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Podcast 166: Matt Diggity on Buying, Building, Link Building, and Flipping Affiliate Websites

By Spencer Haws |

I’m happy to share a podcast interview I recently did with Matt Diggity from DiggityMarketing.com and Authority.Builders.

Matt is an expert SEO and all around great guy.  During our interview we get to hear Matt’s background story and why he moved to Thailand and started his SEO Conference in Chiang Mai.

We also dive into his model of buying, growing, and flipping affiliate websites.

However, we also dig into what is working for on-page SEO and link building.  Matt has a ton of great tips to share.

Overall, here’s a few things that we mention or chat about:

Full Transcript

Spencer: Hey everyone, It’s Spencer Haws here with another episode of the Niche Pursuits podcast. I’m excited to have a guest on the show today. I’ve got Matt Diggity from diggitymarketing.com, authority.builders, and a few other things that we’ll talk about in the interview. Matt and I have connected over the years. We’ve both been in the SEO affiliate marketing game for quite a number of years, so it’s great to finally have him on the podcast, to talk about his business, his story, and the things that he’s built. 

He just recently finished up his SEO Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which is where he lives and has been for a long time. He’s got the biggest SEO Conference there in Thailand; 800 people were there in attendance just this past week before we recorded the interview. He has a lot to share from both things that he learned and the speakers that shared there in the conference but also just throughout his story. 

Matt was an electrical engineer, then he somehow got into building affiliate websites—we’ll let him share that story—and now, he’s specializing in SEO, in link building. We’ll talk specifically about Matt and how he is buying affiliate websites, building them up, and flipping them. It’s a really cool business model. Specifically, we’ll look at how he buys a website or even before he buys it, he’ll do a content audit, how he’ll look for ways that he can improve on that site, and then also on-page optimization; he’s got some great tips there. He also got some great tips, of course, for link building. 

We dive specifically into some outreach strategies that you can use because you definitely need to be getting very real links and the way to do that is through outreach. He walks you through how you can stand out a little bit more and how you can make sure you’re finding links that are relevant, that truly have trust, have that page rank, overall have that power, and are really going to move the needle for your website. 

In all, we have a great discussion on business and what Matt has been able to build, but also SEO and some very specific tactics that you can apply to your business. With that, here’s Matt. 

Hey Matt, welcome to the Niche Pursuits podcast. 

Matt: Hey Spencer, thanks for having me. 

Spencer: It’s great to have you. We’ve connected over the years, emailed and just been able to connect through networking different things a little bit but haven’t actually done a call together, so this will be fun to get to know you a little bit better and hear your story as well. 

Matt: Yeah, man. Looking forward to it. 

Spencer: Before we dive into your background and your story and everything, I do understand that you just wrapped up your SEO Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand. How was it? 

Matt: It was really good. We touched upon it before the call. It went really, really good in all aspects. The networking events went good. The parties went good. We had workshops before but the incredible thing about it is all the speakers crushed it this year, which was amazing as a conference holder because usually, sometimes the speakers don’t connect with everybody, but I’ve gotten stellar feedback all around, which puts the pressure on for 2020. I just wanted to relax, but now I’m already planning 2020. 

Spencer: Awesome. How long have you been doing the conference now? 

Matt: This was the third one. The first one was in 2017 but the year before that, we had what we called the Chiang Mai Invitational SEO Mastermind where we just got I think about 50 of the world’s top SEOs. People doing at least $20,000 a month, something like that or above in various niches. We invited them to Chiang Mai and have a week of partying but also a lot of business and masterminding. That went so well and I just got this wild hair up my ass, I was like, “Okay, I want everyone to experience this. Let’s just have a conference. That looks easy.” That’s how the conference was born and now, it’s just continuing forward. 

Spencer: It’s pretty well attended. It’s not a super small event. It’s like over 700 attendees or pretty close to that, right? 

Matt: We got 800 this year and that seems to be the cap. That’s the biggest venue we could get for this in Chiang Mai. Any more people would cram in, it would be way too tight and I’m not really interested in leaving Chiang Mai on this and upgrade into Bangkok or something like that. That will be death on my hands if we move to Bangkok, so keep it still. 

Spencer: All right. Sounds good. Probably keep it about the same size. It sounds like it’s not only really educational and a good conference, but probably sounds like it’s a lot of fun as well. People hanging out and having a good time. 

Matt: That’s what people say. 

Spencer: That’s the word on the street. Very good. Listeners that maybe aren’t familiar with you I’m sure would like to hear your background. Can you give us a brief background on your business or work experience previous to building online businesses? 

Matt: Yeah, sure. I grew up in California, in a city called Fresno. We try not to talk about that too often. When I turned 18, I went down to San Diego. I went to UC San Diego and studied to be an electrical engineer. That was cool. No, no it wasn’t cool. I’ll be honest about that. 

Spencer: It’s all math. 

Matt: Yeah. A lot of math and a lot of just thinking about things that you will never be able to see so not very exciting, very theoretical. After I got my bachelor’s degree, I ended up going into the field and then I quickly saw what it looks like being an engineer. I see this guy has this job title and he has this degree. This is the responsibility he has and he is completely stressed out. A full head of gray hair and he’s 35. I completely saw that mapped out, but still, being young and hungry, rat race, I was like, “Okay, I want to make my money. I want to work up this ladder.” 

So I went and got the master’s degree. True enough, as per my predictions and my observations being in the industry in a short amount of time, once I got my master’s degree, it was just more of the same. More hours per week. Instead of 40, I’ve moved up to 60. More tasks to take care of. I just saw everything all mapped out for me and it got dark. I don’t have those traits that will allow a lot of people to comfort themselves in a bad job. I never was a big spender. I would never work hard and then just reward myself with a Benz or something like that. I just had the bad end of the stick in both directions. 

At this certain breakdown point, I just decided to look into other avenues on making money. I even went to the extent of learning how to be a yoga teacher. I learned yoga and I actually taught yoga for a long time, which is definitely not a mistake. I still carry those benefits with me to my 40s, which I am now. The truth is teaching yoga is pretty hard to make money, specifically sustainable money so what I did was I started looking to other avenues to making money online. 

At that point in time, the solution for me was freedom of time and freedom of location so making money online from a laptop and especially passive income was really seductive to me. The first thing I looked into was affiliate marketing through search engine optimization and that’s where I got my feet wet with this whole industry I’m in now. 

Spencer: What was your first online venture or your first website? I assume you read blogs and maybe we’re on the forums and tried to figure things out, but what was the first small success that you had with your affiliate website? 

Matt: Let’s highlight the word small. Let’s just say the first website that made me more than a dollar. There was this course called the 30 Day Challenge. It’s run by a marketer named Ed Dale. Really cool concept you opt in. Each day, they’re going to send you a new email, which is a different step in the process of creating an affiliate site. By the end of it, you’re building links and stuff like that. At 30 days, if you’ve completed the challenge, you’ve made $1 online. 

They were using Market Samurai. I was doing keyword research. The whole name of the game was type in something you love, some niche you’re into so I typed in yoga and travel. There were search volume for it so I made an eMD called yogatravel.com or maybe yoga-travel.com; I can’t remember. It ranked. It ranked number one for yoga and travel. I ended up monetizing it a little bit. I think AdSense didn’t even work and then I tried putting an Amazon store on there and selling yoga mats. That didn’t really work. But then eventually, selling I guess sponsored post for yoga retreats for them to boost up and have eyes on their yoga retreat in Bali or wherever that is. 

Spencer: That’s awesome. I think I actually remember that 30 Day Challenge with Ed Dale from back in the day. So, you got your first small taste of success with the yoga and travel site. Explain what happened from there? What did you do to build your portfolio? What type of success did you have with your affiliate sites? 

Matt: The yoga travel thing didn’t make that much money. I think I ended up giving up on it six months later. It just wasn’t sustainable trying to go out and do research and trying to find yoga retreats, pitching them on and just getting $100 and $200 a pop for it. It just wasn’t scalable so I ended up letting it go and I’m pretty sure it’s a PBN now. It’s funny. I’ll go check it out after this. 

After that, I tried a few more things. The first thing that really took hold was just I’m going to review products on Amazon. So again, what’s important to me. I had a bad back from engineering and sitting in a cubicle for so long, so ergonomics was important to me. I started resourcing and reviewing ergonomic chairs and then eventually ranked number one for best ergonomic chairs. That’s when four figures and eventually, five figures a month started pouring in. 

Spencer: Awesome. At what point did you quit your job and started travelling? Were you already doing that when you were building this site? 

Matt: Yeah, it was right about the same time. A lot of serendipities things happened. First off, the startup company that I was working for got acquired. I had a whole bunch of virtual stocks so those became tangible and real. I got a nice paycheck. Second of all, cash flow is going good. The passive income sites, the best ergonomic chair site, they were making a few thousand dollars a month. 

I also started investing in some turnkey real estate. I bought a couple $100,000 properties that were raking in $1000 a month so I’m like, “All right. Here it is. It’s all lined up. Stars are all aligned. I got passive income that I don’t work for, passive income that I do need to put some effort into, and then a whole bunch of cash in the bank.” 

I was so timid. I was still such a conservative mind that I did the math to figure out when I would run out of money if I didn’t continue making $1 online and it was something like 67 years old. I was like, “I don’t know if I should do it.” But I ended up doing it anyway. I sold all my stuff, sold my whole condo worth of stuff, almost all my belongings. Just those photos of my grandma, that’s about it that I kept and then just started travelling full time. 

Spencer: About what year was this? 

Matt: I want to say this was 2011 or something like that. 

Spencer: Okay. Have you been all over the place or has it been primarily a couple of places like Thailand and a couple of others? 

Matt: Definitely doing a lot of work in Asia. I spent about three months in Japan, a few months in Bali, but for a vast majority of it, I spent in Thailand and ever since the first time I went to Thailand, as soon as I touched down, it felt like home so it makes sense that I ended up here. 

Spencer: What is it about Thailand that makes it feel like home? What’s the draw? Why do you want to stay and work in the particular area of business you are? 

Matt: The first draw was Thailand’s nickname is the Land of Smiles. I didn’t know what that meant until I came here and I just interacted with people. They truly are genuinely kind without motive. That’s an intoxicating thing. When you see other travellers come here that live stressful lives, their mindset switches, too. You just get a completely different vibe because everyone’s treating each other good. I was like, “Yeah, this is something I want all the time.” When I first came to Chiang Mai, I actually had it in my head that I was going to start to just scale back. I had my best ergonomic chair site. One affiliate site that’s rocking and rolling and you barely need to give it any attention, so I was like, “I’m going to keep those on chill mode and I’m going to live off my rental income, dip into my cash, and just have a nice little coconut lifestyle going on. 

I ended up not doing that. It turns out it’s rough not having a goal and not proceeding towards something. It’s just not a good way to be. Once I started deciding I need to see who lives here, I need to see if there’s any SEOs who hold networking, I realized that Chiang Mai already was a huge epicenter for digital marketing and SEO in particular. At the time, there is ViperChill Glen Allsopp living here, Daryl Rosser, Diggy Dirk, Kurt Phillip, Rob Atkinson, and just a whole bunch of big players already in SEO. I was just like, “Okay, I thought I was going to retire and chill out, but it turns out I’m in some SEO Mecca so let’s get it back on.” 

Spencer: Nice and get it back on, you did for sure. Maybe walk us through now, just take a couple of minutes to round out the story of you’ve to Chiang Mai, the ergonomic chair site, maybe a couple of others are doing well but you decided, “Okay. I’m going to buckle down. I’m in the SEO community.” Take us from that point, whatever that year is, I don’t know, 2012 or whatever, to where you are now, and what your business is involved in today. 

Matt: Sure. Back then, the main ranking strategy that I was really leveraging was PBNs. I had a fairly big PBN network. It’s like 200 sites or something like that. A buddy of mine was like, “Well, do you want to try monetizing these because you’re only using one link from one site and there’s a lot to gain from that and maybe selling some links.” We started to set up a PBN business called Diggity Links and that expanded very, very big. I don’t really want to talk numbers but it was doing really good by itself and that kind of cash flow is allowing me to expand my portfolio. 

At that certain point in time, we decided okay, let’s also start partnering with a buddy of mine, Kurt Phillip who now runs Convertica and we’ll make an agency called LeadSpring. LeadSpring is completely focused on building, ranking, and monetizing affiliate sites and lead gen sites. We had the cash flow for the PBN business and we started just working on LeadSpring, building up a portfolio. 

LeadSpring eventually ran into some sticky spots because we just had the wrong model. We had this idea in our head that we would have this portfolio. Sure, we started off an ergonomic chair site and we’ll add new ones in there and eventually, we’ll get to $15,000 a month. After that, we’re going to want to scale up and get to $30,000 a month. 

That was the whole idea, but in this kind of model, what you end up doing is you take all that profit and you spend it all because you’re trying to get to the next level. On the way to the $100,000 a month or whatever the idea is, you’re basically enjoying no profit because you’re hungry, you’re a hungry business. And then the whole time you’re doing that, you got to get more staff to manage things, there’s more expenses all the time. It becomes a big and cumbering beast. It just gets a little bit sticky along the way. 

Once we changed our model to the flip model and started meeting the Empire Flippers, who we are good partners with now, good friends with now, they help sponsor the conferences here since the beginning, then we got to this flip model and we’re just realizing, “Okay, we can get these websites up to a certain point and then cash out on them for 30X multiple, get all our resources back, then chuck it in to another site.” That started to make things take off for LeadSpring. 

Fast forward a little bit. Eventually, I decided to exit out of the PBN game. I sold my shares for Diggity Links and then entered into a new partnership with guy, Peter King to establish Authority Builders. Authority Builders is a link service by outreach links. Authority Builders is still rocking and rolling right now. 

I started an agency called The Search Initiative where it’s this client-facing agency. Mostly, the SEOs we train up are based out of London. They’re all college-educated, really, really smart guys. The agency I’ve always wanted to build, we’re able to build that and created a course called The Affiliate Lab. One thing led to another and I was silly enough to start a conference. That’s where we’re at now. 

Spencer: Awesome. You got your hands on a lot of things, keeping you busy for sure a little bit more from just sipping on the coconuts all week. I think I’m similar to you in that you always got to have something that you’re working on, something that you’re shooting for, growing, and improving. Having those goals is important, like you said. I do want to talk a little bit about LeadSpring. That still is the entity, I guess, that you’re using to build or acquire and flip affiliate websites, right? 

Matt: Absolutely. 

Spencer: How many sites do you currently own or currently working on under LeadSpring? 

Matt: We have about nine in our portfolio right now and we’re currently working on about five of them. The remaining four, just in their chill status waiting for them to show some life and then we’ll give them the attention when they are asking for it. 

Spencer: What’s the model? Do you build everything from scratch? Are you buying existing sites? How long do you hold it? When do you decide to sell it? 

Matt: That’s a super interesting question. Epiphany number one with LeadSpring was deciding to flip. Epiphany number two was deciding not to build. If this doesn’t happen to you, you’re either lying or very lucky, but as SEOs, I’m not 100% on my success when I’m building a new website from scratch. Sometimes, it goes good. Sometimes, it doesn’t. The worst thing when we started doing our calculations on expenses, the biggest expense we have is human resource. We hired really awesome A players so the worst thing we can do is waste their time on the that doesn’t pan out or a site that’s in the sandbox, that isn’t chucking along and moving along. 

So, we decided to start purchasing websites. They could be websites that are generating cash or they could be websites that are not generating cash. I don’t really care either way, but I just want them to be outside the sandbox and I want to see that when we start them, they already have some keywords on page one. Google wouldn’t put anything they don’t like on page one so that’s simply a good sign for me if they have some keywords. 

Spencer: Is there a specific revenue that you’re looking for or is it more just you’re opportunistic? Like it might not be making any money but we see a lot of opportunity or we are definitely looking for sites only making $2000 a month and more? 

Matt: The cash flow or how much revenue they make isn’t really that important. The multiples for buying websites right now is quite extraordinary. A lot of sites are selling for 40X monthly profit. If you buy a site that’s making $2000 a month, you’re looking to pay $70,000-$80,000 for that in some chances. I even try to look for sites that aren’t making that much money. The ultimate website to get your hands on is something that’s pulling a lot of traffic, that has great links going to it but hasn’t figured out how to monetize yet. This is just a little bit hard to find but not as hard as you might think. 

The criteria used when buying websites is really, really simple. I can figure this out in seconds whether I want to buy a site. First, is it in a niche I want to be in? You have a feel for that. I like niches that are game changers for people, health, wealth, relationships. Is it in that kind of niche? Is the domain broad enough? I’m not interested in going for best wireless routers because it’s too niche but something like techguru.com where I can get into anything technology. That’s broad enough for me. So, niche I want to be in. As I said before, it just needs to have some kind of keywords on page one to show that it’s in Google’s good graces. And then I’m just looking for clean white hat backlink profile. As I stated, I clearly have no problem with grey hat techniques but if it’s grey hat, I want it to be my stuff. 

Spencer: Right. You want to have done and put it there so you don’t have to clean up somebody’s mess potentially. 

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Matt: Sure. 

Spencer: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. What do you do when you buy a site? Is there a very specific strategy that you’re following? In terms of content, do you get a site and say,  “All right, we’re going to throw 50 new pieces of content on this thing and see what happens”? What’s your process there? 

Matt: Stage one is we use a technique we call the super audit. Not very creative, but it is super and it is audit, so that’s how it got the name. Basically, what we’re doing there is there are a series of steps just to operate on the site itself and not add anything new, to make sure we’re running a tight ship. The fastest thing to do is just do a technical audit because that stuff is quite night and day. Just cleaning up 404 errors. Making sure we’re not wasting crawl budget, looking at index bloat, keyword […] issues, stuff like that, maybe dressing up thin content or just de-indexing thin content. That’s going to get you a lot of quick wins right away just because if you make Google’s life easier, they’re going to reward you and that kind of stuff. 

We have a pretty well-written and thorough content SOP. This is a big thing at Chiang Mai SEO Conferences that Google still can’t read. Google is still a parser. A parser basically looks at content as code. Are we putting the content in the right places that’s per syntax? Are we putting keywords in the right meta title and description? Are we putting the right words in the content? Are we using Surfer’s True Density to look at TF-IDF type of stuff and making sure that we have the right balance of the right words and the right places? Are we addressing all the subtopics that are required to answer the query? 

Let’s say this example I’ve used before. How to lose belly fat? If I’m trying to rank for how to lose belly fat, if you look at the top 10 rankers, if you look at their H2s, you’ll see the various sub topics come up like you should avoid trans fats, or you should get some exercise, or you should take a vitamin. All these kind of things are different subtopics that are required to answer the query how to lose belly fat so we’re going to do this research. The guys in the top 5 positions all talk about these 14 subtopics. Then, we’ll also look at the bottom and see related searches. You should also talk about how to do it naturally versus with supplementation. So okay, we need a subtopic on that. 

Then, we’ll look at the people also asking and see one of the most important questions is how can you do it in three weeks so maybe we need a time-based subtopic. We’ll then have this master list of subtopics and we’ll make sure our pieces of content all fit that. 

This takes a while. This takes a long while to go through and audit all the content but I would say this is our biggest payoff in terms of ranking. It can happen pretty quickly. On site changes can kick in within a month whereas, off site changes take a while. After that step, we want to try to recoup our investment as fast as possible so we do what’s called baseline conversion rate optimization. This is not AB testing. I’m not interested in doing an experiment. I’m just rolling out the things that I know are going to help the sites, things that I’ve done in the past that just are guaranteed to work. 

I talked about this in my Facebook group recently. The less information you give the readers about the product that you’re reviewing, the more they’re going to need to click on your affiliate link to figure that out. When you’re using Amazon API and just paying price, guess what they get to see? “Okay, this costs $20 on Amazon. I don’t need to click this button to figure that out. Maybe I’ll go shopping later.” But if you don’t show them that stuff, they click on it, they’re going to get your cookie, they might buy later, they might buy a computer later. It doesn’t matter. You got their cookie, you get their sale. 

Really, optimizing stuff like that, one big thing that’s a huge game changer is really having solid color discipline. If your website is blue for example, you want to look on the other end of the color wheel and find some opposite but complementary colors. Maybe red, maybe orange, or something like that and use those for your call to action. They’re going to pop off the page. And then don’t use those call to action colors anywhere else in the site. What that does is trains the viewer to only take action when they see certain colors namely when you make money. Check out Wirecutter. They do this amazingly. All the red links on their site make them money. Anything that’s not red doesn’t make them any money. Basically, roll out those things, cross your fingers, and see what happens. 

Spencer: A couple of follow up questions with things that you said there. I think I heard you mention Surfer SEO for the semantic keyword type of things that you were referencing. Similar tool to MarketMuse. This is another one. MarketMuse is very high-end, though, but I’ve heard good things about Surfer SEO. So I just want to make sure I heard that right. 

Matt: Correct. 

Spencer: And then for your super audit, as you call it, is there any place people can go, either a resource that you have or just a resource that somebody else has for what they should look at to do a similar audit on their website? I’m sure a lot of people would be interested in that. 

Matt: It is completely covered in The Affiliate Lab, my course. Everything is available online for free. You can piece it together yourself and develop it yourself. I’ll send you some resources for your resources section later. I have nothing off the top of my head. 

Spencer: Yeah, that’s fine. There are a lot of on-page SEO things that can be done. A lot of people probably buy a website and just maybe don’t think about that. I asked you the question, “What do you do first?” I asked, “Do you add new content?” I think that’s what a lot of people do and you’re like, “No. We do an audit first.” I think if people just think about that, like you said, they can either find resources or we’ll try to have some in the notes. That’s a good first step. 

I do want to dive into some specific SEO strategies beyond on-page SEO as well. You are Matt Diggity. I can’t have you on the podcast and not ask about link building. So we got to do that. Let’s jump right to the meaty subject of link building. I know a lot of people want to hear about that. They talk about that a lot. What is maybe one of your top one or two link building strategies that you always go to and recommend for people? 

Matt: I would say, compartmentalize the way you’re looking at links between a few different categories. Let’s just break it down into three. Number one would be relevance. I always go for links that have relevance. Relevance is pretty damn easy to get. You’re getting relevance from the article you’re getting a link from. If you get a link about an article about golf, Google thinks you’re a little bit more about golf, but even more important than that is getting a link from a website about golf. If we had to choose between one or the other, typically you get both of them, but a link from a website that is relevant to you is a little bit harder to attain so getting that one is a little bit better. Relevance is the first thing and that’s pretty darn easy to get. You also get relevance from your anchor text, too. I’m sure everyone has noticed when they send a target anchor text, it’s the most powerful thing. 

Then after that, it’s trust. There’s a concept that’s baked into the algorithm years ago that a link can imbue a certain level of trust based on the distance that link is from a set of manually curated seed sites. If we think about things, The New York Times is probably one of these manually curated seed sites. If you get a link from The New York Times, you get a bunch of trust, but if you get a link from a website that has a link from The New York Times, that’s also a fair bit of trust. 

Another way I like to think about this is getting links from sites that rank themselves. Ahrefs did a really interesting study finding that only 91% of the internet has traffic. Now, I think that’s an over estimation because Ahrefs isn’t keeping track of all the crap on the internet. They clean up their index and get rid of a lot of spam. It’s probably less than 91%. One could argue rankings and traffic is one of the things that Google is most stingy about. I would say that if Google likes the website enough to give it rankings and traffic, then of course, it’s okay with its outbound links. That’s a second pillar that I’m going for. It’s trust. 

Trust is important through the whole lifetime of your website, but especially in the sandbox phase when the name of the game is to build trust and establish trust. You’re not trying to power your way. You’re not trying to rush it in the sandbox. You want to build links that are trustworthy. Focus hard on getting links from sites that are ranking up traffic. I say that they go for 1000 traffic or more. 

After that, Google’s algorithm is very still saturated with this concept called PageRank, which is the first path in those published by Larry Page back in prehistoric days or whatever. PageRank is basically how many links do your links have? Or how powerful are your links? It’s this concept of link juice will flow around the internet and getting links from web pages that have a lot of links going from them will deliver more power. That’s the third pillar. It’s power. 

Getting links from web pages with links, you can use grey hat techniques like PBNs, that’s when you’re getting links from homepages. But if you want to keep it clean, one way to better do it is outreaching for getting links in articles that already exist. You can outreach, you can get a hold of someone and say, “Hey, I really like this article. We’re starting a website on this. We have this article that might be a great resource for your readers. I wonder if you would link to it from your article.” Their article might be up for years already. It might have 10 links going to it already so that’s going to be a fair bit of power if you’re going to link from that page. Bear in mind, that example pitch I just gave is useless. That’s probably something that every webmaster gets everyday so you got to think outside of the box with this kind of things. 

That’s a good summary of how I like to compartmentalize things. Relevance, trust, and power. You don’t have to get all three of these things from the same backlink but your backlink profile needs to have all three of these things to compete, at least complete efficiently and effectively. 

Spencer: Yup. Absolutely. Great summary, great overview there of the type of links to try and acquire or try to get for your website. How do you go about getting those links? You mentioned that you can outreach and webmasters are getting outreach emails 10 times a day and they ignore most of them. Is outreach the way to go? What methods are you using to actually get links that meet this criteria that you specified? 

Matt: It does need to be outreach because a big factor in this whole thing is you need links from sites that have rankings. Black hat sites, fake sites, and PBNs typically will not have any kind of ranking at all. It needs to be a website that exist, that has a real webmaster, that owns it, that’s adding content, that’s doing the same thing you are, and building links to that website and have traffic. Typically, you got to outreach for that kind of thing. Now, as you point it out, people are getting spammed all the time so the name of the game is how do I look different than everyone else? How do I stand out from everyone else? That was another big thing at Chiang Mai SEO this year. Thinking outside of the box. 

For example, let’s say we’re pitching for a guest post. Typically, guest post pitch looks like this. “Hey, I’m a writer. I’m a freelancer. I’ve written on this few websites. I’d like to write a piece for you. I think your audience would love it. Here’s a titles that I’d be interested in writing. Are you interested?” Everyone’s inbox has about 50 of those if you don’t get to 0 inbox. There’s nothing special about that. But how about we switch things up and do it like this. You can use Ahrefs to look at this link prospect, you can look at this website that you want to link from, and then you can do a content gap analysis just to figure out competitors that they have in the niche with less authority, what are the competitor’s ranking for that this guy currently hasn’t written about yet. 

Let’s restate this. Let’s imagine I want to link from this guy with a DR70 website and he has competitors around DR30, DR40, whatever that are ranking for stuff in the same niche, but the guy who I want to link from simply hasn’t written about that yet. So then I can present this research in the pitch and say, “Hey, I know that your competitors are ranking for these four topics here and they have nowhere near the authority you do. How about I write this piece for you? I’ve actually done this before on four different websites,” you show different examples of this, “and we can get you ranking and get some nice traffic for your website.” Now that’s a win-win. That’s a true win-win. 

People get pitched all the time for content ideas, but just like you, would you have any random joe write some content for you? No. You’re curating the crap out of your content before it goes on your site. But if someone’s already proven to you and already proven to Google that they can write content that ranks, “Okay, let’s give this guy a shot.” That’s thinking outside the box. That’s getting through all this inbox clutter. 

Spencer: I think that’s a great idea. That’s a great example of how to be a little bit different, definitely how to stand out. I think that’s a great strategy. Thanks for sharing that. I know that some of this applies to what you’re building over at authority.builders as well. You’ve done a lot of outreach and made a lot of connection with webmasters. Maybe talk a little bit about Authority Builders there. I got to ask a question, would you consider Authority Builders a white hat link building service? 

Matt: Yeah. Okay, it’s a lie. First, let’s talk about Authority Builders and then I’ll get to the awkward question. Authority Builders’ whole concept in going for links that have trust. Every website in our inventory pulls at least 1000 visitors or more traffic. Now, traffic is not a necessary factor to rank websites. If that were the case, PBNs wouldn’t work. PBNs have zero traffic but we all know they still work very, very well. 

Why did we decide to focus on this? Because Google said many, many times that you don’t need to disavow anymore. We’ve completely figured out how to analyze and ignore spammy links. Google blatantly said that they can ignore a lot of links. Here’s a way to ensure that your links aren’t getting ignored. If your links have traffic and rankings, they’re not going to be in that ignore bucket. 

We’re getting links from websites with traffic that’s given us trust and we can guarantee they’re not getting ignored. That’s why our customers are always consistently getting good results because there’s no chance they’re just not having an effect. That’s what the concept is. We’ve also implemented this new service called ABC Plus where we’ll do the analysis on what links you need to rank and also choose anchors for you. It’s a completely hands-on service and that’s taking off. 

Now, to the question is it a white hat service? This whole thing is like a semantic debate. Who’s asking? And what do you consider white hat? If it’s a Google purist, then if you take any effort to build a link, whether it’s writing content for someone else and then trading content for a link, or even outreaching to someone and saying, “You have a broken link there. How about you fix that link to me?” That’s all not white hat. You’re just supposed to write content and then links are supposed to magically come in because your content is so amazing. That happens no time ever in the world. If you take that point of view, we’re not white hat. 

If you take the opposite point of view where a lot of people disagree, if it’s coming from a real website, it’s not link farm, it’s not Web 2.0 generate stuff, not spam, then that would be considered white hat. I guess it just depends on who you’re asked, but I try not to get mixed up with semantic debates. I’d rather just rank websites and make money. 

Spencer: That sounds good to me. I had to ask, people have asked me. It’s somewhere along that spectrum. I think you explained it really well, so people can decide for themselves along that spectrum where they are. 

Now, that we’ve talked about white hat link building a little bit and you even mentioned that you are still fine doing some grey hat, I don’t know if you’re doing any black hat, but what are some great black hat link building that is working right now? Whether or not you do this or not, what are you hearing that is working right now? 

Matt: From the grey hat category, we still have PBNs. PBN is purchasing expired auction demands and using them to place homepage links, which typically, I have a lot of links going to them hence a lot of power. That still works very, very well. I wouldn’t build a backlink profile that’s 99% PBN links because Google’s algorithm got a little bit smarter and they know that these links are coming from homepages. Homepage links are really, really rare so if you have a huge majority, that doesn’t look good and you’re just going to get stuck or caught eventually so you got to blend it in with a bunch of outreach or links from interpages, however you want to put it. 

The other tactic that still works is 301 redirects. Buying up expired domains and 301 redirecting to your homepage or a portion of the site that still works really, really well. That, I guess, I would consider grey hat, whatever you want to call it. 

To the black hat, the biggest thing is hacked links and buying hacked links that exist because of WordPress plugin vulnerability, or just non-updated WordPress, or maybe just username and passwords get leaked and stuff and buying them on the dark web and that kind of stuff. You can get links for pretty cheap that way. They’re hacked. That’s an unethical question. If you want to get with that, I don’t touch it. 

Spencer: Right. No. Interesting. There are vulnerabilities. There are people that are out there. There’s a market for links and so, whether somebody is finding a vulnerability to use for themselves or to sell on the market, people take opportunities and run with it either way. Okay. Very good. Enough about the different color hats of link building. I do want to talk just a little bit more about on-page SEO and you covered a decent amount there, but are there any other common on-page SEO mistakes that people make or that people miss, that can have a big impact on rankings? 

Matt: Just to reiterate, I think the easiest way to get a good head start on on-page SEO is run a tool like Surfer, which is going to analyze your page and give you a playbook on what you need to change and tweak in order to blend in with the top rankers on page one. That’s the beauty of it. 

You don’t need to be a master at understanding SEO but you can a Surfer report and you’ll see, “Okay, these guys are using this kind of keywords in these places. I haven’t used the word blah, blah, blah at all in my content. Whereas the competitors in the top five positions each use it seven times.” So blending in with page one seems to be the name of the game. 

The reason that’s working so well is because Google started to become very structured in what they like to put on page one. If you Google best ping pong tables, you’re probably going to see a listicle in every single position on the top five positions. So looking and seeing what’s working and mimicking that works really, really well. 

The second thing I would say is it’s not just about optimizing those single pages. What’s really important is your site architecture, the site structure, and building a lot of supporting content for the pages you want to rank. 

Let’s say you’re a website about surfing, for example, and you want to rank a page about the best scuba diving mask or something like that, just because you write one piece of content on scuba diving doesn’t mean you deserve to rank for it so you really need to “build out” that silo. I know Spencer is really good at this. You want to just create more pieces of content around the things that you want to rank and they can link to each other and establish more topical relevance for each other. 

Interlinking, make sure you’re linking only to things that you want to rank and linking to things that are relevant. You wouldn’t link from surfing to scuba diving, but you would find all the scuba diving pieces on your site and when you link them together, more links are going to the pillar pieces and stuff like that. It’s really hard to describe this, I’m realizing, without some kind of diagram. But I went there and I’m trying. But yeah, site architecture is huge. 

Spencer: It made sense to me so we’ll let the listeners decide. Absolutely, you explained it well, interlinking. To establish yourself as an authority in different topics, in different areas is a big one for sure. What other SEO strategies or tips do you want to share that perhaps I haven’t asked you about so far? 

Matt: I got a lot to say about building business, managing people and stuff like that. At the end of the day, unless you’re a solo operator, you’re going to end up hiring someone and there always is a sticky point for any person in their growth process of business. I think it’s worth it sooner rather than later to get your ducks in a row and figure out how can I officially do this? What do I need to know? What inspires people? I can recommend first, a book. The E Myth is a great book to learn about processes and the importance of a standard operating procedure (SOP). You’re going to get very familiar with that term, learning about the importance of that. 

But also, really understanding people. All people are different. Some people are better with spreadsheets, some people are better with talking, some people are motivated by money, some people are motivated about feeling good, so putting people in the right positions is really key if you want to have any kind of high output and high retention and not having people leave your company. 

I mentioned this earlier in the podcast. My biggest expense is human resource and I’m happy to do that because at the end of the day, when your goals are being met, the real value in this business and in this whole adventure that we’re taking is to bring other people along with you. I think that keeps it interesting forever. At a certain amount of time, SEO might get boring to me, but bringing people along and seeing people grow will never get boring. It’s a sustainable decision, too. 

Spencer: I love it. I love that thought. That’s important to think about, certainly, as you’re building a team, building a business. Yeah, great thought there. What is next for you and your business? Is it just more of the same? More sites, continuing with the conference. Obviously, you’ve got your hands full already, not that you need to do anything, but is there anything? What is the future? What do you see in your future for your business? 

Matt: If you asked me about two weeks ago, I probably would say more mergers and acquisitions, buying more sites, flipping more sites. One of my buddies, Travis Jamison, he had a great speech at Chiang Mai SEO about how big can you go with content sites. He showed the math on what you get when you hold out, when you build out multiple traffic channels, multiple […] channels. At the end of the day, NerdWallet is a content affiliate site. Like all these huge websites that exit for eight figures, nine figures are just content affiliate sites. The name of the game is I’m going to try to take one of these to the stratosphere and see how big we can go with that. It’ll be a new adventure, too. That’s probably the books. 

Spencer: Awesome. 

Matt: I highly recommend getting Travis on the podcast. 

Spencer: I know Travis. He is amazing, but please […] over him. I already agree.  

Matt: Awesome. I feel like what we’re doing now, he was doing three years ago so he’s always a step ahead. He’s got a good foresight in the future. So yeah, maybe taking that site to the stratosphere. And then, I got a bun, I don’t have a bun in the oven, my wife has a bun in the oven. 

Spencer: Congrats. 

Matt: So trying to see what that adventure has in store. 

Spencer: Yeah, man. Kids can change a lot for sure. This is your first, I take it? 

Matt: Yeah. 

Spencer: That can change a lot of things for sure. Awesome, man. It’s great to sit down with you and chat, hear about your business, what you’re building, what you’re growing, potentially what the future brings. I hope that all those plans go well. If you want to send people anywhere, if they want to stay in touch with you or get in touch with you, what’s the best place for them to go? What website or social media place should they connect with you on? 

Matt: I would say come to diggitymarketing.com. You can read my blog and stuff like that. If you want to connect on social, I’d say the place I’m most active is my Facebook group called The Lab. I got a YouTube channel, too, so you can watch some videos there. I’m a little bit active on Twitter if that’s your gig as well. 

Spencer: Awesome. Thank you, Matt for coming on the Niche Pursuits podcast. It’s been an absolute pleasure. 

Matt: The pleasure is mine. 




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By Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws is the founder of NichePursuits.com. After getting a degree in Business Finance from BYU (2002) and an MBA from ASU (2007) he worked for 8 years in Business Banking and Finance at both Merril Lynch and Wells Fargo Bank.

While consulting with other small business owners as a business banker, Spencer finally had the desire to start his own business. He successfully built a portfolio of niche sites using SEO and online marketing that allowed him to quit his job in 2011. Since then he's been involved in dozens of online business ventures including: creating and exiting Long Tail Pro, running an Amazon FBA business for over 3 years and selling that business, founding LinkWhisper.com, and co-founding MotionInvest.com. You can learn more about Spencer here.

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Anil Kumar

Thanks for sharing, Spencer. Anyways, Congratulations to Matt.

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