Pick His Brain! with Hayk Saakian 1

 

Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick His Brain!

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

Although Hayk got his feet wet in SEO less than 3 years ago, he now runs a high six-figure agency and he is only 26.

His secret sauce is his ability to tap into a network of experts and mentors. He is proof that you don’t need a decade of experience to run a successful agency.

If you have any questions regarding running an agency, please feel free to pick his brain.

Here are the rules.

1) I’ll let the thread go on until he asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until the FaceBook stock 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

I would love to hear your feedback on scaling/tracking and hiring in a short timeframe.

I’m still figuring this out, but here’s how we did it

1) Always hire on culture first and experience/skills second.

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Someone with the wrong skills can learn what they need in 3-6 months.

Someone with the wrong culture will ruin your company.

2) Create a list of clear responsibilities for every role before hiring. What does this person do on a day to day basis?

3) Make sure you or someone else at your company has done their role before hiring them.

Don’t hire for an “impossible” role.

I suggest reading “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker for some gold in this area.

What’s the #1 thing you see other SEOers messing up?

#1 thing I see is chasing the “shiny new object”.

This is true for me as much as anyone.

If we focused on being the best at 1 type of link building vs changing up our strategy completely every 3 months then we’d be better off.

(We went from GSA link stacks to PBNs to press releases to guest post outreach to infographic outreach etc.)

Just make sure you’re doing something that’s tried and true and then learn from the best on how to do that 1 thing as good as possible.

What do you use to do outreach?

Mostly just regular gmail accounts. We’ve been experimenting with NinjaOutreach.

This week I’m doing R&D with phone call outreach (calling for links), look out for a post in this group with my results.

Top tips for onsite and also how important is bounce rate – within the context of a site or within a niche.

#1 Tip: make sure to have they keyword you want to rank for in your title tag.

(Basic on-site 101 but people screw it up)

#2 Tip: make sure your content actually helps the person who would be searching that keyword.

If they bounce or don’t convert you’re wasting your time and their time.

#3 Tip: Look at the competitors who rank for your keyword and make sure you can honestly say your content is 10x better and more useful than what they offer.

(Usually word count is a simple metric to see this)

Bounce rate is important if it’s higher than the competition for the same keyword.

Diminishing returns once you’re “on par” or slightly better than with what they’ve got.

Research industry standards for different types of content to benchmark yourself.

How did you go from a wannabe to actually generating revenue as an SEO? What foot in the door method got you over the initial hurdle of getting started? I feel a lot of folks are stuck here. I had / have a strong existing network to spring off of, but not everyone does.

We got our first (adwords) client by making a list of 10 ideas for improving his business.

The guy trusted by partner (my cousin) who was his friend from college.

He understood we didn’t have experience with any of those 10 ideas but gave us a chance anyways.

They paid us $500 per month for managing over $20k a month in adwords spend.

The “10 ideas” thing is from James Altucher https://jamesaltucher.com/…/the-ultimate-guide-for…/

Keep in mind we probably sent 10 ideas to 20, 30 40 other people but this is the one person who got back to us with an opportunity to work together.

Is Local SEO a niche market, or does one have to break it down futher such as focusing on Lawyers. I have just started an SEO business but have 20 years experience of doing my own SEO.

From a marketing perspective it depends on the niche.

If you’re targeting Lawyers for example, there are dozens of multi million dollar companies selling to your local lawyer client.

People will trust you more if you’re a “Lawyer SEO Expert” even if it’s all the same tactics under the hood.

Your sales process will be easier and you’ll get more referrals that way.

I’m also learning that from an operations and link building perspective it’s easier too.

Once you know all the top 200 lawyer directories for industry citations, then you can apply the same exact roadmap to your 2nd and 3rd lawyer client.

The operational benefits aren’t obvious when you’re a 1 man shop.

But if you want to hire employees they won’t be able to improvise as well as you so giving them a repeatable process will help you deliver value more consistently.

So in a small er country, could Local SEO be a regarded as a niche…as opposed to optimising for national or international customers?

Sure, “Local SEO” could be described as a niche in and of itself, but keep in mind that doesn’t mean as much to your prospective customer.

You’ll get more milage finding all the complimentary SEOs in your area if your pitch is “Local SEO” compared to something like “Automotive SEO” “Travel SEO” “Healthcare SEO” etc.

How can we tap into a network of experts and mentors?

Start by building relationships and giving to people who are doing what you want to be doing without expecting anything in return.

Read the book called “Give and Take” by Adam Grant.

Even if you have 0 knowledge to give, having a positive attitude and a giving personality will help you build relationships with people much more powerful than you.

Surround yourself with people who are smarter than yourself.

Don’t let your current circle of friends drag you down (I know that sounds brutal).

EDIT: I got the name of the book wrong, it should be “Give and Take” here’s a link: https://www.amazon.com/Give-Take-Helping…/dp/0143124986

How do I know how long a blog post should be?

You Google it.

Nah just kidding you look at your competitors for a particular keyword an 1 up them by at least 20% or so that’s my rule of thumb.

I don’t want to self promote in here but we’ve built tools to help automate this, so look for logic inbound when you search on Google to see what I mean.

I’ve been looking at external link building for my web design business, for a small budget per month would you recommend buying 1 or 2 high DA posts / links or would you say the money is better spent on multiple lower DA posts / links?

I’m seeing more and more that lower ‘authority’ stuff is totally ineffective.

I would use their website traffic and local relevance as the main factors.

For smaller budget clients I try to get them involved in the process to take on some of the work.

For example: asking them to join trade associations and follow up with their editors for links

So the answer in this case would be the higher DA stuff?
With regards to trade associations, would you recommend just sticking within the Web Design area or is there value left in other business directories?

If it’s for your own business, then I suggest starting with local neighborhood associations, business networking associations etc.

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Ideally local to your city/county/state etc.

I know I know asking this can get annoying. But when you’re writing a big/pillar type (2000+) post what are the TOP 3 tools that YOU work with and just a brief reason why you picked them.

1) Google.com to see what the other people are writing about and identify the gaps

2) Ahrefs.com to identify the keywords to use for the various sections and map out what the content will talk about

3) https://tools.logicinbound.com/ideal-word-count/ in house tool to figure out the ideal word count quickly

What are your best strategies for finding new clients, esp in the early stage of business?

Go through your personal network and help out everyone you can.

Give them 10 ideas to improve their marketing and don’t expect anything in return.

If you do this enough times good things will naturally happen.

In terms of attribution, where do the bulk of your clients come from; SEO, PPC or email?

Where do our own clients come from?

Most of them, 60%+ come from a referral or a channel partner.

We’ve built referral and white label partnerships with local companies who can now generate revenue from SEO from their existing clients.

Local web developers are great channel partners because they’re easy to meet and the prospect of monthly recurring revenue will really help stabilize their monthly income compared to the project-based work they normally do.

The easier you make it for someone to refer you business, the more likely you are to get a referral.

If someone else can clearly describe what you do and what makes you unique in 1 sentence that will help A LOT.

In terms of services offered: 99.99% of our clients are using us for SEO services.

We do some web development when needed for existing clients.

Should I get some type of agency experience before heading into building my own agency, which has been my career goal for the past few years or just go straight into building my own business? My second question is about sales. I agree that refferals are best, but in my case that is not very viable, so I have also decided to learn sales via cold emails, calls etc. Do you have any tips in this area on how to get the decision maker’s attention with cold emails?

I always suggest to go directly for what you want.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to start an agency, all you need is clients.

I suggest reading “the marketing agency blueprint” to learn the logistics of running an agency

Apart from customer referrals. What’s your #1 strategy for generating high quality SEO leads?

Channel Partners. Strategic agreements with other agencies that they will refer clients to you.

Some times it’s white label, some times there’s a referral fee.

A lot of times it’s just because they trust us for as “the expert” for SEO since we built a relationship with them.

Is it okay to run this agency with web development, programming and writings stuff all at one or it’s preferable I do it on different platforms.

Both ways work. It depends on what you want to be good at.

In our case we primarily focus on SEO, but we’ll do things like implement the the technical SEO fixes or other on site suggestions too.

Generally we prefer if the client has an in house writer otherwise we introduce them to a niche expert writer (and bill them a few hours for a recruiting campaign).

People like copypress, Jesse Neubert or Jessica Foster are good for content writing if you don’t want to do it in house.

It’s faster to get good at one thing than 3 things from my perspective.

What are your thoughts on authority stacking and trust tiering? Using web 2.0s

It’s supposed to work.

In my case we stopped doing it because either we didn’t know how to do it correctly or it looked too spammy to present to a client.

We switched gears into 100% client presentable links.

It’s just easier to be fully transparent that way rather than try to justify a link that looks really bad but “it’s actually good for SEO”.

In my case client presentable means outreach and directories

Do you show your clients all the links you’ve built for them?

Most of them don’t ask, but if we proactively tell them what we’re doing then it helps boost trust.

If you find that you’re getting unexpected emails from your client asking for calls or asking for a meeting that means they don’t understand what you’re doing.

What did you overlook when first starting your agency that you wish you had focused on now?

#1 thing I overlooked is building relationships with mentors.

We “spun our wheels” on challenges that a mentor would have been able to answer easily and save us time.

What has been your best method for finding quality SEO client leads?

I mentioned above, but it’s channel partnerships.

Also known as business development.

There’s a book called Traction that was suggested to me by Steven Kang .

The book has a very simple to understand and tactical chapter on business development check it out.

I see several books with that title on Amazon. Do you have the author’s name?

It’s called “Traction” by Gabriel Weinberg.

Here are my book notes if you’d like a preview of it:

https://docs.google.com/…/1f_Rz7bio-xowSte3ME…/edit

How do you go about semantic analysis when structuring the page architecture of a website?

Mainly I’m looking at head terms vs long tails to come up with architecture. In practice that involves studying the competition and the serps for relevant keywords.

For example if my client wants to rank for chicken recipes I’ll look at what types of results I’m getting in Google: is it individual recipes or is it category pages or lists of recipes?

If I look at a few competitors, how do they do it?

Once I have the high level architecture we do in depth keyword research to build a long list of all the possible terms.

Then we take all the keywords and use a grouping method.

This combines similar keywords into groups in order to map out individual pages that should exist on a website.

Let me know if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m happy to dive deeper into this subject

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Let’s say you’re in a very very competitive nichel. To rank for that one ultra high volume and KD keyword, how do you gauge the volume/velocity of content to be generated (I also read your post above about content variety, will definitely look into that)? How about quality and quantity of backlinks needed? Realistically speaking…some keywords seem damn near impossible with how ‘hardcore’ our competitors are engaging in SEO activities.

Check out my other answer on content and let me know if you’d like me to follow up.

For backlinks it can get tricky. Usually i’ll look at tools like ahrefs to analyze their link velocity and overall number of referring domains.

My goal is to have more high quality links than the competitors on page 1.

It gets more complicated in super competitive niches, because people are more likely to hide their backlink profile from Ahrefs, SEMRush and all the SEO tools.

Here’s an example, I see a website with 37 referring domains ranking on page 1 for ‘car insurance quotes’.

It’s really hard to believe they only have 37 referring domains when most of their competitors are in the several hundreds.

Pick His Brain! with Hayk Saakian 2

Can you explain your ideal client?

Good question! I discussed this with my team last week and we put together our criteria here: (feel free to copy this)

https://docs.google.com/…/1J4wH3wiB92ucDGRUoNwz…/edit…

Do you serve to particular niche? Do you still build pbn links?, And do your clients know that you are using pbn when you are using it? Do you own pbn network? If yes then how many domains does it have?

We’re moving to focus in either the cannabis niche and the healthcare niche (doctors).

One of our first clients was a doctor who had a really good success story with us.

(Details here: https://www.logicinbound.com/seo-for-doctors/ )

Today we have clients in all shapes and sizes: b2b, b2c, local, eCommerce, national etc.

We used to use PBNs in 2017 Not any more.

Those sites never really looked presentable to a client.

Sometimes a client would ask me what we’ve done for them this month.

And it was pretty embarrassing showing them the kinds of crap sites hosting their article next to a “Plumbers in (city state)” garbage looking article on a website that didn’t that didn’t make any sense.

Early this year we decided to do everything ‘above board’ and only do work that we would be proud to show our clients.

Switched to 100% outreach and not looking back.

PBNs definitely still work and I know people who use them successfully.

If i was doing affiliate SEO or my own projects then I would probably still use them.

It just doesn’t look great from a client deliverable perspective.

Have you ever paid for link? Like if you pitch someone for link and they asked you money for that have you still close the deal? Do you think buying link can be solution for those who are unable to build links by outreach?

For the highest quality links it’s usually cheaper to simply pitch more until you get a free opportunity rather than going for a sponsored post.

For example: If someone wants $100 to post on their website, I could instead spend that $100 to pay a local employee to spend 5 hours pitching other websites to get a free guest post opportunity instead.

In reality you could get a good guest post opp with only 2-3 hours of pitching on average.

Sponsored posts are almost never worth it in my opinion.

What are some fundamental tactics on link building?

1) Link outreach is pretty fundamental.

Our process is pretty heavily based on Ryan Stewart’s process here: (This video gives you like 80% of what’s in his course.

But you can check out the course for the full thing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maT6O5FTUO4)

2) Directory links and local citations are key to understand for local clients.

That’s pretty much it in my opinion.

If you want to get into Web 2.0s, link stacks, GSA etc. that’s a whole ‘nother world.

But #1 and #2 can take you a long way on their own.

Would that tactic be applied the same if I’m selling a product?

For products I would do link outreach targeting product reviews and ‘top X’ lists. the process is 90% the same.

The main differences are who you target with your list and what you tell them in your emails/calls.

I am doing outreach for my site..but the problem is most of the site i am writing about won’t accept my post unless i write about their given topic.. so is it ok to put our link in body or author’s bio if the content is irrelevant to our niche.. and also how aggressive should i go on link building.. like build 5-10 links a day or what??

It seems like you’re reaching out to the wrong types of sites.

You could also be pitching them ideas that aren’t very good.

Normally I try to suggest content ideas to the website that fit with their audience as well as the page I want to link to.

For example if I’m pitching a design blog,

I might suggest something like “How does User Experience Affect your SEO?”

This way linking to my own blog articles would make sense from inside the body.

I came across a company in my city, well known optometrists, prescription glasses, frames…they have a number of branches, but they don’t rank at all on line. How does one sell SEO and the concept of the Google-3-pack to a company who are doing well, but do not have an online presence, and their competitors are all over them when it comes to online marketing. If you wanted to set a up meeting over the phone, what would your opening line be.

I would want to know a few things: do they spend any money at all on marketing? (Do you see them on bus ads, newspapers tv etc.?)

Do they want to grow their business?

If they’re not interested in growing then you’re fighting an uphill battle trying to sell any marketing to them.

My approach would be to offer information and teach them everything that their competitors are doing to get ahead of them.

Don’t offer to sell anything until they’re qualified.

You might find out that they’re not actually interested in growing their business.

 

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