Donald VanFossen

 

Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick His Brain!

I’d like to introduce one of our members, Donald VanFossen, for our next ‘Pick His Brain’ session and I want to thank him for the participation.

He is the co-founder of http://leadgadget.com/ which is a lead gen page building system.

His partner, Brian Prins, is in the hospital for a back surgery and he told me he would do his best to answer any questions whenever possible.

Here are my thoughts on lead gen SEO business model. Not all niches can use inbound or content marketing and expect to do well.

For example, try writing content for towing. You can’t expect to generate traffic by writing ’10 best ways to tow a car.’

It’s a pure commodity service business niche and you need to build lead gen sites.

If you ever wanted to go into PPL (Pay Per Lead) or lead gen business model, you may want to pick Donald’s brain.

He is also one of the top WordPress programmers in the industry and you can pick his brain on that subject as well.

Here are the rules.

1) I’ll let the thread go on until he passes out or he begs me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until bitcoin value goes to zero.

2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s success and strategies.

3) Please do not PM him and bother him. If you have a private question, ask for his permission on this thread when appropriate.

#PickHisBrain

Table of Contents

Why did you decide to go into lead gen SEO instead of traditional SEO?

To tell you the truth, the main reason was because I actually don’t have the patience anymore.

It is great to take a web property and spend the time to make it rank well for competitive terms.

Especially when your business model is client based, as far as company sites, etc.

We do things a bit different, and use a little brute force and scaling to enable us to quickly build traffic funnels to drive traffic.

Rather then work on ranking single properties for specific terms.

I would call it blunt force trauma to Google.

We use our web based SaaS application to build massive WordPress based sites.

That typically have around 30k posts, and over 400k total tags, etc.

When we build these sites, our whole goal is to watch traffic.

We don’t watch terms that we are ranking for. We don’t go see if we rank for locksmith.

We just watch traffic, unique visitor counts, and over all indexation of the sites.

If you contracted us as a client, you wouldn’t be getting a rankings report. You would get a traffic report.

With our platform it takes us just a short time to scale a campaign infinitely.

So when we view traffic from specific sites, we base new sites off of the same content, modified slightly, and release it on more domains.

Basically for longtail and geographically targeted phrases, we can often take over whole result pages.

Now these sites may be something where one of them generates a small amount of real organic visitors per day.

But, when we massively scale these campaigns, and drive the traffic to one optimized conversion point, we are actually building traffic funnels.

Think of it like the plumbing in your house.

You have one source where water comes in, and you can direct it anywhere, depending on which faucet you turn on.

So we are taking all the traffic in on these sites in whatever niche, and taking them to one conversion point.

Often we will do this with an OverLay on the site, or detecting things like human vs. crawler and redirecting.

(Yes we do not care about Google’s TOS, this is a totally different ballgame, if we somehow managed to lose a site, we don’t care.)

But we still use things like business & review schema markup, with geo-coordinates, h1,h2,h3 tags, alt titles, link titles, all the typical onpage SEO stuff.

We have customers that use Lead Gadget right now that have over 10 dedicated servers packed with sites.

Some making $6-9k per server. Some people making $1k to $2k per server.

The actual difference between those are the fact that some people setup their own PPL deals / Lead contracts.

There are some that just send the traffic to places like Ring Partner, because they don’t want to deal with clients, or making deals.

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The whole thing in a nutshell, really is because of speed, and less worrying about what Google thinks.

While I am extremely well versed in SEO, and the animal that Google is.

I don’t like to spend time building out blueprints for companies, and going through the process of explaining to them what we can do for them as far as rankings.

That is for people with far more patience then I have.

I have trained too many people over the years, and am just burned out in that respect.

Not to mention, the methods and platform we have, works… and has worked for us in some form or another, for over 8 years.

While we do have some clients, we tend to only take on those clients that already have a pretty good understanding of how things work, and just don’t want to manage it themselves.

I ran AdWords campaigns for clients in the past as well.

Was known for being rather good at it.

However, I don’t have the patience for that either. I feel like I am watching a stock ticker all day long.

With what we do, I can go into Piwik (We don’t use Google tools with what we do), and look at traffic, see if leads are coming in.

And sort by traffic/leads and scale, based on those properties.

What we do is often very hard for people that are new to it, to adapt to.

Because when they are used to working on ranking properties, for long term rankings, it usually goes against everything they believe, and feel that they know.

Well… until they see what happens from using it.

So if you have an Agency, and take on clients, your typical SEO methods are great.

You will need those…

But, if you are also required to bring them leads, make the inbox fillup, or the phone ring, then this is another way to make yourself invaluable to clients.

Organic search traffic still converts better then any paid form of traffic in my opinion.

So I think the technical aspects (Since I am also the developer of the platform) is also a big reason.

Think of it as a little battle with Google, to bend them to our will. Make them pay for a little of that data they make off 90% of the web.

We aren’t trying to typically build trust, and a relationship with a customer, with Lead Gen like this.

We are targeting and finding those people that have a problem, and need it solved.

Especially for things where they are more willing to make a phone call to the first number they see.

I would consider Lead Gen & Traffic Generation, the way we do it, a fun little war game you get to play.

Hopefully that all makes sense… I can get to babbling too long.

What are some of the best niches that can benefit from this business model?

Think about niches where people need a fix quickly.

Those are extremely good ones.

Along with other common things people search for all the time.

> Your car broke down you need a tow.

> Your pipes froze, and burst, you need a plumber.

> Your locked out of your car.

> You think your wife is cheating on you

> Your a business that has a massive computer failure, and need to recover data.

> You are lonely and need a girlfriend lol.

> You slipped in WalMart and broke your arm.

Lawyers :: Debt Consolidation :: Disability :: Cosmetic dentistry or surgery :: Home repair :: Alarm System installations…

Seriously… it would never end on what you can target.

Do you offer exclusive leads i.e. to only one client, or do you offer them to multiple like the big lead gen companies?

Most lead contracts we have done, are only going to one specific client.

But, we would typically want to deal with clients that can handle leads in virtually an location in the U.S.

I would rather deal with nationwide, then specific locations.

You will find clients that are desperate for leads, but only want to service a 50 mile radius, that no one needs their service in very often lol.

We really focus a lot on our platform, and clients that use the platform now, then actual clients that need leads.

However, our customers that use the platform, are mostly doing leads for rather large companies.

One of our customers on the platform, I just did a webinar with them.

They actually beat out Oracle on a job bid recently.

They have a large number of clients. Some paying them over $50k per month.

The R.O.I. on doing those deals is mind blowing.

Have you seen any realtors successfully using this type of SEO?

All the time… And if you spend enough time backtracking, and reverse engineering these things (it can be painful and tedious to do that).

You will find even companies like realtor.com etc, have sites like these out there.

Years ago, when I was doing some Amazon sites as an affiliate as well.

I had actually found Amazon was even involved in doing some similar sites like we do lol.

You will find that most of these companies do things like we do.

They don’t point these sites at their brand sites, etc… They point them to lead conversion pages.

A mistake you can make is taking these types of sites we build for traffic.

And pointing links from 30k+ posts, at your authority site your trying to build.

Not exactly a good idea in many cases. Especially is the LG site is penalized which happens at times.

Especially for over optimizing for keywords, etc…

Or putting spun gibberish on the sites That is something that new people tend to make mistakes with, when first doing the things we do.

What’s the most fascinating aspect of leadgen that you do?

Honestly, I am a techie… so the most fascinating things for me is, seeing how much traffic I can bring in.

And working out issues the search engines may be causing.

I have rebuilt our platform from the ground up, like 5 times over the past 5+ of this specific platform.

Then there is figuring out that 1 point of conversion.

Because of the way we drive traffic to conversion points.

So for example…

When doing something for a specific type of loan…

Originally we would show people, elegant, beautiful things, that looked like a full blown lender or bank type site.

BAD….

The first thing you need to do is get people to click something.

Once they click something they have a little switch that gets triggered in their brain.

They are committed now. They are much more likely to complete the task you want.

So I would take a simple approach.

A landing page with an image that had to do with a loan. Then there were 2 buttons.

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The two buttons varied on what they said…

I used 2 buttons that had age ranges on them. They would select their age range.

Or 2 buttons that would have loan amounts:

Button1: Borrowng under 10k

Button 2: Borrowing over $10k

Or income ranges…

Something that made sense to ask, for the type of lead you were getting.

Then the next page after that needs to be a clean layout, and specific instructions on what they need to do now.

Fill out the form, click to call this number, etc…

People that have problems generating leads, from traffic they bring in.

Are usually over thinking the process, and making things much more complicated then they should be.

So in reality… one of the most fascinating this to me is…

How simple you often need to keep it, to get the highest conversion.

If you have a pure lead gen site how do you brand it? City + service .com ? Then how do you find an address within the service area? Always wondering the process on that. I do some pest control Marketing and I’m looking to get into lead gen more…

See that is something we don’t do, in that respect.

If I am bringing in leads for pest control, I might brand the lander (conversion point) but that lander may be shown on a 100 sites, if I am scaling the campaign.

So I am not branding the traffic funnel sites.

Which by traffic funnel sites, I am referring to sites we build solely for pulling in organic traffic, and funneling it to the lander.

Might make a bit more sense when you read my initial reply in this section:

https://www.facebook.com/…/permalink/1927398674244252/…

Or it may be confusing… either way, I will try to clear things up for you.

What advice do you have for experienced SEOs that have an interest in finding resources that provide a great blueprint of the business model and operations of Lead Gen?

To be honest most of what I have figured out was all trial by fire lol.

So a lot of testing, and a lot of trial and error over the course of a lot of years.

Things like looking at landing pages for paid traffic campaigns, that companies are running, and dissecting them.

To be honest… often the conversion process is the biggest pain in the ass.

Because, you can be driving a lot of traffic, and not convert.

Then it is a process of changing things up and testing.

Nothing crushes your soul more at first then spending an incredible number of hours on your conversion page, and it not converting.

Then simplifying the page, to the point that it was a shell of what it originally was, and conversions go up.

Makes you want to jump out the window head first.

But that is the way it goes sometimes.

If you have traffic, that is right for the offer, and not converting… then the conversion point sucks.

I will try and think if there are any specific things I actually read, or places I went during this whole process.

But, I am kinda shot right now, so I may have to give thats some thought.

I have had my head buried in code more then anything the past 6 months lol.

Show a working site with leadgadget.

Well, I will make one sometime over the weekend, so that it makes sense.

I won’t show sites that are already generating leads, etc…

Show them in public, might as well delete them afterwards lol.

But, maybe I will make a short video to go along with it, so that it all makes sense.

Do you recommend building one big national site or break it up into multiple sites? Or do a combination of both?

Honestly, I will always do national more often then local stuff, if I have a choice.

Much easier, and quicker to get more leads.

Do you build lead gen sites differently in more competitive niches? What’s the most important aspect when building local lead gen sites in a competitive niche?

I guess what we do, would be called building for search engines, not visitors.

You know… all that stuff Google tells you not to do…

You really can’t rank a landing page anymore. So we are creating one point of conversion.

That point of conversion we are overlaying or redirecting to, from the content site we built.

Unlike normal SEO for clients, where you are often trying to raise their site in the search results, we are looking at bringing leads in with shear force.

Thorinwg it out there quickly, because the platform makes that possible.

Watching what sticks (traffic/indexing), and working from there.

So for example… let us say we are targeting leads for home improvement.

Normally I would focus on one aspect of home improvement.

So let us say we are targeting stuff for gutters.

I would pull Google suggest keywords… like in the image.

http://images.supermarketingpro.com/…/seosi…/suggest.png

After I pull those… I would look for sites ranking for things like gutter installation, gutter cleaning, etc.

Those URLs I would stick in Google keyword planner. Because frankly, those sites all have Google analytics on them.

Google sells them out in their keyword planner.

Go look for a site ranking well for a competitive term, and go to the keyword planner.

Don’t put keywords in, just put the URL in.

Then go search some of the keywords that came back form their keyword planner, and you will find them ranking for them.

Helps to often pull suggest keywords form some of those as well.

If they have ads running, I might even look at their landers.

But after that, I know what keywords I am using in tags, and titles of my site content.

I will build out 10 or 20 test sites… see how they index and do… and I will often do this on cheap domains.

The ones I know that actually index well.

Then look at what is happening in my piwik, trim the fat… buy some .com, .net, .org stuff… hit the recycle button we have.

In our platform and push the winning stuff on more domains.

We are building these with geographic locations in titles, heading tags, alt tags, schema, googel maps, etc…

So in many cases, you might find a site bringing you a ton of traffic.

But when you look for it you don’t see it in Google. because Google showed it to them because of their location.

We just frankly don’t care about keyword rankings, and only traffic and indexation… period… 100%.

People that start doing things the way we do it, that come from traditional SEO… they have a hell of a hard time believing it works, until they see it work lol.

So that process we take, is for anything… it doesn’t matter if it is for a specific area (We can target by state, or radius if we want), or nationwide.

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We do it exactly the same… the process is the same.

Even the landing pages, stay the same… that we initially show.

Very generic, that require user interaction in the form of a click, to get the process moving.

What do you think about big leadgen sites? Like home advisor, houzz, ect.

Funny… we built a site awhile back as a test. Houzz for example, I think they may have looked at what we were doing.

I never knew who Houzz was a few years ago. They really didn’t show up a lot anywhere, except with maybe paid traffic.

As an experiment, we built something crazy with or system.

Basically a frontend site, that was along the lines of home advisor, etc…

Then we had about 320 subdomains that were specific keywords for specific home improvement things.

Like wooden fence installation, hvac stuff, you name it.

Basically it was just an experiment… We were throttling home advisor, angie’s list, etc…

We had around 9 million indexed pages. We only had Adsense on the sites.

This was just an experiment, like I said… but decided we might as well get passive income back.

But we made it look legit. There were forms for people to fill out that wanted to list their business in our “Directory.”

Needless to say… about 6 months after we started destroying the serps and showing up everywhere… I started seeing Houzz…

Honestly at first, I just thought there were just someone else going after home improvement.

Didn’t even look for awhile, until they started showing up more and more, when I was looking at things.

But, it was too coincidental (the timing), to believe they weren’t looking at what we did.

Also, like I said, it was a test… So when competitors started sending crappy backlinks, and mass reporting the sites, we started to lose traction.

Because we weren’t there to combat it, like someone running it as a business.

Really we should have kept growing it, and sold it off to one of those guys lol.

Actually should have just paid someone else to maintain it haha..

Since the Adsense alone was way more then enough to pay someone to manage it.

Does your software work with languages other than English?

Yes there are people doing sites in other languages.

I don’t know how many different ones. But, I know they do them in other languages as well.

1) How much content do you put on each page? 2) How unique are the pages on the same site?

1) Anywhere form 800 to 1500 words normally.

2)I would say they probably average out to being about 30% different in the end.

Why hasn’t your method been affected by the “doorway” filters / penalties? https://www.seroundtable.com/google-defines-doorway-pages…

Because Google isn’t that good… lol.

They spend more time with promoting how great they are, versus actually being that good.

Regardless of what you read about Google, they can not feed the hungry, heal the sick, and raise the dead.

It is just a computer program when you take everything down to the most minimal base it can be.

There is no amazing artificial intelligence going on.

How do you get the content for all the sites?

Looking at content already ranking for related terms etc…

People do it a multitude of ways.

But when I am serious, and working on the content, my way is a bit more unique lol.

I might take content from various ranking sites, then re-write it or have it re-written.

But… I have it done where it is written in statement type sentences.

So in reality, I can shuffle sentences and it still not read like gibberish. Still making sense, along with what we call closers.

Meaning I might have 6 niche specific paragraphs that are in spintax These are in shortcodes.

The shortcodes are in spintax… so they alternate shortcodes, and then also use the spintax in those.

Probably kind of tough to understand when you aren’t actually doing it… but that is the way we do it.

How unique is content across the initial 10-20 sites you build? Is the city / geo the only thing that changes?

There is a seed content per site, with varying spintax based content that is added in via shortcodes normally.

Normally when I do them, there are street names./addresses, maps, 1 or 2 closing spintax based paragraphs, along with various schema.

Any tips/resources on how to land the big clients and how to structure the deals? I hear that Ringpartner commissions are tiny compared to going direct but I’ve never done PPL. I don’t know where I’d send the leads.

RP is great for people who are new, or who do not want to deal with clients at all.

As far as finding bigger clients, our whole goal is to do a better job for less money then their ad spend.

So it isn’t very hard to find potential clients in AdWords campaigns for example.

As far as deals go… We don’t pre-qualify leads. We don’t vet them out, etc…

So we call those leads RAW leads. So we never charge on a per lead basis.

We would charge on a per leads (plural) basis. So if we send you 50 leads, your paying this much. Sending you 100 leads is this much…

There were actually times where we do things like sending you at least 50 leads a month, anything over that is just gravy.

So you are over delivering…

But, sometimes that can come back and kick you in the teeth, because you end up way over delivering, so they don’t want to move up.

So in reality, you are better off to redirect those leads somewhere else, or shut them off after you hit your goal.

When you sell RAW leads, you just need to set the expectations, right up front.

The leads will be specific for your business… but we can’t tell you if they meet every criteria you need them to meet.

You will have to determine that when you make contact with the prospect.

Do the initial sites rank without any backlinks?

We don’t backlink any of these types of sites…

So you make tons of pages and get organic traffic then “send it” to a conversion point. How many users see that automated poor content and leave? Seems like the copy wouldn’t convince anyone to continue on?

Mentioned this in another answer… the visitor doesn’t see this content.

They see an overlay or are redirected. We don’t play by Google’s rules.

 

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