John 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.
Neil Patel: Thanks for having me.
John: 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: Awesome. Thanks for signing up for it. Hopefully, you like it.
John: Yeah, fantastic. Just getting set up with your team, and Basecamp, and all that. Looking forward to it.
John: How did you get started being an entrepreneur?
Neil: 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 Monster.com, 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 Monster.com? 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.
John: That’s a great story. Which tactics or approaches made the biggest difference positioning yourself as an authority?
Neil: 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: 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: 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: Yeah. I’m sure you’ve heard of the EAT acronym with Google and the Quality Rater Guide.
John: 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: 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.
John: Absolutely. What about link building? Is it dying, or is it basically more akin to public relations than ever?
Neil: 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: Yeah, absolutely. The times have changed so much. That’s where, when I saw workingdemosite.com/authority 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.
Writing vs. Hiring Writers
John: 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: 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: Eight? You’re kicking our butts here.
Neil: 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: You’re still writing for several…KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, Quick Sprout?
Neil: 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: 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: Thanks. Good to hear.
Minimum Number of Blog Posts for Thought Leadership
John: 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: If you want traction, at least one.
John: 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: 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: Interesting. Yeah, a year later. So those posts are evergreen, and they’re still bringing love over the years.
Neil: 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: Really good advice. What are a couple tips for promoting blog posts to build authority?
Neil: 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: 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: 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: Do you use BuzzStream or something like that, to help with emails, or just manual?
Neil: Manual. I find the manuals always works best.
Changes in Digital Marketing in 2016
John: Any predictions for big changes in digital marketing for 2016?
Neil: 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: 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: Not that I know of. But I also don’t pay attention to Google’s Patents.
John: Yeah. Bill Slosky’s pretty cool for that — SEO By The Sea.
Neil: He’s also a lawyer too, which helps.
John: I didn’t know that. That makes more sense now. He’s so in‑depth on the patents.
John: 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: I think it did. Yeah, hopefully I’m better now than back then. It’s part of my personality.
John: Yeah, always outgoing.
Selecting Blog Categories
John: 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: I don’t even look at categories. I don’t even use categories.
John: I know. I saw that. That’s kind of why I asked you.
Neil: 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: So let it come up organically, and they’ll get there that way, and not worry so much about the categories?
John: 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: Quick Sprout, Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, Neilpatel.com.
John: And the advanced business framework, what site does that live on?
Neil: On Neilpatel.com.
John: OK, cool. Good. This was John McDougall with Neil Patel for workingdemosite.com/authority. Thanks for listening.