Growth Hacking Interview Series #3: Fervil Von Tripoli
Fervil Von Tripoli is a self-made SEO Consultant in the Philippines whose life-experience is an inspiration to other up-and-coming SEO’s in the country. In this Interview he will highlight his SEO ideas and theories.
Hi Fervil, great to meet you! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you became to be involved with the SEO industry?
Hello Floyd thanks for having me here. It’s an honor to be interviewed by you.
Btw, my name is Fervil Von and I’m a freelance SEO specialist from the Philippines. I have close to four years of experience in developing websites and online marketing.
I’m just an average guy you might come across the streets and I think there’s nothing special in my story but here’s how I started online:
In 2010, a gamer friend told me something about online jobs and that he was earning through online with the help of a job site called oDesk.
Because we were good friends and computer gaming buddies, at first I had thoughts that he was goofing around like the old times and I was being so skeptical about the things he’s been sharing.
I actually didn’t believe him until he showed me a screenshot of his Paypal account.
During those days, I was an OSY (out-of-school-youth) and was desperately looking forward to do something meaningful in my life.
You know, find means to earn or get a decent career. In the Philippines, the amount he (friend) was earning was equivalent to a salary of a new school teacher or an income of a local manager in a fast food chain. It moved me.
I worked for him and his clients in the first few months and later on I tried my luck in oDesk and built my own profile and my so SEO journey have begun.
How do you personally keep up to date with the latest in SEO? It’s an ever changing industry so SEO consultants by nature need to be on the ball – how do you achieve this?
For Google updates and SEO news, I always dig on SEO news sites like searchengineland.com, community sites like Inbound.org and internet marketing forums like the Warrior Forum.
Surrounding my social media accounts with SEO-related people also helps in keeping me posted about the latest happenings in the industry.
For working strategies, I usually hop into my favorite SEO blogs because they share a lot of fun stuff and cool SEO methods.
I also spare a little time exploring blogs I haven’t encountered yet. My sole purpose in doing these is to get more information and weigh things about algorithm, links, content, and all sorts.
For experience, I run some tests using my own sites and implement the effective SEO methods in my clients’ websites.
Like you said, SEO is very perplexing and ever-changing but I personally believe that the core concept of doing SEO didn’t totally change over the years.
I have a framework for running an SEO campaign which I strictly follow but it’s quite flexible and I customize it depending on my analysis on the client’s business and website.
There have been a lot of algorithm changes from Google over the last year. I am sure that you’ve had many potential clients come to you with ranking issues due to past SEO practices they might have undertaken. Do you have any top-level advice for people who have seen their websites take a dramatic hit recently, or incurred a penalty?
Most online business owners should be wary in hiring their SEO’s.
I’d like to stress that in order to prevent this kind of disaster to happen, webmasters should have ample knowledge of SEO and link building before hiring an individual/firm to work for their website.
The penalty or ranking problems typically occur when businesses are trying to get cheap SEO services to minimize their expenses while they are too naive or blind to what the service provider is doing with their websites.
If a business owner is really serious in marketing his website, he should get to know his service provider better than leaving everything to their hands.
If the webmaster thinks that his site was slapped by an update, it’s mandatory to run a backlink report and check the links which caused the site to be tossed out of the SERPs.
Most webmasters often neglect the idea of removing bad links which are hurting their site. They should first make an effort in cleaning up their site by manually removing the bad links.
If it’s not possible to remove those links manually, that’s the time they should use the Disavow Tool.
If a site has been deindexed in Google, the owner should go figure why he suffered from such penalty but most likely he’ll make an effort to clean everything (on-site content and links) and ask for a reconsideration request.
What sets your SEO practice apart from the competition? Are there any unique aspects to your consultancy that gives you a competitive advantage?
“Picking the right boss is far more important than picking the right job.”
I don’t really think that all businesses that are looking for SEO are fit for my service as I am the right SEO guy to them.
I’m quite selective in getting clients who need SEO because I have experienced that it’s detrimental to work on websites if both parties have reservations and are too distant.
In order to succeed in a campaign, it’s important that the SEO contractor and business owner should go well together.
I have been establishing myself as an SEO consultant and I always share free advice to those people who’re looking for an SEO service. In fact, I even ask them to raise their personal questions.
As a service provider, I always make sure that I’m not hiding anything from the company/individual that I’m working with and I lay everything to them – even the most contemptible bit.
I personally believe that transparency is vital in running the campaigns for their sites and constant communication from both parties is a must.
I always spend quality time to mingle with my clients and I always want to get to know them better – personal and business-wise.
I also love to give my best when a client values my competence and trust my skills and experience in SEO.
If you were talking to client in your local area who was unsure about the benefits that local SEO can bring to a business, what would be the key components of your pitch to them in order to convince them?
This is one reason why I love the movie The Internship very much bro. Hmm, if I’m talking to a client in the local area probably my statement would something be similar to this one:
“Why do people sell products or offer services? Because they would want to get more profit. How can they get it? They must invest in their business!
For a local business to maximize its earnings, it should be open to new forms of marketing.
It doesn’t really mean that you (owner) should leave your traditional way of marketing your product or service; it means that you are expanding your business through the internet!
That’s how internet marketing works.
Everybody’s searching for something. They’re searching for you! We just want to help them find you.”
(last lines were taken from The Internship movie.)
For any beginners to SEO, what advice would you give them? It could be anything from how to set the business up, to winning business, or just some plain motivational advice.
“Sustain the passion.”
Start your own blog or website and use it for practicing SEO. You can also develop a decent profile in job sites, get hired and try to experience handling websites.
First step might be the hardest but you will not achieve anything if you aren’t working things out.
Along the way, you will face challenges and hardships, become uninterested at times, constantly read and write, FAIL, meet like-minded people, learn something new and advance, teach others and even before you know it, you have been in love with SEO.
Congratulations… you have now leveled up!
During your career as an SEO consultant what has been your favourite or most interesting project that you’ve worked on?
I consider my websites as the most interesting project I’ve been working since I’m always free to test things there and find the results myself.
Here’s a glimpse on the stats of one of my sites:
Are there any other websites or online projects that you want to tell our readers about – or perhaps any social channels or things you are working on currently?
Online projects… Hmm well I’m starting to get my hands dirty with affiliate marketing and just developed a new site in the health niche. I’m hoping that it could help me get some bonus dollars.
This site will also serve as a personal case study in SEO (Post Panda) and I might launch the results of its test in my FV SEO Philippines website if the site is already converting.
For my clients which I’m currently working with, I guess we’re all good and will still thrive to improve the ranking of our targeted keywords.
How do you view content in SEO as a leverage in providing relevant search results and as a way of doing link-building in the advent of the recent changes in Googles Algorithm and penalization of Ann Smarty’s MyBlogGuest?
Content is just content. Without proper links or promotions it will just sit down on your site like a baby waiting to be fed.
High quality content is important for searchers to be satisfied, give them what they need. You can maximize the potential of that high quality content by means of optimizing it and supplementing it with superior links.
Getting ranked in the search results is pretty much concentrated in three parts: on-page SEO, backlinks and competition.
Don’t be bothered with constant algorithm update if you have a good grasp on the good and bad effects of your SEO and as long as you know what you are doing.
How I see Ann Smarty’s MBG being penalized?
Meh, I think it was a rude act from Google but it was another way of breaking the spirits of guest bloggers and guest posters (lets them think that somehow what they’re doing is manipulating links). >_<
What do you think of Google’s approach to SEO? Are they being helpful by launching the disavow tool or do you think that this only gives more credence to negative SEO?
The bigger picture of Google’s approach to SEO
My personal opinion about this is that Google partially hates SEO’s because SEO somehow threatens their search engine.
I have thoughts that Google wanted online businesses to do paid ads than invest in organic ranking development. According to Wordstream, in 2011 Google successfully acquired $37.9B. 96% of that amount came from advertising.
Aside from those figures, Google cannot stop SEO from evolving so they are learning to live with it – doing continuous algo updates to elevate the standard of quality links and placing a disavow tool to remove links.
Somehow, I have a slight belief that the cycle of manual/algorithm penalties and disavowing links serve to discourage people to continue doing link building. I might be wrong though.
Google’s disavow tool is great but it’s a double-edged sword. It helps remove bad links of sites inflicted by negative SEO but using it improperly could also hurt a website by unknowingly removing the good links.
What is the fastest way to generate backlinks?
White labeled: on-site quality content creation.
Gray hat: buy links.
Black Hat: use tools like XRumer for massive spamming.
What is the best quick fix way in optimizing your website for SEO?
They’re very helpful in checking the actual stats of a page that needs optimization. Big time saver compared to running full SEO reports from website audit tools.
How do you measure your SEO success for a particular campaign?
I see two stages in SEO success:
1.) Ranking – first stage is the acquisition of organic traffic.
2.) Leads and Sales – second stage is the conversion.
It’s pretty straightforward. The main purpose of why webmasters acquire SEO services is to have more online sales. SEO helps drive organic traffic to websites but everything doesn’t stop on ranking the targeted keywords.
These two things I mentioned can be analyzed through Google Analytics (GA).
What project that you’ve handled that gave you a hard time in optimizing yet you came out successful afterwards?
My SEO site FervilVon.com
It is still on the rise but I’m happy to see some fruits of my labor and short-term successes.
And lastly can you suggest any book, video, person, website that keeps you inspired in doing SEO?
It’s really fun to learn on almost everything about SEO.
There are a lot of highly skilled SEO practitioners who openly share their secret recipes in basic and advance SEO however I think these guys below are my favorites when it comes to SEO, link building and internet marketing:
Matthew Woodward – award winning IM guy showing hisincome reports and step-by-step SEO guide to success.
Brian Dean – should you decide to empower your SEO-fu, feel free to visit Brian’s blog at Backlinko.com
Glen Allsop – I’ve first notice this guy in Moz. Later on I found myself enjoying his blog posts at Viperchill.
Jason Acidre – this guy is the Manny Pacquiao in the SEO world. Hats-off!
Neil Patel – most of his best kept secrets in SEO and internet marketing are all found in Quicksprout.
Alex Becker – this guy won’t just teach you SEO, he will rather teach you step-by-step programs on how to earn a decent income using SEO and some wits.
I’ve actually studied his SEO omega guide as well as his ROI optimization tutorial videos. It was totally worth everything.
If you want to evolve your SEO skills from basic to advance internet marketing you definitely need to check out his Youtube videos.
There has been reports of Google not being moral see: http://www.seroundtable.com/google-ethics-penalty-18489.html for penalizing websmasters. What is your view on this?
I wanted to view it in two perspectives: me as Google and me as an SEO.
Me as Google says that I should protect my business and if I find anyone messing out with it, I’d likely punish that guy. I’ve already set my guidelines and perpetrator crossed the line.
Therefore, it’s moral for me to penalize his site. There’s still a way out of this mess, if the perpetrator admits his fault, clean up his mess and file reconsideration request I might forgive him.
Me as an SEO says that being moral is debatable. What’s ethical to others would be not to some and what’s moral for me might not be moral to others.
It’s really up for me if I’d conform with what Google wants or find means to get my way on the top, set aside Google’s quality guidelines.
As an SEO specialist, I’ve seen a lot of case studies where big businesses (fortune 500 companies) practice unethical SEO tactics to game the system.
If you were given the chance to create a search engine like Google how would you approach it?
Yeah I guess I won’t change anything with this type of search engine. It’s quite simple and straightforward and given the fact that you could choose categories, it has laid everything to searchers.
I guess what I could add up is a “people” section where authorities related to the keyword I’m searching would be listed down in this search. I would also bring back the authorship markup.
It would seem that nowadays businesses that has a bigger budget has more chances of ranking in Google based on the recent link building survey of Skyrocket in Moz. How do you think businesses with very small budgets approach this dillema?
Luckily for these start-up businesses, there’s what we call guerilla marketing in the web. And yes, you can read a lot of guide about it (even ideas on how to build links without spending anything).
In lay man’s term, guerilla marketing is a type of promotion that involves zero to limited budget. Because of this nature, you’ll be force to work your arse off and spend good amount of energy to promote your site.
It’s an awful truth that most start-up businesses aren’t really ready to outsource specialists to market their site online. I often encounter these business owners.
I usually ask business owners about their goals and compare it with the size of their budget for the campaign.
If the marketing budget isn’t really reasonable, I usually suggest the client that instead of using their budget on outsourcing an SEO, better to use it on accessing a premium webinar/tutorial where he/she can learn about tips and tricks in promoting his site (may it be ranking in Google or other methods like doing Facebook marketing or whatever). In my experience, most clients don’t want to follow this recommendation. Lol.
But there’s a second option too. If I would put myself in their shoes, I’d use the limited budget to look for a content specialist who could help me produce valuable content and let that guy do the content marketing.
You’d be very lucky if you could find a guy like this and if anyone knows some guys like these please do let me know. Hahaha.
If you were given the chance to head the spam team of Google what would you change or improve upon?
Sigh, really tough question. Now I’m sympathizing Matt Cutts already. Hahaha.
Honestly, I don’t want to be the head of spam team of Google as I saw a lot of Matt Cutts’ hair turned into gray.
Most likely what I would do is nullify the value of spam links so it could not improve the ranking of any website using it as a trick to rank up.
This implementation will not be limited to microsites and nonsense webpages since bigger companies/mountain sites won’t have the merit to implement spamming to their site either.
Everything will be tough, so I need to clearly define my idea of “spam”.
What is the fastest way to earn in SEO that works 100% all the time? (ex: affiliate marketing, CPA, Service provider)
Affiliate marketing and servicing could work well IMHO. But for me, you cannot have the luxury to do affiliate marketing if you don’t have a quality site/blog.
CPA offers would also take consideration if your site would really deliver good clicks to their product. Therefore you need to build the solid foundation of the site: content and design.
A great idea to earn money in SEO is to start in servicing.
Offer a small service that’s not hurting to the eyes of the client (in terms of budget). Like building up a Facebook page or doing website analysis for a cheaper cost.
This can be done within a day with minimal effort. Once the client is happy with your work, you can then offer higher services like doing the overall SEO of his website.
As they say, it’s quite impossible to get a one night stand with a girl on your first date. This concept still applies in client servicing.
Your prospects would likely decline your $1k SEO service offer if you abruptly give that quote to them without building up a good trust base.
How do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I’m still in the process of drawing out my life plans. Hahah. For me, It’s really hard to project the 10 years when you aren’t working on your present.
If it’s a dream that we’re talking in here, I wish to be financially stable while owning multiple online businesses.
I’ll still consider having an SEO consulting/servicing agency as one of my businesses but I’ll be more inclined into overall marketing (find a product to promote or do affiliate marketing stuff).
By chance I’ve become an accomplished person, I’d give myself a treat… travel to Machu Picchu or swim in Bora Bora.
Uuuhhh, life is good.
What is the major flaw of SEO’s nowadays?
If it would be on the aspect of client servicing, I guess the major flaw would be overpromising something they can’t actually deliver.
It’s fairly important that SEO should assess everything before telling projections and it’s also important that both SEO and the client be educated about the business and their target.
Everything should be based on data so there’s no sense in giving out unrealistic visions. In line with that, it’s also important that before starting out any campaign, the goals of the project are laid crystal clear.
If you weren’t an SEO what would you be today?
I have a strong feeling that I’d become a secondary school teacher instead!
Google is leaning more towards Mobile SEO with the disappearance of author photos in searches, how should SEO’s nowadays approach SEO given its more competitive nature to begin with?
SEO’s should opt into getting mobile responsive designs.
Although SEO is a different playing field with web designing, SEO’s should know that they needed to meddle with the website’s design if the mobile responsiveness and speed is affecting the overall website performance.
It’s not a priority, it’s a must.
It’s given that more and more people are using mobile to dig something in the web.
If your website is distorted and loading slow when people click on it, obviously it creates bad user experience reason to have an increase in bounce rate.
Even though SEO seems tougher today compared to the previous years, the idea of SEO hasn’t totally change over the years.
I mean doing well in keyword research, optimizing the site’s pages, building up good content and promoting it to get links and social signals are still there.
It’s really just about strategically planning everything (especially the process) while considering the current status of the website, avoiding heavy competition and finding loopholes where you have a higher chance of winning some good traffic in organic search.
Can you suggest any book, video, person, website that keeps you inspired in doing SEO?
For starters, I suggest you go over and read Moz’s beginners guide to SEO or Quick Sprout’s beginners guide to online marketing.
If you are technically looking for advance tactics in SEO and content marketing, I suggest you follow these people: Neil Patel, Brian Dean, Alex Becker, Matthew Woodward, Glen Allsop, Matthew Barby, Jayson DeMers, Jason Acidre, Glen Dimaandal, Gary Viray, Benj Arriola and Venchito Tampon Jr. (these are my influencers obviously).
Can you point us to the best SEO case studies that you ever encountered?
With regards to Social Media just how much power do you think it has to replace traditional link-building techniques?
The way I see it, social media didn’t really topple down link building but rather there was an essence to mix social media in the link building campaigns.
In my case, I usually integrate the idea of claiming in social media sites of the site I’m working on and fortify it with good links.
Increasing the following in social media could also lead to more voluntary links, referral traffic and possible business offers so it’s a win-win situation for both social media and link building.
Could you give me a list of SEO tools that you can’t live without?
I couldn’t get any project done unless I don’t have:
#1 Screaming Frog
#2 Google Keyword planner
#3 either will do: SEO quake/Mozbar
#4 either of tools these will do (Majestic, Ahref, OpensiteExplorer, SEMrush)
#5 Pro Rank Tracker
Can you tell me your biggest failure in an SEO project?
Failures in terms of meeting up the clients’ need for traffic, there would be a lot. But let me share a story about an SEO project I had.
In 2011, there came a good opportunity for me to test my skills in SEO.
I was hired to be the SEO manager of a US-based car insurance company. We did well in the first year working on the SEO and social media of the site.
We also had some wins in ranking keywords related to NJ and PA (US) and got some targeted traffic from these states. The site is quite established since the site was quite old.
In fact, it had almost 2k indexed pages in Google. Business was good but the major problem we had is that, the site is really odd-looking reason for it to have a huge percentage of bounce rate.
I had the strong suggestion to do a redesign for the site and we (client and me) agreed that the site should be resigned. In 2012, there were series of algorithm updates implemented by Google which shook the site’s traffic badly.
The traffic of the site had been declining month after month and I was feeling incompetent for not saving the site from sinking. I did what I could (at my power) that time to sustain the traffic and the ranking of the keywords but it kept on regressing.
At some point in our SEO campaign, I have felt really ineffective and it came to the point of giving up on the project without formally resigning.
It was like leaving the client in the air. I felt guilty because we had a very good relationship but somehow I was very futile.
After I left, the client decided to hire another company to work on the full-scale digital marketing campaign of the site.
In my case, I really thought it was the end of my SEO career and was losing hope for having zero contracts.
Financially, I was also hanging by a thread but I still had some faith that I could return back from the dead. So I spent most of my time in learning more about the updates, some more effective strategies, etc.
The current status of the client’s site: the design totally improved, looking aesthetically beautiful but then paused the SEO of the site therefore its having a little traffic from organic searches.
In what areas of SEO are you strongest? And In what areas of SEO are you weakest?
I’m not a total sage about these things but I think I’m capable of designing a good SEO plan, performing keyword research as well as ranking terms in Google.