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Matt, Nick, and Ian founded Traffic Think Tank, a private SEO community, in December 2017. Less than a year on and the business has generated $400k ARR and continues to grow month after month. Here's a little more information on each of the founders of Traffic Think Tank...

Matthew Howells-Barby

Matt has built his entire career on his ability to drive results. After years of leading digital campaigns at some of the most respected agencies in the UK, Matt was hired as HubSpot’s Global Head of SEO. Within six months, he’d grown organic traffic by more than 50%. Within two years, it’d skyrocketed over 200%. As HubSpot’s Director of Acquisition, he’s helped the company double sitewide conversions.

Matthew also advises on acquisition for startups and tech firms like BuildFire (0 to 1MM visitors in 9 months) AppInstitute (300% increase in organic traffic in 3 months), Formlabs, Groove, Deputy, and Lumanu.

He’s been a keynote speaker on stages like MozCon, SearchLove, INBOUND, SXSW and GrowthHackers. And he’s just getting started.

Nick Eubanks

Nick founded his first company at age 19, and sold his first business at age 24. Now, he consults on SEO strategy to billion-dollar businesses as the Founder and Chief Strategist of I’m From the Future.

Because free time is overrated, he wrote and sold a 47-post blog for $100K on a whim, and launched multiple info products in niches he had less than no experience in that netted over $500k in revenue.

At this point, Fortune 100s hire him just to keep him from competing with them. When it comes to technical SEO and information architecture, Nick’s the one guy you definitely want to have on your team—and now, you do.

Ian Howells

If you’ve never heard of Ian Howells, it’s because he’d probably prefer it that way. He’s more of a “shut up and rank sh*#!” guy.

Since ’99, he’s competed in and dominated in the fiercest niches and darkest corners of the web (think: poker, pills, and… you know.)

His agency work began in 2007, eventually landing him at Red Ventures where he managed a book of business worth millions per month. He now leads SEO at LendingTree, where his career depends on ranking for terms like “car loans” and “debt consolidation.”

If there’s a loophole, Ian can find and exploit it. He was using your new favorite tactic five years ago. Buckle up; it’s going to get real.

  • TC

    Tad Chef

    15 days ago #

    Hello Matthew, Nick and Ian!

    I'm delighted to see such an SEO dream team on Growth Hackers!

    Unlike the other GH users I know all three of your more or less as far as you can know someone by following them on the Web of course.

    Thus I will ask no basic questions just to be friendly. I have mainly three questions:

    1. Why did you choose "traffic" for your name? Is it just because of the alliteration (TTT) or is there still demand for traffic centered advice? To be honest - and most people will probably agree with me - traffic by itself is a mere vanity metric.

    We all know that even in strict SEO we also consider many other metrics, think retention, time on site, conversions etc. Is TTT just geared towards beginners who only optimize for traffic?

    2. The private SEO community business model seems to work well. Many people haven chosen to go that path - including Aaron Wall for example. What is the day to day business like?

    Do you have to answer questions 24/7? Do you optimize actual member sites or do you only offer advice? I can imagine that it's a huge amount of work. How does it scale?

    3. As you seem to focus on traffic generation: what is your stance on the rapidly shrinking Google traffic? The number of "clickless searches" on mobile already reached two thirds.

    That means that SEOs are fighting for the remaining third with advertisers. Do you branch out to other approaches like demand generation that Rand Fishkin proposes?

    Thank you in advance!

    Sincerely, tad

    • IH

      Ian Howells

      11 days ago #

      Re: Question 2...

      A mix between answering direct DMs / open questions in the channels, planning/creating the content (guides, videos, etc) and chatting with other folks about potentially being a guest webinar host.

      The first bit (answering questions) is the most common one by far. I typically try to batch my work there with about an hour in the morning (usually 6-7am Eastern) and then another hour or so at night. Video recording etc I’ll typically do on a Saturday morning.

      4 Share
    • IH

      Ian Howells

      11 days ago #

      Ah, apologies - this one's Question 3...

      Getting direct clicks from the SERP is definitely only one piece of the big overall picture in terms of digital marketing, but it’s still a huge piece. Yes you should be building a brand, etc, but there’s still an insane amount of opportunity floating around.

      The “clickless” searches tend to be, in my experience, stuff that would be (generally) difficult to monetize (Time in X place, what’s X person’s net worth, etc). They can keep those “clicks”. I’ll take the ones with dollars, please. (Granted - I don’t do anything on a CPM basis, so that’s my bias. If I was just selling eyeballs, I’d probably feel differently.)

    • IH

      Ian Howells

      11 days ago #

      Re: Question 3...

      Hit this a bit in question 2 - I do the responses in batches (similar to how I try to handle email). We generally don’t actually optimize a site for anyone, just offer advice and ideas for things to consider and give feedback on current plans, etc.

      It’s really common for me to get DMs with stuff like… “A vendor charged me $250 for this link - do you think it’s worth that much?” or “I plan on sending this roadmap to a client - can you take a look and let me know if it makes sense?” and "I'm looking to make my first SEO hire, what qualities should I look for in a potential new team member?"

    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      There is certainly still a significant demand for “traffic,” for starters, though I fully realize (and agree) that traffic for traffic’s sake isa vanity metric unless you’re selling CPMs. The name came from a mix of wanting to convey a sense of community / open forum / brainstorming (hence “think tank”) and then the decision to use traffic as the descriptor was, well, mostly just marketing :)

    • VE

      Victor E.

      11 days ago #

      Hi Tad,

      Your "shtick," while I'm sure thought to be hilarious by some, is cultural appropriation. It's also mocking and belittling an entire nation (Mexico), and its culture.

      I ask that you please drop it, a.s.a.p.

      Thank you.

  • NR

    Nikola Roza

    14 days ago #

    Hi Matt, Nick, and Ian.

    It's great to have you guys here. I look forward to your AMA session.

    I have a question for Matt.

    I recently listened to the podcast you did with Nat Eliason from nateliason.com.

    There, you talk about how the biggest "growth factor" for you has been getting together with different people once per week and just asking them questions over a cup of coffee.

    That is a wonderful strategy and I can see how it can work- 30m with someone experienced and knowledgeable easily beats reading 30 blog posts.

    My question is:

    Is there an online alternative to this? I ask because I live in Serbia, and most of the people here don't speak proper English, let alone be interested in the stuff I'm interested in (SEO and Internet Marketing).

    So, is there a way to for me, and everyone else in the same shoes, to bypass this problem in an effective way?

    Thank for your reply, can't wait to read it:)

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      most of the time, I actually do this virtually. It’s not always practical to actually meet for a coffee (although it’s preferable). The way I approach this is that I go to LinkedIn, find people with a similar job title to myself that work at different companies and I reach out to them either there, via Twitter or email (bonus if you have a shared connection). I’ll ask if they’d like to spend 20 minutes on a call to just catch up and share experiences/problems they’ve faced in a super casual way… you wouldn’t believe how many people will take you up on this.

      When I say this to people, they’ll often shrug and say, “yeah, well you have a bunch of stuff you can share so it’s easier for you.” My response - yes, to an extent that helps, but it’s absolutely not necessary. The key is that you try to network with people at the same or similar level to you - this way, the dynamic of value exchange should be relatively equal. Approach this as a way to get to know someone better that is doing a similar thing to you. Everyone that I’ve recommended this to has always come back to me and said it worked out great for at least a couple of good conversations - I’d recommend that everyone does this (and I often do!).

      4 Share
  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    12 days ago #

    Hey guys, congrats on building your ARR to $400K+ in such a short time. I'm excited to see where you take your business.

    Regarding Traffic Think Tank
    1) What is the business model (what do you sell to generate your ARR)?
    2) How did you spot this opportunity and were there any important key assumptions that seem to have been wrong?
    3) How have you been able to launch the business and keep your "day jobs"?

    Regarding SEO
    1) What do most people still get wrong about SEO?

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      4. (SEO Question)

      The most common mistake I see, and this is often what comes up in TTT, is that people don’t correctly recognize the position that their website is in compared to where they want to be (from a ranking perspective).

      A lot of people build a new site and just start blasting out a TON of content, hoping (read, believing) that every time their press “publish” their new piece of content will fire up in the rankings and they’ll be rolling in the traffic. After a few months of next to no traffic and a large cost from content creation, they get frustrated and find themselves at a loss.

      The biggest hurdle of SEO is knowing what is realistic and what is not, and then being able to decide which is the right lever to pull at that moment. For a site like HubSpot.com, we have a TON of backlinks (which gives the site a load of authority). When we create new content around marketing/sales/service it will tend to rank a lot better than smaller sites because we’ve built up this authority over a number of years. That means we get WAY more leverage from ramping up content creation than a brand new (or even smaller) site.

      For a new site, I generally try to shift the focus to building authority vs just publishing a bucket load of content. The questions I try to ask is, “how can I build a steady flow of backlinks into the website?” and “how can I grow the number of people searching for my brand name?” instead of “how can I create as much content as possible.” This sounds simple, but there’s a lot that goes into figuring all this out, and it’s where 9/10 misspent cash comes from.

      4 Share
    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      1. Traffic Think Tank is broken down into three core components: 1. Access to our private Slack community (this is the core part of TTT for most people), 2. Access to all of our exclusive training materials (webinars, videos, process docs, templates, etc. - there’s already over 200 hours of this stuff and it grows every week), and 3. The networking/job opportunity/career growth aspect (we have job posting, in-person events, and members have done a ton of business with one another so far). We sell all of these together in one simple monthly payment (currently $119 p/m or a discounted annual payment of $1,190).

      The single fee gets you full access to everything the moment that you join - there’s also zero long-term commitment. So, if you wanted to see what it’s like, you can literally pay for one month, have full access and then leave if it’s not for you.

      2 Share
    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      all three of us have experienced the pain of a lack of good educational content around SEO. I get asked questions all the time via my website and via email (and I know Ian/Nick also does) but I don’t have the time to answer everything. When I come back to people they usually understand, and ask if I could point them to something they could go pay for… and honestly, I haven’t found anything that I’d feel comfortable promoting that solves all their needs. Don’t get me wrong - there are some good courses out there, but people are often looking for some 1:1 guidance on top of this, which doesn’t really exist outside of paying huge consulting fees.

      Similarly, one of the largest requests that we’ve all had over the past few years is just to have a few hours on a retainer to fire questions to and sense check stuff. This is something that I used to do a lot of, but it just ate up so much of my time that it didn’t make sense for me.

      So, when all three of us got together to try and solve this, we wanted more than just a bunch of webinars. First, we wanted to grow a community of people that would be able to offer a ton of advice across a load of broad topics - primarily within SEO, but also outside of this. Second, we needed to give people access to learning materials that were up-to-date and would cover a range of different knowledge levels. We brought in a bunch of the best people in the industry to come and do webinars exclusively for members, which has worked great (we’ve had Aleyda Solis, Barry Adams, Jon Cooper, Eric Siu, Sujan Patel, and tons more - full view here: https://trafficthinktank.com/member-exclusive-content/).

      There was also the fact that a lot of the educational space and the community space within SEO is very fragmented. Some of the largest SEO communities out there have now shut down, or have just become riddled with spam. We keep strict rules for members to avoid any self-promo and ensure all conversations are productive. Honestly, this was one of our biggest concerns going into TTT - it’s also been the most pleasant surprise… in the past 30 days, we’ve had 13,475 messages sent in Slack from members (total of 397 in Slack as of today) and we’ve not had to remove anyone, nor have we had any abusive messages, spam or self-promo (without prior consent).

      The other thing that I didn’t really expect was how much the community would truly support one another. We anticipated at the start that there would be a lot of questions just addressed directly to me, Nick and Ian, but we also knew that this couldn’t scale by relying on that. For every question that is asked in Traffic Think Tank, there is roughly an average of 6-7 responses, all from other members. This is what I believe makes it so valuable. For a lot of solo consultants and in-house people on small teams, it now gives them the opportunity to soundboard ideas off a larger group - something that a lot of us take for granted.

      2 Share
    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      3. Great question: this was certainly my biggest concern going into this. For those of you that don’t know, I also run acquisition at this tiny little company called HubSpot… so that kinda keeps me pretty busy. It’s the same for Nick and Ian - Nick runs like a million different businesses now, and Ian runs all of Search at LendingTree. It’s fair to say that we didn’t have bags of free time.

      The way we’ve made this work is by setting up clear guardrails. The first thing I do every morning is spend an hour between 7am-8am on answering questions within the group. Then, the last thing I do before I finish up work for the day is another hour of answering questions. Nick and Ian do a similar thing, so it works out that as a three we’re able to easily tackle all the questions every single day (but the community often beats us to it as well! Which is great).

      To be honest, I get a ton of value out of the community myself that I share with my team at HubSpot. If we’re running tests that we want feedback on and don’t want to completely share publicly, I’ll share with Traffic Think Tank - that way we all benefit, but can keep it private. Also, we’ve had members land new jobs, do business together, share experiences using other software and vendors, etc. and this is all really valuable information for me to tap into for hiring in my own team, finding new opportunities for growth, and figuring out which tools/software/vendors we should work with without wasting time and cash on exploring bad ones. It really does provide a ton of value both ways.

      On a personal level, too, I made sure that if I was going to do this, I wanted to make sure I put everything I could into it. As a result, I completely gave up any external consulting, stopped blogging on my site, and cut down any speaking gigs to an absolute bare minimum. Everything I create today goes exclusively into Traffic Think Tank - this is a much more efficient of my “free” time, and delivers 100% value to members.

      2 Share
    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      @sean Matt's done a great job with 1 and 2, so I'm going to jump in with my answer to #3:

      To Matt’s point, it’s been all about meticulous time management. I structure my days intentionally so I have specific chunks of time throughout the entire day to hop in and provide direction, chime in on discussions, and answer any DM’s about specific sites or campaigns.

      The community has grown to a point where there are so many brilliant minds willing to contribute, and provide genuinely insightful information that many times great answers have already been shared by the time Matt, Ian or I even get there. With that said, we never let a question go more than 24 hours without a detailed response, except on weekends -- where it may take ~30 hours, as most of us jump into Slack on Sundays.

    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      *Regarding SEO*

      I still see sites (new and old) running the spray and pray method for building rankings. So instead of methodically going through a process of keyword research to prioritize terms, map to intent, cluster/group based on topic themes, and then use this to inform a content map or editorial calendar -- sites and content teams are taking the approach of “here are keywords we want to rank for; go create a page or post for everyone:
      - Make it 2,200+ words
      - Put the keywords in the meta attributes
      - Add links from other posts and get some new backlinks

      This is just not the state of Google’s scoring algorithms, and it’s a gross oversimplification that might work for silly low volume, non-commercialized terms but is so far from what is needed to rank for meaningful terms in 2018 and beyond.

  • CG

    Chris Grundy

    11 days ago #

    Hey Matt, Nick and Ian,
    It's been a really great experience talking to you in Traffic Think Tank, and getting input from so many pros on marketing related topics. My question is: When did you have the idea for Traffic Think Tank? How did you decide to do it together? What do you think is the potential for other paid slack channels within different verticals? Sports or crypto for example?

    Thanks and see you on Slack ;)

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      In terms of when we first had the idea... Nick actually ran a pilot of TTT the year prior to us launching. It was very different from its current form now and a much higher price-point. We got together as a three and tried to figure out how we could take it up a level. We had all been doing some of the stuff that we do each day within TTT, but with no structure, no community backbone, and with much less structure.

      In the background, I was working on an SEO course, which I then shifted into TTT, and took all my focus there.

      Now, do I believe there are other verticals where a private Slack community can thrive? Absolutely. The challenge is managing and growing that community. I think that the likes of sports and crypto - where you have huge followings - is a great place for this. That said, you'll need to ensure that your ground-rules are followed closely to avoid it turning into chaos.

      2 Share
  • MB

    Matthew Barby

    11 days ago #

    Thanks to everyone that's joined us for the AMA today - we'll continue to get through some of the questions that have been asked (some really good ones, so thanks). As a side note, if you want to learn more about Traffic Think Tank, check it out here: https://trafficthinktank.com/

    Also, we've just announced that we'll be running an in-person event in Philly (Jan 26, 2019) and tickets are on sale now - we have some of the best minds in SEO speaking, plus we have roundtable sessions, live Q&A, and there will be a hard cap of 150 attendees. Tickets are here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/traffic-think-tank-live-tickets-50267304862

  • GT

    Gyi Tsakalakis

    11 days ago #

    Individual link or link campaign you're most proud of (and that you can share).

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      Just for the lulz... an exact match anchor text link from GOOGLE (see here: https://cl.ly/1E3F1F1J2K1b).

    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      3 exact match commercial anchors to product category pages from EPA.gov

    • IH

      Ian Howells

      11 days ago #

      "Proud" might not be the best descriptor, but the most impact for lowest effort was after a contest for a new UFC "Octagon Girl". The woman who won didn't have a super common name, so within about a day of the announcement I'd bought HerName.com and launched a "fan site" with her bio info, photos, etc (all stuff the UFC had shared.)

      A whole mess of MMA blogs ended up linking to it in their coverage of the contest.

      Waited 4 months until everyone forgot about the contest, and 301'ed the whole domain to a site about betting on fights.

  • KP

    Kenneth Pohl

    11 days ago #

    Hi Matthew!

    I would like to learn my skills in technical SEO. I am not really strong in that aspect but I am willing to learn. From your experience what one should learn in terms of technical SEO any good courses or practical materials that your recommend for beginners?

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      JOIN TRAFFIC THINK TANK! (lol, jk - trying not to hard sell here but it's tough haha!)

      In terms of learning technical SEO, this is probably the area of SEO that hasn't the highest barrier to entry in terms of knowledge accessibility. There's a lot of blog content out there on tech SEO, and a lot of it is REALLY bad. There are probably only a handful of people I blindly trust that what they say is right when it comes to tech SEO... three that come to mind are Barry Adams, Victor Pan and Casey Winters (worth reading their stuff).

      In terms of beginner level areas, I'd probably go with:

      1. Understanding site architecture.
      2. Dealing with various server response codes.
      3. Internal linking (this is a huge area but one of the most valuable to be really good at).
      4. Page load/speed optimization.
      5. Basic log file analysis (this is an incredibly underrated skill in SEO).

      3 Share
  • JR

    Jeremy Rivera

    11 days ago #

    Hi just wondering what you would do if you had a client site in the healthcare adjacent space that seems to have been solidly trounced by the "Medic" update. (What specific actions, vs vague "Improve EAT" suggestions)

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      We had a big thread on this in Traffic Think Tank at the time, and more recently with the follow up update. For me, the big thing here is running a giant content audit and figuring out what content could/should be pruned from your site. I just did a full video on this for members and it looked at the following:

      1. When should you remove irrelevant content altogether?
      2. When should you update/realign existing content?
      3. When should you consolidate multiple URLs into the same page?

      (plus a bunch more)

      But the main takeaway for situations like this (at least in my opinion) is to focus on building deeper relevancy around your core topics, and trying not to spread the topical focus of the site too thinly across it (i.e. covering a small amount of many topics vs covering few topics deeply). We had a huge boost at HubSpot during Aug 1 and I firmly believe it's because of how focused we've been on a few topics, and structuring internal linking on a topic level (see here: https://research.hubspot.com/topic-clusters-seo).

    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      One big insight I'll share is some patterns we've seen around sites that are not explicitly clear about 1) their business model and 2) how they make money.

  • FA

    Fernando Agudo

    11 days ago #

    Hi!

    My wife has a big maternity blog (more than 1000 posts) with 7 or 8 main categories. I think it would be a good idea to split the blog into smaller blogs with those categories. That way, each blog would be more specific and keyword oriented (fertility, lactancy, pregnancy...), and Google would know better what it's about, positioning it higher.

    The blog has around 150k visits/month, and it's monetized with Adsense, and affiliates (Amazon mainly).

    Is it really a good idea? What's the best way to accomplish it (new domains, canonical, redirections, duplicate content...)?

    Thank you!

    • IH

      Ian Howells

      11 days ago #

      Personally - I’d keep this as one site. Those topics are (in my opinion) absolutely close enough to stay on the same site/blog. Instead of going down the multiple site route, I’d focus really heavily on category delineation and internal linking between pieces in one category. (The classic “silo” approach, just minus the weird nofollow nonsense for “PageRank sculpting”.)

      The one visual touch that I think could be a really interesting add-on here would be slightly different designs per category - or just color variations. Something that helps to separate the different stages parenthood while still keeping it all on brand.

  • AC

    Anand Chhatpar

    11 days ago #

    How do you prioritize organic keywords and decide which topics/titles to create content for?

    • IH

      Ian Howells

      11 days ago #

      I use a blend of search volume, intent, and “attainable position”. With any given project, I look to find the leader in the space. So if I was going to work on a site about outdoor/camping products, I’d likely toss REI into aHrefs and spit out all their keywords over 500 searches per month.

      I’d then make an assumption about how close I could get to REI’s rankings - say (for sake of argument) I was assuming I can get to 4 spots lower than REI. I’ll just run a new column in excel/google sheets adding 4 to all of their rankings.

      That new “attainable position” plus a CTR curve gets me a ballpark on the amount of traffic I could realistically hope to get for the site.

      A pivot table to roll these up by page then gives me a map of what pages I need and what the potential traffic is per page. I’ll start with the biggest opp pages and just work my way down.

      3 Share
  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    11 days ago #

    Hey Guys - so cool to have you'll on!

    Im so in awe of you guys having created this high quality resource. 🙌
    1. How much thought went into pricing at the start and how did you settle on what you did?
    2. What signals do you think might tell you that its time to revisit pricing?
    3. What is the biggest challenge you face with ensuring that the TTT stays high value enough for the majority to keep paying for it?

    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      Thanks @anujadhiya

      1. More thought than it might seem, we settled on the launch price of $99 because we wanted to see how it would be received but also wanted to strike a balance where people would pay enough to participate without making it too expensive that it becomes inaccessible for people who want to learn and leverage the communities experience.

      2. As we push out more new features and functionality, we increase pricing to reflect the included intrinsic value. A great example here is starting next week every month Jon Cooper will be publishing a link building newsletter exclusive for TTT members... we are also in the process of adding dedicated training modules for specific capability areas; with the addition of both we'll be increasing pricing for *NEW* members (one big benefit of joining is once you join you're locked in at that price point for the life of your membership).

      3. Putting significant time and energy into sharing all of our tests, wins, and losses with the community while heavily moderating the community to make sure the culture within the group stays conducive to testing and learning.

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      1. A fair amount. We wanted to ensure that it was affordable and that we could deliver value way above and beyond what members pay (which I truly believe we do). But, we also wanted to hit a price point that meant we would avoid spammers, etc. joining and ruining the community. I think that we've netted out really well so far. We do plan to raise prices soon (ever so slightly) but we always reward existing members with grandfathered prices.

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      2. Honestly, this is what we're trying to figure out. I'm not going to sit here and act like we know all the answers to all of the questions - because we don't. That said, all three of us hung out in Philly this weekend to chat through a ton of this stuff and pricing was a big discussion. The main thing is that as total community sizes scales past certain milestones, we'll get stricter and stricter on who can be a member - so we optimize for quality vs revenue.

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      3. I think that the nice thing about TTT is that as it grows, the value to each individual member grows too. They have more people to share problems/solutions with. There are more career growth opportunities. There is more training content to consume. The big challenge will be when we hit the point where we need to expand the learning topics wider - we're quite SEO focused right now, but we will eventually broaden things out.

  • JB

    Justin Brock

    11 days ago #

    Do you use virtual assistants? If so, how did you find them? What work do you have them do? How do you manage them?

  • MK

    Mariana Klober

    30 days ago #

    Hey guys!

    Such a pleasure to have you guys on for this AMA!

    1. You all seem to be very focused professionals, how do you balance all of that focus in work with other activities? (What I'm trying to ask here is what do you do when you're not working, eating or sleeping to keep sane and creative? haha)

    2. How did you guys meet and why did you decide to found TTT together?

    3. What have been the main growth milestones for TTT so far?

    4. Any advice you'd like to share with other SEO professionals out there? :)

    Thanks again for doing this!

    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      Thanks @mariana_klober !!

      1. I actually got a lot of help from Dan Martell through his Elite Entrepreneurs training program before starting TTT. He forced me to prioritize my day and accept what might be the most counter-intuitive piece of advice I’ve ever received: true freedom comes from scheduling everything. My calendar now dominates my life but it includes dedicated chunks of time to my wife, my friends, and myself (as well as all of my other businesses).

      In my free time (depending on the season) I race bikes (*bicycles), snowboard and maintain an art studio where I try to throw paint at things as much as possible.

      2. When I decided to re-launch from a private LMS to Slack, I knew I would need help from “in the trenches” SEO’s that had gotten their hands dirty, and were committed to sharing good information to help others. Ian and Matt were obvious choices -- so when they agreed to come on as Partners I knew we had something special brewing.

      3. We actually didn’t know what to expect in terms of activity and demands on time so we sort of engineered our first milestones to make sure we didn’t mess anything up (too badly at least).

      When we launched we limited the group to 100 members, and then waiting 2 months before opening it up again to another 100, then one more time.. Opened it up to another 100 members. Now it’s gotten to a point where thanks to the level of knowledge and commitment to sharing in the community we’ve opened up registration to the public.

      4. "Yesterday you said tomorrow" - i.e., just start that project you keep thinking about, build that site, send that email... just make moves.

      2 Share
    • IH

      Ian Howells

      11 days ago #

      For Question 2:

      I met Nick at the Philadelphia SEO Meetup back in… late 2010 or early 2011. I’m actually not sure when I first talked to Matt - likely somewhere mid-end 2016. Oddly enough - Matt and I literally just met in person for the first time last weekend.

      Being a part of the relaunching for TTT was an interesting process that happened a bit organically. I had done a webinar for Nick’s first iteration when it was much smaller. I’d mentioned that if he was going to do another year, I’d be interested in working with him on it since I really liked the concept and thought it was meeting a big need.

    • IH

      Ian Howells

      11 days ago #

      Question 1...

      I personally try to not work from 1pm on every Sunday. This time of year that means watching a bunch of football (Yeaah sportsball.) The other main thing is that my wife and I have dinner every night for about 90 minutes to 2 hours with a strict no phones rule. It’s super helpful and important for me to have periods like that where I’m not doing multiple things/splitting focus.

  • CL

    Cora Lanting

    11 days ago #

    How can a growth marketer stay relevant with the threat of AI? How can we constantly reinvent ourselves?

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      I guess it depends on what you believe the threat to be? In my mind, this just creates more opportunities to leverage data better. If there's one thing that I've learned over the past few years is that the way in which you identify and think about solving a problem is 10x more valuable than an interesting tactic that you can execute.

      If you have a good process for solving problems, or have gained exposure to a range of different problems, you'll be able to adapt to new situations much better. Instead of reinventing yourself every time a tactic you used start failing (I go on a general rule that from the moment of executing on a tactic, it begins declining in output), you will constantly operate in a way that invites change, and you'll be ready to deal with it.

      This is the difference in making a hire that can solve a problem for you now and create a problem for you in 12 months, or making a hire now that will be able to solve the problems you didn't know you had in 12 months time.

  • DW

    Dan Westmoreland

    11 days ago #

    Matt - what's up!? It's Dan, Director of Inbound Marketing at Deputy. We've had some HUGE success on the blog. An uptick in organic traffic from 0-80,000 visits a month in less than a year. That's all well and good but my question is, "What are some prime ways to convert these visitors into trials and paying customers?"

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      Hey Dan, first of congratulations! That's great news :) In terms of ways to drive trials from these visitors, this all comes down to matching intent... taking someone from an informational piece of content and immediately expecting them to convert is tough. Wherever possible, I'd try and test out ways to do this directly - simple CTAs in blog content directing them into a trial, pushing live chat on the content to see if they can convert there, etc. This will help you get a baseline for your conversion rate (hint: it'll probably be low).

      Now, you can start to expand out the time to conversion. Is there a gap in the journey that you need to fill? What information do you need, or what actions do you require to occur for you to fill in this gap? Maybe you need to capture contact info? Then you could follow up via email or via a messaging app with content that could bridge the gap (customer stories/case studies/etc.) - the commitment level and price of your product will impact this, too.

      The other question to ask is, "is the trial the right conversion point?" Maybe a product demo could be the next step? This is all information that you gather by testing - Some of the "Ideas" within GrowthHackers are perfect starting points for building out testing ideas.

  • MB

    Matthew Banks

    11 days ago #

    Hi Matt,

    I find it very hard to get advice from an agency with any real onsite technical SEO knowledge.

    I have a large website with lots of content that I believe is not being utilised to its full potential for SEO.

    Most agencies solely want to sell link building packages and fake the technical side to close a sale.

    How can I get the correct advice for improving?

    1. Page speed
    2. Internal linking/site architecture
    3. Automated content for large websites where duplicate content/indexation can be an issue?
    4. Finding other opportunities I am not aware of.

    Our website is www.tyrecompare.com.au

    Cheers
    Banksy

    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      Hey Banksy (my nickname in college was a pretty close variation of the same) :)

      I'll admit finding the same (albeit I'm obviously biased) but there are a handful of truly proficient technical SEO agencies and consultants out there.

      From even just a quick look at your site, I see why you made Page Speed" your number 1 item.. stuff is looking pretty sloppy.. just scratching the surface here but I would:

      - Enable compression as much as possible for all your site resource files
      - Minimize the amount of redirects across the site (starting with the homepage)
      - Minimize the size of your server requests (they're quite, quite large)
      - Serve scaled images and optimize them for the size they should be (as well as compress the file sizes).
      - turn on browser caching
      - Minify your CSS and combine images using sprites
      - If possible, defer parsing of JavaScript

      ^If you knock out even 50% of that list you'll be in a vastly better spot than you are now.

  • SJ

    shaurya jain

    11 days ago #

    Hi Guys

    Great to see three of the brightest SEO minds at one place, answering our questions and that too for free. God am I dreaming.

    I want to ask Nick, what are some effective lead generation channels for a new SEO/linkbuilding agency?

    Peace

    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      Hey Shaurya!

      This is going to be a pretty tired answer but the lion's share of our agency's leads come in 3 channels:

      1. Word of mouth and referrals
      2. Qualified outreach using real technical diagnosis (DeepCrawl is your best friend here)
      3. Blogging about exactly how to do what you *should* be doing.. since most people don't want to "do" and would way rather just hire someone who's proven the expertise to do it for them.

  • EW

    Emma Welsby

    11 days ago #

    Hi,

    I saw Jeremy's question that he posted before me and I'm with him on that - what actionable points do you think would be useful to get through the latest Google Medic update other than Google's EAT?

    Thanks

  • JA

    Jordan Ayres

    11 days ago #

    Not sure if you still freelance but when you did, what type of SEO work did you perform for clients? Was there a series of projects you did?

    For example start with SEO audit or something specific such as x.

    Which activities would you start with for a client?

    Thanks for doing the AMA!

    • IH

      Ian Howells

      11 days ago #

      From my end, I do a bit of everything, but the general outline is going to be something like...

      Site audit for any existing technical issues and the priority order for addressing these. For SMBs, this can mean me just getting WP access and going in and launching the fixes. For larger companies it's communicating with the dev team on either JIRA or BaseCamp.

      Keyword research / content map creation - digging through the competitors etc and bucketing the target terms into pages. That then will be broken into "Pages we need ASAP" and "Pages we can add over time".

      Content Creation - I'll do just content creation until the "need now" pieces are done - I want this done as quickly as budget will allow.

      Ongoing Content and Links - once the main base library of content is done, each month is a blend of additional content creation and link building efforts. Outside of big seasonal pushes, etc - this continues pretty indefinitely.

    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      Hey @jordan_ayres - I don't think any of us "freelance" anymore, but when I was first starting out I would often get hired to do very specific tasks; keyword research, URL architecture & sitemap design, and designing "SEO friendly" landing pages.

      Keyword research was almost always my go to starting point, especially after I started getting hit up with specific requests to create a "keyword matrix" for a business or website.

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      I've done a lot of freelance projects over the past few years (not so much now though). Each project would be different depending on the situation. If it's SEO-based, this would usually start with some kind of audit. The value that I'd bring would be more from a strategic point of view - I can spot problems, find opportunities and then show you how you could set up your team (or work with external people) to execute on the solution. That's generally the approach that I took with the consulting work that I did. Within Traffic Think Tank, we have a mix of this and also a ton of hands-on tactical stuff. In fact, we had a whole webinar focused on how to structure site audits for clients, etc. and talk about the "business of SEO" a lot.

  • CD

    Cécilien Dambon

    11 days ago #

    Hi Matthew, Ian and Nick

    Thank you for this opportunity!

    I'd like to know your top tips/dos/don'ts when it comes to creating A/B test frameworks for SEO/CRO experimentations (set up a variation B with the same URL, risks in terms of SEO, etc.)

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      Hey @cecilien_dambon

      The biggest don't is to duplicate pages for "SEO Tests" which is something, believe it or not, we see pretty often. Duplicate URLs are great for CRO tests if your splitting traffic (as long as there is a canonical in place or at least a noindex, follow tag) but for SEO it's always a dumpster fire.

      You're either cannibalizing your current (default) page or you have it set to canonical (or noindex) in which case it's not being considered in the same vein from a search perspective.

      If you don't have the budget to use a proper proxy solution (like a Distilled ODN) then your best bet for split testing for SEO is make the change to 1) benchmark the pages current organic performance; kw rankings, organic traffic, impressions, queries, clicks -- then make the test changes, then monitor GSC (and your favorite kw rankings tool, SERPwoo is great for daily tracking) and after 7 days make a determination on how the data is trending.

  • JB

    John Bentley

    11 days ago #

    Hi Matthew,

    In your Inbound18 SEO presentation you mentioned that both Hubspot and Moz had achieved big upswings in traffic after deleting or de-indexing low web pages and blog posts from Google with little or no organic traffic.

    To block Google from indexing pages, is the best way simply to add this bit of code into the HTML Head for each blog post?

    Is this is the easiest way and is what you would recommend. Thanks for your insights and assistance and I look forward to seeing you speak again sometime soon.

    Cheers - John Bentley

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      Hi John,

      First off - please don't just go block a ton of your content from Google. Yes, both HubSpot, Moz and a number of others have seen a load of traffic upswings from actually pruning content, but there were some very strict selection criteria in each case.

      Generally speaking, I'm looking for either completely irrelevant content that is delivering no kind of meaningful value (traffic/conversions, etc.) and also thin content (duplicate/lacking in content overall, etc.) as prime targets.

      Now, on top of this, there are multiple ways to deal with this. You can let the content 404 (404s aren't always a bad thing!), redirect the content via a 301, consolidate multiple pages into one, or update/realign the content and keep it.

      There's a lot of nuance here, and probably too much to cover in a single response, but this was a theme that kept coming up in Traffic Think Tank, so I put together a 1 hour video focused on answering each situation step by step (it goes live to members tomorrow).

  • DB

    David Broderick

    11 days ago #

    Hi Matt, Nick, and Ian,

    Thanks so much for your time!

    My question for you all is:

    If you were at the beginning of your career and looking to start a side project to help you grow your SEO skills and (ideally) earn a side-income, how would you choose what to do?

    I feel a bit overwhelmed with my potential options (trying to drive traffic to a blog about something I’m interested in, creating an info product or drop shipping business, etc.) and know I need to start taking action on something, so any guidance would be really appreciated.

    And if there are any resources you recommend to follow to start a side project from scratch (free or paid), I’d love to hear about those too!

    Thanks again for your time – I really appreciate it!

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      My main piece of advice: do something that you're passionate about. If you're near the start of your career and maybe have relatively limited resources to work with, the thing that will keep you going will be if this is something that you also enjoy doing. Now, of course, there should be some kind of opportunity, but start with what you're passionate about and then drill down on the opportunity from there. Nick wrote a good article recently on evaluating the organic opportunity: https://ftf.agency/total-addressable-online-market/

      When I first started out, I did a travel blog and a food blog to both learn more, test things and try to make some side income. I kept at them, even though they made zero cash for a long time, because they were also fun.

  • JH

    Jon Hines

    11 days ago #

    Hello Matthew, Nick and Ian,
    With the "page speed load" being one of the ranking factor for mobile first index.
    -Are you guys tracking any optimization for page speed that has increase the rankings?
    -How much of the technical side (page rendering, cpu idling, javascript, etc...) do you see being being a huge role for seo?
    -Say you're a nobody with no followers and you have an app (map based) and for the sake of the argument lets say
    there's search presences for it. What's the best way to SEO this?, or

    Traditional Q
    -What are some of the best ways for outreach (relationship & link bldg) these days?

  • JB

    John Bentley

    11 days ago #

    Is this the proper code for deindexing blog articles from Google crawling so that we can eliminate low traffic posts from being crawled?

    • IH

      Ian Howells

      11 days ago #

      Hey John - To get low traffic posts removed, I'd start with a simple page level noindex tag before fully deleting. That way it's an easy undo if you see traffic drop, etc. (Sometimes low traffic pages in aggregate are feeding a lot of internal links to money pages.)

      The "temporarily hide" tool in GSC will then knock these pages out of the SERPs within hours (in my experience).

  • VE

    Victor E.

    11 days ago #

    Hey fellas,

    You have a brand new website. You have to get this brand new website, let's say . . . 20,000 visitors within 48 hours. You can't spend a dime to do it.

    How do you make it happen?

    Thanks!

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      I mean... this really depends on the site. If you have a brand new site, can't spend ANY money and you want to generate 20,000 visitors, you'll need to have something VERY newsworthy to achieve that. Let's say this is a product - maybe software - I'd spend my time thinking about how I could get some big visibility within large communities.

      I've done this a bunch in the past with things like Product Hunt and Reddit (see here: https://www.matthewbarby.com/seo-campaign-blueprint/#producthunt). The main way to do this is to gather a large list of influential members within the community (that have voting power) and work with them to help give you an upvote/some kind of engagement to kickstart things -- I won't go into too much detail here, but you get the picture.

      From this stage, I'd use the visibility in big communities to reach out to press and trade publications to get coverage of the product, using the "we ranked number 1 in PH" etc. as some form of social proof as to why they should listen to me -- instead of going in cold.

  • BI

    Benjelloun Ibrahim

    11 days ago #

    Hey guys,
    How to manage a software in crowded market ?
    Thanks.

    • MB

      Matthew Barby

      11 days ago #

      This is what I do every day at HubSpot. We are present in possibly one of the most crowded software markets - CRM... yet, we have consistently grown our userbase in a pretty dramatic way every quarter. Without additional context it's tough to give exact recommendations here, but generally speaking, my advice is to find a channel that has growth opportunities for you (e/g. organic search) and pool all of your efforts into it vs trying to stimulate growth across a wide range of different ones - ultimately spreading yourself too thin in the process.

  • PC

    Pedro Clivati

    11 days ago #

    SEO Dream Team is definitely an understatement - nice to see you three here.

    - From your point of view, how will voice impact SEO? With Alexa, Google Home, Portal and probably some more coming, I don't see brands taking any movement towards that change yet.

    - For a small startup with limited resources and time, what should I be looking at on Google Analytics from an SEO perspective?

    Thanks in advance.

    • NE

      Nick Eubanks

      11 days ago #

      Thanks so much @pedro_clivati :)

      - voice searches (at least the vast majority so far) seem to be almost all transactional, in that they are either 1) making specific functional requests (Alex/Google "whats the weather" "set a reminder" "set a timer" "turn on my sous vide for chicken" "turn on the lights in the kitchen") or 2) shopping within a walled garden (at least those using Alexa where they are far more likely to have just gone to Amazon to make the purchase that they instead ordered via the assistant).

      I do think we'll see Google take more and more of this real estate to some extent, but at the same time, at least IME, the "shopping experience" via Google's assistant is not as well optimized (read: convenient) as Alexa, yet.

      In terms of people gathering information to make B2B decisions on things like vendors, accountants, software, lawyers, etc... I don't think voice is anywhere near eating into this marketshare.

      - TBH at the smallest level (and most others for that matter) I'd put my time and energy into monitoring opportunities and results via GSC over GA; keeping a close eye on clicks, impressions, queries, avg position, and avg CTRs.

  • BD

    Brett Downes

    11 days ago #

    I’m the only Seo at my agency. Boo hoo right. So I don’t get to bounce ideas off others, and for now my directors won’t pay for this think tank. What fb groups do you recommend that offer similar to you? I’ve seen a lot but wondering what you personally recommend ?

    Also. Topical or High da link, which side of fence do you sit on?

    Thanks in advance

  • JB

    Justin Brock

    11 days ago #

    Hey guys. Thanks for doing this.

    Here's a fun question for you. Let's imagine you were to suddenly lose everything - job, business, assets, etc. - but you still had your health, $1,000, and your skills. Also, no one will hire you, so you have to start a business. What business(s) would you start? What steps would you take?

  • WE

    Win een

    11 days ago #

    Hello and thank you for this opportunity.

    In your experience, how long should you allow/expect a site to recover after moving domain and implementing 301 redirects?

    Imgur album: https://imgur.com/a/OPYJ5Uy
    Market is the Netherlands, 17 million residents.

    I merged several smaller exact/partial match domains into one newly registered domain for long term (re)branding purposes. I mapped urls per domain and implemented 301 redirects for 95% of content and the rest returns a hard 404 as it was no longer relevant and did not have relevant redirect targets on the new domain. Content kept the same as much as possible. Url structure changed. From what I've read, I've definitely pushed it regarding the amount of changes made.

    Rankings/traffic/sales rapidly tanked. Search console reports no errors and 60 valid pages, so it's still a small site. Archives are being kept out of the index. After 5 weeks, the new domain is leaving rock bottom and being shown more in serps according to Search Console. CTR from serps is also slightly increasing, as is traffic. Some of the previous top 10 rankings have returned to page 1, then top 5 and top 3 here and there. Sales are still in the gutter, but should recover to some extent as traffic will hopefully keep increasing.

    I suppose I'm curious if your experience tells you if the screenshots look pretty normal for the changes above.
    Hope it helps someone in the same situation in the future as well.

  • JD

    Jeff Deutsch

    11 days ago #

    Hey Matthew, thanks for doing this!

    1) If you could only follow 3 people for new marketing methods (other than anyone else on this thread), who would they be and why?
    2) If you could only use 3 tools for growth marketing, what would they be and why?

  • GM

    Glenn Miller

    11 days ago #

    When I ask Siri to show me the latest product X or find contact # Y of business Z and I dont specify how Siri should do so, she provides a response. For these 2 specific examples usually its a reply and sometimes its, 'here's what I found on Google'. As a user, I can decide if I want her to use Google by telling her to do a google search for X or Y or Z (for example). Therefor logic suggests to me Siri's algorithm decides as controlled by apple. My question is: do you know how the SEO world and community and indeed technology solution to SEO on the web for examples, is adapting to this type of example and in addition to voice?

  • MB

    Matthew Banks

    10 days ago #

    HI Matthew,

    How many links as a maximum should you build each month and what should the link profile look like in terms of DA?

    Cheers
    Matt

  • ST

    Stanley Tan

    4 days ago #

    @Matthew @Nick How much autonomy do you get when working for large companies such as HubSpot and Fortune 100 companies? Do you require a decision maker to give an "OK" for each component of a marketing campaign? For example, the design of an email, the content of an email, the copy on the website, etc.

  • LN

    Ludwig Nivillac

    3 days ago #

    Hi Matthew,

    409/5000
    First of all I want to say that I am amazed by the tips that you give away for free. keep doing what you do !! I follow about five weeks a checklist and I see the difference now. the main concern for me was the correct followers and real accounts, here a link so that you can give me advice on whether this will work

    https://mavillacz.wordpress.com/the-ultimate-checklist-to-extreme-instagram-growth/

    last question, how do I find community for instagram growth?

    thank you in advance

    regards

    Ludwig

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