Paul Teitelman Talks About SEO and Link building

June 16, 2023 | Interview

Welcome to Marketing Lego Thought Leader Interview. Today we will have a word with Paul Teitelman, founder of Paul Teitelman Consulting, about his journey and how he came up with his consulting company. We will also talk about the valuable insights on SEO, link-building process and more.


Hello, everyone, and welcome to another Marketing Legos thought leader interview. My name is Harshit, and I’m the Director of Business Alliances of two brilliant marketing SaaS tools, RankWatch, and WebSignals. And today’s special guest is a consultant with 15 plus years of experience in SEO and link building, currently running a self branded agency, Paul Teitelman Consulting. Paul, a big welcome to you, buddy. I’m so happy to host you today.

Thanks so much. It’s great to be here. I’m excited to chat about all the things about SEO.

Perfect, man. Paul, please tell us about your journey. How were you as a kid and how did you get to where you are today?

Sure. For sure. So, my journey in SEO goes back about 15 years. Right out of university, my very first job was… You’ll have a laugh here, but as a link ninja officially was my first name way back in the day, my first job title. Back then, Canada’s largest search engine agency had a whopping team of 10. Again, this was 2008. I was there for about three and a half years, worked my way up to upper management, SEO manager, and built my own team. The company itself grew from 20 to 40 to 60, and made a profit of 100, three years in a row. So, I am very fortunate to be at the right company in the right industry at the right time. Give them a lot of credit. They’re still around today, highly respected. Had a great run, honestly. About halfway through, though, I was driving in the car for an hour each way every day, working online. It started to bug me. And to be honest, I thought I could offer a superior link building service. No sales managers, no account managers, no overhead, no paid team, no social team. Just, Hey, I’m an amazing link builder. I can communicate well with clients.
I was answering all the tough questions anyways. So, I’m a hybrid. I’m doing a little bit of the sales in the account management already because all the tough questions are going to myself anyways. Why don’t I go branch out on my own and see where it goes? So, 2011 branched out on my own, marketed myself as one of the first SEO consultants, SEO experts. Not like an SEO company, this city, go work with an actual consultant or an expert. I’m proud to share, over the past 10 plus years, we’ve grown it from a one man team to a team of 25. So, now we are a full scale SEO company. We have about 100 plus clients. Actually, I was running the maths, like almost close to 120, which doesn’t go quite in the sales pitch as nicely as 100 plus. And really, we specialize in offering honest, ethical, and transparent SEO services to the masses. So, we do a lot of work with handling clients directly and also a lot of white label link building packages to other digital agencies, other consultants. So, my background and my true love of SEO, it always comes back to link building.
I just find it fascinating. I am not shy to hunt down hundreds of links and build 20, 40 high quality links a month for mega campaigns. It’s what I’ve always known. So, that’s really where we specialize. We do a lot of consulting as well. So, I’d say it’s like 80-20, 80 % is in typical month to month recurring SEO packages and contracts with a majority of that budget going towards link building. We also have our whole inhouse team of content writers. So, we do a lot of content creation, blog marketing, stuff like that. And then maybe 20 % is just, hey, if you want to hire the best SEO consultant, who are you going to hire? Who do you want to work with? So, it’s pretty cool that we are still a consultant, but we have the full team and the full company to execute on whatever deliverable that we recommend or that clients may or may not need.

Got you. And, Paul, to be honest, when you started your own self branded site and had that consultant approach, at that particular moment, I’m sure the whole concept must be very new because I know for the fact that nowadays, a lot of people have started doing it. But back in 2011, definitely it wasn’t a popular thing to do. It’s awesome. You made your way up and did so well with it. And I get it. When you have that consultative approach, sales is something which is done very passively in that particular thing.

You nailed it. You’ll have a laugh. So, I always say my job is to educate, honestly. You read all these podcasts and all these marketing guys and what’s your story and how do you educate, how do you add value? You can’t just say, Hey, client, I’ll do your SEO. Give me your money, trust me. So, I always say, Hey, you should probably search for an SEO consultant or SEO Expert Toronto. You found me. Let’s have a fun chat. In 30 minutes I can educate, explain SEO in five minutes. I have been ringing off the sales education piece every day for how many years now. It’s honestly easier to explain SEO in five minutes than it is for me to know what I am going to wear today, but just a lot of education. And then the way I ended is whether you choose to work with us or you choose to work with someone else, at least get educated so you don’t work with, as we all know in the SEO industry, some of the other consultants and agencies and just almost downright spam emails that you get these days. So, at least get educated, understand your value add. But way back in the day in 2011, back then, no one really even knew what they were looking for still.
And LinkedIn, which is still great today, was a big driver. So, my LinkedIn name, which is still Toronto SEO expert, is technically my first name. And then my last name is Paul Teitelman. So, I used to rank my LinkedIn, like number one for SEO consultant. And then eventually it was my own site. Now, depending on LinkedIn, you’ll see maybe both on the same page. But just how you position yourself and then to your point, the consultant is usually an easier approach than I’m the agency or the growth agency and I’m here to get your business.

That’s true. Let’s talk about all the good offerings you have now. You’re active on SEO services, link building services. I’m sure content marketing is again one big part of it. Anything else that the agency does at the moment?

Yeah, I’d say a lot. You nailed it there. Typically for us, it starts off with… If it’s the recurring model and they’ve already worked with other agencies in the past, then we’re always going to have a specific budget for link building. Not every client is doing the month to month blog packages. I call it link building content and then website blog content. It’s easy because clients can understand. Link building, we’re giving away and we’re pitching website blog content, plus a highly researched content is going on your website. So, we do a lot of the link building packages, but a lot on the consulting engagements, like what’s a typical consulting engagement for us? Maybe range around 20 to 30 hours. We are doing maybe eight to 10 hours on keyword research. People always take that long on keyword research. I’m like, yes, because keyword research sets the tone for everything that you do in SEO. So, keyword research, we do a content mapping exercise, find out if everything that’s ranking should be ranking or anything like, for example, if informational content is out ranking transactional content, what do we have to do? Do we have to build new pages for additional services, additional locations?
Step number three would be your traditional on page optimization. That’s where the technical audits come in. We do a lot of it manually. We also use some software as well, of course. Then once that’s actually implemented, then it goes more month to month. Now, how that gets implemented, we actually have a developer, a really talented developer on our own team. Why? Because it was so frustrating telling a client, Hey, you just got to add 500 to 750 words and change the headers and do a drop down FAQ. They’d be like, Okay, Paul, how do we do that? I was working with other freelancers over the years, so, we have the ability to execute on everything as it relates to your SEO. Some agencies that work with us just piecemeal it. They have their own inhouse teams. They just need the link building. But having a full service offering when called upon, it just builds trust with the client. And then over time, you’d be surprised. All of a sudden, it’s like, Yeah, the guy was working with ditches, or that other agency that she was running didn’t really get back to me on time.
So, think ahead. That’s one thing that I will tell everybody. One of the main reasons I left the agency world to go start my own thing is I wanted to hire my own content team. And it was causing some friction. I wasn’t trying to like… this is my team and this is my business and how it’s got a role. I take the ego out of the business, but we are not able to deliver on high quality content. I’m killing myself to build the best links. I see the content and we can’t send it to the enterprise client because there’s spelling mistakes and errors. I need to hire at least two to three writers who can sit in the corner and pump out content all day. They said, No, we don’t have the budget. We got to grow this team. We got to grow that team. I’m like, This is getting crazy. This is where the margins are. We need to be able to deliver on SEO. I built my own content team. I think there’s lots of great content writers now. Again, way back in the day, they were more journalists than SEO content writers.
Now, it’s such a great entry point for any writer, journalist, just digital marketing enthusiast, honestly, in providing high quality content or running blog strategies or whatever. So, just having all the different parts in place is going to help you be a better SEO person. And just knowing what you like. If you don’t like doing keyword research, go find someone who can package it together, so that you can still monetize it that you’re happy with. If you don’t like writing the content or building the strategy and you just love link building, well, then maybe go sell yourself as a white label link building solution to other agencies. Just really know your niche or stay in your lane.

That’s true. I’m just curious because when it comes to content writing or even for your on page implementation or resolving technical errors from a site, you’ll be basically working with multiple CMS altogether. Your clients are from multiple industries. You might be using some of the other things. So, do you have all of those resources in house to cater it or do you still work with some of the people on contract, not in house, and get the objective solved altogether?

Yeah, exactly. It’s a great question. For us, the first round of deliverables is the actual execution and analysis. We found all these errors, we found them on this page. Here is how to correct them. Some of our clients are very savvy and they’ll go to take that information and they’ll do all the work themselves. Or if it’s a big enterprise client and no one from my team is getting access to this website. So, we would have Zoom calls, walk their developers, or sometimes it’s their IT department through how to implement it. And other times it’s, Hey, Paul, great. But I don’t have any developers. The person that built my website three years ago, there’s no longer a relationship there. What’s the quote? And then if it’s WordPress, we will go in and we can implement everything. We prefer, for the hardcore technical stuff, I don’t market ourselves as Shopify technical experts. I would say go hire a Shopify developer that can do this site speed integration for you. So, we do mostly the analysis and the recommendations. If it’s WordPress, that’s really our wheelhouse. We don’t want to start getting into other CMS because every time I talk to a client, I’m like, Have you heard of this one?
I’m like, No. I’ve been doing this for 15 years. Every six months, there’s a new CMS that everyone swears by. Obviously, WordPress and Shopify, if I had to guess, are probably 60 % to 70 % of the websites out there. I know WordPress is 50 %, I’m going to guess Shopify is working its way up there. We really specialize mainly in WordPress and Shopify. Then the audit work is the same, regardless of the CMS, but we’re not in charge of implementation on the other CMS.

What’s your favourite CMS when it comes to SEO implementations?

It’s got to be WordPress. For me, it’s always been WordPress. I think the main issue that people need to be mindful of, and maybe WordPress doesn’t get a bad rap. But with marketers, they always say WordPress. With IT, they say no WordPress. And I just educate the IT department like, hey, if you just go in and update the theme and update the plugins and update WordPress every 3 to 4 months, you’re not going to have that crazy site vulnerability, which is really the only downfall of WordPress. Guess what? If you don’t go out there… It’s like an oil change with your site speed and your technical SEO. You would never drive your Core Web or your Ferrari for a year or two and not get an oil change. With your own CMS, you’ve got to keep the technical and the site speed type. Every Google page experience, all these algorithm updates, what’s the number one thing? Site speed, technical. We’re past… Not past, I shouldn’t say that, but the hardcore years of Google Penguin and the link penalties and everything else like that are past. We all know the general rules, what you can and can’t do.
What’s up the past few years? Mobile friendliness, the mobile index, page experience. So, it’s not rocket science. You’ve got to make sure that you lock it in. And WordPress, just the plug-ins. WP Nitro Pack, I’ll throw some love their way. I have no affiliation with them whatsoever. But what we’ve seen in terms of site speeds in the past year versus the last 3 to 5, it’s phenomenal. So, there’s a few plugins that just make your life so much easier. If you can think of it, someone else has probably already built it. And within that sweet combination of the right theme, the right plug-ins, you can get mobile scores of 80 and 90, which were unheard of for so many years. So, definitely for those reasons, I definitely say WordPress. And then if it’s e-commerce, probably Shopify. You know what I mean? It’s just great plug and play. Could they maybe fix a couple of things? Sure. But overall, WordPress and Shopify.

Got you. Any struggles that you feel with the Shopify platform when it comes to implementing technical SEO altogether?

I feel like the site speed isn’t the best. When I run the analysis and I run the scores and even a couple of my clients that have really good overall, then I’m always questioning, is it because it’s e-commerce and they have hundreds of images? And then normally there’s a few images there that either aren’t served in next gen format or they’re not loading properly on mobile or they weren’t originally compressed. So, I’d say the majority of those issues that we see with Shopify are just lazy uploading of images. Let’s just be honest, you know what I mean? Or the developer didn’t know or whatever happened. I don’t think it’s that limiting in terms of overall. There is the URL pattern that you have to follow with slash collection slash products and stuff like that. Sometimes I’ve seen them have issues with duplicate pages between the different categories versus collections versus products.

Especially the tag pages, I believe when you have that temporary URL that gets generated on the tag pages. So, that creates a lot of the biggest instances of our job.

Exactly. So, it’s not the most pressing element of SEO. You know what I mean? I think the number one tip I tell every Shopify based website that I work with is that it doesn’t come packaged with a lot of space for you to add any content. So, all your category pages, whether you’re trying to rank for sweatpants versus T-shirts or this type of sunglasses versus this type of visor or if you’re a fun summer brand or even rugs or towels or whatever you’re trying to sell, all your category pages come out of the cart with zero content. So, go back to that, write good product descriptions, write good product titles. If you write the titles and there’s 12 tiles or product photos, you just said that keyword 12 more times. If you come up with some super funky way of addressing eyeglasses versus bath towel versus whatever, cool, but you have no keyword density anymore. So, a simple workaround is at the bottom, like how Shopify comes with the headers and then the product photos. Underneath that a drop down FAQ, we love implementing that for clients. You have a chance of stealing some of the featured snippets with some of those informational Google Ask search queries.
Client: what do I put there? Pretty simple. Go to Google, look at Google Ask and spin that content and get more of those FAQs at the category level page. Very rare that your product one or product one in this colour or that size or that dimension is going to rank. It’s that category level optimization. And in Shopify, it literally comes blank. So, they don’t really have, hey, put your products here and then underneath, write a description of what this category is. And here’s five to ten questions. So, hey, maybe one day they’ll get there. But that’s one of the limits of what you see. And even on the homepage of most Shopify websites, very limited on where you can put a good chunk of that SEO content. Bottom of the fold, drop down, potentially FAQ style, if it’s relevant, will go a long way as well.

Got you. Let’s talk about your client onboarding process, buddy. From the standard, what processes do you have for reporting to clients and having that regular communication channel movement?

Yeah, exactly. Everyone’s always loving the onboarding process. For us, we try to keep it simple. That’s one thing that if you send a client, I’ve dealt with a lot of clients over the years. Some know their SEO and their business inside out. Some have a lot of time, some have very little time. Sometimes you’re dealing with digital marketing managers that have been at the company for two weeks because it’s a newer initiative. They went out and hired us and we’re all working together. So, we found there’s a beautiful thing in simplicity. So, it’s a word document, it’s a client intake form. Give us a little bit of insight. Obviously, all your relevant business information, name, address, your Facebook, your Google links, whatever you have. So, we can pull information from there or Twitter, social, whatever it ends up being. Tell us a little about your business and then what keywords do you think you want to rank for? What markets do you want to rank for? Who are two to three of your biggest competitors? And honestly, anything that we shouldn’t talk about within your SEO or anything else you think we should know. Some, you can see these long winded answers.
Others will give you three keywords and the business information and that’s all you get. But it gives you a good understanding right off the bat of who you’re working with, how much time they’re going to put into it, and do we have to just run with it? Do they send an Excel file of here’s my keyword or here’s my keyword data and whatever software they’re using, or is it literally, I’m not sure you tell me. So, you’re going to get a really good understanding with a basic client intake form. If I sent a 20 page PDF that they could fill out, it would never get done. So, that’s step one, the client intake form. From there, we’d like to just have a quick chat about content. If we’re writing content for them, sometimes it’s short and sweet. Sometimes it could be 30 minutes to an hour with myself, with our content manager, just to go through all the nuances. How do you guys refer to yourself? One of my favourite questions when I talk to the clients is, close your eyes, pretend you’re on shark tank for two to three minutes, and sell me on your business.
What are you guys all about? You’re going to hear those marketing taglines. We are professional, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, or we like these words. We hate when people refer to us as that. And that’s going to help the whole process. You get a better understanding. Hopefully, if you laugh, it builds trust from day one. And then from there, we go out and we execute on the keyword research. And then there’s another follow up chat, making sure that we really understand what the goal is? What are they trying to do? In my mind, the entire goal of an SEO campaign is to try to identify the high search volume, relevant, non-branded keywords. That’s SEO in a nutshell. How can I impact your business? I impact your business if I rank you better for these high value keywords. It all starts with just a basic client intake form, and then we have our own software and spreadsheets as every SEO does. Once we get that information and then the reporting and the KPI cadence, which I’m sure is the next question coming up at some point follows through that workflow.

Got you. Which are the primary KPIs that you basically measure for your clients? Is there a mismatch of you measuring certain things and maybe… So that making it simple for your clients to understand and then reporting on those main KPIs back to them?

Yeah, it’s a great question. It’s normally, one, the improvement in the keyword rankings, like, are we doing better? Are we doing worse? Number two, the number of keywords driving traffic to the website. And then the big one is what is in Google Analytics the result of that improvement in the keywords? How much… Wait a minute. Yeah, exactly. Organic traffic, exactly. What is the improvement in traffic month over month, quarter over quarter, and then year over year? Because sometimes it’s going to take 6 to 12 months for those best results to kick in on even the average SEO campaign. So, we get excited because you can quickly see keyword rankings. Hey, I took you from nowhere to page 3 to, Oh, my God. We’re at spot 11 or 12. Guess what? There’s really no traffic at spot 11 or 12. So, in six months, if you’re nowhere and I get you to the bottom of page 1, that’s a huge win for any SEO campaign. The traffic is not going to be that exciting until we start getting you to the middle or top of page 1. So, along the way, we’re reporting on keyword rankings, the improvement in the keyword rankings, right?
How many keywords are now on page 1, how many keywords are on spots 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, etc. Then eventually that data has to show up in Google Analytics.

Got you. Any commitment on the number of leads, like the Google conversion and stuff? Is that a set expectation for the clients?

Great question. For us, I try to separate traffic generation versus conversion. And this is just from working with a lot of clients over the years. If I drive a lead to your website and they phone you and no one picks up the phone, that is not Paul and his team’s responsibility. So, we do obviously a lot on goal conversion and tracking and stuff like that. But our main KPIs are, did we do what we set out to do and drive more traffic and high quality traffic to the website? And the client or I in my team, we’re always talking like, was it good traffic? Do we want those keywords to rank? How many goals did it actually convert? But we prefer… And we’re also not a full scale growth agency. Just straight up, I’m not running your social media, I’m not tied into the paid ads and everything. For a lot of our biggest clients, the goal conversion and the tracking is done on their end. They’re big enterprise brands. They scour the web to find the best link building team. They give us a chance. We crush it over other link building teams across North America.
We win the bigger book of business, and then it’s just straight execution. So, that is some of our best clients. So, for us, it’s much more of a focus on the SEO KPIs than the traditional overall agency, how many phone calls, how many leads and conversions that you have between all different channels.

Got you. Paul, how do you keep yourself and the team updated? Because every now and then some new things come up. Google rollout just happened. It started happening a few days back. So, how do you keep yourself and the team updated with all these latest updates and things?

Yeah, it’s not easy. So, I always joke, behind me is my thinking chair, you know what I mean? Because clients are like, Oh, Paul, that’s a nice chair back there. I’m like, Yeah, after a hard day of battling the Google algorithms, I need to go and compress and then think of what the future is going to be. So, I always call it my little crystal ball. One big thing I always say is you can’t really predict the future without knowing the past. So, for these SEO consultants that have two to three years experience and maybe worked on a handful of websites, no disrespect or looking down on any of them at all, but you weren’t there when Google Penguin hit. You weren’t there when Google Panda dropped. You don’t know the implications of if Google tightens up anchor text percentages between exact phrase or topical. You don’t know. So, you take on a client, you build all these exact match anchor text. You’re doing good link building. You might even work with some of the other high authority companies in the space, but you’re picking the keywords and things are going well, things are going well.
There’s a Google update and your client’s gone and you’re like, oh, no, I didn’t know. Well, that’s not really what a client wants to hear is you didn’t know. So, if you don’t go and at least study the past and go read what people were talking about, obviously, you’re not going to go and find the forums or the Facebook groups from seven, eight years ago. But go and really study the history of the Google algorithm updates, and you’re going to see a trend. So, you have the link penalty years because that’s where people were spamming and manipulating. You have the content years. Then you have the page experience, the site speed, the technical years. Now it’s a little bit of a blend with the core algorithm update, was it a link? Was it the site speed? Simplest way of thinking about it, I always tease the client’s life. It’s one of your recording rooms and the Google scientists go on with their white coats and they change a few knobs one way and they change a few knobs another way and they all record it down. Shit hits the fan. All of us SEOs, Oh, my God.
What happened? And then you have the SEO scientists. Give them a lot of credit. They run their analysis. We analysed 10,000 websites and here’s what we found. And everyone’s like, Oh, my God. That’s so smart and so genius. It’s going to fluctuate. We have some campaigns that we worked on for five plus years and really really competitive niches. And not to say it makes me laugh, but we’re on top of the world for 6 to 12 months, and then we are sinking, and then at 6, 12 months later, we’re on top of the world again and we haven’t changed anything. We changed a little bit, I shouldn’t say that. You redo some content, you might do a little link purge and change how you push versus the anchor text and the backlinks and stuff. In essence, there’s three pillars of SEO in my mind anyways. There’s your technical SEO, there’s your content, and there’s your link building. Any question you ask is going to go back to one of those. So, in terms of what’s next, do I sleep well at night? I sleep great at night. Why? Because I have a feeling where it’s going to go based upon what’s happened over the past 10 to 15 years.

Got you. Any observation on the role of that happening, make or update, anything around that; that you basically noticed?

I always say with any update, wait two to four weeks for the dust to settle. So, even with clients, if it’s the biggest win and they’re all high fiving, I’m like, let’s celebrate. But I don’t know if this is a minor fluctuation, a major update. And then for us, it always takes a little bit longer to roll out across Canada than it does in the States. So, we start seeing it right away with some of our US clients, and then it rolls out to Canada. I still think it’s a little bit early. So, on a major update, I’ll do a little bit of reading, but I’ll really dive in two weeks later. You have those scientists who come out… Don’t call them scientists, but you know the consultants that I’m talking about. I have a lot of respect for what they do. They put these huge updates out there. You’re reading on search engine land, you’re reading on Search Engine Journal. Also Facebook groups. I find more of the individuals that are running their own websites, to be honest, they care a lot more than the average digital marketing manager at any brand. It’s their business, so they’re usually the first ones that are breaking. They’re normally the first ones that are coming out. And oftentimes what I see is sheer panic and pandemonium over the first two, three days. And all of a sudden, two weeks later, the dials go back a little bit. So, what you see 48 to 72 hours after a major algorithm update doesn’t necessarily guarantee that’s what’s going to roll out over two to three weeks. So, I just learned not because it’s so easy. Oh, my God. I got to go check 100 different clients in the rankings. And oh, my God. Doomsday, do I even have a business next week? You probably will. You might have a couple of campaigns that got hit harder than other ones. You might have a few campaigns that did a lot better. Just really knowing what you’ve done. I may overkill track keywords almost manually with my team, extract it from the software. So I have data points from the beginning of time. So, you can literally see what happened because a lot of keyword ranking software is fantastic, but it gives you more of a snapshot of what’s happening now versus last week versus last month.
For links, we have very, I’m not going to call them events, but very detailed and organized Google spreadsheets where we know every single link from the history of time. We have benchmarks for clients, so we can see and break down what happened, why do we think this happened, and then how do we react? So, if you’re just maybe a little younger, you have a few clients you’re not really sure about, you like a link from last year and then a little bit of content to three months, but you don’t have a system that you can monitor, you’re not really going to know how to react.

Got you. And what about the second last update that happened around product review altogether? And any observation on how exactly it impacts e-commerce or affiliate websites altogether?

Yeah! So, the Google product review. That’s why I always go back. Another Google core algorithm about high quality content. So, now that they fix product and home pages and service pages and blogs and duplicated blogs and the canonical tags, it’s all relevant to high quality content. It doesn’t really have anything to do with site speed or mobile friendliness. I always break it down first and foremost. The Google product review is important because there’s so many websites. There’s so many top 10 affiliate websites out there and it’s information overload. So, what Google is trying to do, and I always, again, have a ton of respect for Big G, that’s what I call Google internally, you know what I mean? And they are trying to have the best user experience. If you go to Google and the site that ranks is a bunch of regurgitated content from Amazon product description, not really the best user, not the best experience. I could have just gone to Amazon. So, Google product review is giving extra points or extra scoring or extra authority to unique product reviews. So, someone that’s actually tested 10 products and there’s a video of them with the 10 different vacuum cleaners and they have a bunch of pictures and a YouTube video, that’s a real review.
A website that’s like my best 10 vacuum cleaners. And it’s that typical affiliate site with here’s the product, here’s the link, and here’s two to three hundred words and a little pros and cons chart that they have so many of. So, what are they going to give credit to? They’re going to give credit to content creators. Think of other platforms, think of what’s happening with even TikTok, for example. I’m not a TikTok guy. Maybe I’m not as young or cool as some of those TikTokers dancing around. But they’re awarding content creators. What is the success of Twitter or even Reddit back in the day? It’s all around UGC, user generated content. So, what is Google going to have a preference for? They’re always going to have a preference for unique reviews. Again, back in the day, they tried to do it around Google authorship, like having an actual name. Way back in the day, it was like Google Plus. If you’re old school and you remember Google Plus, then there was Google Buds. There’s been all these different updates over the years. And again, if you’ve been through all that, you can quickly tell, Oh, it’s content related to product reviews specifically.
Makes sense, right? In the back end, you have the schema, so obviously you should be coding it properly, and that’s just an extra layer of communication that Google is giving you the opportunity to do. So, yes, go and code it properly, you know what I mean? But it’s not rocket science. What should be ranking on page one, regardless of link building and tagging and optimization? Someone who’s actually spent 5, 10 hours and can show you videos of the individual pieces or the individual product reviews, or a site that you can tell, honestly, in five seconds that it’s regurgitated content. Even if it’s the best regurgitated content, there’s nothing unique about that. It’s just someone who ripped off Amazon or even some of the other platforms and just has that same product description. So, when I talk to clients in certain niches, E-Commerce and even real estate, they all have access to the same database. If you’re just copying and pasting that description that every other real estate agent has access to, why would you rank higher than the site that has more domain authority?

That’s true.

If you take that and you take a couple of pictures or videos or you can get a drone, hire one of the companies that goes and takes drones and shows you all around, at least that’s going to be a better listing than someone who literally just copied and pasted and added 200 words of content with the name of the prebuilt condo a bunch of times.
For Google to really impress Big G, you have to do something unique. You got to do something that would actually impress them. Sometimes it’s not the volume of content. Now, they’re always trying to push the needle on high quality content, which, again, goes back to the first one, which was Google Panda. It’s all going back to various algorithm updates. Now they don’t name them with fun little animals. You know what I mean? How fun was Google Penguin. You remember all the memes and everything else like that? Now it’s just Google core algorithm updates. Sometimes they tell us it’s coming, sometimes they tell us a little bit, and sometimes they tell us absolutely nothing. I always monitor the major sites, obviously Round Table, Search Engine Journal, etc. I’ve had some success monitoring Facebook groups, Facebook groups for agency owners, Facebook groups for affiliate owners. I don’t really do a lot of affiliates, but they care a lot more, like I said, than the average ones, and they’re always pushing the needle. Sometimes in directions that we can help with clients, other times just makes me laugh with some of the shit that they do. But like, hey, it works.
Will it always work? Who knows? But yeah, a lot of information you can find online, but a lot of it is also information overload. I always say you could be reading until you’re blue in the face and you’ve got nothing done. So, if you’re that worried, run some tests on your own. That’s what helped me get to where I am is I was doing client stuff by day and at night I built websites. And right away when I learned about Google Penalties, I was like, Okay, let’s go get some sites penalized and get a few sites banned and figure out what I shouldn’t ever be doing for my clients. And then I used to run a 20 to 30 site blog network, which I stopped doing, but figure out how to rank for obscure keywords, figure out what strategies are stronger. So, when in doubt, test. If you don’t have the capital or the resources or the time, go follow SEOs that are more into testing. Those SEO data scientists, I call them. There’s a lot to learn. If you’re just going to read 18 different versions of what happened with the Google make Core update, it’s a little too early.
In two to three weeks time, then the data and the studies come out. Just a little bit of patience and remember it’s the long name. Whether it’s May update, another silly animal, there’s going to be another one in August. Every year, there’s one like mid November, early December, right before shopping. Why? I hate to say it. Google doesn’t make money off SEO. They make money from paid ads. At the end of the day, like I say, they go and change the knobs in one direction. Now that the whole SEO industry cries wolf, everyone complains. Google makes a little bit more on the ad, and then the dust settles, and then three to four months later, it happens again. So, it’s something you just have to understand. As an SEO, you have to embrace it. You got to work really hard. And obviously, you need to be reading, but go back having that historical data for clients and then testing not for clients. That’s the big one. Test on your own site, run a few blogs, buy a couple of websites. Whatever your niche and your service offering is, dive in and know and make yourself a better SEO.

That’s right. When you get any client on board, what are the common mistakes that you spot? Maybe it was a mistake done by their own in-house SEO team or agency they’ve been working for. But what are those common parameters that you basically notice?

Yeah, one on the link building side is, I’m going to tell it straight, no link building. So, the first thing I say when a client comes to me, I got ripped off by this person or this company. I say, Okay, I’m really sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, it does happen. Can you send me three months of keyword ranking reports? And can you send me three months of link building reports? I kid you not, 99% there’s an awkward silence for two to three seconds. I’m like, Oh, have you not been getting month to month link building reports? Let’s dive in a little bit. Do you know about link building? Very rarely is the answer, Yeah, no problem. I’m going to shoot those your way. So, it is unfortunate, but so many companies talk about SEO. They talk about link building, but they don’t actually execute at full transparency. If you’re going to a broker and you’re buying links, they’re going to report on those links. But if you’re going to an overall growth agency or SEO company that you’re paying 3 or 4 or 5K, you don’t really know, Can I scale up? Can I scale down?
I don’t really know. So, just not having a good understanding on what they’re paying for or what they paid for in the past is honestly the biggest mistake I see. And then really, when it comes to blog content, it is usually a really big mess. If they’ve worked with other SEO companies in the past, you can see tons of 300 to 500 word content that’s still live from seven or eight years ago. And it’s keyword cannibalization to the incident. They have 50 different blog posts that are tagged with the number one keyword. We were looking at one the other day and it was almost like maybe last. There were 200 blog posts and 100 of them had almost duplicate title tags with the exact match keyword. Keyword 1, keyword 2, keyword 3 dash blog post title. I’m like, Oh, my God. No one’s ever fixed this. It’s not going to save your SEO or get you the number one. But the confusing signals, having these blog posts that are all saying the same thing, having your informational content at 2,000 words that’s out ranking but has no call to action on the website.
Do you even know what’s ranking? I’m ranking great. Well, actually, your blog post is ranking. It looks like shit and you don’t even have a single CTA element on it. So yeah, you’re ranking, but the wrong page is ranking. So, either add CTA, make that look great, run some conversion test on it, or de-optimize that page, bring all that content over to your category page or your transactional page, and then a little bit of short term pain for long term gain for sure, but have the right page ranking. So, I see a lot of mistakes in either we did no link building or, shit, here’s my links and I’m like, You should probably stop paying these people now. This is really bad. I don’t know if you know this. Don’t shoot the messenger here, but I wouldn’t pay a dollar for any of these links that you did right now. So, normally it’s on the link building. Normally, it’s on the blog content. Either it’s overstuffed or there’s no internal links. They’ve hired a great inhouse writer, and I’m like, Guys, you have great content, but it doesn’t link. It doesn’t connect with the other pages of the website.
What’s the point in that? Normally, you have an insight speed, obviously, not enough clients invest into it. So, it’s pretty easy to say, Hey, I go to Google page speed insights, go to GTmetrix. This isn’t proprietary software information. You can run these tests on yourself. So again, technical content link building. You can usually find at least one or two errors there.

Let’s talk about your link building process, man. That’s a big part of the business that you do.

The link building starts off with an audit, looking at our links, looking at the competitor links. Are we starting off with a relatively clean link profile? Are we starting off like, what are those anchor text percentages? This is a huge thing that I’ve just learned from back in 2008. When the first Google Penguin came, it was a total of 180. Back then, you buy links in the exact match, 100%, you know what I mean? And then all of a sudden it was a total of 180 and you’re now getting penalized for that link building that you used to do.

What do you recommend, Paul, when it comes to linking anchor diversity all together? What’s your recommendation? What’s something that people should aim for? Most of the links are branded or topical.

So, if you’re going to be going out and getting clients, even the clients, how do you play it safe? You want links? Google the ranking algorithm, it’s a glorified popularity contest. Each link that you get is literally a signal of authority in the eyes of Google. They’re not weighed equally. You want to play it safe, focus on the brand, focus on topical. This is meant for and get tips on stuff like that. That being said, let’s be honest, you’re not going to rank on page one for competitive keywords with only branded and topical. So, you have to work on phrases. You can work exactly if you know what you’re doing. Back in the day, it was like 70% exact, and then after that, really, who cares? Now it’s like the total opposite. So it depends, how hard you’re going to push it. But in terms of some rough percentages, your total exact between the different keywords should be no more than around 20% to 25%. So, if I go into Ahrefs and I go to anchors and I go to your top page and it’s like, we’re like dentist, Toronto. Toronto dentist is at 50%, I know right away you’re actually already over optimized.
I have to go and build more links around the brand, around the topic to optimize those. Or is it one link that you blast it on? It’s driving too much, you could potentially disavow it, etc. So, take it easy. Don’t start with the exact. You can always push it later. Then the topical phrase. And then for us, the safest is URL. It’s like the odd URL you’re going to get. But brand topical, that combined, you’re hoping for 40% to 50%. And then exact 20% to 25% phrases, maybe another 20% to 25%. It was a lot easier when it was 100% exact, let’s be honest. Those were fun days. Yeah, those are fun days. But slow and steady wins the race. That being said, if an enterprise client that we work with is already at 90% branded, oh, baby, we can come in and we can push a little bit harder in the first few months because they have all these great branded, high domain authority links to pass. We want them to end up in certain percentages for certain niches. The exact threshold isn’t as high as others, we’ve also learned.
So it’s also, Oh, my money or your life. You can’t go around slapping the exact match left, right and center. But if you don’t do any, you’re not ranking anywhere. So, that fine line, it’s like Big Mac sauce for McDonald’s. We all know what’s in it, but to recreate it is what separates good SEOs, good link builders from others. But it all starts with knowing the history. It’s something I’ve really spoken about. So, you do a blog ad. You do a link audit, so to speak, how healthy is it? And then for your most important pages, what’s that anchor text percentage? You’d be surprised. What you thought would apply for five service pages or five location pages doesn’t necessarily correlate because, oh, shit! They got a bunch of links that probably looked like they… Oh, client, did you like… Oh, yeah, I forgot. I worked with this one guy for three months and I gave them like, oh, maybe you should have told me that in the client intake form. So, clients are going to tell you what they know, what they remember, but their business owners or digital marketing managers or their new shit happens.
So, use software, go in, don’t be lazy, get a good account of where we are, here’s how many links, the domain rating average of what those links are. Build out a proper link strategy per page, not per website. And then always for us, we always want to send some of the best links to the homepage. So, I’m always a big believer in building the brand, building the brand mentions, linking to the homepage. In my mind, every website, it’s a triangle. The tip of the triangle is the homepage. You have your first level, second level, and you got your blog post at the very bottom, so to speak. Sending links to the top is always going to help. And then internal linking on the blogs, you could even link back to the categories. Maybe you link back with the brand to the homepage, and it keeps that link juice flowing throughout the website a little bit more. If it comes to the homepage, goes to your second level, and it just dives versus being a little bit more cyclistic. But again, link audit, build a good plan, and get out there and build some links, which is not as easy as people think.

That’s true. And any of your favourite link building techniques that you mainly leverage for your trips?

Yeah! For us, we’ve been doing it so long that we just have a ton of connections. So, I would say… No, we don’t do that. Exactly. Blogger outreach. But for us, it’s more of our… We call it our blogger database. So, if you’re a client in tech, I have 500 amazing tech sites. I could get you there tomorrow if I wanted, but let’s talk about the budget, let’s talk about the content plan, let’s talk about what the real strategy here is. So, tech and finance, I’ve been battling it with my team, either by myself or my team, for 15 plus years. So, two niches that we are very, very strong in. And there’s other niches that we don’t have a ton of experience in. So, for things like law, I don’t have a lot in law or legal. It’s a choice, to be honest with you. We have some and they’re great, but we don’t take on 10 different PI lawyers. Some firms only do PI, some firms only do dentistry. We are more general in nature, but good outreach and keeping the connections alive. Basically, every company does it. They have all their connections, here’s their emails and everything. Really, we are a broker.
We work with both the bloggers because we want to know what their best content is, what clients do they like featuring or showcasing, what is their content schedule, what are their requirements. And then we have our clients where we want to get those great mentions and we want to promote this page or this set of keywords. And then we act as a broker. We’re not squeezing the blogger or squeezing the blogger for an extra 15% and they never work with you again, or you didn’t give them their guidelines, or you guys go pick the pictures. Well, we agreed that you guys would supply the picture. So, there’s all these nuances. Honestly, it’s just respect and camaraderie. I do feel the SEO industry, we’re all in it together, you know what I mean? And just being very respectful of the bloggers or the publications or the webmasters, whoever you’re working with. And then obviously to the clients, you want to have that best high quality content. So, it’s really just for us, the blogger outreach, we don’t really charge on outreach, we charge on placement. This is something I always talk to other people about too.
For us, we’re only able to charge on placement because we know how long it takes to find the bloggers. We’ve already done that work. So, we know what they’re looking for, we know what content we need to create, we know typically how long it’s going to take to get included in a round up post for this blog or what type of content this tech review website wants. So, just knowing the parameters and the guidelines and being respectful of that is great. And then again, don’t be lazy.

This approach makes you more affordable, like your link building solution more affordable because you already have a good database and all of those things.

I’d say, we’re definitely not the cheapest. For us, we’re doing more strategy. And if someone’s like, I can only pay X per link, it’s like, Okay, go to one of the link brokers. Go read their content and call me in a few months when you want to do high quality guest blog posting. So, really for us, it’s the ability to execute quickly. So, I already have tons of connections. I’m not charging you or dragging my feet. You want to get links live tomorrow, I can send you sample links. I know all these websites. These are the types of websites that we can get you on in as early as a few weeks. We have to create the content, we have to work with everybody. So, affordability, yes, but that’s not our main selling point. I don’t say we’re the cheapest and I don’t take any pride in that. It’s in us high quality content and then the ability to control that. So, you’re never going to see a piece of content that goes live and you’re like, Oh, my God. I can’t. I love the link, I love the site, but that’s not on brand.
You can’t say that. So, for us, we control that content process. Maybe it takes a little bit longer, but we know all the bloggers, we treat them well. And bloggers talk, that’s another thing that, again, if you squeeze one or shortchange another one, they’re going to talk. The mommy bloggers have their mommy blogger conventions and they have their forums, and they’re going to say, Hey, Paul and his team were great. They were respectful. We loved working with them. And they reach out to us. Literally, we have a whole department that does outreach and we have a whole department that does intake and lets have a conversation. So, just keeping everybody happy, being respectful. And then for us, the big selling point is we’ve been doing it for 15 years. So, we have hundreds, if not thousands of connections in every niche. So, it almost carries over into PR a little bit, you know what I mean? Because sometimes the PR sites, like, we got you on this website. I’m like, I could have got you on that website for a whole lot cheaper and a whole lot faster. I know who runs that department. And then also for us, it’s just giving the clients the ability for some to pick and choose what sites they want to be on.
So some of the time when we’re working with big brands, they want Canadian specific links because we’re in Canada, so a lot of international companies with their Canadian division will reach out to us and give us a 6 to 12 month engagement from there. So, making sure you’re getting the parameters, making sure you’re delivering on the right type of links and then just transparency throughout. So, a lot of our clients that know their stuff, they want to see where the link is going, they want to pre qualify it, they don’t want to pay X, and then they see all these links and they go and they don’t want those links. So, just transparency throughout the process is key to all.

I would love to know the main parameters that you keep a close eye on while recommending a prospect site to your clients for outreach altogether. What are those main pointers?

For sure. For us, it starts at a bare base. So, if the site is in domain authority and domain rating 20, there’s nothing to talk about. We also looked at MOT in Ahrefs, 1,000 plus. So, domain rating, domain authority, way back in the day Google page rank, easy to manipulate. Getting organic traffic and identifying the source of that traffic, not so easy. So, DA, DR 20 plus, although most of the links that we deliver on are between 40 and 70, I think our average sweet spot on average links per month is around 50 to 55, which is very high quality. I always say we’re not the cheapest, but mark my words, you’re never going to open up a report and see a bunch of DAs 20s and 30s. It doesn’t happen. If I see a 20 on a report, I’m contacting our manager and being like, Why? We can do better than that. We really take a lot of pride in the high quality placement. Traffic’s a big one. Again, if it’s a 50 and it’s only got 500 a month, not good enough. I really want to see the traffic. I want to see traffic distribution throughout the site, ideally.
So it’s not just one blog post that they hit a home run on. And then also trends over time. Is this a site where we feel the site owner is going to continue to invest content in LinkedIn, or do we see that it’s a dying drop domain that probably won’t even be here in 6 to 12 months? So, that’s just at a very high, high level. And then obviously relevance. We’re never going to place a client on a site that’s not relevant. Some of the general news sites, general business sites are going to have categories for each. Some clients that we have, they come in hot, heavy. That has to be like this, and it has to be this relevance. I always say you’re going to have to give up a little bit on relevance to get those high DA, DA links. It’s a little bit better, even if it’s a general news website that you might not love, then to get a DA 10 on a super specific niche relevant blogger forum. So, for us, high DA, high DR, and high traffic. And then we also will look at spam score, we’ll look at even a few different softwares just to make sure there’s no outliers.
Majestic SEO is pretty old school. No one really calls me up. It’s like, what’s my trust flow and citation flow? But it’s a good software for link analysis. So, we normally use domain rating, domain authority for moz. I think the average person is still hung up on. I think that personally, Ahrefs, Semrush have come a long way versus Mozs’ growth over the years. And then there’s other hardcore ones like Majestic as just an example, that if you look at all the different parameters, you’re going to spot an outlier. If you dig in, normally you see an issue. And just making sure you place high quality links and also the high quality content. Even if it’s the best site, if you let the blogger write it and they outsource it and it goes live and we look at the content and it’s bubbling, or now you have to be wary of the AI content. Some of it is good, some of it is like, you can tell that no human being wrote this. So, just for us, we control that and we want a lot of business with even people that are like, Hey, I was paying cheaper per link, but I couldn’t send the client that content.
This goes back to my very early days of why I wanted to go do my own thing because you can control the content, you can control the narrative, the marketing and compliance, legal teams can sign off on it. Again, for more enterprise level clients, then everyone’s going to be a little bit happier about the execution of the deliverables and then the end result.

Got you! I think we’re coming to an end here and I would like to have a quick rapid fire with you. Are you ready for that? Let’s go.

Do I get any prizes?

I will send half of them to you.

There you go.

What’s something new happening professionally in your life right now?

Yeah, something new that’s happening, I’d say, growth. So, for us, COVID spanked every company. We were down 30% to 40% pretty quick. And then it’s just been crazy since. So, we have a lot of growth on the core SEO team, not just on the things. And the pride of sharing the last few months, it’s been a record breaker each time. So, just a lot of growth in the company. And other than that professional, I’d say just sticking with the plan. For me, it was like, hey, how’s your week going? Another battle. I woke up Monday morning and I am hungry. I am hungry. Other people wake up and they’re dragging their feet. It’s the case with Mondays. I don’t know if you’re going to get to whatever level you’re doing. So, just staying motivated, staying hungry is something that always drives me.

That’s wise. At what age do you want to retire?

I’m looking at 45. 45 is a good number for me. Most people say 50 to 55. Maybe I Coast for a few years at the end, but 45 would be a good number for me personally.

Okay! What’s something you could eat for a week straight?

Water melon. I love watermelon. Hey, it’s for a week straight. You didn’t ask for protein, carbs, nutrients. If you said, What could you eat for a week straight? Whether I was on the beach in Hawaii or in the cold winter of Toronto, I love watermelon and I’d go with that one.

Got you. What scares you the most?

Scares me the most, I’d say, is human errors. I hate it. When I open up and I see someone on our team making a human error. I know it happens, but it’s so frustrating because it’s such a process to get a client to earn their trust, and then a writer spelt something wrong and they’re on a bad day. You idiot, I thought you were the best SEO. And look at this, you can’t even spell this word right. I was like, Oh! So, I hate human error, although we’re humans. So, I know I have the gift of dab and talkative and stuff like that. But I also have poor SEO. When I work at the agency, put me in the corner, get my two screens, I’m putting my headphones on, I’m going into the matrix, so to speak. When I come out, I want to have 200 new bloggers. I want to have at least 500 links. It’s all on scale for me. But there’s going to be human errors. Hopefully, you can just mitigate them and hopefully it’s not a big one.

Got you. My last question, what is your last Google search?

Last Google search probably would have been for a keyword because I’m always checking keywords. Right now, it was for a plastic surgery client in Toronto and the GPA.

Got you. Thank you so much, Paul for all the wisdom, all the knowledge that you have shared. I really appreciate it.

Yeah, Harshit was lots of fun. Give lots of credit to what you guys do. I know RankWatch specifically has been around for a long, long time and we’ve used it over the years as well. So, thanks for having me and look forward to keeping chatting.

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