Recently, it crossed my mind to start an interview series on the blog.
For the first interview of the series, I invited the famous SEO expert from BHW, Leith.
I would like to thank my close friend Samrat for bringing him on board and a lot of thanks to Leith for giving the interview among time constraints and other priorities.
Well, for people who don’t know about Leith, he is a Jr Exec VIP at BHW with a great experience in both White Hat and Black Hat SEO since several years.
Some months back, he created a gem of a thread on BHW which encompassed his experiences and tips on SEO. If you go through the thread, you will definitely understand how experienced he is!
He has run several successful services on BHW and outside over years. He recently started Genesis PBNs which is a great service as reviewed by reputed IM experts and SEO experts on the forum.
Let’s learn more about him. Hope you enjoy reading the interview!
Table of Contents
- 1 #1. How long have you been into SEO and what inspired you to get into internet marketing?
- 2 #2. People get confused when someone says “SEO” with so many guides everywhere. What are your thoughts about how one should start SEO? Do you do any due diligence?
- 3 #3. What are your thoughts about Black Hat Vs White Hat SEO? How should one pick one?
- 4 #4. What do you think are the most important factors to consider in a SEO campaign?
- 5 #5. What special tips can you give for building super charged PBNs like you do?
- 6 #6. What should businesses/website owners see when outsourcing SEO to vendors considering there are a lot of crappy services out there now?
- 7 #7. Do you recommend any sources to learn SEO and improve?
- 8 #8. Lastly, would you share some tips on how someone can constantly stay in the top SERPs irrespective of any bad algorithm upcoming updates by Google?
#1. How long have you been into SEO and what inspired you to get into internet marketing?
First of all, thanks for getting in touch regarding the interview. I usually get about 5 requests a month but due to time constraints and just other reasons, I choose not to go down the interview route. I decided to do this as a one off just now as a friend of mine had requested it and I couldn’t say no!
Before I got into SEO, I was one of those kids who stumbled across the “single mother makes $400/day” type ads. At the point, I believed anything that I saw online. So as you can imagine, whenever I saw these typical “make money online” ads, it immediately grabbed my attention as well as my time. I started reading more into how one can make online, the different methods of making money online and it wasn’t long before I attempted everything I read into practice.
I failed. Quite badly.
I think that’s one of the most common things that could happen to anyone starting in this field. You’re going to fail – once, twice or maybe even a dozen times. I don’t want to get preachy, but the simple truth is – if you put in the work, sooner or later you’re going to hit the jackpot.
So once I did fail, I kept reading, watching videos and putting everything into action. Did I succeed the second time? Hell no! But I still, somehow, managed to find the will to keep trying.
What inspired me?
To be honest, it was the money. I saw videos and articles about online entrepreneurs making millions online. Of course, at my age back then, who wouldn’t want to make “easy” money online? That’s what I thought it was – easy. But I was very, very wrong.
My first internet income came from those survey sites, in which you get paid for completing market research surveys and questionnaires. Each survey paid between $0.10 and $2 at the time, and back then, considering the fact that I didn’t come from a rich or wealthy background, any money I could make was a dream come true. I still remember making my first $10 online and going completely berserk about it and showing it off to my family and friends. You see, I wasn’t ecstatic about the digits of what I made but rather the fact that I did make money online.
Because I knew that if I could make $10 – then $100, $1K, $10K was more than possible. I could go on and write another 20,000 words of all the other hurdles and events that happened throughout my earlier stages, but instead, I’m going to cut it straight to the point.
Long story short – once I had made my initial few bucks online, it was time to scale things up. As I mentioned, I first started making money using these survey sites and unfortunately it wasn’t easy to scale up on those. Simply because the number of surveys being added on a daily basis were quite limited meaning I could not increase my daily income significantly enough. And so, I set out to find something else online that could get me better results (and more money).
Sooner or later, I stumbled across SEO. As some of you may know, most people know me from Blackhatworld, and to be completely honest, Blackhatworld was one of the best things to happen in my life. That forum has changed my whole life for the better, and I will be forever greatful. At this point, I was simply reading into SEO, watching videos and just absorbing as much information as I could.
I did try a few SEO related things along the way, but failed miserably. So, I went back to just reading and taking in the information until I was more knowledgeable enough to put it all into action. Blackhatworld was my primary source of information at the time, and this was also the beginning of my journey where I ventured into the SEO field. Later down the line, I started putting everything I learned into action. Again, without going off on a tangent, I started testing different methods. After lots of failed attempts, my income was gradually growing and soon $10 became $100 and $100 became $500. I was at the point in life where I asked myself – could I really make a full time living from this?
For as long as I can remember, I had always wanted to do something in relation to business in my life. Whether that was working for a corporate company or running my own business, I wanted to do something in the business field. Due to that ambition, I always had the goal of attending University and graduating. However, since I started making money online, that goal slowly faded away and I was edging towards creating a full time income from my online money making.
Some time later, I came out with my first SEO service on Blackhatworld. It was a massive success, and shortly after I released my second service, YEEHA SEO. It went on to become one of the biggest services at the time, with thousands of customers. After that, I joined hands with another BHW member to come out with a service called Ghost Rank. This again, turned out to be massively popular and we went on to work with thousands more clients. It even got the point where our service was so popular (and successful/effective) that Matt Cutts directly targeted it. Just search up “ghost rank matt cutts” in Google and have a read at the articles for yourself. Following this, I have launched several other services which have gone off to be highly successful.
Again, my biggest thanks goes to Blackhatworld for introducing me to SEO and giving me a place to learn and absorb quality information.
Now, fast forward to 2016 – I still run a few services on Blackhatworld and on top of that, I run multiple other projects ranging from Affiliate to CPA. I’m a firm believer of diversifying and hence I spend a lot of my time looking for new ways to make money. One time I actually went from making $5K a day consistently to $0. It was an eye opener, and since then, I’ve been very cautious about having too little eggs in my baskets. I always like to diversify and that’s where most of my time currently is spent.
To conclude, I guess I’ve been doing SEO for around 5/6 years now. I’m still young (or I’d like to think so) and the future looks bright. What I love about our industry is that you are only limited by your own capability. What I mean by that is: anyone in our industry could make millions and millions if they truly tried. I know several people who have gone from making $5/day to over $20K/day. There is so much money to be made online and this is the just the beginning.
#2. People get confused when someone says “SEO” with so many guides everywhere. What are your thoughts about how one should start SEO? Do you do any due diligence?
Whenever my friends see the new gadgets and tech I buy, they’re immediately sucked into this perception that “anyone can do SEO” or “anyone can make money online”. That’s far from the truth. Especially with SEO, there is a lot of grunt work required.
The way I like to explain it to people is:
SEO is just like any ordinary school subject (Maths, English, etc). As with those subjects, you have several modules – and inside each of those modules, you have multiple chapters and sub-chapters. Yes, there are so many guides online and people can easily be overwhelmed with the amount of information available. But at the same time, that’s what makes SEO such a beautiful subject – because anyone, quite literally, can self teach themselves if they had the will and determination. There is so much information out there, and my single advice for those getting into SEO is to break everything into chunks.
You’re not going to be a SEO expert in a few months. You’re not going to master the subject in a few weeks and you’re not going to be ranking sites #1 across the board in a few days. It’s going to take time – again, just like a normal school subject. It’s going to take years of practice, reading, and failing before you get to the stage you want to be.
A lot of the people I know who are impressed by what I do and start learning SEO usually give up inside the first 30 days. To me, that’s completely normal. However, what surprises me the most is that from the people who give up, only a very small percentage of them actually get back up and start trying again. Most expect quick success, and when they realize SEO is not easy, they back away and go out looking for something easier. Truth is, those kind of people won’t succeed online in any field and a 9-5 is what I’d usually recommend for them. Making money online, whether that’s from SEO, or Affiliate, or anything else – isn’t easy. If you think it is, take a step back and snap out of your imaginary bubble and be ready to face reality.
If you want to get into SEO, take it from the very beginning. Like you said, there are several guides online and most of the basic guides cover the same points. Just pick a guide, read it completely and absorb everything you read. It’s not a race.. it’s not about who can read the most guides or who can make their site the quickest. It’s about who can absorb information and put it into practice effectively. Moz have a great beginners guide to SEO which I usually recommend for beginners. If you’re more of a visual learner, just go onto Youtube and watch some videos on there.
A high majority of the people never bother going further once they read the basics, as they soon realize this is no longer the “easy” method they once thought it was. However, for those who do want to go further, head over to forums like BHW. They have a wide range of SEO related threads containing advice, tips and methods which you can put into practice. Before you know it, you’ll be creating your first site, ranking it and bringing home the $. BHW is also a great community to ask questions if you’re stuck (tip: don’t ask questions that you can find with a quick Google search).
Just to conclude, this is how I usually direct someone who wants to get into SEO:
- Begin with the basics – Moz have a great beginners guide. Read that once, twice and multiple times to understand what SEO is. If you manage to complete this step without giving up, well done. If you’ve given up and can’t be bothered trying again – don’t bother. Go get a 9-5 because this isn’t for you.
- Test yourself. There are several online quizzes and tests you can take to see how much you know. Find out where your weaknesses are and improve on them. The first few months of learning SEO is going to be reading, reading and more reading. You really need to absorb in the information before you put it into practice. Avoid rushing into things and just take it slow.
- Sign up to forums like BHW and start reading more. Check out the various techniques, methods and advice they share on there. At this point you should have plenty of knowledge to make your own site and begin attempting to rank it. If you’re stuck with anything, head over to Google and look for an answer. If you can’t find a definite answer, make a thread on BHW and explain your situation. Someone will help.
- Experiment, fail, experiment, fail, experiment, success. This sounds cliched, but the truth is: you need to keep trying. You’re going to fail, but trust me, you keep trying and eventually you’ll hit the jackpot. At this point, you’ll understand that all the months you put into reading and learning was worth it.. and you’ll also realize that you have a lot more to learn in the SEO field.
Long story short, if you want to learn SEO – start with the basics. Accept the fact that you’re not going to make money for a long time, and the first few months should be wholly dedicated into you learning/reading/experimenting.
#3. What are your thoughts about Black Hat Vs White Hat SEO? How should one pick one?
I mainly do Black Hat SEO. Purely because I find it more enjoyable and at the end of the day, you’re better off working on something you enjoy as opposed to working on something you need to do just for the sake of it. However, I still have many clients who I only use White Hat strategies for on their sites, but me personally – I prefer Black Hat SEO.
Now, before I get into each one – I must say, the whole debate between BH/WH SEO to me is kind of pointless. In my eyes (and Google’s), any type of link building with the sole purpose of improving rankings is against Google’s guidelines. Therefore, any link you build has an element of risk to it. I’ve seen sites that have built only clean, White Hat links get tanked in Google updates – so at the end of the day, no site is safe.
There is no right answer as to which you should pick. It all depends on your own requirements. To put it simply – if you’re looking to rank quickly as possible without a care for long term results, pick BH. If you want to play the long term game and don’t mind waiting months or even years for results, go with WH. The reason BH SEO is often the more popular choice is because most people can’t be bothered waiting for results.
For my personal projects (mostly churn/burn), I use BH techniques. This means I should be able to rank fairly quickly but there is a high chance my site is going to get burned or hit in the next update a few months down the line. On the other hand, for my long term sites (Affiliate for example) I tend to go with a more WH approach – this is because I want the site to last as long as possible and cannot risk that by building BH links. At the end of the day, it all boils down to what you want or require.
#4. What do you think are the most important factors to consider in a SEO campaign?
Okay, well, whenever I sign up a new offline personal client, there are always a few things I do to break up the campaign I’m going to perform.
This is just what I do but this is in no way the “correct” or “only” way to do it:
- Is the website free from penalties? This is often the first thing I ask my client. If they tell me everything is clean, I can move onto my second point. If they are under a penalty, then that’s a whole different situation to handle as I need to first begin work by analyzing the site and trying to figure out the best course of action.
- How does their current backlink/anchor profile look? Using tools like Majestic or Ahrefs, you’ll be able to see how natural (or unnatural) the website appears to be. This often gives you an immediate idea at how much work you’re required to do at the start. If a site has a very spammy anchor or backlink profile, this means I need to spend more time fixing that at the start by creating a foundation. This gives me a stronger idea at how much time I need to spend on the campaign. If the anchor or backlink profile looks natural, then I don’t have to spend too much correcting that and I get straight to the main link building.
- What are their competitors doing? Once I do the above, I go and research their competition. For certain bigger niches, I analyze the whole of Page 1. For smaller niches, Top 5/Top 3 is enough. I use a combination of tools such as Ahrefs, SEMRush and Serpwoo to monitor the competitors, see what links they’ve built and how much traffic they’re receiving (and for what keywords). The simple theory is: the guy at #1 is ranking above you, so he’s obviously doing something right. By analyzing that, you’ll be able to find out exactly what you need to do to grab that top spot. In some cases, the site in #1 may be a huge authority site that you’re never going to beat – so by doing competitor analysis, you’re able to get a very good picture at whether or not the keyword(s) you’re going after are worthwhile.
- Speaking of keywords, this is also something you need to do in detail. Keyword research. I currently use an online tool called Keysearch for keyword analysis and with a combination of SEMRush, I’m able to find the best keywords to target in the campaign.
- Next thing I look at is an estimated budget for the campaign. I mean, if you don’t have the funds, you’re not going to rank. There is no point beginning the SEO only to realize 3 months later that you’ve run out of money and can’t do anything else. Over the last few years, I’ve become quite skilled at doing estimations for link building and that’s just something that you pick up over time.. but as a rough guideline – I usually like to make sure I have at least 6 months of funding readily available for the campaign. This funding will go towards site hosting, link building, outreach, content, tools, proxies and so on. If this is a campaign for a client, then be upfront with them and tell them exactly how much it’s going to cost in the long run.
- Once I’ve covered the above, I begin the on page SEO and making sure everything ticks off. At this stage, I also carry out research on optimum anchor ratios, and so on. So, by now I have covered the on page, found the best keywords and know exactly what ratios to use. So what now? Time to build some links!
- Now this is going to vary for every client but for any link building campaign I do, I always begin by dripping out a set of quality social signals + creating a few press releases. Once that’s done, I drip out links targeting just brand and naked URL anchors. I like to call this stage – “building a foundation”. Just like how you build a foundation for a house, I do the same with link building. By creating a solid foundation of branded links, I can take it up a notch in Month 2/onwards with some more aggressive link building targeting the exact anchors and more.
In my opinion, the most important factors are the ones you consider before you actually build any links. I mean, link building is crucial – but if you fail on the previous steps I’ve outlined above (such as the keyword research, on page, etc) then you’re not going to get very far once you start the actual link building.
#5. What special tips can you give for building super charged PBNs like you do?
Building strong PBN’s come with practice. I have several hundreds of domains in my networks all for different purposes. For example: I have PBN’s simply for my churn/burn sites and on the other hand I have PBN’s for my money sites. Both PBN’s vary in quality significantly based on what I’m going to be using them for.
Even though building a solid PBN comes with practice, the principle behind it is actually quite simply.
- Find domains with solid metrics but don’t rely only on those metrics.
- Spam check each domain using 3 or 4 different sources, at least.
- When building the site, make sure to make it as real/legit as possible.
I think #3 is where most people go wrong. When you build a PBN, most people simply load up the default WordPress theme and leave it at that. Nope, that’s not going to work (unless you’re only trying to rank churn/burn sites).
If you want your PBN’s to last, my only advice there would be to make the site look as genuine as possible. Make it as good as your money sites and make it hard for people to spot or notice it immediately as a PBN site.
A few ways you could to this:
- Create social media accounts and link them up in your site sidebar using social media widgets. If you can’t be bothered creating the social media accounts, then just pick existing ones that are somewhat relevant to the topic of your PBN site.
- Add in widgets in the sidebar. This could be anything really – a simple “daily jokes” widget, a clock, an email opt in form, some fake banner advertisements, etc. Just fill up the site and make it feel real.
- Add real content now and then with links to authority sites. This again, just adds a sense of genuineness to the site.
Of course, there are also other things you need to consider such as hosting and so on but my best tip for building a strong domain is to simply make the site look and feel legitimate. Trust me. Do this, and your network will survive a very, very long time.
Suggested Read: Off Page SEO Strategies to skyrocket your rankings
#6. What should businesses/website owners see when outsourcing SEO to vendors considering there are a lot of crappy services out there now?
Good question, and there are lots of advice/articles on this subject online. I’m only going to be rehashing from them so I’m going to instead add a few links to articles I’ve seen with solid advice for this question.
– http://www.blackhatworld.com/seo/14-tell-all-signs-your-seo-agency-is-full-of-sh-t.858808/ (I would highly recommend checking out this thread. It’s written by a good friend of mine, Tommy, and every point he covers in this thread is solid advice).
#7. Do you recommend any sources to learn SEO and improve?
I covered this in some detail in the above questions a few times, but going to list below a bunch of sites/blogs that I actively read to improve my own SEO skill set.
– http://backlinko.com (Brian Dean’s older posts are quality)
If you’re a complete beginner:
– https://www.quicksprout.com/the-advanced-guide-to-seo/ (for once you’ve read the above beginners guide)
At the end of the day, I’d always recommend checking out BHW simply because there are a wide variety of methods on there that could help anyone.
To be completely honest with you, I don’t think anyone can always stay on top unless you happen to be a beast of an authority. As I mentioned above, in the last few Penguin updates there have always been shock stories of big authority sites, supposedly “WH” that get tanked. What does that tell us? It tells us that no matter how “clean” your backlinks may be, you still have a chance of getting hammered in the next update.
Simple answer: keep everything as natural as possible. This means a natural anchor profile, non spammy links, perfect on page, etc. Even though this doesn’t guarantee you won’t get hit, it does maximize your chances of staying on top once you’re there. But remember what I said right at the start…
…any type of link building always has an element of risk to it.
Thanks Leith! Those were some amazing tips and inspiration which can help the readers to truly understand what Internet Marketing is and how to get a grasp over SEO.
Thanks for reading. I would request you to give your quality feedback and views as an inspiration for me to continue the interview series. 🙂
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