Matthew Woodward


Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick His Brain!

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

Matthew has been building websites since before Google, YouTube and even when ‘link building’ was a thing.

Backed with a range of corporate e-commerce digital marketing and SEO experience, he has since built an affiliate empire along with one of the most popular SEO blogs in the niche.

Please feel free to ask anything related to SEO.

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.

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Table of Contents

If you were dealing with an e-commerce site that had multiple regional subdomains (main, +, &, & etc.) would you canonical them all to the “main” site or would you try and rank them as individual sites in their respective regions?

The answer to that question depends on the overall business strategy and is not a decision for an SEO to make.

If I was the CEO of the business, I would treat each of them as separate business entities.

If you had to choose one or the other for the best bang for your buck, money making potential: 1) Would you do SEO for your own sites ie. affiliate, ecommerce, blogs, etc. or would you choose to 2) Take client work only for your agency? bonus question: Why?

Both options have different upsides and downsides – personally I do both.

Affiliate sites/ecommerce sites means I carry 100% of the risk and responsibility however I also have 100% freedom.

They take a bit of capital to setup (takes us about $6k and 2 months to churn out a high end niche site) and then theres on going link building and content costs which can easily take you to $8-$12k investment before theres any opportunity of return.

Obviously things are cheaper if you do them yourselves when you are starting out (which is how I did it)

Client sites mean you can focus purely on the SEO and you don’t need to worry too much about other aspects of the business for the most part.

You get to meet interesting people and delve deep into a range of SEO problems.

You gain a lot of hands on experience very quickly however it’s important you learn how to filter out problems clients before they become a client otherwise you’ll lose any chance of profitability.

What’s the dirtiest, spammiest, guilty-pleasure tactic that you see (not necessarily recommend) ranking sites today? Trying to stay on the bleeding edge here.

I don’t consider it “dirty” but private blog networks still offer by definition – one the best qualitys of link you can build.

Google is blindly trusting…/faq-rich-snippets/ at the moment which makes it open to abuse.

Not that SEO’s would abuse it or anything!

What do you like to automate first?

Content creation!

Any GMB super tricks or map tips you use that you use for big results?

Honestly I suck at local SEO – so anytime I want a GMB or anything like that.

I buy it from someone who knows what they are doing.

However every affiliate site I build, I treat as a real business – which means phone number + address + GMB + some other bits and bobs.

What is the best link building teqnique and how can I improve bounce rate?

There isn’t a single “best” technique. That’s like asking which is the best screw driver, depends on the screw.

However the first link building technique I apply to all of my sites for the last decade is…/backlink-analysis/

Improving your bounce rate again is specific to you.

You can improve your bounce rate by first answering the question “why are they bouncing” which can be done with heatmaps or in page analytics

What does your team structure look like? What kind of tech stack you’re using for managing your projects, tasks and communication?

My team is distributed across 5 countries which is managed through Trello and HubStaff.

What is your net worth ? (since you are so long in this game..)

Off the top of my head I have no idea.

It’s enough that I don’t need to worry.

At this point I own enough houses outright to generate enough income for all of my immediate family to live a very comfortable lifestyle.

Which post do you like most on your blog or you think gives the best value if you had to pick 1or2 posts only?

What provides the most value is different for different people.

Each person visiting the blog faces a different set of problems so its not for me to judge what has the most value for any individual.

For example some people found life changing value in the income reports, others said they are a waste of time.

It really depends on the current problem set.

Can you describe any strategies your using that you feel most people aren’t aware of?

The power of observation, common sense and hard work.

I’ve listened to your podcast with content champion regarding backlink strategies and in it you mentioned that one can get away with extreme exact match anchor texts in internal links, But I’ve read a blog post by Matt Diggity saying this opposite and that only 50 percent should be exact match, so what do you think about that?

Rather than asking the question – why don’t you go look at some sites in your niche with number 1 spots/featured snippets and plug them into screaming frog.

Then you can make your own decision instead of relying on what any individual person says.

You’ll probably find that in your specific niche, for your specific keyword and for the current number 1 position – neither of us are “right”

Do you have a process for determining the ideal or most compelling value exchange when approaching a prospect? Is there a particular line of reasoning you employ to answer the question, “Why would this person want to add something to their to-do list?”

I don’t do any personal value exchanges but my outreach templates only have 1 goal.

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And that is to make people laugh.

Because when people laugh, they reply and after that it’s all gravy!

Do you still use GSA?

GSA when used correctly is an effective way to build links since the latest Penguin update.

Why? Because before there was a much higher risk that links can hurt you which Google have now relaxed due to the rise and simplicity of negative SEO.

With that said, I’ve only seen a handful of people using it correctly.

If you are just going to auto generate some junk spam content and blast it out at volume.

Well, good luck (although this strategy does have a place)

But if you are loading it up with high quality unique content.

Filtering out the junk and making sure you are only earning links surrounded by high quality relevant content then you can use it safely on your first tier.

The question is though – is your time/effort better spent else where?

And that really depends on what you are trying to rank and your current situation.

All out volume spam is great on your second tier but the question remains.

Is it better to build out your second tier or spend the same resource earning new tier 1 links.

Can I add some of my important pages in the main menu of the site so will get internal links from all site pages?

Yes if it makes sense to do so.

Can you list your top 10 tools here which you always use when making a post or building backlinks?

Well every campaign is different, but the tools I ALWAYS use are-

1. My brain

2. Observation

3. Pen + Paper

4. Microsoft office

5. Trello

6. Email client

7. My team

How do I build links to website B, C.D, E, F, and G so they can rank website A and later rank the B to G?

Build them all out as seperate footprintless entitires and then just treat them as individual businesses.

What technical SEO skills do you think a modern SEO professional needs to succeed in e-commerce? For example HTML/CSS/Java or more data analytic skills.

You need a range of skills from excel basics all the way through to being able to read code (writing code can be outsourced cheaply)

You also need a certain level of business acumen because you need to align your SEO strategy to the core business strategy of an ecommerce site which is often easier said than done when there are changing product ranges/seasons/holidays and so forth.

What’s your roadmap to create an affiliate site?

Find the niche

Create the content

Build the links

What’s the toughest keyword you’ve ranked for and what’s the one specific strategy that helped the most?

The majority of keywords I target aren’t “tough” because rarely does a hard to rank keyword directly align to a business strategy.

Most of my personal success comes from low level to mid range keywords in terms of “toughness”.

But are more aligned to commerical acitivtys like price comparisons and so on.

For clients though that is a different story because they have already built a business base that’s easy to leverage with SEO.

So I can’t really claim credit for ranking them because I was building on what already existed but lots of head terms in various niches.

Do SEO gurus actually rank sites?

No – we build businesses.

If you need to start an affiliate website in 2019 from scratch then how will you build and what will be your strategy?

Build the site like you were building a real business and everything that encompasses.

Have you noticed big changes in spammy linkbuilding since Google said they won’t algorithmically penalize spammy links but just don’t count them?

That is to suggest that spammy link building decreased, which I don’t think it did.

But yes there is certainly less risk now than in recent history

How do you think Google knows which sites’ links to devalue? Do they just keep a big list of sites they know sells links and that people spam (web2.0s for example) or do you think there’s more to it than that?

Well, this is from 2012 – so they probably have a pretty decent dataset at this point –

Would you say ‘link building’ is still a thing? – If so how would you go about doing it. (Ie. what factors would you look at to determine if it’s a website worth getting a link from – I mean besides the elements of relevance, content, engagement and the said domains own rankings). Many SEOs on this group say that Domain Authority is a MOZ metric hence means nothing – which I get, but what metric(s) would you use otherwise to determine the ‘Authority’ of a domain?

You can’t rely on one single metric to make a decision.

But the first thing you need to do is ask yourself “do I want a link from this site?”

Just look at it and you’ll know – it’s also likely you’ll have a feel for how authorativie it is just from using your eyes.

Then if it’s a site you want a link from, you can start looking into metrics whether that is Moz, Ahrefs, SEMRush or whatever.

Just don’t base your decision on a single metric.

Any tips for medical websites suffered in latest algorithm updates?

Look at all things on site, start with an audit.

While doing that look at how you can increase authority both onsite and offsite.

List your credentials, highlight your successes, tell people why your qualified to advise them.

Do you have a phone number? An address?

Are you complying with all legal standards like listing company details on specific pages etc?

Any tips for recovering traffic from latest Google algo updates?

With any Google Algo update you should always start-

1) First by observing the winners and losers in your niche

2) Audit your site top to bottom.

If you haven’t done any SEO audit in the last 12 month you are likely losing out on traffic irrespective of algo updates

Do you have a recommended site auditing template or do you just go cowboy?

Yes at a birds eye view-

1) Survey visitors

2) Manual observation

3) Perform some top level technical spot checks

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4) Scan your site with a tool

5) Apply fixes/imrpvoements

What is the best way to attract corporate web design clients?

Rank #1 for “corporate web design”

If you had the chance to see and speak to your (15 yrs) younger self, what would you advice him to do if you had to start all over again doing SEO and business in particular.

The advice I would give me would be specific to me and probably irrelevant to you.

But things you should be doing at that age to get ahead are-

1) Observe everything. Always take a step back, stay quiet and observe.

You’ll learn an awful lot about everything in life whether that’s how people make buying decisions or how the latest google algorithm update works.

2) Work hard with passion and conviction. Either do things to your complete ability or don’t do them at all.

3) Only listen to people that have achieved or are trying to achieve the same things that you are.

You can “listen” to these people just by speaking to them or by reading their books/interviews if they are well known.

How did you find your best source of contractors for the day to day SEO tasks?

I have full time staff.

Is it ever ok to use grey hat SEO techniques?

Anyone that labels themselves as a white hat SEO, is an idiot.

Equally anyone that labels themselves as a black hat SEO is an idiot.

Grey hat SEO?

That’s just 2x types of idiot merged together.

How many VA’s do you use, and what’s the best way to find and instruct them? Any resources would be great. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

I have full time passionate employees that all work remote around the world.

I find the word “VA” to diminish that relationship and their worth

If you want to build a team out make sure you have taken time to properly write out the processes of the tasks you expect them to do BEFORE you hire them.

If you hire someone and they are not performing, it’s because you have failed to train and manage them properly.

Most people just draw conclusions like “yeah but it’s upwork what did you expect” but some of my best hires have come from Fiverr and Upwork.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the current state of PBNs VS Guest-Posts/Niche-Edits in 2019. Which path is the most viable and practical?

Niche edits are a car crash waiting to happen for many reasons.

PBN’s will always be effective as long as link building is a thing – but you must pay close attention to footprints and quality.

Most of the “guest post” services you find are just posts on PBN’s.

If you want gain more control over link building you should learn “outreach” as a foundation skill rather than trying to learn specific strategies.

Once you have learnt and systemizd the foundation skill, it opens up lots of different strategies to you.

What do you use to build tier 2-3 links nowadays?


Do you use any of the add ons like the Web 20 add on? Any chance you could give a very rough description of your tier setup?

I will have a full tutorial series in the near future that outlines all your tiered options.

What’s your favorite CRO trick?

Nothing fancy, just split testing!

Split tests I have run on the MW blog include-

Sidebar vs no sidebar

2x seperate tests of logos

Picture of me in header vs no picture of me in header

Headlines across various pages/landers/tutorials

Introductions to tutorials

All of the text/images in popups/lightboxes

Right now there is a test to see which picture of me on the homepage gets the best results.

If you had a job board that focused on 10 specific industries, what would be your best techniques to drive traffic to it?

Good on site structure backed with a content strategy that can be applied to each industry

Why did my tags stop ranking on Google very abruptly, but continues to rank on other SE’s. What did Google do to block my tags? And why?

Have you checked they dont have noindex tags applied or an updated plugin messed with them?

What to do if you’re stuck at 2nd page of SERP even after doing all the ON /OFF Page efforts ? Everything is better than the 1st page rankers, Still don’t know why it is stuck,,and its been more than 2 months or so…

Please list what “all the on/off page efforts” are.

Would you say SEO has become easier to learn compared to how it was before?

There is certainly a low barrier to entry but the skill level needed to execute has become higher.

Ease of learning really is down to the individuals ability to recognize how they best learn and to accelerate that.

What’s your thought of entity based SEO & schema markup as we are moving away from keywords to topics in the future? I came across one of your video (affiliate word conference) with your mate who is a tech guy with data science background. Cool video. When you make a little changes, do you always do the Fetch & render to make changes reflect soon?

I think you should look at my automated topic research sheet that we are using to build sites now.

Yes I always fetch as Google and/or use the Google Indexing API

Pick His Brain! with Matthew Woodward 1

Of the 100% budget for any SEO campaign – what percentage of budget you spend on SEO tools vs budget for content creation + backlinks?

Tools I never have to budget for because I just have them available at all times.

Like a builder isn’t going to budget for needing a screwdriver he already has.

I’ll happily pay $2k for a solid domain with links from big places (BBC, NYTimes, Wiki etc) then launch with 20k words and build to 50k words over the next 8 weeks.

That content could cost you $1,500 or $5,000 depending on your approach.

Then a lot of links are won via my existing team so there is minimal cost there but budget is dynamic depending on traction/other projects/available resource.

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