Yep, you heard right. Justin Briggs, the SEO Manager at Big Fish Games, was kind enough to agree to his first interview, and I’m just as pumped as you are! Justin is one of the hustlers in the link building community that I’ve learned a ton from over the past couple years. I honestly think he was the first person to really hit home on the concept of hustle for me. Without further adieu, here’s the interview.
I kind of stumbled into SEO. I started coding back in 1995/1996 when I was 10 or 11. By high school, I was running the web team for the Department of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt.
Then in late 2007, I set up a few affiliate websites. After making a bit of money with them, I started looking into driving more traffic. That’s when I discovered SEO. But really, I just discovered it was an outlet for skills I had be building for years. I quickly fell in love with SEO.
By early 2008, I was doing affiliate stuff about 15 hours a week from my college dorm. At this time, I was doing a lot of really low quality stuff, including automated spam tools, blog comments, link networks, and scraper sites.
By mid 2008, I started consulting small local clients. I had originally gone to school to study engineering, but dropped out to pursue a career in SEO. That part is a long story, but I wrote more about it last year.
I don’t really consider myself an “expert” link builder. I just enjoy sharing what I’ve been working on or thinking about. It seems I’ve built a bit of a brand around link building. I think some of this is by chance.
My background is technical in nature – with experience in coding, mathematics, and science. It’s sometimes a bit odd that I ended up doing so much with link building.
One thing that had an impact was that I’ve done a lot of link building. I didn’t start in SEO as a consultant or a project manager. I started with 100+ websites that were self-monetized and I needed to drive traffic to them. This meant a lot of in the trenches, pounding the pavement, type of work.
When I joined Distilled, I was assigned a modest link building project that was meant to only last 3 months. It expanded to almost a quarter a million a year link building project, that I managed and executed the majority of work on. I probably logged around 1,000 hours of link building work in 2011. I was the one sending the emails, trying to get coverage on infographics, and hunting down prospective links. I just shared those experiences.
Since I’ve been in-house, I haven’t.
I have purchased links before, but I don’t make it a large part of a link building campaign.
I don’t think all paid links are bad or inherently spam. They certainly can be, but there are a lot of ways to purchase links that are relevant.
If someone wants to purchase links, for me, it’s less a concern of ethics and more of a question of risk tolerance. If you take the upside revenue gain of a risky tactic and compare it to the calculated risk of the potential revenue loss, you can make much more strategic decisions.
I’m not pro link buying though.
Listening to the link building advice of those who aren’t in the trenches and blindly letting it lead their strategy. I think it sometimes does a disservice to upcoming SEOs to listen to some link building content that gets published. This is especially true for any content that drops a blanket statement like “X tactic is dead” or “X tactic will get you penalized”. Any time you hear that, go build a test site and try it out. You might be surprised.
Other than that, I’m not a fan of link quotas. They’re almost unavoidable when work needs to be tracked and optimized, but I think they can cause a link builder to frame their work around a myopic strategy.
My favorite tool overall is Open Site Explorer. It’s great for competitive analysis, prospecting, and prioritizing outreach.
I think it’ll stay relatively the same for the next year, with on-going changes in the weighting of various factors. I feel like we’re almost due for a large level link-based algo update. I have no idea if Google has one planned, but they should.
I think Google should or will be taking a look at off-topic or factually inaccurate infographics. They are a little out of hand. Maybe instead of solving it algorithmically, they’ll make some PR buzz by penalizing someone openly.
If I had to make a broader guess about the future, I’d say our concept of a citation will change over time. We may see ourselves doing more and more citation building that isn’t just dofollow href links.
From Jon: Justin wrote an awesome post about keeping your infographics in check that I thought I should at least point out.
The best way is to follow me on Twitter.
From Jon: You can also find him on his personal blog. He doesn’t post often, but when he does, it’s an absolute treat!