided they wanted to start an agency. They approached me because they wanted one they knew I was experienced with running a company which neither one of them had experience with at that time. But they were also kind of looking you know branding wise they just thought that if they partnered with me. That you know it would give them brand recognition from like the very start. And so you know I was OK with that. I was you know that the initial thing was was that I would run the company but I wouldn’t be doing much of the actual client work. And so you know we did that and I just I don’t play well with others. I mean I would just learned over over the years you know I’m I’m very headstrong you know I’m also very very protective of my reputation. So it’s it is it is kind of hard to do things in a way because again I’m so overprotective of my reputation that I feel like anything that could could possibly tarnish it. You know is is something that that that I probably get over overanxious about or you know over upset about. It’s probably a bit of a bottleneck. Sometimes.

Greg: I hear ya I hear ya. And then you know I know that you had stepped away there but started back in and it was in 2012 when you started Pushfire?

Rae Dolan: Yeah. So I left that agency. I stepped down and I kinda. A. Semi-retired for a little bit. I I didn’t really know what I wanted to do next. I knew that affiliate was getting harder. I didn’t I don’t want to say like I still think I still to this day I think affiliate marketing contains a ton of amazing opportunities. But it was it was kind of getting harder and it wasn’t even that it was getting harder so to speak as Google was getting more more brash more they were getting bigger that they were getting more corporate by the day. And you know I felt like they really didn’t care anymore. You know if they made a change to the results you know and John’s bike shop who never did anything wrong his site got torched. But it made their top 10 results better. I don’t think they gave a shit about John’s bike shop anymore. I don’t think you know for me kind of when when Matt left relations came and he was still there at that time but I just kind of like. I don’t know. Just. I had lost my kinda thing for it. Like I just kind of had been there done that climbed the affiliate mountain then. Been there done that climb the agency mountain. You know we did turn at that agency into you know big brand recognition.

So and I kind of done both and I was just like you know I’m really bored. And so at that point I had already met and married Sean and so Sean had his own agency Sean Nolan. He’s my my husband and so I had met and married him and I said you know I’m just gonna I’m going to take a little bit off because I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know what I want to do next and I kind of think I knew that was when I started thinking about like maybe there’s something outside of digital marketing like maybe I’ve just been doing this for for too long. Like maybe I’m just burnt out. Maybe I’m not. And there were times in my career where I would get burned out and I would take a break for a few weeks and then I’d be fine. But this burnout was different. It was it felt more permanent. It felt more. You know when I did what I did finally say OK I’m gonna come back. I felt like I was going to a job even though I was self-employed. And so it just didn’t you know I just wasn’t passionate about it anymore. The industry had also fragmented so much. You know that. Organic real estate seemed to be going away. There was less of. Less fulfillment I guess from you know really being able to to rank someone it wasn’t the you know.

End all be all like it used to be. I guess you could say and so I just kind of took a break and then I said to my husband I said you know what I want to retire. I said I think I’m done. Like I I don’t know what I want to do. Well first I said I want to retire and my husband’s like Have you met you you’re never going to be able to retire. He’s like you’ll be 90 trying to work on something. And I said well not retire retire like not go play golf. I was like but I think I’m done. Like in the digital marketing space. And so he goes Well what do you what do you want to do instead. And kudos to my husband because. I had a very lucrative career. As CEO of an affiliate. And so he’s like well what are you going to do instead and I’m like I don’t know yet. And I said but I do know that that I want to kind of start planning for the fact that I want to be out you know within the next three or four years. And so we actually decided to launch PushFire and from the day that we launched PushFire we knew that I eventually would no longer be there.

Greg: I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that you knew that all the way back then.

Rae Dolan: Yes. So we knew from day one that I would eventually no longer be there. What would be the plan that I had was you know and it didn’t go exactly to plan and there were definitely some bumps along the way and it took more like six years before I was gone. But you know my plan was take take all this reputation and brand that I built and create this new brand and push fire use my brand to prop it up. In the beginning we were obviously SEO heavy clientele as we did as unpaid because my my husband is actually you know the paid guy. And so we did SEO and paid but we were very SEO heavy at the beginning because of my reputation. And so just over time you know as we gotten as we built the brand and we got more and more PPC clients the plan was and exactly what we did was as we got more and more PPC clients we would rehome SEO clients. So we we eventually stopped offering SEO services at all and we had moved everybody that was a monthly client to trusted partners. And then I was just doing audit work after that. But again I’m really anal retentive with my reputation. So I just never comfortable with you know white labeling that out or hiring that out. I always wanted to be the ones to to do the audits myself but my my reputation you know I was working with larger companies and so they have really good budgets. I mean I mean a lot still just doing audits. But again we we knew that that was just as we built the paid side of the company but the bigger thing was I didn’t know what I wanted to leave for yet. I mean what I wasn’t gonna leave for another job for for now. I mean if I’m going to if I’m going to do something that I don’t particularly like I’ll keep doing the thing that I make a lot of money at. So you know. And we actually had multiple clients in the real estate investing industry since Sean actually had them before he even met me and then he would always be talking about it and he would always be like you know we should buy some rental properties blah blah blah. Yeah yeah yeah. Digital digital digital. And so we would always talk about it.

And so we had this client that was launching like this this seminar or something one weekend and it was on Friday in Houston and I am a hermit. So I do not like to leave the five square miles surrounding my house. And so he’s like hey you know can you come out to this this seminar you know to show support for our clients. And I’m like in Houston on a Friday? Are you out of your mind? But I ended up having a few friends of mine go. And so I was like Okay but I’m gonna stay for an hour that’s it. And then I’m out of there. And he was like That’s fine. So I went up I sit next to him it starts. And it didn’t even take me the whole hour. I turned I looked at Sean and I said I found my new mountain I found my new thing. It was and it’s so similar to affiliate marketing like at its core which is probably why I fell in love with it. You know I used to say when I was an affiliate that one of the things about affiliate marketing was you only eat what you kill right. So you know if I didn’t rank I didn’t make any money. It wasn’t like if I didn’t rank I had to explain to myself why why I wasn’t ranking and then I still paid myself for another month. You know I it was it was either make sales or don’t eat. And so real estate investing and real estate in general is a lot like that. I love the fact that there was a low barrier to entry. Like if you were willing to hustle and SEO was and I think it is like that. And so if you if you’re willing to hustle like you know you you can become very successful in the real estate industry same as in digital marketing and the events. I mean you know there’s a saying in real estate and I find it extremely campy but I’m going to say it anyway that your network is your net-worth and you know it was kind of same way.

And in SEO I mean you learned more at the bars at one o’clock in the morning at the conferences than you did in the sessions. No offense to anybody who spoke in the sessions because I spoke too. But I mean so they have these real estate events and like you know if people see other people that are hustlers they’ve got no problem like teaming up with them and so I mean it just it had so many similarities but I was just like. This this. Like I love this. And you know it’s pretty funny because I used to do so and we’ve moved a lot. And so basically what I used to do is I would buy a house. I would get it decorated exactly how I wanted it. And perfect and then I would sell it and then I repeated this process for like five years. So my daughter was just thrilled that she was no longer going to be the one moving for me to buy and sell houses after I remodeled them. So yeah. So I mean I went to that seminar and by you know I looked at Sean I was like You’re gonna have to go home I’m staying the whole rest of the weekend and within two weeks I had our first two rental properties under contract. Did it completely wrong spent a ton of money that I didn’t have to spend. But I was hooked. Like you know. And so it was not even a year later that Hurricane Harvey hit. And so I was doing the real estate stuff kind of on the side and so I knew that that’s what I was leaving for. But the company wasn’t quite ready for me to leave yet. Right. We still had some some t’s to cross and some I’s to dot. And so you know people knew that I was doing real estate. If you followed me on Twitter you know people probably realized that I started tweeting about real estate a lot.

And so I was kind of unofficially doing it almost full time at that point but publicly I was still you know quote unquote Sugar Rae and PushFire. And so Harvey happens. And that was crazy. Our area was was hit huge by that. And it kind of opened that you know. It made a huge opportunity for. For real estate investors in the area. You know once once the whole you know save your fellow citizens etc. Dragged down once the news cameras left. I mean there were neighborhoods that were just completely destroyed. And one of those neighborhoods was a neighborhood called Bear Creek. And you know a lot of people heard about Canyon gate or other places you know in the Houston area but Bear Creek was kind of like a working class neighborhood that was right next to the attics reservoir. And so the Army Corps of Engineers they basically thought the reservoirs were going to break. And so to avoid flooding one hundred thousand homes they made the decision to purposely flood about five to ten thousand homes and so bear creek is a neighborhood right next to the attics and they have twelve hundred houses eight hundred of them flooded in Hardy. And when I say flooded Greg I mean like four and a half feet of water inside their homes.

Greg: I’ve seen your Instagram account I believe you when you say flooded.

Rae Dolan: Yes so they they flooded. And so it was crazy because. Where I live there were several businesses and stuff that flooded. Don’t get me wrong where we lived right. But within a month I would say you know other than the occasional rebuild here and there I mean everything was pretty much cleaned up in most of my area. And where I was. But bear creek like six months after Harvey still looked like a war zone. I mean there was still drywall and trash all over the streets in the lawns. You would drive down a street and it was like a ghost town. Like there would be 50 houses on the street. And like two RV’s and that’s it. Like there was no one else to be found. And so real estate investors I mean yet there was an opportunity for us to make profit. But I mean who else is gonna buy a house that took on four and a half feet of water has to be get it to the studs and rebuilt right. So I actually I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to rehab a flood house but I met a woman who was 72. She was living in the house with her three granddaughters.

They lost everything they got out with a backpack each and she looked at me and she had actually contacted Sean because Sean Throughout Hurricane Harvey was in the cajun navy so he was doing water rescues and so she had had you know somehow come into contact with Sean while he was in the cajun navy and you know something was said about real estate investing blah blah blah. And so she later contacts him on Facebook and says hey you know I have this house do you guys want to come out and buy it for me. So we went out. I walked through his house and it’s just it’s bricks and studs like and a roof that that’s all it is. And. You know I just said I really don’t know what I’m doing but it we’re going to find out. I kind of just jumped and bought this flood house that needed 60 thousand dollar renovation. And you know I definitely learned that that house I actually ended up I did well in that house I ended up being able to keep it and refinance it put renters in it. And cash flows about 400 dollars a month and I paid my lenders back and I didn’t have to put any money down on the house so that was what they refer to in the industry as a bird. So I didn’t have to put any money in and I basically got a free house for my time of rehabbing it. But you know I made I learned some stuff I’ve made some mistakes and then the guy next door came up to me and said well do you want to buy my house too. So I ended up buying his house. You know it’s a year and a half later and I’m still getting calls from people that I initially met back there asking me if I want to buy their house you know because some of them have waited this long to decide whether or not to rebuild or move on.

So yes I mean it was just it was it was crazy. So I flip I buy and hold I wholesale I do something called hold tailing which is basically you buy a house you actually close on it and then you do something minor like clean it out so that there’s no trash in it. Right. Or just replace the carpets or something lower and you’re not doing a whole renovation and so that’s referred to as a whole tale because it’s half wholesale half of retail. But yeah. So I mean like right now I’ve got I’ve actually got my little white board behind me so I bought a house that burned down that is almost finished being rebuilt and that’ll go on the market and two weeks I have another house in the near north side that is currently in rehab we’re rebuilding that one from the studs up. I have another one that’s a hold that I just bought that the owner is actually in leaf spot that will be a hotel and then I’m closing on one tomorrow. That will be a full remodel. I just sold two on Monday of this week and then I’ll be closing on more next week so at any any given time at this point I’m flipping four to five houses. And right now we have five rental properties.

Greg: That’s incredible.

Rae Dolan: I plan to act a lot this year. So yeah. I’m a year and a half in a year full time but I mean I love it. It’s what SEO used to be to me back in 2001 2002. I mean when I wake up in the morning. I want to get on my computer. You know I want you to I mean like I like spend time in Home Depot. Like most girls want to go to the mall. I get kicks out of going to Home Depot. So yea I love it.

Greg: Nice you answered you answered exactly what I was going to ask I was going to ask if that that passion for digital marketing has transferred over and I mean it sounds like it has and then some. And then I mean the other thing that I can I can feel just from talking with you is that creativity that you had before and just ways to come up with unique solutions the debt also is a really nice parallel with digital marketing and SEO and you know again just figuring out the solution and what works for a certain property which which sounds sounds amazing.

Rae Dolan: Yeah and there’s so many solutions.

Greg: Yeah exactly and again I was going to ask what type of real estate you’re in but it sounds like everything. Which is awesome. And it’s been a year since since that happened you believe you officially put in the public retirement in March of 2018. Do you miss SEO at all? Do you miss digital marketing at all?

Rae Dolan: I know that people want me to say yes. I miss I miss the people. So do I miss getting to see people at conferences. You know here and there. Yes. But I mean as far as I kind of feel like here here’s how I feel about SEO. I feel like it’s an ex-husband that I’m very glad I was married to. But I’m very glad I’m no longer married to. It’s I don’t know how else to explain it. I mean I wouldn’t trade a single moment that I spent in SEO. I mean even the times when I ended up with egg on my face not a single moment that I would trade in SEO but I’m so glad to have moved on to something else so I guess the short answer unfortunately is no I really don’t.

Greg: Fair enough. And if you want to follow Ray on any of those real estate ventures you can find her at AMI House Buyers that come and also Buying Katy as you are also a certified realtor correct?

Rae Dolan: Yep and that’s actually one of the plays when you were talking about my creative marketing. That’s that’s one of the plays when we’re working with people in foreclosure is I am actually I the way I put it to people is that I specialize in time sensitive sales but I kind of created the the aspect of a real estate agent dealing with time sensitive sales. So I mean not created and I’m sure there’s other people but as far as you know it’s not really a widely known thing. So it’s kind of this little niche that I’m working with that allows me to you know pick up clients where it whereas other realtors you know it takes them several years of being a realtor to build up clientele but you know I’ve been able to do it fairly quickly because I can you know one I’m great at negotiating. So it’s like I can you know I I put these people’s houses on the market and I’m smart and I know what to look out for and it’s kind of a double edged sword right because most of the time people that are in time sensitive sales so meaning they’re going to get foreclosed on are somehow going to lose their house. People that are in time sensitive sales. Most of the time it’s going to be an investor that buys their property. Right.

So one of the things that I like about being able to there’s all sorts of Don’t get me wrong like I’m a legit real estate investor but there’s plenty of you know I guess the best way to put it so that SEO would understand it is there’s plenty of black hat realtors. And so you know I’m definitely a white hat realtor so there’s there’s ways that you know all sorts of ways all sorts of tricks that that you know not so legit investors can pull that will end up you know resulting in these homeowners ending up in foreclosure. And so one of the things that I pitched people is because I am an investor. I know what those tricks are. And I make sure that if a client lists on the market you know on the open market that the investors you know that the offer is the best possible offer that they can get and that it’s free of any of those common loopholes or clauses that investors will try and stick in the contracts to to kind of you know protect themselves against you know getting in trouble for not performing but if they don’t perform the homeowner ends up at auction. So so yeah it’s just you know creating solutions. And it just gives me something completely new to learn.

Greg: So fantastic. So check those out. We’ll talk about it at the end as well. And then if you have time for a quick lightning round I’ve got a few quick questions to have you answer. And first off is is there a book or a blog post or a site that has the biggest impact on you in your career both real estate and digital marketing.

Rae Dolan: Oh easy. The E-myth revisited. That was Jimmy my partner at MFE told me that I had to read that book. It was. It had the biggest impact on my business life of any book that I’ve ever read. And if somebody wants to be an entrepreneur and somebody wants time well that is the book I would recommend reading to this day it is the most, I read it probably in 2006, and to this day it’s been the most impactful on my career.

Greg: Yeah. And I think that came out of the real estate version too with Than Merrill from that TV show so a few different versions out there but that’s a great book.

Rae Dolan: Oh I didn’t even know that. I didn’t even know that.

Greg: All right. What was the biggest mistake you made throughout your marketing digital marketing career

Rae Dolan: Oh my God. That would be my mouth and my inability to let things go. You’ve got to remember I was like 20 when I got into this industry right. So I had a lot of stuff to to learn and you know just. I’d say that the biggest mistake was one caring what anybody else said and two wasting my time with things that you know it’s funny I created like a little poster years later and the poster says something along the lines of, does it make you money increase your happiness or improve the world; if not don’t do it. And I thought that that would be my biggest mistake as I spent so much time wrapped up in things that now you know twenty fifteen ten five years later that I don’t even remember and could care less about. You couldn’t care less about so you know kind of just staying focused. Don’t let the the I guess you know the social high school popularity side of it distract you. I mean just head down stay focused. Do the parts of the work that you love outsource what you don’t and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Greg: Great answer. All right. And then in your opinion what is the most important factor for building a successful business.

Rae Dolan: Oh being willing to be wrong. Being willing to be wrong and being willing to admit that you’re way might not be the best way. Knowing where your weaknesses are. And that’s something that it took me a long time to learn. So but just being able to being able to put your ego aside and and look at it completely detached and being willing to hear other ideas that aren’t your own and being willing to look at other processes that aren’t ones that necessarily you think might work the best. But I think just being being willing to be wrong and to admit being wrong I know that sounds like but that that’s something that that I think is a rare quality in the types of people that tend to become entrepreneurs are tend to be you know type A personalities pushy people. And so I think you know being being able to admit that that you’re wrong or just admit that there might be a better way than your way.

Greg: Absolutely. And then last up I’m going to make you give me an answer here. What is your favorite type of real estate you’ve talked about buying holds. You’ve talked about flip side. You’ve talked about bird which is buying rehabbing refinancing and then repeating what if you had to choose one. What do you love the most. With real estate.

Rae Dolan: So I’m going to give you can I give you like an answer and a half. Yes. So the first answer would be I definitely think I like flips the most out of real estate when it comes to just straight up the type of real estate. As far as the house itself. Like what I’m my exit strategy. So when it comes to exit strategy; flips. When it comes to acquisition strategy I work with a lot of people that are heading into foreclosure and being able to pull people like back from the jaws of foreclosure is extremely fulfilling. I actually have somebody who is sitting and closing right now who they came to me they had a house they lost her son in a motorcycle accident. Four months later Harvey destroyed the roof so they didn’t get any ground flooding but their roof fell in. And then it rained in their house for five days. They were an old couple they didn’t know what to do with the insurance agency the insurance agency paid them out. Sixteen thousand dollars for a completely destroyed house which should be criminal in my opinion but and so they weren’t able to fix the house so they had to leave the house. And so then they have this house that they can’t get rid of or that you know they they thought they couldn’t get rid of. And so.

Long story short they ended up in foreclosure. They didn’t know what they were going to do. I found them a week before foreclosure. I put their house under contract I sold the contract to another investor. I am making a whopping two hundred and forty dollars as an assignment fee but these people are not going to lose their house. They’re not going to have a foreclosure on their record. Somebody else is buying the house and it’s going to take over it and the money that they got from the insurance that the mortgage company has been holding hostage because they didn’t have enough money to fix the whole house will actually be refunded to them. So you know when I told the daughter because she said that you know they really believe that the son brought me into their life and I said no. She said are you at least gonna make some money on this. And I said you know not everything’s about money. Sometimes karma pays you back. And so when when I get the ability to help somebody that really needed a break and I am able to come up with a creative solution that allows them to get one that is probably my favorite thing about what I do in real estate investing.

Greg: Well that is quite the way to end it. The lightning round and thank you so much for coming on the podcast the show today to find more information you can see all of Rae’s work over the past years on Sugar Rae dot com. That’s s-u-g-a-r-r-a-e. We’ll have links to everything in the show notes one. One of my favorite posts maybe ever. That is on there and that was a post you had eleven things my son taught me about life and business. We’ll link right to that. It is a must read for everybody listening today. You are also currently an adviser still at PushFire which is that digital marketing agency that you’re still that is operated now by your husband Sean and that’s Pushfire.com. And then if you are looking for any of those solutions that Rae talked about you can find that the real estate the realtor side on Buying Katy dot com and then if you’d want to see that if you’re one of those folks that are in a pickle or just looking to offload a property you have AMI House Buyers dot come. Did I miss anything on there?

Rae Dolan: Nope I think you got it all.

Greg: OK. And then where’s the best place for people to follow you follow along. And now you’ve got some great photos and you can tag along and see exactly what you’re doing currently where should people go to follow along.

Rae Dolan: So, me as an individual human being, I’m on Twitter as @SugarRae. When It comes to like the real estate ventures Instagram @AMIHouseBuyers.

Greg: All right. And that does it for today’s show. Thank you so much Rae. And we will see you next week.

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Hope DiNatale

Hope is a Digital Coordinator at Cypress North, working in digital content creation as well as learning to specialize in social media marketing. She loves the mixture of solving problems for others while still being able to work in a creative space. Hope is eager to gain as much experience as she can in the ever-changing digital marketing industry. For Hope, attention to detail is what matters most and she won’t stop working on a project until every detail is perfect for the client.

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