How to Leverage Your Thought Leadership in Digital Marketing (with Neil Patel)

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn McDougall:  Hi, I’m John McDougall. Today, we’re talking about leveraging your thought leadership and building authority in digital marketing. My guest is Neil Patel, founder of Quick Sprout and co‑founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics.

Welcome, Neil.

Neil PatelNeil Patel:  Thanks for having me.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Absolutely. I’ll start by saying I’m a huge fan of your work, ever since I saw you speak at Search Engine Strategies in New York, about 10 years ago. I just signed up for your advanced business framework.

Neil PatelNeil:  Awesome. Thanks for signing up for it. Hopefully, you like it.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Yeah, fantastic. Just getting set up with your team, and Basecamp, and all that. Looking forward to it.

Neil PatelNeil:  Perfect.


Beginning Entrepreneurship

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  How did you get started being an entrepreneur?

Neil PatelNeil:  The way I got started as being an entrepreneur is when I was 16 years old. I decided that I wanted a job. I didn’t know where to find one. I went online, found the site called, and looked for a job. None of the jobs that were on the site met the skill requirements that I had, being 16 years old, without a college degree, or much work experience, et cetera, especially the high paying jobs.

I decided, why not copy They’re a publicly traded company. They’re financially public. They’re making hundreds and millions of dollars. I was like, “If I can make one percent of what they make.” I launched it, but no one came to the site. Eventually, I had to learn how to do Internet marketing. I didn’t have much money to pay other people.

I got pretty good at it. The site still didn’t make any money, but I ended up creating an agency from it. And that’s how I got my career started as an entrepreneur, and more specifically, an entrepreneur in the marketing space.


Authority Tactics

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  That’s a great story. Which tactics or approaches made the biggest difference positioning yourself as an authority?

Neil PatelNeil:  I would say the biggest thing that’s helped me as authority is mainly blogging, public speaking, and guest posting. It’s a bit of a combination of everything. If you do it enough, and you do it long enough, you’ll do well. So, it has to be consistent. You have to do it every week, or every month, or whatever it may be, and you have to do it for years, and you’ll build up that authority. But if you only do it a few times, it doesn’t work too well.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Yeah, absolutely, consistency. SEO has gotten tougher after Panda and Penguin. How important is it for SEO that companies position their thought leaders through blogging in social media?

Neil PatelNeil:  It’s really important. If you do blogging and you try to become a thought leader, what you’ll find is it’s much easier to get rankings, more traffic, more business, than if you try to do things the old way.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Yeah. I’m sure you’ve heard of the EAT acronym with Google and the Quality Rater Guide.

Neil PatelNeil:  Yes.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Google’s certainly tracking that one. Do you think that featuring your thought leadership and experts can even help increase conversions, by making your site more human?

Neil PatelNeil:  I really do. If people feel they get to know you, they like you, they’re much more likely to convert than if you have a cool website that’s not personal.


Link Building

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Absolutely. What about link building? Is it dying, or is it basically more akin to public relations than ever?

Neil PatelNeil:  I don’t think it’s dying. It still works. It’s more so you have to get quality links. You can’t just link to one page with rich anchor text. It has to be very natural, organic. And it also ties into public relations. Getting links from press sites or large news sites do way better than getting a link from Joe the Plumber.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Yeah, absolutely. The times have changed so much. That’s where, when I saw available, I jumped on it. I think that is so overlooked by a lot of companies that — they want SEO, but they don’t want to do that hard work. So, hopefully, times are changing and people are more open‑minded, recognizing link building isn’t something you farm out for a hundred bucks a month. It’s more like PR.

Neil PatelNeil:  Exactly.


Writing vs. Hiring Writers

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  How much are you writing these days, each week, versus hiring writers? Do you still have time in your schedule to keep up your blogs yourself as well?

Neil PatelNeil:  I do. But that’s mainly what I do, is just go out there and blog. It ranges each week because I also have a backlog of stuff. Example, guest posting. This week, I got eight guest posts that went up, which is a lot.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Eight? You’re kicking our butts here.

Neil PatelNeil:  But I only wrote one guest post. Sometimes, it gets backlogged, and there will be lucky weeks where I just get a lot all at once. Typically, I don’t have the time to write 8 guest posts a week, plus 10 other blog posts, or whatever it may be.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  You’re still writing for several…KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, Quick Sprout?

Neil PatelNeil:  I don’t write for KISSmetrics anymore. I write for Quick Sprout. I write for Neil Patel. I write for Crazy Egg every once in a while. I’ve been cutting back on where I’ve been posting. I just don’t have the time to post everywhere.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  I’ve been following Quick Sprout, and I love it. That’s what turned me on to do your advanced business framework program because Quick Sprout’s just awesome.

Neil PatelNeil:  Thanks. Good to hear.


Minimum Number of Blog Posts for Thought Leadership

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Yeah, absolutely. What about the minimum number of blog posts? There’s a lot of debate on that. How many blog posts or resource pages do you think you needed each week for, say, the average small business to get their blog and site to take off?

Neil PatelNeil:  If you want traction, at least one.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  I don’t know if you saw the HubSpot post recently, it was kind of interesting. They show in an inflection point at 16+ posts a month equals X amount of added benefit, of course. They have a whole post about how many — there’s one post on do you do long form, versus shorter 500‑word posts? Then the answer, they basically say, “Long is good.”

I see you talking a lot about in‑depth — your content being 1,500, even over 2,000 words a lot of the time. They talked about that. And then in another post, they went into great detail on how many posts a month make the big magic happen. They had this graphic on 16+ being a big boost. It gets better, as it keeps going up, but that’s one inflection point that they thought was huge.

Neil PatelNeil:  Yeah, I can see it. I try to publish at least 10 times a month. But I do know when you start posting seven times a week, you start seeing a huge inflection of traffic. Not right then and there, but typically a year later.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Interesting. Yeah, a year later. So those posts are evergreen, and they’re still bringing love over the years.

Neil PatelNeil:  Yeah. The key is you have to wait at least a year after you do it consistently. That’s where most people fail. They’re just impatient. They stop.


Blog Promotion & Authority Marketing

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Really good advice. What are a couple tips for promoting blog posts to build authority?

Neil PatelNeil:  The simplest way is to go out there, and every single website that you link out to, email, message, let them know, and ask them to share the content. Why wouldn’t they? They may not link back, but they’ll share it on Twitter or Facebook. That strategy works extremely well.

The other thing that’s easy to do is go on Twitter, do a search for all the people who tweet about similar stuff. Go look at their bios, see if they have a website, find their email address, and email them, letting them know that you tweeted a similar post in your space. You have an awesome post coming out, and they should share that as well. Just those two simple tactics will get you a ton of traffic.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  I couldn’t agree more. I read the post where you’re talking about that. It might have been the Christy Heinz one, where, I think it was 32 experts on blog promotion tips. I think that was the one where you said something along those lines. And ever since, every post I write now, I’m so focused on trying to figure out who I can quote, who I can link out to.

I’m a huge believer — that’s something I wasn’t doing enough of, so I take that to heart. So, when you’re writing a post, do you make a list of influencers that you’re going to mention? What’s a little mini process for that?

Neil PatelNeil:  Yeah, when I’m writing a post, I do create a list of influencers. I create a list of all the sites I linked out to, that will share. Like, if I linked out to Harvard, if I email them I’m probably not going to get a tweet back. But if I link out to a small, medium business, I usually do send them an email. And then I just draft up all the emails, and I start sending them off.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Do you use BuzzStream or something like that, to help with emails, or just manual?

Neil PatelNeil:  Manual. I find the manuals always works best.


Changes in Digital Marketing in 2016

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Any predictions for big changes in digital marketing for 2016?

Neil PatelNeil:  I think user experience is going to be huge. Everyone thinks SEO’s mainly link building and on-page code. But eventually, the user metrics, I don’t know how they’re going to be tracking them, but they’re going to have the biggest impact, in my opinion, on rankings.

Because if everyone keeps clicking the back button and going down to the next result, even if the previous one has better links, on-page SEO, et cetera, eventually Google will just show the second result higher‑up. Why? Because it means all the users don’t like the first result, because if they go to the second one and they stop there, it means the second one’s more relevant.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Absolutely. We worked on mesothelioma law firm project a ways back. There was a site that was ranking number 3 or 4 — like a three‑page website was ranking for “mesothelioma lawyer”, number three. It was the crappiest site, it didn’t have any contact information. It was obviously just spam. But this was just at pre-Penguin, or maybe just after Penguin 1 it was still there. But fascinating, that Google would provide that piece of crap result. So you’re obviously going to hit the back button. Have you heard of any patents on that, like Google on how they’re tracking — they obviously own their own search results so they can see if you pogo stick and go back.

Neil PatelNeil:  Not that I know of. But I also don’t pay attention to Google’s Patents.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Yeah. Bill Slosky’s pretty cool for that — SEO By The Sea.

Neil PatelNeil:  He’s also a lawyer too, which helps.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  I didn’t know that. That makes more sense now. He’s so in‑depth on the patents.

Neil PatelNeil:  Yes.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Were you always a great public speaker? I definitely loved your talk at search engine strategies in the early 2000’s. Does that come naturally to you?

Neil PatelNeil:  I think it did. Yeah, hopefully I’m better now than back then. It’s part of my personality.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  Yeah, always outgoing.

Neil PatelNeil:  Yes.


Selecting Blog Categories

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  One little, mini tactical thing, and we can wrap up. On my new blog, Authority Marketing, I’m trying to figure out categories and whether or not to do — you know, there’s SEO, social media — there are probably 16 or 17 categories that I want to cover. But sometimes it’s nice to have just, say, four or five main buckets, but it’s really hard to fit them into that. Any recommendations for people selecting their blog categories and to keep it really small, to like a handful? Or, if you need SearchEngineLand-style, many buckets, then go for it, and create that many categories?

Neil PatelNeil:  I don’t even look at categories. I don’t even use categories.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  I know. I saw that. That’s kind of why I asked you.

Neil PatelNeil:  I’ve seen people use them, and I haven’t seen it affect search traffic. I’ve seen them not using it, and it doesn’t affect search traffic. I’m a big believer of just write all the content that you can that benefits your users, and just go from there.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  So let it come up organically, and they’ll get there that way, and not worry so much about the categories?

Neil PatelNeil:  Exactly.

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  All right. Well, thanks, Neil. This was a great interview with a lot of good tips. And what are some of the sites that you would like our listeners to check out?

Neil PatelNeil:  Quick Sprout, Crazy Egg, Hello Bar,

John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  And the advanced business framework, what site does that live on?

Neil PatelNeil:  On


John McDougall founder of authoritymarketing.comJohn:  OK, cool. Good. This was John McDougall with Neil Patel for Thanks for listening.

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