If you run SEO for a company like Godaddy for the better part of a decade, you have a mind that likes to solve problems. My guest on today’s show, Jim Christian, brings a wealth of experience to the table when it comes to all things search-related. He currently owns a boutique agency in Phoenix focused on helping enterprise-level brands untangle complex problems that evade detection.
Jim also runs Advanced Search Summit, focusing on smaller, intimate events that serve as a brain trust of sorts, bringing some of the most seasoned and knowledgeable folks in digital marketing together for a sharing of the minds in some of the most beautiful places on earth. He continually strives to create memorable experiences for attendees by bringing in the greatest talent our industry has to offer while choosing unique venues (and amazing wine!)
In today’s episode, we talk about how the pandemic impacted Jim’s world and how things may pivot going forward. We talked about the human connection piece that’s missing when an event shifts to virtual and ways to connect people online and off. Stay tuned for marketing insights and secret knowledge from behind the scenes of Jim’s masterminds and summits you won’t get anywhere else!
In this Episode
- [00:29] – Stephan introduces Jim Christian. He runs the Advanced Search Summit. He continually strives to create memorable experiences for attendees by bringing in the industry’s greatest talents while choosing unique venues.
- [05:28] – Jim points out the difference between doing virtual conferences and in-person live events in terms of value acquired by the attendees.
- [11:39] – Jim talks about DMO, Digital Marketers Organization, a social network of iconic brands, digital agencies, and independent marketers.
- [14:55] – Jim describes the agenda they planned for DMO’s upcoming Maui Mastermind.
- [21:56] – What are some of the tactics you can learn from Advanced Search Summit and use for your business?
- [28:04] – Jim shares his agency, Blush Digital’s number one, white hat tactic.
- [33:39] – Jim explains why his agency doesn’t do link building.
- [36:54] – Jim discusses some of his clients’ creative ideas as an alternative to link building.
- [41:34] – Stephan and Jim express themselves on why they hate doing meetings and how it’s just a waste of time and ruins productivity.
- [46:57] – You can contact Jim Christian on his email at [email protected] and visit Advanced Search Summit at AdvancedSearchSummit.com to check out their shows.
Jim, it’s so great to have you on the show.
Good to be here, too. Thanks for the invitation. Much appreciate it.
Let’s talk about, first of all, COVID and the pandemic and how it’s affected your world as someone who runs a conference? And more generally, how does it affect everybody who’s listening? How do they pivot or adapt to this new normal?
The new normal is I don’t think anything that anyone was looking forward to, that’s for sure. It’s been a whirlwind for a bit over a year now. It’s challenging. It has its challenges, and we’ve been struggling on our side to figure it out. We try to thread the needle if COVID is going to be coming to an end. Luckily, it looks like it is. We’re excited about that. But more so, trying to figure out where does the world go from here? Like how do we adapt? Because the new norm is not going back to the old norm. We know that. On the agency side, we have some clients where they’re kind of looking to us. How are you guys doing it? What are you doing? How do we move forward from this? So it’s been challenging, for sure.
I know that a lot of events have still kind of pushed off until next year, or very late this year. It’s an interesting challenge, for sure. But I think that we’ve adapted to it. We’re a smaller event for the Advanced Search Summit. I don’t think we’ve ever exceeded 200 people. Mainly, we don’t want to; we want to stay small so that everyone isn’t packed in like a bunch of sardines. But we’ve been trying to grapple with how to continue our summit in Napa in June and still have safety protocols put in place, not only by ourselves, but with the hotel and our other partners as well. It’s been quite the challenge.A great mastermind provides the ultimate experience. The audience might not always remember lectures, but they won’t forget how the event made them feel. Click To Tweet
What do you think is the new normal for working from home and from the standpoint of business travel?
It’s going to be rough. If you’re talking about enterprise, I think most of them will allow travel back once they think that they can do so in a way where their employees won’t be in any sort of danger. I know that a couple of the larger companies we deal with are pushing off any travel until June. Some of them are doing that. Others, like our friend, Jim Boykin, he’s halted travel and moved completely virtual too. So I think it’s dependent on people’s comfortability. Like, I think for us, and like the conference as an example, we want to do what everyone would be comfortable with. Everyone wears masks, everyone has a gift bag that contains stuff to clean our hands and additional masks, just in case they need them during the show. If people kind of rise to that kind of level of providing safety for their employees, I think everything will be fine.
An interesting thing, Texas just opened up again. Arizona, being the rebel that we are, we just opened up everything, masks are still required, but there are no restrictions on indoor dining or how many people can be in a restaurant, etc. It’s interesting how fast this is changing. It’s moving at a pace where I was shocked. I don’t know how people will necessarily do it long-term. I’ve heard that COVID is going to be endemic at this point. So this will be around potentially forever, and it’s just going to be like another flu shot that we get every year. But it’s interesting to see how that’s going to morph business. From my standpoint, and all of our employees that we have here, we’re all virtual; we will have to find new and inventive ways to get together. I think it’ll probably be virtual. Like we might do some wine tastings or team-building exercises that are virtual. Maybe that’s the way for us to go. I’m not sure. Again, it’s moving so fast. It’s crazy.
COVID is going to be endemic at this point. So this will be around potentially forever.
Yeah. Well, I was relieved not to have to get on a plane two or three times a month, like I normally would. Because I’m currently in Tel Aviv, and I’ve been here since July. I haven’t been on a plane once since getting here in July. And it’s completely unusual, out of character for me. And I don’t know if I want to go back. I’ll come back to the States, of course, because that’s my home. We’re coming back in two months. But yeah, do I want to do the conference circuit thing two times a month? I think I’m done.
Yeah, I know that people when we were doing virtual stuff as we have, I think three or four virtual shows, people were comfortable in doing those. But the problem with virtual is you’re missing out on 50% or more of the value of a show. The show is a show; you’re going to have good speakers, maybe some mediocre speakers, and maybe one or two bad speakers that you try to vet out. But I think overall, that’s one-half of the experience. I’m going to learn something, and maybe I learn a shortcut or a new trick or something like that. But I think that the other half of the show is just as important, if not more important. And that is getting together. We’ve seen a couple of shows like Search Engine Journal and some of the other ones where they’ve got a chat room or a way for people to kind of connect, but it seems or feels artificial. It doesn’t have the same feeling that you would get if you went to a physical show. And of course, you weren’t able to do that at the time, like you couldn’t just go to a show because they’re just not allowed.
Now you’ve got the choice between virtual and physical; I still think that physical is going to drive a lot of people to go to it. It may be more challenging, and there might be more hoops that you’re going to have to jump through. But overall, I think experientially, that’s going to be better for the attendees and the speakers because you’re going to be directly able to connect with these people. We pride ourselves on creating an environment where people feel welcomed. There is always a unique environment. We have like a castle and some other crazy stuff. We’re doing it at an olive mill for night one, and we’re going to have this rapper coming on and rapping some stuff, which is cool. They’re looking for that impactful or memorable experience, and I just don’t see you getting that from virtual. I think virtual is great, and I think it helped during the COVID crisis, for sure. It gave people an outlet. I mean, you probably saw, too, with the DMO, Digital Marketers Organization, we were running almost weekly happy hours. Because people need an outlet to connect, and that’s kind of the piece, and I think that’s missing from some of these conferences. They just want to blow off some steam, and they just want to connect and try to make new friends or continue on friendships they already have. So it’s challenging. Like there’s no simple answer with this.
When things kind of return to a travel-friendly scenario, what will be some of the conferences that you’re going to hit besides your own?
I think the last conference that we attended was SMX West. It wasn’t a very pretty show, but people were still enjoying their time. It was right when COVID was starting to come out, and we were up in San Jose, and we were just scratching our heads like, “Man, this thing seems like it’s going to be pretty bad. I wonder what’s going to happen. This might be like the last show.” And sure enough, that was. But I think moving forward, and I want to see MozCon again, it’s a great show. Moz always puts on a great show for everyone. I’m not sure which other ones I need to go to. I’m so busy like it’s crazy the amount of stuff we have to do with everything going on, but I don’t know. What about you? What kind of shows do you think you’re going to attend?
They changed their name, interesting.
What’s interesting is, I wonder how many of these are going to come back? One thing that not a lot of attendees or even speakers know, these things cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to put together. It relies on attendance and sponsorship. For us, we put our neck out every single year, and we put down our deposit in the hopes and dreams that everything is going to come to fruition for us. But last year was challenging. Luckily, we work with really good partners. I know that Brett, over at Pubcon, had to have had multi-year contracts with his venues in Vegas. Luckily, he was able to recoup his deposits and whatnot. But it’s a very serious thing because one year of losing your deposits could kill an entire show. We’re interested to see who’s going to be coming back and who won’t. We even toiled with, “Do we come back? How is this going to end for us?” This could be something where it’s like, “Wow, we just don’t have any attendees. And there are no sponsors, and everyone’s kind of wishy-washy right now. We could lose a lot of cash.” But I don’t think that that’s going to happen for us. But it’s always like swarming in the back of my head like, “This could be it.”
One year of losing your deposits could kill an entire show.
I hope it’s not. What about DMO like Digital Marketers Organization? What was the impetus to start that, and how does that fit into the bigger picture for you?
DMO is a gathering place for everyone to communicate, ask questions, try to make new friendships in a more virtual way. We are migrating Advanced Search Summit over to the DMO, probably going to be like DMO Advanced, probably what it will be called. But we’re starting to do additional events. Funny enough, about a month ago, I had the idea of starting to do masterminds for the DMO. We just want to do a small get-together of 20-50 people and still provide almost like a conference experience, but more of a way for everyone to connect and share their little dirty secrets. So we decided to do our first mastermind, which’s going to be in February of 2022. And that one is going to be in Maui.
So we’re thinking that if people don’t feel comfortable, like who knows, again, with what COVID is going to do, but if people don’t feel comfortable traveling, or potentially been stuffed in a room of like four or 500 people, maybe they have like some autoimmune issues or something like that, this may be the perfect thing for them. They can still travel and be safe, but be in a small room of 20 to 50 people, and still have a really good time. We’re trying that model out, as I said in February of next year. And it’s a funny thing, we put the tickets up for sale, and we didn’t do like a huge rollout on it. But we put the tickets up for sale, and I think we sold 90% of them in the first like 24 to 48 hours. It was crazy. I was like, “Oh, people want to get the hell out of their house.” Maybe that’s a COVID thing, or maybe that’s something that we can sustain in the years moving forward. But it’s a new way for us to our ultimate goal. Like connect with our members and provide them with a physical outlet that kind of goes along with the DMO’s virtual kind of component.
That’s awesome. How many masterminds do you have in a year?Anyone can stuff people in a room but what anyone can't do is provide an environment for people to open up and do something they've never done before. Click To Tweet
I think we were planning on doing maybe two. Our ultimate goal, like when we started the whole show stuff, was that we would have three events. We would have small, medium, and large, and Napa being like the medium-sized one, large would be like DC. So we did DC a couple of years ago, and that one was going to be around 500. And then we wanted to have the small. And the small, I guess the first fruition of that is going to be the Maui mastermind. So these masterminds will essentially just be the small shows we do once to twice a year. And we’ll plan them in interesting locations. Maui just happens to be the first one because I like Maui. I’ve always wanted to do one in Wyoming, like in Yellowstone. I thought that would be another cool location. If this Maui thing is successful, we’ll probably wind up looking at Wyoming, probably in the springtime or something in 2022.
That sounds great. How do you charge for a mastermind versus conference like Advanced Search Summit?
It’s rough. It’s different. With Advanced Search Summit, you’re coming to the conference. We’re buying all of your food and drink while you’re there. I guess, logistically, it’s very easier than say something like Maui. With Maui, the difference is that your ticket price includes everything except for your hotel and travel. Again, we’re going to be doing a mastermind where you’d come in the morning. It’s a small house. And we go through our agenda. And then the way that I like to do things is I like to have that work-life balance. And so half of the day will be spent indoors, typically the morning time, and then the rest of the day will be used to do experiences or excursions.
One of the things that we’re going to be doing is this cool little valley called the Iao Valley in Maui. And it’s a really beautiful, thick forest, river running through, multiple waterfalls. I was like, “This would be a perfect place just to have like a cool meeting and talk about some of the things that you’re being challenged by whether you own an agency, or you’re an employee, like how do you get ahead.” So I was like, “This is perfect, we don’t need a computer, we don’t need anything like laptops or cell phone service”–unless we get lost. But it’s different and unique. And again, like for us, anyone could stuff people into a room. It’s happened over and over and over again. But what you can’t do, and what’s very challenging, is to provide an environment for people to be able to open up, feel comfortable, and do something that maybe they haven’t done before.
Our masterminds will get people a little bit out of their comfort zone.
That’s the genesis for our masterminds is to just kind of get people a little bit out of their comfort zone, but not fully. We’re just going to try to do different options for everyone. Maybe that’ll change depending on the location. So like maybe in Maui, it’s going to be a lot of watersport kind of activities or hiking to beautiful waterfalls. If we go to Yellowstone, maybe that’s different; it will be more like horseback riding or ATVs or something like that. Again, we like to have those components to kind of break up the day with these masterminds because I think people are halfway there for the actual mastermind itself. And I think the other thing is that they’re there to connect with other people. And again, make these memories. Like, “Oh, I can’t believe we did this thing in Yellowstone. I can’t believe we did this thing in Maui. It was so fantastic. We had the best food, and we had a unique experience.” Like these are the things that 1.) make me happy because it’s not normal compared to the industry, and then 2.) it’s something that they will take back with them. Maybe that’s weird for a conference owner to do that, but it means all the difference for me.
I like that. I’ve had some incredible experiences on masterminds, gone in an ultralight or microlight, gone in a shark cage off the coast of Cape Town. So that was weird being practically nose to nose with great white sharks. I’ve done canoeing in the Zambezi River in Zambia, where there were hippos and crocodiles. Those are the experiences of a lifetime, and learning some cool tip or technique is helpful, but people love experiences.
Right. It’s just like you’ll never forget those experiences, right? That’s the whole thing. You’ll remember that you were on a boat, jumping into a cage, that there was a great white shark, and you learn how to do title tags properly, or whatever it was.
Right. What content do you cover that is next level or unlike the content that you get from most other SEO conferences?
From the Advanced Search Summit, I would say that we try to vet speakers that have been in the industry for ten plus years. We do have spots for one or two people that are kind of up and comers, or people that are just making a lot of noise with some cool stuff that they learned. From that aspect, I think that’s a little bit more traditional. But again, we try to vet who is speaking a lot. I don’t know how other shows do it, but for us, I think there’s something like we have a list of 300-400 different speakers that want to speak in Napa pretty much every single year. And we’re only able to get maybe 10 or 15 of those to have a spot. And when we try to get everyone’s feedback of what they want to speak about, we also have a panel here of industry folks that I’m sure you know who they are, but we’ll have them the topic and make sure that the topic is appropriate, advanced, and that someone’s going to get something out of it.
And then, on the mastermind side of it, I think it goes into two different buckets. So like one bucket would be, “How do I grow professionally? Like just for myself? Like am I getting underpaid? What’s my value? How can I bring more to the table?” things like that. Or if I’m an agency owner, “How do I get to that next level? How do I hire more employees intelligently? How do I make sure that I can have additional clients without running into a brick wall?” That’s another aspect of it. The third aspect for like the masterminds would be, like the dirty little secrets that we all kind of know, but we don’t ever tell anyone. So I think we’ll be going through a lot of that. You can kind of draw a similarity to SEO Oktoberfest. It’s the who’s who, and also, what secrets are they going to share that they’re not going to share with anyone else. And that’s kind of like the genesis for us too.
We want to give these people hope and opportunity for the future.
We want to give these people hope and opportunity for the future, and we want to be able to give them something that they can take away as a cool little tool or a way to do something a little bit different. I know, as an example, one of the things that I use, and I charge about $6,000 for, is a keyword database for my agency. And I don’t know of many other people with the same type of database where we can calculate the ROI on every single keyword that we put in. So that might be useful for someone that just doesn’t know how to do something like that. It’s just an Excel spreadsheet that I created years ago. And it works well. So that could be something on an agency side where they can use that to sell. It could be someone who works as an in-house, and they can now be able to tell their boss, “Hey, if we do this project, and we start ranking for these keywords, that could potentially net us $50,000 extra per month.” So it’s value. I think that it’s important to have stuff like that in your little toolbox. And if you don’t, it’s something that could not potentially hurt you in the future, but it’s something that you’re going to miss out on for sure.
Yeah. I’m curious what would be a secret or two you could share with my listeners; that would be something that they could have gotten from an Advanced Search Summit or a mastermind of yours.
One of the things that I’ll bring up personally inside Maui is how we leverage LinkedIn to get targeted people to either sell to or join a virtual conference or a virtual event. It’s an interesting tactic that seems to work well. But I mean, we’re essentially creating fake profiles on LinkedIn, and they’ve got quite the backstory. So they look absolutely real. And we kind of have some automated tools that help do outreach for you. So if you’re an agency that’ll help you potentially get leads, or again, if you’re in-house and you need new customers, you could potentially get some new customers too. I think it’s unique to the person and what their needs are. It doesn’t work in every situation, but it works in a lot of different areas. We’re using it non-stop. So you’ll learn that if you come to Maui, there are four tickets left. There are not too many more spaces.
So would you consider that tactic, fake LinkedIn profiles, to be black hat or grey hat?You need to value your time because nobody is going to guard it better than you do. Click To Tweet
I think it’s a shade of grey. I mean, it depends on how the person uses it. Like if I use it, and I just want to do non-stop spamming, that sucks. It sucks for everyone involved; that sucks for you because you’re going to get a lot of people pissed off, potentially getting the accounts banned. The more outlandish your campaign is, where it doesn’t fit, the more likely you’re going to get those personas shut down. So you have to be very careful in using that program. But I don’t think that it’s necessarily black either. If it was black, you would just be spamming everyone non-stop, and you wouldn’t necessarily care. These are very targeted campaigns. And the way that we’ll explain it to the people in the mastermind is like, “Again, don’t just go berserk and think that you’ve got the power of God, and you can just mow everything down. This is very tactical and should be used in a very specific way, for very specific things.” But it is a cool tool, man. It works so well.
That’s funny. How long have you been using it?
We have been using it for about, and I want to say like two or three years now. Personally, when I log into LinkedIn, I look at the people that are contacting me to either connect or do something with me. And I’m like, “Man, that just seems so fake. He just doesn’t have a full backstory. The profile isn’t filled out very well. The picture is weird.” There’s always these little things that I look at, and I’m like, “Hmm, I just don’t think that you’re a real person, you know?” You just wind up not connecting to them. But it depends on the industry, too. Like I’m seasoned enough, and I’ve been experiencing this enough to know what would potentially be a fake person. But in other industries there, like, if you took someone in agriculture or someone in a non-tech field, it would be very difficult for them to understand whether or not the person is real.
If you automate things, do it in a very professional way, not spammy.
One of our clients that we use it for, we just went over to their business a week or so ago. And we kind of explained to their employees like, “Hey, these are people that are fake. And we’re using them to try to get you leads.” And there was one lady, and she was very nice about it, she’s like, “Well, why wouldn’t you just use real people?” And I said, “Well, a real person would be great. In an ultimately perfect world, like that would be the solution. But here’s the thing, a real person can’t reach out to 25,000 people in a month.” Try to do it; it’s impossible. And it’s just a numbers game at that point to try to get it to work. If you automate these things, and you do it in a very professional way, that’s not spammy, where you’re just like, “Hey, look, I’m trying to connect to you. I have the service, and I’m not sure if you’re interested or not. But if you are, I would love to speak to you.” When the person responds, and they’re interested in it, then that flips over to a real person, and the real person feeds the needs of the person that is contacting you back. Eventually, you could potentially wind up with a customer. And the conversion rate on it is pretty good, depending on the industry. But it is an interesting tool and not one that many people know how to use.
Okay. It sounds like it’s a term of service violation with LinkedIn, but we’ll leave that to them.
I’m sure it is.
Yeah. Have you used it for your boutique agency, and have you gotten some clients if you have?
In the beginning, I used it for the agency, and I did get a couple of clients from it. But for me, it was too much. I’m a small agency. I typically only have about 15 clients at max. We’ve got five people that work contractually here. And the problem with it is that it works to a point where the growth would be unsustainable for us, in the current way that we do everything. For me, for the agency, everything is bespoke. I don’t have a lump like products A, B, or C. It’s what are your needs? What are the services that I can do for that? And then how do I go about doing that in a way that you can afford? And then typically, my clients, for the most part, are larger enterprises, the ones that I get. And I think that that’s just based on my experience working at GoDaddy and some other large companies, but they’re difficult to get with that program. But I did get a couple, and they worked out to be long-term clients too, that we’re still talking to you. And I think one we’re still working with.
Well, what’s a secret that you can share that’s like a pearly white hat?
So pearly white, I think for the most part, if you wanted to go ultra-white hat, which is a real challenge for us as marketers and agency owners. It’s trying to educate the customer. I think that that’s a particularly hard thing to do. The reason you would want to do that, as an example, is content creation in the white hat aspect of it. There are ways to cheat with content creation. You can have a bot spin some stuff. I just saw an ad the other day for some AI bot that supposedly can spin up thousands of pages of content. I was like, “Oh, God, this again.” So I think content creation is something that people need to know if they’re not already. A lot of my clients, when they come in, if they’re a smaller client, they’ll assume that if you build it, they will come. They don’t understand the benefits of content. We try to teach them how important it is and why you would want to do it and how it could potentially help with their sales funnel. So yeah, if it’s a white hat tactic, definitely getting content in their site would be the number one thing for us that we try to push.
What would be a piece of content that stands out in your mind as something truly remarkable? And when I say “remarkable,” I mean, worthy of remark, like it’s something that people would want to share would want to link to, blog about, etc.?
So I’ll answer your question probably in a roundabout way. What’s important with content is understanding Google and what they’re trying to accomplish with the SERPs. In my experience, a lot of times, people will just write content to write content. And maybe it serves a purpose, maybe it doesn’t, but they think that they’re writing something important. And it could be any type of template, and it could be an infographic, it could be a paragraph, it could be a video with a long story after it, whatever the thing is. But the things that people ignore are potentially two issues. The first issue would be; they don’t write very well. And so Google will look at them, I guess, the intelligence level of the content piece itself. And they’re going to say, “Well, this is well written.” or “No, this was not well written.” And then obviously, apply a metric to that, whatever it is. And then I think the other thing is repetitively doing this over and over and over again, but using the same template every single time. And I’d even say maybe a third piece would be, and they’re not looking at the search engine results to see if the results match the kind of what they’re trying to produce.
An example or a quick one would be if I was trying to go into the medical content area, and I was to produce content, you better hope that it’s well written, and you better hope that it looks a lot or very similar to the other results that are out there. You need to make sure that all of those kinds of buttons are patched up before you launch this content because it’s just not going to perform well. I’m sure you’re familiar with this tool, Clearscope. I love Bernard. But Clearscope is a great tool to try to use if you’re interested in the level of intelligence that your article or your content piece comes across as. It is written by a third-grader, written by a high school student, or written by a college professor. Clearscope is a great tool to try to figure that out. The other thing that is interesting again is if you’re selling a product or a service, and your content does not match or look like the other stuff. I’ll give you a really good example with one of my clients. One of my clients is in the AV equipment industry, and his website sells the stuff where TVs can pop down from the ceiling or the floor or under a bed. And his problem is, he makes an amazing product, and it sells very well to architects and other AV professionals. The problem is that you’ve got Amazon and Walmart, and other entities that are now selling like these knockoffs. They’re noisy, they work for maybe a year or two, you get by with it, but it’s not the most fantastic piece of equipment. For him, he’s getting squeezed out of his industry or his sector. He can’t play with these things anymore because he doesn’t sell right off of his website. It’s a bespoke product that is different for anyone who purchases it.
If I was a hotel and needed 500 units or something like that, he’s the absolute perfect person to contact for that. Now, I think what’s happening, especially during COVID, for him is that these knockoffs and these lesser quality lifts are coming out again. And that’s kind of squeezing him out of his space. And so there’s this dichotomy of wanting to create content, but also, how do you stop from losing your market share, knowing full well that Google is now starting to prefer people that are selling the one-off lifts to a home consumer or someone who just needs one? So that’s challenging. How do you fix that problem? And for us, the way that we are approaching this is that we’re kind of in-between the vanity keywords for him. And we’re starting to go after the longer tail keywords that are more geared towards the AV professional or the architect or designer, or maybe hotelier. Those are things that you have to be able to see. It is a total whitehat tactic to create the content to take back some of that market share. I don’t think that the stores like the Amazon stuff. I don’t think that they’re going to put a lot of content together. They’re just going to have one-off product pages on a strong domain. So he’s more than likely safe in the future. But it’s a challenge. So that’s kind of the roundabout answer for you. I would focus on content for sure, as far as white hat.
Does your agency do link building like outreach and all that?A lot of times, people write content for the sake of writing content. They often forget about SERPs and who's reading them. Click To Tweet
Nope, I made a strong stance when I started the agency not to build a single link. And I have not built a single link for the last like eight years now, which is great because I hated building links. It’s not fun. Now, that’s not to say that we won’t do a program that will garner some links by naturally having some content pieces or reaching out to someone who does a Forbes article, and then something else comes from, we’ll do that. But we aren’t going to be like, I’m going to call someone, or I’m going to reach out to someone and specifically try to ask them for a link to my client. I don’t like doing that. It’s very time-consuming. And I think that the number of links that you get in most cases, so many of them, and it’s so difficult to do something like that. And then there are houses that do it. I know FatJoe sells links, and there’s a couple of other ones that are out there. But I mean, for me, it’s not something that I’m interested in. And again, I’m working on mostly enterprise-level sites or maybe mid-market. If there is something that I’m going to get for them, I would say that it’s more or less going in like a hrefs or something to look at all their broken links and then fixing it for them. Maybe I’ll get them a couple of thousand links back. So something like that will do, but I won’t touch links with a ten-foot pole.
It’s something that is not fun for most people. I don’t do it myself, and I don’t enjoy it. But I have a team that does it. We use Pitchbox, and it works. But the key, I think to this for the client, is if it’s on a pay for performance basis, then it de-risks it for the client because otherwise you’re just paying like a PR firm a monthly retainer and hoping that it yields something valuable. Who knows if that’s going to pay off? And then you just kind of strung along for six months or whatever. And you’re like, “I’m not seeing any results yet,” and you’re like, “It’s coming. It’s coming. This takes time.” And then maybe a year goes by, and you got nothing out of it because they didn’t do a very good job. So we charge on a pay-for-performance basis.
I made a strong stance when I started the agency not to build a single link.
Interesting. Yeah, I mean, we have clients where one of them is alcohol, and I have a couple of other clients who could benefit from a partnership. One of them is in sports, and sports and alcohol go together fairly well, believe it or not. And so we’ll try to put two of them together, or if I see something else that looks like a fit, I’ll try to like broker a relationship versus building the links because I know that the links will come eventually. It’s just a matter of time. Or we have done these one-off time, things where it’s like, I’ll give you a perfect example of one. Not that we did, but that I saw, and it was Sunoco Race Fuels, which provides gas for NASCAR, they ran an interesting contest for anyone who wanted to join into it, but it was like, “smell like the races.” And what it was, was somehow they did this, I don’t know what it was, but they had this cologne or perfume, smell like burnt tires.
Oooh, that sounds disgusting.
I know. And I’m sure it was to some degree, it probably was like, “Gross. I don’t want to smell like burnt rubber.” But it got a lot of coverage, surprisingly enough. There was another one too, and I think you might even know this one. It was somewhat famous, but it was Tiger Sheds over in the UK. They did a CAD mock-up of a zombie apocalypse shed. They’re building, backyard shed. Nothing important, they built this thing. I don’t remember how much it was like. It was either like $300,000 or like a million dollars. It was a zombie apocalypse shed, and like this thing where turrets up at the top so that it could kill all the zombies. And that did well for them too. From an agency perspective, I would be more apt to create something like that to get links than just to do the humdrum thing of like, “I got to go build these legs. I got to call these people, use Pitchbox,” whatever. It has its place, and I don’t deny that. But for me, I’m just not interested in it. It’s not fun. It’s just like a grind. And I hate grinds.
This reminds me of your Tiger Sheds example. Rob Woods, a long time ago, did this linkbait piece when he worked at BuildDirect, which was Redneck Home Remodels.
That was a good one. I even know if it’s still on the web.If you're selling a product or service and your content doesn't match what you're presenting, it's going to be ineffective. Click To Tweet
I’m sure on some level, and he got some sort of return on that. And that’s fun, and I would love to work on fun stuff like that. That, to me, is more interesting than just a grind. Like it’s fun, the client gets behind it, hopefully, and then it pans out. The worst thing is if you do something that’s totally off the wall, and then it doesn’t pan out, you’re like, “Ah, crap, I just wasted a bunch of money and time.”
I know you’re in the Phoenix area. I’m curious, are you considering joining Genius Network, or were you in it in the past? Because that’s not too far away from you.
No, they’re not too far. I thought about it. Honestly, though, I’m just so busy with my stuff. Frank Watson is here, and there’s a couple of other really good marketers, Joe Sinkwitz. I like to hang out with people, but I don’t know. That seems kind of forced, and I just don’t know how much time I have to invest in this stuff. And I’m like one of those where it’s like, I have total ADD with hyperfocus, and the second I get a shiny new toy, I know that I will be spending an exorbitant amount of time going into it. It’s like a Facebook addiction, right? Like, “Sh*t. I’m on that thing all day.”
I’m now thinking about Clubhouse. I’m wondering if you’re using Clubhouse.
Dude, I’ve had so many people who were like, “Dude, you have to get on Clubhouse. It’ll be perfect for you.”
It’s like, “Dude. You got to try out crack cocaine. It’s amazing.”
Yeah. But no, not one time. The first time is never free. I’m not into it. I’m not on Twitter, either. I have no inclination to ever want to be on Twitter, Clubhouse; not for me, Instagram; I don’t understand why people want to see my pictures. So I’m just not going to be on that either. And maybe that’s stupid as a marketer for me, or TikTok, or any of that stuff. I see that there’s value in it at some level, but I also see it as a great detractor of my time. And my time is more valuable than pretty much anything else. I value my time.
Yes. You need to value your time. It’s important to guard it because no one else will do a good job of it, only you.
Right. Well, when I was at GoDaddy, one of the things I asked the President, was like, “Hey, man. Look, I like meetings just like everyone else, but I’m in seven or eight meetings a day for three or four days, and the value you’re getting from me isn’t there. And it’s either going to come to a point where you’re going to have to fire me because I’m not performing, or we’re going to have to stop these meetings.” And so he’s like, “Do whatever you think that is necessary.” So I went and killed meetings for like six hours out of the day. So like two hours, I’d have meetings, and the rest of it was just my time to work. And man, there were so many people pissed off, like my boss, my boss’ boss, and other people on the team. And they were like, “You’re just not going to the meetings.” and I was like, “Yeah, I’m not going to these meetings. They’re a waste of time.” It’s a total waste of time. And I can’t fathom that people kind of get lulled into this. It’s like all these meetings are great, and I’ve only got one a day, and blah blah blah, and then it’s three or four days of nothing but meetings. And it’s like, I just wasted my entire week doing this stuff. And yeah, maybe you gave someone some insight or whatever, but I don’t know. It was such a waste of time. I hated it. I hated every minute of it just being locked in a room.
I get it. I don’t like meetings either. And I don’t think, for the most part, they’re productive or worth anybody’s time. I used to have a mug from Despair.com that said, “Meetings. None of us is as dumb as all of us.“
You never get anything accomplished. Everyone has a different opinion, and you’re all waiting for the one person who is just going to be like, “We’re just gonna do this.” I remember my boss. We were at this conference. He got on stage, and he was like, “I don’t even know what we’re doing here. We’ve paid a lot of money to be at this hotel. We’re all in this room. We’re all yakking away at this or that or whatever.” And he goes, “I haven’t heard a single solution. And I’m going back to the office. Who’s with me?” And I left with him, and a couple of other people left. We walked out of that entire thing. And that probably cost them like; I don’t know, $50,000? It was a full day at Westin. And they had food and like these little mugs that you’d bring back. It was so over-the-top stupid, and it was a complete colossal waste of time. And from that point forward, I was just like, “He’s right. He’s super right. Smart dude.”
Cameron Herold is another smart dude. And he has a book called Meetings Suck, which is very good. I had Cameron on this podcast, and we talked about how bad meetings are and how to make the few meetings you’re going to keep valuable. Good stuff.
I have to check that one out. Sounds smart, though. Though podcasts, I love podcasts; this is great, but meetings? Nah, I can just do it without them.
What’s your favorite podcast?
I try not to listen to them a lot. For the fun and entertainment value, not necessarily industry-related, I love watching Joe Rogan. It’s just fun fodder, I guess, to just put on for the day. Industry stuff, I mean, every once in a while, I’ll find someone like Lily Ray, I’ll listen to her on a podcast. I don’t know which ones she was on last, or I’ll go into Search Engine Journal and see if there’s someone that’s coming up in a podcast that I’ll look at. But generally speaking, I try not to waste my time with some of this stuff. And it’s not to say that the people aren’t fantastic, the podcast, or what they’re doing. But I’m moving so fast that it just turns into a time suck for the most part.
I get it. I’m protective of my time as well. And I don’t get on a lot of shows. I don’t do a lot of podcast consumption. I just try to do my two shows because one wasn’t enough. Marketing Speak and Get Yourself Optimized my other show, which is not an SEO podcast, by the way, even though it sounds like it. It’s biohacking productivity and spirituality. That is fun. That’s my passion project. I love that. I’m careful about how much I consume. I don’t spend a lot of time on Clubhouse, either. I don’t spend time on Twitter, even though I have 130 or whatever thousand followers, and apparently, I post seven or eight times a day. It’s not me; it’s my team. I have no idea what I’m posting. Occasionally, I’ll check, and it’s like, “Wow, that’s good stuff. I’d endorse that content.”
I want to know exactly what’s being posted and when and how, and is that something that meets my tonality, etc. That’s rough. It is difficult for someone to write for someone else. Glad it’s working out for you for sure.
It’s been working out for years. Well, I know we’re up to time here. So where would we send our listener who wants to maybe work with your agency, or attend an Advanced Search Summit, or one of your masterminds, or just follow what you’re up to?
First and foremost, if you want to contact me, you’re always welcome to hit me up at [email protected]. That’s the easiest way to get a hold of me. So if you’re interested, great, I can talk forever. If you’re interested in going to the Advanced Search Summit, just go to AdvancedSearchSummit.com/Napa. That’s our show that’s coming up in June. We’d love to have you there. We still have a couple of tickets available. And then the mastermind, I think the best way to do it would be–we only have four seats left for Maui. It’s going pretty fast. It’s more than likely going to sell out in the next week or two. But if you’re interested in coming to Maui, you can just hit me up. Just email me at [email protected], and we’ll see what we can do for you.
All right. Awesome.
Thanks again for the podcast. It’s been great. I love being on shows like this. It’s always a pleasure, and especially talking to new and interesting people. I know that we’ve probably spoken in the past a couple of times, for sure. And I’m 99% positive. We’ve run into each other at some of these shows. But it’s always great to connect with you again. So thanks for having me. I do appreciate it.
The pleasure was all mine. Thank you, Jim. And best of luck with the shows, and I hope things kind of stabilize and people play full out in common and show up in droves for you.
Thanks. I appreciate it too. Hopefully, they do. So you guys better come!
All right. Well, thank you, Jim. Thank you, listeners. This is Stephan Spencer signing off.
- [email protected] – Email
- LinkedIn – Jim Christian
- Twitter – Jim Christian
- Advanced Search Summit
- Blush Digital
- Meetings Suck
- Cameron Herold – previous episode
- Get Yourself Optimized
- Jim Boykin
- Search Engine Journal
- Digital Marketers Organization
- SMX West
- Affiliate Summit
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
Quench my thirst for adventure. Being an entrepreneur isn’t all about work. It’s good to find time within the year to refresh my perspective by joining events that involve travel or intensive experiences.
Increase my knowledge and build my network through masterminds. Joining workshops and conferences is a great way to refresh the mind and add more experience to my entrepreneurial life.
Travel with caution in the new normal. Go virtual as much as possible but when an event is face-to-face, remember to stay safe and take all the necessary precautions when traveling.
Pack all the necessary items when traveling during a pandemic. Don’t forget to bring enough masks and sanitizer for the trip. Usually, events nowadays are caring enough to limit the crowd and provide everyone with sanitizing products.
Join events where I feel welcome and at home. Masterminds are excellent avenues for meeting people who have the same interests as mine. It’s important to have a core group that is on the same wavelength as I am.
Do it for the once-in-a-lifetime enterprise-level experience. Most extensive workshops and masterminds usually have activities that encourage their participants to get out of their comfort zone. Experiences like swimming with the sharks and walking on fire were some of Stephan and Jim’s experiences in the conversation.
Try to gather as much knowledge from the events I attend. Determine which new strategies I can apply to my business when I get back.
Leverage the tools and tricks given to me. Research them when I get home and see if a certain digital product is feasible.
Making time is one of my highest priorities. Joining conferences multiple times a year may take up too much space on my calendar. It’s vital to limit them to add more value to my health and relationships.
Contact Jim at [email protected] and connect, inspire, and explore when I join this year’s Advanced Search Summit in June at Napa.
About Jim Christian
The former Director of SEO for Godaddy for almost a decade… Jim brings a wealth of experience to the table when it comes to all things search-related. He currently owns a boutique agency in Phoenix focused on helping enterprise-level brands untangle complex problems that evade detection.
Jim also runs Advanced Search Summit (This Conference!). A passion project to give back to the community by helping others innovate in the digital marketing space. He continually strives to create memorable experiences for attendees by bringing in the greatest talent our industry has to offer while choosing unique venues.