Website trailblazer. Internet prodigy. Digital marketing hipster. No, that’s not Andy Rysdam’s Twitter bio—but it probably should be. Because back when most of us considered Encarta ’95 to be the epitome of cutting-edge computer technology, little Andy was busy building a website for his grandmother’s real estate business. “I gave it to her as a Christmas present,” Andy said. “I’m not sure she even used it. She was in rural Iowa, so I don’t think the Internet was too big there at that time.”
Actually, the Internet wasn’t too big anywhere at that time—but that didn’t stop Andy from continually experimenting with website creation. “I was a big computer nerd,” he said. But Andy’s inherent technical savvy wasn’t his only defining talent; he was an equally savvy businessperson, even as a kid. “My parents got me interested in business at a really young age,” he said. In fact, they encouraged Andy and his younger sister, Leigh, to set up a lemonade stand near construction sites in the Glendale, Arizona, neighborhood where they grew up. And for the workers who spent all day toiling away in the desert sun, cold lemonade was a hot commodity—and the stand raked in quite a bit of cash. But Andy didn’t stop there; rather than blowing his profit on candy and baseball cards—like a normal 10-year-old might do—he reinvested it in an even more lucrative opportunity: selling soda to the golfers at a nearby golf course. Each day, he and his sister dragged a cooler to the edge of the cart path and set up shop. “We’d pull in probably $60 to $80 a day,” he said.
He didn’t know it then, but those early ventures laid the foundation for business triumph on a much bigger scale. Because in the burgeoning digital age, a skillset combo like Andy’s—one part entrepreneurial spirit mixed with one part computer wizard—was a slam-dunk recipe for success. And before long, Andy was cashing in—literally—on his knack for web development. An avid gamer, Andy was, as he put it, “obsessed” with Roller Coaster Tycoon—a series of video games that simulate amusement park management. He channeled that obsession into a website where he uploaded custom roller coasters that other players could download. As the site grew in popularity, it started getting some pretty heavy traffic, so Andy found a service that allowed him to display revenue-generating banner ads. “I think I ended up making like $50,” he said. “It wasn’t much, but that was my first money-making site.”
Although video gaming has always been one of his favorite hobbies, Andy’s true extracurricular passion—well, besides building websites, of course—is music. He picked up the drums in elementary school band class, and unlike your average kid with a drum set, Andy’s zest for percussion turned into more than just a noisy way to test his parents’ patience. In high school, he and a group of friends formed a band. They wrote and recorded songs, and they had a website—created by Andy, of course. However, in true rock and roll fashion, that band eventually disbanded, and Andy joined a new group that actually ended up playing some local shows and gaining a bit of a following. But his musical star really rose with his third act: a group he played with several years, first at local venues, then around the country—and eventually overseas in Europe.
In fact, it was Andy’s stint in the music biz that truly ignited his career as a marketer. After all, a group of teenagers doesn’t land an international concert tour out of sheer luck—at least not in the real world. According to Andy, a turning point in their success came when they discovered they could embed their MySpace music player on other MySpace pages and set it to autoplay anytime a user landed there. “We got some of our friends with a lot of followers to embed us, and that’s when things really started taking off,” he said. He also harnessed his web skills to promote their—and other bands’—shows and to sell merchandise online.
Still, despite his success in the music biz, Andy knew he couldn’t live the band life forever. So, he searched out other digital marketing opportunities, especially once he started school at Arizona State University (ASU). While most college students hope to graduate with a good GPA and maybe a few credits’ worth of internship experience, Andy spent his college years amassing a highly impressive professional web marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) portfolio. “I went to class as little as possible,” he admits, explaining that he didn’t really see the point of getting his degree once he realized that he wanted to pursue digital marketing as a career. But alas, he just couldn’t bear to disappoint his parents, who urged him to finish school anyway. “I’m glad I did it,” he said. “They were right. It’s good to have that degree to fall back on.”
Eventually, Andy’s home business evolved into a large-scale link-building operation. He had remote teams of employees working under him, and at the peak, he said, “It was probably 98% automated. It was basically like printing money.” Of course, as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and as Google became more privy to the market for links, it adjusted its policies and algorithms to level the SEO playing field. “That’s when the whole thing just kind of fell apart,” Andy said.
So, Andy decided to take one of his old friends, WebPT Marketing Director Mike Manheimer, up on the long-standing offer to join the team at WebPT. And it’s a decision he hasn’t regretted one bit. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said. “I love the people I work with. I had been on my own up until [joining WebPT], and it has been much better being around a group like this.” Plus, he relishes in the constant challenge of getting WebPT’s site to the top search-ranking positions—and keeping it there. You also might recognize Andy as the author of several website- and SEO-focused blog posts—like this one on optimizing local search and this one on paid advertising—aimed at helping rehab therapists maximize their digital marketing ROI. “Now’s the time for PTs to start building their online presence,” Andy said. “It’s only going to get harder to compete as time goes on. They’ve got to jump in now so they don’t have to catch up.”
When he’s not glued to his computer screen at the office, Andy enjoys hanging out with his dogs and his longtime girlfriend, Brittany. He also recently picked up mountain biking. And even though he still plays the drums every now and again, he doesn’t foresee a second wind in the music performance realm—at least not for a long time. “Maybe I’ll be in some coffee house jazz band when I get older,” he said. But while his days of blasting beats in jam-packed concert halls are probably long over, Andy is still every bit the rockstar in the eyes of his WebPT colleagues.
Fave Five with Andy
- Favorite food: Tacos
- Favorite movie: Happy Gilmore
- Favorite sports team: Minnesota Vikings
- Favorite band: Between the Buried and Me
- Favorite place: Lake Kimball, Minnesota