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Published on April 3rd, 2012 | by 011100110110010

15

Ross Hudgens Answers Your SEO Questions!

Hey, hey, hey! I know that you rabid 01100111011001010110010101101011zers have been DESPERATE to find out whether Ross has answered your questions or not! Good news = There were some testing questions asked which have supplied some excellent answers from Ross.

Not so good news = Unfortunately I fucked up with my last post where I stupidly thought that Ross would be able to answer all of the questions asked (I’m a fucking numbskull.) Anyway because of this miscalculation some of your questions weren’t answered… I’m more than happy to link out to you from my paid links page if this is an issue :(

Before we get to the Q+A lets go through a quick recap (in case you are blind, deaf and dumb) on Ross’ career. Ross Hudgens is the SEO Manager for Full Beaker, Inc – Lead Generation & Management and Scalable Link Building Strategist. I’m also a massive fan of his superb link building blog which caters for SEO’s/link builders at all levels from beginner to advanced. Basically he’s an SEO genius so lets get on with business shall we! Normal Q+A format, questions asked in quote areas with Ross’ answer underneath.

Question 1 from Joel K

It seems much of the attention of linkbuilders these days is on tactics that are only scalable for large agencies working for large brands. Can you give me an example of a white hat content strategy for a small business with a limited budget?

Create encyclopedic, text based guides that appear to large interest groups (http://usgovinfo.about.com/blorgs.htm) that relate back to your vertical. Example – “Travel Guide for LGBTs” (any travel company)- or “How to Select Green Web Hosting” (any web based company) or “Adventure Guide for those with Disabilities” (outdoor products). Not every dot will connect but if you can’t connect one large interest group (that likes linking) back to your product you’re simply not creative enough.

Question 2 from Nick Eubanks

What is one question you can ask an “SEO” to immediately gauge their level of technical experience and know how, within an order of magnitude?
Tell me how you value a link. If they reference PageRank, or simply don’t go to the depth required (which really isn’t that deep), they probably don’t qualify links well enough and/or use scalable processes, as they require more depth of qualification to be done efficiently.

Question 3 from Nick Leroy

What red flags would have to be triggered in order to pass on a “free” or “easy” link.
I would rarely pass on a free or easy link. But then again, I’m not searching for “recpricocal directories” or “free url submit”. If you are, you’re doing it wrong. However, if I had a site that I had to qualify, I would look for bad neighborhoods (pharma, porn, etc), does it rank for it’s own name or some variation (Google values it well), what is the authority (PA) passed to the link

Question 4 from Alessio Madeyski

Do you think job title “SEO” is still valid on 2012? if not, what would you use (inbound marketer, digital strategist, inbounder…)? if yes. that is the answer.
Yes. It will still be valid in 2015. However, I think the more important thing is learning the skills that go into the other job titles to make sure your ability and value as an SEO goes up. If you continue to think in terms of “I need to get links”, you will not succeed, and you will probably find yourself in another job. I still think most of what we’ll do in 2015 will be for the primary purpose of moving of search engine rankings – it’ll just take some other things like real referral traffic, user signals on page and etc to make sure that occurs.

Question 5 from Justin Freid

Is there really such thing as a pure SEO anymore? It seems as if the lines between and SEO and Digital Marketer are becoming more blurred. You no longer can just help your client rank higher on search engine results pages, you have to get involved in social strategy, conversion optimization etc…

I think there is – if you have the benefit of a good website to work on. Which sorta means that you need someone else basically functioning as “Digital Marketer” in another capacity, elsewhere. You should definitely attempt to add value in any way possible, as it’s that kind of value add that makes you irreplaceable.

Question 6 from Nathan Flores

How do you run SEO “tests” and experiments? With so many variables affecting the rank of a website, how can you select just ONE and then run a scientifically approvable test?

I honestly don’t really run them. My “tests” come from having a portfolio of dozens of websites that I work on. I do things that based on experience, show rankings improvements. I see how those things change rankings based on vertical conditions – and if they confirm/deny previous assumptions, I make that my new strong hypothesis moving forward. I proceed, never saying “this does this”, but rather “it feels like it does this”, and continue iterating constantly until rankings stop moving up. When they stop moving up, I reassess my assumptions.

Question 7 from Matthew Diehl

Social media sites (Twitter, Facebook) have been creatively used to build relationships and mine data for feeding the link building process. Now, what recommendations do you have to leverage them for link placement since Google has announced they include links from social media sites in their algorithm. Obviously go beyond the obvious of – post it to your Twitter, Facebook & G+ streams.

Staples used promoted tweets last week with a strong push towards SEO. That’s pretty expensive, though. The easiest way, to me, is to just naturally build a brand page (if you actually need one), and then leverage it to push linkbait and then occasionally blast out blog posts. Linkbait naturally attracts social shares, so unless it completely bombs, just attempting funneling those through Stumbleupon, your brand Twitter page, and people you trust should be plenty to not appear like a dud there and continue building the links that do most of the work.

Question 8 from David Cohen

Paid links–are they ever legit or always scammy?

I like the idea of disruptive links instead of “paid links”. Disruptive links hurt the web – paid links don’t necessarily – although they do correlate with a negative web experience.

Question 9 from Chris

If you were stranded on a desert island, and the island suddenly flipped over and turned into a bowl of pasta, what kind of pasta would it be?

This is a difficult question. Ideally the pasta is really good, but it must also be conducive to habituation. Is it really slippery? Flat? Can I flip it so I can at least walk around? Does it have sauce on it? Will the sauce prevent me from walking around? My first thought was tortellini, but the holes could create some weird flotation type dilemmas. I’m gonna say ravioli – delicious but I could also jump around. Probably cheese ravioli. Suddenly I’m very hungry.

Question 10 from MatBennett

If forced to put a percentage on it, how much weight do you believe is still given to links amongst all ranking factors?

Beyond best practices on page (which have adjusted, by the way), I would still say a huge amount, at least in verticals where social signals are few and far between (that is, pretty much everywhere I am currently dabbling). However, I think usage signals like CTR and time on page are increasingly a factor, and in an environment where all things are equal in terms of link, this could flip things in your SERPs.

Question 11 from Don Rhoades

How do you evaluate and determine what new/different practices can be integrated into your process so it continues to evolve/scale? Not just talking tools, but actual practices like should we send a secondary broken request to a webmaster who already obliged us once or try to get them all in one drive. Having limited success with both, it would seem logical to choose to get more than one all at once because it saves time. The problem I’ve run into with this method is it has proven to reduce success rates of my outreach. How would you go about trying to scale where you see opportunities for improvements in both positive return frequency and number of acquisitions per outreach drive? Or is it your opinion that these secondary/tertiary link requests are a negligible loss because they are not from unique linking domains but contain authority to different key phrases in a mid-level competitive space?

Strangely, much of my process improvement comes not through testing, but “a ha” moments and actually failing frequently. By failing I can iterate and learn from why I failed. Basically throw tons of e-mails/e-mail variations/outreach methodologies at a wall, learn from them, and continue to do them so much until I find mild variations that improve the process. In regards to going back to the same site for a second link to the same domain (which it sounds like you’re doing), I personally would never do that because like you said, it sounds pretty erratic in terms of effectiveness/doesn’t pass as much value. However, I do like utilizing second tier link building in broken link building where I send two link recommendations – this looks more authentic than just one and can get two value passing links to the same domain, at least indirectly.

Question 12 from Jon Cooper

How do you manage link quantity expectations? – When you bring on new clients, how do you quantify your link building efforts? I.e. do you say you’ll get 100 links the first month, and then 120 the next month, etc. (I know you wouldn’t, be just trying to make sure you get what I’m saying).

I like using Page Authority as a metric, but that’s mostly for internal purposes. People like saying “# of links don’t matter”, and that’s true to an extent – but I’ve found, at least in my non-social verticals, that pure Page Authority generated (with considerations towards logarithmic parts of the equation) – is the best indicator whether or not my rankings are going to move. If I was an intelligent client, I would say “I want X PA generated for this ROI, where the Median PA is between 25-35, and average PA is somewhere around 30 as well.” This kind of numerical analysis, when intelligently considered against the fallibilities of Open Site Explorer, allows clients to truly understand and create realistic expectations beyond “rankings” that also quite solidly help inform said rankings.  If I was a service provider, I would use that same kind of idea. “I’m going to create a range of PA around this – what I hit each month is hard to say, but I’m going to hit along the top and bottom of this range pretty consistently.” That way you aren’t really at the whim of stupid stuff the client does on page, or the type of links that were built in the past (such as rented links).

Question 13 from Dave

The question that I ponder is what makes a link an advert or a bought link (mainly text but I guess it counts for images too)? How would you decide which was which if you were on the Google teams.

Is it in a location where links change frequently (paid link blogroll)? Is it off-topic? Does the link portfolio contain all one type – such as three links? Are there link patterns on the blog which links are hosted (three links in every post)? Are there words like “Sponsored”, “Supporters”, “Paid” around the link? Would a reasonable surfer click that link? Does the page have a discernible footprint back to known public manipulative link networks? Was the link thrown up after content focus changed on the page? Did the link appear suddenly on a time-stamped page?

Question 14 from Jack Stonehouse

Do you think social network business pages will ever take over the use of a website?

Nope. They should also never take over the use of a PERSONAL site. Own your own content. Period.

Question 15 from Anthony D. Nelson

One great link from an amazing domain (High PR, Auth, Trust) or 15 links from 15 different domains (non-spammy, but low PR, low readership, etc)?

Show me the link metrics. Use math and data to drive decision making. “1 or 15″ is not a good question. A better framing of your question, a reframe, would be “site A has PA of 60 and has is expected to drive 2 visitors per day over the course of the year, with expectations of estimated conversion rate of 20% with a residual expected average lead price of $70 and a residual second link acquisition probability of 3%”, against “15 sites with average PA of 15 , expected visitor count 15 per month with an estimated conversion rate of 5% and second link acquisition probability of .004%”, The answer is the first domain. I don’t actually run stuff like that through an Excel sheet – it would be a waste of time, but these kinds of things go through my head when valuing two pages.

Question 16 from Daniel

If you ask someone for a free link on their blog, but they in return give you a media kit ‘with prices of links etc’, If you then went back to them and told them that if they didn’t give you a free link, you’d send all correspondence to Google that shows that they’ve been selling links. Is that white hat or black hat?

That’s you being a dick, and him being smart for realizing what you’re doing and trying to capitalize on it for profit – just like you are.

Question 17 from Daniel

If someone has a very popular WordPress hosted blog , and they offer you a link, is that worth more than someone with a self hosted (not so popular) blog. This question is based on the fact that you already have links from WordPress hosted blogs.

In my opinion, yes, no question – that is, if “popularity” also is causative to the pure link authority of the blog, somewhat accurately calculated by metrics such as SEOMoz’s PA/DA. Can you tell I’m a fan of Open Site Explorer?

I have heard there is something that can be marked in Google Webmaster Tools that indicates to Google that subdomains should be seen as independent domains rather than part of the greater domain – for reasons such as this. No site should gain specific benefit (or loss) because their blog is hosted on a subdomain. However, being hosted on a subdomain correlates highly to the blog being terrible.

Question 18 from Jon

Are directory links still worthwhile? I have been submitting to directories again recently, but just not sure if it is time spent well or not. Would 30 minutes submitting links to a directory be better spent writing a short post to guest publish somewhere?

This is really ambiguous – but my guess is no, because if you are blind submitting to free directories, they’re probably trash. There’s probably value to some paid directories you could do in 30 minutes over a guest post, but I doubt the time would be worthwhile if you’re submitting to directories 5000 other people have submitted to as well.

Massive thanks to Ross for taking the time out to answer these questions. Top man! Also thanks alot to you guys for asking the questions! I can appreciate that it does make it the laziest/easiest piece of content possible for me but I wanted to give you guys the chance to ask a cool question and hope it’s been worth the wait!

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About the Author

One day I will make a living out of this industry, until then I'll carry on writing here.



15 Responses to Ross Hudgens Answers Your SEO Questions!

  1. Don Rhoades says:

    Thanks for answering Ross and thanks for hosting Sean!

    To clarify, I’m not going back for a second link, but more like the second tier method for appearance of authenticity in the same request. Thanks again!

    Don

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  2. Nick Eubanks says:

    Thank you Ross for the answers and Sean for curating. My favorite part of this post, by far, is “failing frequently. By failing I can iterate and learn from why I failed.” This is the sign of someone who take performance seriously and understands that failures are opportunities to learn and iterate for continued improvement.

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    • Similar to Avinash always saying “fail faster.” The quicker you can figure out what doesn’t work and why it doesn’t work, the quicker you can adapt and move on.

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  3. Nice to see Ross’s takes on all these questions. On my question I was hoping to get more of a ‘rankings’ related answer, as opposed to the referral/conversion angle. I do understand that it is nearly impossible to answer vague hypothetical questions like that without actually seeing any sites. I also understand that more link builders need to focus on the referral/conversion angle as opposed to just the rankings from link building.

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  4. Haha, nice! No problem Don Rhodes :)

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  5. David Cohen says:

    Thanks, Sean for the post and the link, appreciate it. I got to see Ross speak yesterday at LinkLove, amazing stuff. His insights can be trusted. Thanks for the great post!

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  6. Thanks Ross! Good question from Jon (Cooper). I like the PA median / average benchmarks.

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    • Great question by Jon. I’ve noticed that links built on high DA sites tend to get higher PA more quickly, but only after it receives some external links. Is this because the PA is accounting for the internal link it receives from the TLD?

      Side note: seeing a php snippet out of place above the submit button:

      function do_follow_commenters($output) { return str_replace(” rel=’external nofollow’”, “”, $output); } add_filter(‘get_comment_author_link’, ‘do_follow_commenters’);

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  7. Thanks for this Sean and thanks Ross for the answer. Not technical , not geeky, but as a new guy in the SEO it’s important to understand what’s going on with the job title. Not for the title itself, but because sometimes I have the feeling a lot of people are not willing to use “seo” as job title and I honestly don’t understand what is their problem. :)

    thanks again.

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  8. Bill Rowland says:

    Sean,

    Great post & thanks to Ross.

    I especially enjoyed Ross’ the questions surrounding the evolving role of SEOs and where it’s going. It’s easy to get caught in the day-to-day weeds of SEO without looking forward.

    Cheers.

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  9. Richard Ortiz says:

    Great questions and even better answers. I cant tell you how many times I have had these questions pop up in my head. Thanks to everyone involved. Was extremely insightful.

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  10. Mike Wigmore says:

    Great post,
    I enjoyed the answer to Q 16, while it was by no means insightful, it made me laugh, probably because that’s exactly what I was thinking.

    Thanks!

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  11. Chris says:

    Awesome Answers! I especially enjoyed the one about the pasta! xD

    Bookmarking this post is a must! It is relevant to my interests!

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  12. Ross Hudgens says:

    Thanks for having me and of course, for all the great questions. The island question clearly proves that if you stick out from the crowd, you’re gonna build links. :)

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  13. Mark Hodson says:

    Some nice points here, but I don’t agree that PageRank should not be used to value a link.

    If, for example, a page has a PA of 50 but a TBPR of zero or 1, that’s an indication that it may be subject to a Google penalty.

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