In episode 49 of the Content Champion podcast, I'm thrilled to be talking about the SEO and link building landscape in 2016 with experienced digital marketing consultant, Ryan Stewart - founder of the massively successful online marketing agency Webris.
With a boatload of advice already available (just 3 weeks into the new year) on what is and isn't going to work in SEO over the next 12 months - I thought it would be a great idea to go straight to a genuinely high profile expert in the space and get the lowdown on exactly what link building methods will help (and not hinder) your online business throughout 2016.
And boy, Ryan certainly did not disappoint.
For nearly an hour, we discussed how Ryan got started in the digital marketing industry - and went on to run through a checklist of what you can bank on over the next year in terms of white hat link building techniques that will really move the needle.
Ryan has worked for blue chip clients such as the Department of Defense and Accenture, so he really knows his stuff. He's also buzzing with great advice on how you can implement all this into your own online business.
[Podcast] SEO In 2016: Link Building That Works With Ryan Stewart of Webris #contentmarketing
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Welcome to the Content Champion podcast, thanks for listening. On the show this time we're looking at the white hat link building techniques that will actually work in 2016, with experienced digital marketing consultant Ryan Stewart, owner of digital marketing firm Webris.
Ryan specializes in content marketing, performance analytics and organic search and has worked with blue chip clients such as Target, Accenture and the Department of Defense. He's perfectly placed to tell us what's working now when it comes to building links that will move the needle.
Thanks for coming on Ryan.
I appreciate you having me.
Before we deep dive into link building, can you tell us your back story please and how you got started in digital marketing?
Yes, absolutely, so I've been doing this for a while now, almost nine years now. I got my start at a undergraduate college working with a very large consulting firm called Accenture and it was mostly corporate consulting and I was doing lots of analytics work with them, a lot of big implementations and stuff like that.
After a couple years with them I branched off onto my own just because I struggle to work for other people I guess, but branched off on my own as a consultant, did that for a while, about four years and then last year things really started picking up. Decided that I didn't want to just sell my time anymore and I wanted to scale it, so I opened up an agency, Webris and it's been doing that for about a year now. Things have been going very well so I've always been into this game since I first started working.
I've been looking at a lot of your content on the Webris blog and I also found you on the Ahrefs blog as well, so I advise everyone to go and have a look at those but we'll put some links to those later on. As far as today's topic, link building, we're just going to jump into a checklist of all the white hat link building methods we should be using in 2016, as many as we can fit into this show.
I'm going to throw some techniques out there from a list I've got here and if Ryan, you could give me your take on each one, let me know if you think it's still going to be effective going forward and share some quick pointers on how to do each one. As I said, they'll be resources below this on the Content Champion blog in the show notes, you can go get more information. Let's start at the beginning, guest blogging or guest posting as some people call it. Are spammy approaches ruining this or does it still work?.
Marketers in general tend to ruin everything just because whenever we find something that works we beat it into the ground. It's gotten spammed out for sure, but honestly, we would not be having this conversation if I wasn't guest posting and guest posting aggressively. We do a lot of outsourced link building for a lot of big agencies and also for a lot of big clients.
In 80% of the links that we build are guest posting links and there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. The wrong way is crappy content, just bad outreach, just bad targeting. The right way to approach guest posting is try to remove links from the situation. If you were to write for a blog, would you still do it if they wouldn't link to your site or if they no followed the link? If the answer is yes then it's an absolutely amazing opportunity and you need to do it.
If you approach guest posting that way, granted not every opportunity is going to be a Forbes or a Moz, whatever that may be, but if you approach it from the point of view of look it, I'm going to do this as a PR play, I'm going to do this as an exposure play to cross pollinate audiences, to get my voice out there, to reach new people, to say I've been on Ahrefs or Moz Search Engine Journal is a branding plate.
You just brought it up yourself. If you can get into that mindset of doing this for your own brand and not at scale for clients we're talking about, but for your own company or brand, whatever, guest posting is by far the most effective way to build links and honestly it's the most effective way to really growth hack anything.
If you look at any company, if you look at Buffer, any company that's really shot up in the last couple of years really and really paid attention to what they're doing and listen to what their marketing team has been saying it's guest posting. The CEO of Buffer openly talks about how he would write three guest posts a day and that's all he did and Buffer just exploded. If you can write or if you have a good writer on staff or whatever that may be then yes, guest posting is still and I truly believe it will always be one of my best marketing tactics even if and when links are devalued, I'm still going to guest post for the branding play, for the PR play, for all the other things.
The key to doing it the right way is just making sure that number one you're targeting niche relative blogs. If you have an SEO agency don't go guest posting on a food blog, it's just a waste of your time and its spammy, so don't do that. Number two make sure that you are creating good content because a lot of people will try and go on Fiverr or iWriter or some crappy site and get really bad content and submit it. It's a waste of your time for a number of reasons.
Number one, any decent blog is not going to take it and you'll have wasted time and resources getting that created. Number two, nobody's going to read it and these links really start having an impact when the content that you're creating is getting shares, it's getting linked to because then your links within that content become 100 times more powerful. If you can get a link from a powerful piece of content we all know that it's far more effective than getting a link from a page that's just stranded on somebody's blog that has no engagement or authority.
It's much better to guest post for authority, targeted 10 sites and do it over a three month period then to do 1,000 guest posts on random little sites. Attention to quality is huge and again, it's not just about the links, it opens up doors far above links in link building that's just really good for the brand in general.
Couple of things come out of that. Big shout out to Kevan Lee at the Buffer Blog who's just producing some amazing stuff. Secondly, you mentioned it there as well brand mentions, branding, the algorithms obviously moving on as well. How much does that play into guest blogging? If you get a mention on a big site that's relevant that can move the needle even without the back link can't it?.
I don't speak on things that I don't have any data to support that. I've read that on a lot of blogs but the problem with SEO is that there's a lot of speculation. I've heard things like that, like co-citation and co-mentions that they can have an impact but the fact of the matter is is that I don't know of anything in the algorithm that's associating a branding mention without a link because search engines crawl links.
I've heard that before and again, if you try and think bigger than ... SEO is just a marketing tactic. I mean when you're building business you should always be thinking bigger and what it means to the big picture. It's really PR and I'm a firm believer that PR of today it's bloggers.
Bloggers have more clout, blogs get more views and blogs have more SEO value, so even if you're getting an unlinked mention, if it's on a high visibility blog you're still getting the PR aspect of that which is visibility, it's awareness but in my opinion, in order to have any sort of SEO impact you've got to get the link.
The thing is is that if you're getting a mention it's easy to get a link because actually unlinked mentions are one of the easiest way to get links because all you have to do is they already know who you are, they're already talking about you, just find whoever wrote it and send them an email and be like hey dude, I really appreciate you talking about our brand. Would you mind linking for attribution purposes? It's really easy to do that. If you're getting mentions, it's the easiest way to turn into links.
That's why link building is so easy for brands because everybody's talking about Best Buy. All you have to do is implement some social listening through Google Alerts or a mention or something like that and that's why brands can build so many links because people are always talking about them. The hard part is getting people to talk about you, which is why guest posting is so effective because you're growth hacking that process.
Moz is not just going to start talking about you, but they give you open access to publish there and talk about yourself so that's why it's really so powerful because you're effectively cutting out PR and you're just growth hacking that process by just creating the content yourself. You also have full control over the content which is why it's so awesome. I saw a massive increase ...
I wrote a post for Moz in October and because of that post, it went viral and because of that post we pretty much doubled our revenue that month. That's how effective guest posting can be. Not every guest post is, but I mean the one in Ahrefs too I mean all you have to do is ... Those are very high visibility blogs. You're going up there and beating your chest being like hey, look at me, I'm an expert, look at all that I can do.
Citations, we've mentioned them already. Citations with links for local firms, these work don't they?
Yes, we don't do a whole lot of local SEO anymore but when we do ... We'll do franchise SEO. It's not in our model anymore to take on your local bakery. Used to do it but since we've done that admittedly the local algorithm has gotten really difficult. Local SEO has gotten almost as hard at national SEO because it's really a different type of SEO.
We'll do a lot of what we call franchise SEO, so for a company with multiple locations and admittedly it's a little bit easier because if you have multiple locations you've got established authority, you've got a domain with authority, it's a lot easier to rake but we will do local citation.
I mean they're good links man, and the best way to do that honestly it's really hard to not just pay a vendor to do it but if you can build out the simple process of hiring a VA, showing them how to use search engine operators to just go out and find them manually and then create them, for $100, $150 you can build really, really relevant citations.
They're really good links, even if they're no follow because at the end of the day what they do is they build a presence. If you're a business owner and you're not on Yelp and you're not on local pages, whatever they are, you're doing yourself a disservice because those are traffic site and people will find you through them if you're the right mix. They're important again, thinking bigger then just SEO purposes, they're important for building a business.
I firmly believe, I know that's where the algorithm is going, especially in local because local the last year or two really got stand out hard by marketers because people found out how easy it was to write for local roofer, Miami based roofing company and were just crushing the algorithm.
How many lead generation people do you know that had 100 SEO sites that were just selling leads to local businesses? They really cracked down on it and one of the things that they're looking for now is that sense of trust. Having all those citations, again setting links aside, it just shows that you're a real business, that sense of trust that Google's really looking for.
Again, aside from the link value which some of them, I wouldn't say that they're going to rake your site but they definitely help out from an all encompassing, just completing the whole algorithm type thing. I don't even really look at citations as a link building effort anymore because 99% are not cloud links anyways, but they build that hyper-local activity and they help to write for local for sure.
Whitespark and BrightLocal they're two solutions I've used, they're great. Let's crack on, we got a lot to cover. Content exchange for local firms, swapping blog posts? You mentioned this in the Ahrefs post where I found you. You blog on someone's site, they blog on yours, that's a good idea isn't it?
Yes, so we do that for particularly, just to back up one second I mean 90% of our revenue right now is coming from link building, we just do a ton of link building for people because we've really taken out the time to build out the process. We'll do guest post exchanges is very, very competitive spaces. They're also tough because your client has to give you full access to their blog, which not every client will do.
The attorneys that we work with, we're very straight up with them that we're going to be doing guest post exchanges as a link building effort because it's really, really hard to just go out and get real white hat legal links, it's incredibly difficult. You can only guest post on so many blogs and legal, which we'll do a lot of for attorneys, we'll help them build an authority presence on top of legal blogs but you need links for legal because it's such a competitive space.
You also need content because again, one of the things that Google's looking for now, which I firmly believe is content depth in a blog, it's an easy way to add authority and content depth to a website. You're crowd sourcing content, it's free, it's really hard to get legal content, it's expensive so if you can do that for free and double it up as a link building tactic then yes. Basically what we'll do for that is we'll ...
We do all of our link prospecting. I have a couple of virtual assistants in the Philippines and they're very well trained on what a good link looks like and what an opportunity looks like. We actually have a link database with over 5,000 bloggers and websites but we'll dig into that database and say we're looking for legal blogs that are about ... For example, the attorney that we do this the most with right now, he's an immigration attorney.
I cannot go to a DUI attorney and do a guest post exchange because there's a conflict of interest. You could, but it's just a little bit harder of a pitch, so what we'll do is we'll look for other attorneys that are not in direct competition with him. He's an immigration attorney so we'll go to real estate attorneys, anything that's one pivot off and we'll send them a pitch through Pitchbox, all automated outreach and just say hey, my name is so and so, a local attorney in Miami, I'm really working on growing my practice, just getting started.
I found one of the best ways to do that is through guest posting on other people's blogs. Would you be up for a guest post exchange? Then you throw in the value pitch of hey, I've got a really good Facebook audience or hey, I've got an email list, whatever that may be and you send them that pitch.
Then also what you can say too, which I like to do because it's not ideal to have just links pointing towards each other, so one link on one blog and they're reciprocal links, it's just not a good look. What I'll like to do is actually try and push them towards the goal of being like hey, I know you're busy, why don't I just write for your blog instead. I'll give you free content, I'll help promote it blah, blah, blah. The success rate goes down but you're getting away from that reciprocal link situation which can get a little bit hairy with Google. If we do do a guest post exchange then I'll just ... Crappy thing to do but I'll no follow the link from my client's blog to their blog.
The relevance here, where the link is followed, doesn't necessarily have to be the niche. It can be the fact that they're local businesses can't it?
Yes, exactly, I mean it's all about being creative. Again link building is really won and lost in the strategy which no one talks about. Most people are so hyper-focused on tactics, so I need new resource page and a new broker link blah, blah, blah but and then where people get overwhelmed is they start doing it and they're like holy shit, sorry. This is a lot of work, I'm overwhelmed, I'm just going to use PMB links, I'm just going to buy links, whatever blah, blah, blah. Whereas really, link building is won and lost in the upfront strategy.
Again, just getting creative with it, let's just say you have a local website about I don't know, you sell office space, you're a Miami based, you sell office space. It starts with who is my audience? Who, if I was going to write for my blog who would be reading it?
You could be like okay, it's business owners, it's attorneys, it's entrepreneurs, so these are all massive online niches that you can then say okay, what are the blogs that are talking to entrepreneurs? What are the blogs that are talking to business people, to marketers, to attorneys and then you start from there and then you can start from niche down and say, if I want to get on a blog about entrepreneurs, what value do I have to add to them?
That's where you can start either creating content on your site for them, so it could be top list of the best places to open a business in Miami, that's a piece of content on your site that you could then potentially pitch as link bait to somebody else, or you can just go to them and then format your pitch based on that.
If you want to do a guest post exchange for all those different verticals you just change your pitch based on the verticals. If you're talking to entrepreneurs it can be like you play on the value exchange. You play on the fact that hey, I'm an entrepreneur, you're an entrepreneur, let's work together.
Could be if you're pitching an attorney and you own an office space you could be like hey, I can talk about the real estate implications of the real estate legal implications. I don't know, something like that, whatever that may be. There's a million different ways that you can relate to these people, but where a lot of people go wrong with guest post pitching again is that they want to get lazy with it and send out a blanket pitch, it just doesn't work that way.
You don't have to personalized based on name, it doesn't really matter but you have to personalize based on the fact that ... I get pitched all the time to write for my blog and it's not so much that it's a canned response pitch. I don't really care about that, it's the fact that they're not bringing any value to me. It's really easy to add value to people when you base them on what they do.
If you're speaking to all attorneys you can use the same pitch. Go out, have your link prospect to find 100 attorneys and have your link prospect to go out and find 100 blogs about entrepreneurship. Then you can send all canned response pitches to all those people based on a group, their name really isn't even important. Sorry, I'm talking a lot today, I just had some coffee.
That's great, that's good, consider the time difference. I'm in the evening, you're in the afternoon, normally about 2:00 your time I've had about four coffees and I'm typing really fast and phone's going. You mentioned it there, we were talking about reciprocal value, perhaps the best value-added link building technique is broken link building - but it's very time consuming. You've mentioned it already. Is it worth it for the average business to go chasing broken links?
No it's not. Again it depends on when you say average business, I honestly believe that it's really not in anybody's best interest to really get down into the nitty gritty of nobody has time to do broken link building unless you're an agency. Unless you specifically know how to do it without spending 10 hours to get one link then it's really not in anybody's best interest.
Your average business owner honestly, they really shouldn't even be involved in anything but guest posting because it's the easiest to understand, it's the easiest thing to be okay, I can easily go out myself if you're on a budget and bootstrap this thing and growth hack link building. Where I can get two links a month from really relevant blogs for the next year, that's 24 links. That's pretty damn good, that's pretty much going to rank almost any local site. It's going to take a long time but you can do it yourself.
It's really not in anybody's best interesting to do broken link building unless you're in a very competitive space and you know exactly what you're doing because it can be incredibly time consuming. Even us internally, when we do link building, again we've built out the process and we've hacked that process and we've automated a lot of it. It doesn't take us very long to do broken link, we can set up and pitch 100 broken links within a couple of hours but we know exactly what we're doing. At the same time we're going to charge you a lot to do broken link building because if you do it then it's going to take you forever.
You touched on it, it's broken link building is a great tactic because link building is all about the exchange of value, it's all about the exchange in value. We all know what your value proposition is. We want to get a link but how can we add enough value to that person to get them to either go back into their website to make a change, which is a pain in the ass, let's be honest.
In that value exchange of broken link building is hey, your site's not working, I'm helping you identify exactly where it is. Oh, by the way, here's something that instead of you searching around for it or deleting and disrupting your content, here's the perfect link to replace it with. That's a good value pitch, right? You're helping somebody out, you're telling them exactly where it is, the exact anchor text and then oh by the way, you can literally just swap out that dead link with this one.
That's why broken link building can work very good, you can have a much higher success rate with it, but again, it's very time consuming to find those opportunities, to bucket them by pitch and even to send those pitches. It's a tough pitch to automate because you do have to change a lot of things in it. Again, that's something that we know how to do, we know how to automate that process, but if you're just a normal business owner, in terms of again, thinking bigger than the marketing tactic of SEO.
If you're a business owner it's not in your best interest to be getting that deep down into the weeds with link building. You have bigger things to be focusing on. You've got a staff to run, you've got bills to pay, there's bigger things for you to worry about unless you're a marketer of course. If you run a marketing agency and that's what you want to do that's great, but me as a business owner, I don't have time to do broken link building from my side. I would love to but it's not the best use of my time.
From a standard business owner's point of view, the time that it would take you to even learn what broken link building is and how to do it, it's not even remotely worth it in your time.
I heard a funny one this week, someone approached me and told me about a broken link on a page and didn't even ask for a link back or suggest anything to put in it's place. I thought, come on, what are you doing? If you're just going around to people's sites to say 'I'm trying to be helpful finding broken links', you're obviously finding them, so you probably need to read up on what to do next.
Anyway, moving on, skyscraper technique, one of my favorites. I guess this fits in with the guest blogging because it's 80/20, it fits in nicely, 80% perhaps doing a guest posting on other people's sites, 20% like Brian Dean, just build that massive, all conquering resource to win the content arms race on your own site and then approach people who've shared content, linked to content like that before - and say hey, I've just bettered it - it's the best resource of its type.
Yes, I'm going to be honest with you. First of all I'm a huge Brian Dean fan, he really was probably the ultimate pioneer for, kind of ahead of his time. I mean he was talking about these tactics that we're talking about now years ago. He's positioned himself really well because I firmly believe this next algorithm about to drop in a few weeks that it's really going to change the state of link building. Everybody's already starting to push more into outreach.
This time last year people were talking a lot about PBNs and this and that. Now a lot of even like the gray hat, black hat marketers are starting to create content because they know, again it's about the quality of links, it's about the relevancy of links and getting links on real sites. People are starting to realize hey, this is actually a lot less work than managing or buying links because we can build this process internally to do it.
Huge fan of Brian Dean, that was a little side note, but I don't see a lot of success with the skyscraper method and here's why. Like you said, I put everything in the perspective of me. If you want a link on my ... I take a tremendous amount of pride in my website. Just because you create a website, you create a piece of content and you did a little research on what I'm sharing, you're not going to get a link dude, you're wasting your time. You know what I mean?
I take a step back and I think for myself, what would drive somebody to get me to link to them? That's helping me fix broken link with a great replacement. I have a resource page, if you've got a really good resource then yes I'll add it there if you hit me with the right pitch and guest posting and link roundups too. If I was doing link roundups are another great technique that I use and I just wrote a blog post about it. With what he's doing now it's a little bit played out because that's the problem with marketing is that once it goes viral everyone starts doing it and it just doesn't work as well anymore.
Like infographics, infographics he wrote a great post on his blog about infographics outreach. Infographics suck man, I don't like reading infographics, I think they're annoying, they don't provide me much value. I don't undertake that tactic, that's nothing against Brian Dean, he's brilliant but and he also came up with skyscraper technique in fairness, years ago and people are just starting up on it now.
I don't see a lot of value in it. What I do see a lot of value in is using content as a link building tool. Very similar to the skyscraper technique but again, I'm not going to go and find something that already worked for somebody else and replicate it. I'm going to do the exact opposite, I'm going to create something of so much value that nobody's ever seen before that it becomes a no brainer to link to me. Again, reverse engineer why people link. I link to people because I know it's going to provide value to my audience and that's something that I take pretty seriously.
If I'm going to link to something it's got to be incredibly insightful, incredibly valuable. If I'm going even share it on social media, again it's got to be something that I can share with my audience and be like, hey guys look what I found. That's really what drives people to share, so if somebody wrote an article about what it's like the double skyscraper technique, I'd be like come on dude, this is played out, you're just ripping somebody's idea.
The skyscraper technique, basically what it does, for anybody that doesn't know, it goes out and it finds a really well performing piece of content in a certain space and it one ups it, it makes it a little bit better. Again, I hate one uppers, it's like when you're telling a story and then somebody comes in and they're like, oh by the way yes I did this. Dude, shut up, it's annoying, so I don't leverage that technique. I'm huge proponent of content obviously, but I prefer to create content that is so uniquely valuable that when you're doing outreach, people are genuinely interested in it.
As opposed to being like oh hey, I saw you linked to this one. I just did a better post of it, do you want to link here? It's not as valuable as a pitch of hey, this is something that really can help your audience double their link building output within a month, so you can check it out here. It's a little bit of a different approach but that's not to undermine again what he's done, he's done an incredible job. I think that that tactic is a little played out now and I always put it in perspective of me and what would drive me to action. That's not going to get me to link to you.
We're back with Ryan Stewart. Let's pivot into social media, you mentioned it earlier as well. Perhaps you could tell us about the SEO effect of sharing content multiple times on social media using emphasis within content on the page like click to tweet buttons and sharables and tweetables and things like this. How does this all come into play to help with our SEO?
Sure, that's a great question. That's something that a lot of people would like to know. Again, I cannot speak on the fact that getting shares on social media will increase your rankings because I don't have the data to show that.
My content gets shared nonstop and my content ranks well but it's also really good content, it's well written, it's unique, it's got really good keyword research and it gets links. It's hard for me to isolate the fact that hey, my content is ranking because I'm getting social shares.
Again, taking one step back and thinking larger than just SEO, this is what I think a lot of marketers fail to do is they look at social in the scope of SEO and link building in the scope of SEO with content creation in the scope of SEO. In the grand scheme of things SEO is not anywhere nearly as powerful as people think it is. I can tell you that firsthand because I rank for a ton of terms.
If you Google Miami SEO you're going to see me right there and I have not never once landed one single client from that keyword. You can Google best Miami SEO company and you'll see us there. Never once landed one client from that ever because it doesn't really ... The web is such a big place and there is so many touchpoints with what goes into conversions. It's not just about hey, I have a website that sells brown boots. If we just rank for brown boots we're automation, we're on auto pilot, we're just going to rank and bank.
That's not the way it works man, there's so many things that go into it. That's why I always tell people, it's not about ... SEO is a tactic to help you better your business, it's not going to build your business. Looking at social media from the scope of oh hey, let me go out and buy some retweets or buy some social shares or try and do this. You're not only wasting your time and money because there's no proven fact that social media has any sort of impact on rankings regardless of what blogs you read.
Until I see Google come out with something that says hey yeah, links, social media matter then I'll agree with that, but again bigger than SEOs, social media is so important from a business point of view. Why would you try and shortchange that? I've actually landed a lot of clients from social media and not from SEO, but I do SEO service, ironic. The value that I see in SEO in adding those click to tweet pages, it's a discovery purpose.
I mean content is really the top of the funnel type traffic, it's discovery traffic. It can also be conversion traffic too because if you write something really good and people want to work with you because of that, but for the most part its how to get people like before your funnel. There's so many touchpoints and so many different places that you need to have success with online and it's great to have success with search engines but don't bank on building a business because you rank for a keyword.
You need to be on social, you need to be creating content, all of these things you should be building a community, an email list, something, something that you should be building. I focus on social media because it's incredibly important for everything. From an SEO point of view, I can't speak on that, I don't know if it ranks. It probably helps sure, but again I don't have the data to support that.
What I know ranks websites is you build something that's of incredible value to your audience and then you go out and promote it, you do it through social, you do it through outreach, you do it through a bunch of different stuff and then it'll rank. I can't tell you the exact things that make it rank but I know that process works so I follow that.
Again, it's tough for me to say Twitter ranks websites, GooglePlus ranks websites, does it help? I think so, I don't know but again, I push my content through social because it's an incredibly powerful channel. Too many SEOs just look at as a ranking factor and not as again, we're building businesses here, we're not building rankings. Thinking bigger picture and thinking about your brand and thinking about where you want to be in five years, not after the next algorithm update, it's bigger than SEO, do you know what I mean?
Having said that though I just typed in best Miami SEO company and you're number one. There we are, that's a data set Google.com from the UK, so that's pretty good isn't it? You're beating out this Miami SEO Company, they must be your direct competitor there - that's very interesting.
Yes it's awesome - they're great dudes. I actually know them personally, great dudes, good SEOs. I take pride in the fact that my ... They've been around forever and they've got the EMD going on and I brushed my shoulders off, hacked it in six months, got that ranking up there.
Again, I didn't necessarily try and ... I didn't start my website with a goal, which a lot of people do, they're like I want to rank for Miami SEO company. I built my website around the fact that we are a Miami based SEO company and then I focused on other things and that ranking came because I did a really good job of marketing the website.
More than anything honestly it's a branding point because when I'm talking to a client or a prospect and they're like, what's different between you and this company? I'm like just go Google the best SEO company in Miami, it's a more of a branding thing than anything but I don't land any clients from it, partly because Miami is a tough city to run a business in but also because it's not like selling, I don't know real estate which is different. It's a different market.
Let's look at, you mentioned them already earlier in the show, you talked about your share team blogger database. This is straight blogger outreach isn't it? Obviously you've got to offer some value, I'm going to mix in another one I got on this list here as well with link outreach as well. These two go hand in hand. You got 5,000 people in this database, what you just reach out on a niche specific basis, offer them value for that link, does anyone ever ask you for more than that?
You know what I'm getting at. I don't really want to go there but is it getting to the point where you're doing link outreach and nine out of 10 people are saying basically you have to pay for that?
It depends on the niche. Quick plug here, I have a link building training that again, more than anything link building is a process, it's less about understanding the tactic of the skyscraper technique and it's more about positioning either you, yourself or your team to approach link building the right way and link outreach the right way. I have a training, just a short club that that breaks down every single process and literally you can just take it and hand it over to your team, they'll watch the videos and you're an outreach expert.
With that being said, within that, again I'm a very, very process driven person. I like to build a process, test it, find out where it's weaknesses are, look for places that I can either outsource overseas that are ... Not critical thinking parts but I've built a process and I was like part one we need to build a strategy, we need to understand what this client site and who would link to them. We do that internally in-house.
Part two we need to find the opportunities, I push that to the Philippines, so I have three people in the Philippines that all they do is they build, it's just a Google sheets file. I've built it so it's link niche, link type website, contact, name, a bunch of different header fields that they then go and they use search operators, they go through Twitter and they look for opportunities. Part of our project plan it'll be like okay, today guys you're going to go out and we'll look for finance sites that accept guest posts. They go through and they just find it and they find all these sites, they build it out.
Then while they're doing that we have a client come on and we're working with a client and we're like let's go out today and let's pitch mommy bloggers for sponsored posts or for whatever pitch type we're doing.
It could be blogger outreach, it could be whatever that may be and we use Pitchbox, so I copy and paste it out of the Google Sheets file, dump it into a CSV file, I upload it to Pitchbox and we send all of our pitches out based on niches. Pretty much automated, so from what we're doing over here it's very minimal work actually. The majority of the work is done in the first two hours of signing that client and understanding what they need. Then my people in the Philippines they do all the legwork, then we use tools to automate.
Just to circle back, we built that process. I said look, we need to build a strategy, we need to find opportunities, we need to pitch them, we need to get content written and we need to get that content live and we need to track it. When you've got that all built into silos, you get some people that can work the process, then you look at it and you find the inefficiencies and you understand what you can push out to somebody for a low cost and what you can use tools to automate. I forget what the original question was now, I went off on a side tangent.
That's good, you're talking about business building as well and the whole wider strategic context of it. I wanted to touch on community building as well because that feeds into that. You've got your Reddits, your Quoras, your Facebook groups, your Inbound, all those types of platforms. I guess if strategically those align with your business goals they can be a good source to get some direct links back and some mentions and all that sort of stuff as well.?
Yes and again, I used to do a lot of work ... When I was first getting started building this agency a year ago I was able to spend, I firmly understood, I said I'm not going to pay for traffic because I'm bootstrapping this thing.
If I'm going to build an agency, I had the existing clients from consulting, I migrated them over and I used that revenue not for marketing and advertising but to build a team because I value people over anything because if I have the right people in place it allows me to focus on growing the business which as owner that's my job and my job only. It's my job to build this business, nobody else's and being partially arrogant and partially just a good marketer, I knew how to build that and it was through content and community.
One of the things that I did was I started building content on our blog and just going out and promoting it everywhere possible, but doing it in the right way. Quora was a big place last year, I think from our analytics, last year we did over 15,000 visits from Quora. We crushed Quora for a while, I had a growth hack that, a gray hat tactic it stopped working where I would write a really good response and then I would pay for upvotes.
That stopped working unfortunately (I have a blog post actually about this). I was finding really, really big and popular threads just in the space. It would be like how to do SEO and I would search Quora for these, I would build a spreadsheet with the exact thread and then I would go through and write the responses and then I would post them and then I would take those URLs and buy up those on Fiverr and crushed it for a while, it was awesome.
That stopped working, so but anyways and then Reddit same thing, finding those threads. Facebook group same thing and again just building a presence and being able to go into those groups and provide value and position yourself as an expert without dropping links is incredibly hard to do, it takes a lot of patience.
If you can get and again where a lot of business owners go wrong is they look at a group of marketers and say I don't sell to marketers, I'm not going to waste my time here, but really your peers are going to be the people that number one, the most likely to link to you. From a link acquisition point of view, building yourself as authority within your space is incredibly important. Number two, they're going to be your most popular promoters of content too and number three, building relationships with these people. I mean we do over 50% of our revenue from other agencies.
Taking the time to build yourself as an expert within your space and that doesn't come from getting a local business owner because they don't care about marketers, a local business owner that sells muffins doesn't care about SEO. Understanding that within your space, whatever it is that you do there's a group of very passionate people and if you can catapult yourself or even put yourself in the conversation as an expert it's so powerful, so powerful.
I spent a lot of time in Facebook groups, just random Facebook groups that I found about marketing about SEO providing value. It's hard at first because people are very fickle online and if you're a nobody then people will talk smack, that's what they do. If you do good work and you know you do good work and you go in there and somebody's asking a question, answer it. Somebody's looking for help, help them.
Over time what happens is you build authority, you build trust, then I started networking with the owners of the groups. To this day I'm really good friends with them and I now have my own Facebook group that's about to hit 4,000 people. I just wrote a guest post on Moz about that Facebook group so I'm building the hell out of that Facebook group.
Again, you sit on top of that group, that community of 4,000 marketers and they look at you as ... I'm not saying that I'm better then anybody in that group by any means, but because I own that group by default they look at you as an expert. Community is so important, it's just like building email list, same thing. It's so important that again, so many people overlook because they're so focused on top line sales which I get it, at the end of the day that's what I'm here to do is sell more contracts but it's a process.
When you're doing B to B marketing there's no overnight solution, there's really not. It's the same thing as doing it offline, building relationships offline takes ... If anyone's ever worked in sales you know how long that takes. There's no shortcut but once you put in the time and you dedicate yourself to getting better and being a part of it's craft, I will never and I don't have to ever pick up the phone and call someone, people come to me to do work.
I'm at the point now where because I spent the last year busting my ass providing value to people that I'm at a point now where I can prequalify the hell out of people and I can turn people down because I work with who I want to work with now because I've established myself as an expert ... Again I'm not a Neil Patel expert but I've done a good job building micro-communities.
These are all things when it comes to selling stuff, if you come to me and you're like oh hey, I found you through Google, this and that, big part of my sales pitch and qualification process is really running them through everything that I have to offer. I'll show them the communities that I have, I'll show them all the stuff and it's selling without selling. It's indirectly selling, it's building authority so that way when I hit them with a price tag quote for what it is, I can justify charging 10 times as much as the other company down the road because they haven't taken the time to do that.
Just because they have a website that ranks in Google, that's all they got but when you have all these other things, you've got social following, you've written that Moz, you've written that Ahrefs and again these are things that anybody can do, anybody can do. All I did was send an email to Tim Soulo at Ahrefs, I was like hey, can I write for you? He was like yes, send me a pitch.
I'm not a better marketer then anybody else, I just took the time to do it.
That's the thing, that's the thing that comes out of all of this isn't it? You've got your overarching strategy which stays the same, you've got your business goals and these tactics will come and go whether you call it SEO content marketing, social media.
You just pick the right ones that work any given time given what you want to achieve and really, yes some of those tactics work in more of a green way than others, so really the advice would be coming out of this is do some guest blogging and go and get on with it?
Like I said, we wouldn't be having this conversation if I wasn't guest posting.
Can you remind us then, you mentioned it earlier on, your course. Can you remind us where we can find that because you've been really helpful and you've given us loads of your time and also tell us where we can connect with you online and everything you're doing as well please?
Yes, absolutely, so the training course, I haven't even officially launched it yet, it's been in soft launch just to get some people that I knew wanted to do it, get some feedback. It's at training.webris.org and there's a free trial to it, you can check it out. If you don't want to pay for anything I give away so much information for free on our blog, that's webris.org/blog.
You can find me on Twitter at @ryanwashere and my Facebook group, which is really, really awesome it's Digital Marketing Help. You can find me anywhere. I'm on YouTube, I do a lot of video marketing, I try and be everywhere. I'm not a hard person to find..
Fantastic, this is what I call a PS question just before you go. We've already looked at loads of offline, off site link building methods, could you just share one advanced on-paged SEO technique that we can use right after the show please?
Yes, so I kind of touched on it but I'm really big on content depth right now. What I mean by that is, again going back to the attorney example. If you're an attorney and you operate ... Or anything in the competitive space, Google loves authority sites and authority doesn't just come from links or off-page activity. It comes from flexing your muscles and showing your knowledge on-page.
One of the things that we're working with a lot of clients now is just building out really, really content rich sites. Again, it doesn't have to be a blog, building out resources, building out on-site Wiki's. For example, for this attorney that we're working with, the immigration law.
Whenever you're talking about stuff that people don't know about, there's things called a L1 Visa, there's all these different Visas that people will stick on a page for on-page SEO but I'm a firm believer that you can either link out to an authority site about it or you can create a page on your site that talks about what an L1 Visa is and link to it internally.
Building out these resources within your sites. Anytime there's anything on your site that people might be like what's this or it's very competitive about, build content depth. When I say depth, again I mean instead of having your five page, standard, local sites, build it into a deep site. Everyone of your services you can talk more about, you should be able to talk more about and there's probably even sub-niches within that, within that service.
If you're an online advertising agency and you've got your Facebook ads, Twitter ads, Instagram ads, you can break those down into sub-service of that too. You're catching all these long-tails too because a page that's all about Facebook remarketing or Facebook mobile ads is going to rank better then just a page about social media advertising. It's really important to build out depth of content. It's really hard to do because it's so much work so a lot of people don't end up doing it.
The biggest tip for on-page like I said it's just depth. It's finding ways to dedicate an entire page to one specific topic. Again, using the Facebook ads, instead of just having oh we offer social media advertising service. It could be social media advertising slash Facebook, slash Instagram, slash Snapchat, whatever it may be and then even digging into those even more if you wanted to.
Again, Facebook ads is going to rank better than social media ads and Facebook remarketing ads, which I'm sure business owners are searching for because they hear about it and they're like oh, I want to hire someone just to do Facebook remarketing because that's what clients do. They come to you and they're like I've heard about Facebook remarking or Facebook mobile ads, how can I do that? Just understanding what people are coming to you asking about more, you should have that on your site.
Building out that depth and that labyrinth of content on your site will help you to rank a lot better.
That's a fantastic answer, I really appreciate your time today. You've given us loads of value here - a great conversation - and all that remains to say is Ryan, thank you very much and I wish you the best of luck with everything in future.
I appreciate you having me.
So that's another show wrapped up - wasn't Ryan a great guest? If you enjoyed this episode, please help me out by subscribing to or reviewing the show, and Tweeting out to your followers about what I'm doing. Thank you 🙂
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