Alan Silvestri

Interview with Alan Silvestri Founder and Director of strategy at Growth Gorilla

Tell me about your journey?

Straight out of school I went to work in a 9-5 office job at a mechanical automation company as an electric engineer. As a hobby I played guitar and sang in a punk rock band for about 15 years. The office job didn’t unfortunately allow for much flexibility to go play shows and tour with the band, so that’s when I started looking into making money online.

My initial goal was to find something that could cover my living expenses while I was touring with the band. I basically bought a ton of training courses and tried a lot of different things, most of which failed. Good thing about all this is that it led me to discover SEO and affiliate marketing.

I took a very good course by Andrew Hansen, called “The Rankings Institute” all about using SEO to create quality affiliate websites. That’s where I learned the basics of SEO and that training forced me to start working on my very first own website.

It was an affiliate site in the women’s health space, which is kinda funny looking back. I was able to take that site from 0 to about $500/mo in 2 years or so while still working in the office job. That to me was the proof that I could do this as a job. That’s also when I really started getting interested in SEO.

2017 I finally quit the office job to do SEO full time. Back then I was employed as an SEO/content manager for a bit authority site and that’s where I kinda stumbled upon link building outreach and started developing my own system.

The site I was working for was publishing an insane amount of very high quality content every month and we slowly realized that content alone wasn’t enough to rank especially for competitive terms.

I got put in charge of link building and I was pretty much free to experiment with the approach, the only requirement was “no guest posting” since we had so much content already published on the site, the budget for extra guest post articles just wasn’t there.

I had to come up with a good angle to reach out to people just to get existing content linked from their pages and this brought me to create the initial version of the system we now use for our clients.

Fast forward to 2018/2019, that’s when I decided to only do content promotion and link building and to only focus on B2B SaaS companies.

I enjoy working with SaaS companies for a couple of reasons:

  1. For the most part, it’s young people that understand SEO and link building
  2. Most of them understand what “quality content” means and they are already publishing a ton of it
  3. They have the content production and publishing team in place but they lack the time or expertise to do the promotion.

How can I imagine your day at work?

I wake up at around 7 am, I usually meditate for 10 minutes then go for a 5km run to get the blood pumping. Then, I read for about 30 min to 1 hour.

9am is when I start my “morning prep”, which is a mix of journaling, Stoic practices (which I’m really into) and planning for the day ahead.

I check emails and Slack, reply to any client emails or messages from my team then I get to work on (usually) important work for the business. I try to separate the work day into Maker/Manager work.

  • Maker is the important work that only I can do (sales, marketing, strategy, systems) – usually done in the morning
  • Manager is more like admin stuff for the agency – usually done in the afternoon

I work until 5/6pm then it’s chill time. I either go for a walk or a run (if I didn’t go in the morning) and get dinner with my partner.

Digital PR & Link Building your hacks? 

I don’t really believe in “hacks”. My entire agency is built on a general framework that works for SaaS companies (our target customer).

What we saw a lot of companies do is try the latest link building tactic, or hack just because it was mentioned on some blog or because their competitors are doing it. That usually works, until it doesn’t anymore.

Hacks and tactics get overused pretty fast and we’d rather have a long term approach with our clients.

We were able to identify the 4 main types of pages that a SaaS website normally (should) have:

  1. Home page – brand, authority
  2. Linkable assets – infographics, research articles, ultimate guides (top of the funnel)
  3. Quick win pages – Usually blog articles that are on the verge of getting significant traffic, ranking at the bottom page 1, top page 2 (top of the funnel)
  4. Main landing pages (middle/bottom of the funnel – use cases, case studies, white papers, comparison or review pages)

Then, we came up with a framework and strategy to promote each page type that fundamentally works no matter what.

The reason why it works is because it’s based on research and analysis of the current link building landscape and not just on guessing or on using “this tactic or that one”.

You can read more about our approach here:

HARO worth trying or a waste of time? 

HARO is tricky, we have tried it and had some success for ourselves, but it’s difficult if you’re doing it for clients.

I think the main points to consider are:

  • You need to be the expert and reply to journalists, it’s hard to outsource = takes quite a lot of time
  • You need to become good at picking the right opportunities that are not a waste of time. They are there, but sometimes they’re hard to spot in between all of the requests.
  • HARO is becoming spammy as well. We found quite a lot of “journalists” accepting our quote only to then ask us for money to place it inside their article. Those are probably shady writers working at the company and trying to make a quick buck. So, be careful with those because your link might as well be removed if the real editor finds out.

The future of SEO?

The only thing I can say about the future of SEO from what I’m seeing is that until Google is good enough at determining what a good link is versus a bad one, links will still be very important.

You can clearly see this in the most competitive SERPs, assuming on-page, technical SEO and content are done correctly, links are the determining factor for deciding who wins.

Today more than in the past, with so much noise and new content being published every day, that content is not going to rank by itself.

Links are the bridges that connect pages on the web.

No bridge has ever built itself πŸ™‚

Tools of trade?

We mainly use 2 tools, Ahrefs for everything strategy, analysis and Pitchbox for everything else (prospecting, outreach).

The thing I love the most about Ahrefs is how I can do everything I need with it.

I often do video audits for clients and for people who ask and Ahrefs allows me to quickly find and provide very strategic and actionable insights to people, usually in a matter of minutes.

The tool can do quite a lot, but as long as you know where to look, it is super powerful.

I recently wrote an article about how we have streamlined out link building operation with Pitchbox. The tool has allowed us to replace a set of tools cobbled together with Google sheets with just one main suite and dashboard for everything we do for our agency and for our clients.

It can be quite costly but if outreach is a big part of your marketing, I highly recommend it.

People to follow?

Naval Ravikant is probably my new favorite person to follow. I love the way he thinks and can elaborate and express his thoughts with clarity and simplicity.

He’s also all about focusing on the basics, the fundamentals which I think is the best approach for most things in life. Get the basics right, then explore everything else.

SEO related:

Dev Basu is the founder of Powered by Search a B2B SaaS marketing agency. He’s also a coach for agency owners and I’m currently working with him to grow my own agency. He’s an expert on everything from marketing to agency growth, he’s a super nice person to work with as well.

Nathan Gotch is an SEO expert founder of Gotch SEO and Traffic 2x. I’ve joined Nathan’s training back in 2017 and learned a lot from him. He’s one of the people who helped me get started in my SEO journey.

Ryan Stewart is a B2B growth marketer and the founder of The Blueprint Training. Ryan is the one person that inspired me to start a link building agency back in the day when he launched his link building system. He’s amazing at systemizing and streamlining processes as well as an expert at marketing in general. 

Conferences to attend? 

I’ve never been too big on conferences, I see most SEO conferences as a big promo show and the only ones I go to are business conferences.

My favorite of them is probably the Dynamite Circle, which I’m part of. It’s just a very good group of online entrepreneurs and digital nomads where everyone is genuinely nice and we have a lot of fun.

They normally have 2 main conferences, one in Austin, Texas in the spring and the other in Bangkok Thailand in October. Unfortunately COVID has ruined the fun for the past year.

Books that changed your life? 

My favorite book is probably “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. The book introduced me to Stoic philosophy which became part of my life and daily routine. It’s all about finding the positive in every situation, being balanced and acting on what you can control + accepting what you can’t.

A few other amazing books I usually recommend are:

“The Almanack of Naval Ravikant” by Eric Jorgenson

A collection of thoughts on wealth, health and mindset from Naval Ravikant. Probably my favorite read of 2020.

“Money” by Rob Moore

All about the history of money and how to think about money and wealth in a positive/healthy way.

“Gorilla Mindset” by Mike Cernovich

About cultivating a no BS mindset, not making excuses and getting your life on the right track.

“Mastery”, The 48 Laws of Power” and “Laws of Human Nature” by Robert Greene

These books are not the easiest read, I admit. But this is probably why they are so good. They force you to take 1 topic and dive super deep with historic examples or real people applying the principles and a lot, a lot of facts. This is real deep reading IMO.

If you could change something about technology what would it be? 

I love technology and I’m always on the lookout for new tools that can make my life easier. I think there 2 things I would probably change about technology:

  1. I would make it simpler and more approachable for everyone. We are already on the right path for this but some tools/services are still too complex for the average user.
  2. I would make it less invasive. I think the best technology is one that you barely even realize you’re using. I hate getting caught up doom scrolling on social media or stuff like that, and am constantly trying to minimize it. So yeah, technology should be useful, effective and efficient but not invasive.

If you couldn’t do what do you do right now – what else would you do? 

I like what Naval says in the book I mentioned above:

“I like to think that if I lost all my money and you dropped me on a random street in any English-speaking country, within five or ten years I’d be wealthy again because it’s just a skill set I’ve developed that anyone can develop.”

So yeah I think if I couldn’t do what I do right now, I would probably be learning some other skill that can both make me money and make me feel happy and fulfilled at the same time cause that’s usually what I try to optimize my life for.

Alan Silvestri

Alan Silvestri

Founder and Director of strategy at Growth Gorilla: no B.S. content promotion and distribution agency for B2B SaaS companies. Also a Back to the Future and 80s fanatic, Delorean owner, and punk rocker.

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