SMX Social Media Expo co-developer Neil Patel is a delightful enigma. Buoyant, effusive, razor-sharp, corporate, child-like, and colloquial, this Orange County entrepreneur-college student drives hundreds of millions of monthly page impressions and harvests thousands of links for his clients from sites like facebook and digg. In candid conversation he tells us how, revealing traffic and linking success statistics.
Neil was kind enough to spend quite a bit of time on the phone with me. aimClear staff edited the parts we can share in public. Neil’s a founding digg-baiter-made-good in corporate America. He weighs in on facebook techniques, cross pollinating social media bookmarks, quality content, “shitty links”, “hot chicks” on youTube, Sphinn, the value of revealing you’re a search marketer, making “tons” of money, this week’s SMX Social Media conference, innovating, and “blogging crap.” Even though the phone-call audio is a bit fuzzy in places, we recommend you listen to the MP3 while reading for a true sense of Neil Patel’s masterful social media Zen.
Marty: So did you think one day “I’m going to start a company now”?
Neil: So I had an Internet marketing firm for four years, right? We’ve always been doing SEO and PPC and pretty much what ended up happening was my main concentration in SEO has always been link building. It is another avenue of building links. So what ended up happening was I said Ok maybe I can start advertising these services and sooner or later that became my primary focus. Most of my clientele now hires me for link building.
Marty: A lot has changed over the last few years in link building. What core values haven’t changed? What’s the core value? What’s always the same?
Neil: The core value is always quality and relevance. You don’t want shitty links and you don’t want links from off-topics right? Since day one it’s links from good authority sites have always been great. They’ve always helped your rankings. So it’s just a question of how do you get the links in quantity? That’s the main reason why I like social media. They may not be all authority links you get on the digg homepage and even the majority are nowhere near close to being authority links right? If even a small percentage are authority links that’s great. Just getting on there if you can get on there every single day is gonna really help boost your search traffic.
Marty: What is a large link quantity? Like how many decent authority links would you consider a huge success on digg?
Neil: Usually if the story gets on digg, despite what people are saying that Yahoo! Site Explorer shows the first hit that they get on digg, in essence usually most stories don’t get more than 200 links. When I’m talking about 200 links this, discontinuing or devaluing all the links from digg.com – I don’t really count em right? Those links just go away or if you get them from del.icio.us popular page you’ll get tons of links from del.icio.us but they’ll all go away at the end of the day anyway. They’re all from the same site. So what I consider a link is what other sites are actually linking in. If you can get 200 links in general, out of those 200 links maybe a handful of them will be authority sites with high PR or great rankings or a site like about.com or something of that nature.
Marty: Do you have a core group of social media friends that you’re tight with and when you personally or your company moves into new social sites do you go with all your friends together or do you like email tons of friends and go “hey I’m doing a facebook profile why don’t you come join me on facebook” or do you have a lot of different friends in a lot of different communities?
Neil: It’s more so, it’s spread out so it’s not really a community where everybody says like “hey let’s all go after twitter” or “let’s go after X, Y, and Z.” In essence what ends up happening is any time a new social site or something I feel can be valuable to my firm or my clients I’ll go in and go after, try to build power accounts, try to leverage the site, to test out the waters a bit…and sooner or later the people in the industry will join along, the people that I know on some of these other social sites or competing social sites will also come along so it ends up creating little groups and rings and things of that nature.
Marty: What advice do you have for diggers and stumblers who are authority figures – who are just now diving into facebook?
Neil: So if you’re just diving into facebook it’s quite different right? From the perspective of just the user facebook’s most popular for people setting up profiles and networking and connecting with other members. Add a profile, a picture, you know make sure your profile’s complete, just don’t fill out your name, your age and stuff like that – but really go in-depth with who you are, what you like, your interests…more people will get to know all about you and you should start networking with other people. Such as If I’m an SEO I’ll network with other people who are in the SEO community right? By doing things like that I may get more well known in the SEO community.
Marty: What is your impression of the value of establishing your reputation as a search marketing person on a site like facebook or Stumbleupon? People don’t care for marketing people on or Stumbleupon or facebook! When you go into these sites do you mask the fact that you are search marketing professional?
Neil: Oh yeah yeah. So on digg, Stumbleupon, and social sites like social bookmarking sites I do and for those sites there is no value for a marketer from what I can see right? This could just be me. I don’t see any value in coming forth and saying “I’m a search marketer.” Instead I see it’s more valuable in just hiding behind the scenes and getting tons of stories popular because you can make much more money that way.
On Facebook, I would actually say, saying that you’re a search marketer in who you are is actually valuable because there are tons of other search marketers out there and other people who can potentially leverage your services. I’ve been hit up multiple times on facebook for people saying “hey you want a job” or “hey I need help with a search marketing campaign-I’m just looking for a bit of advice” right? People I know and people I don’t even know. It’s a great resource and facebook’s less biased cause If someone doesn’t like you, they don’t have to connect with you. Right? It’s not like digg or many of the other social sites that are bookmarking related. It’s more networking related.
Marty: What are your impressions of Sphinn and how valuable do you think it is for a search marketing professional to establish their reputation there?
Neil: Yeah so I see Sphinn as digg but of online marketing in essence right? I think it’s very valuable if you’re an online marketer or looking to get into the field ’cause all the important stuff that you probably need to read is gonna be on Sphinn sooner or later on the homepage or wherever it may be. So if you’re a search marketer you have to use it.
Marty: Tell me, what are the top methods in your estimation for driving traffic from facebook?
Neil: Sure so if you wanna drive traffic to your website the best way is probably to do a facebook application. If you can build something viral you can get tons and tons of traffic. Our clients are getting anywhere from 100 million page views a month to two three hundred million page view per month-all because f a facebook app. That’s a lot of page views now …and it’s all about building something viral, provides value, and instead of ya know, taking the old school approach and just doing a hard push, you wanna do a soft push. Instead of selling directly say “hey come to my site it’s the best” instead you wanna provide value and give them a lot of data that can be useful to them….and then naturally they go “oh I’m getting a lot of great information here, might as well go to the site and see what else they have to offer.”
Marty: What’s your favorite viral facebook applications Neil?
Neil: My favorite one is Zombies. So Zombies is the app where you go around and just bite your friends. It’s a little stupid but the reason that I like it is that it’s very viral and everybody, whether you’re an SEO or just mom and pop, just random people are using it and having fun with it cause you’re biting your friend so see who can be like the ultimate zombie.
Marty: …and what do you the coolest case study of a facebook application that made somebody a lot of money?
Neil: [an application called] Where Have You Been in the World. You can like pinpoint on a map of where you’ve been and, I believe, a travel company actually bought it out for like 2 or 3 million dollars which isn’t too bad so…
Marty: That’s cool.
Neil: It didn’t necessarily make the guy direct money but it was a great idea and the concept was hey ya know-someone like me, I travel a lot, why not pinpoint on a map where I’ve been throughout the whole world and show everybody who visits my profile? Great for a travel company because you want to sell plane tickets and things of that nature….well then it’s a perfect way to dive into facebook.
Marty: Are you a personal fan of social the media tools to organize and connect with your friends to promote YouTube videos?
Neil: I am J…Yeah, so it’s, I’m all about how can you get more traction on YouTube because YouTube can drive tons of traffic and can make you tons of money…and shoemoney actually brought this example up to me 6 months or a year ago. It was a MusclyJerk, are you familiar with that?
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/E_8Caumh7do" width="297" height="245" wmode="transparent" /]
Neil: So it’s pretty much a guy show like hey ya know you pay less than a thousand dollars, you get some hot chicks to show some cleavage right, put em some bikini tops, “like yeah…I like a guy with muscles, blah blah blah blah blah” right? You’re talking about mostly geeks that are gonna see this-they’ve probably never been laid. You pretty much sent them a week…sent them to his website…and what ended up happening…people who ended up watching these videos went to his website and purchased and eBook. Now the guy made over a million dollars in profit. You can’t really beat that.
Marty: Oh no it’s always good to have a spare million huh?
Neil: Yeah exactly…
Marty: Neil, do you cross promote that you placed on one social media site from or to another?
Neil: I do so it makes it really simple and it’s a great way to get more and more traffic because the thing is if you get on the digg homepage, why not stumble it as well because chances are a lot of those digg users also use Stumbleupon. The more traffic you can get the better.
Marty: I get all my Sphinns from the search marketing community on StumbleUpon.
Neil: Nice…I agree…another thing is that a lot of the people who use Sphinn also use StumbleUpon and digg and a lot of these other soc’ sites because if you think about it, us marketers, at the end of the day, all we really care about is links and traffic so…
Marty: Right and you can get some incredibly excellent links from Sphinn …like and dozens at a time…for content that goes hot on the homepage.
Neil: Nice…yeah and it drive some decent traffic…it’s growing quite a bit and as Sphinn becomes more and more popular the more traffic it will start driving.
Marty: I’ve seen you lurking on Sphinn Neil, I see you there…
Neil: Yeah, well I’m a moderator…I’m probably one of the only moderators who has ever submitted a story to Sphinn…I’m probably going to end up building up my profile and then, going from there but…It will be a fun time to see what I can do on Sphinn.
Marty: What blogs do you actually read dude? What blogs do you read?
Neil: So sadly, I am not a guy who uses RSS at all…and I never use RSS, maybe for a day…I read a lot of blogs. What I pretty much do is, whatever I’m in the mood for I just randomly type it in. Such as if I want to read about blogging or something I may go to copyBlogger…or ….ya know…proBlogger…just type it in. If I’m looking for Web 2.0 I might go to techCrunch or mashable or those sites. If I’m looking for SEO stuff…yah know search stuff shoemoney, seoMoz, and the list keeps going on. So I’ll probably visit the majority of the SEO blogs out there and…cause I don’t read these blogs on a daily basis-I’s more so sporadic right whenever I’m in the mood for something…and the easiest thing for me now cause I don’t have much time because I do school and I run my own company…is…if I’m looking for SEO information instead of, you know, going through tons and tons of blogs, I just look on the Sphinn homepage.
Marty: Right because that’s all search marketing people bookmarking content for social…for search marketing people and then voting it to the top…it’s like you can find anything important from anywhere in the world on Sphinn quite easily.
Neil: To be honest that’s the main reason why I like Sphinn. I don’t have the time to read all these blogs so the easiest way is…how I can just read the good stuff…and pretty much read the crap…or not read the crap….and there’s nothing wrong with crap because I probably even blog crap myself…so.
Marty: Neil everybody blogs crap dude.
Neil: Yeah, exactly…
Marty: SMX New York Social is coming up and your one of the presenters there. What will we have to look forward to Neil? What’s gonna be going on?
Neil: A lot’s going to be going on so…in short, whatever you’re looking to learn about social media, It’ll be there at SMX, so, whether it’s digg, facebook, flickr, youtube, any of the soc’ sites, if you’re a company looking to leverage it from a fun aspect or a more corporate aspect, whatever it may be, your questions will get answered there at SMX so…if you’re a corporation I highly recommend going.