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Interview of Andy Hagans: Blog Mogul, Link Monger, & White Hat? SEO...

November 08 , 2005

Andy Hagans is a self admitted link monger who is a blogger at heart. I recently interviewed him, and it went like this...

So what got you started on the web?

Back in high school I got interested in the Web for the same reasons we all do. It's a great time waster, and a lot more interactive than TV. I bought an HTML for dummies book and read it in a day.

My first major site was about the Harry Potter movies, it was actually pretty successful and heavily trafficked. Of course, it was online at the time when online advertising plummeted, so it only made me about $1.25 CPM.

What got you into search? I believe you got hired at Text Link Ads in large part because I blogged about you. How did you quickly go from HTML for Dummies to someone I kept running into?

I guess that was an evolution over several years. In fact, for a few years I didn't do any web sites (around when I started college). I only got back into them two or three years ago, and that's when I got into SEO. At that point it was a matter of writing a decent article on a niche SEO topic (link building) and getting it published by a few prominent SEO sites. Then I had the street cred to bug you on IM :-) Of course you were one of my mentors in SEO, and a large part of that is due to how open and accessible you are on your web site.

What color is your hat?

My hat color fluctuates. On Monday mornings it tends to be white, whereas on a late Thursday night it's probably a dark shade of gray. I have a little saying: "Pick the right hat for the job".

I noticed great ROI from the effort spent when I used to publish a good number of articles. Some sites did not seem too willing to publish my stuff until AFTER I was a paid advertiser. From what I have seen you have quickly got published at many sites, some of which I will likely never get published at. What tips do you have for finding places to syndicate articles to? How do you know what articles to write for which people? How do you ensure they are likely to publish them?

Picking a good article topic is very similar to picking a good niche for a web site. It is made much, much easier if you pick a unique topic (preferably that hasn't been done), and if you pick a topic that people actually are hungry to know more about. For instance, my second article was on VIsion-based Page Segmentation and link building. No one had really discussed how VIPS could affect active link building, so it was easy for me to be the number one guy for that topic -- I was the ONLY guy for that topic!

It also helps, of course, to write about something controversial (link baiting). But I think you or Nick W would know more about that!

Can anyone write articles? Some people fear rejection, etc. What tips would you offer them to help get past that?

Rejection and mistakes are part of the path to success. They aren't a bad thing, they can be very helpful! Throw your insecurities to the wind, write an article, get rejected, and try to learn why. Then write another one.

How do you determine what articles are best for specific sources vs ones to submit to article banks?

In general, a quality article will get the most value for you if you manually submit it to a few reputable industry sites. Sometimes though your niche will not even have sites that accept article submissions! In that case you can submit to the better article sites (like Ezinearticles) and still get some good value.

Do ghost writers work? Can you buy articles from article banks? Or is it best if you write your own?

Ghostwriters can definitely work well if you're strapped for time. That said, if your personal reputation is on the line, never outsource it.

Do you think links from similar content pages count less? If not will they ever?

Sometimes duplicate article syndications get placed in the supplemental index. But if I remember correctly, Google has stated that being in the supplemental index does not affect a page's PageRank. Based on this, I think it is likely that Google's link algorithms and duplicate content filters are applied separately.

Lets talk bagpipes. My step dad is no good at them. Where should he go to learn?

He definitely needs an instructor. Bagpipes are one thing you cannot teach yourself. Otherwise you're going to be screwing up your taorluaths and lemluaths and not even know it!

Outsourcing and you. You run a pretty well known blog on the subject. Have you done much with outsourcing?

You're talking at the king of outsourcing. I'm of the opinion that an entrepreneur should only work when their labor has a very high value add. Everything else, send it to someone who can do it better, cheaper, and faster. Specialization is what makes our economy so efficient, so why fight it?

So yes, to answer your question, I outsource a ton of work and jobs, and I will continue to do this in the future. It truly is a global economy.

What were the best surprises and worst surprises with outsourcing? What tips would you have for minimizing risks and maximizing profit potential?

The best surprises happen when you find someone who is reliable and talented. The worst surprises happen when you find someone who is not talented and who steals your money. The best way to minimize risk is to make very small deals with several providers, and then make larger deals with the ones who come through.

If we're talking SEO, web design, or web development, many of them will not come through for you. But when you find a firm or person who does, treat them well and take care of them, because a good relationship with them can make a great (and profitable) asset to your business.

On many fronts I think outsourcing has a negative connotation similar to SEO. Some people have a sense of nationalistic pride and spew random hate speech at people who outsource. Why do you think they feel that way? Do you feel you pay fairly?

First, let me tackle the "nationalistic" front. It all comes down to this: I don't favor Americans, or Englishmen, or Sri Lankans over any other type of people. It irks me that people feel their own countrymen "deserve" jobs anymore than their counterparts 13 timezones over. I am looking for the best person for the job, and the buck stops there. Frankly, all the whining and complaining Americans do makes me less likely to want to hire them!

In reference to pay rates: I do believe I pay a fair wage. Of course, when outsourcing, the point is to save money on wages. One of the things my partners and I routinely look at are average wage figures and purchasing power parity stats for whatever countries we outsource to -- we want to make sure we're paying well above average wages. Firstly, this helps you sleep better at night. More than that, though, better pay helps you get higher quality people.

Actually it's more than just researching wages -- we have to remember to give the Diwali bonus, for instance, rather than the standard Christmas bonus :)

Running blog channels: how do you find the right topics? Do you look at demand? Competition? What is the primary criteria for starting a new channel?

All of the above. Demand for the content is important, and so is competition... you don't want to be one of ten thousand guys all chasing the same dollar bill. But the ultimate figure I look at is the Overture bid, plain and simple. If AdSense is going to be your main revenue stream, why not make sure the cards are in your favor?

How often should people publish to a blog? How can you tell if a topic needs frequent publishing or infrequent coverage?

It's pretty hard to get a blog to do well with infrequent posting. The only people who pull that off either have extremely good content, or are leveraging an existing base of people interested in their site (like Whitepace, for instance, who have both). But if you're new to the game, my advice is to post early, and post often. It's spider food.

Do you have to coach the bloggers on what you are looking for? What common errors are recurring amongst your writers?

The most common errors are just what you would think: spelling, grammar, code, and occasionally, insufficient attribution. These are all things you would expect from someone who is new to blogging. If they're smart, they can pick it up in a week or two (with a bit of patient coaching). Of course, I'm not known for my patience, but that's why I have a partner... he's a "people person".

Link trading: waste of time or a necessity?

Reciprocal links are still a great marketing method, if you are trading links with highly relevant, quality sites. Of course, 99% of link trades do not fit those criteria.

AdSense optimization tips: what do people screw up the most? What works the best?

I think most people go wrong because they add AdSense as an afterthought. When I design a site, or write specs for its design, the AdSense placement is one of the core requirements of the design. As a result, the AdSense is prominent, and it naturally 'fits' into the design -- it was designed that way! It is much harder to add AdSense after you design a site and get high CTR and avoid looking cluttered. Kind of similar to SEO, I suppose; it's much better to do it in the beginning.

Hagans and haggis. Sounds similar. Looks, well...your thoughts on the delectable dish?

Well as you know, I'm all about the Scots (and the Scotch!) But I can't lie, I still haven't brought myself to taste the stuff. Scottish breakfast... now we're talking!

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Thanks for the interview Andy.

Andy Hagans lives and breathes SEO, link building, and blogs. When he isn't working at his own link building firm or for Text Link Ads, you can find him putzing about on his pet project: The Uganda Conflict Action Network.

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

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