Bacon Wrapped Business With Brad Costanzo
BWB Stephan | SEO That Works

SEO Superstar Stephan Spencer Reveals What’s Working Now


SEO is the ultimate marketing tool for any business. With SEO that works, you can have a powerhouse of information feeding your target audience.

Stephan Spencer, an internationally recognized SEO expert and the author of The Art Of SEO, talks about his primary business model of consulting, coaching, and personal development.

He focuses on talking about SEO and the foundational principles that are working and not working right now. Believing that it’s never too late to start doing SEO, he shares a good foundational roadmap and some effective ways to reach a wider audience.

As a special gift to listeners of Bacon Wrapped Business, Stephan is giving away 4 free books:

Some Topics We Discussed Include:

  • What works and what doesn't in digital marketing
  • Why it’s not advisable to intermingle your personal brand with your company brand
  • Why you shouldn’t neglect your personal brand
  • Stephan’s primary business model at the moment
  • How personal development enhances not just our lives but our businesses as well
  • It's never too late to start doing SEO
  • A good foundational roadmap for audit and optimization
  • Some effective ways to reach out to bloggers and influencers and get them to link to you

To learn more about Stephan and how to take your rankings, traffic, and revenue to new heights wight cutting edge SEO, visit

About The Guest: Stephan Spencer

BWB Stephan | SEO That Works

Stephan Spencer is an internationally recognized SEO expert, consultant, and bestselling author. He is the co-author of The Art of SEO (now in its third edition), author of Google Power Search, and co-author of Social eCommerce. Stephan founded Netconcepts in 1995 and grew it into a multi-national SEO agency before selling it in 2010 to Covario.

Stephan invented a pay-for-performance SEO platform called GravityStream that was also acquired and is now part of Rio SEO. Stephan’s clients post-acquisition have included Zappos, Sony, and Chanel. Stephan is the host of two popular podcast shows, The Optimized Geek and Marketing Speak.


SEO Superstar Stephan Spencer Reveals What's Working Now

I’ve got an amazing expert with me, Stephan Spencer. He's an internationally recognized SEO expert, a consultant and bestselling author. He’s a co-author of a book called The Art of SEO and it's now in its third edition.

I met Stephan at a mastermind hosted by Neil Strauss, where I think that was the very first time we met. I also received his book and it is so comprehensive, everything about The Art of SEO.

He is the author of another book called Google Power Search and a coauthor of a book called Social eCommerce. He founded Netconcepts way back in 1995 and grew it into a multinational SEO agency before he sold it in 2010 to a company called Covario.

He invented a pay for performance SEO platform called GravityStream, which was also acquired, and is now a big part of Rio SEO. His clients' post-acquisition includes little bitty companies such as Zappos, Sony and Chanel.

He's also the host of two popular podcast shows called the Get Yourself Optimized and Marketing Speak. Stephan, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Brad. It's great to be here.

It's great to have you on the show. You and I met, I think it was at Neil's originally, but we keep on running into each other at a lot of other events.

Yes, we do. We were at the Social Media Marketing World, Mike Koenig’s social mixer thing that he did after the Social Media Marketing World.

Todd Herman's 90 Day Year, there's been a whole lot of stuff. It's always cool to run into you. What’s super cool about this and I've been a guest on your show as well. That's where I did most of the talking.

This is really cool for me to get inside your brain and pull some of this stuff out about some of the things that you are working on or if seeing that works and doesn't work as one of the top SEO experts in the world who's been doing this for a very long time.

I'll be honest, one of the things about SEO, it is my personal weakest area of expertise in all of digital marketing. I'm much more of a direct response guy. I'm paid ads and doing all this other stuff. For me, SEO is always such a shifting landscape.

Every new algorithm update, every new change things flip around. I got sick of trying to figure it out. That's why I rely on people like you for that.

That's why I love it because it's so hard for your competition to stay up to date. If you're the kind of person who loves change and evolution, you can thrive in this environment. It is fast-moving, but that's what makes it exciting and gives you the edge.

What I'm going to ask you about is how to get that edge. I love sharing some real-world either challenges or questions I've got with some of my businesses. What should I do in this case?

I'll share those here, for all the readers you want to keep reading because that's usually where the best stuff comes out.

I also know that you've got a pretty cool, crazy back-story and history about how you got into all of this, some of the weird twists and turns your life has taken. Give us a back-story around your journey.

I could start where I was studying for a PhD in biochemistry and I met Rob McCool at a conference back in 1994. Do you know who that is?

I've heard of him but I don't know a lot about him.

He's the inventor of Apache, which is the webserver software that runs most of the internet. At the time, he was the creator of Netscape server and I had not heard of Netscape before until meeting him. This was 1994.

I was super star struck and excited. I was studying biochemistry. I knew my track was going to become a post-doc and then become a professor and make a whopping $60,000 or $70,000 a year. I decided that this was the train that I needed to hop on. Within a couple of months, I dropped out of my PhD.

I was up to my eyeballs in student loan debt. I decided to talk my way into a conference that was $2,000. I didn't have any money so I needed to get in for free and I did. It was called How to Market on the Internet.

It was an IQPC conference, a big conference organization that has conferences all over the world. I was a mic runner. That was my job. I was a volunteer. That's how I got in for free. I quickly realized I know a lot more than some of these speakers.

I have the mic, I might as well chime in and I know that's pretty cheeky for somebody to do. I was 24 years old and screwed it. I was like, “I'll add value and see what happens.”

What I didn't expect to happen was at the end of the day, to be uninvited from day two of the conference by the conference organizer. I don't regret it because I got two huge accounts from that day.

I got a big stack of business cards, people coming up to me and saying, “You know more than the speakers. It’s amazing.” Some of the speakers were big name people like GM O'Connell, Founder of Modem Media. I was upstaging them. I guess they didn't like that and I was asked not to come back.

Two of those names that I got, two of those business cards ended up becoming half-million-dollar accounts, each of them. I didn't have to get Angel funding. I didn't have to get friends and family funding, nothing. I started building websites and doing online marketing for those clients.

Going from there, within a few years I had Birds Eye as a client and then I got this crazy idea that I could do this internet thing from anywhere. That was 1999. I applied for permanent residency in New Zealand. I'd never been there and I don't know what drove me to do that. It was intuition.

I got in and I convinced my wife at the time and my kids, “Let’s do this. Let's move halfway around the world.” I tried to sell the business. It's still early days of SEO and so forth, I couldn't do it.

I had interwoven my own personal brand too much into the Netconcepts brand and nobody wanted to buy it without me. I flew halfway around the world.

That’s one of the big dangers in a personal brand.

If you make your personal brand and your company brand intermingle too much, be prepared to go with the company. Essentially, you have a job. You're self-employed. You don't have a company, you don't have an asset that can make money and do its thing without you. I learned that lesson.

The challenging part is when you're growing your business, when you inject a personal brand on there to give your brand a face, name and personality, etc. It is a great accelerator. It can be if you've got a good personal brand.

It can be a great accelerator and it can get you to the finish line quicker than just having a generic company. What you said is the caveat, which is you to be careful about tying yourself too much to it, to where they're buying you.

Some of the best advice I've gotten, which is instead of trying to be the guru and build a cult of personality around yourself, treat yourself like a pitchman or pitch person for the product to where it's almost interchangeable.

If you make your personal brand and company brand intermingled too much, be prepared to go with the company. Share on X

You can be out there, you can be doing the pitch, but you're still seen as the pitch person for it and you're not just selling yourself. It's a little tweak. I think it's an important one for anybody with a personality-driven business.

My take on it is a little bit different, but it's close. I don't want to neglect my personal brand and I don't think anybody should because you take that to the grave. That goes with you through whatever careers and companies. Don't neglect your personal brand.

That said, if you inextricably link your personal brand with your company brand, that no longer is a standalone asset. The point of a business is that you eventually sell it, you exit. If it's not Built to Sell. It's the name of a book by John Warrillow.

If you haven't followed the process that Michael Gerber laid out in The E Myth, you don't have a business. You’re self-employed. This is very important. Build both of those in parallel, the company brand, the personal brand and don't interlink them too much.

I went on to move to New Zealand with my family and we stayed there for a few years and then we moved back. I moved back in part to sell my business. We were in three different countries at that point. We had dozens of staff. We had six million in revenue at that point.

Moving back to the States meant I could sell the business more effectively because it really was still a US-based business even though we had a New Zealand office and the majority of our staff were in New Zealand and it worked out. Within a couple of years, we sold the business.

That business was acquired by Covario. Covario got acquired by iProspect, by Dentsu Aegis, the multibillion-dollar ad agency conglomerate which includes the iProspect brand.

Many of my team members, my former staff at Netconcepts are still at iProspect even now. I did my little earn out a few months and out the door as soon as the check cleared. I'm not employable by anybody. I'm completely unemployable because I can't work for anybody.

Most entrepreneurs are like that. We like the crazy startup, we like to do our own thing. We like not to ask permission but get in there. Do stuff and then figure it out, win or lose. It's who we are.

That's one of the worst things is when you buy a company and you're holding onto the guy who founded it and thinking, “This is great. He's going to run this and operate this for me.” You might be missing the point because that guy who's good to startup is not necessarily the best operator.

I was talking to a guy on one of my other episodes named Carl Allen. He’s bought dozens or hundreds of whatever businesses. He’s been doing this for many years. He said one of his tricks right there for this exact reason.

He goes, “I like to find a business where I'll buy it and then the founder/CEO will step out. I try to retain the COO if they had one on board because they’re much more of an employee-type of mentality and they know how to run the business. I try not to hold onto the founder of it.”

I was like, “That’s pretty smart.” It dovetails exactly into what you said. What's your business model? I know you've got your shows, which are great, but if that's the one thing I was trying to remember.

I don't exactly know what your business model is. Do you have an agency now? Do you do any consulting, coaching, etc.? What is your primary business model at the moment?

Consulting is my primary business. I also have some coaching clients and those encompass not just SEO and even other forms of online marketing, but business consulting and even some mindset personal development type coaching as well, whatever the client needs.

I've gone through so much personal development over the last decade and I've learned a few things. I'm happy to share that or we could focus solely on SEO.

We can do both on the mindset stuff. I don't remember where it was. It was either on a Twitter feed or a Facebook feed or something.

BWB Stephan | SEO That Works

SEO That Works: If you're the kind of person who loves change and evolution, you can thrive in the SEO environment.


I think it was you who talked about the book and speaking to Neil Strauss. I can't remember where this was. Did you recommend the book that you had read with Neil called The Tools?

I did recommend that.

I think I saw it in one of your podcast episodes. That was such a good book. I love that book. I've recommended to several people and I was like, “This is really cool stuff.”

It's life-changing. One of those five tools in the book got me this breakthrough where I let somebody into my life who I had mercilessly excluded a family member. That was over two decades ago.

I had held this grudge against her for two decades and it wasn't even in my view screen to forgive her, to let her back into my life and let her meet my kids and all that. She'd never met my kids.

I read the book and one of the tools, tool number two, talks about visualizing the person in front of you that you're in conflict with.

Visualize yourself filling up with energy, love from the universe, and then visualize that flow of energy of love from you into the person in front of you and them filling up with love.

You’re not depleted. You then fill back up with love from the universe. I did that little exercise with my family member that I'm talking about and I called her up after that little exercise.

We had a beautiful conversation. Within a few months, she had come to visit me in Madison, Wisconsin, and met two of my kids. The other kid was not in town at the time. She's been part of my life ever since. It's not without its challenges but it's been such a gift.

It's a gift for her. It's a gift for me. It's a gift for my kids. I'm a model for my children and everybody out of me. When I'm doing the hard work, walking the talk, that rubs off much more so than me sending my kids to a Tony Robbins’ seminar or something, which I've done.

There's no better way to model it. What you said, for anybody who's reading that sounds woo-woo. First of all, that stuff works. This book is such practical tools that you can use.

I've done that many times where you have to take a step back and change your perspective on stuff, imagining filling yourself with love and giving that out, it completely changes you, I think at a cellular level.

It makes you realize that going around with these grudges, forgiveness is one of the most powerful things in the world that you can do and move on. It frees up so much energy, positive energy to put everywhere else in your life.

I remember I went through that. I recommended this book to so many people. You talked about how you've been on this deep personal development journey as well.

I think most of the entrepreneurs, especially the ones that I know who are really successful, not just in business but have successful lives have done that. Being an entrepreneur is fraught with doubt, uncertainty, second-guessing yourself.

Most of the successful ones, we are driven to succeed oftentimes by something in our past that's driving us. Maybe it's a chip on our shoulder, maybe it's a feeling of not being good enough. Maybe there's a whole bunch of mental issues.

You’ve got to have some mental issues to go about being an entrepreneur. There are no safety belts in this thing. I think you've got to be a little bit off-kilter to even jump into this business.

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I think you were forced into it, like you said, unemployable. The more personal development we do, the better not just our businesses become but our lives. I can tell it’s had a big impact on yours.

I think of business as a spiritual game. If you're adding value, which you should be, no business should survive if it's not adding value. It's a spiritual game to add value in people's lives and in their businesses.

It can really have profound impacts on everybody around you and you’re a model for others. There are plenty of business people who are just sharks and are unconscious in their businesses and in their lives.

You don't have to be that way. If you can elevate beyond your robotic consciousness and be more aware, it’s such a great playing field, the world of business to apply your spiritual principles within.

Let's jump into some of the SEO stuff because I have got some big questions on this. SEO has shifted so much. I've been doing this business for several years. You've got a lot more experience in it than myself.

I'm sure that you had seen the landscape of SEO run the gamut from way back in the day when it was super easy to build a whole bunch of links to stuff. Spam links don't matter, just links, and the things would do really well. It was easy pickings to the plethora of changes that Google has made, etc.

I'm going to give you what my take on it is. This is almost my very ignorant take on the landscape of SEO now. As I've heard, tons and tons of backlinks, especially random backlinks or whatever, doesn't matter as much anymore.

They've got it to where epic content is king. It’s always been king, but it's gotten a lot harder to manipulate the search engine rankings using even white hat stuff. I know some of what I'm saying is incorrect.

Google's become so smart and it's become so difficult to outsmart them or to optimize. It's almost not even worth trying. It's like putting out really good content and ideally get some good backlinks and then focus on everything else and hope for the best.

I know that's not the right way to do it, but what are some of the most foundational effective principals that are working in SEO and maybe what's not working so much anymore?

First of all, it's never too late to start doing SEO. SEO is so foundational to your online business that it's tragic. It's a tragedy if you do not do it. Many sites I’ve seen have appallingly bad SEO and they should know better.

The problem is the developers who built the site, they didn't know what they didn’t know about SEO and the marketing department didn't know about how to write content and develop video content so forth in a way that was good for SEO instead of bad for SEO or of zero benefits for SEO.

Also building links and not just waiting for the links to appear magically. You don't magically appear in The New York Times without putting in the effort, without actually seeking that out.

Nobody's going to call you from the New York Times and say, “I don't think we've ever contacted you before but I think it's time that you're in the paper.” You need a PR firm. You need to proactively do public relations.

In order to get high-quality links, you need to do the same thing. You need to do essentially public relations. You need to do outreach. If you're not doing that, it's a wing and a prayer that your business is going to increase and things are going to work out. That's really not a good strategy.

Those are the three pillars to SEO: content, architecture, which includes all the technical stuff and links. All three pillars have to be strong. If anyone of those three is weak, you are going to be essentially sitting on a two-legged stool and you're going to fall over.

If you had great content and you did not do any link building, you don't have great links and yet you built a very technically sound search engine-friendly website let's say on WordPress, if it's an eCommerce site on let's say Magento eCommerce, really solid, technically great content, but no links.

BWB Stephan | SEO That Works

SEO That Works: Business is a spiritual game that adds value in people's lives and can have profound impact on everybody around you.


Are you going to rank? Heck no. That was still true a couple of years ago, a decade ago. It will be true in a couple of years’ time as well.

Let me ask you about link building then. I do know that in the past there were a million ways to go out, buy software that does it, buy links. Do all this other crap as arguably gray or black hat or even downright dangerously ineffective stuff that can get you a band when Google sees it.

Some stuff was even illegal. Hacking people’s websites and injecting links to your site from the hack, definitely illegal.

When it comes to building links, in reaching out, is there a great example of how to make that happen? Let me give you some real-world examples.

I bought a website business in 2018 and it's got really good SEO. It's in the home beer brewing niche. I don't know much about home brewing. I am not the one who's writing articles, etc.

It’s been around for a few years and it ranks pretty well for a lot of good keywords and getting a lot of traffic, like 60,000 visitors a month organically, which is fantastic.

At the same time, I sat down and I’m like, “I don't know enough about SEO personally to even audit this in the right way.” I got a subscription to Ahrefs and I started to go through it. I was like, “This is so advanced for me. I need to pay somebody to go through it.”

Even if it's the 80/20, what is the 20% of the most highly leveraged things that I should be doing to audit it and get a good lay of the land of where are my strengths? What are my opportunities? What are my weaknesses and threats here?

Come up then with a good plan of action to get content created, which is not that hard to do, also to go about building links in this. What would you say is the right course of action in something like this?

You've got something. It's got some good SEO, but it needs to get a lot better. What's a good foundational roadmap for the audit and optimization?

The first step is the audit, for sure, because if you're thinking of acquiring a site, it's like having a home inspection before you buy the house. You need to do that.

That includes a technical audit of all the architectural stuff, all the configuration things, things like canonical tags and 301 redirects and robust TXT directives, meta robots, no indexed tags, all this geeky stuff and there's a lot of it.

You have to look at the content and how well that's been SEO. You need to look at the links and that includes not just how many backlinks you have. There are a UR and a DR score, UR for URL and DR for the entire domain.

You can look at those scores but you need to do a much deeper dive and look for things that are abnormalities in your link profile. It looks like maybe that site had done some not so white hat link building in the past and that left a footprint.

There is too much unnatural-looking stuff in the link profile, too many of the same type of sites linking or too many of the same TLD, Top Level Domains, that are linking. It's same anchor text that the underlined words and the links are too much focused on money keywords and don't look natural.

You’ve got to do all that analysis and then you buy the site. Once the site checks out and you're not going to probably be skilled enough to do that audit yourself. It's possible. You'd have to take a course, maybe read my book and then you can do that 994-page book.

It's a little daunting. I do have a do it yourself audit course that is sixteen hours of video content. It's probably the quicker, better way rather than just reading the 994 pages.

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I'm the guy who likes to hire somebody to do it for me and then give me the prognosis, like, “What's wrong with it? What do I need to do to make it right?”

That’s what an audit includes is all the recommendations and not just the identification of all the issues. The thing is now you've got a roadmap of things to do, who’s going to do it? You don't have somebody to implement the audit findings and recommendations. There’s no ROI in the audit.

That's very important and you don't want to get chintzy and go the budget route and hire the low-priced supplier to do the implementation. That's where you end up with a penalty if you get it wrong. It's all cut some corners and they built the wrong lengths. They misconfigured things.

They accidentally got the whole site de-indexed. They’ll fix it, it will come back and never comes back quite right. There are all sorts of issues. It's better not to hire anybody than hire somebody who's cheap. If it’s somebody who’s under let’s say $5,000 a month.

If it's a fiber dye or this person, then you're going down the wrong route. $5,000 a month retainer is probably the minimum for somebody really good at SEO. My retainer is $15,000 a month and you get what you pay for.

If you hire somebody who's $1,500 a month, be wary that what they produce for you is probably going to be a whole lot of nothing, just some reports that dance around some stuff. It's a snow job.

They're not delivering anything. It's smoke and mirrors. They're doing something that's really sketchy, like low-quality link building and that's going to come back to bite you big time.

This leads me to a different thought thread here which I love and you've given me some of this. If I am looking to hire somebody to do this, what are some of the things that I should make sure that they're doing?

It might fall around those three pillars that they not only audit it but they are making sure that technically everything on the site is as it should be. That new conduit when it's created is done using the right linking strategies.

That it is good original content but then also they should be going out and building high-quality links in a white hat ethical way. Is that correct? Those are the three things that I should be looking for in somebody who's going to manage that aspect.

You're probably going to end up with more than just one person. How many people do you know who are really technically adept, able to go in and change the HTTPD.conf file or the HT access file, go in and code some regular expressions into the rewrite rules and not screw it up.

In the same day, perhaps write a really remarkable blog post that goes viral and is super compelling and very creative. Also, to have the skills of a PR professional to do the outreach and let the right bloggers and influencers know in the right way with the right angle the right hook.

What are some of the writing angles in letting them know and getting them to link to you? You can sit, pray and hope for organic backlinks but that's probably not going to happen. What are some of the more effective ways to reach out?

Finding other sites that have talked about something similar and letting them know that you've written an article that builds on that point or accentuates it and say, “Would you like the link to this?” Is there a better way to write? Do you know what I’m saying?

There's a better way to do it for sure. Do you ever get those emails?

Absolutely. I ignore them for the most part.

Exactly, you ignore them. They're of no value. They're trying to get something instead of trying to give something.

BWB Stephan | SEO That Works

SEO That Works: If you have something remarkable that is worthy of being shared and spread, you’ll eventually get what you are after.


What is maybe a better approach that tends to work a little bit more often? Let’s say we have a great piece of content or a lot of content, we're really proud of the content there. How would you go about reaching out?

That is the prerequisite that it has to be great content. I would say remarkable. I'm using that term very deliberately. I'm using remarkable because Seth Godin uses that term remarkable. He defines it as worth remarking about.

It simply has something about it that is worth remarking about. I interviewed Seth Godin for my Marketing Speak podcast.

I thought he was hard to get too, so congratulations.

He is. I've gotten some really hard to get people like Dan Kennedy and Jay Abraham. He was very tough to get but I had to fax his assistant who then faxed Dan.

This is to the point of persevering. If you know that you will have a mission and you have something remarkable that is worthy of being shared and spread and that will change the world, you'll get eventually what you're after.

You've got this prerequisite of remarkable content that it is worth sharing. It's worth spreading. It's worth remarking about or worth discussing. You’ve got to get it out there.

When you're outreaching to an influential blogger and we talked about your website being in the homebrew space. You are outreaching to a blogger who's a homebrew blogger. He's so into it. He's been doing it for years and years and you're new to it.

You don't have the right words. You don't have all the right connections. You can't say, “We were at the same conference a few months ago but we didn't get to meet, I wanted to say hello.” You don't have that camaraderie. You don't have shared experiences or anything.

What you have is there is a continuum here. This is a continuum starting with the really low-quality outreach of, “I've got a great piece of content that your audience, your readers are going to love.” That's not serving anybody but you. You think that’s serving their audience but it’s not.

All the way to the very end of that spectrum where you just want to give and whether you get a lanker or not is of no consequence. If you outreach to somebody and say, “I want to do a free SEO audit for you and I don't expect anything in return.

I just love the mission that you are on and things that you're doing in the world. I want to be a part of that. I expect nothing in return and I charge X number of thousands of dollars for an SEO audit. I'm going to do it for free for you. I also happened to write this book.”

I'm like, “Okay.” That's the other end of the spectrum and I've done that. I've outreached to nonprofits who are doing amazing things in the world and I've offered my services for free without any expectation of anything.

When you give without expectation and this is a spiritual lesson too. If you give to a homeless person and you have the expectation that they will thank you for it or they will at least be respectful as they are receiving the money from you, you already lost the game.

Give without expecting. I’ve run my life like that and it works out phenomenally well.

When you give and you don't have expectations of receiving, you get the blessing from the light, from the creator. Instead of getting that little bit of something, that smile or the thank you or whatever, it's not about that. That pales in comparison to the blessing you get from the universe.

If you outreach with that in mind and say, “I want to be somewhere closer to the giving end of the spectrum but I can't just give selflessly to the point where I can't pay my bills.” What's more in the middle? What if you collaborated with them?

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First of all, you offered to help them with some research study, an analysis that they're doing. You've been following their blog and they're testing all these different homebrew recipes and all these different equipment and everything.

You contact them and say, “I know you've been struggling to get all this equipment and to get donations for the equipment and stuff. I'd love to help you with outreaching to those companies and see if they'll donate. You’ve probably gone through some of them, but not all of them.

I have some connections in the industry. I bought a site in this space and I've been outreaching to them and building relationships. I'd love to help you get the rest of your equipment so you can finish your study, your analysis.”

They’re like, “Sure, that’s great,” or let's say you want to collaborate and instead of outreaching like, “I want to write a guest post for your blog. I hate those. Delete.”

What if it's, “I've got this great infographic I'm working on and it's missing some stuff because I'm not an expert like you are in this area of homebrewing. I'm a new entrant into this space. I just acquired this business. I would love to collaborate with you on this infographic about the history of home brewing.

There is a bunch of missing pieces here. Here's the draft that I have and you can see that I've made some headway. It's going to be a great infographic once it's finished, but it would be so much better if I got your involvement.”

They’re going to be more inclined to help and to shout from the rooftops once that's done and publish to let their fans, followers, etc. know that this infographic is out there because they had a hand in it. It's got the mark of their ownership, their authorship on it as well.

You're going to give them credit and everything, but then hopefully they will attribute you as well as a co-producer of that and then link to your site. That’s one example. You have potentially hundreds of ideas from a brainstorming session for different kinds of link-building campaigns that you could do.

I do this for my clients. I do a link-building strategy where I will brainstorm for an entire month and come up with dozens upon dozens of ideas for remarkable content-marketing campaigns.

Whichever ones resonate the most with them are the ones that we will prioritize that could include things like listicles, how-tos, checklist, worksheets, viral videos, man on the street interviews, personality tests, quizzes, all sorts of stuff.

Whether it resonates with the linkerati, the influencers who have a lot of link authority as far as Google's concerned or not, you don't know. You throw some mud against the wall and see what sticks and not everything is going to perform super well.

It's not all going to be a home run, but you have to keep swinging the bat and get some singles, you get some doubles, get some triples, and you'll get the occasional home run.

It’s one of those things that confirm it, that it's ultimately about doing the work, doing quality work. It sounds like when it comes to content, if you can do a large quantity of quality content.

Neil Patel comes up in my mind as being one of those guys who produce all those remarkably long ultimate guides, every blog post he does, which he releases or at least he did like one a day. Each one was 5,000 words and it was insane.

He’s one of the few people I've seen do it high quantity and high quality at the same time. If you can only focus on one, would you probably focus on really remarkable content, putting the extra effort into less but better quality?

There’s this triangle of effectiveness, it’s quality, time and money. You can’t have all three. At most, choose two. If you want high quality and fast, then forget about cheap.

BWB Stephan | SEO That Works

The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization

If you want high quality and cheap, then forget about fast. You want cheap and fast, forget about the quality. You want high-quality content, you have to. In order to do effective SEO has to be of high quality.

All of them stay with high quality. That should be your anchor point, then decide if I don't have the budget to go a lot in quantity then just do them once in a while.

You have super high-quality epic posts and maybe there are only once every few weeks, but that's so much better than mediocre-quality blog posts on a daily basis.

Is there any piece of SEO wisdom, advice, etc. that you would normally only say for your high-paid customers and would never reveal for free on a public show like this?

I'm always very giving. I believe in business karma. If you hold back in business, I don't hold back. In fact, that's how I got my book deal, how I got The Art of SEO was because I was so giving in a session called Give It Up and very first SMX Advanced in 2007.

I was sharing my super-secret tips that nobody else knew and I got the audience to raise their hands and say, “Do you know this one?” I gave stuff away and almost nobody raised their hands for most of them.

The room included some of the top SEOs in the world. A few weeks later, I'm at the SES Toronto Conference after SMX Advanced and Rand Fishkin, who I had never spoken to, Founder of SEOmoz, now called At the time it was SEOmoz.

He comes up to me in the speaker room and gives me a hug. I'm like, “Nice to meet you.” He said, “You really brought it at SMX Advanced, the Give It Up panel. It was amazing.” We had the best conversation and in that conversation, we decided to do a book together.

That wouldn't have happened if I hadn’t shared everything, not holding back. It’s funny, I gave Danny Sullivan that idea of Give It Up session. We’re going to embargo, not let anybody blog about the content of this session. It's going to be super-secret.

He changes his mind at the last minute within a couple of weeks of the conference saying, “We'll do it for 30 days.” I’m like, “What? That's a big difference between not getting to blog about these secret tips and you just have to wait 30 days before you spill the beans.”

My stuff that was like super ninja about how to identify the indented, grouped listing back when Google did what was called host crowding. I've figured out how to check what the true position was when you see position one and two.

You could know that it's not probably number two, it just appears as number two. I did an ampersand num equals nine to see nine results per page of Google search results. Num goes eight to see eight and so forth until that dented result dropped away.

I figured that out on my own. I love reverse-engineering the Google algorithm and I shared that on the stage and I blew everybody's mind. That was out for the entire world to know about 30 days later, kind of not fair.

I'm not complaining because I got an amazing book deal out of it with that amazing conversation that Rand and I had after the show. As far as what thing can I share that’s super-secret that not very many SEOs know about?

There’s a way to do link outreach that is essentially like having as a salesperson and nobody else in your industry has it. Remember in the early days of Salesforce and it wasn’t widespread.

It was like the secret weapon that you could have Salesforce and do all this sophisticated stuff, the lead nurturing, everything that you could do. You could still do by hand, but it was so much better, more facilitated and you didn't drop the ball on different leads because you had Salesforce.

There’s a tool called Pitchbox that is the best link outreach tool. It is essentially like Salesforce for outreaching to influencers, to the linkerati. It has a workflow. It has the template library, but don't use the template library because those are just for ideas. You've got to come up with your own brilliant idea.

Not just a little bit but completely because everybody's thinking about, “How do I get noticed with my guest post pitch?” You’ve got to stop with the guest posting and think about how do I add massive value to the person and how do I build a relationship with the person?

If you want high quality and fast results, then forget about cheap. Share on X

How do I get into their world and understand what life is like for them and have them feel like they feel gotten by me? Those aren't the conversations that typical link builders are having, so you need to think differently, but you need to use a powerful tool that allows you to scale this outreach.

That's what Pitchbox does and it's super white hat. There are black hats that use it, but it's the agencies that are a white hat that gets the most benefit out of Pitchbox because how can you scale your outreach if you're doing it all by hand?

You're using Gmail or something to outreach to every single one of these bloggers and you're not using tools that prospect for you, that identify the bloggers in that niche. Let's say it's homebrewing.

It aggregates all of those opportunities together, allows you to prioritize the different contexts that it finds at each of the sites. Maybe there's a marketing director, maybe there is a communications director and maybe there's a webmaster.

You want webmaster at the bottom of the list because that's where all the spam ends up going to. Maybe contact the marketing director first with your pitch. It does all that for you. You can do an automated follow-up.

You have a template for what the follow-up is as, “I'm about to reach a deadline for this article and I wanted to quote you, but I still haven't heard from you yet. Could you please get back to me before 5:00 tomorrow?”

That’s your follow-up. You automated it. You went into Pitchbox and you said on day twelve or day fourteen or whatever, send this follow-up email forwarding the original email. It handles that all for you, it shows a pipeline report, it sounds like Salesforce. A sales pipeline but now this outreach pipeline.

I've used Mailshake. I’ve got a couple of other ones. I forget what they're called, but I’ve used them a little bit but not to a large degree, but I know I love stuff like this. I love having tools.

This has been fantastic. That also brings us to the end of the interview or the episizzle as I like to call it. I can already tell that these folks, after reading this, are going to want to get a little more dose of Stephan.

You’ve got two podcasts out there, Get Yourself Optimized and Marketing Speak. Marketing Speak is a little bit more marketing-oriented.

The Get Yourself Optimized sounds like it's SEO, but it's not. It's all about life hacking, biohacking and personal development.

That’s and Stephan, are there any nuts you're trying to crack in your business? Is there anybody you're trying to meet?

Is there any skill you're trying to learn? Is there anything you're trying to find or get rid of? This is where I and my audience can potentially add value to you.

I'm working on a re-launch of my membership site. I would love any introductions to experts in that space of building up membership sites. I have a team who are working on it. We've gone through the training from Stu McLaren which is TRIBE and we're in the process of implementing all that.

What’s the membership site about? Is it primarily SEO?

It's primarily SEO. There are online marketing components to it as well like conversion and social media marketing and analytics and so forth. It’s primarily SEO-focused and this is a new area for me. I've been doing a membership site for only about a year-and-a-half.

I have a small membership base and I want to expand it. I want to serve a lot of people like thousands and thousands of people. I know there are subject matter experts out there. I need a workhorse who's going to implement it for us or assist with the implementation.

It's great to get some advice. I've gotten advice to switch from using simply Memberium to Memberium plus LearnDash. It was great advice. We’re in the process of implementing it.

We've had issues with integration of Zoom with Infusionsoft. I was like, “There are so many little issues that crop up.” That’s my challenge now.

I will put my thinking cap on it. If anybody out there reading, if this fits the bill, if you either can help Stephan or he can help you. Is there a good way to get in contact with you if anybody wants to hit you up?

My email is My main website is That's where you can go for tons of resources on SEO, free downloads, webinar replays, all sorts of good stuff.

I'm happy to give your readers a free chapter from the book, not just any chapter from The Art of SEO, but chapter seven, which is the chapter I always recommend people start with rather than chapter one.

It gets your creative juices flowing. It's all about link building and content marketing and how to use that for SEO. That chapter is going to be at

I'm going to include in there some other freebies as well, some valuable downloads including my SEO Myths white paper. I'll include a blueprint for hiring an SEO, either agency or consultant or in-house employee. I'll include the SEO BS detector.

The kinds of trick questions you can insert into an interview, whether it's for an agency or for an individual that you're hiring to do SEO for you. How do you know that you're not getting snookered because you don't know SEO?

These are trick questions that you can insert very slyly into the interview process and find out that what they are doing is actually blowing smoke. For example, tell me a bit about your process for optimizing meta keywords.

It sounds very innocent enough, but it's a trick question because there is no correct process for optimizing meta keywords. Meta keywords never ever counted in Google. They were never a ranking factor.

If they say something, you know that they’re BS.

The only right answer is, “Meta keywords, are you serious? Google never counted them.” There you go.

Stephan, thank you so much for being a guest on the show. If you have any questions for me, if you've got anything you'd like to run up the flag pole, get my second opinion on, you can always reach out to me personally at

I’m happy to see if I can lend a hand. Until next time, Stephan, thank you very much.

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About The Guest: Stephan Spencer

BWB Stephan | SEO That Works

Stephan Spencer is an internationally recognized SEO expert, consultant, and bestselling author. He is the co-author of The Art of SEO (now in its third edition), author of Google Power Search, and co-author of Social eCommerce. Stephan founded Netconcepts in 1995 and grew it into a multi-national SEO agency before selling it in 2010 to Covario.

Stephan invented a pay-for-performance SEO platform called GravityStream that was also acquired and is now part of Rio SEO. Stephan’s clients post-acquisition have included Zappos, Sony, and Chanel. Stephan is the host of two popular podcast shows, The Optimized Geek and Marketing Speak.


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