AJ Ghergich: Q&A Session

Q&A Session: AJ Ghergich

AJ Ghergich Q&A Session is happening on August 5th, 2015 (1pm EST)

I have been learning and practicing SEO since 2004. Currently I am fulfilling my dream of owning my own boutique agency Ghergich & CO. Some of you may also know me by my @SEO handle on twitter. I have a passion for link building and content creation. I specifically enjoy creating and promoting visual assets such as infographics and long form blog posts with heavy illustration.

Feel free to ask me anything about creating kick ass content, outreach & link building.

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A.J. Ghergich founder of Ghergich& Co. – Transcript

A.J. Ghergich is the founder of Ghergich& Co., a firm that integrates SEO, social media and content marketing. He has been in the SEO business since 2004.

The Q&A Session with A.J. was held on December 16th, 2016. This transcript has been edited for punctuation, grammar, etc.

Excited to be here! AMA about SEO, Links, Content Marketing, Outreach & Social Distribution…or what pops into your head.

You and Rand Fishkin get in a street fight. Who wins?

Rand by a nose hair.

How much time do you typically invest in a single content marketing campaign?

I invest a ton of time in a single piece of content. An infographic is usually 10+ hours of research and edits. 30-40 hours of design and typically 15+ hours of outreach.

Is it still possible for a brand to buy their way to the top of organic search results?

Very possible – it just likely won’t last that long.

When is enough, enough? I know Google seems to be liking to take its time with rank changes at the moment. One thing I’ve never asked any expert is, do they just keep churning out sites and following a similar process during the wait period.

Panda is very very slow, and it is ridiculous. For many it is easier to start over vs waiting a year for Panda to update.

How would you test a prospective content marketing hire for SEO competency? What else would you look for?

I want to see actual results over and over for a single client. Anyone can do a one hit wonder. Ask to see 10 pieces of content for a single client. That will tell you everything.

I rather see Ghergichfight Kimbo. How do you pronounce your last name?


What do you think about blending SEO and social marketing? Specifically, with titles. If I want to test a title for social (viral campaign), I might be throwing many of the keywords that makes it valuable for SEO. Obviously offsite factors are huge, but do you have any other insight?

I can’t do SEO without Social. A/B test titles with Social then use them on landing pages to improve organic CTR.

About time invested in infographics. Do you ever A-B test them or check them with people first?

Before I do an infographic, I am sure there is a market for it or I don’t make it. Buzzsumo, Klear, Folowerwonk are your friends.

Best link building tactic for small businesses. Think baby companies under 500k a year.

One killer piece of content, very in-depth, about once a month, then promote the hell out of it. If they try and produce more than that the quality will be shit and so will the results.

Did you grow your agency up from just being yourself and added people in as you got more work or did you start out with a team in place?

This agency I pretty much grew from scratch with just two people to start and 100% self-funded. I really encourage people to self-fund and not seek partners if they can avoid it.

Hi, I am just a big noob at online Marketing!!! Just want to know three books that you would recommend for any newbie in this business !!!

Read the free MozSEO book and then go read the Paddy Moogan link building book http://www.linkbuildingbook.com/.

How do you find targets for outreach campaigns?

I find writers who have recently written about my topic with BuzzSumo. I find social influencers with Followerwonk. I find hand curated blog lists and I run hyper targeted social ads to very specific and small influencer groups.

How would you generate interest in a brand that doesn’t sell any product and doesn’t offer any glamorous service?

I am doing that right with Fix.com – look at all the content and look at all the share.

Bravo! who’s your graphic designer? #loveit!

I have a small tribe of designers at this point.

fix.com is stunningly gorgeous. kudos.

Just to be clear, fix is a client not mine. But they are a very cool case. We started from scratch with 0 content in the appliance repair space and have just used content marketing to make them explode.

Appliance repair? Do you not target the marketing material to the desired niche at all?

What is working for all my clients right now is long form content with tons of custom visuals. This makes it easy to get social shares and this makes it easy to outreach. If you outreach and just say oh look I made a cool post…nobody cares.

I see a bunch of content about yoga and pollinators and liberal stuff like that…

They will have an ecom section soon. They fix fishing reels for instance… nobody gives a shit about that. So we bring in people who have won bass master titles and have them write. We edit the hell out of it, then ad visuals. Let me grab you an example…http://www.fix.com/blog/tackling-bass-lure-basics/ – this works better than talking about repairing a reel.

Right. I get it.

We combine the images into a mini infographic, and that gives us something useful to outreach with. So we get traffic, social and links.

So you use the mini-infographic and mine out opportunity sites that have content on same topic and say “Hey, thought this image might help your good post be excellent?” Yes?

Smart–breaking down the infographic into bits spread throughout the post.

Yep, and we build up distribution with some of the best sites. Everyone thinks infographics are dead…but they are sooooo wrong. Shitty ones are dead.

In the history of SEO, we’ve always seen loopholes, those little gems that move things along faster than anything else in the SERPS… Early 2000’s we had Paul/Angela profiles, then blog farms, comment links, then PR links, social bookmarks, and eventually social signals and the alike… finally today we’re stuck with “Solid content posted and shared frequently”… In your eyes is there a new hidden “grey” gem?

Be careful with that line of thinking, but the big secret right now is on site/domain engagement. How people act when they actually consume your content is the new holy grail signal.

Did you work a day job while you self-funded, close one big client that could pay the bills? How did that look?

I saved up some cash, and when I started I had two clients already willing to sign. I had no office, still don’t and very little overhead. So it was not hard to get rolling.

Tell me something cool you’ve been working on.

I am building an app called Kinship that mines hundreds of thousands of tweets to find the perfect outreach list for any topic. It then finds all their blogs and gives you shit loads of data on them. It is helping my team be hyper efficient.

Am I right that you held down a “dayjob” at an agency before you launched your own? If so…When do you jump? What do you need saved in your parachute?

You need a client or two who will sign with you if you start your own agency. That helps a ton.

What’s the best way to set your prices? (And what’s a surefireway to get underpaid?)

I suck at setting prices. I have learned this. Whatever you think is a fair price, increase that by at least 30 to 40%. I keep raising prices and have yet to lose a client yet. Tells me I had them way too low to start with. I think a lot of people sell themselves short at first.

Online marketers love to share/link…but what’s your approach for industries that have fewer publishers and/or influencers?

We get on Upworthy type sites all the time with infographics – http://www.upworthy.com/theres-no-way-im-eating-my-next-seafood-dinner-without-checking-this-chart-first 99,000 FB likes

Can you give me an example? Some of my fav projects are the hard to get links industries.

http://lifehacker.com/learn-how-to-tie-12-useful-knots-with-this-visual-guide-1677617820 See, you can even get links out of an article on rope. lol

Sure, how about a niche manufacturer of medical instruments?

I would do about 20% of my topic super relevant to that exact industry. The rest would be more news jacking and trends in the medical tech space. I would do most of my outreach on the broader appeal content. Also, do a Google survey. Journalists love that shit. The best data is data only YOU have. So do a big interesting survey and then hire an illustrator to make a ton of charts and graphs…outreach…profit.

This is an underrated tactic.

Half of this comes down to your design. That knot graphic could have been total shit… but the design elevated it.

That’s a great example! And +1 on the surveys, this has worked well for us.

What do you include when presenting an offer/proposal to a new client? Like, how detailed is it, what are the main topics, etc.?

Very simple and straight fwd. I will produce and promote X pieces per month. You should see around x links, x shares, and x traffic from that per month right out of the gate type thing.

Any tips on how to find designers and or writers for those on a budget?

Use https://dribbble.com/ &Behance. Find illustrators in countries like the Philippines that speak awesome English, are talented but are affordable.

How can I find my ideal social audience without paying a cent on tools? How about if I don’t mind scripting a little?

You could use the twitter API to monitor keywords and hashtags. Then export all the people that mentioned your topic over a week. Take their bio URL and run it through Moz social authority. Take the best results into a custom Google search engine and have fun.

I’m a founder & coder and only have like 30 mins a day for social marketing. Can I do enough useful marketing in that time to gain users/audience or should I urgently hire someone to do it for me? (I gotta designer that I can call on but no other help.)

Set up a marketing automation program to offer your traffic carrots. Use SumoMe and FB retargeting ads. Start by turning your traffic into an audience on social and email. Setup takes a set but then is fairly automated after that. Use Mailchimp for an email nurture journey.

Any examples of the survey method you mentioned?

Not that I can share of my own,but this is a great guide to it: https://moz.com/blog/fractl-leveraged-content-marketing-for-referral-traffic

I want to ask you how do you manage your color schemes in the infographics and really how to learn to draw attractively? Is it something by nature or god gifted?

Try stuff like http://www.producthunt.com/tech/coolers – it will help a ton.

What are the most common types of issues you see on clients’ sites that often make the biggest difference to success for you?

Since I do so much content marketing, the major thing I see over and over is that the blog or landing pages are not optimized for content. For instance, if I had a nickel for every client not using Twitter cards with LARGE summary image…Also, clients want to force a big ass beautiful infographic into a tiny ass 500px space.

And what types of steps do you take to optimize pages for content? Do a lot of your clients run WordPress sites?

Here is a client we helped to make a better space for their infographic to shine http://www.custommade.com/l/deforestation/ See how the graphic is the star of the page, no sidebar, no ads etc. The CTA is simple. Share this or embed this…done. Not that they did everyone right here but they did enough for it to work.

 One of the first things my team does is run a page through https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/ and https://cards-dev.twitter.com/validator  I have seen huge improvements with twitter engagement just by switching to large summary twitter cards and getting it white listed.

^ Also recently switched from summary thumbnail to summary with large image. Huge improvements as well!

Agreed – a 5-sec change that has huge impact. Also, you really need to optimize the shit out of your open graph tags and IMAGE. I can’t stress the image enough. When we do a design, we make sure to design a killer open graph image as well.

Do you have a favorite default image size that “works” for you across FB/Twitt/Linkedin/Google+? Something that will “fit” both OGP and Twitter Card? I’ve personally been using 700×350 but it doesn’t always work great. I’ve read developer documentation on both but they tend to not always match up.

I find that 1200×627 works great almost everywhere and also on higher res screens. That’s the size FB recommends, but it works well on Twitter and so on.

How to counter the impact of languages,especially those areas which are disconnected from English, forexample Russian or Arabic?

Translating your content into multiple languages is a no brainer for clients that do international biz. Just set your hreflang tags properly. I have a time for a couple more questions – then I have to get back to the grind.

What does your morning routine look like?

Me hating life. I hate mornings, always have.

LOL what time do you wake up and what do you do to get going? lol

I usually get going by 9 and work til 6 pm. Chill with family, then work again around 10:30 to midnight…then read then sleep. Then make sure to not work on the weekend or I burn out.

How come you’ve only got 172 followers on twitter?

I am active on @seo. I have 50k or so there, not that it’s a huge amount, but they are organic.

Regarding Twitter, what little tidbits can you give over to build a network of organic followers? Besides for posting and sharing good content?

Join all the Twitter chats you can, and post quality comments. Everyone you meet in real life who is active on Twitter, make sure you are staying active with them, too. Engage with influencers who are already having a convo with their fans. Setup monitoring for this. Just a few quick things you can try.

Wasn’t there a post from a few years back explaining how you came about the SEO handle on twitter?

I think so, but I can’t even remember where lol. TLDR Twitter gave it to me because I asked them for it.I was in the early ad beta and I saw it was being squatted on and I asked Twitter about it and they gave it to me…sometimes it pays to ask.

Haha, nice, for sure.

Really awesome being here, and thanks for all the quality questions. Hit me up on Twitter or email me aj@ghergich.com if you need a longer explanation on something we talked about. Just don’t email me daily lol.

Thanks for doing this.

I see a missed a few questions I will try and answer those in a sec.

Biggest scam you’ve seen an SEO pull?

Ha – not going there. I am not one to point fingers.

I’ve done a lot on the SEO side of my site and it has improved a lot but still lagging on some search keywords – any suggestions on best practices?

Email me your site and I will take a quick 10 min look for you – how’s that?

What’s the most useful thing you have learned recently?

How powerful social is to your outreach. Stop blasting your social ads to groups with a million people to them. Try running custom Twitter ads to the exact 500 people who influence your space. Your cost with plummet and your results will increase.

What is the public speaking cliche you’re most sick of?

Content is King… I would rather talk about outreach and audience building. I think we all know you need kick ass content at this point.

There, I think I got them all. Thanks again!

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