Today I have a great interview with two people that are experts at link building. Eric Carroll and Sebastian Shaffer from the link building agency dofollow.io.
They have been part of the niche and affiliate website community for many years now, and their agency specializes in building links to these types of sites.
Both Eric and Sebastian own and run affiliate sites, so they know what site owners are looking for and how to run successful campaigns.
They have owned and run the agency since 2017, have a ton of experience, and an interesting background. One that is related to Niche Pursuits – but you’ll have to listen to find out what!
If you'd like to try out the link building services that Eric and Sebastian offer, get all the details of DoFollow.io here.
Watch the Entire Interview
We dive into what I consider some unique link building strategies:
- Outreach to journalists
- How to craft a pitch that will get opened and used
And we dig deep into link building with HARO. Eric and Sebastian are experts when it comes to HARO outreach and the agency dedicated staff on this task. They know what works and consistently get great links using this method.
Regarding HARO, we talk about:
- How your site needs to look to get links
- The best time to respond to queries
- How to get the most from HARO writers
- The benefits of HARO links
- Average HARO success rates
- Tips for increasing your HARO success rate
Link building tools can be used to make many link building tasks quicker. We speak about the tools Eric and Sebastian have used in the past and what they're using today.
We discuss how to know if a link is going to be valuable or not. When looking at a site to get a link from, how do you know if it's going to be toxic or not?
Here are some of the things the dofollow.io team look at:
- Traffic source – where is it coming from?
- What keywords are they getting the traffic from?
- Ratios – inbound vs outbound links
- Website design
- Why does the site exist – are they just selling links or is there more to it?
It was also interesting to hear the process dofollow.io uses to create a piece of content for a successful link building campaign.
They also share the different ways they work with sites, including how they were able to build a number of backlinks from .edu websites for a specific client.
Other topics that we cover or touch upon in the podcast include:
- Client website success stories (one site from 12,000 visits per month to 1.7 million)
- How to find the contact info of journalists and site owners
- A hypothetical link building campaign for Own The Yard
- How link building has changed over the years
- Competitor analysis – what sites are linking to them and why?
- Managing and training staff, SOPs, and other agency business processes
All in all, it was a great discussion about link building in general and link building from an agency perspective. I hope you're able to take a listen and I know you'll learn something new!
Lastly, here is how Eric summarizes what's generally working to build links in 2021:
- find good prospects
- get the right piece of content in front of the right audience
- craft a good email
- personalize the email
It's the basics really, but that is what's moving the needle. Shotgun Skyscraper has been overdone. I'm thankful for these guys sharing what they know and what's working for them!
Read the Full Transcript Here:
Spencer Haws: Hey, Eric and Sebastian, welcome to the niche pursuits podcast.
Eric Carrell: Thanks for having us. Yeah.
Spencer Haws: Awesome. Yeah, it is good to have both of you here on the podcast. You know, I think it's important that we kind of give a little bit of introductions here and kind of give a little bit of background of, you know, kind of the story and the connection with niche pursuits.
And now how you're coming back on the podcast here. And particularly with you, Eric, at least I know, uh, some of your story, if people recognize the last name, Eric Carroll, they may remember somebody else named Paran Carol. And so Eric, what's the connection there with parent and niche pursuits.
Eric Carrell: Yeah. So parents, my brother, he, if I remember right, you had a contest, uh, yep.
Circa 2013 or so. And the community was going to choose somebody to, to be a, you know, a student of yours and you're going to walk them through, you know, how to create a NID site from scratch. And I didn't believe in it at first, you know, like I, I mean, I was like working some corporate job. My brother's like, yeah, I'm in this contest.
We're gonna build a site that makes money online. And I was like, okay, man. Then I, as I was falling and he started making like real money, it was like making like four plus grand a month. I was like, okay. So I started paying attention. And then that prompted me to build my own website. And what I really discovered through the process is I really enjoyed the link building part.
That was the part that I didn't really like content that much. I didn't like design or anything like that. I really enjoyed link building. And so that's kind of how I got started with link-building and then that turned into a, an in-house job with a, like a software company. And then that turned into the agency that I own now with Sebastian, do you follow the I M right?
Spencer Haws: Yep. So, uh, that was niche site, project three, the parent, you know, was part of, and, uh, you saw what your brother was doing that kind of led you to SEO buildings and sites doing link-building. And of course, we're going to dive into that. The position that you had at the software company was that a link-building position, an SEO position.
Eric Carrell: Yeah, I was an in-house link builder. I was the head of the link building team. Basically. There was just, it was really simple. There was a content team and there's a link building team and I was the head, the link building team. And it was, I mean, this was back in 2016 before people really got ahold of the types of software that would allow you to just like spam the entire web with, with request to link to your site so that we were doing some really exciting stuff.
Yeah. And then when I was done with that, I decided to use those skills to, to start an agency. Yeah.
Spencer Haws: So Sebastian let's, let's rope you in here. Give us a little bit of your background and how did you kind of get involved in link-building and eventually hooking up with Eric and, and founding the agency.
Sebastian Schäffer: for me, the whole journey started around the same time. Actually. I'm mostly listening to your podcast, Pat Flynn, as well. Back in the day, I was actually working at a startup and marketing and I looked into SEO as a way to channel traffic to our product back then. But then I build products on the side and sites on the side, just doing the same thing that you were teaching back then.
And I realized, Hey, I can make money with this. And at some point it was enough money that I just quit my job and said, okay, this is, this is my path now. And I just kept on building sites for the next. Five to six years, I would say. And I met Eric and the process we started building the agency got into link-building and the rest is history.
What they are, that's how I started.
Spencer Haws: Yeah. So it sounds like both of you guys, you know, thank you for listening to the niche pursuits podcast. Right. That's that's awesome. I think it's just more of a function of, I I've been around forever in the industry. Right? So it's like, Hey, if you were looking at doing something in 2013, 2014, the niche pursuits podcast popped up.
Right? Like, I don't take any credit by any means, but I've just been around for awhile, but both of you guys got started sort of build a niche sites, get involved in SEO, Sebastian. It was enough for you to leave your job. Right. And kind of do it full-time and Eric, it, it led you to your full-time job of becoming a link builder.
Right. Um, But also had some sites that you were building along the way. So both of you guys have a ton of experience hands-on with your own sites. Um, do you, do you both still have sites right now that you're working on and how it was
Eric Carrell: going? I just sold a website that I bought. So I, I, I looked at some old like directory mirrors, the, to find out a website that's been around for a really long time.
It's been around since like year 2000. And it had really great backlinks from like New York times. Like it had like 4,000 referring domains or something like that. And I was able to buy it for under $10,000 and it was in the computer, like brief review niche. And I bought that, hung onto it for about a year.
Then I sold it. I sold it. Uh, it wasn't, I mean, it was getting good traffic, but it wasn't even making money. By the time I sold it, I said too many projects and I wanted to focus on the agency, but that was the last website that I, that I had owned. Yeah. So I don't own any.
Sebastian Schäffer: Yeah. Yeah, I still do. I still own two sites.
I haven't touched them in two years, but still makes three, four grand a month without doing anything for the last two years, I would say. Yeah. Yeah. So can't complain. It's working that's for sure.
Spencer Haws: Yeah. Yeah. That's the beauty of the business, right? Is you hope to be able to get an asset that you don't have to work on?
You know, we always use the term passive. Right. But it doesn't always work out perfectly, but that's the beauty, right? Is that you can build something and it can generate revenue, uh, for years to come.
Sebastian Schäffer: Yeah. It's about loading the work. I would say it's not passive really, but if you put in the work in the beginning, it can pay off for a long, long, long, long time.
If the Google gods are willing and not crushing your side, but usually my side has been through so many Google algorithm updates. A year later, it's back and still making money. So, um, it's a, it's a great business model. Yeah, for sure.
Spencer Haws: Yeah. Yeah. So let's jump into kind of how you guys met and why did you form the agency?
You know, how did that all come about? So let's, let's jump into that story.
Eric Carrell: Yeah. So we met in the authority hacker group and they were going to have a company retreat, retreat, and a couple of the other guys who were friends with in the authority Acker group were going to like crash their company retreat.
Like they were all gonna meet in Budapest because that's where Gail and Mark live or they lived. Um, and I was already in Europe, in Sebastian lives in Europe, of course. And so we decided to go there and just all kind of meet up at the same time. And I guess that kind of brought us a bit closer. And then when I decided to leave my in-house job in-house link-building job, I was getting a lot of people reaching out to me just cause I had started to build a name for myself as a link builder.
And then people were coming to me with like, Hey, can you build links for my project? And I was just, you know, I think at the same time Sebastian site was kind of, you know, it was going like up and down as far as, as far as traffic and revenue. And so he was kind of looking for ways to supplement as well.
And so I said, you know, you want to help me with this because you know, for his, um, for his website, his main site. He had built from scratch, like almost a thousand referring domains and that's without paying for anything. And that's just with just good outreach. Yeah. So we both kind of knew that process.
And then I said, and we both knew we had the same work sort of type of work ethic. Um, and so we, I just asked him to help me, you know, onboard some of these clients and we just started from there.
Spencer Haws: Yeah. Actually remember some of those early days it was before you officially started the agency. I remember your name was getting out there.
I would hear, uh, just a couple of contacts I had. They're like, Hey, if you need some links, like Eric does a good job and that sort of thing. So yeah, it sounds like, um, you know, you kind of took what went from, you know, your full-time job to kind of starting to build links for other people and then hooked up with Sebastian and, um, and, and officially formed the agency.
Um, So what, what year officially was, do follow.io? Uh, formed
Eric Carrell: 2017.
Spencer Haws: Okay. Yeah. Yup. So, uh, we're looking at about four years
Eric Carrell: now. Yep. Yeah. Well, I mean, I've been building links, you know, continuously in one form or another, since 2013, but yeah. Do follow as it stands, uh, was started in 2017 and it started with just me, uh, basically Sebastian doing like process optimization or, you know, we would both, you know, help clients come up with topics that we thought would be good for like linkable assets.
And now we're a team of about 12 people.
Spencer Haws: Awesome. Yeah. So, uh, you guys have certainly grown, which is great. Um, we're going to talk a little bit about, uh, strategies, specific strategies here in just a second, but actually I want to kind of look at the, the end, right? In terms of success that maybe your clients have had, like, are, are there any sort of success stories that you can share?
Not, not necessarily specific, you know, here's this URL, but just generally like, Hey, we grew one client from X to, you know, triple X or whatever. Yeah. Any success stories that you guys can share?
Eric Carrell: I would say the one that stands out the most and, and, you know, with w when it comes to like, uh, No, a big traffic trend.
There's always, there's all sorts of things in play, you know, solid on page SEO, really good content. You know, we're just one piece of the puzzle, but we took one clients, you know, in under a year from 12,000 viewers a month to over 1.7 million, Holy cow. And that's in a really, really tough niche, you know, the VPN online security niche.
Wow. I mean, and you know, like, like I said, we only did one piece of piece of the puzzle, but you know, they, they invested heavily in us and we built really, really solid links and, um, yeah, we, they saw a really. Uh, a big trafficking increase.
Spencer Haws: Is that, um, is that somebody that they own their own product? Are they a product creator?
Um, or is it like an affiliate affiliate site
Eric Carrell: play? Wow. Yeah. So, and that's honestly who we work best with, you know, at the end of the day, we like working with people who, you know, we like communicating with the person who makes all the decisions and writes all the checks, you know, instead of working with a larger company, you know, you work with a junior SEO, then they, he has a manager and then that manager, you know, reports to the head of marketing or whatever, you know, we, we work best with, um, with people who are, you know, the, who own the own, their own product.
And we've worked with, I would say, you know, most of the top, um, you know, affiliate site owners in the VPN niche, for example, we work with most of them. So that's who we prefer to work with.
Sebastian Schäffer: Yeah. I think it's also important to say that he really knows his stuff. Right. He, he knows. That links are important.
We don't argue about the importance of links. He knows that on-page is important. Content is important. So it's just a lot of expertise is coming together to make this work. And that's why it is working. Right. We couldn't probably replicate the same result for someone who is kind of hesitant. And it was like, do I really need to pay for leggings to your agency?
Right. Do I need to invest in content? Do I need to improve my content? So you have to have the right mindset to make this work
Spencer Haws: right. Yeah, no, that makes absolute sense. But that's a huge success story, right? I mean, I don't know how much they were making, but, you know, taking somebody from, you know, 12,000 visitors a month to 1.7 million, I mean, you can do the math and I'm sure it's significant
Eric Carrell: actually in something like the VP and that's where the commissions are super high and they're usually lifetime.
I mean, he's, I'm sure he's making my, I don't know, six figures a month at least. Yeah.
Spencer Haws: Right. Um, so that's awesome. So let's, let's jump into link building strategies. I'd like this to kind of be the meat of what we talk about. Right. Um, it can be there, there's a whole range of, of links that can be built.
Right? Like a lot of people talk about the really basic like, Hey guest posts, right. And, and that sort of thing. Everybody gets the emails, you know, I get. I don't know how many emails a day people wanting to guest post Steven on niche pursuits with totally unrelated like stuff. Right? Yeah. So let's talk about something other than that, right?
Like what's, what's, uh, some maybe more unique link building strategies I'd like to maybe talk about two or three sort of unique ideas that work really well, uh, that your agency does.
Eric Carrell: Yeah. I would say being an agency gives us a real unique perspective because we get so many different angles, you know, being a niche site owner, you know, the, my first site was in the kayak niche, for example, you know, they, there's really only so many things you can do with that, but being a, being an agency owner and having people with software products come to you or, um, you know, Quito products come to you or whatever it may be.
And so many different business models, or maybe they sell courses, we've, we've had the chance to try a lot of different things. So. In terms of what we employ right now, we have a full scale Herro team. Uh, so we do a ton of heroine. Uh, each one of our clients gets a dedicated or a rider and we've landed like really some amazing links through that.
Um, you know, just because we, we try to hire people with experience in that specific niche. So for one client within just a month or two, we've gotten them, you know, featured on Forbes and Bloomberg and, uh, flak.com and, uh, the economist.com I mean really tier one top tier websites.
Spencer Haws: So w what would you say is sort of the reason for landing those Herro requests?
Is it just consistent consistency because they have a dedicated sort of person doing the outreach, or is there a couple of sort of nuances that you found work really well? Yeah,
Eric Carrell: so, um, I think a lot of it is the incentive program we built around, uh, around our heroin riders. And we're not really sure that.
What's necessarily the best way to go, but it's the way that we've chosen and it's, it's worked pretty well so far. So, um, just, I mean, a lot of incentive to write pitches and write good pitches, I think has worked really well for us. So we pay our writers by the pitch or by the word, and we pay, we give them a bonus for live links.
So they have the incentive to a pitch, a lot. And B throw really good pitch is out there. They also timed the pitches really well. So they'll time them, you know, either right when the pitch comes out or right before the deadline. Um, so that it just has more visibility and, and the, the, the inbox of the journalist, um, and they, they.
They adjust the subject line of bits so that it it's, it, it has a higher click-through rate. It has a little higher open rates. So they'll, they'll make sure that they know what's from heroine, not just some other journalists pitch, um, out there and, and also a unique spin on the content that they've, that they've produced for the pitch.
So I think we, you know, when we employ all those things, we've, we've had a pretty good, we've had a lot of success and I know it's difficult. Just talk to somebody the other day who says, um, you know, they threw a pitch up or they threw a query out there and they received like 50 or 60 pitches for that query.
So there's a lot of people doing it. I mean, yeah, it was a big buzzword that people are doing it. Um, but I think the little, you know, as you go on and the little tricks you learn and you learn which sites actually link out and which sides just throw, you mentioned stuff like that. Um, you know, as we've all, we've learned a lot.
Sebastian Schäffer: Yeah. Also I would say if we're that niche that own us out there. It's important to look like a brand it's like the clients we work with, they are brands. So they legit, they also have the Jonas journalist comes to the site. It will look like something so that the best kayak reviews.com will probably, it will be very hard to get, get a placement, right.
Because it doesn't look legit enough, but if you plan a new side, Planned that from the start build a brand, even if you start out with like a bunch of reviews, but make it look like a brand. I think that effort is, is super helpful when if you want to get links that others cannot get, especially with horror.
Right. So think, think bigger, even if you want to start small, I think that's super important, especially in the horror space. Yeah.
Eric Carrell: That's, it's important that the person comes to it and sees that you are a real person with a real LinkedIn account. And that you're an actual authority on this and not just, you know, some persona that has a, uh, uh, you know, uh, one of those images from the stock stock images, you don't really exist.
That helped a lot when we're
Spencer Haws: pitching as well. Yeah. Uh, for people that are just, you know, sort of doing their first link building, you think that's where they should start as Herro like, that's just like, you should be doing it.
Eric Carrell: I think heroin is a good supplementary effort. Yeah. I think everybody should be doing it.
I mean, it's, it shouldn't be a primary link building tactic. I don't think, I think it's good for getting heavy hitting backlinks to your site. And also just for general brand awareness, you know, if you're responding, if you get, if you get featured on a site, you know, through Harrell, usually, you know that it's going to be a decent size media outlets and the people who are going to reading that are going to be people who care about that topic, you know?
So I think it's a good supplementary effort.
Sebastian Schäffer: I wouldn't, even if I may jump in. Yeah. I would even say, if you don't have a budget for link-building and you lack expertise, it might even be great to start with that and just do it on the side because that links you, you're going to get there. They will carry a lot of trust.
Those are links. You will not get anywhere from like normal outreach. So even if you won't get a lot of links, the links you, you will get will carry trust will carry on authority and will build a very good foundation for them. Further link building. It might not be the only place to start. You can do organic outreach, but it requires more effort and more thinking in terms of strategy while HARO can be really just answering questions I had, you don't have to make it a science.
That's kind of what we do. But if you have, I don't know, an hour a day, why not answer a bunch of, uh, questions from journalists and you might get a Forbes link or I don't know. Right. So it might be a good place to start actually.
Spencer Haws: So what kind of success rate do you guys see? You know, when you send out 10 pitches or a hundred pitches, like what's the percentage of actual links received?
Eric Carrell: Sebastian?
Sebastian Schäffer: I would say on average 10% you can expect five to 10% is, is okay. I would say, and then everything else is optimization, right? So you have to be aware of that. You will have to pitch a lot. Some of those pitches will not turn into actual links that might be mentioned. There might be no follow links.
So that all plays into the overall success rate. Right. Um, and how it's getting more crowded I've means journalists receive a lot more pitches. That means you have to be really on point. You have to be quotable. You have to be on time. So it has certain requirements. Right. And the better you get, the more you can tweak your success rate, but five to 10% somewhere in there, I guess I, uh, I would expect to see.
Spencer Haws: Yeah. Yeah. I think that gives people a good idea that, Hey, it's a lot of work, right. You gotta be consistent. You gotta put out, you know, probably 20, 30, um, you know, pitches before maybe even seal a link right. Coming in. And so no, that's good for people that kind of know ex expectations at least. Um, so anything else with, with either Herro um, or should we move on to maybe another sort of uniquely building strategy that you guys employ?
Eric Carrell: There's some other stuff that we can talk about. Sure. For sure. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. So another thing that comes to mind that we've we did with, um, it was a client within the outdoor sports niche. Uh, so we employ like a, an, a link or I guess you would call it news jacking, uh, tactic. Yep. So this was a couple of years ago when there was, um, like all the wildfires in California, which is not too far from you, I don't think.
Right. So. Um, there's a lot of wildfires in California that might still be going on. I really don't know actually, but, uh, we had a, we had a, a client in the outdoor sports niche and, uh, so we worked with them to build a, a guide around like campfires safety and like how to prevent wildfires. And we're reaching out to all of these, um, all these outlets, these media outlets that were, these were like, you know, real deal news sites, uh, that were talking about the wildfires.
And we were pitching this, I think we built like an infographic with it, with like, you know, it was long form content of this info guide. And we reached out to them and asked if they would, if, if they could include this in their report as well. And I think, you know, we ended up building like 60 plus links, just sort of just that guide.
And then that could really work with within the. You know, with any news, uh, you know, we built one for a client recently. Um, it was, uh, after the election, we built a guide on, uh, the PR obviously records between Trump and PR and Biden. Uh, we're promoting that one as well. So, you know, really any big news story that comes out there is if you're in the right niche and you can find the right angle, you know, it's a good opportunity to, to reach out to some of these journalists and try to get some links as well.
Spencer Haws: Yeah. I, I really liked that. Um, obviously anything that's sort of hot news is what journalists are potentially going to be writing about. Right. Um, but how do you, how do you pitch a story to a journalist, right? Like you can take your campfire example if you want or something else, but how do you pitch it in the right way that it gets attention and they actually might use it?
Eric Carrell: Yeah. I mean, that's something that's, we're S we're still playing with and it's. Always evolving because, you know, journalists, you know, I think I read a report that on average they get like 150 pitches a day or something like that. So it's, it's really, it's really difficult. Um, I think that you have to try to find trends in the way that, uh, that content is produced on the website.
You know, so some sites like the, like the mirror.co.co.uk, I think is what it is. They'd like to use a lot of language that revolves around like, you know, revealed and they try to, it's like a lot of cliquey type stuff. So, you know, so if you can try to replicate that in your pitch, I think that helps a lot.
Yeah. Yeah. I think in the way, it also, you know, when you pitched to them and you can summarize it really well with like bullet points, And if there are visuals in it, you can use that in the subject line as well. So if there's data visualization, if there is infograph, if you have a different graphic in there, you know, you can use that in the, the subject line as well, to help, uh, to help get it, get attention.
And then yeah, the way you actually pitch it yourself, you can summarize it in a way. So like, you know, cause they get so many of these, if you, if they know what they're going to get into, if they know what they're looking at ahead of time, without having to click through the link and read all of it, I think that helps as well.
Sebastian Schäffer: I think that they actually, two sites. One is what Eric talked about is like, how do you like craft a message? Um, and I think they're the main two things are authority. Why should they listen to you and relatedness? So is it related to something that is important to them right now? I that's, that's one thing, but then I think further, you can think about the topic itself.
Like what is the conversation about what are the most common themes here and how can I be different. I it's like, because you will get like a very general mainstream opinion there, and that is usually not newsworthy. Why would a journalist talk about that? That's already out there, but if you can be different, have an opposite opinion or have additional information that no one has thought about that is usually where you get the entry point, because that's something that will, well, for them, both vetoes will want to read and they want the eyeballs.
Right. So think, make it easy for them and easy for them means bringing people to the site, creating interest. Yeah.
Spencer Haws: No, those are some good tips for sure. Um, related to kind of contacting journalists, um, how do you find contact information? Like how do you know. Who to contact. You guys have a database of journalists that you've kind of built up over the years.
Um, do you have tools that you use? Um, what are, what are some other tips maybe for people listening?
Eric Carrell: Um, if you want probably the best, the easiest option we use Cision connect plus, um, it's the same company who owns Herro same company who owns PR newswire.com. Uh, they have the largest media journal or journalists database in the world.
Uh, that's what we used. And you get direct email emails that people have direct of journalists who work at CNN, who work at ox news to work at these big media outlets. Um, and you can, they give all the metrics of their engagement and, and, um, you know, you have all this information, so that's probably the easiest route, but it's also definitely the most expensive.
I think we pay like. I dunno, we pay a lot of money for that per year. I don't even know. Yeah. It's a lot. Yeah. I think it's too much. Yeah. Right. But you know, when we were first doing this and we were just kind of bootstrapping ourselves, we were using, I mean, we use really simple tools. We use like Mailshake and hunter.io to do hunting, to, to hunt the, uh, and we, we built a process within that.
I kind of forgot what it looks like now since spend a couple of years, but we built a process within that, which, uh, prioritizes who defined email for, so it would try to find the email of the journalist first. And if it couldn't find that, it'd try to find an email of like the editor. I mean, that was an automation that we built.
So, you know, uh, to, to find the best possible email for the right person to reach out to, and then we would cross-reference that within, uh, never bounced to make sure that was a real email. And then we would send the email out.
Sebastian Schäffer: Yeah. Yeah. But you can also do like Twitter, for instance, most journalists are on Twitter these days.
Um, and you can easily find them if you want to find journalists for the New York times. Just go through the site, look through all the journals that are listed there and find them on Twitter. And then you have a have direct access, right? Yeah. It's actually like finding the people in the contact information is the easiest part.
These days, everything is very transparent, but coming up with a good message is a lot harder.
Eric Carrell: Yeah. And you could also use find that lead. It's a Chrome extension on Twitter to get the actual email
Spencer Haws: lead. Okay.
Sebastian Schäffer: Yeah. Yes. snuff.io is another one for finding emails. Okay.
Spencer Haws: Yeah, no, those are some, some good tips for sure.
And there's just so many different newspapers and magazines and publications. Right. We talk about the CNN and New York times of the world. Right. But there's just thousands of these individual publications really that you could be pitching potentially, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, that are out there. And so newsjacking, I like that idea.
Let's, let's see if we can brainstorm just a little bit or at least walk through kind of a live example. You know, my public niche site project right now is own the yard.com. It's a site about sort of backyard gear, um, backyard landscaping, right. Sort of outdoor, um, you know, sort of backyard living. So if I were to look at that niche, I'm not.
Thinking that we're going to come up with a great idea right now, but what's, what's sort of the process you would take, right? Like I come with you, I come to you with, on the r.com and let's say, okay, we want to try and take a news jacking approach. Like what would be kind of the steps you guys would follow at that point?
Eric Carrell: Yeah. Um, we, there are some tools that allow you to, to, um, kind of find topics that are blowing up within like Reddit, for example, to see what's the see what's going on Reddit and to see, uh, like what people are talking about, what sorts of posts are getting the most, the most. Uh, and I feel like Reddit is always kind of like one step ahead of the media, you know, it is, I feel like it is.
And so if you can kind of see, like what's trending on Reddit or what's growing on Reddit, what trends are growing on Reddit? I think that's a good way that to, to start brainstorming topics, just to see what people are talking about there and. Oh, and, and related sub-communities um, Brian Dean has a tool called exploding topics that we've looked at as well.
Um, that's, uh, basically it shows you, I don't really understand how it aggregates the information, but it shows you what topics are trending throughout the web as well. I think that's another good way you could, you could look at it also just kind of what's going on. You know, I think COVID within the journalist realm is kind of like played out, but, you know, perhaps it's, but since COVID is such a big topic, obviously within the last year, you know, and, and they say, you know, if, if, if, if people are getting vaccinated by, if people get vaccinated, you know, that we can, we can have like a, uh, July 4th celebration is what they said with all your friends, family.
So if like, if you can kind of see, you know, what's trend in and, and build some sort of guide around that, you know, and stay kind of stay ahead of the news. I think that's maybe another good. Yeah. Yeah.
Sebastian Schäffer: Yeah. I mean, it also ties into maybe mental health. I had like bowling, a garden for yourself where you can relax.
So you can build topics around that. You can do expert interviews, which you then can use to pitch it and to, to other new sources. Um, I think it's, it's about being really creative, how gardening ties into other meetup trends in a way. So there's also gardening is, is more like homegrown foods. So you can maybe go in that space and then look for four angles.
Um, I, I don't know. It's, it's really just sitting down and it's like, it's not just gardening, gardening. It's, it's, it's a tool, right? So it can be a way to, for mental health. It can be a way for it to grow your own food. Urban gardening is a, is a major topic. Uh, I know, uh, when, uh, someone in the authority hacker group has amazing success in that space.
Um, so. Yeah, I think the first step is really thinking about the adjacent shoulder niches in that space or meta trends, and then come up with. How can I tap into that conversation in a way that hasn't been talked about before? Yeah, that's I don't know much about gardening. I live in Berlin. There are not that many gardens to be honest.
So I struggled to come up with a good angle. Right. Um, but that's that's I think what I would do just brainstorm
Spencer Haws: that's perfect. Thanks. No, I think that's a good framework though. Right? Like, uh, the, the people can take a look at, you know, look at the Reddit trends, the other trends that are happening, you know, uh, in the world that are either specifically related to your niche or yes.
These sort of adjacent niches. Right. How can you tie that? Tie that in? Um, I think that's good. Um, good tips that people can maybe apply. And so if people come to you, um, do you guys kind of do that entire process yourselves? Like you do the brainstorming, you help the client come up with the, um, content idea that they can publish on their site and then actually do the pitching to the journalist.
You do all of that.
Eric Carrell: Yeah. So, um, We find the topics ourselves. So we find the topics. Usually we would, we would work with the agency basically, right. You know, write an overview of what we think it should look like, what the topic should be in the, in the have them have them create the content. Just so it's consistent with the voice, you know, of the, of the website for the last one we did, we created it just because there was a lot of extra stuff we wanted to do with it.
So in the Biden versus Trump privacy example, uh, we, we surveyed 500 Democrats at 500 Republicans. So we, we wanted to create that survey. We employed designers to, to like make the actual designs of the, of the infographic and the subsections. Um, and we also, we also employed a researcher to like really do a deep dive into, into the privacy Breck backgrounds.
So just because there was so much stuff that was out of the wheelhouse of the, the, uh, site owner themselves, we took that one over. Um, but yeah, normally we would, we would basically just go out and try to find topics that we think would it would work well and work with them to create it.
Spencer Haws: Yeah. That's a no, that's great.
Let's um, let's jump into maybe another strategy, you know, some something else, you know, again, for somebody that's building an affiliate site, right? Like, um, what, what's some other link building strategy they could look to that's maybe a little bit different than like I said, I guess posting.
Eric Carrell: Sure. Yeah. Um, we worked, like I said, we worked with a lot of different types of websites and so it's given us kind of a unique perspective on, on what people are wanting to link out to.
But, you know, I think that.edu links are kind of like the coveted links to get, you know, within, within the, the SEO space. Um, so on two separate occasions, we've, we've, we've employed this tactic, but, um, The first one was a, uh, like a career resume building websites. Uh, and they said they wanted to us to go after.edu websites.
So, um, basically we went to all the competitors and just typed in.edu into the search bar within, within H reps backlink profile, uh backlink uh, analysis. And it showed us that there was a trend. So basically that they were getting on resource pages within, uh, like the, the jobs and career section of, um, like, or like post-graduate job jobs and career section on a bunch of.edu websites.
So we created a pitch to basically try to get their site added as well, which is kind of a play on like resource pages really. Um, so we were able to do that and that we're still, we're still running that campaign and we've still been building links that way. Um, Another one is, was for another client.
These, these people were in the keto space. Um, there were a, um, a bunch of their competitors were getting links on university discount pages. So like, if you're a student at this university, you can get a discount, uh, at this, at this outlet, you know, and that's all aggregated on one page. Uh, so it's like this student discount page.
Um, and we created a, we worked with that client to create, um, like a, like a discount. Uh, S uh, code for people who are our students at this university. And then we pitched it and we said, Hey, you know, you have this student discount page, we create a discount code for your students. Um, and then they would add us to that page.
It's kind of like, you will have to like, you know, deal to, to allow them to use that discount. And that was for, uh, so that was for an FBA business. Uh, but they had a website as well that they do.
Spencer Haws: That's great. Great. Couple of ideas there. Um,
Sebastian Schäffer: yeah, I, I would like to add one thing though. I know we talk a lot about new tactics.
Uh, it's more about the novelty part. I get that, but it's so important to do the boring things. Well, it's just, it's like, there's always a shiny object and your link building tactic, but it just, if you do the basics really well, and you get really good at this, but processes that are repeatable and scalable, That already is the game changer.
You don't need all these things, just doing high quality outreach. If you can do that, that's already, that will get you very far. So I know it's a bit boring to say that, but I strongly believe in boring, repetitive things that are executed well, because as long-term, that will, that will be the foundation you built the business on.
And then the shiny objects, the cool new tactics that adds flavor tracker thing. And you might get really good spikes of links, but it's. They're harder to plan. And how did you keep consistent? So I'm always a bit worried about just doing that. Just word of caution.
Eric Carrell: I think that, yeah, I, at the end of the day, it's just about putting the right content in front of the right audience, you know, and we've gone full circle.
You know, when I first started building links, it was, you know, you find a really relevant prospect and you write a really personal, really well crafted, personalized email to this person and you got to link and that was just a wall. You know, you would just keep doing that over and over again. And then it kind of grew into, you know, mass automate, um, automation where you would just upload a list of a CV, a CSV of 2000 people, and just blast them all at the same time.
And we've really kind of come full circle when it comes to, uh, you know, content marketing and, and that's. Creating really good prospects, personalizing the emails, you know, either manually or through, uh, we use, uh, we've used pitch box and we've used respondent.com and those are two really good ones that allow you to personalize at scale.
Um, and really just putting the right piece of content in front of the right person and crafting, you know, a good email to go along with. That's really what it's all about, you know, these other stuff that they're cool and we've gotten some really good links that way, but like, it's about to set the end of the day.
It's really just about sticking to the basics, creating really good content and making sure you create a good prospect list and put in front of them.
Spencer Haws: So let's talk about some of those maybe basic, uh, processes that you follow. Right. I mean, you've got a team now of 12 people, right? So I'm sure you've got really well-defined standard operating procedures.
What, what's some of the sort of basic processes that you guys follow, you know, that, that, uh, so your employees can fulfill a lot of these, a lot of the work.
Eric Carrell: Yeah. So, um, we, a lot of competitor analysis. So when we first bring on a client, we look at their competitors and we see how they're getting links.
Um, we just try to get the same week. So whether that's a resource page or, you know, sometimes we pay for links as well, if that's what the client wants and, and, uh, you know, if it's going to, they want links to, because the clients are able to, to determine which page we build, we build links to, we'd like to be able to build links to any page on the site, just because it gives us more opportunity, but you know, people want links to the money pages, right?
They want these to the commercial pages. Um, and people don't usually want to link to some, you know, AB you know, best X for Z or X for Y product page, you know, so. We, uh, we use, uh, paid links to get those, to get links to those pages, which the co they know that. And they're okay with that. We have a good vetting process for that.
Um, but yeah, a lot of that comes down to just competitor analysis there, you know, there are going to be people who are, who are ranking for those types of keywords. And, you know, if you go, if you go look at some of the bigger, uh, the bigger pages you can see, sometimes they'll have three, 400 referring domains pointing to those.
If it's a big site, you know, so we like to go in and take a look at who's linking to these people and why they're linking to them, or they're looking into them because they're paying them to like a tune because, you know, they wrote a unique guest post for them, although they can Sue them because it's, maybe it's a vendor and they are, they have a review section where they talk about people who, who reviewed the products.
Um, you know, so we do a lot of con a lot of company. I mean, that's the first thing we really do when we, when we bring on new client is just look at the, you know, who's linking to the pages that they want to rank for and why they'd link into them. And then we'll just go from there.
Sebastian Schäffer: And I think like the, the, what, what makes us very efficient as it's like optimizing things like quality assurance, making sure we build really good prospecting lists of making sure we're not emailing the same people that we have.
A lot of automation built around blacklisting and making sure we really send to unique people. We have a lot of automation builds around personalization. And so we really make sure that these details work and that's, that's really not new things, but like Eric said, we're going to do these things at scale for every new client competitor research.
How can we automate that? And our goal really is we automate every aspect. That can be automated. And then for the more manual tasks we have SLPs clearly define this as the first step. That's the next step and everyone else at every point, what they need to do. And that also makes it very easy for us to hire new people, to get a da for something really just here's the process.
Now go run with it. Uh, I think that makes us very scalable as well, and ma makes it the business very easy to run.
Spencer Haws: Yeah. Yeah, I think that's super important to be able to have those processes right in place. That's really the only way you can scale, uh, no, I'd really anything but specifically for link building.
Um, how do you know if you are getting a valuable link or you're targeting a site, that's going to give you a valuable link. I know it's kind of a basic question, but maybe even specifically for like paid links since you brought that up, right? Like you might see a site and they're like, Oh yeah, we'll get you a link for 50 bucks or a hundred bucks or whatever.
Um, and the site maybe is getting traffic in a traps, but the, if you know what you're looking for, you start to dig and you're like, ah, this maybe is not a great neighborhood or something like what, what are the telltale signs of like, we don't want to link from this site, even if we can get one. Yeah.
Eric Carrell: I mean, we have specific metrics that we look at specific things that we look at, and that's really easy for the core team of link builders to spot.
So stuff like the traffic source, where's their traffic coming from, you know, they might have 2000 hits a month or whatever, but where's it coming from? You know, is it coming from the, is it coming from the target audience of the clients? If not, then we don't build a link there also, like what are they ranking for?
Or if they're, you know, there's a lot of ways to kind of game. I think that the H refs estimation, I say it's rough. Cause that's the main tool that we use to analyze links. Uh, there's a lot of ways to like, gain that. So, you know, you can, um, write post on, you know, celebrities, net worth or something like that.
And even if it's like a tech site, they'll still write content on just because, you know, some random celebrities, net worth is really easy to rank for, and they can get a traffic spike that way. So we look at what they're ranking for and, and. Is, is what the ranking for a relevant to the actual, the site and our client's side as well.
Um, some of the stuff we also look for, um, like ratios. So if they have, you know, X amount of inbound links and a ton of outbound links, we're like, okay, that's, that's probably, you know, like they're probably just existed sell a bunch of links. Right. Um, we also look at who they're linking out to and why they're linking out to them.
So, um, you know, if we find pages on the site that might be good for our clients, we also see who else is on it. Who else is being linked to in that, in that page and, and why they're being linked to, um, some things are a bit more difficult to spot if you're not like a tr if somebody who's like trained and who's just looked at thousands of websites, um, is like just the general, um, Layout and design of the site and like the logo.
And maybe like if they have an SS L script and stuff like that, you know, there's some little things that we look at to make sure that, you know, to see is this a site that people really care about, you know, did the owners care about the content or is this this existed to sell links? Is the main business model of this website selling links, or is it, you know, maybe a software site, um, that also has a blog and, you know, they'll sell links to like a very select amount of people.
If it's really, if it really lines up with their editorial process, um, you know, we really just look at why the site exists. And what is the main business model of the site selling links or is it, did they actually try to cultivate an audience here that cares about the topic that they're writing about?
Spencer Haws: Yeah, no, that makes sense. And a lot of that just comes with experience. I think, like you said, I mean, it's, there's certain things that, that you can look at, but other things it's just, um, it's almost more, um, an art in a way to kind of be able to look at a site and go like, this is not legit or whatever.
Right. Like, it's it. So do you find that in, in training employees and trying to have like a standard operating procedure that yes, you can document like, Hey, don't try to get links from this, but there's other stuff that's a little more fuzzy that takes somebody just more experienced to look at.
Sebastian Schäffer: Yeah.
Yeah. We have, uh, what we do, we have a buddy system. So the more experienced employees will train new employees. And the beginning, it was mostly Eric training everyone, because Eric is like, Half a second looking at a site it's like, PBN don't even need to look at it further. Right? It's like you develop that new sense to feel, okay, this is really not good, what we call the smell test.
And so some things are not just in the hard metrics. Those are easy to look at, easy to filter, but do you have to go beyond that? Um, and yes, exactly. Because it's hard to document and write an SOP for that. We have the buddy system. So the more experienced people can train, uh, the, the new ones, but that's the only way really to build up that
Spencer Haws: expertise.
Yeah. No, that makes sense. Um, so for, for listeners that are out, that are out there that are thinking, Hey, I want to go out, I want to start building my own links. How difficult would it be for an individual to kind of replicate what you guys do as an agency? Like, is it feasible for an individual website builder out there to go, you know, I can do what do follow.io does on my own.
It's just a lot more work.
Eric Carrell: Yeah. I mean, and that's, I guess, well, it all boils down to is, you know, that's why people come to us is because it's a ton of work. You get told no all the time. And that's the moralizing, uh, you know, so people come to us because they just don't want to worry about it. They just want us to take it over.
We have, you know, for, for the amount that they pay us per month, we have a full, they get a full team of people, you know, full division of a company, essentially. Uh that's that their entire job is just to, to build links. You can do it yourself. Absolutely. And we've all done it. Right. You know, so, or I guess us three have done it and that's, you know, going out and, and, you know, do respond to the heroin pitches over and over again.
And, um, you know, uh, I'm building a piece of content and doing a lot of large scale content marketing campaigns. It's very doable. Yeah. It's just, uh, you know, it's a lot of work. It takes a lot of time, takes a lot of patients. Um, and a lot of resources because honestly, most people ask for money these days when you're, when you're reaching out and asking for it link, you know?
Sebastian Schäffer: I think the, the main difference here is. It is already a lot of work to build links for your own site to do it as an agency, to do it for multiple clients. It's not just you multiply it. It's, it's more exponential. The amount of work that comes in because you have to think about a lot more things.
So yes, everyone can do it on their own, but doing it sustainably longterm for multiple clients, 10, 20, 3,000 clients. Very different games. So, um, I think that's just something to be aware off. Um, it doesn't scale in your it's just gets exponentially more like
Spencer Haws: hotter, right? Not, not, not to mention, you know, you've now got more employees that you got to worry about.
Right. It's no longer, you're not just doing link building, you're managing a business. Right. Like, and so it, yeah, it, it becomes more difficult, uh, even as you scale. Um, so is there anything that we didn't really talk about that you'd like to bring up in terms of either SEO strategies or link building strategies or just, um, either, you know, Even motivational tip or any sort of closing thoughts and in terms of things that maybe we didn't bring up that we should have,
Sebastian Schäffer: no, I think in terms of motivational aspects, it's building your own site as a, as a great project, not just to make some money, but, but you will learn a lot of things.
We started building sites. We never thought we would build our own agency, which is now at a thing that works really, really well for us. But the journey started with building our own niche sites and learning and the process, and then thinking bigger and bigger. The first site that I built was like a random site about iron deficiency.
Like no branding, nothing. It's just, I see the keyword. Okay. This works. All right. But then you will learn about branding. You will learn about scalability of technology. You will learn about outsourcing and writing SLPs. And that whole journey is it's not just a make money online journey. It's a, I learn how to run a business journey step-by-step while making money, which is really amazing.
So, um, I can only recommend sticking through the journey and like, there are a lot of painful, especially in the beginning painful month of seeing one, two visitors on your site and you will have doubts about making enough ad revenue to pay it for coffee. That's part of the game. Um, I think we all have been there, but, uh, if you stick to it and stick with it and.
You you stay consistent that can turn into a life changing business. Um, which is, yeah. Which is amazing. I think everyone should at least give it a try. Uh, and don't give up at least give it a year or two to, to make this work. Yeah. Yeah.
Spencer Haws: I think I'll piggyback off of that as well. I mean, similar story for me in terms of you, you just have to jump in and, and start doing the work, right.
If you want to build a site, just jump in and it doesn't mean that that's what you're going to be doing forever. Right? Like it, it led to starting an agency for you guys. And if I wasn't, you know, in building websites, I never would have started, you know, different software tools. Right. I, I sort of was scratching my own itch with long tail pro and now Linquist for right now I'm running software businesses that really could never have come about if I didn't know the intricacies of building websites and the importance of keyword research or internal links or that sort of thing.
Right. Like it can be a launching pad to so many other areas, uh, as well. So.
Sebastian Schäffer: Yeah. And learning how to attract an audience is key. These days. It's a thing is building things gets easier and easier, but attracting an audience that is loyal that is getting harder and harder because the noise is increasing.
So if you can master that skill, that's a superpower, whatever you do later, right. That's
Spencer Haws: absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. I agree with that, uh, as well. So, uh, for people that want to check out, you know, your agency do follow, maybe you can just give a brief summary of like, w what's some of the, uh, either packages or services that you offer there that, uh, they can look into.
Eric Carrell: So it's pretty simple. We offer one package, one service. Um, so yeah, so basically we are, we are performance-based link billing. Uh, so you only pay for the links that we build, we charge by the link. Uh, but we do ask you come in with a $3,000 a month budget, uh, just because that helps us kind of spread our legs and, and, and try different tactics and really try to get the best leads possible for you.
Um, and, and that's, that's really, I mean, that's the only package we have. We, we, you know, we take on, we're actually pretty particular about clients that we take on, but, um, you know, we, we take you on, we have, you know, fully customized approach to you to get you links. Um, Yeah. And I, and I mean, I guess the, the good thing about us is because we use so many different tactics, you know, there's, there are no shortage of, you know, link brokers out there though.
No shortage of, you know, people on the other side, you know, kind of PR companies out there. There are very few people who are able to, you know, our boutique enough that we're able, able to take multiple different approaches to, to a site. And that's what kind of sells it. That's what kind of separates us from others.
Sebastian Schäffer: Yeah. Well also I think we really, we know we have been on the other side, right? We, we are site owners still. Um, so everything is designed to make it easy. We don't have any login. We don't have retainers because we don't believe in retainers. Um, usually that benefits the agency and not the site owner.
Um, so you pay at the end of the month after we delivered the work and there's no login, so you stay with us because you like our work. And that's all our clients average is probably a year, a lifetime. Um, so everyone stays, even though they don't have to. And I think that speaks for itself. That's kind of how we approach it.
Spencer Haws: Yeah. Well, that's great. So if people want to check out what you guys are doing and learn more about your service, they can go to do follow.io. Um, is there any other place that you like to send people if you're trying to build your Twitter following or anything like that, uh, and anywhere else that people should follow along with what you guys are doing?
Eric Carrell: we also own link ology.io, which is a, uh, a hair chain platform. Um, and that's still in its beta stage, but people can follow us there as well.
Sebastian Schäffer: Um, yeah, so we're getting into software as well. Following footsteps
Spencer Haws: in your footsteps. I'm a big fan of, uh, software. So. Yeah, kudos for taking that step.
Sebastian Schäffer: Yeah, definitely check out then college.
If you want to do HARO, it makes it a lot easier. If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can accept shepherd. Uh, that's set chef. That's pretty much it. Yeah. You can put it in the show notes easily. Yeah. German names always complicated.
Spencer Haws: Yeah. We'll put that in the show notes as well as a linkology.io. Um, sounds like an interesting tool as well.
So, but overall guys, thanks for coming on the niche pursuits podcast. It's great. Catching up. It's great hearing your story. And of course the, the great link building tactics, uh, that you shared as well. So thanks again for coming on.
Eric Carrell: Appreciate it.
Spencer Haws: Thanks. You guys.