Meet Tom De Spiegelaere.
I had the pleasure of getting know Tom last year. He was running a client SEO agency out of Brisbane, Australia and doing quite well.
When we talked in Chiang Mai, Tom told me that he was killing off all his clients so he could focus on affiliate SEO.
Just 7 months later, I checked in with Tom. Not only had his experiment worked, but he trippled his income.
His story is awesome and I got him to sit down on tell all of it. Tom has agreed to spill the beans on how the whole process went and most importantly, the exact ranking strategies, techniques and services he used to climb to $30k/month.
In this interview we get into:
- Niche selection
- Keyword research
- Content providers
- Onsite optimization
- Backlink timing
- PBN technique
- Social signals
- Link diversity
- Critical outsourcing gigs
- and scaling advice
This was an absolute no-holds-barred interview.
- Keyword Research
- PBNButler: Expert Content (COUPON CODE: “BESTOF2017”)
- Social Signals
- PBN Butler: Social Signals (COUPON CODE: “BESTOF2017”)
- Press Release
- PBN Butler: Press Release (COUPON CODE: “BESTOF2017”)
- Loganix (COUPON CODE: “MATTDIGGITY”)
- Chiang Mai SEO Conference (Less than 100 tickets left)
Matt: Hey guys, thanks for tuning in. Today, I’m going to be interviewing Tom from Brisbane, Australia. When I first met Tom, he told me he was running an agency out of Brisbane, and he was doing quite well. I caught up with him last month and he said, “Hey, guess what? I don’t run my agency anymore. I actually switched over to 100% affiliates.” So I said, “Hey Tom, tell me about what that’s like. I mean, how’s everything going for you?” And he said, “I 3x’d my income in just seven months.”
So, I got him to sit down and tell me the story, and then I just thought, “Dang, I’ve got to get this on an interview.” I convinced him to come on the show, and here we are. We’re going to hear everything about how this experience was for Tom, and in true fashion of how I’d like to do interviews, you’re going to get everything. He’s going to spill the beans on how he does all his rankings, where he gets all his services from, how he buys his links, why he uses social signals, on-site SEO, everything. So, tune in. This is going to be a great interview. All right, so Tom, how’s it going tonight?
Tom: Hey man. Good, good. How are you?
Matt: Good, thanks for coming on the show. This is not really a show, this is just an interview, but thanks for coming on anyways.
Tom: That’s alright, happy to do it.
Matt: Why don’t you start off just telling us first your name, and how old you are.
Tom: Right, my name’s Thomas de Spiegelaere, I’m 31.
Matt: Cool, cool, and, where are you from?
Tom: At the moment, I’m living in Brisbane in Australia, but originally I’m from Belgium. I moved here in 2011.
Matt: Okay, and tell me, I know that you’re an SEO, because I’ve met you before, but, before you were an SEO, what is your background in, what was your education like?
Tom: Well, I grew up in Belgium, and I went for a bachelor in graphical and digital media, with a specialization in multimedia production, which is a really, really broad sort of education. It covers anything from basic drawing to design, both for web and print, through 3D animation, special effects, video editing, and of course a bit of coding.
So yeah, very broad. Then I guess, my first real job background wise, my first real job was as a consultant in a global consultancy firm, doing flash animations, back when that was still a thing, and graphic design for web. I don’t know, after a while, I didn’t really feel well, I needed more of a human connection, so I went into sales, and earned a lot less money, actually, in that second job, but I was a lot happier.
Matt: Got it. I think eventually, when I met you in Chiang Mai, you told me that you’re living in Australia, and you started working for yourself over there. How did that happen?
Tom: Well, so when I moved to Australia initially, I was doing a few years of bits and pieces, not earning that much money, but everything I was doing was mostly related to building WordPress sites, and ranking them using SEO. In the end, when I actually got good at it, I ranked a web design agency site, because well, by that time, I’d made so many WordPress sites, and I knew how to do SEO shit, so I just ranked the web design sites, and then I started becoming a web designer for myself.
Matt: Okay, right on. The interesting thing is, most people that I run into move to a third world country, or a cheaper country, like Thailand, in order to bootstrap and get on their feet doing their own solo gig, but you moved to one of the most expensive countries on the planet. What was that like, bootstrapping in Australia?
Tom: I was nervous, anxious. It was the first time I was actually working for myself. I didn’t really plan that much, so in hindsight, I should have planned it way better. I did have a few things that helped. One was I was living with the in-laws, which means it cuts rent in half, and the second point is I … By doing my savings coming over to Australia, and paying for living expenses for me and my now wife, for the first few months, I paid for the wedding, et cetera.
In return, Jessica, my wife, said, “All right, I’m going to work from now on, for like a year or a year and a half, while you figure out what to do with your life,” which was the perfect time for me to basically scale up on the SEO, and then in the end, become a web designer.
Matt: That’s really good. It’s like the family took a gamble with you, but it was a very good gamble. That’s awesome you had that support going there.
Matt: Yeah, cool man. Let’s see, so you started building web design sites. When did you make the switch over to doing SEO? You must have, I don’t know, learned SEO somewhere, right? How’d that happen?
Tom: Yeah, that was really random. I think around 2009, or 2010, a friend messaged me on Facebook with this super course called Internet Secrets. It basically taught how to build really low-competition niche sites on EMDs. The course was crap. The concept was working at the time, but the course was really, really crap. It did spark something, and I went with it. Yeah, that’s basically how I got into SEO. I started building more and more niche sites, just to see if I could actually rank anything.
Tom: It was pretty cool.
Matt: Everyone gets their start on some weird course. Mine was the 30 Day Challenge. The ranking technique was based off of, “Just make as many e-zine article submissions as possible.” Of course, it worked, right?
Tom: Yup, those days, yeah.
Matt: Those days. Next question, so since then, where have you learned your SEO from? Any courses you’ve taken, or any mentors you’ve had, or anything like that?
Tom: Well, most of the SEO I know … Well, let’s say 70% of the SEO I know was mostly self-taught, and I don’t know, reading between the lines on places like … back then, Warrior Forum, and Black Hat World, and stuff like that. The thing is, most courses you came across just led you down a wrong path, and you’d lose like six months and $2,000 doing the wrong things, which is why I started testing myself.
In the end, I figured out how to rank a site that could actually survive a few Google updates. They eventually crashed of course, because I was still way, way too aggressive, but as for now, the actual courses, blogs, and people that I … hold on … yeah, that I actually suggest to follow would be, aside from you obviously, Charles Floate, Daryl Rosser, Brian Dean. He’s really, really White Hat, but I think if you … I don’t know, you can change a perspective on his stuff, so you can convert his White Hat stuff to a more Gray Hat thing, which is you’re just not good.
Gotch SEO has a really good blog, and of course there’s the Local Client Takeover crew, they’re really good for client SEO, and how to rank locally in the maps. Then actual courses would be Lion Zeal Scientific Rankings, and then I was really surprised by Tung Tran’s Amazon course. I think … what was it called? AMZ Affiliate Bootcamp, because it goes from really A to Zed from choosing your niche, to keyword research, to content creation, how to create content, to link building, to just basically everything. It’s a really good one for beginners.
Now, what’s another one? I think Charles Floate’s recent OnPage course, with Daniel Cuttridge had some really good gems in there, definitely regarding link sculpting, and stuff like that. Well, actually, I think I heard you saying you’re making a course too, so that’s going to be on the list.
Matt: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, working on something right now, there’s just some things more complicated than sharing on the blog, and there’s a lot of things I wanted to share, so thinking about putting a course together. It’s not promised yet.
Tom: That’s be awesome, man. That’s be actually … that’d be awesome.
Matt: Yeah. Okay, cool. Most of the people you mentioned were in Gray Hat SEOs, and there’s a couple White Hats mixed in, like Trung, Gotch, and Brian Dean.
Matt: Brian Dean? Yeah, Brian Dean.
Matt: Would you consider yourself being normally a Gray Hat SEO with streaks of white in it?
Tom: Yeah, pretty much. If you put it into numbers, I’d say 70% Gray Hat, 30 White Hat, something like that.
Matt: Mm-hmm (affirmative), okay. Cool. I mean, that’s pretty much like what I do, too. There’s pluses and minuses of each side, and combo-ing together is like the best result that I’ve seen so far.
Tom: Oh, definitely, definitely.
Matt: Cool. Tell me about your agency, like the agency that you told me about last year, rest in peace. How’d you get started in that?
Tom: How I got started in it?
Matt: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tom: Well, that was back in 2013 when I finally figured out how to rank a site. Still way too aggressive, of course, because links were super cheap back then, 2000, yeah, ’13, you could rank anything within a week, almost. So yeah, I just popped up a site, I ranked locally, really, really, quickly, and then started getting clients, and because of my sales experience back in Belgium, I could convert those clients into actual sales. That was pretty great.
Matt: Then after you built it up, what finally made you decide to can it?
Tom: Yeah, so I’d heard about this affiliate SEO, and I did affiliate SEO in the past during my up-scaling period. I always wanted to go back to it, but I thought it was too difficult, until I started seeing results. Then if I weighed the pros and cons of agency versus affiliate SEO, to me, it’s no-brainer.
For me, really, it’s the clients that were a bit of the hassle. Some people could handle it quite well, and they can scale agencies very well, and can handle the clients very well. Maybe I was just going off of the wrong markets, but I felt seriously undervalued. Even after raising my prices considerably, I always had the feeling I’d get way more out of my own skills by actually building my own sites, instead of building sites for others.
It didn’t help that … If there are web designers out there listening to this, you probably notice some clients, they feel like as soon as they’ve got a website, they’re going to get leads. Even though you might tell them in the meeting up front, “You’re getting a website, it’s great, but you need that marketing budget behind it to get it to generate leads.” A lot of clients didn’t really get that.
That’s why I really wanted to get out of the agency style and more to the affiliate style. Also, man, I recently listened to Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek, and he talked about the disconnect between time and the amount of money that you can generate-
Matt: Yeah, it’s arbitrary, right?
Tom: Yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted to achieve, but while you’re supporting a family and two kids, it’s difficult to make that switch. Like you mentioned, it doesn’t help that Brisbane, and Australia in general, is pretty darn expensive. So yeah, my main issue trying to switch, was while I had recurring revenue from hosting clients, and I had some maintenance packages, which most of them were automated, which was great. It wasn’t actually nearly enough money to allow me to create more time, so I could actually make that switch.
Matt: Got it. So yeah, you really struck a chord with me. I don’t have a family yet, but I’m already a conservative businessman to begin with, right? To add a family on top of that, I would need a certain amount of padding in order to make that switch from having X amount of money per month, moving onto potentially losing that, and trying a new business venture completely. May I ask how much recurring revenue you had coming from the agency?
Tom: Well, if you’re talking passive recurring revenue, not much at all. On a month-to-month basis, I think I was averaging 10k in profits, but that was while pretty much busting my ass off doing web work, and of course the hosting packages on top of that. Yeah, about 10 grand a month.
While that might seem a lot, in Brisbane, and again, while supporting a family with two kids and a wife, that doesn’t actually get you that far. Yeah, so the difference between now and then, when I was actually having to work that much, is just … it’s insane. The amount of freedom I have now, it’s very surreal.
Matt: How long did it take you to get to that 10k a month profit level?
Tom: Three years.
Matt: Okay, so-
Tom: Yeah. It took only six months to replace that with actual passive affiliate income. If only I’d started sooner, it’s just …
Matt: What is it? Hindsight is always 20/20, that’s what they say, right?
Matt: Yeah, so what kind of fears went through your head before you made the leap, and actually just started firing clients?
Tom: All right, so the anxiety was mainly related to the family of course. Well, they’re always the main priority, so I needed to make sure that the cashflow is there at all times. That being said, it did help a lot that almost by accident, I was actually working part-time at another agency as SEO manager, helping to replace their processes, and increase margins, and efficiency, et cetera. This created a buffer, and we could lower our standards of living just a little bit, while I was making the switch, and then that gave me that nice buffer, that nice time, to make that switch happen. It worked out, which … yeah.
Matt: Okay, so how did you start firing your clients? What was that like?
Tom: Very slowly. I still have a lot of them on my hosting plans and maintenance packages. Definitely just the low-maintenance ones, where most of it is automated. Then I started forwarding all the new leads to that agency I was working at, and all the leads that requested random website tweaks, I forwarded to another agency to deal with those. At the moment, I virtually have no client work anymore.
Matt: Okay, so you were probably making commission on those leads as well, right?
Tom: Yeah, so I think it’s 5% commission at the moment.
Matt: Cool, okay, so made a little money out of that, too.
Matt: All right. All right, so now you’re client free. Have you had experience with the affiliate SEO, before you just jumped into it?
Tom: Yeah, so like I mentioned before, when I was up-scaling an SEO, I was creating a whole heap of niche sites … excuse me … after trying [inaudible 00:16:23] and Google, and they were all Amazon affiliate based. Really, the really big switch to affiliate SEO happened around mid 2016, but I was dabbling in it for a few years between 2010 and 2012.
Actually, at one point, I was first in the US for how to make ice cream. It’s an informational keyword, but massive search volume in the summer. Yeah, and then I converted people on-site to buy ice cream makers, because it’s really nice price point I think. Yeah, no, it was a really good summer, actually.
But yeah, anyway, eventually all those niche sites got hammered by Google updates, because back then, again, 2010, 2012, you could just … links were super cheap, and you could just churn and burn, as you pleased. Then around 2014, I think I switched to a pay-per-lead, because I … what’s the guy’s name? Massive and Passive, or Passive and Massive.
Matt: Brian, right?
Tom: Yeah, Brian, Brian, yeah. So I started following him, and I thought, “Oh yeah, there’s something into this.” I started making pay-per-lead sites, going after the usual verticals, like plumbing, and aircon, and pest control, et cetera. I used … what did I … Serp Shaker. I used Serp Shaker to dominant … yeah.
Matt: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tom: Mass Poster, mass Page Creator, right? I used it to dominate a pretty big city, and I was targeting the individual suburbs. Then one of those actually made me around a grand a month for six months, before the company I was working with pulled the plug. I found it a bit too much of a hassle in the end as well, because I had to screen the calls, unless I hired a VA, but at that time, I was screening the calls myself, making sure I wasn’t charging for calls that weren’t viable for them.
I dropped them. The sites themselves are still live, generating leads, and they’re actually being answered by real companies, but they’re not charging for the leads anymore, and instead, those sites are now part of my PBN.
Matt: Oh okay, so they had some link equity obviously, Google liked them for some reason, so then you just said, “Okay, you guys are now PBNs.” That’s awesome.
Tom: Yeah, pretty much, pretty much. They work awesomely, actually.
Matt: Wait, so they’re probably not in the same niche as your affiliate sites. You just don’t care?
Tom: Yeah, no, I really didn’t care. I just put a blurb on the front page, morphing the topic a little bit, linked to an inner page that’s all about the new topic of the target site, and then just link out.
Matt: Yup, that’ll do it. That’s awesome, man. Cool, so how many different affiliate experiments did you have in the past, that prepared you for the switch recently?
Tom: Well, at least 20.
Matt: All right.
Tom: Man, at least 20.
Tom: All really low-competition stuff. I’m using a whole heap of really aggressive strategies, again, because of low cost of links back then.
Matt: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. Okay, and then this time around with affiliate, did you go with one niche, or did you try 10 of them at the same time? What’d that look like?
Tom: At the moment, I have multiple niches going, but when I made the switch, I actively focused on a single niche, just because I wanted to do it right, and I knew the niche itself was insanely competitive, but I thought, “Well, just why not go all out, basically?” At the moment, I’ve got multiple niches on the go, but only one of them is making the majority of the money, and the others are pretty new.
Matt: Yeah, that’s pretty much what I do. I throw stuff against the wall, I see which one sticks, and then go hard on that one, and then continue to throw a small amount of the profit from that one against the wall again, so you can scale somewhere else. It’s the smart thing to do, it’s pretty much … I mean, it’s the only model. Cool, yeah. So let’s see, did you use a brand new domain, or an aged domain for this?
Tom: Aged, non-dropped, I think was two and a half years, and a very closely related niche.
Matt: Okay. I don’t expect you to tell it straight up, but what niche is it, or what category of niche is it? Is it health, or is it beauty?
Tom: It’s tech.
Matt: Okay, tech, got it, okay.
Tom: Tech, yeah.
Matt: Don’t share more than that.
Tom: Yeah, I won’t, I won’t.
Matt: Okay. Let’s see, so you said you use an aged domain. What I typically see when I use an aged domain for a money site, there’s a … Well, Charles [Close 00:21:07] calls it the, “Repurposing sandbox,” but basically what happens, is you have your old domain, and even though the old domain might be also in the tech niche in your case, there’s still a period of time where it’s stubborn. It’s like a sandbox, again. Did you experience that kind of thing?
Tom: I didn’t really took much notice of the big niche I went after, but I think when I look back, I think there was definitely, about two and a half months where not much was happening, and then suddenly I saw a nice jump in rankings, so that might have been that repurposing sandbox.
Matt: That must have been a huge relief for you, right? Like, “Oh my god, what did I do? I fired all these clients?” And then hockey stick. That’s awesome.
Tom: Yeah, well, luckily I was a little bit the other way around. I prepped in advance, so I didn’t actually fire the clients before I knew something was going to happen.
Matt: Good man, good man. Conservative approach, I like it.
Tom: Yeah, yeah.
Matt: Let’s see, what else? Okay, let’s get into actual SEO technique. How do you do your keyword research?
Tom: All right, well, the initial keyword research back then, with the big one, was a combo of Keyword Finder to check the competition, and then I used SEMRush, to pull all the ranking keywords from the top five competitors. Then merge everything, remove all the duplicated ones, and then basically I had every keyword I needed to dominate.
Tom: Right now, I think I should replace everything with Ahrefs, I don’t need anything else, I just love it, I just love it.
Matt: Yeah, that’s for sure. It’s becoming quite the Swiss Army knife of SEO, right?
Matt: What else? So all right, did you go with a small niche site, or did you go with large authority site? How big is your site, first of all?
Tom: That’s a good question. I think it must be at least 200 posts on there, maybe 20 money pages. Yeah, 20 money pages is right. So authority sites.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I’m guessing you didn’t write all that content yourself?
Tom: No, no.
Tom: When I started out I did, because I could react quicker to industry changes, so if something big happened in the industry, I could write a massive blog about it, that was bigger than the other guys were doing, and I was ranking for it, and getting traffic, so that was good. At the moment, I outsource all my content, and it’s usually PBNButler, their pro and expert content. Yeah, it’s really good.
Matt: Yeah, a lot of people think that PBNButler is just used for PBN type content, maybe because of their name, but I use them a lot for money site content, they’re actually quite good, quite, quite good.
Tom: Yeah, I agree, they’re awesome. They don’t need much tweaking once they get back. Yeah, it’s great.
Matt: Absolutely. Let’s see, do you have any VAs working for you, or did you use any VAs for this project?
Tom: No, I just use established teams I found, either through the forums or through the Facebook groups, so that would be like PBNButler of course, and PBN Fox, just love those guys. Serp Focus, also for content, and a few others. So only teams, really.
Matt: About how long were your articles, like how many words were your money articles?
Tom: Well, I think the average would be 1,500 words, but if you look at the money page average, probably add another 1,000 on there, so 2,500 words.
Matt: Okay, that’s pretty solid. What was your frequency of new posts, like how often would you push something new out?
Tom: In the beginning, not often at all. I was doing like one or two posts a month, just because I was maybe doing one manually, and one outsourced. Really, occasionally, I’d add a money page to target a new category of keywords. Of course now, I’ve got a contents team on the job, writing actually three posts a week consistently, to boost topical relevance for the harder to rank keywords. The earlier stages where I wasn’t actually doing that much, was before I really decided in my head I wanted to switch to full-time affiliate marketing.
Matt: Right, okay. Did you do any … people call it, I don’t know, link sculpting, siloing, Link Juice management. Did you do any siloing?
Tom: Yeah, definitely man, a lot of it. Mostly using strategies I actually learned from you, your OnPage SEO guide, and Charles’ OnPage course. Yeah. We don’t call it siloing anymore, I think. Maybe strategic interlinking, or like you said, link sculpting.
Tom: Basically just linking pages with traffic, and/or Link Juice to other pages, so you can funnel both the authority and the relevance to the right places you wanted to end up at. Then while we’re talking about link sculpting, because I know a lot of people haven’t really delved that deep into it, I haven’t really gone into it that advanced, but I do like to do a bit of it.
Basically, it means minimizing useless interlinking. I’m not talking about OBL, I’m not talking about outbound links, but actually OnPage interlinking. So minimize useless links like non-relevant menu items, privacy policies, terms and conditions, et cetera, et cetera. Every link that leads to another OnPage page that you really don’t need linking to, it will remove it, or turn it into a no follow.
Matt: Yup, yup. I think of it kind of like plumbing, right? If you don’t want the Link Juice flowing somewhere, either remove that pipe, or if you want to leave the pipe there, the link, then you no follow it. It’s like you turn off the valve on that.
Tom: Yeah, great analogy, man, yup.
Matt: Sometimes good things come out of me. Let’s see, okay, before we tidy up the on-site questions, I’m going to ask you, do you have any other on-site tips and tricks that really got some gains for you?
Tom: Yeah, definitely the interlinking, I can’t stress that strong enough, it’s so important. Together with having massive content, with a lot of structured … oops, sorry, something fell there, yup.
Matt: We’re good.
Tom: With a lot of structured data, like headings, and bullet points, and images, and videos. Also, things people overlook, like if you’re targeting different locations, actually add different pages as sub-properties in your Google search console, and tag them with a different country. If you have duplicate pages that talk about the same content, maybe add href links. I’m sorry, add … yeah, href links to those pages, to those headers, basically, so Google doesn’t mix them up, and stuff like that, yeah.
Matt: Very nice, okay. That’s it for the on-site. Let’s ask some off-site SEO questions. What were the first links you sent to your site?
Tom: Web 2.0, map 2.0, press releases, and citations together with social signals. I’m pretty much … I’d say anchor wise, all generic branded through the homepage, and my most important money pages. All of these were done in like the first three weeks, so basically a bulk package.
Matt: Right. You could go aggressive on that, because you were an aged domain, and yeah, you could just hit it hard in the first three weeks, that’s perfectly fine. But definitely, would you do the same thing for a brand new domain? Would you go as aggressive?
Tom: Actually, I did, and I think it landed me in the sandbox. Yeah, that was definitely too aggressive, because I’ve got a public case study going on my blog, and I talk about how I’m trying to rank in this pretty competitive niche, and I go through what I’m doing at the moment. I did the exact same thing with that bulk link push, and it definitely landed me in a six, seven, eight month sandbox.
Tom: Maybe not with a new one.
Matt: Yeah, all right. You mentioned, okay, web 2.0, press release, social signals. Where did you get each of them from, like what vendors?
Tom: Okay, so what people notice that I order from a service called White Hat Buzz. I don’t know if people know this one, but it’s pretty darn good, you can Google it. The others are all basically PBNButler, so social signals, press releases, and citations … no, press releases, and social signals, PBNButler, and citations back then was Loganix.
Matt: Okay, cool. At what point did you start hitting with the good old PBNs?
Tom: Hell yes, about three weeks in.
Matt: All right, okay. Okay, so you set everything up, your base, you got the web 2.0s, and the social signals, then the PBNs started rolling in. How did you determine your anchor text selection?
Tom: I basically look at the top five, so I get an idea of what they’re doing on a page-per-page basis, rather than a domain overview. I usually look at page-per-page, and then I try to use a little bit more partial keywords or partial anchors than they do, but still not too much, so it still looks natural, basically.
Matt: Let’s see, were you assigning a certain type of keywords? Most people like to say, “Okay, PBNs, these give my target anchors,” and then your pillow anchors will go to your least important link types, like maybe web 2.0s in this case. Were you doing something like that?
Tom: Yeah, definitely, definitely. The web 2.0s and the press releases were generic and branded, and then the guest posts … I also did guest posts, but that’s later when the PBNs started. Guest posts are partial and branded, and then the PBNs partial and exact, although I rarely, rarely use exact match, just because, I don’t know, it seems too aggressive, too unnatural.
Matt: Okay. Then how about social signals, how did you do the timing, or how did you determine the timing on those? You said you’re using PBNButler, but were you just randomly sending them in, or you’re dripping them in? What’d that look like?
Tom: I pretty much use actually your blue print, so every few weeks, you just push out a batch, basically. Definitely not every week, but I’d say maybe at first every month, and then every two months. Something like that.
Matt: Yeah, it just works.
Matt: What else do you use … Any other links that we’re not thinking of, besides the press release, citations, web 2.0s, anything else that we’re missing?
Tom: Let’s see, I don’t think so. Guest posts, definitely. I don’t use form links or comments, and I definitely stay clear of tier two spamming now. No, that’s it, I think that’s pretty much it.
Matt: Okay, and did you … you mentioned guest posting, so did you do the outreach yourself, or do you outsource that?
Tom: No, that’s something I outsource. At the moment, I tried a few in the past, but the ones I like right now are definitely Love To Link, they’re really good, and I recently started testing Gotch SEO guest posts, and they came back pretty good as well, actually, so I’m definitely going to keep ordering both services.
Matt: Cool. Both awesome guys, Dan Parker, and Nathan Gotch, shout out to both of you guys. Good service providers as well. Cool. Any other off-site SEO tips for the viewers here today?
Tom: So yeah, basically off-site tips, well, your blue print pretty much gives everybody what they need. The only thing I would say is still, they’ll have to replace a lot of the links that you use as PBNs with just different links, because we don’t really all have thousands of PBNs lying around. We all wish we had, but really, your blue print is the perfect route to clean rankings.
I think also, keep in mind that in my opinion, the only links that really make an impact, are the ones that have juice rankings, and traffic going to the actual page that links out to your site, so not domain, but the actual page. For example, guest posts, they’re okay, they’re good, but it would be a lot better if those posts actually got traction, and links, and rankings, and traffic, et cetera, which is why PBNs are so powerful, because they already have authority, so it doesn’t take lots to create a simple post that starts ranking for long tails, and starts getting traffic.
So yeah, that’s pretty much what I’d suggest, is try and get links that actually get traffic aside from the Link Juice, and use those links for your partials and your exacts, and leave everything else for the generics and the brands.
Matt: Yeah, exactly. I just want to touch upon a really good point that you made there, and elaborate a little bit. You mentioned that links on properties that have traffic, that have some kind of juice there, are the ones that kick in and give you a good value.
There actually is a way to get outreach links that have value like this too, which would be a link insertion into an existing article that has links, and it’s popular, for example. A little bit harder to do, you’re going to have to do the outreach yourself, and negotiate it yourself, but definitely a good way to do it as well, just wanted to throw that in there.
Tom: Yeah, I’ve seen the services, and I’ve used James Gregory’s links as well, which is I think what he does, and so it links aged posts. They work pretty well, but I don’t know, somewhere I switched to a mindset that I want more control. Like for example, PBNs wise, I never outsource the PBN links themselves, and I never rent PBNs, I only buy them myself, so I’ve got full control.
Tom: But yeah.
Matt: Control free, I like it.
Tom: Yeah, a little bit.
Matt: All right, cool. All right, so let’s talk about the money. If you’re comfortable answering this question, go ahead, but okay, you said you were doing 10k with client.
Matt: What’s affiliate life looking for you now?
Tom: All right, before we head to it now, let’s go back in time to pre-the-switch. Last November, I went to Chiang Mai. Pre-Chiang Mai, I was doing at the height of it, $500 a month, and affiliate passive income, which at that point, was oh so happy. That’s like two weeks of kindy for my kids, woo, for free. Then I went to Chiang Mai, and man, by the time I got back from Thailand, I was making three grand a month.
Tom: I was only there for like five days.
Matt: Yeah, I know, that was really quick. What? What happened?
Tom: Well, I do know what happened, but the main thing was, I met all you guys, and you really gave me a kick in the butt to start changing stuff. Of course, I brought my laptop, so immediately after like day two of meeting some of you, I started working on my site massively, and doing a whole heap of conversion rate optimization of stuff that I talked about with people.
The good thing about conversion rate optimization is once you do it, the gains are overnight, right? Once you make a positive tweak, suddenly you wake up the next morning, and stuff’s exploding. That’s basically how the majority of that gain from 500 to 3,000 happened in five days, it was absolutely insane. For those of you listening, if you haven’t got your ticket yet to go to Chiang Mai this November, I really, really strongly suggest you just get one now, because it’s going to be epic.
Matt: Thanks for pitching that for me, first pitch ever.
Tom: That’s all right, happy to do it.
Matt: Okay, cool, thanks, carry on.
Tom: Then if we jump to now, I just last month, I crossed 30,000 a month, so that’s basically 10x’d in seven months.
Matt: Yeah, then you tripled the agency that took three years to build.
Tom: Yes, and I did that in six months with passive income. It’s all surreal, it’s real weird, it’s really weird.
Matt: That’s awesome, big congratulations, man.
Matt: For your affiliate side, how are you monetizing CPA, or …
Tom: Just affiliate offers, really.
Matt: Okay, normal, straight up affiliate. Any other monetization methods? Do you slap AdSense on there, or any …
Tom: No, don’t want to risk it.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. Are you building an email list?
Tom: No, it’s on the to-do list. Yeah, I’m not quite sure if I want to do it, but we’ll see.
Matt: Oh okay, yeah. Everyone always says like, “Okay, the smart thing to do for your business is build an email list.” For me, it’s a trade-off between … I always believe in one page, one goal, right? If you have affiliate website, and you’re trying to sell an offer, just sell the offer. You slap on an email opt-in on there, and it’s just going to distract people, it’s going to take away from that. Of course, there’s a balance, but I typically don’t-
Tom: That’s it, yeah.
Matt: … I typically don’t put email stuff on an affiliate site like that, but maybe with an authority site. Keep me filled in, and let me know how that goes, if you end up doing it.
Tom: Well, actually, I’m thinking of just slapping the opt-in on blog posts, and just leaving my money pages alone.
Matt: Yeah, why not? They’re not going to convert anyways. Well, [crosstalk 00:39:53].
Tom: No, that’s true, yeah.
Matt: It’s a good idea, cool. Now, what are you going to do? I’m guessing you’re not sitting on your haunches, and just enjoying this 30k, drinking coconut every day. Are you scaling into other niches?
Tom: Yeah, definitely. At the moment, I’m reinvesting about 90% of what I earn back into the sites. Right now, I’m actively partnering with a whole heap of people in different industries I either just don’t know anything about, or have no passion in, and then I do profit share.
They give me the wisdom and the knowledge of the markets that they’re in, and a lot of them actually write the contents themselves, so I don’t have to worry about that, and they narrow the audience. Then I just take care of the website, and the marketing, et cetera, and then I just split the profits.
Matt: Smart, it’s like a lead spring type of thing.
Tom: Yeah, yeah.
Tom: Pretty similar.
Matt: Can you share what niches those are?
Matt: All right, smart man. All right. Any regrets moving into the affiliate world?
Tom: No. Maybe I got lucky a little bit, but no, not at all. I don’t know, it’s sort of a dream I really never dared to dream. The potential is massive, and it’s sometimes really scarily overwhelming, because I don’t know.
I can stop working at any point, and the entire system will keep earning well into six figures a year, without me having to touch anything for several months. I mean, to be safe, if I wanted to keep the system in pure maintenance modes, like no scaling involved, I’d have to work maybe two hours a week.
Matt: Mm-hmm (affirmative), got it.
Tom: It’s insanely cool, yeah.
Matt: Yeah, you nailed it, you hit the home run, good job, man.
Matt: Any advice to any listeners that were in the shoes that you were? They have an agency, things are going well, but they’ve had these ideas, and these thoughts of moving into affiliate, and getting some more passive income, and getting more time back in their life. Any advice to these folks?
Tom: It’s not easy, but if you can do it, if you have your agency running smoothly enough that you can cut down on your own client hours, maybe you have enough staff to take it all off you. If you can cut down on your own hours, and still make enough to survive, I’d strongly recommend looking into starting your own authority site, and maybe grab a course to guide you to this mine field that is the SEO industry. I think yeah, it’s definitely a possibility. Just try and cut down on your own work hours, and if you have enough to survive, just go for it.
Matt: Okay, yeah, good advice. How about just some general advice to beginner SEOs in general. What would you say to a beginner SEO?
Tom: I’ve thought about this a lot actually, when I see a post on Facebook, et cetera, or just talk generally with people. I think I have advice. It’s if you don’t have kids, and you have a day job, and you’re earning money, instead of coming home, and watching Netflix, or instead of coming home, and then gaming, or maybe going out, et cetera, maybe two times, or three times a week, instead of doing that, actually get behind a computer, grab a decent course like Scientific Rankings, or AMZ Affiliate Bootcamp, or the course that you’re making, and read, and learn, and most importantly, take action.
So many don’t take action, they just absorb, and absorb, and absorb information, and basically never actually do anything with it. Also, definitely start with really low-hanging fruit, so you can actually … I don’t know, prove to yourself that you can do it. As soon as you get that confidence boost, that you know you’re ranking something that you chose, and you worked on, you can basically scale from there.
Matt: Yeah, that’s a real big part of it. I mention that a lot too, because a lot of people learn SEO online, and it sounds like it works. The guy who you learned it from says it works, but you never really seen it. Until you have that experience of making it work, it’s not real, and it doesn’t make sense to go all-in on it.
Another really important thing I heard you say, is that make some sacrifices when you’re young. You don’t need to Netflix and chill every night. Maybe you need to do the chill part every once in a while, but you can make some sacrifices now, but look at the result, right? Now you work two hours a week, or you could work two hours a week, if you didn’t want to scale. That’s the pay off, you know? You learn it now-
Tom: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Got to … yeah.
Matt: That’s awesome, man. Well, I don’t have anymore questions, I just wanted to give you a big thank you for being such an open book, and coming on, and sharing everything with us. I wish you the best going forward. Keep me filled in on what happens with your life-
Tom: Will do.
Matt: … and I’ll see you in Chiang Mai pretty soon.
Tom: Oh, definitely, can’t wait man, can’t wait.
Matt: All right, take care, Tom, we’ll see you around.
Tom: Yup, see you, Matt.