Growth Hacking Interview Series #4: Sean Si
Hi Sean, 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?
Sure! My name’s Sean Si, I’m a born again Christian and the founder and CEO of SEO Hacker – an SEO and internet marketing company in the Philippines.
I studied IT in DLSU, (which I horribly failed at but by God’s grace, still graduated from) I love writing and public speaking as well as starting up businesses.
I got into SEO because of God. I started this blog named God and You where I blogged my heart out for the Lord. Then I realized that no one was actually consistently reading my stuff.
So I looked around the web on how to increase my site traffic and I stumbled upon SEO. I applied it to my site and I got it to rank.
Sooner than later, someone was hiring me for SEO then I thought of selling the services as a business.
Things rolled on from there.
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?
I read around 5 blogs a day about anything relevant to SEO and digital marketing on top of the books I’m currently reading.
That’s the fun in it – the changes in the SEO industry will keep you on your feet with life’s changes however harsh or minor it may be.
You could also check out how the SEO Hacker team keeps updated in SEO here.
Reading is one thing, writing about it and applying it is another. When I learn something new, I make sure to write it down in my blog and then apply it on the next possible occasion.
Or vice versa – I could have a problem at hand, research about it (read), apply it, and if I do it successfully, I blog about it.
Any of the two methods help me to keep myself alert and up to date with the latest in the industry.
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?
There have been some. Not a lot. You see in SEO Hacker, we get only a handful of clients who are willing to grow with us. We give them exclusivity and extremely passionate support.
So for the handful of potential clients who came to me with ranking issues what I’d do is do an initial analysis of how bad it’s gotten, give them a free recommendation about it, and if they want to acquire SEO Hacker to execute the strategy, then we quote them a price.
Here are some awesome blog entries about what to do when you get a site penalty:
What sets your SEO practice apart from the competition? Are there any unique aspects to your consultancy that gives you a competitive advantage?
It’s funny because I think SEO Hacker is arguably the most expensive SEO services company here in the Philippines.
We’ve shocked foreign prospective companies about our pricing – they often tell me “You’re as expensive as our SEO here!” And that’s fine.
We give huge value for money and we know what we’re charging for. I think this fact sets us apart although not necessarily in an advantageous perspective.
I think that how we do SEO is very unique. As I mentioned in the previous question, we are extremely passionate on support.
Whatever the client needs, we’ll find a way to do it. Often it even extends to design, development, even branding!
I also think that our branding carries a lot of weight. The clients we’ve built our portfolio with can be easily seen over the web – and have been with us ever since we started the company.
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?
Often clients love numbers. What I’ll tell them is very simple.
“Here’s your website. How much traffic are you getting? From that amount of traffic, how much are you converting to leads? From those leads, how much are you making on sales?”
Then I look at him straight and tell him:
“Suppose I could increase that number by more than 100%, would that make you happy?”
Usually I get the person’s attention from there. Of course, we don’t always guarantee a 100% increase.
This is just an example. I often show the math in a piece of paper or a whiteboard – real numbers that their company is facing.
They appreciate that.
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.
Read, learn, write, apply. I would start in trustworthy SEO resources such as Moz, SEO Hacker School or DistilledU.
If you’re serious about knowing how to get rich with SEO in-depth, my advise is to go to the SEO Summit 2014 .
I’ll be unloading a lot of business insider secrets there about how I actually did it with SEO Hacker and how you could do it too. Register here.
During your career as an SEO consultant what has been your favourite or most interesting project that you’ve worked on?
I had this scuba diving company as a client early in my career. They gave me tons of free dives that I had to blog about (which was exciting because I took a lot of photos from my dives).
They also licensed me as a basic and advanced PADI diver – all for free.
I enjoyed that a lot.
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?
I’m working on a SaaS project named Qeryz. It’s not yet publicly available but it’s our very first functional SaaS project which I’m very excited about.
You’ll see the first versions in the SEO Hacker and God and You blog. I’m partnered with our sister company on systems development for this.
I’ll let you know when we’re finally open for alpha or beta testing.
We’ve also recently updated our best kept SEO secrets eBook. That’s worth checking out.
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 think that content is extremely vital to SEO. I would never take on an SEO campaign project if I’m not allowed to deal with content on site.
You see Google only penalizes websites that contain signals of unnatural effect. I trust that statement around 90% of the time. And that’s pretty big.
Just like building a skyscraper, you have to dig deep before you start building on the actual structure.
I believe that creating content on site is digging the right, deep, and proper foundation for an SEO campaign.
Ann Smarty definitely did not deserve a Google penalty for the work she’s doing.
There are over 2,000 factors to rank in Google and perhaps somewhere half of that deal with unnatural signals that would lapse on your website’s ability to rank. It’s a tricky thing to do SEO nowadays.
But that’s a good thing – that means the dip new SEO guys will have to go through gets deeper and deeper.
Consequently, that means more business for us who have been in the game for a good while now.
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 think that Google was driven to a corner where it had little to no choice but to finally resort to releasing a disavow tool.
The people working at Google are approximately a hundred times smarter and more knowledgable than us in terms of semantic indexing, social and user activity, search patterns, linking profiles, etc.
So when they thought of the disavow tool, don’t you think they debated, and turned all the rocks they can look into before they finally decided to launch it?
Negative SEO has been happening way BEFORE the disavow tool was launched. It was simply kept in the dark. Black hatters were always aware of this.
So I believe what Google did was the smartest move they could muster.
What is the fastest way to generate backlinks?
Since the question has no parameters, I will assume you’re asking me in general. And the answer is: Scrapebox, SeNuke and all other automated backlink generating tools.
However if you’re asking me from the parameter of a white hatter’s perspective, I’d say content marketing and strong branding – which is exactly what I’m doing at SEO Hacker.
You could check out our extensive guide to content marketing if you want to learn more.
What is the best quick fix way in optimizing your website for SEO?
Technical SEO. Definitely. If you know the ins and outs of technical SEO, you’re one force to reckon with. However quick fixes don’t necessarily mean long-term results.
How do you measure your SEO success for a particular campaign?
Rankings, traffic, leads, conversions and client feedback.
What project that you’ve handled that gave you a hard time in optimizing yet you came out successful afterwards?
There was one specific client that got themselves penalized because of some shady linkbuilding done beforehand by this other much cheaper SEO company here in the Philippines.
I looked at their site and check their code and it was butt-ugly dirty.
There were some nasty keywords that had nothing to do with their site right inside the website. I’m not going to disclose what those keywords are but it was definitely damaging their rankings.
I immediately went to work.
Cleaned any and all malware (and there were a number of malware codes found in the site), optimized the code, fixed all the broken links and images, and voila – we immediately hit first page, first place after all the changes.
And lastly can you suggest any book, video, person, website that keeps you inspired in doing SEO?
Here’s a blog that held my interest as of late:
SEO by the Sea by Bill Slawski – his cracking of patents never fails to amaze me.
I couldn’t decrypt a single sentence of patent and yet Bill even translates it to usable information for SEO specialists to know what’s coming up next in Google’s (future) algorithm changes.
It’s also complimenting to my blogging style because I try to translate SEO to simple terms for SEO Hacker’s readers.
Here are some books (not about SEO) that I’m very fond of as of late:
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – long read but worth every word. I learned a lot on managing a team, importance of design and purity, innovation, artistically ‘stealing’ and improving ideas, increasing your net worth as a person, and so on and so forth.
Good to Great by Jim Collins – a wizard of management. His in-depth study laid out in easy story-type writing voice makes this book an easy choice for improving one’s management skills and wisdom. He has influenced most of my ideas in managing my own team in a lot of ways.
Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson (founders of 37 Signals) – This book just cracks it. Helps you think out of the box in terms of efficiency, innovation, product, work habits, and all things beyond.