Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Ross Hudgens has built a strong reputation for his no-nonsense approach to SEO.
He regularly shares tips, insights and opinions on his blog – www.rosshudgens.com – and recently founded his own agency, Siege Media. We caught up with him ahead of his first appearance in the UK at ionSearch 2013 to pose a few questions…
How do you go about outreach? Is your approach sector specific? Do you find any niches easier than others?
It definitely depends on the sector. Generally, I’ll start with research. What has gotten links in the past? Is this a blog-type link sector? Or one that has more link lists? This helps inform the kind of content we need, or hopefully have already.
From there I’ll analyse competitor backlinks to see if there’s crossover that I can steal, because those are generally the strongest link opportunities. Once that’s dried up I will find the best pipeline for prospects available – sometimes it’ll be infinite and repopulate itself, and sometimes I’ll have to find them. For example, if it’s brand mentions I just use Google blog search and revisit that every couple of weeks for new prospects. If it’s more finite, like link lists, I’ll use Link Prospector or manual searches to create a big list and go from there.
What tools do you currently use to conduct outreach?
What metrics tools do you rate? Are you using more than one tool to conduct various aspects of research?
To qualify links I use Open Site Explorer, and occasionally Ahrefs. I’ll use Ahrefs for a secondary qualification of quality, and if I’m running dry of prospects their rating system can help inform me about some of the additional contacts I can make. I’ll take the highest top couple of prospects for competitors that I haven’t done outreach too.
What do you think the best method of acquiring links is with a budget below $2,000?
I’ve stopped taking clients with a budget under $2,000, so that should tell you a little bit about my answer here. It’s tough – hopefully you’ve got some kind of talent in-house that can be leveraged; whether it’s industry connections, good writers, or something like that. The good news is everyone is in just as much pain as you are if your vertical can’t be monetised to the point where you can leverage a higher budget than that, so if you can squeak out a few good links it should start being the difference between victory and defeat.
Have you succeeded in removing a client out of a penalty? If so, what worked best for you?
Thankfully I have. Generally it depends on the type. I am not of the belief that Penguin “refreshes”. There are some algorithmic adjustments, but I have found that getting anchor text ratios in more optimal areas, removing site-wides, and continuing to build brand anchors has helped the sites that I have worked on to recover .
When you identify a new keyword that you’d like to rank for, what’s your process for starting to optimise for that keyword and get it ranking in the top 100?
If it’s a new domain get some high quality links first. Make them brand-focused. Build them slowly, but ideally you won’t have to worry about it because they’ll be content based. If you authentically build them with content, velocity shouldn’t be a problem. Get in good neighbourhoods. Continue investing in product. Put the foot on the pedal when it naturally becomes time to.
In your view what is a safe link?
A link with brand anchor text, that isn’t site-wide.
How do you build links? What are your top tips?
Right now I build links by moulding content strategy to better receive them. I build links by monitoring brand mentions, then capturing opportunities where there was a mention without links. I build links through broken link-building, using tools like BrokenLinkBuilding.com. I build links by writing good stuff that has visibility so that people can link to it.
How far will Google go with Penguin?
I think they’re done with it. In my opinion 2013 will be pretty quiet on the algorithm front.
What makes a good SEO and link-builder?
Love of technology, a natural marketing mind, good technical chops, experience and care.
What are the top blogs that you read and follow?
Brand versus non-Brand anchor text – what is your advice on maintaining a healthy link footprint?
I recommend that commercial, targeted anchors should be less than 20% of a link profile. No site-wide commercial anchor text links. Build links where the webmaster has the option of selecting the anchor and a lot of this will take care of itself.
If you’re hiring someone to join your link building team, what skills and qualities are you looking for?
Pretty much what I mentioned above! Love of technology, a natural marketing mind, good technical chops, experience and care in what they do.