“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Living in your parent’s basement isn’t the ideal living situation for a 25 year old. But how did this come to be? A life filled with structure, both academic success, being accepted into one of the most prestigious public schools in New Jersey, (TCNJ), coupled with sports as a 4 letter man varsity athlete in Neptune High School, culminating in a stepford-wive-esque prodigal well-rounded member of society – in theory.
With a 3.5 GPA during his Junior Year at TCNJ, Matt was informed by his parents the Anton family scholarship was no more, no funds were available. Loans were already stretched and the debt to income level meant at least a hiatus from school. Matt’s entire identity was suddenly lost; he was no longer a student, or athlete, it was time to become an adult and enter the real world, in which he was woefully unprepared. Blaming everyone for his situation, Matt turned to partying and working dead end jobs. He was depressed, out of shape, and stalled, until one simple phone conversation changed the course of his life.
Do You Want to Start a Video Game Website?
The question presented by older brother, Dan Anton was innocent in its naivety and ambition. A simple project combined his passion for video games, and learning a new skillset. The ability to turn nothing into something, to “create” appealed to Matt, as a poor high school graduate living in his parents basement, creation paralleled his personal life as he attempted to redefine himself through his work . Rather than floundering and relying on excessive drinking, he could turn his attentions towards solving a problem with the same zeal which lead him to be a success in school and academics throughout his childhood.
As two brothers entering a business, it wasn’t clear who would do what, but Dan was naturally the leader, having a previous military background. As time went on, Matt’s affinity was towards marketing. As a person with nothing but time, and zero budget, he researched every way possible to market for “free” online: manually gathering emails, posting on blogs, contacting video game press websites, and participating in forums. Without realizing it, Matt had built a network of trust and web links back to his website, the now defunct CharacterPlanet.
Signups began to increase, much faster than previous months, and upon further investigation, Google and Yahoo were sending hundreds of new visitors each day to the website. After months of research and baptism by fire, he would later know he was practicing online marketing, or its major subset, SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Through relationship building and content marketing Matt and Dan were able to rank on page 1 for super competitive phrases such as gaming, mmorpg, video games, resulting in more traffic, and the powers to be in the video game industry taking notice. Allakhazam crafted a press writeup on CharacterPlanet, driving thousands of members within hours.
The code was custom, unstable, and the social network was completely bootstrapped. With $100,000 invested over the course of years, it was hacked, slow, and unusable. Even a forum post from 2007 shows people wanted to use the service, but with a lack of venture capital funding and a dedicated team of coders, it was reluctantly shut down.
Graduation: Basement Apprenticeship to Business Model
Casual video game traffic from a 15 year old wasn’t easy to monetize, but businesses such as Doctors, Lawyers, Plumbers, Restaurants needed new business, and marketing dollars began shifting from traditional media to digital. Years spent researching, testing, and verifying online marketing tactics led to providing services for other business owners who didn’t have the time, or patience to properly perform internet based marketing. Acquiring new clients on forums, word of mouth, and cold calling, led to larger ad spends, further testing, and more clientele. A problem began to emerge – scaling. With a computer science background Dan saw an opportunity to solve some of the biggest problems in SEO – monotonous human labor.
Replacing human based activities with artificial intelligence, and a developed infrastructure helped lower costs while keeping quality and results in place. Now bloggers didn’t have to manually syndicate their content, or hope others would link back to them. The entire process was managed start to finish, and much of the software products have been relevant, and updated since 2010.
Meanwhile Back in the Basement: Supplemental Income
(“Bubba” source: a.nhautism.org)
Before consulting and services were full-time, Matt needed a way to eat, as CharacterPlanet was an expense, a passion project. His online marketing clientele continued growing, but he was still $24,362 in debt from college and living in his parents basement. He turned to his good friend, Keith Long for a job as a “Manny” for New Horizons in Autism. The irony of Matt not being able to cook, clean, or do laundry for himself, but do it for others was readily apparent.
The 5 grown adults were non-verbal with various levels of Autism. Matt entered the job looking for a simple paycheck, and the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi rang true.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Bubba, Mike-Mike, Fedorko, Scotty and Henry were the 5 men who taught Matt love comes from service of others. It completely transformed the way he viewed Autism, societal responsibilities to help those truly in need, service, and ability to love himself. This is the part of the story where pity and unrealized dreams fade away, giving rise to compassion and moving forward. While working at New Horizons, Matt was interviewed by several large corporations for online marketing. He would soon leave New Horizons, weeping like a baby, saying goodbye to his extended family, and embracing the next phase of his commercial abilities.
Climbing the Corporate Ladder: Turning Knowledge into Action
In 2010 Matt became the online marketing manager of LibertyTravel (headquartered in Ramsey NJ), a multi-billion dollar travel industry company. The entire website was audited, and a complete overhaul of technical Onpage SEO was implemented including unique titles, description, keywords, and onpage content.
Coupled with a new approach to paid advertising, laser focused landing pages, conversion rates increased, lowering cost per click, and improving quality scores. Organic SEO was also a major push, combining content marketing and banner ad purchases. Under Matt’s guidance, Liberty Travel saw an increase in organic SEO, their major target keywords, and optimized paid spend – positive ROI. Once all pieces to the digital marketing puzzle were implemented, Matt realized he could do more good for other companies rather than just one, so he ventured out with Dan to start providing software SEO services, consulting, and launching his client facing agency, NJ SEO.
Starting off, many consults were pro-bono, as a way to build trust and rapport with future, paying clients. After obtaining hundreds of reviews and video testimonials, the digital marketing agency saw fast growth, expanding into other cities such as Atlanta and Las Vegas.
The years spent working dead end jobs, learning the value of true service (love), and understanding marketing through baptism by fire, had helped turn Matt’s life around, where he is now sought after by Fortune 500 companies for consulting and service. He currently resides in New Jersey with his wife Cassandra, and two daughters, Olivia and Evelyn.
NB: This post is sponsored