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Interview with Link Building Expert Ross Hudgens

by Jon Cooper
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Ross HudgensFrom the moment I started taking link building seriously, Ross Hudgens was always on my radar. Every time you read something by him, you feel like you’ve just become an even better link builder. That’s why I pulled some strings to get Ross Hudgens to answer a few link building related questions right here on Point Blank SEO.

1. How did you get into SEO?

I got into SEO by luck, like most people. I was a business/marketing major in college and worked filing paper at a company that was in the pharmaceutical industry, basically being lazy and biding my time. Our CEO was nice enough to recognize what my major was and aive me free reign to market our website. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing and generated a total of 0 leads (leads are harder to come by in this space, notably), but I ended up stumbling into SEMPO and making terrible use of its advice on our website. I eventually left the company but I got the first spark that this SEO thing could be for me, so I started searching for jobs.

I found this terrible internship at a tiny shop in Southern California. It was unpaid, and we ended up doing lots of nofollow comment and forum spam as a method of teaching link building. But it allowed me to put “SEO” on my resume, which meant that I now had the firepower to get a real job. I immediately starting looking for other work, and I found Singlegrain, which is ran by Sujan Patel, most known for being the cousin of Neil Patel.

I was their first employee, but finding Sujan, a wildly successful SEO who became my mentor, was a lucky and integral part of my ability to grow quickly in SEO.

2. Who has most influenced you in becoming the SEO you are today?

As noted, Sujan Patel, my mentor, is what shaped what I am and what I do today. He hired me part time originally, got me to move to San Francisco from Southern California, and then got me my second job, and also got me the job lead to work at Full Beaker, my third (and best) real job in SEO. Sujan isn’t really a technical SEO, but what he taught me about business development, hustle and career development got me the biggest opportunities I’ve had so far in my career, which have therefrom allowed me to test and blossom my skills as an SEO through practice.

3. What’s your favorite part about SEO?

Adding a link to Raven Tools. I’m doing less and less link building these days, but I still love doing it and the dopamine release from adding a nice link to Raven’s link manager is a great feeling. Similarly, and closely connected to that, is the feeling received when the first five-ten links comes in quickly when releasing a linkable asset, which is an essential guarantee that the thing is going to be successful at worst, and viral at best.

4. What’s the biggest mistake you see most link builders making?

Having the thought that building 5 links a week is acceptable. I ran into another company who hired someone that was building 5 links a week, and it’s really just not a number that’s acceptable in any industry. It’s hard to really explain exactly what they’re doing wrong, but there is definitely a lack of widespread benchmarking in this industry in terms of what a “good” number of links is. The reality is that 5 links is a terrible number almost always (yes, there are rare, rare exceptions where it’s okay) – so if you’re consistently building 5, you need to get outside training help and/or be fired.

5. What are your favorite link building tools?

Raven ToolsRapportiveToutAppOpen Site ExplorerElanceBoomerangChrome Broken Link CheckerCitation Labs.

6. What link building strategy do you see working that people aren’t talking about as much as they should be?

This is a bit of paradox as most people do not like talking about the link building strategies that are most effective for them, as many are finite/can dry up when revealed publicly. Mine are no different – however, there are definitely some “universally” effective, and not finite and/or shunned upon, tactics one can use that aren’t being used at scale.

I think something that’s relatively new as a link building tool, Rapportive, is not as widely recognized as it should be in the SEO space. It’s a great tool for finding unique details about people you’re pitching in an efficient and scalable way. The productivity this tool ads to every link builder makes it something that we all should have installed in our Chrome web browsers.

7. Is Siri a major threat to the future of SEO?

There is no threat to the future of SEO. The only true threat is the laziness and/or complacency of the SEOs in this industry. It will literally be impossible for us to not have positions – even if they evolve to some other abstract job description that only partially use SEO in there operations – such as “Web Marketing Strategist” – in ten to fifteen years. The interesting dynamics of the SEO industry are not whether or not it can die, it’s the idiosyncrasies of the search engine dynamics that Aaron Wall frequently discusses, such as shrinking margins for affiliates, brands being pushed up, and Google’s increasing attempts to monopolize SERPs with ads and/or their own products. This means that SEO really does not die, it just becomes a game where the resources and talent of us, the people trying to get paid, is forced to reallocate.

8. Will Google always dominate the search industry?

It is highly unlikely Google will “always” dominate the search industry, however they, just like all business juggernauts, are capable of being swept undertow. One of the prominent thinkers in the realm of disruptive technology, Clayton Christensen, posited in his well-regarded book The Innovator’s Dilemma that many of the giant companies that have been disrupted and/or fell were blindsided by a technology that was first dismissed as a toy, such as Skype to the telecom industry, travel search to travel agents, or Napster to the music industry. It is hard to imagine a subsequent “toy” that would uproot something that seems to be a plateau of how it can be upgraded (at least in my opinion), which would make a “disruption” hard to imagine.

 

As technology develops there will inevitably be certain markets/areas that have developed to a point of diminishing returns in terms of improvement. Google and search can improve, yes, but I believe they will and can within the existing market conditinos, and it is unlikely something can “disrupt” and uproot a sector that may not be capable of disruption – because of said technology maturity of the “pain point” – that is, finding things.

 

 

If you’d like to find Ross elsewhere, check out Full Beaker, his blogor find him on twitter.

This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 122 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper+ is an SEO consultant based out of Gainesville, FL who specializes in link building. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter.

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28 Comments
  1. Neil says:

    Interesting post Jon, and nice to know a little more about the background to the field of SEO. I agree with the comment on Google – at the moment it seems inconceivable that they’ll fall from grace, but it’s happened before to many fine companies and it can happen again.

    Now off to add another plugin to my google chrome browser. Hmmm…. the irony.

  2. Ross Hudgens says:

    Thanks for having me on your blog, Jon. Looking forward to a continued string of great posts!

  3. Thanks Jon for this interview. Ross is one of the first SEOs I followed at the beginning of my SEO adventure, so it’s nice to know a little bit more about his thoughts.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  4. Kane Jamison says:

    So, I’m curious about the 5 links per week comment. I certainly don’t disagree in a corporate / larger scale context, or even many competitive smaller niches. But, I see small biz websites that haven’t built 5 links in the past year still being recognized by Google for their value. If a business matches a domain like that link for link, and then begins to exceed, even at a slow pace, I think it’s hard to make an argument that it wouldn’t be sufficient for their business model. I’m thinking in my head of quality links as I think you were – not misc blog comments and scraped content from junk domains.

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

    • Ross Hudgens says:

      Definitely you can still achieve results with 5 links a week, but that doesn’t mean that you’re doing a great job from a link building perspective, IMO. It’s like winning a race against a group of people with one leg, even if you do, that still doesn’t make you a fast sprinter.

      • Ross Hudgens says:

        What I mean is that by all means stop at 5 links a week for that specific domain if that’s all you need, but if you’re working 40 hours a week to achieve 5 links for that said site, you need to improve your process.

  5. Nick LeRoy says:

    I have read a lot of Ross’s posts and SEO theories. Ross seems to be a bigger advocate for taking the time upfront by creating sources or link bait type pieces that have an infinite number of link acquisition potential. This of course would be instead of one off link requests or similar techniques that net one link at a time.
    Correct me if i’m wrong Ross.

    • Ross Hudgens says:

      That is correct Nick. “Time upfront” isn’t always the case as it just takes a proper asset frame to do this. But for sure researching a vertical exhaustively prevents time loss in the future with up front analysis.

  6. Chris says:

    Good Interview Jon & nice to see some knowledge being shared by Ross.

    I have to agree with Ross if you are working 40hours per week & building 5 links a week you are not providing value to your employer or client.

    This kind of performance in any industry is not acceptable & looking at the return on investment for 5 links @ the cost of 40 hours pay then some SEO’s really need to think about their tactics, strategy & personal drive.

  7. Jon Cooper says:

    On the 5 links part –

    I definitely agree with both Kane & Ross here. First of all, numbers like that are unacceptable for most cases. When I first start a link building campaign, I spend a lot more time preparing & brainstorming “link attraction” before “link building”. I want to create something that people will either link to automatically or something that I can suggest to be linked to on Page X in paragraph Y (this helps a ton during outreach). I also look at missed freebies (i.e. quality niche directories), and of course, I start contacting and getting to know others in the niche. As Will Critchlow said in one of his presentations (I think at a recent Link Love conference?), the process is expontential. At first, it’s slow, but as you start building real value, such as creating evergreen assets, you start getting real results, results that aren’t “5 links a week” results.

    On the other hand, Kane does have a point. It all depends on the niche. If it’s small budget, and they’re just looking for a few sprinkled quality links here & there (I had one client who payed me per quality link, but there were some requirements for each to be labeled as “quality”), then it’s more reasonable.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that link building is situational. Don’t say you have to strategy X for every single website in order to succeed, because it never is that way.

    Thanks guys for the awesome comments so far :)

    • Nick LeRoy says:

      I would have never taken a client that paid on “quality” links with their own definition. Hell I suppose you could have just purchased them at a fraction of the cost they paid you and called it a day…

  8. Dopebox Jay says:

    Thanks for the tools links! Great stuff.

  9. Actually I am a beginner inhouse SEO, and I’m not thinking too much at the exact number of links my team and I are making, because I think it kinda put that pressure I don’t like. For sure we’re making more than 5 links a week, but to me the important value is to create always something new in order, something special in order to be linked. It’s not even matter of number, it’s matter of how you’re doing link building. With the positive attitude and great ideas you can’t make only 5 links a week. But at the same time if someone is saying to you: you have to make like 100000000 links per day, for sure the linkbuilder is gonna make a terrible job.
    So I always say to my team to be creative, in every form: links will come.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Agreed, but the “if you build it, they will come” mentality doesn’t work out 99% of the time. You have to build that great content, but stopping there and hoping they will come is absurd. You should be creating the content in order to make the outreach process much more successful.

      Thanks for the insight Alessio!

      • Totally. We are gonna show that content in many ways and try to let people know about it. But at the same time , I’m seeing a lot that people wants links without having content, and that’s absurd. That’s why I’m saying, don’t think about the number. Think about creating great content, and then the work of linkbuilder will be much much easier + natural links coming to you because of the content itself. It’s a mix of things.

        thanks Jon and thanks Ross very much for sharing your opinions.

        • Jon Cooper says:

          That’s so true. Links are never straight forward. If you focus too much on the number, you’re going to screw yourself over in one way or another.

          Thank you Alessio for your opinions!

  10. I enjoyed reading about your link building methods Ross. Your top link building resources are definitely worth reviewing.

  11. Its great to see Ross being interviewed here. He is my SEO role model. Great to know bit more about him.

  12. Been reading most of Ross’ blogposts about his link building strategies. I get grains of wisdom from time to time. Thanks Jon about this piece of information regarding Ross.

  13. Payday Loans says:

    Really Really your post is great

  14. Jane Fox says:

    This is my first view of this blog.
    I am looking for this kind of article about link building and this one is great.
    Big help for my web developing.

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