How To Build Outreach Links at Scale with Gareth Simpson
Do you want to become an outreach specialist?
In this interview, you will learn step-by-step how to build outreach links for your clients, how to create linkable assets, and the automation tools needed to simplify this process at scale.
You can use the exact same processes that Gareth breaks down in this interview, to start your own successful, white hat agency.
Watch it here:
How to contact Gareth:
04:30 – Understanding a linkable asset
07:30 – How Gareth quit his full-time job to start his own agency
09:18 – How to get your first clients
12:55 – How to create a linkable asset
23:00 – Where to find outreach link opportunities
28:40 – The cost of a sponsored post
30:00 – The fundamentals of scaling an outreach team
38:05 – Email tools that Gareth recommends
47:30 – How to take your business to the next level
Daryl Rosser: Hey, guys. Daryl Rosser here. Welcome back to another episode of the Lion Zeal Show.
I’m here with Gareth Simpson, and we’re talking about how he’s built up his agency and more importantly how he’s doing in outreach, how he’s going out there and getting links for his clients.
We’re going to walk through a step-by-step how you can go out there and do the exact same process yourself to basically build links through an entirely white-hot method or maybe a little bit grey, have you pay for a sponsored link or anything like that.
So we’re going to break this down in the interview. I hope you guys enjoy it. Let’s get straight into it. Hey, man. Thank you for joining me today. It’s awesome to have you here.
Gareth Simpson: Thanks, Daryl. Nice to be here.
Daryl Rosser: So for anyone who doesn’t know you, can you introduce yourself? I’m sure a lot of people probably saw you on stage recently at the conference, which was epic.
Gareth Simpson: Yep.
Daryl Rosser: Congrats. You did a good job.
Gareth Simpson: Thank you, and you.
Daryl Rosser: Thank you, man. So for anyone who doesn’t know you, who are you? What do you do?
Gareth Simpson: My name is Gareth Simpson from the UK. I am founder of an agency called Seeker, and my thing, kind of my little specialism is outreach link building and creative content.
Daryl Rosser: For the PBN guys watching, they’re going to be like, “Screw this guy.” You’re not like anti-PBNs or anything like that. A lot of your closest friends and stuff, right?
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. I still use PBNs. I’m not exclusive to those sort of methods.
Daryl Rosser: That’s just your thing.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. It’s like for the client, horses for courses and so on, for clients, if they’re on an outreach account, then we just give them outreach, obviously, but for certain clients who are open to other techniques and so on, then, yeah, we’re sort of building PBNs and so on and buying links and things. So it’s just all about diversity, really, I think.
Daryl Rosser: How did you get into the outreach stuff and …
Gareth Simpson: Before I started my own, I worked for a few agencies in the UK. When I first got into SEO, I was working for a design and build agency. This was like sort of eight years ago or something. I was working for a design and build agency, and back then SEO was like it was a thing, but it wasn’t the industry that it is now. I was using like … I mean, my background before that was in IT, like fixing laptops in schools, in service.
Daryl Rosser: How old are you, by the way?
Gareth Simpson: I’m 30. I’ve always been in the tech industries ever since leaving college. I was doing like automated link building and stuff back then. I was doing like automatic directory registration using a tool called IBP, and-
Daryl Rosser: That’s not around.
Gareth Simpson: No. I’ve still got the license, and, yeah, it’s like-
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome.
Gareth Simpson: … that is dead as a dodo now, I think. But it was really good back then, just automated the directory submission sort of process, including even like the link verifications and the email inbox and stuff. But, excuse me, it stopped working, and this was around a sort of like Penguin 1. I think I’d optimized anchor texts as well. Clients started getting penalized. I was like, “I need to learn from somebody else. I need to learn from more experienced SEO than myself.” So I moved to a bigger agency, 50-, 60-strong SEO agency, and that was a whole, opened up a whole new world to me, really.
I’d come from a technical background, and that was my style of SEO, and then I was now in a team with content writers, designers, PR people, and strategists, and so on. Yeah, it was like, “Wow, this is like this is how SEO should be done.” It’s like, well, I saw it.
I was doing it all wrong, and I saw some of the techniques and things that they were doing, and it was just much more … They’d come from completely the other end of the spectrum, really. So I just learned how to rebuild these linkable assets that were relevant to the client, and they were good for the audience, and the users, and the-
Understanding a linkable asset
Daryl Rosser: What’s a linkable asset, by the way, for people that-
Gareth Simpson: Sorry. A linkable asset is an excuse to build links to something, really, is the way we sort of looked at it, but also something that’s entertaining and useful for the clients.
So, for example, all those years ago I had a pharmacy client, and they sold nicotine replacement therapy, for example. We would build like a very simple page which had a stop-smoking calculator on, for example. Then you’d put in how many you smoked, what brand it was, and so on.
Then it was like calculate if you quit, how much you’d save per day, per month, per year, and then also what you could buy with that. After x amount of years, you could buy a car. And it’s something that helps to raise the awareness of the product, or justify it in some way, or improve the usage of it. And then we’d use that for outreach.
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome. Okay. Where was this, back in-
Gareth Simpson: So that was like sort of five years ago I think it was sort of working for them. And that’s when we transitioned from this whole I was talking about on stage the My Blog guest thing. That’s how we started doing a ton of sort of scaled outreach. But then we had to start building these linkable assets and things and make it actually have a genuine … creating the reason to link to a page rather than just like trying to just manufacture that need, which still do as well, just for volume.
But, yeah, so a linkable asset is just something on the site that can pick up traffic, or you can use this actually … Rather than linking to a money page, if you outreach to a site and say, “Hey, can you link to this page?” and it’s a sales page of some nicotine replacement therapy gum or something, it’s like, “Why am I going to link to your product page, man? Give me something cool to link to.”
Then obviously we’d have a anchor, exact match anchor from that asset back to the money page. And that’s how we would pick up the link authority.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome. So when did you decide that you were going to basically leave them and do this on your own?
Gareth Simpson: That happened when I was ready, when I felt I was ready to actually … I picked up enough experience. I’d made enough contacts-
Daryl Rosser: This is Chiang Mia sorry
How Gareth quit his full-time job to start his own agency
Gareth Simpson: … in the industry. I had picked up enough contacts in the industry and so on. Actually, no. It was on my 29th birthday. I…
Daryl Rosser: Oh, not that long ago, then.
Gareth Simpson: No. That was like, yeah, less than two years ago. It was then that I had a little mini midlife crisis. I was working at … I was an in-house SEO on a contract. So I was still kind of almost left the full-time employment capacity, and I was at website doing a … I know we really picked up some sort of freelance clients at that point.
I was only doing three days a week for these guys, but, yeah, I thought my goal is to start like an agency before I’m 30, and I haven’t done it yet. I keep feel like I’m making progress towards it, but really, when I was honest with myself, on my 29th birthday at work on my lunch break, I went on to company’s house, registered a limited company.
Daryl Rosser: Oh, really?
Gareth Simpson: Yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Like there and then?
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. It takes like an hour to do. I couldn’t believe how easy it was and handed my notice in that day as well. I said, “Sorry.” I just said to the boss, be like, “I really like it here, but I’ve got exactly 12 months today to fulfill my ambition of starting an agency before I’m 30.”
Daryl Rosser: I love it, man.
Gareth Simpson: He was cool with it, so I worked my notice off and just made a really very quick, unplanned switch, just jumped head first into it, really, which was quite scary, but also quite exciting at the time.
Daryl Rosser: That’s insanely cool. Most people do not have the guts to just in one day … I guess it’s not just one day. You were thinking about it for a long time.
Gareth Simpson: I’d actually been, for example, I would have the name in my head, and I just hadn’t got around to it. I’d been just mulling everything over and just processing it over the course of probably like two years.
So I’m getting close to this now. I’m ready. This is how I want it to be. I was taking notes every now and then. But I just hadn’t had yet made any real commitment to it. So I already had a half-hatched plan in my head, and then had like one month to finalize it, really.
Daryl Rosser: That’s cool.
Gareth Simpson: So, yeah, that’s how it happened.
How to get your first clients
Daryl Rosser: How did you start it? It’s an agency, right? You’re selling to clients. So, how did you go out there and get … I don’t want to focus so much on client acquisition, but how did you guys get the first few clients?
Gareth Simpson: I was already, I’ve always … I was doing a bit of moonlighting already. I was working evenings and weekends. I had some affiliate sites and stuff as well. I’d already built up enough of a flow, actually, not quite enough to pay my rent but enough that I didn’t have to go … I wasn’t starting from square one. I would have some freelance clients and stuff.
Daryl Rosser: You had some savings as well too.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. I had a little bit of savings as well. I was kind of at the point, I was like, “Do I buy a house? Or do I get a mortgage or put it down for a deposit?” So I just started a business. And I think looking back now I think of sort made the right decision.
Daryl Rosser: I’d say so.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. Thanks. So going back to the client thing, yeah, I just like it was having that fear, not knowing if I could play my rent at the end of the month. I could, but I couldn’t do it for so many months of eating into the savings. I wanted the savings to be investment into the business, so having that fear was the biggest motivator ever.
I remember sat there day one like booting up my laptop, not having to get changed and go off to work, sat in my living room at my sort of dining room table, thinking, “Right, I need to like earn some money somehow. I need to drum up some work.” That’s when I found the groups online and so on. And I started chatting to people, and people were asking, “What do you do?” and stuff.
I said, “Well, I kind of like most of my work has been in content and outreach.” Then people, their reaction was what got me started, like made me really specialize in outreach, when people were like, “Oh, okay. You do outreach. That sounds cool. I’ve never done it, but I’m keen to sort of to get some really.” So I’ve sort of just honed in on focusing on that one technique, really-
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome.
Gareth Simpson: … and consuming everything I could find out there, and then developing it and sort of forming my own little thing going on.
Daryl Rosser: Cool. Random question.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah?
Daryl Rosser: I don’t suppose you remember the date that you quit your job, do you? I’m just wondering how…
Gareth Simpson: They day I quit my job-
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Gareth Simpson: … it was the 26th of February.
Daryl Rosser: Cool.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah, 26, yeah, 2016.
Daryl Rosser: Nice, man.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. It’s less than two years.
The first steps for a beginner to get started with outreach
Daryl Rosser: Cool. So back on the topic anyway, say someone wants to start doing outreach now. They’ve already got the site. Or maybe they just took on a client. What’s the first steps? How do they get started with that? So if you could just go for a strategy, it would be really cool?
Gareth Simpson: For people to have a go, do an outreach, yeah, I guess first thing you need is the infrastructure to actually perform it. It requires a lot of emails, so you need the tools, and then also you need the content, and then just time. Sometimes some budget for paying for publishing fees, so yeah, having a good sort of infrastructure in place will really help instead of manually sending sort of emails off, which is not going to get you very far.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, you’re about doing that scale, right?
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. It’s like you need to be sending … We’re sending like tens of thousands of emails every month.
Daryl Rosser: Nice.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be that much. And if you just, you’ve got solo and you’ve got a few affiliate sites or something, definitely have a go. Definitely have a go at just going out there. But you just make sure you got a great site, first of all. It’s going to get you so much.
How to create a linkable asset
Daryl Rosser: So you talked about linkable assets recently. What sort of linkable assets work best? You mentioned the tool, which, to me, I’d imagine that works extremely well.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah.
Daryl Rosser: What else?
Gareth Simpson: I’ve actually got a list of I think there’s about 30 different formats-
Daryl Rosser: Okay. Cool.
Gareth Simpson: … so you can have on there, which we use in the office. And when we get a new client, we sort of brainstorm ideas for this client. What cool stuff can we create?
Daryl Rosser: Is that a big part of the job, the creativity, coming up with the content?
Gareth Simpson: Absolutely. For the client, you don’t necessarily need all that to do outreach. You can just go out there and pay for links. People sell links on their blogs and sites all day long. But if you really want to do proper white-hot stuff, then, yeah, sit down and just come up with a ton of ideas and map them out.
Some of the formats that we use obviously like long form editorial, very detailed guides and things and blog posts, obviously like infographics. I mentioned tools, PDF downloads, interviews. This is a perfect example of-
Daryl Rosser: We do none.
Gareth Simpson: … an asset, a marketing asset that people are interested in, not just trying to sell, sell, sell, you’re actually just trying to engage with the target audience and just do some cool stuff. People are like, “Yeah, that’s a really good brand, you know?” It’s karma, really. Just go out there and put good stuff out, and the publicity and stuff comes.
But the functional stuff is quite cool, downloads or even software. Let’s take a look at Charles mentioned Matthew Woodward’s, just randomly popped in my head, his Rank Cracker tool, which basically you run a list of links for it, and it tells you what link-building software can build that type of links. He’s built that for free, and he’s giving it away.
There’s no return from him in terms of financially except it picks up a ton of links, and it got mentioned by Charles on stage, so just putting something free out like that. I’m sure the developer didn’t … I’m sure it wasn’t much time and investment to build it.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. Is there any unique, just unique examples that you’ve seen that stand out?
Gareth Simpson: Of linkable assets-
Daryl Rosser: Yeah yeah.
Gareth Simpson: … and things? Right.
Daryl Rosser: Putting you on the spot?
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. I’ve got some examples I often use when I’m so showing clients and trying to win them over on this sort of thing, and why it’s important. I’m trying to think if I’m okay to drop links and stuff.
Daryl Rosser: Or just explain how it works.
Gareth Simpson: Okay. Well, I’ve got one: simplybusiness.com. They sell business insurance, really boring niche, really hard to do good content and content marketing in. What they’ve got is a ton of little mini micro sites, and on those micro sites, they’ve got information for small business owners, which is their target audience.
They’re doing guides on like insurance and stuff, but, come on, there’s only so much you want to read about your business insurance, isn’t there?
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Gareth Simpson: Instead what they are doing is thinking, “What does my client want also outside of the insurance sort of space?” So they’ve got these guides which are tailor towards marketing, tailored toward everything that you would need as a small business, hiring staff, the payroll, legislation-
Daryl Rosser: Awesome
Gareth Simpson: … really helpful, useful, functional stuff. And it’s not directly related to insurance, but they’re thinking if somebody’s buying insurance, their business insurance, then it must be a start-up, right? It must just be getting going. So therefore what else do they want? What else do they need? What can we give them?
And we’ve created … If you just Google “simply business guides,” they’ll show up. And one of them, they’ve got a guide to digital marketing. And you go on their, and it’s got the great thing about it, and this is what I love about it, is they’ve not even produced the content; what they’ve done is compiled a list of all the great content out there-
Daryl Rosser: That’s cool.
Gareth Simpson: … and made a sign post. Obviously they’re rated and so like checked, vetted the stuff and said, “Yeah, this is actually a really good guide on how to set up your Google listing, or guide to PPC, or guide to payroll legislation in the UK.” And you go in there, and they’ve just got a ton of different … And it’s a really nice graphical page with just a ton of useful resources and links.
They’ve just helped their end user out. One, they’ve helped their end user out; and, two, those assets are starting to pick up natural inbound links because they’re being mentioned by other people who are writing startup content. So that’s an example of … It doesn’t even have to be really that relevant. It’s just you just have to think about your audience, really.
Daryl Rosser: That’s interesting. You also mentioned something on stage which I’ve had people refer to as like shoulder niches and different things like that where you’re creating content like that basically deliberately. Do you have specific … I’ve had someone else say that they have very specific types of niches that you want to create content for because it’s very easy to get links for it. Do you do anything like that?
Gareth Simpson: So like …?
Daryl Rosser: Sorry. I know some people, when they’re creating content, they have it’s like with anything. They deliberately want to make that … They deliberately want to relate it to a very specific vertical. It was very easy to get links in, for example.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. I’ll say you just have to like step to the side, as I say, or don’t just operate in your niche, see where you can find that overlap. We call it niche crossover in the office. And it’s taking what you’re doing and what your client does and then merging it and creating a hybrid, an overlap with something else.
And that way that’s how you never run out of ideas. Someone asked the question when I was on stage. They said, “Do you ever run out of ideas or opportunities?”
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, I remember.
Gareth Simpson: It’s, one, we don’t, one, because we think, really think, to use a cliché, think outside the box, and, two, it’s having the writers there who have got that creativity.
Daryl Rosser: So that’s not you?
Gareth Simpson: No. I’m probably the least creative person in the office, to be honest. I deal with the more functional aspects of it and take what they do and try and like bottle it up into clearly like an organized structure for them. But it’s the writers that are just born with that creativity. It’s that sort of is it left brain or right brain? I can’t remember.
Daryl Rosser: One.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. They’re just naturally creative people. They write stories. They write poetry in their own time. This is-
Daryl Rosser: That’s cool.
Gareth Simpson: … how they’ve just got so much, so many ideas. So we’ll take a client site, or a client’s niche, or one of our own and think, “How can we overlap this with something completely random; it’s going something completely different?” And I think I put a list up on my slides, but I just went to a big directory, a big web directory, like Best of the Web, and took an extract of every single one of their categories.
You’ve got a million and one subject ideas there from I use recruitment as an example, technology, business, law, arts, all of these different things, food, obviously some entertainment. Some aren’t going to work. They’re not going to be relevant, but if we sit there and do these mind maps and think, how can we take using the simply business example again, insurance, and cross that over with something else like tech, marketing, business, education, recruitment.
And then if you merge that over, one, you can come up with a ton of content ideas, and, two, a ton of key words to be used for scraping when performing outreach. And that’s how you step away. Do you you know, they’re the people that are going to be more interested in hearing from you because they see you as even more of an expert.
If you’re operating in your own niche, and you’re outeaching to an insurance website, and you’re going to produce content on an insurance website about insurance, it can’t be generic. It has to be like something thought leaders standard.
But if you outreach to a, I don’t know, young entrepreneur’s blog, they’re going to be happy with … You’re going to be able to provide value to an audience like that with much less sort of time investment because they’re just getting started. They know nothing about business insurance.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. So you’ve got your linkable asset. You’ve considered how you can relate that to other niches if needed, and I guess you do that anyway no matter what. You’re constantly trying to see how we can get as many links as we possibly can. What do you do next?
Gareth Simpson: So then it’s the keyword research, and you obviously put all that data back, which gives you the input for the tools and so on. If we’re using an asset anyway, a linkable asset, then we’ll think,
“Who’s going to be interested in this content? Who does it apply to the most?” Then we’ll go and, A, search for our database, which we’ve got pretty well tagged up and categorized now and outreach to people who are already, we’ve already got an established relationship with, or go out there and start venturing into new territory and introducing ourselves and pitching ideas to bloggers, editors, journalists, and so on, and, yeah, just come up with a pitch and a really nice, friendly email and see if they’re interested in what we’ve got and what we’re offering.
Where to find outreach link opportunities
Daryl Rosser: So for the guys that are trying to do this themselves now, they’re going to go to Google and search for the keywords and try to find blogs, or what sort of things are they searching to try and find?
Gareth Simpson: Well, yeah, you can either, what an SEO is going to do, they are probably going to do is use footprints. “Write for us, guest blogger” in quotes, plus these keywords, and pull back a ton of guests contributor pages and so on, and we start our outreaches to them, which is cool.
You win a ton of links like that. Those people, though, they’re in the game, and they know it, and most of them, they might not say it on the sales page, but really once you get in touch, they send you their rates.
So it’s not true editorial outreach, as we would call it, but it’s a great way of building links and just get in touch with them, and see what their fees are, see if you want to pay it, and you can sort of win links that way, but, yeah, just like comb over a ton of keywords or even just the keywords for that site but think about the sort of content that they would be producing on that website, and then plug all those keywords into your tools as well, whether you’re sort of manually just cherry-picking sites from Google or you’re going to use a scraper or something.
Daryl Rosser: And presuming you do it that way, how do you open it up, because you don’t always specifically, I guess, you’re not … Are you specifically picking like a post or an idea to them, or are you just trying to build a relationship initially?
Gareth Simpson: Both, actually. We’ve got to the scale now in terms of like specifics to our agency because that’s all we do, we’ve got to the stage now is where we thought, “Why are we like just doing this for a fixed requirement.
Let’s just outreach all of the time. So now we’re just always trying to keep scoping things out and building and just say to the sites, “We will have something for you at some point. We just wanted to open that connection up and see if you’re interested.” But we still do like per project, especially if we get something new or a different country that we’ve not operated in, like Australia right now. We’ve been doing quite a lot of list-building in Australia because it’s sort of a new market.
Sorry. Completely forgot what my question was. Yeah, just building a list of keywords, outreaching to those sites for a specific need, and then also just sort of generally always performing outreach in all the main sort of niches, really.
Daryl Rosser: How do you build a relationship where you don’t have anything specific?
Gareth Simpson: Well, it just comes down to I would much prefer to have something, a tangible real thing rather than just being like, “Hey, we’re just spamming you to see if you’ll reply us.” I don’t want to waste their time unless we’ve got something valuable for them.
So we’ve usually got something on the roadmap for them, but we just say, “We’re working with a lot of clients who if some of them are relevant, we think would be relevant for your site, and I think they’d love to be featured on your blog. If you’re interested, just sort of let me know, and I’ll send you some briefs over or a picture over, a piece of content,” whatever the goal is.
Daryl Rosser: And I suppose that you’re just saying if you’ve got a tool or something you want to link to, you just email it.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. If you’ve got a specific thing in the initial email, we’ll just be like, “Check out this stop smoking calculator. We saw that you’ve written about it before,” or, “It’s perfect for your audience.” Could be, I don’t know, an obvious one would be like vape blogs and sites and things.
They’re in the business of helping people stop smoking and stuff as well. Yeah, so say like, “Are you interested? Do you like … Let me know your feedback,” first of all, compliment them. “What do you think as an expert in this sort of area? Do you like it?” and see if we can actually get some info from them, also invite them to get featured on our own sites if the client allows it, and just see if they’re up for mentioning it on their blog.
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome. For scaling this stuff up, firstly, what sort of response rates are you getting to these emails?
Gareth Simpson: Looking at the … When I go and look through our outreach platforms, it can range from like 12% to 40%, 50% maybe, but it all depends on, A, the niche, B, the country as well. It varies massively. France, no one gets back to you.
Daryl Rosser: Really? Okay.
Gareth Simpson: We’ve been doing outreach in foreign languages and things recently. I guess they’re just not that open. It’s great because it’s sort of unsaturated, I think. But we’re trying to convince them or teach them what it is, firstly, we have to educate them and also the language barrier as well, though we’ve got a linguist in the office, so that helps.
But response rate depends on the type of pitch, wherever we’re pitching a really good bit of content, the type of sites, sponsors because of the sort of sites that we’re going after when we’re doing sponsored work. The response rate is always quite high.
Daryl Rosser: That makes sense.
Gareth Simpson: Lifestyle bloggers, travel bloggers because they’re running a blog to earn money, so…
Daryl Rosser: Those guys want money.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah, exactly. So they quite often, especially if you open up with, “This is paid work. This is a paid brief,” you’ll get a good response.
The cost of a sponsored post
Daryl Rosser: How much do you pay for a link if it’s sponsored?
Gareth Simpson:That varies massively, and there’s no sort of rhyme or reason to it. It’s all about at the end of the day what they perceive their blog to be worth and what they’re willing to work for. We can’t say, “Hey, the industry standard is X amount of pounds.” It’s up to them at the end of the day.
Sometimes their quotes come back in like many hundreds, even thousands. Some of these big retail brands and fashion brands and so on are just throwing dollars at them. Some PR director, PR manager that’s a in-house, fashion brand or something that’s got a ton of budget to play with, and it’ll just pay the bloggers whatever they ask for.
Daryl Rosser: Good for them.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah, exactly. And this is where the relationships that we have are something that’s very hard to … You can’t really sort of accelerate that. That just comes with time of working in the industry, knowing them, becoming friends with them.
Daryl Rosser: In two years, you said.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah, like doing that. Yeah, doing that. Even before that, though, that’s the thing, I was doing outreach before, and they knew me personally, a lot of these sites, because I was outreaching as me. And every day I’m getting, “Hey, have you got anymore work for me?”
They’re getting in touch with me, and they know my name because for the past three, four years almost I’ve been giving them work. So even if I’m moved company, they seek me out. And that helps me.
If I give them regular work, I can get better prices, so that’s sort of play the game a little bit, negotiate, say, “Hey, I’ll buy … Can I buy five placements of you, and can we work a bit on the price?” Sort of volumes discount-type thing.
The fundamentals of scaling an outreach team
Daryl Rosser: Awesome. What about scaling this up? How big is your team?
Gareth Simpson: We’ve got there’s eight of us full-time, full-time staff in the UK. Then we have a ton, and it’s always growing the freelance writing team. It’s about six or seven freelance writers, and they’re producing content to briefs.
Then the writers in the office are mostly doing the leadership of that, the creative ideas, the actual outreach. So I don’t have SEOs doing the outreach. No. I give that role, that job to the writers because they’re the most charismatic people and the best with communications really, and writing emails. It’s content at the end of the day.
Daryl Rosser: I guess they do it better, like the SEOs are like, “I just want links.”
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. That’s exactly it. That’s why I prefer not to do it myself. I’d rather a writer who can write really nice, flowing, friendly emails, and when you’ve got an editor there who’s background is also in copywriting usually, they can spot an Oxford comma a mile away. So they judge you.
They prejudge the quality of your content from the email, so it’s content at the end of the day. So I say it’s the writers that come up with the ideas as well if you’re pitching just a blog post to a site.
Sometimes an editor will get back and say the theme of the month, I don’t know, Black Friday marketing, for example. Then we’ll pitch some Black Friday ideas to them because that’s what they’re sort of working on.
And we’re trying to help them with the content overhead, basically. And the writers can just come up with an idea on the spot and then just send it back in an email. Then they run with it.
Daryl Rosser: Cool. What else is important, fundamental even for scaling up? What elements of a team even maybe?
Gareth Simpson: You need obviously SEO to make sure that the SEO requirements in that in terms of quality of sites, links, and anchor text operate the more technical sides of the tools, such as the scraping and the keyword resource and so on, anchor text research and stuff. So they kind of like do the initial kind of start of the process, and it’s the writers, obviously, they’re, like I said, the ideas and the content production.
And we have offshore stuff to help us with list-building and seeking out the right people for the right website. If we say, “Hey, who’s the tech columnist and The Guardian?” for example, we’ll find out who that is, or who writes about technology on The Guardian. Then we’ll try and find that person, find their social media profiles, find their email address if we can and try and get in contact with that person. So our pitch-
Daryl Rosser: It’s solid relationships.
Gareth Simpson: Sorry?
Daryl Rosser: That’s solid relationships right there to have, know who they are.
Gareth Simpson: Exactly. First thing is your pitch has to land in the right inbox; otherwise it’s a useless pitch, so targeting the right people. “Targeting” sounds like a very sinister words, but we-
Daryl Rosser: We’re SEOs.
Gareth Simpson:Yeah. So finding the right people, and that’s it, really. You need the SEO. You need the more data entry-type roles, and you need the writers, and then the tools. Obviously one person could do all of that themselves.
That’s how I started, of course. I did every single … So when a researcher is there saying, “Oh, I can’t find these contact leaders. It’s taking too long,” and I’m like, “I’ve been there. I sat there, and I’ve manually sort out 1,000 contacts in a particular niche and stuff before outsourcing it and building the process to delegate it out.”
But that’s what it comes down to is delegation, really, and building those sub-processes, and having one person concentrate out that, one person concentrating on the content, and that’s why I’ve even now, like the in-house stuff, we’re doing the negotiations and stuff, it’s the freelancers that produce a lot of the briefs because the in-house stuff get pulled left, right, and center with dealing with clients, and me asking for this, that, and the other, and sometimes they don’t get as much writing time as they should themselves.
But they’re also for the branded content as well, like the clients who want content for their own site or when we’re talking in the client’s voice and so on. So it just comes down to systemizing everything.
Daryl Rosser: What do you do, man? What’s your work?
Gareth Simpson: Yeah, what I said, yeah.
Daryl Rosser: … all these people, I’m just sitting here in Chiang Mai.
Gareth Simpson: That’s kind of how I wish it was, but I am still very much in the trenches a lot of the times, to be honest. On the high-value clients I’m very much still involved. It’s the end of the month now, end of sort of last month reporting period, so I’m there like finalizing reports for even out here.
I’m in the sort of coffee shops just checking everything over, making sure it’s all good before sending it off to the clients, but I’m like moving on to trying to like now, for example, my time has been taken up with this new platform that I’ve been building and dealing with the developers for that and the scoping it all out.
Daryl Rosser: You want to mention what it is?
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. It’s Mention Me. It’s called Mention Me, mentorme.io, and it’s basically what I’m doing there is taking away the whole … I used to sell links to SEO. I tried selling links to SEOs like a year or two ago, and selling it to very high-value clients.
High budget is great, but if people just want to few links, it’s really hard to deliver for them because of all the set, campaign setup and everything. But it was a shame because I had a lot of people who were interested in the work.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, I bet.
Gareth Simpson: So I decided to have a system built, completely custom system, that would lower the cost of the process for us, enabling us to take on smaller orders and offer a better rate on the works, so, yeah, completely custom system, and anybody can go and sign up, upload, select what they want in terms of what …
They build their own campaign rather than us as account managers doing it on behalf of the client basically. They build their outreach campaign. What do they want? Put in their request, put in the type of sites, how many, what target pages, what anchor text, calculates the price.
They pay there and then on the system, and then it just tracks the order for them. It usually sort of takes about 30 days, and then they can just log in, get a notification, log in, an see when that work has been complete, and then just sort of download the reports. If they’re doing it for clients, then great; they can hand that off, and-
Daryl Rosser: That sounds bad-ass.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. That’s what I’ve been working on for the past six months, so it’s been a lot of work, and it’s kind of just in the beta testing stage now. So it should be very, very soon.
Email tools that Gareth recommends
Daryl Rosser: Cool, man. Final few questions. On the emailing front, what tools that I can use? What would you use for this whole process, for that matter?
Gareth Simpson: If I was to choose one, and we use a lot, we use them all. But Pitchbox is the one I’m most familiar with, and it’s probably the one I’d recommend if you’re looking to have a go at outreach. It’s got the end-to-end process built in from start to finish. It can sort of do everything. You need to know how to use it.
There’s a lot of schooling to be done to use it properly. But, yeah, that’s the one I’d recommend, but learn Outreach, know how to use it before thinking that this platform is just going to do it all for you. But it’s a brilliant tool. Highly recommend it.
We also use BuzzStream lot. That’s a bit more of a more powerful … Not powerful but it’s built in a different way, and it’s built in a more configurable manner, which means it’s got more initial setup, but it’s great for you, like us where we’ve got huge lists now, and we’re recycling those lists all the time. It’s great for managing and categorizing all of that work.
But, yeah, Pitchbox, if you just want to have a go, if not, actually Mailshake. If you need to be budget conscious Mailshake is really, really cheap, but you will need to do a bit more work outside of the tool to build those lists and things, and then just content.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome, man. What about scale in this? You guys do, what, over 10,000 emails a month, you said?
Gareth Simpson: Mm-hmm. Oh yeah, easy.
Daryl Rosser: How? A lot of stress.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. Well, I’ve just got always running the three P’s of outreach that I mentioned yesterday: prospecting, pitching, publishing, then, again, prospecting. We’re just doing that on a monthly basis over and over and over again and just building more and more contacts up in different niches.
But, yeah, it’s just really good lists. You have to have a really good list, and that’s why we’ve manually built these lists instead of like just scraping and then just spamming, as a lot probably try. Also, just a good email infrastructure, really high-end, built for massive volume email service and things, and just following the same sort of-
Daryl Rosser: I guess you want help setting it up. You don’t want to …
Gareth Simpson: Probably, yeah, like, developers. Or you can do it yourself if you know about DNS records and stuff just to get started, but, yeah, developers will get to help with that.
Now we’re kind of like we’ve got like email marketing consultants and stuff now to help us with the real nitty-gritty of the same sort of things that they do with like optimize and deliverability rates and things like that.
That’s kind of staying within the parameters and so on, so you don’t go to the spam folder and don’t p anyone off, really. But you don’t need that for your … So many people have such high scale that now the systems are limiting our visibility.
Daryl Rosser: Sure. It’s the bigger scale, right?
Gareth Simpson: Yeah.
Daryl Rosser: I’m curious in your own words, how have you scaled up? The agency surpassed in like less than two years.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah, that’s a good … One, very lucky and very, very good friends. I owe a lot to the others in the industry who have … Done a bit of work for them, and then they’ve helped me out by referring me to someone else, and that’s how good business goes, really. So, yeah, I owe them a lot, and also lucky also in the outreach is just really has taken off. Everyone has become really interested in it all of a sudden, and I think that probably comes down to the algorithms just getting better maybe.
Before, there was more cost-effective methods of link-building, and there still is, and they work great, and still use them. But I guess people may be looking to the future and they think, “Right. Okay, it’s time to pay a bit more for links or actually have to earn those links,” so just being also specializing as well, not trying to do too much. Didn’t want to be a full-service agency, just wanted to really focus on this one thing. I love it. I enjoy it. So-
Daryl Rosser: And you capitalized on it, right?
Gareth Simpson: Mm-hmm.
Daryl Rosser: Yes, it’s blowing up. Yes, it’s a big .. It’s a good time to be some outreach stuff. But you specialized with it, and you actually embraced, let it grow, and it actually grew with it. You didn’t try to do everything yourself. You built it with a team fast and made the most of it.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah, that’s it, and I’ve put everything back into … Anything we’ve ever earned is going straight back into the business and scaling and growing. I’m still on minimum wage, really, but obviously there’s like dividends and stuff, but I’m just trying to live a modest life and just keep growing the company, really.
So that’s it, don’t … See, at first I did, got excited. I was like, “Wow, I’ve got more money than I’ve ever had,” but it’s better for pay the staff more. Don’t get greedy and buy materialistic things. Build … We’ve put a hell of a lot into this new platform, this system and-
Daryl Rosser: I bet, yeah.
Gareth Simpson: So just reinvestment back into the business because we’re not where we want to be yet. That is going to take us a much-
Daryl Rosser: Where do you want to be? What’s your drive today?
Gareth Simpson: Well, good question. I guess I want to … I’m not built into sale anytime soon. The reason being is something else that actually just to answer that question and the earlier is I actually just love what I do. I love the work.
Daryl Rosser: You have to, right?
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. Well, that’s it, and you get people who try and get into this industry because they think it’s really lucrative. It can be, and there’s so many courses and things out there, but if you don’t actually genuinely enjoy it and would do it for free anyway just because it’s fun, then, yeah, then you’re going to get bored before you make it, I think.
So I’m not building to sell anytime soon. I just want to keep growing the business and have more projects that I can … It’s just a big game, really, playing with these … building these things and these assets. I just want to keep growing the agency.
Daryl Rosser: You just love doing it, and just more is better.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah, that’s it. I love having a team, getting up. At first when I was … Going back to when I was working in my own living room, it got lonely. It got really lonely. So it’s nice-
Daryl Rosser: It does.
Gareth Simpson: It does, isn’t it? Yeah. So it was nice to go to an actual physical office again. As much as people say, “I’ll escape the 9 to 5,” and so on, yes, I like the familiarity of it. I like helping the team grow, and teaching them, and opening up sort of opportunities for them. So I just want to keep doing more of that, really.
Daryl Rosser: Have you learned any big lessons in building up the team and building up a decent-size agency versus like you’ve run it just on your own for a while, so you must be big differences in that.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. I guess I was obviously working for other agencies before.
Daryl Rosser: That’s true, yeah.
Gareth Simpson: And I was leading teams there and stuff. So I kind of like now it’s just like back to where that was. I’ve just kind of fallen back into my instinctive grove, I guess. But the biggest lesson I probably first learned was the value of people. Everyone’s always talking about tools and techniques and the next big thing and so on and strategy.
But it’s people that make the magic happen back in the office. It’s people that help me, have helped me get the business that we needed to grow and so on.
So, yeah, it’s just like looking after your staff, looking after your clients and your friends in the industry and so on. That’s probably sort of a big lesson, not lesson like, yeah, it’s easy for staff in the office, employees is a real difficult challenge, especially in the UK which so much legislation and HR. They’re there physically in the office, not sort of remote, so we have to …
Yes, it’s a lot of requirements that sort of comes with that. That was a real learning experience. I didn’t expect that to be such a big part of running a business. I can’t just go and sit down and do SEO, never, like anymore. In fact, I do that at home when it’s quiet. I go to the office to speak to the client, speak to the staff, and so on.
How to take your business to the next level
Daryl Rosser: Let’s end on a positive note. Any good, I don’t know, feedback or anything for other people listening, or ideas, a final thought to wrap it up for the guys that are going out there and trying to scale outreach?
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. To scale outreach-
Daryl Rosser: Or their agency, whichever one you want to … You pick it.
Gareth Simpson: Well, I mean, first thing that came just following off on that in terms of scaling just business is, and Holly touched on it in her awesome talk about YouTube, she touched on the end, and it sort of really resonated with me, and that is get yourself out there.
Get yourself to the meetups, to the events, to the conferences. Don’t be afraid don’t hide away in the corner. Paul May from BuzzStream, I went to an outreach conference in London. It’s actually an outreach conference-
Daryl Rosser: Did not know that.
Gareth Simpson: … which is cool. And he was speaking there. And I as like just stood there like, “That’s him. He’s a big deal in the outreach game. So I want to speak to him. But he’s really busy. He’s just come off stage.
I don’t want to bother him.” I thought, “Oh…” Kayle was with me, my partner, and she said, “Just go on. Just go and speak to him.” So I went up to him, and what did I do? I said, “Hey, can I have a photo?” like a proper like SEO tourist. But he was so cool, such a nice guy and took some photos.
Then he started asking about me and what I do. Long story short, a week later, I’m there on a conference call with him. He’s back in Texas just for me, just having the guts to go and talk to him and say … just being brave.
Then I’ve been beta-testing their products and all sorts, and it’s been a lot of fun. So get out there. Get to the meetups, and get involved with even the online stuff as well. Again, it’s the groups, the courses, the people, just meeting like-minded people. You can’t just do it on your own. So, yeah, that’s probably my #1 tip.
Daryl Rosser: I love it, man. I love it. So where can people find you if they want to check you out, check out your agency, check out your new service, anything like that?
Gareth Simpson: So the agency is Seeker, seeker.digital. That’s typical sort of client retainer model, monthly subscriptions if people are interested. We update the blog quite often as well, so hopefully people find some useful stuff there. And the new Mention Me platform is going to be very outreach-specific.
Mostly the target audience for that is not so much clients but other SEOs, affiliates, those people who are interested in outreach and link-building and organic search. So it’s live now in beta testing. Hopefully it will be sort of ready to go by the time this video goes out.
Daryl Rosser: Should be.
Gareth Simpson: Yeah. Cool.
Daryl Rosser: Cool, man. I appreciate you joining me. It’s been awesome.
Gareth Simpson: Thanks, Daryl. Thanks very much.
Daryl Rosser: Hope you guys enjoyed it, and I’ll see you next episode.