automate link building

Link Building: What can we automate?

In this episode of SEO Automators, Garrett French and I sat down with Noah Learner and Jordan Choo, to discuss systems and automation in link building, and even the success and failures in experimenting automation techniques. 

Show Agenda & Timestamps

05:39: How have you seen link building evolve over the past years?

06:58: Have you seen it shift to link building being branded more as like a digital PR Strategy or do you see it still as no link building for building links in?

10:09: Have the both of you seen link building becoming more and more difficult are more companies get into the link building space over the past few years? Or has it stayed relatively the same?

12:01: Have you seen link building become more and more difficult over the years to say like earn a link or even just get a response from someone that you’re reaching out to?

16:18: What tools do you – do the both of you find useful that you’re using on a daily basis for any part of your link building process?

18:33: So they’re almost like personas then rather than for client ABC?

19:43: How do you tie a link prospector in – if at all – and can you automate how to use the tool?

27:00 Do you guys automate how to get stuff from Step A to B to C to D?

31:36: Should link building even be automated, right?

42:27: Let’s actually talk about what have the both of you been able to successfully automate?

50:12: Have any of you failed miserably at automating something?

Show Notes:

Full Transcript:

NOAH LEARNER

Good afternoon everybody and welcome aboard to our Friday Automation Hangout. Today we’re tackling a topic that not everybody thinks is something can be automated.

We’re gonna tackle that and see if there are automations or at least processes that we can dive into to help us all build links to all of our sites that we want to make more money with.

Today we’re exceptionally gifted in that. We have two of the real Titans of Link Building. We’ve got Garett French. Garett, hello – hello.

GARRETT FRENCH

Hi, thank you, Noah.

NOAH LEARNER

This is an amazing opportunity. I met – I met Garrett at a mosque on local back and I think February 2016.

I was really – really lucky to bumped into him and we had an amazing sushi meal with Greg Gifford where –

GARRETT FRENCH

That was awesome. We’re pretty ensued. I’ve forgotten all about that and gosh there was a lot of sushi and a lot of Saki. It was a good night.

NOAH LEARNER

Most people that know me know that if I can get someone out of a meal, I will pepper them with questions.

GARRETT FRENCH

You were – you were in school I’ll say that. Definitely in school -

NOAH LEARNER

Ask you about 200 questions –

GARRETT FRENCH

Yeah –

NOAH LEARNER

For two hours –

GARRETT FRENCH

And it was awesome. That’s when I knew you were going places –

NOAH LEARNER

And today we’re also incredibly lucky to have Venchito Tampon who helps enterprise – small and medium-sized agencies. You’re also a motivation speaker. I didn’t get through enough of that content. You can dive into it a little bit. Can you tell us a little – guys who wants to go first?

And also, today is really special and that I would be more of a target for their services than a peer practitioner whereas Jordan does this – he does a way more link building than I do. So, it’s gonna be a special opportunity for everybody because Jordan is going to run the show.

Can I turn it over to you now, Jordan?

JORDAN CHOO

Yes –

NOAH LEARNER

Okay –

JORDAN CHOO

You can. Thank you, man.

NOAH LEARNER

Take over. You’re the man.

JORDAN CHOO

Okay.

So, Garrett, I’ll – I’ll let you introduce yourself for those of you who don’t know him.

GARRETT FRENCH

Hi, guys. I’m Garrett French. I run CitationLabs. It’s the primary job that I do. I also have – it’s a kind of a startup agency with another sass tool coming along called Zip Sprout that helps find and – and connect with local events and nonprofits that you can potentially sponsor and yes, potentially get a link from. So, that’s – those are my two kind of – I guess stakes in – in the industry.

JORDAN CHOO

Awesome. Garrett, quick question. How did you get into link building and all these fun – all this fun stuff.

GARRETTH FRENCH

How much time do you have? Okay, so, I guess the short answer is I was really into content and so this was 2000 and I started writing about SEO 2001 or two so, I’ve been in kind of in the space since then.

But I got into link building specifically as I was kind of moving from doing writing as a – as a consultant into – with a company. I started working with a buddy named Ben Wills who had started a link building kind of link graph called antelope and we started get link building work and I had some opinions about how it should be done and did a lot of writing so.

But it was really from that initial collaboration with Ben and this was 2011 maybe? 10, 9, somewhere around there and that’s when I really got started in link building and just kind of slowly have accumulated tools and other periphery services as – as we’ve proceeded.

JORDAN CHOO

Very cool. All right, Venchito you are up. Let everyone know more about you.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Sure. Hello, guys. My name Venchito Tampon. I run this link building agency – Sharp Rocket here in Manila – Manila, Philippines. It’s almost 02:00 AM here.

Yeah, we work with different agencies mostly on the e-commerce site and we have some – we work with marketing departments of some of the top brands in the SEO industry and I started in the - I started with doing building links way back in I think 2014? I was hired by John Cooper who runs the Hyperlinks Media – who owns Point Blank SEO.

And so, he introduced to me link building – how to actually build white hats. I really didn’t know much about white hat type of things and difference between black hat and those kinds of stuff. And so, I started as a Content Writer then go into that route of doing link building and so now, we are here and we’re building links for multiple clients.

JORDAN CHOO

Awesome. Awesome, so let’s dive right into it guys. First question is how have you seen link building evolve over the past years?

VENCHITO TAMPON

Who goes first?

GARRETT FRENCH

Venchito.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Okay.

GARRETT FRENCH

Okay, I’ll just start and then you’ll have trouble turning me off so go ahead.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Basically, what I’ve are number one, in terms of strategy. If you are doing – if you were building links way back in 2010 or 2012 you’ve got to understand different strategies that already or has been executing.

And today it’s not just building links for rankings. You’ve got to understand five (5) types of goals like you’re building links for ranking, you’re building links for traffic, you’re building links for assisted conversions. The purpose and the goal of place is not anymore just to know rank and dominate the top – the top search phrases in your space it speaks.

The first thing that I that has already been evolved in most agencies and most companies is how they actually aim at building links – so the purpose and the goal of link building, I think that’s the first place.

JORDAN CHOO

Interesting. So, have you seen it shift to link building being branded more as like a digital PR Strategy or do you see it still as no link building for building links in.

VENCHITO TAMPON

I don’t think that’s already been combined with digital – digital PR. Digital PR and link building are still are – they’re still difference from each other in such that link building is still more focus on making sure that the pages are getting some traffic from organic. Digital PR is more of the advertising and the brand impression and all of those things. So I think there’s a – there’s still differences between digital PR and link building.

JORDAN CHOO

Cool.

NOAH LEARN

Can I jump in?

JORDAN CHOO

By all means, Noah.

NOAH LEARNER

Garrett it seems like you talked a lot about this in your seminars – the difference between the two practices and – and really the different parts of the pyramid that – that each is attacking. Is that right?

GARRETT FRENCH

Sure, yeah. I – I see two different tiers of publisher. The top tier are the ones you’ve heard about, you know you’ve seen them when you look in the news or what have you or if it’s an industry specific, you know who it is. And then there’s everybody else and so I leave the top tier to the PR teams and the you know the neo man’s of the world like the – the fractals where really kind of swinging for the fences with the big data play and concentrate on how do we scale, engage within our reach to the rest of the publishers who kind of support.

Or right into this whatever the space happens to be and kind of write for the types of customers that you’re trying to reach with your rankings for sure. But you want to be – you want to face them in the – on the publishers where you get links from. You want this to the best of your ability be - still be customer-facing when you land on those – when you get those links.

But yeah, definitely the – the shift I’ve seen is – is this huge kind of – just in terms of what people are talking a lot about and what people are writing a lot about and what gets shared the most on Twitter or on LinkedIn – it’s always, it’s – it’s almost always more of the – the newer school of big branded pieces like Venchito is saying that are – that are data-driven generally and sometimes not super relevant to the target customer or to the – always to the topic of the – of the company.

So sometimes I see square pegs shoved into these round holes, but – but anyhow that’s in the past. You know ever since the rise of the info graph, I guess, 2015 or so maybe sooner that’s I’ve seen – that’s just kind of what is talked about the most and what people kind of think of when they think of link building more, you know in the past few years for sure.

JORDAN CHOO

Interesting. So, have the both of you seen link building becoming more and more difficult are more companies get into the link building space over the past few years? Or has it stayed relatively the same?

GARRETT FRENCH

Go ahead, Venchito.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah. I would say that in terms of strategy, there are a lot of SEO Companies already pushing towards thinking more of the relevant side rather than thinking of just a strategy or specific tactic.

For example, companies today or even SEO - Link Building Agencies are trying to get away from this Scholarship Link Building Strategy given that most SEO Professionals are already executing that in a massive scale which literally affects the entire SEO industry.

And so, there are a lot of you know there’s – there’s I would say little to no value in those kinds of strategy. So, in terms of strategy, I would say there’s still need to execute more of a very specific, relevant side.

For example, if you’re doing broken link building. You’re not just pursuing a very broad or general industry side, but you’re trying to market your content asset to specific audience such as eco-friendly audience. So those linkable audience that we’re – that we’re referring to based on the French article.

JORDAN CHOO

Cool. So how about yourself, Garrett?

GARRETT FRENCH

I’m sorry I – could you ask to me the question again? I swear I was listening. Sorry.

JORDAN CHOO

No – no – no worries. It’s Friday, man. So, my questions was how – have you seen link building become more and more difficult over the years to say like earn a link or even just get a response from someone that you’re reaching out to?

GARRETT FRENCH

Well, for links and resource page link building, we’ve definitely seen that it’s just getting like Venchito is talking about with scholarships. I mean these folks are getting now probably hundreds of e-mails a day with new scholarships or if you have a link resource page on eco-friendly stuff, they’re probably getting a bunch of e-mails every day too.

And so, it’s definitely a more crowded. Like if you’re using that specific tactic, it’s getting – it’s crowded, it’s harder. We’re still you know, building lots of links. I mean – is it – is it harder now? Definitely. Do you have to send more e-mails? Yes. But sending e-mails doesn’t necessarily super difficult. It’s – it’s disheartening, you know when you’re like man – but  you know I think for specific tactics, it’s definitely harder, but I think to Venchito’s point is what else you know go - if you’re starting and you’re asking what strategy – what’s our strategy, what tactics will support that, I think that’s a more effect – like that’s going to keep you targeting relevance or targeting where are my customers actually going – my potential customers.

How do we connect with them you know, what kinds of context do we need to either create or – or look for on page that would make me a signal for we should send an e-mail to somebody. So I think it’s – it’s like for some of the core tactics links and resource page, sponsorships have been - not sponsorship - scholarships have been big for years and they’re – they’re definitely, I mean, you could still get links doing them, but I think the – the question is also is the it’s not just is it difficult, but some of these there’s – there’s a less – less of the return on the work that is performed. And so, it’s not just is it more difficult, but some of the core frequently done tactics are getting just pummeled and kind of probably less of less value at this point like for – like the scholarships example from Venchito.

NOAH LEARNER

Can I share a link building tip that any serious link builder will laugh at?

GARRETT FRENCH

Well, let’s test that theory. You have a trouble making me laugh.

NOAH LEARNER

So last week I was – I was on Twitter I saw a link to another SEO article that looked really interesting. I was on a mobile device. Went to their device – their YouTube embed on they’re SEO site was all busted, so I sent him the CSS to make his YouTube embed responsive and he was like ‘Oh my god! No one ever gives good feedback!’

And then I followed it up right away with, “Oh, by the way we have a new automation hangout and as I said it, I started cackling at myself because I didn’t mean it like a broken link building kind of outreach kind of thing.

But after – after I did it, I was like, “Oh I gave real utility and real use and opportunity and he cared about what I had to say.” So, it was pretty funny.

GARRETT FRENCH

No, that’s – that’s a good – now scale that Noah then you’ve got a link building program on your hands, you know.

NOAH LEARNER

By the way, I’m joking. I said you’d laugh at me.

GARRETT FRENCH

You gave a fair warning so –

NOAH LEARNER

Yeah, sorry.

GARRETT FRENCH

It’s a tough crowd. No, that’s all I know –

NOAH LEARNER

I said it was laughable.

JORDAN CHOO

Alright, so what’s – what’s everyone too stack? I’d love to hear more about what tools do you – do the both of you find useful that you’re using on a daily basis for any part of your link building process.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Sure. As an agency, we’re actually using a lot of tools primarily if we are executing broken link building campaigns, we are using AHREFS and Linkclaw. We’re also using Citation Labs just to automate – semi-automate collecting our link prospects on – in a specific industry.

So, we’re also using metric tools like SEM Rush. Pretty much AHREFS used to identify the DDRPA at the same time that the site has some organic traffic in place. So, we have some benchmarks.

So, we use a lot – a variety of tools basically for link prospecting, the link qualification at the same time for outreach. We are just using Gmail – a lot of Gmail accounts for outreach.

JORDAN CHOO

Interesting. So, you’re actually sending them out manually then?

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah.

JORDAN CHOO

Wow.

NOAH LEARNER

Are you asking the client to build e-mail accounts on their domain and are you getting a lot of – are you getting e-mails black labeled?

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yes. It really depends on what the client wants and agreement. We are using client’s e-mail address or their corporate e-mail if the client or if the website of the client has that kind of branding – has that kind of authority in the space wherein when we send an – an e-mail message using their corporate account, it’s much more effective in terms of getting responses, in terms of getting links and – but primarily we’re using Gmail accounts because we want to garner – to build relationships using our own accounts that we can actually use to different clients that we have.

JORDAN CHOO

Interesting. So, is – so they’re almost like personas then rather than for client ABC?

VENCHITO TAMPON

There are – there are persona e-mail addresses. There are also corporate e-mail addresses. So, it really depends on our agreement, at the same time is it more – is it more effective to use that in this specific client so yeah, we leave it. We’re using a variety, but basically primarily we’re using our own outreach

JORDAN CHOO

And – and with your tool stack right now like for example I know SEM Rush has an API so are you using any APIs to – to prospect in bulk and if what does that look like?

VENCHITO TAMPON

We haven’t had that kind of process, but we’re using it manually so I think that’s something that we have to do to internally think – think about. So yeah, we still haven’t any – any tools for APIs.

NOAH LEARNER

Cool, can I jump in?

JORDAN CHOO

By all means.

NOAH LEARNER

So, Garrett, how are you I mean how – how do you tie a link prospector in – if at all – and can you automate how to use the tool?

GARRETT FRENCH

I use links prospector still you know I’m the sole prospector and there’s a – that’s not true in the last year or so the primary prospector for citation labs work and where - I mean we’ve sent a lot of e-mails and we got about a – trying to give a sense of how many e-mails and prospects we need monthly without saying any actual real numbers, but we’ve got about a hundred employees all the way around, so we’re a good size company and I do all the prospecting and I might keep my core tools especially for blog discovery remains the link prospector.

I’m using you know – I’ve got my unlimited account so I – just scrape the bejesus out of the search engine of that – that we choose to scrape and I’m just not going to even say their name. We all know who it is, but – but yeah is it automated? No, not at all.

There’s I mean – I have to put it – I do research, you know. I can talk, I can tell you about what we have like where we do have a direct automated approach kind of figure it out, but it’s – it’s on the Zipp Sprout side, but it gets away from the – and it’ll – I’ll answer it ‘cause one of the further slides really addresses it directly and so I’ll talk a little bit about our stack, but it’s not really – we don’t from an automation perspective you know we just the – the link prospector is where we start for discovering publisher we’re primarily looking at trying to do guest placements.

Still there are cases that we do you know brand mentioned stuff and for any kind of brand mention or link changes or corrections. We – we like to use a – that’s when we like to use a corporate e-mail address, but otherwise we like to use our own e-mail addresses. But not very little is what I would say – is what I would say is like purely automated, but so we do prospecting then ID then – against the you know our the universe of publishers we already know about, so we’re only fine – only going after new ones with whatever prospect list I’ve just done and then we – then it goes to qualifying and contact finding that’s – we’ve got a team of twenty folks doing that in Uganda actually – that’s where we found a strong team we’re able to build around and rely on consistently. So, it’s a really strong group of folks, but they do a lot of the contact finding and qualifying like just is this a real site? And so, we’ve got that part figured out and then it comes over for outreach. Then you know from after outreach we take our – yes and then they go into the queue for content creation and then it – then it goes – then that content has to go back into the queue for sending and then we you know, hope that they publish and then this so – so then there’s a queue beyond that.

So, we have a really kind of elaborate framework and process we follow but it’s – it’s not automated but it is like we do have a tool – we have a system that’s database driven system for managing all of this work. So it’s not – it’s not automated, but it’s definitely managed and I don’t know why you invited me on the show ‘cause we don’t automate very much at all, but I’m happy to be talking about it, but what we don’t automate, I’m excited to tell you about.

JORDAN CHOO

Well, we’ll definitely dive into that later so Venchito I know you mentioned you use some very specific tools so I’d love to dive deeper into them. So, one of the – that you provided with us with is the resource page and the broken link building prospecting cheat sheet. Can you talk a little bit about that?

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah, sure. Basically, we are using Google Spreadsheets just to summarize all of the search queries that are team members are using. So, we try to look at any search query that produces a lot of results in specific industry and we try to collect them and if ever we have a new client, we just source them out and see if – if we can actually have a list for the specific industry. So, basically a cheat sheet is what we give to our new members just to – just for them to have an idea what type of search queries they have to use, but they still have the freedom to you know to – to test and experiment which search queries will give them the best results for specific line.

JORDAN CHOO

Cool. And you have this next one right here.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah. Basically – we don’t automate a lot of things we’re just using Google Spreadsheets just to organize and so the good thing with that is that we’re able to just summarize all of the details making sure that the – the important details that we need to use for sending e-mails is already in place and we’ve got – we have separate spreadsheet for each of our clients just to make sure details are organized and we also have our main spreadsheet to – for all of the brief overview and in terms of the industry, in terms of the metrics agreed upon with our clients. So, we have that kind of thing and at the same time we also have individual spreadsheets for clients.

GARRETT FRENCH

Cool.

NOAH LEARNER

Garrett you look like you’re stealing some secrets.

GARRETT FRENCH

I was looking at it. It’s beautiful. Like that spreadsheet is beautiful, Venchito.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah.

GARRETT FRENCH

Yeah. I was just kind of parsing through what I’m seeing and it’s – it’s you’re keeping careful records of individual URLs. It’s – you kind of tent – you know curating and tending your own massive lists of curated resources in you know – you’ve got the broke – the stuff that’s broken and all kind of lined out there. It’s – it’s – it’s beautiful and you’re tracking how they came in the door, what specific queries you used, what was the footprint or the query that you used and so, I see some competitor co-citation or competitor linking in there and then also just straight-ahead Google queries. This is beautiful kit.

NOAH LEARNER

So, in terms of automation of link building – I mean really it sounds like it’s – it’s like how do we automate project management? Or then the – the tech stack or anything like that?

Do you guys automate how to get stuff from Step A to B to C to D?

GARRETT FRENCH

Only on one context, but go ahead Venchito.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah. There are – there are just certain phases in link building wherein we need to identify repetitive tasks where we just actually – we just have to think if we can actually automate that.

For example, in terms of verifying e-mail addresses, if they are valid or not. So, we are using e-mail verification tools just to make sure these e-mails if we – if you pitch this – if you pitch these contacts, we will not be receiving any bounced e-mails or any failed messages or reply.

So, I think just identifying what are the repetitive tasks and at the same what are specific problems that we can actually using a tool and not looking at every phase and trying to automate every stop. I think we can’t really automate everything, just – we just need to look at certain problems that we need to fix.

NOAH LEARNER

At my agency, it’s like process management some steps in onboarding processes become miniature black holes where you have to intervene and those are the most annoying things of all for me. You know like, if someone’s given you analytics access or search console access, there are so many miniature little necks to process.

I mean do you guys encounter those with what you’re doing and how do you overcome them? Sorry, Jordan.

JORDAN CHOO

No, not at all. By all means. Guys, go for it.

NOAH LEARNER

Venchito, do you want to tackle that first?

VENCHITO TAMPON

I think Garrett can answer that.

GARRETT FRENCH

Sure. Okay, how much time do you have? No – let’s I mean – let me peel this back a little bit, but basically what – how do we – how do I address. I call them rabbit holes or you know stuff you kind of fall into that’s potentially going to get you away from doing the work that you – that needs to get done.

I find those the most in prospecting, especially links and resource page prospecting. I tried to get, you know, you just sort of know. Over time you know when those things are going to likely to happen and you try to shortcut and just say, “This is gonna have to be good enough.” Or you know this – I won’t know every single URL that – that I could possibly e-mail. I’m gonna, you know, 95% of them.

So, it’s – it’s also kind of giving yourself time limits. I think I would look at I’m not sure specifically what the outcome is that you need to have happen. The other piece is maybe that’s so how I scaled the agency was I just picked the things I didn’t like to do or I like doing the least and then hired people to do that.

And so, if you had – you could, you know, treat this the same way, but it might be that you need somebody that’s a little more like hard-nosed about it or I don’t know what it is that’s – that’s drawing you off tasks, Noah. But whatever that might be, just give it to somebody else. You know, who’s – who maybe already has – or you can talk to him about what the output needs to look like from this task. But then just – then you get to walk away from it.

So, that’d be the other suggestion I would have specifically – specific to that.

NOAH LEARNER

I didn’t mean to take us down a rabbit hole.

GARRETT FRENCH

Thanks a lot. This is – it’s – I could have said so many other brilliant about link building. No, just messing. No, that’s a great question. I think you know – there’s a lot of – a lot of space to where you should be talking about little hacks or ideas for improvement on your – within – within an agency for sure. So, I enjoy talking. Anytime I’m saying words I like it so –

NOAH LEARNER

No! 

JORDAN CHOO

So, with that being said, it sounds like you know, Venchito and Garrett, you – the both of you don’t really have a whole lot of automation in your link building process.

So, I would you know – with this question, should link building even be automated, right? We know that the most effective campaigns require a lot of, you know high, touch personalization.

So, I’d love to hear a little bit more about, you know, why haven’t gone down this rabbit hole of automation?

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah. I think mostly, in terms of automation, I think you just need to strike the balance between finding activities that should be done manually.

For example, outreach, building relationships with publishers, conversing with them. This thing should be done by a V.A. (Virtual Assistant) or a team member. Whereas, link prospecting can be done in this – on scalable basis.

So, identifying activities that should be done manually because it requires human eyes. For example, checking if – checking every URL if they’re relevant. It’s not something that can be automated. So, it requires human eyes to see if it’s actually niche-relevant.

Metrics can – pulling out metrics for a list of URLs can be automated, but you can’t really – you can’t really filter those – those pages in terms of relevance if you’re just using tools. So, you need some human eyes to – to identify it on relevant spaces.

So, I think it’s just striking the balance between identifying activities that should be done manually and those things that should be automated.

GARRETT FRENCH

I would venture that there’s more of a case or opportunity for automation if you’re in-house at a – and you don’t have you know, multiple clients and multiple verticals.

Once concept I’ve been knocking around is sort of you know, think back to Venchito’s list of looked like more drug rehab-related URLs. Our resources, well if you had let’s say 5,000 URLs that where in this specific vertical, you just raked out all their out bounds – you know all the out bounds that were in this whole corpus and then you checked each of those out bounds continually to see if they’ve gone dead or not. And then if they have, then you get a notification and you can figure out what to do next.

So, something like that I could see – now, that’s hypothetical that to my knowledge – that tool doesn’t exist, but like that’s the kind of thing that if you’re in-house you can start kind of with – with some I mean you could do that with a client to – you don’t have to be just an in-house. But you’re gonna have – you have – your – your target doesn’t move as much is what I’m saying topically.

So, when you can really focus in on a topic and a specific kind of tactic you can take more shortcuts and I’ll give another example. This one we’re actually doing for Zip Sprout is we have actually well – we were pre-prospecting, so we found in the neighborhood and I think it’s our previous corpus or URLs was about 3 Million. We’re going up probably closer to 12 (Million) on the next corpus, but this is – these are URLs that we’ve extracted just like the link prospector does through scraping a search engine and but they’re all – then we have a layer of filtering that we apply because what we’re looking for – for Zip Sprout is a very specific particular kind of page to – to support a very specific singular tactic which is finding sponsorship opportunities for local visibility, but that could also potentially be a link opportunity, so if you happen to sponsor that event or organization.

So, there’s a lot of really clear identifiers on these pages and so we’re able to filter with a high level of effectiveness and then we can also check to count how many out bounds are happen to be on the page. And so, we’re able to establish for ourselves you know, very effectively that this URL or this domain, this publisher is pre-qualified for an e-mail.

Now, here’s the other trick about it’s – it’s really – it’s always risky to send an e-mail to somebody you’ve never looked on the website. Okay? Just don’t do it. But the thing is if you’re buying, right? Like you’re – we’re going in we’re trying to find price on a sponsorship opportunity, okay?

If you’re going – if you could walk in a store, but you walk in the wrong store, you know with money, no – you know nobody’s gonna really get upset with you. If you walk in asking for something for free. If they’ll link to this or fix that or whatever it’s a different – it’s a different game, right? It’s a different – so, there’s more leeway in my opinion when you’re buying something you can – you can be a little more free with the e-mail you sent.

Now, I don’t know for sure if we’re gonna be e-mailing without checking sites or anything. Process wise, I don’t think we’ve fully established that, but I do think we’re probably gonna have a layer of human you know, “Hey, let’s look at this site before we send an e-mail,” because what we’re trying to get is a big data set of pricing information for sponsorship opportunities in – in every city of the United States. So, we have to cover a lot of ground and so it is sort of link-related, guys, not – it doesn’t have to be just links though because this is also very much about just pure visibility, local reach that sort of thing. But it can also be about links and that’s why I bring it up, but the point is when you can – when you know – when you’ve got a singular tactic – when you’ve got a some very clear signals from the page, they qualify that page for being worth an e-mail that’s when I think automation is more possible and you know we don’t – we’re not gonna try and build a link from every one of these, we’re just trying to get pricing information so, it really isn’t even link building per se, but the point is it’s about quality. If you could really qualify, you’ve got a singular kind of tactic, that’s where automation is going to be more possible or you know they’re gonna find more process improvements you can make you – if it’s going to be something you do long term. You’re gonna have more justification in building out tools for very you know for these very specific tactics.

So, you know, on one hand don’t do tactics, but on the other hand do tactics if it can make sense and you know – so, anyways ask me more questions though I’m afraid I probably glossed over some important parts of that -

NOAH LEARNER

Can I ask a question? So, in a number of your videos, guys, you talk a lot about hey you know I’m working on something, I’ve got a hypothesis and a lot of these hypotheses I haven’t seen follow-up videos after so –

GARRET FRENCH

Is that a question? I don’t hear a question, I hear an accusation, but keep going.

NOAH LEARNER

Not Venchito, but that’s Garrett. So, the question is –

GARRETT FRENCH

I don’t think anyone watch them –

NOAH LEARNER

So, the question is – about what you just said – so, you have a tactic you figure out a strategy and then you – you can then potentially automate it. So, I’m hearing a potential for building out a process around the creation of an automation, you know, workflow per tactic –

GARRETT FRENCH

Yeah –

NOAH LEARNER

By tactic. And then the second piece of that I guess forget about what I just said but the next question –

GARRETT FRENCH

What did I do to you?

NOAH LEARNER

I had too much coffee.

GARRETT FRENCH

Oh my god.

NOAH LEARNER

This much – I didn’t sleep very well/

GARRETT FRENCH

No, I love it –

NOAH LEARNER

I know –

GARRETT FRENCH

I don’t know. I’ll say lots of this stuff, but follow up with me and I’ll answer your question if I’m able to. But also, I just make things up to as a I go along. Keep going.

NOAH LEARNER

Yeah. So, seriously though, how do you test your hypothesis and can that process be automated or at least have a feedback loops that’s automated?

GARRETT FRENCH

I would never – any hypothesis, anything that I’m testing is I’m gonna be super hands-on about. So, way like it would go, “Hey, maybe I could scale this and then it would be or maybe I could automate some portion of this,” and frankly I mean I’ll just say again like we don’t automate anything really like in the true sense of what you know. But if you – if you – even if you could build a process to something or scale to something that’s why you brought up that hey you helped somebody with their CSS – I mean the way to scale that is if you could search source code on –

NOAH LEARNER

Yeah –

GARRETT FRENCH

You know whatever top 1,000 sites and then start sending some e-mails. That’s – that – that’s I wouldn’t say automatable, but certainly you could build process around it and the look for portions of process that you could automate or you know move from one place to the other automatically.

But anyhow, I would – I would – I would venture and I’m guessing Venchito would back me up on this. But it’s like if you’ve got a new idea that’s the last thing you want to look. You – you don’t want to establish a process yet. You want to see what plays out. Who – how people respond, what – what is the play like? You know what is – how do you need to shift it up – what – it’s very tactile at that point and I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t want to automate   it. I’ll give an example, but I’m talking long enough and so I’m gonna let Venchito talk about this too.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah. I think if – what Garrett is trying to say it’s more of a – before you actually try to automate a specific a tactic, you’ve got to understand what specific opportunities are already in place –

GARRETT FRENCH

Yep –

VENCHITO TAMPON

Meaning you want to make sure that if you are – if you will be testing, experimenting that, this can actually be a scaleleable tactic later on. So, yeah, I think that’s – that’s – that’s how things work.

JORDAN CHOO

Well, alright guys let’s go to the next question. So, how you approach automation when it comes to link building? I think we already –

GARRETT FRENCH

I was supposed to wait to talk about what we’re doing with this route, so you know we can in – we can end the webinar early. Just kidding. I’m just kidding.

JORDAN CHOO

So – so let’s actually talk about what have the both of you been able to successfully automate? I know we’ve kind of touched upon it throughout our – our conversation so far, but I’d love to hear a little bit more.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah, can I go first?

JORDAN CHOO

Yeah, by all means.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah, I think I’m going with the prospecting side and if you’re doing broken link building, resource page building you’ve got to – if you’re doing it on a scale and – so you have to use Citation Labs link prospecting to even though – yes – if you’re trying to collect a lot of link prospects for a specific industry and very specific or phrase for – for a very specific  audience going – really prospecting in terms of outreach we use variety of e-mail verification tools though we try to into a manual route to really hire some virtual – some virtual assistant you get contacts.

We – we don’t want to automate a hunted finding. We want to make sure that those e-mails are – I mean there’s – there’s someone who can really identify if this e-mail address is worth pitching to. So, I think – there’s link press. I would go with successful automation I would go with the link prospecting inside.

JORDAN CHOO

Interesting. So, quick question. As a follow up to e-mail verification, are you running a domain through something like hundred – and then bulk exporting the e-mails and then checking each one individually for each and every single domain? Or is it literally here’s a domain to someone go and find the most appropriate person?

VENCHITO TAMPON

I think there are two things. Number one, we just make it – we just want to make sure that these e-mail addresses are valid, meaning they’re still functioning. I mean if you will send an e-mail to this specific e-mail address we can get or we could probably get a response, not a fail message, not a bounce back.

I mean – and the second thing is we meet – we hire some virtual assistance because there are like e-mail addresses like info@domain.mail.com that will just be sprouted if you are tying to automate contact finding. And we need someone who can identify it’s not info@domain.com that we should be pitching but rather name@domain.com that’s already posted in the resource page.

So, those kinds of things will require some – some human touch.

JORDAN CHOO

Very cool.

NOAH LEARNER

Though when you’re using a tool like BrightVerify and you can quickly filter through a whole contact list and it’ll say like do you want to get rid of all these –

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah, yeah –

NOAH LEARNER

What’s your take on that? Do you just dump all the Gmail’s and Yahoo’s? Or how do you filter through?

VENCHITO TAMPON

I think –

NOAH LEARNER

Because I found it’s like 25% in my contacts. It seems like –

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah, I think there are – there’s already some – there – let’s say if you are trying to check the validity of let’s say a hundred (100) of your e-mail addresses, there’s already a percentage rate. Let’s see 5 or 10% are – are – are not valid and so from that 90% remaining you just need someone to look at from – from a human touch or human eyes.

NOAH LEARNER

So, valid to you is – is just dead versus what the tools perceive is like ghost domains or whatever?

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah, after the automation tool which is the e-mail verification – it should be – it should be leading to another manual filtering.

NOAH LEARNER

Got it. Okay.

JORDAN CHOO

Interesting. How about yourself, Garrett?

GARRETT FRENCH

Well, I’m trying to you know be as like related to automation as possible, but I think one – you know if we talk about what processes do we kind of do automatically, they’re not automated in the true sense, but follow-ups are huge you know follow up e-mails are very – we always do them and we have a you know set cadence for those I’m – I’m not – I don’t know exactly what is this probably like it varies and – and how many we do can vary from vertical to vertical or give and send to give and send, but definitely follow ups is one in a sequence of activities we do just – you can’t relay on a single e-mail to get someone to take action. It can sometimes take two to three maybe more.

So, that – that I would say is – is in that what you’re talking – it’s audit – we do it automatically, but it’s not – it’s not automated, but and then I mean I think a little bit on the – I guess it’s not again it’s not really automated, but link checking because with – with links and resource and – and blog placements and really any of the methods of link building.

It’s hard to – it can be hard to find the links you’ve earned sometimes and so we’ve got a lot of processes around that – that we do you know every month and are kind of automatic I guess to an extent so we’re looking large bodies of large groups of pages that – that could potentially be a link that we’ve earned and then we check and see if  there’s actually a link on there and then we – then of course I have to verify against where we’ve sent e-mails to make sure that this  was really ours and so maybe a little bit on the link checking side, but you know I think my takeaway from this is that there’s still a lot of opportunity for tools for link building agencies. There’s a lot of – you know I think some potential for automation and some of these – some of these key areas that you know if you make tools you should – you should be definitely paying attention to this, but anyhow that I saw – so follow up and then kind of link checking as a – as a job that we do.

I would say is – is definitely you know we’re its automatic and that we have to do it every week and then we have some key super repeatable kinds of things we do or check-in HREFs and I don’t think we have the – any like – that we’re actually pulling the API at all, that’d be a really good idea for – for link reports and everything, but I’ll – I’ll check in with the team on that one. But – but yeah, I think there’s definitely some automation opportunities there in the link checking side and the also again in the follow up side, just remembering to follow up and having that kind of sequence all mapped out already.

JORDAN CHOO

Cool. And have any of you failed miserably at automating something?

VENCHITO TAMPON

Sure. There’s a lot of things in –

JORDAN CHOO

Please by all means share.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah. Which we tried automating initial pitches to – to link prospects so instead of no – no there though we really understand that there are that we need to actually send templated. There are kind of like – there are variables in – that we need to actually personalize depending on the niche, depending on the client that you’re working with, but we have tried to you know automate sending initial pitches to a hundred or even a thousand e-mail addresses and it fails. It failed given the response rate and the conversion rate is very low so I think that was just a – an experiment that is bound to fail in the first place so -

JORDAN CHOO

Interesting. Why – why do you think it failed?

VENCHITO TAMPON

I think – I think that the idea of there’s no sense of personal touch – I mean personalization is still – still key, though you can create templates – e-mail templates for specific list of link prospects, you still have to get some variables just to insert relevance from a receiver  - from a sender to receiver point of  view. So, I think the personal – personalization still matters especially local and which the niche initiative needs game play.

JORDAN CHOO

Garrett, I see you’re nodding your head.

GARRETT FRENCH

Oh yeah. Just the smaller the pool of opportunities the more personalized you need to be. I just told a B2B (Business to Business) Company today we wouldn’t be a strong fit and they need to look for a PR (Public Relations) Agency ‘cause they’re in a space that you know, only they’ve heard about – you know not really there – it’s a – it’s a – it’s a – it’s a – but they only have one main competitor and so it’s – it is a small niche and you know I can run, I can tell you who the – who links to the competitor, but so can they.

You just go to you know any tool and the real – at that – at that level it should be more of a kind of a PR play and it’s a pure relationship play and every e-mail has to really provide and – and have a very clear vision of value to the recipient and in order to do that effectively, you really need to understand that specific space and that specific vertical.

So – so yeah, I think the smaller that – that – that – what Venchito was saying really resonate with me because the smaller the niche the more care that really has to be taken with you know – local is a perfect example. I mean how many local blogs do you have; you know? There’s – there’s – there usually I call you know I say it’s an inch deep in a mile wide, but there’s not a ton of blog opportunity in any given city so you can burn through it real fast and you – you – you know conversion rate is key there so – so yeah I definitely agree that kind of templated pitches especially in small – small verticals is a – is a recipe for disaster.

But as far as failing – failures on – on – on – on our part for automation, one – this was a failure, a mismatch between tactic and I guess I don’t know we used a branded e-mail address – we used a client e-mail address for link requesting and for the first and last time you know it was what I would call – links and resource page. Link requesting was in the – it was in the – the tech space which is in – in hindsight, you know this was many years ago, but in hindsight it was very foolish choice but just because  the – the there aren’t that many links and resource pages that are pure tech and then there – there’s a you know you go in the computer side but I mean the – the computer Science side like edu (.edu), but it was – it wasn’t quite a fit there and so, we – we e-mail people with their permission from their e-mail address until their lawyer called us and said you are ceased and desist right now and we sure did.

But it was – it was definitely scary and definitely an important lesson where I would say, but the mismatch was we were doing link requests with a – with the corporate e-mail and we weren’t doing them super personalized either you know – it was – we were – we were young. I say we but it was me, he wasn’t we. I know this was all on me but, but anyways that was a – that was definitely a miserable failure and – and it was a very anxiety inducing failure as well to you know have to be having several calls with – with – with the in-house counsel was – was definitely not you know it was hard, it was tough time and so, that’s – that’s where like if you’re doing branded stuff, be super careful and be super even more careful than you normally are in terms of prospecting and qualifying and all that sort of thing.

I – this is another one. This kind of another mismatch and you kind of learn this along the way. This isn’t necessarily automation, but we – I’ve done a lot of prospecting of links and resource pages that were maintained by realtors? Or I assume for maintained? We had like 20,000 we want to send e-mails to. We ended up getting, I think three or four links out of the whole mess of it. After sending 20,000 e-mails.

JORDAN CHOO

Wow.

GARRETT FRENCH

And right, and – and the problem is that they don’t care about their links and resource pages nor do they care about adding our resources to them. So, it was a – the lesson was the – the publisher type is – doesn’t care about updating their like – if the link is broken that might have been a play, but we didn’t even try that.

So, it was just a – a really – it was an enormous resource waste as what it was and – but I would – that’s one of my other kind of memorable failures where I just you know kind of reminding myself like I just don’t like realtors. I’m just kidding.  I’m just like I – I just like can’t expect just because somebody’s got a link and resource page that they actually care about it. That they actually maintain it or – or update it and so that’s another kind of assumption that you learn along the way is not everybody with a links and resource page is actually a prospect at al.

So, we actually – how we solved this a little bit is – is we just search for links and resource pages. We set in – you do this in link prospector. You can do it directly in Google, but you can set to look for just pages from the past year. And what it’ll show you is pages that have been updated in the last year as well.

Now, it could have been a template update, it could have been having nothing to do with the links on the page, but you’re more likely to get a actively curated links and resource page that way it’s just by looking for pages that have been – they’ll just set the times – the timestamp in Google to past year.

JORDAN CHOO

Very cool –

GARRETT FRENCH

One little workaround for that but –

JORDAN CHOOS

And – and now that we’re coming to the top of the hour, last question here. What’s the future of link building? Both of you. The million dollar question.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah.

GARRETT FRENCH

Go ahead, Venchito. 

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah, I think I can –

GARRETT FRENCH

I don’t know what to say. I got a lot – I’m gonna have to hear you say it first.

VENCHITO TAMPON

I think there are already a lot of round up boost about that. There’s a lot of SEO polls the future of link building. I think links are still valuable and the reason behind is that visitors visit pages through these links and they think that’s – that’s a very important point that links will never be less valuable in terms of not just ranking but all of the traffic, assisted conversions, all of these things.

But in terms of the – the way – the way agencies seek companies to execute link building, I think there will be – there is a need to specialize and not just choose a tactic from a list of strategies that had already been posted somewhere.

Agencies and I think companies need to learn on how to identify available link opportunities on their – in their specific industry. And not create, but try to understand why are these link linkers are linking the specific competitor or by a specific website by understanding the relationship between pages and pages.

I think there is an opportunity to – to discovering a specific tactic for that specific niche and not just strategy and tactics. I there are a lot of need for tools – Zip Sprout I mean I just recently tested the Zip Sprout sponsorship finder and we’re trying to add another service in our agency.

GARRETT FRENCH

Thank you, Venchito.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Yeah and I think that’s – that’s a very good tool in really automating that’s – the prospecting because we’ve done local sponsorship campaigns in the past and it’s not been working for us on a scale – on a scalable basis given we – there are a lot of time that we have to consume in prospecting. Just the idea that there a lot of problems, may not be problems, but I think there are a lot of need for some tools to be created in the future. But I think there’s a lot, I mean there are – there are outreach tools like BuzzStream are – are – are updating their features from time to time just to serve specific task or specific activity and making sure that there is a smooth process along the way.

So, I think there’s a lot of things in terms of strategy engines.

NOAH LEARNER

Can I summarize what I’ve heard?

VENCHITO TAMPON

Sure.

NOAH LEARNER

So, I’m hearing that automation like the way that I practice it where I’m pushing lots of data around between web hooks and using automation tool kits – it’s not really necessarily gonna happen anytime soon with great effect.

But what I’m hearing is that it’s really the – the processes. It’s about thinking, about how can I scale whatever I’m doing in a manageable efficient process that’s profitable so that as Garrett reminded me why he loves SEO – we can stack cash. It’s really in the process that’s efficient. What’s that?

GARRETT FRENCH

I didn’t know you’re gonna reveal my secret identity as Eugene Crab like – thanks. Thanks, man.

Yeah – yeah, but it is about making money for sure. But I think the – the you know if you’re trying to run a profitable agency, if you’re not focused on that, at least partly on that then you’re not gonna have a sustainable operation.

But – but yeah, I think from a future perspective what I’m always looking for is how – how important does the link remain for Google. And I – you know I rely on understanding that from my peers in the industry, just what are – what are folks saying, you know how impactful do links seem to remain.

And so from what I hear, links are going to likely remain a key element for ranking, decision-making for the algorithm, for the foreseeable future. And then you know, the other piece of that is – is really on a I guess a niche by niche basis as – as I think Venchito does in his – in his agency. Looking at how do we find sites that will send referral traffic – that are potential sort.

So, you’re really it is – it’s – it’s about looking, asking and thinking deeper than just the – the SERPs, but hey what’s really happening? What – what is this audience like? How can we connect with them in a meaningful way? And – and maybe get some customers or visits from – from – from those – from that visibility that we’re – we’ve worked so hatrd to earn, you know.

You’ve – it’s – it’s so – it’s so expensive all the time spent, you know, prospecting, qualifying, contact finding, template writing, template personalization, and it’s like well what else can we get if that link happens. How – how can we make that link as valuable as possible.

I think that is where some of the future could be as well, but I just made that up so it might not but, you know that’s that went from – from thinking about it from – from what I know of in Venchito does. I think there’s – there’s a lot more the remains in that particular space for – for growing the – the potential value of link building.

JORDAN CHOO

Very interesting, very interesting. So, with that all being said – Venchito, Garrett, thank you guys so much for hopping on the hangout. I know both know and I appreciate it. Same with everyone listening.

In terms of next steps, guys, we do have Chase Granberry coming on – on our next hangout which is Friday, May 31st from 02:00 PM to 03:00 PM MST. We’ll be talking about automating log file collection and analysis.

I’ve seen the product that’s he’s working on. It’s super cool. If you’re into analyzing log files or technical SEO, highly recommend you check it out.

And you know have – have a great weekend everyone. Take care.

GARRETT FRENCH

Thanks everybody.

NOAH LEARNER

Thanks. This was a real blast, Garrett and Venchito. I’m so glad we got to spend an hour together.

GARRETT FRENCH

Thank you, guys.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Thank you very much.

NOAH LEARNER

Have a fantastic weekend.

GARRETT FRENCH

You too.

NOAH LEARNER

Ciao! (Bye!)

GARRETT FRENCH

Bye, guys.

JORDAN CHOO

Take care.

VENCHITO TAMPON

Alright.