1) How did you start with link building specifically
Gareth Simpson: Well, back in 2003 my dad handed me a book called IBP that automated directory submissions through software. I’ve been link building ever since. Obviously at first it was low quality work, but me and industry have come a long way since then.
2) What are the old link building techniques?
In the old days, links were built automatically mainly using software and they didn’t really add anything to the web. It was mostly a selfish act that involved registering fake profiles and getting links from them and exploiting web 2.0 (user generated content) features to get links from comments and exchanges.
However, there were also some classic link building techniques that are still some of the best today…
3) What does it work these days?
We take inspiration from sales and PR — what we do now is effectively use Digital PR tactics to build links.
We train the team to get rid of their SEO holdups and get them to think more like journalists and content creators.
We leverage every good link building tactic we can think of and build standard operating procedures on each of these tactics.
Individual processes are cut up into delegated routines so we’re all working on tasks that are a good fit for our talent — whether that’s creative or technical.
We take the clients’ brand, values, and audience profiles; and turn these into value propositions that we can use as a content ideas and flags to fly during outreach.
4) Tell me about your Brighton presentation?
My talk was on using machine learning and AI for outreach. I have been experimenting with this stuff for about a year, and have managed to successfully apply machine learning to our operations. I’ve always been fascinated by automation, and machine learning systems is my new time and labour-saving device.
Machine learning has helped us reduce errors and cut down on the time we spend dealing with data (an inevitable outreach by-product). It’s helping us massively speed up our processes.
During my talk I covered some of the tactics and hacks that we are currently using, as well as some more conceptual stuff. (Check out the slides here).
5) SEO 2019 Your predictions?
The more I learn about AI as an enthusiast — reading up on the future and concepts like the ‘singularity’ — the more I am starting to bring that thinking back to SEO and the algorithm.
I don’t want to make any specific predictions, but I do think the disparity between the ideal model of the web that Google wants, and what the algorithm can actually interpret, will become smaller.
Google wants a safe web, to be able to deliver the best possible query in the shortest time and, ultimately, to organise the data of the world.
It comes down to intention vs. capability. Capability is what the algorithm can do with smartest computer scientists in the world, contrasted with the final intention (ambition) of Google.
Over time, this disparity will get smaller and smaller, and the algorithm will produce what Google wants from the web.
Think of it like this: if the Google algorithm could do what it wanted and achieve its mission — would it like what I’m doing right now? Am I going to get away with this because of a design weakness? Or does Google really want me to be doing this?
Focusing on individual tactics is to get stuck on tunnel vision; focus on a more holistic and intelligent approach and look at the 40, 000 foot view.
6) Your biggest fail – we all have them.
Many: mostly not jumping on the next big thing fast enough.
Because I’ve been doing for a while it’s easy to feel like you’ve missed out on a great idea because someone else got there faster. I am definitely guilty of thinking ‘ why didn’t I release that product/register that domain’ from time to time.
Hindsight is great, but then so is foresight 🙂
7) Your link building heroes. Anyone else to follow?
- Firstly, the late Eric Ward (LinkMoses). He was one of the original link specialists whose techniques are even more relevant today. He is greatly missed by the industry.
- John Cooper’s ebook Point Blank SEO came at a great turning point for me — teaching me 100s of different ways to build good links.
- Ryan Stewart: I like his work style and his commitment to SOPs.
- Stephan Spencer: His book The Art of SEO taught me a lot about technical SEO when it first came out years ago.
- Both Charles Floate and Matt Diggity for helping me to better understand the mechanics of links.
- Kath Dawson for first teaching me about the creative side of link building. Joining her company was part of my awakening from an automated to a creative link building career.
- Will Reynolds for teaching me the concept of Real Company Shit. His 2012 Mozcon talk was an eye-opener.
8 Best conference?
Handsdown, BrightonSEO for me. I love the content, vibe, and ethos.
I’ve been going for years and learned a lot on my journey. Today, I bring the whole company to the event so that they can get the same experience. It’a a great reunion and opportunity to catch up with some old clients and people from all over the world.
To be speaking there this year was a real honour.
Secondly, I really enjoyed Christoph Cemper’s LinkResearchTool Conference because it’s super relevant to our work. It’s rare to learn so much about link building at an industry conference.
Chiang Mai SEO is another great conference run by Matt Diggity. The private mastermind combined with the conference is a really open and collaborative space.
9) Your tools of trade
The big three:
They work well together and allow me to efficiently hook up all my outreach systems.
Gareth Simpson is Co-Founder at Seeker Digital, an agency specialising in outreach for SaaS and ecommerce brands. He’s been in the SEO game for over 10 years and has worked for some of the world’s highest trafficked websites. In 2016 he built a team of creatives, PR pros, and technical SEOs who now form a niche, purpose-built agency that focuses on scalable link building and search content.