What’s Working in SEO 2014 Edition with Travis Jamison
On this week’s episode, Travis Jamison from SupremacySEO joins me to talk about what’s working right now in SEO. This interview ended up being a bit of a Freedom Ocean format. I had a million questions to ask Travis; Im sure you’ll find at least one thing to take away from our conversation.
In this episode we discuss
- Does backlinking still work
- Are private link networks still effective
- How to use feeder sites to own 80% of the front page
- Social media’s impact on SEO efforts
- Guest posting dos and don’ts
- And a lot more
Episode #2 features
Links and Mentions and Resources
Word AI – a high quality spinner
Search Metrics – ranking factors for 2013 report
Vectofy – a tool that helps you identify relevant on-page (content) factors
Schema.org – learn how to mark up your website, an on-page power move
Ways to Listen
Subscribe in iTunes (and leave a review!)
Download .mp3 (right-click and “save as,” click to listen in browser)
Travis, thanks for joining me today on the podcast.
So, tell me a little bit about your background in SEO—why we should listen to you.
Oh, you absolutely should not listen to me. My background is originally in manufacturing dietary supplements, actually. After I build my first business—classic four hour workweek style. I realized I had to get traffic, because I didn’t have any. So, I went and hired some of the various SEO companies from certain countries that are not known for high quality and not a damn thing happened—nothing. I just lost a lot of money. So, I started learning it myself—spent a few years and then just naturally got really good at it. I made a lot of the backdoor connections to some of the really big other SEO’ers, some of the huge, uber-affiliates pushing this stuff, and over time, learned more. I tended to test a lot of the stuff myself, instead of just accepting what was preached at me, specifically from Matt Cutts himself. Ignore whatever he says.
Okay, noted. So, today we’re going to be talking about the state of SEO and what’s working and what’s not for 2014. One thing I hear all the time—it’s kind of a Doom’s Day Proclamation—is that back linking is dead. Back linking doesn’t work anymore, so what’s your experience with that?
That’s foolish. Back linking still works just fine. You just have to think outside the box with it more. It’s no longer just sending 100 links to your site all saying your main keyword. You just have to think outside the box a little more. We can go into as much detail as you want with that.
Okay, I was going to say—with back linking—I’ve heard a lot about building private networks. Is that, sort of, the out of the box you’re thinking of? Or, is that, sort of, too common now?
That’s kind of common. I have my own network, a large one, and I sell that as a product and it works really well. It’s great for a lot of people. But, it has its down sides as well. So, networks are good for people without much experience. They’re good for people with lower budgets and who need results quickly. Because, obviously, using a network does increase the volatility of your website. But, if you’re getting started, if you’re not completely dependent upon it for all your income, if you don’t have thousands of dollars and six months to a year to wait, then networks can provide really great results. But, if all those other things you are doing—then, a network’s not always best.
So, some of the outside the box stuff that I talk about, now, is I don’t like to SEO my own properties. I like to SEO other properties. Here’s an example—recently a friend of both of ours, actually, who—I won’t give the name. One of their main businesses got, not really penalized in the [inaudible 3:18], but devalued. They’ve been number one for years and for some reason, they were now at like ten or eleven and they manufacture big stuff. They manufacture with steel, so it’s a lot of overhead. They came to me and I recommended not to do anything to their site, because their site’s so white hat. Google’s just going through some changes. It’s probably a temporary thing. Maybe a few months later, they’d be back at number one. But, what we can do in the meantime is take up the keyword real estate. I’ve always said there’s no reason to have just one website in the top ten—that you should be the entire top ten. So, what we did is, we went through there and we made them a YouTube series. They already had their YouTube series created, but I ranked those videos. We also made a few feeder sites—these are sites directly related to what they’re selling and they look high quality. And, when anybody clicks buy or learn more information, it just takes them to their main website. We put all no-follow banners, all no-follow links, so it’s within the Google guidelines. And, then of course, we blasted those sites using some grey-head SEO. So, now that ranks number one. We put their product on Amazon, then blasted the Amazon pages. Those are now number two. The YouTube videos take up three out of the top ten. They also have an iTunes page and we ranked that.
So, we did the calculations based on the conversions on each spot in the [inaudible 5:01] and I think, now, they’re getting roughly 81% of all traffic for their keywords—just for their feeders. It doesn’t even include their main website.
Yeah. So, that’s a good way to do it.
So, that’s kind of a—it sounds like a combination of some tiered back linking that’s a little bit grey-hat and then like super sites—like James Shramko talks about building these super sites with a lot of authority. So, maybe piggy-backing off YouTube or WordPress.com or whatever.
We actually didn’t piggy-back off that stuff too much. I mean, obviously, YouTube, we did. I see what you mean. Yeah—we weren’t building just Word Press and blogger sites. But, we were piggy-backing off the authority of Amazon, iTunes, YouTube. But, the feeder sites are actually the number one one’s right now because they’re so niche relevant and we used some of the grey-hat tactics. And, the good thing about this is there’s just no risk. A lot of people in our community, myself included—big fan of the anti-fragile books, The Black Swan. This type of mentality, there’s just such a low down-side to such a high, potential up-side. These are the type of investments you want to be making in SEO, because the risk was just that we made this feeder site that took a couple of hours of time and then a few hundred dollars at most and we blasted it. And, worst case scenario, the site doesn’t work and you’re out a few hundred dollars and a couple hours. Best case scenario, which we saw, it reaches number one for both of the main keywords and starts driving all that traffic worth thousands and thousands of dollars. But, eventually that site will get penalized—I would say a 90% chance. But, when it does—big whoop. We can repeat the process and don’t even worry about it, because it’s not their main website. I used to blast my own main websites, foolishly, years ago and that just doesn’t work anymore. It’s going to catch up, eventually.
So, if you can use grey-hat tactics to get to the top and white-hat to stay at the top—so, drive the traffic using the grey-hat, and then once you have that, then you can create your list and you can create your brand, and once you’re the brand it doesn’t matter.
Okay, I see. That’s good. So, can you give me a concrete example of what you mean when you say feeder site? Is that just a website you create or is that like you were saying—piggy-backing off of YouTube’s authority?
Yeah, so let’s say—I’m looking around my hotel room right now. So, let’s say you sell lamps and your website is lampsdirect.com. It’s a hard niche—a lot of competition. You don’t want to blast your own site, so you create lampsdirecthq.com, and will put, maybe, one or two posts on there, maybe a one page site—maybe with a contact page and terms of service, just to be fancy. And then, make the content relevant. Make it do the [inaudible 8:09] page SEO’s because you can and then just blast it with something. It doesn’t have to be a huge blast. Just blast it and see how it responds. Then we’ll have banner ads on that site advertising your main brand. So, to the average viewer coming in, they’re going to see this site. They’re not going to know that you actually own both of them. They’re going to come in and be like, “Oh, well this other brand is advertising on this site.” People advertise on other websites all the time—it’s normal. You just happen to own both of them.
So, what’s the quality of the content on these feeder sites? Is it pretty decent or is it just, like, spun?
It’s completely up to you. I don’t like using spun content unless I’m using Word AI and if you kids have not checked out Word AI, it’s the best content spinner ever. It’s very intelligent. It’s not just a content spinner. You can check that out on your own time.
If you have a high quality brand, I would definitely use high quality content. It’s probably worth the extra little bit to make it last longer and make it look better. If you’re doing these in bulk, then you can use whatever you want to. I do both.
Now, when you say blast the website, are you talking about with, maybe, a private network or a more public network—like, some kind of product that someone’s created to get links?
There’s lots of different ways. It’s all, kind of, generally the same. We can go over them—some of the softwares, SE Nuke, the GSA and, search engine ranker, stuff like that. There’s a learning curve with learning how to use those properly. You can probably get some of the lower quality one’s on Fiverr if you wanted to. Network posts will probably be the best bet to keep it for the longest, and probably for ranking at the top as well, unless it’s just a hard niche. Networks are probably the best way to go. Your investment will last longer, most likely.
So, shifting gears a little bit, another thing I always hear is that social media is going to be the new big thing that Google uses to determine the rankings. I’ve personally yet to see concrete evidence of this. Have you seen any? Do you agree with that? How do you feel?
Yes, I do agree with that a lot. I still think that just normal back links are king until the algorithm does a major shift, they will continue to be. But, social already plays a big deal. There’s some study—I can look this up somewhere and send you the link for the notes. It’s showing what metrics are in the top ranking pages, and I think Facebook shares have been the number one sign of a page being at the top for a long time. Now, the thing is, sites with lots of Facebook shares tend to also have a lot of links, so you can’t really say which is which. But, the shares, the Tweets, the Google Plus’s all make a difference. I do know that Google Plus has been, supposedly—I haven’t read the data. But, supposedly proven to influence rankings, which, it makes sense. Also, everything’s so interconnected now. They show customized results based on people in your circles and all this stuff. So, social definitely makes a difference. Links are still essential in my opinion. There’s no reason to avoid social. They will only get more and more important.
I think Search Metrics put out a big report saying that Google Plus has been the biggest indicator of first page rankings that they saw.
I don’t doubt that.
So, maybe it’s from Facebook to Google Plus. I think Google would make sense.
That would not surprise me at all. Google Plus is kind of useless to me. But, at the same time, Google has just shoved it down people’s throats so much that everybody has to use it. If you’re on YouTube you’re using it. If you’re on Gmail—everybody’s using it. And, Google’s getting so much data out of this. Google is such a smart company. They’re fooling everybody all the time and everybody’s falling for it.
I don’t doubt that. Do you think people buying Google Plus, little plus one’s—is that the way that social can make an impact? Or, are they on to that pretty quick and penalizing?
I don’t know for sure. I’m estimating, here, so don’t take my word for it. I think, at the moment, that it still works because I do it myself. Maybe they can catch onto it one day. If it becomes too wide spread, which is quite possible. So, it’s just risk management, like everything. I’m still going to use it for now. I definitely still use it for the Facebook shares and likes and Twitter.
And, maybe eventually on the feeder sites versus your main?
I’ve seen you post about Moz.com and I’ve seen some of your interactions over there. So, on a recent Whiteboard Friday, I was watching Rand talking about Google going after scaled guest posting this year. What are your thoughts on guest posting? Good, bad, waste of time—what do you think?
Guest posting is still awesome. I mean, think of what a guest post is. You’re getting nice, beautiful, do follow links in the middle of properly written niche relevant content on niche relevant sites. You just can’t ask for anything more. Now, some guest posting is absolutely stupid. A lot of guest posting is basically just a network now, except it’s a network that’s not made private. They’re like, openly releasing to everybody. So, it’s worse than an actual network. That’s silly. On bad guest posts, you can immediately tell it’s a guest post. You can look, you can see some bull crap article and at the bottom, “The post is written—blah, blah, the author for Payday Loans in New Jersey.” And, you can tell that a properly written guest post, which is what I do. I get some very high quality ones and you’ll never be able to tell. You’ll have to really look to even find the foot print. We have four to five different outbound links to authority sites and other sites in the niche that aren’t competing for my keyword. It’s naturally put into the article. It’s never at the bottom. I hate those. So, guest posting absolutely still does work. You just have to do it right. Make it not look like a network. If you can look at it and immediately tell what it is, then other people can too. The problem, I think, that Matt Cutts even, I think it was yesterday, wrote a post about it, how guest posting is dead. I think this is more the propaganda like they do with a lot of stuff. The algorithm right now is having a hard time picking it out. Because it is—it’s niche relevant. So, they’re just sending out propaganda.
And, they’re trying to get people to stop doing that in another way, since they can’t get their algorithm to, in your opinion?
Yeah. And, there’s huge guest posting networks. They’re just networks that they like to call guest posting. Those are the bad ones to get, unless you’re okay with the spammy stuff. In that case, you’re paying so much extra for a guest post. You might as well just use an actual network.
Right, so if you can contact another site that’s relevant and write a good piece of content and get a link back to your site, then that’s, in your opinion, perfectly great? A nice way to get a powerful link—
Yeah, just be specific with how they’re structuring it.
In what way?
Having lots of other natural outbound links—if you look at anybody in our community who writes an actual blog post for people to read, there’s going to be several outbound links in each one. Just make it look like that.
Got you. Okay. Good advice—finally, wrapping up, what’s your best advice for people doing SEO on their website this year? Maybe, some common mistakes you’ve seen people make and they should avoid—
There’s so much. I would say, actually, get your own page in order first and learn how to do that. I’m obviously known as a grey-hat guy. I don’t like networks and back links and all that. But, on pages it’s absolutely missed all the time. You should make your website look like a big brand, in other words. Make the page speed-fast. Get the content and all the meta-tags and all that stuff. Definitely, I recommend the tool Vectorfy. It’s a keyword tool that, basically, is going to tell you what other keywords you need in your content in order to make it rank higher. It’s great. You use [inaudible 18:16] mark-ups on everything you can. If you have a video, do a [inaudible 18:18] mark-up. If you have an address, a phone number, and things like that, do a [inaudible 18:24] mark-up. The [inaudible 18:26] are more and more important as time goes on.
Is there a particular website or resource that you do to get the code or to find out which is available?
I think just Schema.org, is the mother site for it all. There’s some Word Press plugins that do it and, to be honest, it’s confusing. It confuses me, still. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. So, you just have to put in a couple hours and really kind of understand it. You can mark-up everything. You can mark-up images now and some images are showing up in the SERPS in place of what were once the author’s photos. Sometimes it’s images now. So, you can take that further and further. Do that, and let’s see—get the Facebook and Twitter and Google Plus profile. Always mark-up [inaudible 19:36], phone number if you can. Make it look as good and legit as possible while the on page is perfect. And then, you can use whatever methods you want. On page will rarely, in my opinion, make a huge, massive difference in increasing your rankings, but, if it’s not proper, then it can really hold you back.
Okay, so it’s like something you should have, sort of, on the ground floor and build on top of that? It’s an easy win, essentially. Okay.
Great, it’s just not the fun stuff to do, basically. Okay, well thanks for coming on. I really appreciate your time. If you want to throw out a link, tell us where people can find you online.
Yeah, come visit me at supremacyseo.com or you can follow me on Twitter @Travis_Jameson.
Alright, man, thanks.
Alright, thanks buddy.