Growth Hacking Interview Series #8: Glen Dimaandal

Glen Dimaandal is the founder and CEO of GDI, a Philippine-based online marketing agency.

He is also the current Online Marketing Manager of Emerson Network Power, a business platform of Fortune 500 company Emerson Electric Co.

Hi Glen, 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?

Thanks for interviewing me, Floyd. My name is Glen (obviously) and I’m a very regular guy. I like basketball, boxing and video games.

My backgrounds are in computer science (UST), journalism (Lyceum of the Philippines) and special education (DLSU Manila).

I’d like to think I’m a natural writer and I started out my career as a blogger for a gaming website called QJ.Net.

It was there where I learned the basics of writing for an online audience, using a CMS, using keywords and using Google Analytics.

I was later hired as a freelance SEO specialist by an Australian firm called RemoteStaff. Later on, I caught some lucky breaks, became an SEO manager and was fortunate enough to get hired by two Fortune 500 companies.

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?

Reading blogs is the easiest way to stay with the latest in the industry. I like Moz, Copnyblogger, HubSpot, KaisertheSage and Search Engine Land. Reading, however, can be very limited.

I’m lucky to have good relationships with some really great SEO minds like Sam Nam, JJ Pike, Jason Acidre, Sean Si, and Fervil Von Tripoli in my social circles.

I get together or chat with these people from time to time. The exchanges, sober or not, are very enlightening and they give me a better perspective on the state of the SEO landscape.

I think participating in forums is great, too. I just don’t have too much time to invest in it but I intend to do it more often.

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?

Good timing on this question. I just took in a client who was hit by an unnatural link manual action. We were able to get the action revoked and the site is gradually recovering its traffic and rankings.

When dealing with penalized sites, we usually follow this process:

Step 1: Review the site’s SEO history – If it’s a new client with an existing penalty, the first thing we check is if there was prior SEO work done, how it was done and when exactly.

We ask for all the reports we can get a hold of, especially if there are reports with details of where links were built and how it was done. This step has the potential of saving us a lot of time in using tools to look for bad links ourselves.

Step 2: Check the backlink profile on Google Webmaster Tools – When Google sends the webmaster a manual action notification email, one of the things they recommend is checking the “Links to Your Site” section in Google Webmaster Tools.

This shows you all the backlinks that Google sees being pointed to your domain. See how many there are and come up with a review strategy.

The last penalty case we handled was for a site that had about 4,000 backlinks from 265 unique linking domains. In small to medium-sized backlink profiles like this one, GDI performs a purely manual review.

We go through all the links that Google lists and we review the quality of the links along with the linking domains’ credibility. This allows us to separate the good links from the bad with laser precision.

If the number of backlinks is in the millions and the unique linking domains are over 500, it will take an inordinate amount of hours to finish the review process.

These cases require tools like Cognitive SEO to help us narrow down the list of potentially bad links that we have to get rid of.

Granted, none of these tools are perfect and each of them can produce false positives. Our team just uses them to make big lists of links more manageable.

Step 3: Manual link removal outreach – Once we’ve identified the bad links that might have caused the penalty, we’ll collect all the contact information of the webmasters who control them.

We politely ask for manual removal and we document all the emails and contact form submissions we’ve made through screenshots. These are properly labeled and placed in a Google document.

The documentation is essential in proving to Google later on that you did everything in your power to get your link profile cleaned up.

Step 4: Disavow links that can’t be removed. There will be webmasters who’ll ignore you, refuse your request or ask to get paid. When we get those responses, we simply mark the corresponding sites on our spreadsheet and include them in our disavow list.

It’s important to document these types of responses with screenshots and place them in a Google doc so you can show Google that the reason for your disavow request was not laziness.

Step 5: Submit the reconsideration request. GDI’s reconsideration requests are very concise and direct to the point, we acknowledge the issue, tell Google how we dealt with it and provide them with links to the Google docs so they can see we put in the effort to help them deal with web spam.

We usually get a response within 2-4 weeks. We have been lucky enough to have never been denied reconsideration after six separate cases we’ve handled.

Gary Viray recently wrote an excellent blog post featuring two cases of penalized websites. Super Kaizen’s readers can learn a lot from it, so please find it here.

What sets your SEO practice apart from the competition?  Are there any unique aspects to your consultancy that gives you a competitive advantage?

There are two things that set GDI apart from most SEO and digital marketing service providers in the Philippines.

First, we have some very, very good content developers who have the capability to create world-class assets for the businesses that we serve.

More than ever, content has become the single biggest factor in driving online marketing success.

Having great content that was derived from an excellent content strategy will withstand whatever algorithm changes that Google comes up with.

There are a lot of agencies that can claim they produce excellent content but GDI is one of the very few ones who can actually put its money where its mouth is.

Second, I was blessed to have had experience in working for two Fortune 500 companies. That experience taught me the soft skills that GDI needs to project a very competent, professional image to its prospects.

It may seem like a small thing, but when a client is choosing between two agencies and one of them has the edge in projecting a more professional image, the client usually goes with that agency.

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?

There are two levels in getting this done. The first one is by showing the potential benefits that SEO can bring to your client’s business.

Show them search volumes, projected click-through rates, projected additional conversions (given their current conversion rate) and how much money SEO will drive in.

If the prospect has enough data, we perform customer lifetime value (LTV) analyses to show them the value of each extra acquisition that they’ll get if they start getting more organic search visibility.

The last step is comparing the cost of our services with the projected additional revenue that we can bring in for them. That will allow us to make the case that our service will pay for itself in a few months’ time.

If this doesn’t work, we can add a little fear to the mix. That is, we’ll cite case studies of their competitors who are profiting heavily from SEO.

We then raise questions along the lines of “what would it do for your business if you can take in more customers while denying your competitors’ revenue from search?”

At the end of the day, pitching a successful offer is mostly about making your prospect feel smart about choosing you. Pricing has a little bit to do with it, but it’s mostly about educating your potential client.

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.

I have a few short ones:

  • Love your craft. Absorb, apply and refine all the things you learn.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. The best ones fail all the time. You just need to succeed once and its effects could change your life.
  • Find like-minded people. It will be very hard for you to succeed alone.
  • Don’t be afraid to show people what you know. Speak at conferences, write blog posts and participate in online discussions.

During your career as an SEO consultant what has been your favourite or most interesting project that you’ve worked on?

It’s probably two massive campaigns happening at the same time while I was working for the Brady Corporation. We had two very large ecommerce sites that sell more than 100,000 products each.

A lot of the products were very similar and we had to refresh a lot of the content to avoid getting nailed by the Panda update.

Making things more complicated was the fact that these sites had tens of thousands of crawl errors, limited link equity and very deep page hierarchies.

I had a team of 15 people to get the job done and we were able to pull everything off in less than six months.

Along with other marketing initiatives, we were able to increase each website’s income by more than $5 million that fiscal year.

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?

Yes, I just started my blog at www.GlenDemands.com. It will discuss mainly content marketing, SEO and online business strategies.

I’m also exploring the idea of opening a budget SEO brand with one of the most reputable SEO companies in the Philippines (hint, hint) and I’ll let people know as soon as we’re ready to launch it.

People can connect with me via social media. They can ask me anything about SEO, content marketing and management anytime. Don’t be afraid to chat me up. I don’t bite. J

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?

I’ve never been a user of blog networks. The first time I saw SEO LinkVine and SEONitro, I almost puked.

MyBlogGuest is very similar. I completely expected what happened to it to happen sooner or later and Google’s only getting better at going after these link schemes.

That said, content is everything for me and my team. It’s what we preach to ourselves and it’s what we educate our clients on.

My view of Google and its SERPs is pretty simple: the harder you try, the bigger the propensity that you’ll fall into the black hat trap.

Google wants sites that please people, not their algorithms. If your site develops a genuine following because of its great content, you won’t have to rely on Google to deliver the bulk of your traffic.

It’s like having a crush on a girl and wanting to take her out on a date. If you come on to her too strong, she’ll think you’re a creep.

If you’re too persistent, she’ll probably call the cops. But if you’re comfortable in your own skin and you exude coolness in everything that you do, it won’t be too hard to get her to notice you.

From there, you can elevate things to conversations and loftier goals.

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?

I’m generally a fan of the disavow tool, Floyd. If it makes the reconsideration process easier and it helps protect our sites from negative SEO, then we should all welcome its existence.

I do see a lot of misguided notions on the Web in how it’s used. Bottom line: as long as you don’t get trigger-happy with it, we should all be happy that the disavow tool is there.

What is the fastest way to generate backlinks?

Scrapebox. Just kidding. I dislike that tool.

If you want legitimate, editorially-granted and hard-to-duplicate links, building relationships with influencers is the best way to do it.

Be nice to them, make them aware that you’re knowledgeable in your own right and the rest will follow. You could be invited for guest posts, interviews and collaboration opportunities.

What is the best quick fix way in optimizing your website for SEO?

Making sure that your website is technically solid, has clear navigational pathways, appropriate on-page relevance signals and original, useful content will yield the quickest wins for any SEO campaign.

How do you measure your SEO success for a particular campaign?

With the “not provided” debacle in Google Analytics and the variance of SERPs depending on personalization and geography, it’s really hard (and foolish) to measure success by keyword rankings alone.

The two main ones we look at right now are organic search traffic and the conversions we generate off of that traffic.

We reference the figures that the client’s site experiences while we’re running their campaigns against what the numbers were before they hired us.

It gives us the best perspective on how our services are impacting their business.

What project that you’ve handled that gave you a hard time in optimizing yet you came out successful afterwards?

It’s a work in progress, but optimizing the Emerson Network Power site isn’t easy. It’s running on a Microsoft platform called SharePoint which wasn’t exactly built with SEO in mind.

Simple 301 redirection, canonical tag addition and page editing are not as easy as they are in other CMS platforms.

We’ve made significant progress and we rank very well in some of the most competitive keyword trees on the web but the job is far from complete.

And lastly can you suggest any book, video, person, website that keeps you inspired in doing SEO?

Sure. There are lots of great people and resources out there to learn from. Here are just a few:

Books

Websites

  • Content Marketing Institute
  • Copyblogger
  • Moz blog
  • Kaiserthesage

People

  • Joe Pulizzi
  • Rand Fishkin
  • Sam Nam
  • Benj Arriola
  • Jason Acidre
  • Gary Viray

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