Flip The Switch Episode 61: Devin Kostrzewski

John Saunders
By John Saunders

PAT: Today on Flip the Switch. We dive deep into the world of SEO link building with Devin Kostrzewski. Founder and CEO of authority builders. We talk about what link building is, the role it plays, how its progressed over the last 10 plus years, and how you can capitalize on it as a business owner. If you’re trying to get the most out of your organic footprint online, this is the episode for you.

Let’s get into it.

00:55 AUSTIN: Welcome to Flip the Switch presented by Power Digital Marketing. This is episode number 61.

01:01 PAT: 61. Our Josh Beckett episode.

01:04 AUSTIN: Oh, I don’t know how I feel about that. For anybody who doesn’t know who that is, that is the Marlins and Red Sox pitcher. He won a world series with the Marlins and did he win one with the Red Sox?

01:14 PAT: Yeah. He won one in ’07. He was a world series MVP in 2003.

01:18 AUSTIN: That was impressive when they randomly… Miami won the world series.

01:21 PAT: One of the worst chin beards I’ve ever see in sports too. Guy’s annoying.

At any rate, though. That’s the episode we have for you today.

The interview is much better than this intro though.

01:29 AUSTIN: Absolutely. That’s typically how it goes. We actually have a really, really, really fascinating interview for you guys today. A good friend of ours and a partner of the agency. A guy by the name of DEVIN: He runs authority builders which is a backlink broker, and an outreach partner. That acquires basically the ability… And networks with individuals to create visibility online through backlinks. And that’s what his business is.

He talks us through pretty much how it functions. How the landscape has changed on Google. And what he has to do now versus in 2011. To be really, really succinct with Google.

And then we just chatted a lot about the future. About the future of Google. The algorithm, backlinks and what it means for us as SEOs to really keep on the forefront of all that.

So, if you’re interested in in some ever-changing landscape with Google, you’re really gonna like this one.02:21 PAT: Let’s get right into the interview.

02:25 AUSTIN: With us today, we have Devin Kostrewski. He is the founder and CEO of authority builders. A backlink broker, if you will. That is the name of the company or the business that he provides. I’ll let him explain a little bit about what that is. But Devin, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

02:42 DEVIN: Thanks for having me. First podcast. This is pretty cool.

02:45 AUSTIN: Devin has hooked us up with a few guests now to actually to come on our show. Alex Sixmanus and then…

02:53 PAT: The Opt-Out guys

02:54 AUSTIN: The Opt-Out guys. Thank you very much.

02:55 DEVIN: They just got back from Hong Kong yesterday

02:56 PAT: I saw that, yeah. I follow them on like Instagram and stuff now.

02:59 AUSTIN: Those guys are killing it.

03:01 PAT: They have fully opted out.

03:01 DEVIN: The Ritz Carlton, like 180th floor outdoor bar they were at. Looked pretty cool.

03:09 AUSTIN: I would say so. Just explaining that sounds awesome. But we brought Devin in today. He is actually a partner of ours here at Power Digital. He helps out the PR outreach team, and also the SEO team get really high-quality backlinks for our clients. That is an SEO ranking factor. It’s the number one SEO ranking factor.

And it is pretty difficult to acquire quality backlinks. And the landscape of how you do that has really changed. So, I think we kind of want to open up with some background on your business and kind of the service that you provide.

03:36 DEVIN: Sure. Absolutely. So “broker” is kind of a good word for it because I’m essentially a middleman between publishers, editors, writers, contributors who are owning websites and looking to connect with other companies. When you write about technology you don’t link to apple every single time. And so often there are sites looking to monetize content with sponsored posts, and they want to have brands that fit. I’m a connection between an agency–so like Power Digital–you have so many clients, and they funnel down to me, and funnel out to publishers, contributors, ad representatives all over the internet.

So, if you can imagine just anyone who needs to be found online which is everyone needs an SEO footprint, backlinks incoming, authority to their website.

04:30 PAT: Very cool. So, kind of talk to us a little bit about how you got started in that. Because you’ve been working in link building and backlinks and things like that and SEO in general for a good amount of time, right? Maybe a little bit of background would kind of help paint that picture.

04:41 DEVIN: Totally. So, I went to… I’m from Buffalo, New York. And then I went to…

04:45 PAT: Go Bills.

04:47 DEVIN: Yeah. I’m wearing a Bills hat right now obviously.

04:48 AUSTIN: He is by far the biggest Bills fan I know on the west coast. I’m sure they get pretty nuts back east, but I just have to clarify you are the biggest, biggest Buffalo fan that I know.

04:57 DEVIN: Wear that flag with pride. Sabres are hot too right now.

05:00 AUSTIN: Yes, they are.

05:01 DEVIN: But so anyways, I went to college in St. Louis, Missouri. At St. Louis university. And during my last semester of college, I met Nate who was a podcast guest a few weeks ago? Months ago?

He had just started a backlink company that was in St. Louis. I was the first intern of the business. Maybe first or second.

They then relocated to La Jolla. I had never been to San Diego. And talked my way into “let me come. Ten bucks an hour or whatever.” like I got nothing going on in St. Louis in January where it’s zero degrees. Maybe I could try my hand in southern California. Work for you guys. Figure it out.

They actually like fired me a couple times, because they like lost some clients. Couldn’t afford even just an intern. But by the time I moved out here they needed 40 hours a week from somebody.

So, I learned it all from that business and those guys. That company was called spread effect. It’s as far as I know still in the link building space. Working with clients.

I met Grayson, Power Digital CEO, years ago. Brought him on as a partner there and grew the relationship over the years. Got going myself a couple of years ago. It’s interesting–backlinking is there’s no like long-term contracts and stuff. So, it’s kind of a feast or famine type of business, where you maybe are working with an agency, but if your opportunities for links aren’t quality or represent the needs of your clients, maybe I’m working with great business websites, but you guys are working with high-end fashion clients. If it’s not a match then I can’t provide you any value.

06:38 PAT: Right exactly. You can’t really like service the demand.

06:41 DEVIN: For sure. And so, since 2012, when I moved out here, I’ve been just kind of growing my rolodex of digital marketers who need help with backlink building. And publishers who are looking to involve brands in their content. It’s been a long road of beating people or whatever, but I think it’s kind of sharpened my skills as far as connecting brands, publishers, everything. Every company that comes up, the first thing I think of is “what are all the context we can place them in.”

And so, like a company like Power Digital. You don’t have to be put on marketing blogs or business blogs. You could have an application on a fashion blog, because you represent fashion clients. Something like that.

It’s just building this spider web as big as you can of people you know and people who need help

07:28 AUSTIN: Yeah, and the joke that we have with Devin is that he’s the mayor of San Diego. Because not only online, but in real life, Devin knows just about everybody in San Diego. He’s always connecting people–that’s how we’ve gotten these guests. So, it is something… I like that side of it, because it is the application of humanity and relationships but on the internet. And you can actually turn that into a business, which is what Devin has done. And provides now service based on his ability to basically network.

07:52 DEVIN: I owe it almost entirely to living here in San Diego. Because there’s such a online marketing community and presence, that you can meet with someone who maybe doesn’t need or know anything about what I do. But they know like three people who run e-commerce websites that could use some help on driving traffic to new keywords. Or launching new products. So, the spiderweb is crazy.

I guess a good example is a project manager at an agency I did work for four years ago recently introduced me to a woman, who now connected me to a new client of mine who’s in Tel-Aviv. And they do like paintings or portraits out of pictures. So, you can send them that picture of your dog, and they’ll turn into like a hand-painted oil painting for you. In like a month or something like that.

So just doing some good work for someone four years ago randomly came to a new client in the last seven days.

08:51 PAT: Like seven degrees of separation type of thing. It’s like Kevin Bacon in Hollywood.

08:53 DEVIN: Yeah, it happens quickly for sure.

08:55 AUSTIN: I was gonna say, we might need to acquire service to get a picture of us up in here. What do you guys think?

09:00 PAT: I kind of like that idea a lot.

09:02 AUSTIN: Yeah. Oh, absolutely.

09:04 DEVIN: Well I literally know the guy now. So…

09:05 PAT: Perfect. Yeah. We know a guy…

09:06 AUSTIN: Hey finally. Yeah, I’m curious about kind of the history of backlinks. And kind of that that that changing landscape. In SEO myself, I’ve dealt with this over the past years of trying to keep up with what Google’s always doing. We know things used to be a lot different for backlinks. It honestly used to be a lot easier in some ways, because duplicate content really wasn’t a thing. And Google wasn’t aware of sites basically duplicating themselves.

But I’m curious from your mouth on how you felt about the past. And what was maybe a challenge then that isn’t a challenge now. And then vice versa.

09:41 DEVIN: For sure. So, I started in this industry in 2011. So, I was not around during sort of the origins of link building, where… Really old strategies a very sort of black hat or marginal quality…

09:56 PAT: Yeah. Used to be kind of sketchy, right?

09:57 DEVIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You write one article. We’ll use your website and your business as an example. So, Power Digital wants to rank for “best digital marketing agency” or “best SEO company,” “best web developers.” any sort of keywords that will make you money.

In the early 2000s, you could write one blog post… One of you guys could write it. It could be 500 words, 5,000 words and you ship it overseas, and for like $1 a website someone will post it on 500 websites in 24 hours.

And all of a sudden this article is–to the Google algorithm–is like wildfire and it’s like “wow. We gotta rank… Like all signals in this blog post means Power Digital is the best agency ever.” because all of a sudden, everyone’s talking about them. And then you were number one for all these keywords a few days later.

so, the evolution of the algorithm is obviously quality over quantity. And I learned a lot about that in my early years. Because we had a lot of clients needing a bigger footprint, but needing all original articles. A huge part of the link building business is content creation. Because if you place a hundred backlinks a month, you need a hundred original ideas, original publishers that you haven’t used before. They have to hold their own weight as far as quality is concerned.

So now getting a link from abx.org which is a website nobody knows, reads or has ever heard of it’s maybe not indexed. But it used to have value. And now it doesn’t. So, it’s a trend towards quality, but a lot of quality.

And because links are so important, it’ll like never die. Which is a crazy part about it. There’s a lot of SEO stuff that’s “well we can’t use this strategy anymore. And we don’t do this anymore.”

Backlinking you need different strategies within backlinking, but you can never not do it. It’s like never going away.

11:55 AUSTIN: I’ve always been, I guess, surprised that Google hasn’t come up with a better way… At least a different number one ranking factor. We talk a lot about user experience and how that’s become a really big ranking factor for Google. And they want people to have a great experience on a website. Seems pretty obvious. But they’ve been able to develop their algorithm to understand that more in terms of UI, UX and how long people stay on a site. What they do on that site.

But it still is that backlinks hold that value so high, because Google needs something else in these signals from all over the internet to tell them what’s good or not. And they really value that. And you still have the ability and I think a lot of people associate that with manipulation.

But there’s really two ways to do that. There’s kind of this black hat SEO which is very bad and can be something that violates Google guidelines. But there’s also the white hat SEO and that’s kind of more of the realm… But I’m curious, could you explain kind of the difference between maybe a black hat and a white hat SEO link?

12:51 DEVIN: For sure, for sure. Every time there’s a big penalty or Google update or people are getting in trouble for black hat practices, that’s good for me and my business. Because we don’t really dabble in that. And now there’s people who are like “I have to spend double on link building now, because I have to make up for all of these marginal outreach tactics that my website has… It’s like why we got penalized.”

Examples could be forum links or byline links where you’re hiring someone for few dollars an hour to just write comments on thousands of articles to link to some page. That’s not really an issue anymore, because they’ve gotten around that.

Using low quality websites is another part of it. If you’re just spamming crummy blogs and putting up articles you could have… So, you could build a ton of links to “best digital marketing agency in the world” to powerdigitalmarketing.com and eventually that’ll catch up with you. That’s very unnatural. There isn’t hundreds of thousands of bloggers in the wild who are gonna write articles about digital marketing and happen to pick you and pick this keyword in this exact match phrase. So, you can incur a penalty by being too aggressive. You need to get on good websites. If you’re on Forbes or techcrunch.com, that’s amazing. Those are websites that kind of run the internet. So those links are really important and lower ones or not. And that description of quality is kind of abstract, but there are so many third-party SEO tools that do the work for you. So, my main use cases are with moz.com you have a great like API and service. Semrush.com. They do a lot with organic rankings and keyword tracking. And then majestic com. Where we can evaluate the links that the publishers are getting.

So now like you look at TechCrunch. Who’s linking to them? And the answer for TechCrunch is everybody.

But there’s these lower sites that maybe only have a few hundred visitors a month. If their backlink profile is garbage, then why do you want to link from them. And so, it’s such an evaluation. And sort of the service that I’m providing is the evaluation of the blogosphere. The world of content.

It’s a tough one. But anyone can spend or hire someone to email tons of editors and bloggers and try and get backlink opportunities.

I’ve already done that. I have the network and we can evaluate these blogs based on what SEO practices are most important to you. So, if I work with a few agencies, they all have different QA processes–quality assurance. Maybe an agency like Power Digital is more focused on the traffic trends in SEM rush. And maybe another agency is we just need domain authority 40 and above, and I don’t care about anything else. Just do it.

15:45 PAT: Yeah, it just depends on what your goals are as the company that’s soliciting those services. So, in the realm of SEO, what level of importance do backlinks have then? Because we hear about a lot of different things that you do for SEO. You have on page. You have like content optimizations. You have keyword mapping.

You have a lot of like technical SEO, like changing the architecture of the website to make sure it adheres to SEO best practices. Like, if that’s one piece of the pie, how big of a role do backlinks play?

16:15 DEVIN: Super good question. My analogy when I speak with people is the SEO puzzle has so many pieces, but one of the central most important ones is the link building. And when you talk about on-site stuff, meta descriptions, coding like all that jazz, it can really confuse people. Or just seem really complicated. Which it definitely is.

But the simple… Link building is kind of like word-of-mouth. It’s like what coffee shop did Austin recommend and which brand of sneakers is referred to you?

And so, link building is kind of like that. It’s how can you have people talking about you. At the end of the day, Google’s still a popularity contest. The best web sites, that have the most traffic, that have the best experience are the ones that they want to rank highly.

17:02 PAT: It’s the best reflection of them as a search engine.

17:05 DEVIN: Mm-hmm. And then a great example–like Austin said–they want you to design a great website. And if you do that people will link to you. And so, I am sort of a horsepower product, where the flame is burning, your fire, your website is great and then how can we put the lighter fluid on top of it? Have it burn brighter. Seen by more people. More traffic, leads, conversions. Money.

17:27 PAT: That’s a good analogy. Money.

17:28 AUSTIN: Make more money. And I mean just thinking about what an internal link is and–or a link excuse me–and what anchor text is. You’re reading an article and then you see it’s blue highlighted and maybe you’re hovering over it. And it’s shiny, and you click on it, and it goes to another page.

That’s a backlink. Whether that’s to a page inside your website, or to someone else’s website. It is a backlink that’s linking to another resource that’s providing more information about whatever you’re reading. So, think about that from Google’s perspective where their algorithm–the whole purpose of it is to align searchers with the most information on the subject as possible. So, something like a backlink is considered to be extremely valuable because the user–me and you who search–is now getting more information on the subject that they searched, because of this backlink. So that’s why it’s really so valuable from an SEO perspective. Because Google knows… Google’s algorithm wants to know I should say… Who’s the most authoritative on a subject. And a backlink can be a big signal for that.

18:25 DEVIN: Exactly. If you go to sports like ESPN is gonna rank. Sports illustrated is gonna rank. There are a lot of great sports bloggers that don’t have that power, but if they give a backlink, it’s a real website, it’s a real blog that someone is running and like putting their life into. And who they decide to use as references and resources… It’s really important to them. And then when they’re creating this great content, it’s important to Google too.

18:51 AUSTIN: Yeah. And I think that your analogy about throwing lighter fluid on the fire is really important too. If you’re listening to this and being like “well, I just need to get as many backlinks as possible. This is great. I’ll just start getting backlinks.”

Seriously not how it works. Google is too smart at this point and out maybe even more around 2011-2013 where you could just do that right? And you’d start just firing up. And you’d be amazing.

But like we just talked about. ESPN, Sports Illustrated, these other websites… So much authority, because of time and actual content. And actual interaction with the website which has allowed them to have a baseline ranking. And then backlinks is helping them achieve a higher ranking, right? So, it’s more so reaching that premium position. And not just trying to be visible.

You need to create visibility through having an awesome website, and getting traffic to your site, and providing a great service. These things that are very normal, right for a good business to do. Backlinks just gets you to another level. So just to clarify there and make sure you’re not just saying “I need to start getting as many backlinks as possible.” it’s more so that you can get to a point where backlinks can really help your business. Think of it as an investment in your business to help you grow.

19:54 PAT: I think it’s interesting too, because it goes along with a couple other trends that we’ve seen in digital marketing. It’s almost like a testimonial of sorts, right? It’s almost like another website saying “hey, I trust x website,” right? By deciding to link to them.

You see that all across the web. Like some of the best performing ads that we can use for like nurturing and things on even like paid social or Google are like testimonial based. Because it’s more important that other people are talking about how good your business is. As opposed to you trying to promote how good your business is.

So, it’s like if that resonates with consumers at like the ad level and Google is trying to make the best consumer experience possible of course they’re going to replicate that on the technical side. Because that’s how people are predisposed to trusting businesses. And trusting companies.

20:38 DEVIN: Exactly.

20:39 PAT: It’s really interesting to kind of hear how that all sort of plays together. One question that I do have for you. So, you talked about it a little bit–out of like all of the companies that you’ve worked with, what typically are the KPIs that they care about the most when they’re measuring the success or the effectiveness of their SEO and link building?

20:55 DEVIN: For sure. Super good question. And leads me to a point like wanted to make. So, link building as a product is very tangible, as far as internet marketing services go. There are many people out there who can sell digital marketing services, whether it’s a coder or an SEO guy or whatever. And they sign you up on a retainer. And six months later don’t have much to show for it. And can just say we tried our best and if you didn’t like what we did go somewhere else. We have all your money, and we didn’t really do anything, but we swear that we tried.

So, it’s really easy to kind of be a shyster in digital marketing. But for link building–if an agency is like “I have three clients. I need three links. They need to be on websites of this authority.” it’s very defined in black and white.

And so, execution is like the number one thing. Is getting things done. And then when I can report something, it would be like saying “click on this blog post on espn.com. Scroll to the third paragraph, and click on the word athletic shoes and it goes to Nike.com.” Nike, that’s a backlink that I earned you etc., etc.

So, it’s very physical for being just kind of like some online thing. So, people care about execution, because you need to have backlinks coming in at all times. And then traffic and keyword rankings. I mean if we’re getting you… If we got you on a site like ESPN, a lot of people are gonna come to your blog just through that article. But also, as we build your backlink footprint surrounding certain pages and keywords, you just see the ranking go up. As far as “well last month for shoes I was 24th. And now I’m 17th. And if I keep this going maybe I can get on page one. Maybe I get in the top five. Maybe get in top of three.”

And that way you’re building the authority for your own website so that even when you stop doing it, you don’t vanish. But if you only do PPC as soon as you as soon as you take your credit card out of Google’s hand you vanish. It’s like you’re not there.

So, it’s kind of a long con for websites where they want to make their web property as valuable as possible. And have their content rank with authority.

The shortcut is PPC. And maybe the spend with each kind of equals out in the end. It’s just two sides–paid search versus organic search. But it’s a difference of opinion.

And that’s a way that I can use that as a tactic for sales. Is like “do you want to pay for every click, for every visitor, and as soon as you decide and you don’t want to, you’re a ghost?”

Or do you really want to make your domain more valuable? Maybe you’re gonna sell it someday and all of a sudden you have this great SEO footprint. You just doubled the value of your website. Or you start ranking for new things.

Or if you’re launching a new product, a new industry–if we talk about things like cryptocurrency or CBD and like all these like new industries there’s a limited amount of information that has authority on the web. And so, if you’re a new company in that space, you go to a company like Power Digital and write great content. You write a 10,000 word expose about how to make CBD. I’m making this up now.

And then we get you links on great health medical websites. And now all of a sudden when someone searches “does CBD come up on a drug test?” your guide to that product is number one. And you’re gonna start getting thousands of hits for the next ten years off of that.

So, it’s kind of a long-con.

24:32 PAT: Yeah, it’s a long-term investment. And it just… I think speaking to that point too, it depends on where your business is at. What your goals are, right? So, if you’re a company that’s trying to drive visitation now, and you have revenue goals and quotas that you need to hit for this year in the next two months. And your thinking if you have to invest in one or the other.

While the right answer is that you should be doing both and building that footprint, that might be a chance for you to lean into your direct response channels in the interim so you can hit that goal, hit that quota. And then have enough to invest in your website in the long term.

But there’s no doubt–and what we’ve seen with our clients too–there’s no doubt that organic search really is the healthiest way for the best traffic to come to your website in the long term. Because you’re driving informational and you’re driving a lot of first-time usership. Which is kind of just that top of the funnel tactic.

And then from the paid search side you can complement that with like nurturing those users. Or even trying to gain them back through your branded search efforts. So that definitely all makes sense.

And I think that something that we’ve run into or something that we’ve talked about before with like clients or whatever it might be is, they’re like “but this website doesn’t get a ton of like monthly visitors.” yeah, but their domain authority’s like a 65. So regardless of how many visitors the website gets, you also have to think like within that blog how many visitors were really ever going to be clicking through? It’s not so much about the traffic driving as it is the value building.
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25:53 DEVIN: Right, right. Another like KPI could be–I do PPC for digital marketing agency, so when people are searching Power Digital’s right there, because you guys pay to be there. How can we build a link building profile, where now as soon as Power Digital is on page one–I can then turn the PPC spend off, because I don’t need to pay per click to be on page one? I’ve earned the right to be there in Google’s database. And now I can focus on another keyword or another page or whatever like that. So that’s a good example maybe of a goal that someone could hit where then they can save money by releasing their PPC spend. Or sending it somewhere else.

26:30 AUSTIN: Absolutely. Yeah, I think we’re curious about kind of what you think’s gonna happen kind of in the coming years. I’d love to hear your thoughts on where you think Google’s going, and kind of where you expect your business to go. If you can even think beyond a month or two, because we know it’s always changing. But curious about your thoughts on that.

26:48 DEVIN: For sure. I guess I don’t know where Google’s going cause well nobody does. It’s hard to define. But they still have the same core principles. Which is connecting search terms with the right places, and brands, and products. So as long as people are making good websites, it’s gonna help.

I’m very interested in Amazon right now personally. A new e-commerce brand selling a product whether it’s coffee cups or laptops or whatever they maybe aren’t gonna invest in SEO, because they’re not gonna sell stuff through a Google search result. They’re gonna sell stuff through Amazon.

So, what kind of battle will there be between Google and Amazon for physical products? And maybe will Amazon start doing more with services? I know you can like find housekeepers and services on Amazon, but are they gonna try and come after Google as far as if you need digital marketing services. No one goes to Amazon for that.

But maybe they will eventually and then Google’s losing all this traffic on product searches, and payments and stuff like that, so who knows? If I’m talking with a physical product brand, I might advise them not to spend a lot of money and effort to try and move from position 60 to page one, because it’s gonna take a while.

And by then you could have found an Amazon specific marketer who’s helping you rank and sell on Amazon. And you make your money back quicker and sell more stuff.

28:20 AUSTIN: I know that’s something that we’re actively interested in as an agency. Is getting more involved… Joe you got something to say?

28:25 JOE: Yeah, I’m just curious now that you’re talking about that. Is it possible to get a backlink from an Amazon product page to your website? And use that domain authority from Amazon?

28:34 DEVIN: So as far as I know, no. But what I do know is that some places you can maybe build backlinks to your Amazon sales page. And that can rank. So, you could obtain Google search traffic to your Amazon listing through backlinking and stuff like that.

But I think that the huge websites have found ways to not allow people to take advantage of link building on their… Whether it’s a site like medium.com, who is now pay-to-play, but also every outbound link is nofollow. And so that’s not really helping your SEO. Maybe in some ways it is but it’s not…

29:14 AUSTIN: You can build links to a medium article, and it will rank. But you can’t link from a medium article to yourself. It will not work.

29:21 DEVIN: And now that’s a whole, huge part of link building is online reputation management. Is like bad news comes out about you. How can we get it lower? Yeah let’s make Medium accounts and QR accounts and Twitters and Instagrams and Facebooks all with your name. And then we build a lot of links to those.

Google is not going to penalize facebook.com for unnatural link building. It just doesn’t make sense. So now let’s more or less spam these fake profiles we have made, because then Google is like “whoa, people are talking about this.” they take up page one and two listings and then the article that says like “Austin’s a bad dude,” is on page three.

30:01 PAT: Which is what we’re actively trying to market. We’re trying to get that fact out of the…

30:05 AUSTIN: Yeah. I am a bad dude.

30:06 JOE: My rip-off report on Austin’s starting to climb right now.

30:07 PAT: We’re in striking distance…

30:19 DEVIN: That’s a great a sales term as well for link building. We see all these keywords in striking distance. All you need is some links. Some of that lighter fluid. So, you’re in striking distance now, and in December next year you’re gonna be number three.

30:32 PAT: It’s crazy because it’s not even like a sales tactic, so much as it is just an actual tactic.

30:37 AUSTIN: A fact.

30:38 PAT: Yeah exactly. Like we’ll see–for example I work on a couple of accounts. One of them is like an antiques company. And we’ll be positioned like 12 through 15 for like “19th century oil paintings.” which is like fairly high intent. Like, people are really only looking for that if they’re collectors or looking to buy. These paintings will go for a million dollars sometimes. So, we’ll say “hey, we’re gonna be targeting that with our on-page optimizations. And also, we’re gonna be targeting it for all of our link efforts for the month.”

And then we’ll see a lot of times in the next two months, three months–if we’re really concentrating on moving like one key word–a lot of times it will move up towards page one. It will either be right on the cusp or already on the page.

So, it’s just interesting, because there’s a lot of opportunity with that I think.

31:29 DEVIN: That’s one of the things I like most about this whole digital marketing economy is the people you meet who are making money doing anything. Like there are so many ways to set up a website and monetize it. Whether you’re selling a product or whatever.

I would love to talk to the guy who’s selling million-dollar oil paintings from 300 years ago. Like how did you even get into that? And so, if I work with an agency like you guys, all of a sudden, I’m sort of interacting with 20 companies at once. Or I’m at a networking event and I meet a guy who’s launching some e-commerce product, and it’s his passion and it’s like “how many of these do you sell a day? Like, this is crazy. I want to be in on this.”

It’s just there’s nothing hungrier than the American economy. And everyone wants to be online spending money. And taking advantage of cyber Monday and 40% off of an already marked up product so it’s not you’re not really saving…

32:28 PAT: Yeah, you just think that you’re saving.

32:29 DEVIN: Exactly.

32:30 AUSTIN: There’s nothing more aggressive than Jeff Bezos over at Amazon either. 32:35 PAT: Yeah. Super true.

32:36 DEVIN: The playground of the internet and monetization is always blowing my mind.

32:40 AUSTIN: Yeah, I think you’re really, really dialed on the Amazon side of things. And I actually haven’t heard that take that you just said about Amazon becoming a kind of everything, right? An all intent search engine. They are the number two search engine right now. That just goes to show you how much people spend. Because it’s only e-com. They only do a search engine for you to buy shit.

And they could potentially become more of almost a service provider in all aspects. I don’t think they’ll ever become an information library like Google is, but they could maybe expand like you’re saying. They are commodities, right? They’re product based, so to speak.

But maybe they could open up to services and start to take that away from Google. Because the way that they work is based on reviews, and there is some SEO involved in the way that you get your products to rank. But they also really factor in actual revenue that you’re driving. So that’s a really big part of Amazon. Sales volume. There’s no hiding behind that. I mean, there can be in some ways, but for the most part it’s hard to fabricate sales. Sales dollars, right? And Amazon can look at that where Google cannot…

33:47 DEVIN: They know everything. Amazon knows everything about you. What you’re looking at, what you’re clicking on, what you’re searching…

33:52 PAT: It’s crazy cause they have access to just like the most transactional, high intent like buyer keyword data too.

We talk about that all the time. Google, a lot of it is informational. It’s people trying to it’s using Google as a library. And they’re trying to understand information about things. As well as like trying to transact and go to the marketplace so to speak.

Amazon might as well just be a marketplace only. There’s no informational content on there, so all the queries have to be shopping based. Which is just like the craziest thing. It’s like how in the future are they gonna be leveraging that data to replicate their own version of SEO basically, you know?

34:27 DEVIN: And from a link builders’ perspective–I don’t want to get left behind, you know? If Google yeah it just becomes an encyclopedia for reading about things, it’s not gonna have as much value on a company spend ROI thing.

That’s another thing about link building it’s very ROI focused. I have these links. They’re from these sites. I am now selling more SEO packages because I rank better for SEO services in San Diego. Or something like that.

So, Google’s the king. It’s not like I’m focusing on moving people up in Bing or something like that.

35:05 AUSTIN: No, there’s no traffic there.

35:06 DEVIN: If it becomes like a 1:1a, then how can we find ways to make money off helping people with Amazon…

35:15 AUSTIN: Yeah, and I think that a lot of people worry and I’ve heard this thrown around a lot that SEO is dead or dying. And SEO is just an all-encompassing term of the fact that people search for things on the internet. It is not saying that just because Google is the king, if they didn’t become the king, that we would lose our job. It’s not that at all.

It just means that you have to switch up the way that you’re getting people the information that they want.

Because we know one thing, the internet’s not going anywhere. And people use the internet to get information. So, our jobs in this world of SEO, and visibility of organic search is to get the best sites up there, right? And that’s kind of the service that we provide. Is that middleman of linking good sites, good products into whatever medium that is. Wherever people are actively searching for that product, service or information–that’s where we come into play. We make sure that the good ones are there. And we’re kind of providing the value to the searcher by putting them in front of something that we consider to be a good product.

So, I think that’s cool that you’re keeping that in mind in terms of Amazon. I still can’t get over that for some reason.

36:17 DEVIN: And then to the guy who sells the 200-year-old oil paintings. He doesn’t want to learn how to make a Wix website and get traffic. And so, he’s passionate about his brand and his company. And then Google loves companies like Power Digital, because you guys are doing the best possible work to create great websites for great businesses.

And so, it is a service, but it’s one that everyone wants. Google wants you to do that. You’re helping him. He’s legit and you’re helping him because he’s not going to stay up at 10 p.m. And like learn about keywords, right? Like, “what’s my domain authority? I don’t know.

37:03 AUSTIN: That’s why you hire a professional, right? To do a service. We’re no different than anything else. We’re just at newer industries, so there may not be as much authority associated with who we are as professionals. But one thing that’s really interesting is Google is starting to shift towards actually accepting SEOs and accepting our world more so. And seeing it less as a negative, which it was and there was a lot of manipulation, but where Google went their algorithm, they’re now seeing us as helpful right? Because like I just said, we’re actually making sure that good websites show up on the internet. And that’s kind of the point of our business. Especially our agency and the people that we work with.

We build awesome websites. We make other people’s websites better. And so, then Google can say “hey thanks. We’re gonna take this great website. Bump it all the way up and they’re gonna have a much better experience for the same keyword.”

And that’s why Google starting to see “hey maybe the SEOs aren’t so bad right? These guys these guys are just making websites really good and then getting them in front of us. So why don’t we accept them. Take their feedback, and then start to morph our algorithm to just put out the best quality product that we can.

And I’m actually starting to see that where recently they opened up message boards and questions almost to people like me and you to actually take feedback and put that in to Google’s algorithm. So, I think that that’s a really cool thing that’s happening. We’re on kind of the forefront of this changing landscape now.

38:16 DEVIN: Right. You’re the professionals of enhancing a digital experience for someone else’s customers. And because you’re doing it the right way Google should praise you. And it’s kind of that simple.

And the people doing it the wrong way will be weeded out. As updates happen in the algorithm. Like Google just will never stop getting smarter.

38:37 AUSTIN: Yes. It’s really hard to be cheap. And to cut corners. You just have to be legitimate. You have to have a deep knowledge of the industry. And you have to have quality. And it’s really that simple, just like anything else in our life. It’s quality. Cool.

Well I think we’re about at time here. I kind of got off the rails there, I got so excited. So, Devin, thank you so much for coming on. This was a really great interview. I’d love to pick your brain more. I know we hang out. Devin and I are friends and stuff, so not to brag.

But I just want to say thank you so much for coming on.

39:04 DEVIN: No problem. Thanks for having me guys.

39:06 PAT: Again. Huge thank you to Devin for coming on the show and talking about SEO in general with us, and the world of link building. I thought that was super interesting. I really, really liked his takes on kind of where he sees the industry going. And how it’s changed in the last ten years. Cause we talk about it on the show a lot how the SEO landscape has changed, Google’s playing by new rules. But it’s just interesting to see how that dynamic is different now even with SEOs as opposed to how it was before.

They kind of viewed them as almost like hackers trying to start out-smart the algorithm. And now they’re catering that algorithm to the SEOs that are working to beat it, so to speak.

39:44 AUSTIN: To quality individuals. It’s what they’re catering towards, because I think the point that Devin and I were both trying to make is that it’s all about aligning a searcher with a good website.

39:56 PAT: It’s all about who you know.

39:58 AUSTIN: It’s all about who you know. And it turns out that Devin knows just about everybody with one of those. And the service that he provides is making sure that if you’re a good website, that you show up for the keywords that you care about.

So, I always enjoy Devin’s company. He’s a really awesome guy to have around. He’s a really fun dude. And he’s also so knowledgeable on something that’s… It’s really hard to get someone who has that much knowledge on it. So that’s what I have loved having him in.

40:20 PAT: Yep. Devin’s the man. There’s definitely gonna be more interviews with him. But for now, that is the end of this episode. Episode 61 of Flip the Switch podcast presented by Power Digital Marketing. Thank you, guys, for joining us.

Join our forum group on Facebook. That’s Flip the Switch podcast forum on Facebook. We’ll have some great new content to be posted there. Some more great content to bring to you guys next week. And until that time, this has been Pat Kreidler, Austin Mahaffy, John Saunders and Joe Hollerup signing off.

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John is the Director of Web Development at Power Digital and thrives on the balance between creative and strategy. Using his experience in CRO, John approaches website builds with the user in mind, combining psychological and technical aspects of design.