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The Three Pillars of SEO to Dominate Page 1 of Google

In Conversation with Harry Sanders

In this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser hosted Harry Sanders, Founder and Director of Studio Hawk, an award-winning dedicated SEO agency in Australia. Watch Harry illustrate the cornerstone of Search Engine Optimization to ensure your website is at the top of Google’s results pages.

We need to start thinking less short term wins and focus more on long term strategies. How do we position a brand to be an authority in a space.

Harry Sanders
Founder and Director of Studio Hawk
Hello everyone. Welcome to Ecoffee with Experts. I'm your host, Matt Fraser. And on today's show, we will discuss the three pillars of SEO to dominate page one of Google with none other than Harry Sanders. If you have not heard of Harry Sanders, you're in for a treat. He is the Founder and Director of Studio Hawk, an award-winning dedicated SEO agency in Australia. And when I say award-winning, they won the Best SEO agency in the world award, and SEMRush was one of the judges included in that. So it's not a small thing. They specialize in providing quality SEO services to businesses. Harry is also the founder of the educational arm Hawk Academy. He started Studio Hawk when he was 17 on the streets and Couchsurfing and has since grown the company to a team of 22 SEO specialists in five years, which is no small feat to become the largest dedicated SEO agency in Australia, and he's also expanding into London. So when not focusing on SEO, Harry is likely playing Runescape or Data2, skateboarding, hiking, or attempting poorly to do all at the same time in the interest of efficiency. Harry, thank you so much for being on the show. A pleasure to have you here.

Thank you Matt, a pleasure to be on.

So, Harry, I've read a lot about you and some of the things you have experienced and your whole story. But for those tuning in and watching, who was Harry as a kid? What was it like? Who were you growing up in school?

I was the nerdy guy If I’m being real. I was the kid that hung out in the library. He’s played a lot of RuneScape, I used to love the game. It’s like a little flash game on your computer. So he’s played a lot of that. And since I was 14, I have been embedded in SEO. So I started my first affiliate, which is a travel site.

How old were you?

I was 14 at the time. So I started a travel site with pieces of content I’d get through other people I played online because it was an online game. So I’d get other people to write content around wherever they lived, which is worldwide. And then I’d give them currency for doing that. So I built that up to a very small affiliate travel brand. And that’s how I got my start in the industry.

So how did you end up Couchsurfing, if you don't mind me asking? You were seventeen. I don't want to pry into your life, but, remarkably, you started your agency when you're doing that, you started doing SEO services for people?

I sold that affiliate brand to a local agency for nothing. I didn’t know how much it was worth back then. And I worked there for two and a half years while I was at school, so I skipped a lot of school as a kid. I would go to school one or two days a week. And around seventeen, my parents were divorced when I was five or six, and I was living with my mom. She was couch surfing at the time. So she couldn’t have me. Unfortunately, Dad’s partner decided I was baggage. So I talk about it a lot today. It’s not something I’m shy talking about. I do a lot of work at risk youth foundations. I’ve done some work with the government here in Australia around the issue. So that’s how I ended up on the streets. And it can happen to anyone. You don’t realize how close you might be to living on the street, and I’ve met so many fantastic people, even SEO specialists, that have similar stories. So I think it’s something that people should not be afraid to talk about.

The pandemic brought a lot of hard times on so many people, myself included, but I'll talk about that off camera because my wife would kill me if I talked on camera. What motivated you to while on the streets, but pretty industrious. Did you have a laptop computer? And you were using free Wi-Fi from the shelters you were staying in. Is that correct?

Yeah, correct, McDonald’s, the shelters I was staying in. I have a good reputation there because I would try to close clients I met at networking events while at the shelters. So looking back on it, it wasn’t all horrific stories, but that was certainly something that stands out.

Well, I think it's inspirational that you're in this shitty situation and making lemonade out of lemons.

I tried my best. I started the company just before I was homeless. I left my agency role to start the company. And to be honest with you, Matt, I had quite a bit of ego at the time. I’d been from 14 to 17 as a young prodigy in SEO, and that went to my head. So it was an awful thing to happen, Couchsurfing and living on the streets, but it was probably a blessing in the end because it made me realize there’s a lot more to life than the things I was interested in back then. So I started the agency before, lost everything, and couldn’t get work. And so I thought, well, I’ve got this agency, it was about six months after I’d been on the streets. And I thought, what’s stopping me from trying to get clients? And so I started to go to a ton of in-person networking events, and it took me ages, and I looked like crap but eventually got some clients.

Were these on meetup, or how did you find them?

I would be at Meetup events and anything free, I reckon I went to every free meetup event I could for months.

Did you jump into some BNI chapters? I'm pretty sure they have BNI chapters.

Yeah, I jumped into BNI chapters in Australia. I used to find ways of like rocking up without getting a coffee and stuff because I didn’t have money to pay for a coffee. That’s usually like the requirement. And I didn’t join the chapters because that costs money, but I’d shop from place to place, sitting in meetings. Anything I could Matt to get work at that stage. I was the definition of desperate.

When did things start to change for you?

Well, there were a few key moments, but once I got my first client, that was a defining moment. Because I wasn’t charging anything, it allowed me to get referrals. And that’s what this business has been built on today. We don’t have an outbound sales team or anything like that. And yeah, we’ve been able to get those referrals. So once I got that first client, it took a few months to deliver some outcomes for them, but I was in business and had four or five more referrals, which generated that snowball effect. So that created more and more business for me, even today. So we’ve grown massively, I need to update my bio. We have about 50 SEO specialists and 12 in London. And that’s just grown from referrals. So that’s been a huge drive for that, and that’s how I got those first few clients.

You worked for free to get that money. If I could go back to myself 15, 16 years ago, I would tell myself to do that. Because I didn't do that, and now I look back, I'd probably be in a different spot today if I had done that. I never stopped learning about Digital Marketing. But I think that's key for people who want to get into this game and learn about Digital Marketing. As you said, you started your website to learn and do stuff, even if it's Affiliate Marketing. If you make money, you make money, if you don't know, at least you're learning. And then don't be afraid, everybody deserves to make money, but like when you're first starting, the market doesn't know who you are. And you mentioned BNI, the one thing I learned from BNI was- You need visibility, credibility, and profitability. And if you are not visible, you can't justify charging any or a lot of money because you have no credibility to be profitable to have profitability. So, it's pretty neat that you did that. And then the biggest thing about it is that you mentioned referrals to generate your business. And when you prove to people that you know what you're doing, the proof is in the pudding. And then what happens is what happens with you. It is what I find so interesting and challenging about a Marketing agency, and I would love for you to enlighten me. Maybe I'm hungry and out to lunch because I don't have 50 people working for me in different countries. But the thing I always found challenging about trying to scale an agency, for instance, I told you off camera what I did for the Car Dealership. Harry, I had no idea how to clone myself. And I now know how I would do it. I would have recorded everything I did in a ClickUp or a Project Management software platform. I would record what I do in 15-minute increments and create my list of SOPs for what I was doing to make things happen in the various Digital Marketing things I was doing strategies and channels. How do you figure out how to do that with your business or how have you figured that out? Because at the end of the day, correct me if I'm wrong because I'm just talking out of my head right now. But do you need to break down your stuff into getting it down to a cost per action? How much time is that going to take to know how much you're going to charge people? And I think that's one of the hardest things about doing what we do. Because especially SEO, correct me if I'm wrong again because I'm going to concede that you know way more about SEO than I do. But, every website is different. Because you look at the competition, and you're like, well, they have this amount of links and this amount, and you're this how far behind you are and how much it's going to cost to do that. How long it will take for you to do all that is based on experience. And it's like, how the hell do you figure out what your cost per action is for SEO and turn it into what you've turned it into? It's bloody brilliant. So I'd like to hear anything you have to share.

Well, I didn’t know anything about business. I was very good at SEO but didn’t know much about business. And I met a fantastic mentor that I still work with, Grant, who I met six years ago while I was starting the business and still couch surfing, and he taught me everything that I know today about business. So SEO is no different than any other business. So he ran a manufacturing company. Are you familiar with Lindt chocolate or Cadbury and those brown? So he brought Lindt chocolate into Australia. So he was the CEO of massive organizations. And manufacturing and SEO have a lot in common. You need to understand a lot of similarities, things like the cost per action, how to forecast down, how to understand your labor efficiencies, how to have enough labor, and problems we’ve run into in Australia. So we have by far and away the most amount of SEO specialists under one roof, probably a factor of two now. So how do we source enough talent to keep up with the demand we have as an agency? So we’ve hired people, internally full-time learning and development people. And we’ve hired people from universities who do L&D programs to build programs internally on how we train this new era of people. And it’s documenting everything. Systemizing it and not just coming from me but constant iteration in our campaigns. So, the scaling has not been too bad for us because of our dogged simplicity. We do SEO. So we take the line and don’t offer paid or websites. And I can make a whole list of things we don’t offer. So for us, everyone is an SEO specialist. Everyone in the agency is trained in SEO, including our two admin staff. Everyone is a specialist. So that makes it much more compelling when we’re delivering.

When your administrative people are trained in SEO, that's the power of focus, man. Like, that is the power of focus like a magnifying glass and the power, I can't remember what the analogy is, but some analogy between something and a magnifying glass and you take the magnifying glass and focus it, it will burn grass, and so on. So laser light is the number one secret to your success, the things that have contributed to your success. You had an awesome mentor, sounds like a phenomenal mentor and learning the business side of things. And that's the thing, it's one thing to be an SEO technician and practitioner, another to know the business side of it. So having a mentor and focusing on one aspect, one discipline of SEO, is it.

I don’t believe anyone does anything successful alone. I think you have to have other people, and I’m very skeptical of anyone who says they’re entirely self-made. Like, I think it’s a rubbish concept, a rubbish term. I came from nothing, but I can attribute so much of my success to Graham and a therapist and a support worker who helped me with all the mental issues I had when I was on the streets. Without those people, how can I claim that success? So it’s like we look at last click attribution modeling when it comes to SEO, but it’s a shared conversion modeling-assisted conversion that, like in life, we should look at.

Oh, that's amazing, man. That's such an amazing truth you just shared there. So you learned about SEO, and what did you like about SEO so much?

I love it. As soon as I touched SEO and remembered, I was 13 or 14 when I started getting into it. For me all my life. I’d been doing school and wasn’t bad at it, but I found it boring. You’d solve math problems for no reason, write English essays that would only go to the teacher to be marked, and nothing you ever did had any real-world practicality. And so you live in your little bubble. And so, for me, it was my first opportunity to have a real-world impact when I did SEO. And not only that, I loved it because it was a perfect mix of logic. You can mathematically measure and understand creativity, you can come up with whatever wacky stuff you want and be as creative as possible in how you acquire links, what kind of onside strategies you have, and what kind of content you deliver. So the sky was the limit. So that’s what made me love and what makes me still, ten years later, love SEO today.

It's the perfect combination of creativity, and have you ever taken a left brain, right brain test to see where you're at with that whole thing?

I don’t think so.

You would probably be like me, I'm guessing from what you're saying. Some people lean more towards the right, and others lean more towards the left. And then there are some people, they're a balance of both. And I took this because I have a diploma in web design. And to be a good web designer, some people go in the direction of coding, where they forget about like, To hell with the design part of it, like they want to do the coding and the back end developer and the CSS and HTML, and they'll mark up the mockup and turn it into a website. And then there are the people who are just design design, and they're all right brain. And that's what their strength is. And then, as I said, some people are balanced. And sounds to me from what you've said that you probably are that as well in that regard, so it's very interesting because that's what I love about Digital Marketing, period. Whether launching a Facebook ad campaign, you must be creative to develop ads and a campaign strategy. And then you gotta be technical to know how the darn thing works. And moving forward, I've had to learn a lot of digital marketing disciplines, but I'm going to start to focus on just one. I'm not sure which one. So how did you develop these skill sets? For instance, you have the three pillars of SEO to dominate page one of Google, and I've taken some of your courses at Hawk Academy. There was another thing there, the seven hours or something or other forgive me if I'm misquoting what it is, but there's a process that you've created, and you don't hide it like a lot of SEO would want to hide the effectiveness. They want to hide the secret sauce of their actions to rank sites. And yet you've put some of these principles on SEO on Hawk Academy. Yeah. And we'll make sure to link Hawk Academy for people who want to sign up because I've taken some of the courses, and I would fully endorse the material there because it's top-notch. So how did you develop the three pillars of SEO to dominate page one?

I can run with that. So when we look at SEO, a lot of people over-complicate SEO. And I feel like there’s that point when you’re learning SEO, you maybe you’ve done it for six months or a year, and you start thinking you knew everything about SEO. And so you start feeling the need to overcomplicate. SEO is already complex enough. So what I created and went with is this idea of three pillars. So anything you do with SEO is going to fit into three things. First, and these are the three main factors that Google looks at, they’re either looking at your onsite of your website, so your page speed, your technical structure, your internal links, your architecture, all that stuff. That’s one big pot, they’re either looking at your off-site to your backlinks, digital PR, citations, anything like that, that’s not directly on your website that Google was a search engine, created that idea of the content off-site. And then lastly, search intent. So make sure you deliver content matching whatever someone’s searching for on the site. And that sounds very simple. And it is, the complexity is in the execution of how you do these different things and how you orchestrate them all at the same time. Because often when people ask what’s the most important pillar of SEO? And you say, well, you got a three-legged chair, what do you think the most important chair leg would be? You can’t do it without one of them. So yeah, that’s how I came up with it. And why do I choose to share? Because I think we have a talent problem, we need more people to be passionate and to learn about SEO, it’s not a demand problem. So if we have more people that are passionate about understanding SEO and stop seeing SEO as this magic formula and it isn’t. That’s going to be good for the entire industry.

That's awesome. So each of those pillars could be we could have an hour discussion, if not longer on and I know we could. We could talk about on-page SEO for an hour. In your business, do you facilitate all your SEO specialists? Because, let's be frank, there's so much to know. Do you segment the talent to okay? You're going to learn about on-page, you're going to learn about off-page, and you're going to learn about keyword research and search intent. Is there a certain segmentation of your staff with the skill sets to do those things within your business?

I love talking about this stuff. So every SEO specialist is expected to know a general concept of everything. Because you’re an SEO specialist, every amp will need to know a little about backlinks, search intent, and content, like onsite, however, we have a concept of specialization. So once you become a senior, you’ve been doing SEO for quite some time, and you’re a senior SEO specialist, you’re expected to dive deep into one of those pillars and disciplines and own that. So we have people that are experts in each of those fields. And that’s one thing that being a larger SEO outfit allows us to do. Because rather than having a team of two or three SEO specialists, like most agencies, with a team of 50 or more, that allows us certain efficiencies and labor efficiencies by allowing people to specialize even further. So yeah, search intent specialists where you’ll develop all sorts of content strategies for clients and at a high level with massive brands worldwide. So you might be a tactical, onsite specialist where you conduct an outline of complex kinds of technical SEO problems and become an expert in your field in a very niche part of it. Or you might even be an off-site SEO specialist where you’re in charge of liaising with digital PR campaigns or link acquisition at scale and understand and study those disciplines. So that excites me, and I know there are probably two dozen people in the agency that are better than me by a safe margin on different specializations just because it’s so damn specialized now.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're probably operating more on the business side of things as you should. The business development, sales, and marketing side of things, not to take anything away from your talent.

Exactly. So more as I’d still do a lot of affiliate SEO work because I love SEO. But most of my role at Studio isn’t even sales, it’s more strategy. So understanding what things we need to know, as an SEO agency that the market is calling for, like, what do we need to pivot into? What offerings do we need to have? So that kind of stuff is more my role now. But still very involved in like liaising with the team, but there are some cracker SEO specialists.

Wow, that's phenomenal. That's just amazing. So everybody gets general knowledge and training on the three pillars. And then they just dive deep into whatever excites them, or they want to specialize. And I'm assuming you give them the freedom to choose.

Correct, like sometimes nudging, like let’s say we have three or four or five people in content or searching intent already, we might need someone in something else. But they have the freedom to choose and even to move around. So you can say, ” Okay, well, I’ve done search intent now for two years, what I’d like to do with some backlink stuff?” But we don’t allow people like deep in both because by the time they’ve specialized in backlinks, what they would have done in content would have changed. So you pick whatever, and you can move around, but you dive deep into that, and you own that.

So, what are some of the best techniques for understanding our user search intent? Things or tools?

Yeah, there are tools like SEMrush, which everyone talks about constantly. But there are phenomenal tools that make your life easier as an SEO specialist. If you’re not using tools, I don’t know whether it’s your pride, but you’re wasting your time and your client’s money. So like SEMrush allows you to understand the volume of keywords, you can look at the trend of a keyword and, even often, the intent of a keyword now. And that allows you to drill down into what you should be focused on, of course, is zero click keywords and intense like that. But that’s just really understanding a client. And so sometimes we go as far as talking to clients’ customers to understand what they might be searching for or doing so you can apply that strategy.

It is amazing how complicated and correct me if I'm wrong, but in my journey of doing this for 15 years, I used to use Market Samurai to do keyword research. And now, with Google doing everything they're doing under the guise of, in my opinion, the guise of privacy, which I think it's under the guise of profits personally like they want to withhold keyword data. So I wish they would be upfront. They're saying it's for the user's intent, and it is not. I do not believe it one bit. It's the intent of their pocketbook. But we'll take businesses that need to make money. So it's gotten so complicated, and you say, use tools. Like SEMrush is a small investment for someone who's just starting, and by any stretch of the imagination. So are there any other tools that you have come across you could recommend?

There are many free tools and alternatives. Yeah, to be honest, the landscape changes so much that I wouldn’t be the best person to know. I know there’s a variety of free ones you can use. Even sucking data into Excel sheets, because I’m blessed with the budget and capacity now, I’m always very interested in using the best tool. But when I was starting, it was a bit cheeky, but we even used to use a free trial of SEMrush, and every month is a different email. So we spend about 10,000 bucks a month with them now. So hopefully, that’s consolidation for them. But those are the kinds of things we used to do. And you have to do what you must do, and I believe I know it when you’re starting.

I think Keywords Everywhere might be a tool people can look into.

That’s a great one. We use that in SERPs, I believe you use credits now for Keywords Everywhere. It would help if you bought credits. It’s an alternative but not free.

Another low-cost tool, if I may throw it out there, KeywordChest. Can you give an example of how understanding search intent has helped your SEO efforts with a client, a story, perhaps?

Sure, here is a good story. So we worked with a client, a publication called Women’s Day. I don’t know if you have anything like that. It’s a massive national magazine in Australia that would write stories online. They had a team of about 50 journalists. Before we worked with these guys, they would write. So, we asked them how you write things for your site and how you know what to write about. And they’ll say, we are in the industry. We know what people want to hear about. So I thought, okay, that’s a good answer. They are in the industry, so it makes sense. We ran an experiment over a month where instead of writing what they thought people wanted to hear about, which was controversial, they didn’t like it. We asked them to write about the briefs we gave them based on data. We looked at the trending terms with volume and keyword gaps. We did that for a month. And in that month of the new articles, you can see in SEMRush that their traffic doubled. It is a site that was already doing ten million hits per month. By utilizing search intent and data-led content, we increased their audience massively. Because their audience was coming from Google search, if you ever do an experiment or want to do something fun, you can think about things like, what do you think has gotten searches F45 or Crossfit or what do you think gets more searches – The Eiffel Tower or some other. And you can think about these things, and you can go well, maybe Eiffel Tower. Maybe it is, but humans are bad at objectively making decisions on what’s gotten more searches, popularity, or trending because we have a recency bias. Psychologically the machines don’t suffer from it. So I think it’s very naive to think that as a person, you understand more about what people are searching for than data. That’s not to say the two can’t be used together, which is what we eventually did to great success. But you have to utilize search intent, which was massive for them. Their traffic has continued to explode, and they have adapted that strategy.

So now they only write content based on what you taught them?

Yes. They are a massive power user of SEMRush now. So, they will come up with ideas and then run them through to see if the data checks out. If it doesn’t, end of story.

So they don't write from their gut anymore, if there is no search volume, they don't write it?

No, not unless it’s deceptive or has a peak opposite trend. If no one is searching for it or wants to know about it, why should I spend time developing a story or an answer for something no one is looking for when there is a short time in that industry?

What about the creation of the content? I know they have writers, but you and I know it's one thing to write content and another to write SEO-optimized content. So let's talk about tools for a minute. Everybody is using the same tools, and it's just a matter of you developing a relationship with clients to do the work. I could be talking out my ass. But like Surfer SEO, is that a tool to assist people in developing content?

Yes, and it’s a fantastic tool, and as I said, those tools are useful for developing content. I think if you can develop a good data-driven strategy for your content and utilize tools, it’s understandable no tool is perfect. Then you are going to be great. The only thing I would add is to find expert writers in a given area, like if you are writing for a finance blog or hiring freelancers that are certified to give financial advice and get them to write something and get another editor. Yes, it’s more expensive, but we live in an era of quality content, like backlinks back in the day. You probably remember this, Matt, when Ranfishkin came out and said low-quality backlinks are dead and content is the future now. Similarly, low-quality content is dying because of the invention of Javis and AI-driven copy, which is nothing inherently wrong. Still, it’s recycled, and it’s a low quality of content. The content that will rank is high-quality content written by experts, and if you are interested in that concept, you can look at things like Google EAT. But you can hire a freelancer that might be an accountant to write. And it’s not like you will edit it and publish it. It will have much more authority and weight than some low-quality regurgitated content.

So tools like Surfer can assist expert-level writers in writing SEO-optimized content. Do you think that tools like Jarvis, now Jasper, can also assist those expert-level writers to input expert-level stuff because you have to input stuff into Jasper to get out?

I think so. I think it helps a lot, and we use it for our link acquisition rather than our data-driven content strategy. I am a big fan of data-driven content. With good writers, you can get high-caliber writing. Otherwise, you can use it, and we do for our link-building efforts because we have to produce a high volume of content. You can use it to get over writer’s block if you are stuck on something. It will give you some insights, but if you are a writer using Jasper/Jarvis to generate 60 to 80 percent of your content, then I would say there will be writers that can generate better content and rank higher.

All these things are running on GTP3 right now, and I have heard that GTP4 will be able to write sales copy, like the copywriter-style sales copy, which is even direct response. That's a topic in itself. I think GTP4 is going to change the game even more. I was talking to somebody about that the other day. It is unreal. Regarding getting extra power writers, I think it's garbage in with Jasper. If you put shit in, you will get shitty content, from my limited experience. I think you said this, so correct me if I am wrong, those tools, in some ways, will improve the internet. They help with writer's block, they help you to formulate and outline. You can create stuff and then improve on it to be like a help mate, a ghostwriter. I bet an expert writer would put in stuff because they are experts to get better content.

The problem I see with that and what I don’t want to encourage is lazy writing. Writing should be based on findings, data, research, and understanding. The problem lies in that if I start inputting some stuff I am talking about, I don’t know what’s the topic, and I know nothing about the coffee-making process. I can currently do that. I can get content together, I can write it up. I can use tools like Jasper to generate the rest with my little piece. But what I have produced is not quality. It is not coming from any expertise, it is regurgitated content. Jasper or GTP4 will not explore new concepts. They are not human. They will only regurgitate what is already out there. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, but if you want to form new ideas that are worth talking about, then we need to encourage writers to go still and do original research and have original findings. And original thoughts.

Interesting, interesting, interesting, I wonder if I will ever get to that point, but that is for another day.

Maybe you will. But that will be a scary day indeed.

We have talked about the first pillar, which is search intent, and the second pillar, which is content. What about the third pillar, backlink acquisition? Certain people subscribe to the philosophy that you should do what Google says and not try to get links yourself, not promote or purchase links. The whole sponsored tagged thing and how many people are adding that tag or not, and big bad Google will come after you. So what are your thoughts on number one, the best way to create backlinks? I will follow up after.

They don’t want people to build deceptively spammy links. Honestly, it’s not a good idea. The best way to build links is still what people have been doing and starting to get talked about more, publish editorials, publish content, and often I hate to say, people need to get paid. Google has created this problem for itself, with Google ads being it does not pay websites to run. You cannot make enough money from running ads on your site to sustain a team of writers putting out content on your website or blog. And so what happens is these blogs have been forced to adapt to publishing paid editorial pieces. Some of them are marked as paid and some of them don’t. So instead of paying for the link, what these sites do is lead you to believe you are paying for the content. Or you are paying for the placement in the editorial of the content. These are all great thoughts, but it is the same thing as you eventually indirectly paying for a link. As much as Google doesn’t want you to acquire links, Canva is an incredible story of how they bought property and websites to get links. Canva is an Australian company. They are probably one of the world’s biggest SEO success stories.

Wow. I did not know this.

They are very clever regarding SEO. They would buy out brands and websites that would not make any money but had very good presence and backlinks and acquire them. If you look at SEMRush for their traffic, you will be like, damn. They have done that, and every brand that is ever successful has done the same in some way, trying to acquire links. Whether publishing good content, people use a strategy to get links. It’s not as nefarious as people make it out to be. Google doesn’t want people spamming the web or creating a distrust of them. So it’s in nobody’s interest for people to distrust Google. And they don’t want people to talk about manipulating or deceiving them publicly, which I understand because it creates mistrust. So if you are genuinely building quality links from niche-relevant websites with high traffic, I don’t think they care how you get the links. As long as they are real and quality sites, I don’t think it’s Google’s problem. But if you spin up sites using techniques like BPN and exploiting techniques, they will come down on you. So it’s just a matter of time.

Are there any other specific link-building techniques besides BPN that you avoid because they are risky?

If I take risks nowadays, it’s doing work. We did a massive study, I think we are publishing the study on various link-building techniques, including SkyScraper, MovingMan, Digital PR, and all these different techniques. We did this for about a month across four hundred clients and spent about three hundred thousand US dollars. It was a big piece of work. And we found that link building is very different depending on the size of your brand. If you are a big brand, the skyscraper technique is fantastic, and you should be utilizing that. If you are a small brand, it’s terrible. MovingMan, in general, is a technique that is pretty much dumb to death, and no one is interested in linking to that anymore. PressCallOut is a fantastic technique if you are a small business. However, they don’t scale. So we broke this down into a metric we called Time Per Link, TPL, which is a much better metric than anything else. Because realistically, you want your time spent acquiring each to be as low as possible compared to people willing to spend thirty hours to avoid paying for a link. Even if you are worth minimum wage, fifteen to twenty bucks per hour, you have to look at that and be like, dude, you just spent four hundred dollars worth of labor on acquiring a link you could have picked up for a hundred US. We do a lot of that. The one technique I will say is very cool, and the UK is doing a lot of it, and the US is starting to do some of it is Digital PR, DPR, which I think is a phenomenal technique if you do it right. The drawback being it is expensive to do and run a campaign.

Forgive me, are you talking about Herald link building?

No, I am talking about building pieces of either data-driven research or Widgets. So do the graphics, create a press release, and go out to market with that. So, for instance, we just did this with a brand in Australia called Daily Jocks, they sell men’s underwear. So we did a campaign where traditional media doesn’t want to link to you, even if you send them data. They don’t want to link to you. If you force them to link to you, they have to link by creating a widget on your site. So we did an interactive map of Australia where you can click the different states and see what the most popular underwear item was using Daily Jocks as data on their site. So we took it a step further to plan insights like how often men buy new underwear. So how many times do people buy boxers before they switch to briefs? All that insight. And then we go to the media and say, hey, you might be interested in this, and you get some massive links that would cost tens of thousands of dollars each if you were to try and do editorials. So you get them a lot cheaper because you produce genuine and amazing content.

So it all ties back to creating awesome content? Because they are not going to link to crappy content.

If you are doing that, you are reaching out to Forbes, ensure you have content that is Forbes-worthy.

That's unreal, and you guys will publish this study?

Yes. I don’t know when we will publish it, but it will come out soon. I thought it was cool because I don’t think I have ever seen anyone explore this concept of time per link.

It's fascinating to me, I have never thought about it, but it makes so much sense.

I think it’s an important metric because it’s great to get links doing this technique, but how many hours per link did it take you?

This is important in returning to what we discussed before, knowing how much to charge. You can go broke if you don't know what you are doing running an SEO agency. You can have too many employees. I have a friend I won't name, but he is older than me, and he wrote an article about how he went from a broke musician to a Marketing millionaire. He said Matt, I had to make a hundred thousand dollars monthly to make payroll. So he shut it all down, and now it's just him and his wife, and they do boutique-style Marketing for their clients. So you have to think about these things when running an organization at a certain level. It was so awesome that you had somebody who was a business mentor, and it was an industry that was unrelated to SEO but could provide so much value to you in the manufacturing side of things. Because that is what we are doing, we are manufacturing content and links and creating value from doing that for ourselves or our clients. So this is my only question. For instance, back in the day, a Marketer talked about the RSS method, using URSSV to syndicate content across web 2.0 sites, building stacks, etc. Is that stuff still working?

That stuff is so dead. I know some people swear by some of that. I have had very limited success on my affiliate sites and much more success, again, if you look at it as time spent. The time spent doing all that crap versus if you spent it on doing proper SEO. You are going to realize proper SEO strategies are working much better. It’s harder work, but they work better. I would say that all web 2.0 stuff is pretty much done. RSS feed propagation, all that automatic stuff. It’s just spammy. If you are sitting there looking at the technique you are doing and thinking, is this a better experience for the web? Is it going to be better for the internet? And if the answer is no, then it’s a pretty shitty technique.

So if it's not adding value, which makes sense? All you are doing is regurgitating the content.

If they are not adding value, why would Google care about it? Why would businesses care about it?

So thinking with the user intent in mind? What's one big takeaway you want listeners to get from this episode?

I want people to understand SEO is fundamentally changing as an industry. It’s maturing a lot, so we need to start thinking about things differently than we have. We need to start thinking less about short-term wins and techniques and tactics and more about long-term strategies. So how do we position a brand as an authority in a space? How do we support that through content, the strong credibility of a site, and strong link partnerships? How do we make brands great? Looking at all the most successful brands, they have thought of strategy rather than tactics.

That's so awesome. Hey Harry, how can our listeners connect with you online?

You can reach me at Harry Sanders SEO, on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, they are the best ways to get in touch with me.

Harry Sanders SEO on Twitter and LinkedIn?

I have only recently started on Twitter, so grant me some patience and leniency, but I am still figuring it all out.

I joined Twitter in 2007, but I don't have many tweets. I can guide you if you want to ask me some stuff. It is an interesting platform, so we'll see if Musk buys it or not, which will be more interesting. So I want to thank you for being here. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thank you for taking the time to do so. It's going to add tremendous value to the community.

Thanks Matt, I appreciate you having me on and you guys listening.

Thank you very much, and have a great night.

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