Why You Should Build More Engagement Not Links with Bradley Benner

In this weeks episode, I’m discussing the semantic web with Bradley Benner from Semantic Mastery.

Bradley is a fairly well known SEO in our community, mostly known for his emphasis on building engagement instead of links.

So rather than mass-sending PBN links, you create different “entities” for your brand to establish it as a real authority site.

He believes this is becoming increasingly important for the algorithm, and will be the future of SEO.

Watch it here:

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Links and Resources Mentioned:

Topics Covered:

  • Why engagement is becoming more important than links
  • How to leverage the shift to the “semantic web”
  • How to save a massive amount of money with your content
  • Why you should use IFTTT to syndicate content
  • Will syndication be an issue in the future? Duplicate content?


Daryl Rosser: Hey, guys, Daryl Rosser here. Welcome back to another episode of the Lion Zeal show. In this episode we’re sitting down with Bradley Benner and we’re discussing the future of SEO and why he believes that heavily relies on the Semantic Web and why it’s becoming increasingly important today and only more so in the future.

What we’re going to talk about in this episode is what he believes is the Semantic Web, why it’s becoming really important, obviously, but more than that we’re gonna go specifically into engagement and why you need to focus on engagement as a metric more so than links, so right now he believes links are still very important, I agree with that, but he believes that engagement is becoming increasingly important similar to what we already know in terms of getting traffic on your PBNs increases the effectiveness of the link no matter what the metrics are, just having more traffic increases the effectiveness of a link and he believes that engagement like traffic and stuff like that is becoming increasingly important as has become basically feature of SEO based on his testing and obviously his predictions. Nobody knows exactly what Google is gonna do. This is a very advanced episode, we’ve had some very advanced topics, we do kinda expand a little bit for beginners but it goes pretty quick and pretty advanced because you don’t have that much time.

If you’re an absolute beginner, some of this may get lost on you but don’t worry about it, we do try to explain it for beginners and there’s a lot of content in here, so even if you’re a beginner, you’re going to get some nuggets out of this and especially if you’re into intermediate to advanced, you have some great ideas to basically scale what you’re already doing now and maybe improve in some ways and build up my engagement. I hope you enjoy the episode, let’s get straight into it.

Hey, man, thank you for joining me on the show, it’s very cool to have you here. For anyone that doesn’t know you yet, do you want to do a little intro and just introduce who you are and what is it you do?

Bradley Benner: Sure, my name is Bradley Benner. I’ve been doing SEO and digital marketing since 2010. I got my start with LeadGen so I was basically doing local LeadGen for local businesses and selling leads and then in 2012 I opened up an agency to where I could provide services and then in around 2013, about a year later I actually started a Mastermind group with some international partners called Semantic Mastery, that’s what we named it and we actually went public with it in 2014, and what I mean public, it was a small, private Mastermind and then in 2014 we started teaching SEO and digital marketing and that’s kind of where we are today.

I still run my LeadGen business, my digital marketing agency although I have winding that down because I’m doing more and more coaching now than anything but yeah, we have Semantic Mastery and now the next thing was SERP Space, which is our marketplace or done-for-you services marketplace and we’re kind of going full steam ahead with that right now.

Daryl Rosser: Interesting, man. Really curious because you took the opposite approach to what I see most people do and you went from doing LeadGen to running an agency and I see most people start with agency and like, “Screw this, I don’t want clients. Let me do LeadGen instead.” You did the opposite, what made you go into an agency from LeadGen?

Bradley Benner: That’s a great question. Interestingly I started in a LeadGen business because I didn’t know what I was doing and I wasn’t really capable of approaching businesses and pitching them my services when I had no track record, no history, and so originally I tried providing services to local businesses but I wasn’t gaining any traction, I wasn’t able to land any clients and it’s because I was inexperienced and obviously that came through with my pitching of my services and all that so I switched and went to doing LeadGen just so I could prove to myself that I could rank properties and start generating leads for businesses.

I started in the construction industry. I’ve got a background in electrical contracting so I’m familiar with working with service contractors a lot, so I just chose that niche or the contractor industries because I’m familiar with that. I started building and ranking WordPress sites and doing some MAPS SEO and stuff like that in the contractor industry so I started building up a portfolio of sites, of digital assets in other words.

What happened was, I live in Virginia in the United States and so our winters are bad enough. They’re not terrible but they’re bad enough to where the home construction and services industry slows down considerably for about three to four months every year. After about two years of running my LeadGen business but seeing my income decline significantly during the winter I decided that I wanted in, so in March of 2012 after my second winter of having my revenue decline, during that time period I said, “I’m going to open up an agency and provide services to local businesses as well” so that I could start to build a more reliable recurring revenue, if that makes sense.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Absolutely.

Bradley Benner: That’s really why I did it, but you’re absolutely right, Daryl, in that. After opening an agency and starting to deal with clients, it was just about a year or two before I realized I didn’t want to deal with clients anymore.

Daryl Rosser: That’s funny. I think everyone after a while, a year or two is even pretty long, a lot of people come to that realization very, very quickly.

Bradley Benner: Yeah.

Daryl Rosser: You’re still running the agency though, today? You still have some clients?

Bradley Benner: I do. I do. At the height of my agency, I had about 32 clients but right now I’ve only got 12 and it’s because I’ve seriously reduced my client base and really only kept a handful of the clients that I’ve had now since 2012. Most of the clients that I still have I’ve had for several years, and because of that they’re more hands-off now than … You know, as you guys know, SEO, a lot of times is more front end work. It’s like once you get ranked it’s easier to maintain the rankings than it is to get ranked to begin with.

Daryl Rosser: Sure, yeah.

Bradley Benner: The clients that I still currently have are clients that most all the work’s been done and it’s just a matter of keeping the foot on the gas and just maintaining their rankings. It’s not a whole lot of work for me and my teams really take care of all that stuff now, so there’s really no reason to completely drop them.

Daryl Rosser: Fair enough. When you went from 32 down to, what did you say, 12 now? Was that a very deliberate, like, “Hey, we’re not going to work together anymore”, like firing them or was it just slowly backing off how much you would communicate with them and they just dropped off?

Bradley Benner: It was a mix of both. Some of them were on the fence clients anyways that were kind of a pain in the ass to deal with and I’ll be honest with you, because of my background with the home construction industry I primarily have dealt with just contractors in that kind of industry for both LeadGen and for my marketing agency. I do have clients in other industries but the vast majority of them has always been home construction type stuff.

A lot of the companies I’ve dealt with are smaller so they’re more like mom and pop shops. My average client value is about $800 a month, and I know that’s low for a lot of what SEO people talk about, a lot of SEOs talk about $1500 a month, $2000 a month, and that’s great, that might be dealing with bigger clients but I was dealing with a lot of smaller, like mom and pop shops because me as a former electrical contractor, I was one of those types of guys, you know what I mean?

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

Bradley Benner: I wanted to level the playing field for the smaller groups, the smaller companies to be able to compete with their larger competitors. I specifically niched down into dealing with smaller companies. In retrospect, in hindsight, looking back, that wasn’t the smartest thing to do. As a lot of your audience probably know, dealing with those kind of clients, they’re usually more needy, they want more handholding, they want to ask more questions. I found that with the higher paying clients, they’re also higher quality clients.

Daryl Rosser: I agree 100%.

Bradley Benner: They’ll typically leave you the hell alone to let you do your work.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Hindsight.

Bradley Benner: Again, a lot of the clients that I’ve let go were ones that weren’t paying me enough for the amount of headache that they were causing and I just contacted them and said, “Look, you know, I’m switching directions, I’m going more towards the coaching and consulting” and I would give them an opportunity to find another service provider, or I would recommend to them too one of our coaching students and say, “Hey, look, I’ve got a client, would you mind taking over the project for me?” That kind of stuff. It’s been a mix of both. Some of them were just ones that fell off the radar. Others were ones that I literally said, “You know, we’re just not gonna work together anymore because I’m switching routes.”

Daryl Rosser: Okay. Fair enough. Back to the LeadGen stuff, when did you say you got started again? 2010?

Bradley Benner: Yeah. 2010.

Daryl Rosser: What was the ranking like back then? What sort of process?

Bradley Benner: Easy.

Daryl Rosser: Easy.

Bradley Benner: It was a lot easier than it is now. I was lucky enough to where when I first started in SEO, I really tried to learn affiliate marketing but I couldn’t gain any traction at all and so I switched over to start testing local and instantly I was able to just, and this was way back in 2010, so buying an exact match domain, almost guaranteed first page rankings, you know what I mean?

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

Bradley Benner: So I did. I started going after exact match domains for service plus city and WordPress sites and just slapping some content up, and I did a little bit of Youtube marketing but not much. It wasn’t until about a year later that I really got into doing a lot of Youtube stuff. But it was really simple. It was literally put up a exact match domain, you could keyword stuff the hell out of it. You could have the exact match domain then the exact same match keyword as the page URL, right? You would have exact match keyword plus exact match keyword.

Daryl Rosser: Like plumberslondon.co.uk/plumberslondon.

Bradley Benner: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Daryl Rosser: That’s insane.

Bradley Benner: Like carpetcleaningculpeper.com/carpetcleaningculpeper. Then you would take the images and you’d stuff the keyword in the filename, the alt text, the metadata of the images. I’d even go into the WordPress database in C-Panel and I’d change the images folder URL to where it would say the keyword in the images folder, so every image in the file URL for the image would contain a keyword as well. It was just really a way of how many times can we squeeze the keyword into the site and that’s what would rank it.

Daryl Rosser: It’s crazy. It’s really cool. What’s really fascinating is we look back now and say how easy it was back then and we also say how difficult it is today but imagine in seven years’ time from today, people will be like, “Oh, I wish I was around in 2017 when it was so easy. Just points and PBNs” and whatever strategy we use today.

Bradley Benner: Yeah. I think one of the interesting things is that from our experience at Semantic Mastery and a lot of the testing of stuff that we do is that more and more SEO signals are coming from engagement so user behavior, and I know why, it’s because Google can’t, it’s not that it can’t, but it’s a lot more difficult to determine spam signals than it is like backlinks for example, spam backlinks. Getting engagement, having engagement from profile, you know, we’re SEOs, so we create fake profiles all the time and fake Web 2.0 accounts for backlink purposes and all these different kinds of things and that’s well and good, it still does work to a degree for backlinking purposes and stuff like that but my thought has always been, and it has been for the last couple of years, is when you create what I call an orphaned account, so let’s say you go out and create a Web-to-Account for a backlink so that you can post some content and build some backlinks or whatever, a lot of the times that profile, that Web-to profile is going to be orphaned, what I call an orphaned account.

It’s standalone, it’s not really connected to anything else on the web. There’s no identity validation, there’s no browsing history and cookie history and a profile, like a person or what they call an avatar, an avatar of that profile. A link from that isn’t necessarily going to be counted or given nearly as much weight as perhaps a link from another profile that is well connected, it’s validated identity, it’s got a history, like an avatar profile history of searching for and engaging with content in that topic or whatever.

Daryl Rosser: Sure.

Bradley Benner: Again, when it comes to, and I can see why Google is now moving more towards user metrics as a ranking factor, in a significant ranking factor, and like you just mentioned, Daryl, I look back now seven years ago and think about how easy it was and how things are so much difficult now, and like you said, seven years from now we’re going to be thinking the same thing, and you’re probably right because we still can use links and stuff right now to help rank.

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely.

Bradley Benner: I think going in the future they’re eventually going to be completely deprecated in my opinion.

Daryl Rosser: Really? Can you expand more on why? Just because it’s easy to spam?

Bradley Benner: Yeah, because it’s so easy to spam and it’s much more difficult to fake user engagement signals from really bonafide users and that’s the whole key. Something we’re testing is building out profiles now that have developed their own histories. For example, we create profiles and we’ll assign a particular IP, a proxy and then we’ll use that same account over and over again without clearing cache and cookies and history and all that kind of stuff so that it’s basically building a footprint and also getting in that profile’s now engaged on, for example, Google Local Guides or Yelp Super Reviewers and things like that.

We start to build these profiles up and these profiles become digital assets in themselves because they can help to provide backlinks and social signals and engagement signals on other property. It’s not about developing a web property so much anymore. That’s still part of it. What I’m saying is we’re working on developing profiles now instead of specific web properties, we develop the profiles that then we use to actually perform user engagements on the web assets that we want to rank. Does that make sense?

Daryl Rosser: Sure. Yeah, so rather than just creating, I don’t know, say a Twitter or Web 2.0 or something, and just adding a link and then being done with it, close it and never get on again, instead you’re going out there and actually using it as a real profile, you’re building like a persona around it, you’re Tweeting other things, you’re reaching out to other sites and whatnot like your building up as a legit person.

Bradley Benner: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And building an actual relevant following so that those profiles can also generate traffic.

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely.

Bradley Benner: That’s the whole point. It’s difficult and I think that’s why we’re trying to develop a way to automate building out these profiles as much as possible because I think that’s really where the bulk of … I think the biggest bang for your buck will be from user engagement signals. I mean again, links aren’t going away any time soon. They’re still very much a part of the algorithm and they shall be for some time in the future but I can see, it’s pretty apparent that Google’s starting to place less overall significance on links and more overall significance on things like user metrics, right? And clickthrough rating.

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. People already are finding that traffic on the PBNs has massively increased the effectiveness of the link.

Bradley Benner: Yeah, exactly right. Here’s the thing, there’s some traffic spoofing programs, applications out there that will send bot traffic through various IPs and they’ll switch up the user agents and the browsers and all that kind of stuff but a lot of that is still bot traffic so again, even though that still works, there’s several different of those types of what I call CT spam or clickthrough spam, CT spam applications, there’s a lot of them out there but a lot of them are, it’s still effective to a point but it’s not as nearly as effective as it would be if they were true clickthroughs from real profiles and that’s what I’m talking about. I still use the hell out of some of these CT spam apps and the way that I use them for social referral traffic.

In other words, instead of having the bot go search for a keyword and then find the URL that you designate you wanted to click on and then click on it and stay time on site for however many long and maybe view some internal pages and all that, again, that’s well and good, it still provides a traffic signal, however the bot doesn’t have a history, and if it does have a history, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a really random history.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah, and some of the crappy ones, commercial, sever IPs and stuff as well.

Bradley Benner: Exactly. My point is there’s some benefit to it, there’s no doubt but a much bigger benefit would be to have a clickthrough from one of those profiles that have a relevant history and that kind of stuff. Again, I use those kind of bots for that kind of stuff but I think there’s going to be better, more effective ways to do it and that’s what we’re seeing more and more now with our own testing and stuff. Like you said, take a PBN for example, if you send real, relevant traffic through that PBN link, that link now becomes exponentially more valuable than it did if it was just sitting out there.

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. Yeah. How do you think that’s going to play out for us? Are we going to have the advanced bots that automatically do this stuff or are we going to have to just generate, try and build up legit traffic to profiles in Web 2.0s and PBNs? How do you think it’s going to affect us?

Bradley Benner: Well, as SEOs we’re always going to find ways to automate and spam it.

Daryl Rosser: Sure.

Bradley Benner: We’re going to find ways to spam it. As sure as the sun is gonna rise in set today, you know? That’s what we’re trying to do now, is develop a way to automate building up those persona profiles and then using things like iMacros for example. It’s not 100% automated, it’s semi-automated. In other words we’re working on training virtual assistants for example to go in and run iMacro programs, so they still have to log in or open up the browsing window and hit an iMacro script and let it run and then come back and maybe hit another script and that kind of stuff, but it’s still, in my opinion, eventually it could probably be fully automated, I’m sure. We just haven’t reached that point yet.

Daryl Rosser: Sure. What sort of signals are you trying to build up now that help you increase rankings or at least build more trust and that’s gonna help you rank easier?

Bradley Benner: Well, we are big believers in content marketing as part of it. We have our Syndication Academy which is our flagship product really. It teaches people how to build syndication networks for content from their blog for example, or Youtube, using Web 2.0 social media properties. Between our syndication networks where we talk about building the branded ring, so the syndication network is essentially a tier one set of properties around the money site for example that are all branded, so they’re consistent with …

Again, as SEOs we try to hide our footprints and stuff like that. This isn’t hiding a footprint, you’re claiming your footprint. You’re saying, “Hey, this is us on all these other properties. This is an extension of our brand.” Therefore whenever we publish content to the blog, it syndicates out, provides a backlink back, and as our powerful brand signals, and that’s what, again, through what we’re seeing is Google is reward brands and authority more and more. If we can, and remember, we’re in the Semantic Web, and that’s Web 3.0 and as it continues to evolve and that’s why the Semantic Web is helping to eliminate the need for backlinks, or at least reduce the needs for backlinks because of the way it validates both entities and identities.

When we build the syndication networks around our web properties or assets, it’s intentionally to claim our footprint and to say, “Hey, this is us everywhere else.” It’s basically telling Google that we’re not orphaned accounts, we’re not trying to hide anything, we’re trying to tell you that this is us and we have a presence in all these locations.

Between building up those profiles, whether it’s a brand like a corporate brand or a personal brand or whatever, it doesn’t make a difference, and then also building up the profiles, like the ancillary or supporting profiles, like what we were talking about with setting up additional profiles that are relevant as far as topical relevancy and that kind of stuff and then sending traffic from them to the branded properties to the money site. That’s what we find to be really, really effective right now.

Daryl Rosser: Interesting.

Bradley Benner: We’ve been doing a lot of content marketing stuff and really working on building brands of any digital assets, and remember, guys, a brand can be just a website. The website can be its own brand. We rarely focus on building the brands right now more than anything and we find that that has a tendency to help rank much faster than if you were just going after straight, off page SEO and that kind of stuff with more links and things. Does that make sense?

Daryl Rosser: Interesting. Yeah, I think so. Are you building links like PBNs and everything on top of that or is it purely setting this stuff up and content marketing? Or it depends on the competition.

Bradley Benner: Well, to be honest, I do some inbound link building bot nearly as much as I used to because we found we don’t have to. Still use them sometimes. If it’s particularly competitive stuff then yes, absolutely we’ll use links. I still very rarely link actually directly to the money site anymore because I like to have as much control as possible over any inbound links coming to my site, that I build. In other words if I’m going to order or build a link somewhere, I want to be able to have control over it after the fact, so I try to build stuff directly too, like the tier one properties instead. The branded properties, and they’re extensions of the brand so a lot of that passes through anyways.

I used to run a large PBN network, several thousand sites but I’ve actually let most of all those expire over the last year because we’ve gotten away from doing it. We do the drive stack stuff, I don’t know if you’re familiar with RYS Academy and Google Drive Stacks, I’m sure you are. That works incredibly well by the way.

Daryl Rosser: Do you want to explain the basics for anyone that doesn’t know?

Bradley Benner: Using Google Drive as a link building tool and it’s a way to also help to validate an entity. Very, very powerful, guys. If you take Google Drive properties and you set them to public, they’re indexable and you can actually push link equity through Drive stack or Drive properties. All of them, sheets, docs, drawings, maps, presentations, all of those will pass juice and it’s really, really powerful because, guys, you’re now siphoning off of Google’s own domain. And so it’s really powerful what you can do with those.

Again, we’re doing that. Those are pretty much standard operating procedure for any digital asset that we’re launching or taking over if it’s an existing property and we’re starting to work on it. We do the syndication network right off the back and then the Drive stack right off the bat then we set up the content marketing schedule because that’s one of the most critical components of having the whole syndication network work correctly then we do some press releases and then a bunch of inbound links, link building to the network properties, not to the money site, to boost it. We have this whole process that we use to launch new assets that just works really well.

Daryl Rosser: That’s really cool. Interesting. Do you think this is more time-efficient or faster to implement than the old school, go out there and set up a PBN and other links to it?

Bradley Benner: Well, I don’t know that it’s faster. It very well may not be. I think probably the more traditional route would be faster but I’m trying to always think about longevity down the road, and so we’ve been focusing more on Semantic Web optimization than traditional off page SEO stuff if that makes sense for the last year and a half or so. I don’t work for Google, I can’t predict what the hell Google’s gonna do tomorrow.

Daryl Rosser: I wish you could.

Bradley Benner: Yeah, I mean none of us can, I wish we could, but we’ve been trying to use educated guesses on how we think it’s going to evolve.

Daryl Rosser: And testing I presume.

Bradley Benner: Yeah, we test everything and we’ve seen good results with our methodology and that’s why it continues to evolve and go more towards the Semantic Web optimization than traditional SEO but it really is just a wild ass guess on our part, you know what I mean?

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely.

Bradley Benner: It’s an educated guess but it’s still just a guess because we don’t work for Google, so to answer your question, is it any faster? Probably not but I’m hoping that the traditional route of just building PBN and links and stuff, I think that is slowly fading and I don’t want assets that I work on today to not be generating revenue a year down the road if that makes sense.

Daryl Rosser: Sure, it’s understandable. I’m curious then, you keep talking about Semantic Web and stuff. Why did you name it, your brand, Semantic Mastery? What was your reason behind thinking about Semantic Web so much?

Bradley Benner: Again, when we started our little Mastermind, before we went public with products and stuff like that, we were all really interested in the Semantic Web and to start learning how to optimize for it because we knew it was coming, because this was back in 2013, when it was really like infancy stage. Semantic Web technology’s been around for a while but Google didn’t adopt it at all and it still isn’t fully adopted but it’s being integrated more and more. Hummingbird was the first iteration of that that I’m aware of, and then Rank Brain is an extension of that as well, but my point is is that we were looking at, we were trying to future cast, trying to think what was going to be coming down the pipeline. This was back in 2013 when we formed.

Daryl Rosser: Oh, wow.

Bradley Benner: Yeah, exactly. We called it Semantic Mastery because our goal was to become masters at optimizing for the Semantic Web, and it’s been a lot slower of a progression as far as Google’s adoption of Semantic technologies, but we’re seeing it, it’s happening but it’s just happening slower than we had assumed.

Daryl Rosser: Okay. Going back to something you said earlier again, just for people that are more beginner level, not quite understanding, you talk about setting up all the branded tier and your syndication, how exactly do you syndicate that a little bit for our beginners here?

Bradley Benner: No problem. Very, very simply there is a great application, I’m sure you guys are aware of this, it’s called IFTTT, which is IFTTT.com. It’s if this then that it’s what it stands for. It’s a free application, guys. Well, they have paid versions now but essentially it’s like a trigger and action type application. You can go in and you can connect your RSS feed, let’s say, from your main money site. Doesn’t have to be WordPress as long as it has an RSS feed. You can use that as a trigger and then you can connect let’s say Blogger or Tumblr or WordPress or Diigo, for example. You can connect Google Drive. You can connect various Web 2.0 social media, cloud storage properties, bookmarking sites.

Essentially what IFTTT will do is it will scan your RSS feed and pull it and see if there’s any news posts and if it sees a new post from the last time it checked it then it will trigger based upon the recipes or what they call applets now that you set up inside of IFTTT and you can like if new RSS feed item is detected then republish to Blogger or republish to Tumblr or whatever. It’s a very, very simple strategy that, believe it or not, I actually learned that back in 2011 from a WSO, I don’t know if you remember those. You remember WSOs?

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. I think people still do them.

Bradley Benner: See, I haven’t been on them forever but Warrior Special Offers, and it was a $7 PDF by this dude named David Cossack or David Coss I think it was. His name was Cossack. Anyways, it was a $7 PDF and it introduced me to IFTTT and how to use it these little recipes for syndicating content which would help to rank and I can’t believe it because that really ended up, I started testing it and using it back in 2011 and it worked like gangbusters and I’ve been using it ever since and it really is the foundation of all SEO work that I do now. I always start with the syndication network based upon IFTTT training and then just build from there, and it’s still very, very effective.

In fact, it’s not easier to rank now but the networks are more effective now because of the Semantic Web integration whereas back in 2010 or 2011 or whatever, that didn’t exist. Having a branded network of properties around a money site or a Youtube channel, it was only the SEO benefit. It had nothing to do with the branding or entity validation. It was specifically for just basically the backlinks. But it has evolved so much more now to where actually the backlinks are initially less effective from the networks than the branding is, in other words, but over time, with consistent action and blogging continuously, and that’s why content marketing is so critical to it, you start to theme the network based upon the content and over time the relevancy and authority of the network itself rises and once it does, it obviously, ultimately helps your digital asset, your trigger point to rise in the SERPs as well.

Daryl Rosser: Cool, man. Another beginner question, because I’m asked this all the time, when you post say a blog post on your blog and it syndicates to Blogger.com or whatever, your profile’s already set up, is that duplicate content or does it even matter?

Bradley Benner: No. No, duplicate content only matters when it’s on the same domain. That’s when it will cause issues. The other part of this is it’s not duplicate content because all you’re doing is sharing content to your own branded profile, so in other words, let’s say it’s JoesPlumbing.com and I always use contractors as examples because that’s what I primarily work with, let’s it’s JoesPlumbing.com and he’s got all his network properties around his money site that are all brand for Joe’s Plumbing. They’ve got the same graphics, everything is consistent across there.

Well, they’re his social media properties so if he posts a blog post, what’s Joe gonna do? He’s gonna go share it on Facebook and share it on Twitter and maybe repost it to his Blogger blog if he has it and that’s completely logical, it’s normal. It’s even what the biggest, most trafficked websites do. They post to their blogs or their websites and they get shared out across social media.

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely.

Bradley Benner: Number one, it’s just sharing your content to your own branded profiles. Where it gets tricky is if you’re just building persona-based syndication networks specifically for backlinking purposes that you’re going to syndicate content to. Now, that can get tricky because then you can create a footprint but when you are using a footprint, when you’re syndicating your own branded network you’re not trying to hide a footprint. Again, you’re saying, “This is my content. I published it here but I want to put it on all these other places so more people can see it. Does that make sense?

Daryl Rosser: Yeah, absolutely.

Bradley Benner: Then part of that is when you syndicate the content. Anybody that’s been through any formal education knows that when you are citing a source, when you’re referencing somebody else’s content or material, you’re supposed to provide attribution, you’re supposed to cite the source where you got the content, so part of the process of setting up these syndication networks, which are 100% automated once they’re set up is making sure that you have an attribution link in each one of your posts so that when it syndicates onto let’s say Blogger or Tumblr somewhere in the post if not the top or the bottom, but somewhere in the post it says, “This post was originally published on” and it links back to the original source. Once that’s done that eliminates any potential duplicate content issues because you’re citing the source, you’re saying, “Hey, this is republished from over here and you point to the source.”

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. 100% agree. One thing you mentioned that I’m curious about is do you do syndication network stacking or something where you have multiple syndication networks and from that main network it goes to other ones and whatnot?

Bradley Benner: Absolutely. That works better for, you can do it for blog syndication as well, and we’ll talk about that in a second, but for Youtube syndication or video syndication it works incredibly well because there are no footprint issues with Youtube syndication. There are none yet, not saying it’s not gonna happen at some point but you can stack as many networks onto a Youtube channel as you want. As many tier one networks, you can go out with multi-tiered networks where essentially, you know, Youtube, you upload a video to Youtube or livestream it Youtube, it automatically published itself to your tier one network then you can have tier one network properties actually trigger to your two network properties and then you could go out beyond that.

You can create this daisy chain, this cascading effect and there are zero footprint issues with Youtube videos. There are footprint issues if you import the video description, and that causes footprint issues on some of the blog sites, but if pretty much all you’re doing is syndicating and embed, plus an embed, maybe a link back to channel or a link back to the Youtube video itself, so the Youtube URL, then that’s fine, I’ve never experienced, we’ve got some large networks that we use for video syndication that never had any footprint issues.

With blog syndication I always recommend that you just stick with a single, tier one, branded ring that you’re gonna syndicate your content to. You can do tiered networks with blogs syndication but, again, remember, Youtube can withstand, there’s no footprint issues with Youtube because it’s Google’s code. All you’re doing is you’re acting as a publisher for Google when you create these networks and you syndicate videos to them. You’re giving Google more exposure.

When it comes to blogs though, blog syndication, if you start creating a bunch of syndication networks that are persona-based or whatever, they’re not specifically tied to the brand and you start syndicating your content to it. That’s gonna create a footprint because there’s gonna be the same content across, there’s no duplicate content issues, but it’s gonna be easily recognizable by the algorithm that the same piece of content is now syndicated to multiple profiles and it’s all the exact same with the link pointing back to the same location.

That’s gonna create, Google’s algorithm is smart enough to know that you’re doing that specifically to game search results, to manipulate search results. That creates footprint issues. I always recommend for ease of use is to set up just a branded tier one ring and use that and then just boost the hell out of the tier one ring, in other words build links to constantly be trying to improve or increase the authority of the tier one ring.

However, that said, you can use tiered networks on blog syndication but you have to take certain measures to reduce footprint. You can’t eliminate it entirely but you can reduce it, and one of the ways that you can do that is, let’s say, and usually when we talk about tiered network structures, we talk about using three of the blog’s properties and the tier one ring to trigger the second tier ring, and I know this is getting a bit more abstract but my point is if you post a blog post to your blog and it automatically syndicates to your tier one network, and let’s say you’ve got Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress are your three blog properties, well, then you can create another whole network where Blogger is the trigger and then another whole network where Tumblr’s the trigger and another whole network where WordPress is the trigger, and all of this is automated, so all you do is publish content to your blog.

Well, now that post is gonna syndicate to all the properties tier one, those three blog properties as well, then it’s gonna syndicate out to the next ones. All of them are gonna have the same content and link pointing back to the original source, which is your attribution link.

That can create a footprint issue. Why it creates a footprint issue is because the three persona-based tier two rings or syndication networks are gonna be like John Doe and Jane Smith or whatever and the third one, you know, Mark Fisher, I don’t know, whatever. My point is that now those three networks are gonna have only content from one source, you know what I mean?

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

Bradley Benner: It’s very apparent that they were set up specifically only to manipulate search results, to provide backlinks or whatever. The way that you can mitigate that or to reduce, you can’t eliminate it entirely but reduce it is if you set up at the first tier trigger point, so in other words at Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress of your tier one, if you go in and you set up additional RSS triggers from other related content sources, so sources other than your blog.

Daryl Rosser: Not yours. Yeah.

Bradley Benner: Yeah, sources other than yours. Because then what you do is if set up, we use Joe’s Plumbing again, you could go find like the DIY, Do It Yourself network, This Old House, Home and Garden, all these different home improvement style type related sites and go grab their RSS feeds and use those as additional triggers at the tier one trigger point, because then those tier two networks will start being populated with content on a regular basis that’s relevant and related but from multiple sources, so therefore whenever you post a post to your blog and it goes all the way out to tier two, it’s gonna be among various other content sources that are all related so you actually siphon some authority and relevancy but at the same time you’re reducing footprint because now it’s buried among a whole lot of other variety of sources, if that makes sense.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah, 100%. Cool, a few questions on that. You got something else to add to that?

Bradley Benner: Well, I was just gonna say, you can do that, it’s a lot more labor-intensive to set up and more things can break down at that point because when you’re relying on other people’s RSS feeds for content, things happen with feeds, they break down, sometimes you’ll see stuff where feeds will overreact and they’ll post several times for some reason. There are things that can happen when you set up related content triggers on that, so personally I’ve gotten away from doing that because I manage too many damn websites to try to manage and maintain all of those. I stick with just the branded tier one rings but I know some of our students or members or whatever that are only dealing with the one or two sites or a handful of sites, they prefer to use the multi-tiered method because it is more effective. It’s just more work too.

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. All right, interesting. One of the things you mentioned earlier was powering up that core, branded network. How exactly do you do that?

Bradley Benner: Build links to it and also send traffic to it.

Daryl Rosser: What sort of links?

Bradley Benner: Any kind. Obviously, if you knew what you were doing, you can use spam tools. We use spam tools, RankerX or Web 2.0 and Ranker or whatever and I don’t run any of the tools myself, I haven’t run a spam tool in years because I hired that out. We have a link building team now that does it. Our manager, [Dadia 00:41:29], he’s a ninja. Anyways, we were on GSA and all the different spam tools but essentially on tier one for the branded networks, you want to treat those as extensions of your brand, so you don’t want to just throw kitchen sink spam at them. You don’t want to do that.

What we do is we focus on the higher metric properties for contextual links. They’re tier one link to our tier one properties. To our money site they’re tier two links but I very rarely ever talk about building links directly to the money site, so when I’m talking about tier one links, I’m literally talking about tier one links to my network properties. Does that make sense?

Daryl Rosser: Okay, sure.

Bradley Benner: They’re tier two links to the money site but I very rarely build external link to the money site, so they’re tier one links to the network properties, which is the branded network. From that, what we’ll do is for each property in a network, we’ll build somewhere between 50 to 125 contextual links, preferably from higher metric properties, and then behind that, so the tier two links we’ll throw kitchen sink spam, because that basically puts any kitchen sink spam like three tiers away from our money site. Does that make sense?

Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Are you talking like old school spam as well? Like 10,000 links a day and that crazy stuff?

Bradley Benner: Yeah, yeah. We can go crazy with it.

Daryl Rosser: Nice.

Bradley Benner: And it works. Forum profile links, all that, it works. It’s really just about powering up those contextual links and getting them indexed and that kind of stuff.

Daryl Rosser: Interesting. Are you not worried, especially focusing on the Semantic Web, you really future-proofing it for that, that the spam stuff could be heavily affected in the future?

Bradley Benner: It could. It absolutely could but that’s why we do everything to the Web 2 properties instead, you know, the syndication network properties because that acts as an SEO firewall. In other words that’s why we do everything to there because in the event something were to happen where that could cause some problems, we could always go in and modify those network properties to remove links to our money site and whatever and the point is it acts as … Terry Kyle, he’s a great SEO and he coined the term switchbox SEO. Switchbox SEO is always using 301 redirects or whatever, anywhere that you can control the link flow so that if something negative were to occur, you can open the switch and just like that remove the link flow. Essentially that’s why we use our network properties as SEO firewalls because that is our buffer zone.

Daryl Rosser: Fair enough. Okay, and another question on the networks, how do you avoid your profiles and stuff being shut down, taken down, disabled, whatnot?

Bradley Benner: Provide valuable content. I mean honestly that’s the name of the game. If you’re focusing on providing decent content, and that’s the whole trick, and that’s why I talked about content marketing being so important because once the networks are set up, that’s automated. It’s 100% automated from that point forward. You don’t have to do anything. Except you can boost the networks by building links to them and such and sending traffic signals through them. We mentioned that as well, engagement signal, so that’s something else we do to power up those networks and send traffic signals through them using automated sources like the bots we were talking about but also now we’re working on developing out the profiles and sending real, and I say real because they’re real in the eyes of Google, but they’re still fake profiles. You know what I mean?

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

Bradley Benner: I’m saying the content marketing is so important because if you don’t have to worry about, us as SEOs and people that are providing services and that kind of stuff, we’re always thinking about how can we improve the rankings so let’s go out and build more links, let’s set up more Web-tos, let’s do all this other stuff but if you have the infrastructure in place to where all you need to do is focus on providing valuable, relevant, high quality content, Google’s always said, “If you build it, people will come.” If you build a website with really valuable content, it will naturally get ranked in the search engines. We all know that’s bullshit, right? We all know that’s total crap.

Daryl Rosser: Yeah.

Bradley Benner: But the thing is if you have the system in place that will promote your content for you then you can focus more on providing good content and then that prevents your network properties from getting terminated. Really, most of the time network properties get terminated are for two reasons: number one, dirty IP, in other words you’re using an IP that’s been flagged by that particular platform for too many account creations for example or whatever, so it’s either dirty IP or the content is crappy and spammy or you’re posting too often, too frequently which can also get network properties shut down, but those are usually the only things that cause network properties to get shut down, so if you have branded properties that you’re taking care of them, you’re treating them with care because they are extensions of a brand then it’s very unlikely that they will get terminated.

Daryl Rosser: That’s really interesting. I want to ask about the content but one quick thing first then, say you were an agency or say you’re working on affiliate sites and you’re working on 10, 20 branded profiles for each of these different brands, creating other profiles for each of these different brands, do you use the exact same IP address to create all the accounts or do you-

Bradley Benner: Hell no.

Daryl Rosser: No.

Bradley Benner: Hell no. No, we have a team that builds all our networks and stuff for us so we just use various, we get like 100 dedicated proxies per month, for example, and we just rotate through those to build, and then once the networks are created, whoever they’re being delivered to, whether it’s somebody buying networks from us, one of our students for example, or if it’s a business who’s buying a branded network, once we deliver the completed network, we ask them within 72 hours to log in to the main Google profile, the rest of the accounts don’t usually matter but at least the Google profile to bind it to their IP.

Oftentimes, well, not often, it’s rare that if you do it within 72 hours of it being created, it oftentimes will not trigger a reverification. After 72 hours it often will trigger a reverification but once it’s been bound to their IP then they can log into it at will and it won’t cause any problems, does that make sense?

Daryl Rosser: Perfect. Yeah, absolutely. So proxies.

Bradley Benner: Yeah.

Daryl Rosser: Do you test them first or anything? Because obviously you can get bad proxies or bad IPs in there.

Bradley Benner: Yeah, we just use a bulk proxy checker to see if they’re blacklisted but the proxy provider I’ve been using, I’ve been using that for four years and they’re really good. It’s Easy Proxies, that’s who I use. Or, excuse me, I use those for our permanent proxies. Our rotating proxies are the ones that we get every month are from BuyProxies.org. They’re a good provider.

Daryl Rosser: Cool. You say that one of the most important pillars of your strategy is content then.

Bradley Benner: Mm-hmm.

Daryl Rosser: Are you investing a lot of money? Do you have very high quality writers that you outsource to?

Bradley Benner: Yeah, we outsource most of our content to what we call curators. As you just said, having high paid writers or whatever, high dollar writers, that’s the problem, is finding subject matter experts or topical experts. When you go to buy content from one of these content farms, there’s a million of them out there. I won’t specifically name any of them, but the content farms is garbage content, it’s garbage. For SEO articles and stuff, fine, but for money site content, don’t ever use that crap because it’s just awful.

Yeah, I have writers that I go to when I need stuff written about and they’re expensive but what I’ve done instead was I started using curated content and content curation is so much easier and more effective and it’s more efficient and it’s cheaper because the thing is with content curators, all you need to do to train is teach a curator how to locate and identify good content in a particular niche or industry and then collect and organize that content and that’s all you have to teach them to do. They don’t have to be subject matter experts, all they need to know how to do is how to gather content and organize it and then republish it.

In other words, for example, like a plumber. Plumbing blogs, who the hell wants to read a plumbing blog? Nobody really but it’s part of our strategy for SEO. Nobody wants to read a plumber blog but we do that anyways because it’s part of our SEO strategy. For example, I’ve got a team of curators and they’ll use a feed reader like Feedly for example and they’ll go find home improvement blogs, I named some of them earlier, like Do It Yourself Network, Home and Garden, Bob Vila, This Old House, these kind of websites, home improvement style websites, they’ll go, they’ll pull the RSS feeds or go locate the RSS feeds, they’ll put them into a Feedly or a feed reader of some sort, my team uses Feedly, and then on the days that they’re required to blog for that customer or whatever or that client, they’ll go to their Feedly, they’ll select that category, home improvement or plumbing or whatever, most of the it’s a more general category and they’ll scan all the headlines of the articles that are available that day and they’ll find something that stands out to them.

It’s a very simple process. I give my curators editorial freedom unless the client has specifics that they want covered. Our curators have basically editorial freedom to go out, find a topic that’s relevant for that industry, it doesn’t have to be a plumbing article for plumbers. It can be home improvement. That’s general enough, generally related enough and they’ll go out and they’ll find a topic, they’ll say, “Okay, you know what? That seems like it could be a good topic. If I can find another two pieces of content to support this idea then I’ll collect these three pieces of content and I’ll draft a quick blog post where I open up with what’s called commentary” so they basically open up with the subject of the post will be and then they use the two or three, I always try to get three pieces of content that reinforce that idea or that topic, and they republish snippets of those articles with an attribution link linking back to the original source.

Daryl Rosser: Interesting.

Bradley Benner: The thing about that is they don’t have to be subject matter experts. All they have to know how to do is identify content, organized it and republish it. Because of that, we can get content that would typically cost me $40 or $50 for an article, for a blog post if I had a writer write it, I can get a curator to curate for $15. Does that make sense?

Daryl Rosser: Yes. Absolutely.

Bradley Benner: I charge my customers, my clients, if I pay $15 for a blog post, I charge my clients $40 and so I make $25 for every blog post that my curator and it’s hands off for me. I don’t have to do anything but manage it.

Daryl Rosser: I like it, man. It’s a nice strategy. All right, final few questions and then we’ll wrap it up. I want to change the topic a little bit. Completely random. What is something about you that most people that follow you online and stuff don’t already know about you?

Bradley Benner: Hmm, that’s a good question. Wow. I don’t know. I had a real estate business. I don’t know if everybody knows that. I used to buy and sell houses back in 2003 when the real estate market was really hot in the United States. If you touched real estate you could make money. Then I got into that whole “We buy houses”, house flipping business where I would go and basically buy houses and flip them. It’s called quick turn real estate. I did really, really well at it but back then in 2003 anybody that touched real estate did well in it. I was young at the time, I was 23. I was 23 years old and I remember thinking because I did so damn well at the time flipping houses that, I mean I made a ton of money and I thought it was always going to be that easy to make money because I was so young and I had such success. I didn’t save a damn penny. I spent every bit of it on just crap.

Daryl Rosser: It sounds so familiar to me. I was 17 years old and spamming online and making hundreds of thousands of dollars profit and, again, spent every single penny I got because it’s easy. I can make 10k-20k in a day whenever I want.

Bradley Benner: Yeah. It changes, right?

Daryl Rosser: Yeah, you learn very, very quickly.

Bradley Benner: I think with age comes experience and yeah, that’s what happened, in 2007 when the real estate market in the United States kind of just the bubble burst and I went bankrupt and it was awful. It was really bad. I was married at the time, it caused a divorce, all that kind of stuff and it was awful because I look back and I saw how much money we made and how much money we wasted that could have set me up for many years to come, had I just been a little bit more conservative with how I spent it. But I learned a lot of really valuable lessons from that which I think is why this business has been so much more successful for me because I know now not to take any success for granted.

Daryl Rosser: For sure, yeah.

Bradley Benner: Cherish every bit of success that you have and never become complacent of your success because if you do, you’ll lose it, you know what I mean?

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. I like it. If you had to start over from scratch and get to $1000 a month as fast as you possibly could from SEO specifically, which route would you take?

Bradley Benner: That’s a really good question. I would say one of two things. To get to $1000 a month the fastest I would start with local or LeadGen, either local consulting services or LeadGen only because I can get results. Through my own experience I get results faster through providing services or providing leads than through affiliate marketing. I’m doing a lot more affiliate marketing now than I used to.

Here’s the thing, when it comes to local and LeadGen I would say looking back because the bulk of my career has been spent in LeadGen and local consulting, and looking back, the one thing that I would’ve done differently would be, I would’ve focused in on one vertical, one industry and I would’ve not done anything else. Literally I would’ve stuck with one vertical and I would’ve become the go to guy in that vertical marketing for SEO.

Daryl Rosser: Would that be contractors or would that be plumbing? How specific?

Bradley Benner: Plumbing. Contractors is a very broad market. Contractors can cover landscapers and roofers and plumbers and electricians and HVAC and all of that. Where I find it, I’m like most of our students for example. They come to us and they are wanting to start doing local services and they want to do it let’s say in their own back yard, so their own city or whatever, their own town, and they’ll start targeting accountants and plumbers and insurance agents and all this stuff and every time you go after a new vertical, you have to start research all over.

Daryl Rosser: 100%.

Bradley Benner: You got to start learning keywords, you gotta start learning the vocabulary that they speak, you gotta learn what the pain points are, where the demands are, where the holes are in the market that can be plugged, all that kind of stuff. You have to start from scratch every time you start a new industry.

Daryl Rosser: Definitely.

Bradley Benner: Even related industries, like HVAC and plumbing. There’re still two sets of keywords, two separate sets of keywords. You have to start from scratch every time and that’s what I did, and a lot of our students come to us with the same type of approach and they say, “I want to provide local marketing services in my city.” Okay, that does make sense, I get why you want to do that because it’s local, it’s comfortable, it’s familiar but the thing is why not just select one vertical, one preferably that you have an interest in and then expand your geographic area.

You might only be able to deal with one business in every city but there’s 30 something thousands cities in the United States, you’re not gonna run out of work. But that way, once you’ve done the research once, you can use that same research over and over and over again. Once you’ve built website templates for that particular industry, you can use those same templates over and over and over again. You’ll know which kind of links and which kind of sites to put links on. All of this stuff, you could become an expert in one particular vertical and you can charge higher prices and sooner or later, when you become an expert in one vertical, you can stop seeking work, work will seek you, you know what I mean?

Daryl Rosser: 100%, yeah. Absolutely.

Bradley Benner: You’ll become the authority in that industry.

Daryl Rosser: Absolutely.

Bradley Benner: The quickest way to 1,000 bucks, in my opinion, if you’re doing local or LeadGen, if that’s your interest, would be to focus in on one particular vertical, guys. I’m telling you that’s the quickest way to scale, is one vertical. But if you’re gonna do affiliate marketing or if that’s an interest of yours, which I love affiliate marketing, I’m getting better at it because it’s not something I did a whole lot of, but start building your email list.

I know from, and I’m sure a lot of you, everybody says it’s all in the list, the money’s in the list, blah, blah, blah, and I heard that for years and I ignored it and now looking back in 2017, I wish to God I would’ve started building an email list back in 2010 when I got started because if so I probably wouldn’t be on this interview with you right now because I’d be in Hawaii or something. Start building your email list, guys. It’s an asset to your business, start building an email list.

Daryl Rosser: Very true. Bradley, thank you for joining me today. It’s been really fun. Where could people find you if they want to check out your sites and reach out to you?

Bradley Benner: Well, I got a special offer for you guys. It’s not a pitch, it’s free. If anybody wants to find out more about who Semantic Mastery is and the stuff that we offer, we’re giving away some freebie bonuses. It’s just behind an opt-in page, so if you guys want to go to SemanticMastery.com/lionzeal

Daryl Rosser: Got a custom pitch.

Bradley Benner: Yep. There’s several bonuses there, guys. They’re all free. Just opt in and you’ll get them delivered to you on the thank you page or via email, whatever. Again, SemanticMastery.com/lionzeal and you can find out more information about us and we also do a weekly webinar series via Google Hangouts, it’s called Humpday Hangouts. It’s every Wednesday at 4 p.m. Eastern and it’s Eastern US time and it’s an hour that we give every single week. We actually did episode 133 yesterday, so we’ve been doing it for almost three years now and you guys are more than welcome to attend that. It’s free. We answer digital marketing and SEO questions and that’s every week at 4 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday and you can find that at SemanticMastery.com/humpday or you can just go to Youtube and search for Semantic Mastery and you’ll find us there.

Daryl Rosser: Perfect, man. Thank you again for joining me, it’s been really fun.

Bradley Benner: Awesome, Daryl, I really appreciate it, man. Thank you.

Daryl Rosser: All right. Hope you guys enjoy the episode and I’ll see you guys next week.


About Daryl Rosser

Daryl runs a six figure SEO business primarily focusing on local clients. He's extremely analytical, and his favourite ranking strategy is using PBN's.

2 Responses to “Why You Should Build More Engagement Not Links with Bradley Benner”

  • Ivan  August 2, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Awesome episode. Thanks for sharing.

    Also, really enjoyed the last section with the “off-topic” questions.


    • Daryl Rosser  August 7, 2017 at 4:26 am

      Glad to hear Ivan! Thanks for commenting