Growth Hacking Interview Series #125: Tadeusz Szewczyk
Tadeusz Szewczyk has more than 15 years of experience in online publishing.
For 5+ years he’s been known internationally for writing here on SEO 2.0 and blogs of Datadial.net, Positionly, Ahrefs, Hubspot, Google Blogoscoped among others (from About).
How did you start out as a marketer?
To be honest, I do not consider myself a marketer, I'm rather an optimizer or popularizer. Marketing is rather focused on advertising and sales, which is a pretty limiting scope for me.
I optimize sites for people, even if they don't buy. That's also how I started out.
I've been building websites since 1999. Until the end of 2003 when the so called new economy crashed, I lost my well-paid job as a web developer at a large Internet agency. We were building websites for the likes of Siemens or Adidas.
Then I decided to go solo because working for unethical corporations in an agency hierarchy was frustrating me.
I had to code the same boring HTML stuff the corporate execs could agree upon. Also I had to promote nuclear energy conglomerates my friends were protesting against in the streets.
I wanted to decide myself what I want to do and who to work with.
The demand for web design wasn't that big anymore, so I was looking what else businesses wanted and they asked for Google optimization, so I taught myself.
Looking back, what is your hardest struggle when it came to delivering results?
It's probably about dealing with client expectations. In the early years I had no idea what my work was worth and I charged very little.
Ironically the less people pay you, the more they want. The thinking goes something like this – low cost means low value.
I made them rank high on Google for a few bucks, but they weren't satisfied. I have clients that still rank #1 from the optimization I did for them in 2008.
These days I charge more so that clients are also more respectful.
How did you get your first client back then, and what kind of service did you do for them?
I just looked up job boards online and found that one. Back then they weren't even specialized sites for freelancers.
As I was already a blogger before I tried to sell the client a blog and regular content creation, but SEO especially in Germany, was all about manipulation during that era so the client wasn't really interested in all that “useless” content.
I guess I was a bit ahead of the time.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
For many years I was an analytics addict. I would look up when the Google bots came, which keyword ranking brought the most visitors each day etc.
So ranking on top and seeing the traffic stats was the reward. Today I don't watch the traffic on the street in front of my store to determine my success.
I rather look at the few people who contact me and want to work with me. It's who they are and why they came that makes me happy.
They mostly appear because they have read some of my writings. I even had a Zen master from Asia asking me for help after he found my Zen of SEO article.
We have a lot of readers who are bent on becoming freelancers, aside from freelancing how else can someone earn online, and what is your advise?
Freelancing is not really a career. It's just a stepping stone. Unfortunately I realized that too late. You can't freelance forever.
Why? You basically sell your time. Your time is limited though. Thus, you need to become an entrepreneur as soon as possible. You don't need to hire people or build a factory to do that.
On the Web you just need to change your mindset from selling your time to offering solutions.
A solution you provided in one hour may be worth 1000 hours for someone else, so exchanging time for money is pointless.
Thus, you need to create your own products and scalable services. You also need to earn money even when you're sick or spending time with your family.
Ebooks, WordPress themes, apps – there are many things you can build once and sell for a long time.
If you were given the chance to build your career all over again, what would you do differently so that you will achieve your dreams faster?
I'd probably charge more from the start and would not work for friends for free at the beginning. I'd also would start a blog with a business model in mind instead of just creating content, socializing like crazy without having a clear idea on how to make money from that.
On the other hand who knows where that would have worked at that time? I guess your mistakes are part of your path. You can't just beam yourself to the destination like in Star Trek.
How is your typical work day structured?
I start my day with workout. Invigorated after this I look up inspiring content, things like architecture, art, design, self improvement space exploration – things that get me in a positive mood.
I don't read the “news” with all it's Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. When you start your day with Ebola, ISIS and Donald Trump you will be depressed not productive.
Then I go on with reading industry news and also select a few valuable items I will share with my followers on social media.
Then I start with the more creative tasks. I try to mix different tasks. For example, I'd start with a blog post, then do a website audit and then some blogger outreach.
I have slots of 30 to 60 minutes I work on a single task and then switch so that I don't get tired too fast with doing the same type of work for too long.
In the evening I perform the simpler tasks, like looking up messages (mail, social media, phone). I then decide which to act upon immediately and which to plan for the next day or week.
Can you tell us about a time where you had to put in significant effort up front and then wait a long time for success?
Oh my. With me SEO 2.0 ebook. I started writing it and ran out of money faster than I thought so I had to take on client work again and write it in my free time. It's been years! It's still not published.
What recently-developed marketing strategy, technique or tool interests you the most right now?
I've developed the concept of popularization and am really keen on using it. The whole optimization for people idea is really groundbreaking despite what Google optimizers and marketers have been telling us all along.
It's like growth hacking, but without tricking people by technical means to sign up or something.
It's a whole new approach where Google, Facebook and other gatekeepers have to basically promote you in the end instead of you working for them by giving them content and selling them your friends.
I've got a prominent social network that wants to use some of my most creative techniques to expand its user base without stupid ads etc.
Can you tell us about a project you’re most proud of from your past work history?
My cycling blog over at bike-blog.info has been initially created for a client several years ago.
After two years and once the client ranked already with their main site they decided to move servers and while at it they simply “forgot” the blog and weren't able to restore it.
I then saved it and recreated it on a new domain. They simply didn't understand why they need all that content and the new domain “didn't even have PageRank!” so they dumped me.
It's thriving ever since and still ranks #1 or #2 for [bike blog] on Google.de despite not being updated for months sometimes.