I had the pleasure of conducting an email interview with one of the younger but certainly successful link building experts in the industry, Jon Cooper. Jon is the man behind Point Blank SEO. Some of the work that has made him a go to name in the SEO community includes his link building technique post and The Content Marketer’s Guide to Visualizations.
If you are in the digital marketing industry with a passion for link building, Jon Cooper is a must follow.
Craig: Jon, for those that do not follow you or your work, explain how you became interested in SEO and more specifically, link building? What do you enjoy most about what most SEOs can’t stand or grasp (link building)?
Jon: I first started doing SEO for one of my friend’s parents, just because I needed a job & could type fast. I had no idea what I was doing or what SEO was even about for the first week or two. Luckily, I really started to like the idea behind it, and I managed to get myself a copy of SEO for Dummies. I read it in about 2 days. The one thing that caught my eye in the book was links, because links are really what makes or breaks an SEO campaign.
After I took the Web and tried hunting down every link building strategy out there, I noticed a huge gap between what SEOs were searching for and what blogs actually provided. We all wanted link building content, but there were very few, if any, blogs or websites dedicated solely to that.
Because it was something I really had a knack for, and because there was a very big need for it, I started Point Blank SEO. The rest is history :)
But the thing about link building that has made me enjoy it so much is the opportunity for creativity. When you hear guys like Wil Reynolds talking about creating a national holiday to build links for one of his clients, it’s hard not to get excited about links.
Craig: When did you start building links and at any point in your career, has your age been a factor in landing a client?
Jon: I started a little over 2 years ago, but I’ve focused solely on link building over that time period. Luckily my age hasn’t been a factor, because the only clients I have are ones that sought me out & contacted me on their own terms. They knew ahead of time of my age; if they didn’t, they were more impressed than discouraged (at least to my knowledge!).
Craig: Who inspires you to continue going forward with your link building/SEO career and if you could only follow ONE person on Twitter, who would it be?
Jon: The people who respond to me on Twitter & in the comments of my blog. If I ever even hint at questioning whether SEO is something I really enjoy doing, I quickly remember all the people I’ve met in this industry and how much they’ve taught me even beyond SEO.
I’m going to cheat here: the Inbound account, because all of the best tips & content from the guys I love talking with & following usually makes it on to Inbound.org :).
Craig: Where do you see link building as a digital marketing strategy in 3 years? How about 10?
Jon: The way link building had changed in the past is figuring out different ways to go from Point A to Point B. Point B was always higher rankings, and the different paths we took were different SEO link building strategies.
The future is changing the way we change, because we’re no going from Point A to Point C. I think we’ll start to pursue an entirely different goal altogether; in the past it’s been higher SERP rankings, in the future it will be more direct KPIs like sales and targeted traffic.
The reason I believe this is because the rewards of ranking higher are diminishing, and the difficulty is always increasing as new businesses enter search marketing, but the term “link building” still perfectly fits the future criteria even though we’re not pursuing links for SEO as it was originally defined. For example, we’ll be targeting links in other website’s newsletters; they’re still links, so we’re still building them, but they aren’t meant for search engines.
Craig: What is one link building or SEO tool you absolutely can’t live without?
Jon: Check My Links. For those who don’t know, it’s an on page broken link checker for Chrome that’s by far the fastest out there (here’s my post on how I use it).
Some people regard broken link building as a strategy that’s one in a hundred, but I go so much further with it that it almost drives me insane. If 6% of the Web’s links were broken in 1998, then just imagine how many are broken today. If I remember correctly, Rand Fishkin even remarked at last year’s Mozcon that 20% of content disappears from the web each month. I doubt we’ll ever keep up with that pace, so I can guarantee you we will never run out of opportunity for this strategy.
Craig: What do you plan on studying at the University of Florida this fall and how do you feel it’s going to benefit you as a link builder/SEO?
Jon: I’m looking to dive straight into computer science so I can learn programming. This will allow me to create my own tools that I’ve been dying to see built.
Craig: Outside of your time spent link building (if it exists), what do you do for fun and/or what are some of your hobbies?
Jon: An interesting hobby that might be brand new to some of you is a sport called disc golf. It’s like golf, but with frisbees, and instead of holes, they’re baskets with chains. Not many people play it, but there are 3-4 courses within an hour’s drive of where I live and I love going out there with anyone willing.
I would like to thank Jon for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. If you are serious about link building, I highly recommend following Jon on Twitter. You can also connect with Jon and Point Blank SEO on Facebook.
When it comes to digital marketing, branding is often overlooked and can easily hinder a marketing campaign without proper strategy in place. This is where Gary J. Nix, a marketing specialist with Blue Fountain Media comes in. With a passion for branding and ambassadorship and a wealth of marketing experience, Gary is a must follow for digital marketing and business professionals.
I was first introduced to Gary at #brandchat, a weekly Twitter chat for branding/marketing minded individuals and have since been intrigued by his work.
Craig: Gary, for those that are unfamiliar with you and your work, when did you become interested in marketing and more specifically, digital marketing? What do you enjoy most about this line of work?
Gary: My official entry into the world of marketing took place in college. I was DJing here and there; suggesting the music people should buy and on the staff of the campus music video show. When I found myself reading books about how to perform those tasks better, I realized I should be in marketing. The digital part just came naturally with my affinity for being active in the online space. *Cue AOL dial-up SFX*
Craig: You show a high level of interest and expertise in branding, what is one of your favorite brand success stories?
Gary: Besides Apple – as I’m old enough to remember when they were a somewhat fledgling company trying to find themselves – any company smart enough to create a culture within makes me smile. Kanon Vodka is the latest to do so, but any brand that looks at Lifetime Customer Value as an important metric and does it well is a success to me.
Craig: Do you feel that branding is often overlooked by businesses, marketers and agencies as a strategy on the web? If yes, why?
Gary: From what I’ve seen, agencies as a whole concentrate the most on branding. With that being said, businesses are often so focused on quick ROI and marketers are forced by their bosses to do the same. I believe it’s partially panic and partially a byproduct of this now, Now, NOW society in which we live. The issue with that is the brand is essentially the heart of your business. It’s not only a logo or company colors. It’s the thing that draws (or repels) people to (or from) your business. That’s a fact that should never be overlooked.
Craig: In your opinion, is increasing brand awareness as important for smaller businesses as it is for larger corporations?
Gary: Increasing brand awareness is very important for small businesses to grow and make their mark. Sustaining one’s brand awareness is important for larger corporations because the little guys could be coming for their market share. Put all of this together and you can easily conclude that effective branding is important for ALL business.
Craig: What is one piece of cost effective advice would you give to a small business looking to increase their brand awareness web?
Gary: Look at free tools and take advantage of social media. Virtually every company has some sort of digital presence these days – because it’s necessary. If you have a website (which you should in 2012) installing Google Analytics to look at traffic, trends and conversion data is very simple to do. Social media channels can help you keep in contact with potential customers, present customers and, most importantly, you can monitor what’s being said about your brand. Keep in mind, you can’t control what people are going to say. Whether it’s good or bad, you should know how people feel about you and act accordingly.
Craig: What are 3 of your go to marketing tools?
Gary: Google Analytics for measurement, MailChimp for marketing and my brain for (weird and wild) ideas and strategies.
Craig: What are some things you like to do in your spare time to help get your mind off of the fast paced nature of marketing and branding?
Gary: I’m a sports fanatic. Always have been, always will be. Sometimes I like analyzing teams’ brands too (like The Yankees) but I like the competition even more. By the way, J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS!
I would like to thank Gary for taking the time to participate in my interview and for sharing some key, sometimes overlooked digital marketing advice. Other than the fact that Gary is a New York Jets fan (Go Bills), I highly recommend following him and his work if you are in the digital marketing industry or are interested in learning more about branding / marketing. Here’s where you can connect with Gary: Google+ | Twitter | Linkedin.
I do have one last question for Gary though (answer in the comments if you wish).
Will your colleagues catch you “Tebowing” around the office this upcoming NFL season?
About the Author: Craig Kilgore is a digital marketer with Mainstreethost and currently heads up their R&D department. Craig’s interests include SEO, paid search, content marketing, social media marketing and business development. You can find Craig on Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin.