Garret French from Citation Labs Headshot

Garret French Discusses Link Building & Link Gap Analysis

Garret French discusses link gap analysis & measuring ROI on link building. This is an important episode to listen to if you are reporting on link building.

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I had the pleasure of interviewing a legend in link building and SEO, Garrett French of Citation Labs. Garrett co-wrote the Ultimate Guide to Link Building with Eric Ward, the godfather of link building (known as link Moses). Garret has developed software tools for the link-building community, enabling us to find link-building prospects.

I used Garrett’s agency at one of my enterprise-level SEO positions.

In today’s episode, Garrets pulls the curtain back on link building and link gap analysis.  Let’s dive in.





Bio & About:

Software (Tools):

Book – Ultimate Guide to Link Building: How to Build Website

Authority, Increase Traffic and Search Ranking with Backlinks (On Amazon)

Value Drops

4:26 – Garrett talks about the Ontolo link-building tool and his time on that team with Ben Wills.

5:10 – Garrett talks about developing a system for scraping Google.

7:49 – Garrett talks about the Zip Sprout tool set for local SEO.

8:40 – Garrett talks about link impact and what difference links make.

8:52 – Garret talks about his aha moment (building links to sales pages).

12:14 – Garret talks about measuring ROI against a control group of similar URLs.

13:40 – Garrett talks about the relevance of topically relevant domains and content vs. domains with inflated domain authority (DA).

18:40 – Garrett talks about link gap analysis and how to calculate the number of links you need to rank for competitive keywords.

21:29 – Garrett goes into link-building ROI in combination with link gap analysis. (Garrett’s second aha moment).

24:28 –Garret discusses Citation Labs’ different business lines and Branded Link Building.

31:37 – Garrett talks about Citation Labs’ focus in 2023 (AI).

38:35 – Garret talks about how businesses can contact Garrett and Citation Labs.

39:26 – My recommendation is to use Citation Labs from my experience.

42:30 – What happens first as link building occurs? (Garretts 3rd aha moment).

44:03 – We talk about other metrics that can be used in conjunction with Link gap analysis: # of keyword baseline, Google search console: impressions, clicks, and

click-through rate (CTR), and a baseline of conversion goal (conversion rate) from analytics.

Questions for Garrett

  1. Could you tell us a little about Citation Labs and who the agency serves?
  2. Could you give us some background on some software and how they help businesses?
  3. Could you explain the importance of relevant links?
  4. Could you talk about the development of the agency and the business lines?
  5. What were the breakthroughs and aha moments you have had in link building and developing your business?
  6. Is there anything in your business you would do differently if you had a chance?
  7. What is on the horizon for Citation Labs in 2023?
  8. How should a business reach out to your team for link building?

[00:01] Announcer: This is a call to all current and aspiring entrepreneurs. How you market your business can be the difference between whether or not you succeed online. But don't worry, we're here to help with current strategies, tips, and tricks that you can apply to your online business or business idea. This is The EMJ podcast with your host, Matt Hepburn.

[00:30] Matt Hepburn: This is episode six of The EMJ Podcast, and I'm your host, Matt Hepburn. Our guest today is Garrett French from Citation Labs, a link building agency. Garrett pulls the curtain back on link building and link gap analysis. Let's dive in. Hey Garrett, welcome to the show.

[00:47] Garrett French: Hey, Matt. Thanks, bud.

[00:49] Matt Hepburn: It's good to see you. I haven't seen you in a while. Talked a little bit through James, but it's great to see you.

[00:56] Garrett French: Yeah, likewise. Excited for you, excited for your transitions and just keep on doing great work.

[01:04] Matt Hepburn: Yeah. Just thankful that you could come to the podcast. This is part of that transition, is talking to subject matter experts for businesses and how that affects marketing and really getting to know their story a little bit more than just the marketing part.

[01:23] Garrett French: Which could be useful.

[01:25] Matt Hepburn: Absolutely. So, all insight. This is all about the AHA, moments and the breakthroughs that businesses have and how it changed their business and how it affected their marketing. I figured you have such a colorful story, you'd be a perfect guest to bring on.

[01:45] Garrett French: Thanks for having me.

[01:46] Matt Hepburn: Absolutely. So I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about Citation Labs, the agency, kind of how it started and who you serve.

[01:55] Garrett French: Sure. Citation Labs is Links only agency, so we fit into the SEO industry, that's kind of our broader industry. And Link building, of course, supports SEO organic ranking outcomes. We started, I think twelve years ago, getting on to twelve or 13. It's been a while. And so, we didn't start as an enterprise oriented agency. We started as whoever needs links, whoever comes knocking.

[02:41] Matt Hepburn: Right.

[02:42] Garrett French: And this was a really wonderful era for newcomers to SEO. There were a handful of publications that were all kind of SEO thought sort of occurred right. Or like was publicized or discussed. This was before SEO twitter, of course, this is before there's so many of these, I guess not so many. There's a number of these kinds of forums that are private, kind of private forums that have sprung up in the past four or five years. But this was an era when Search Engine Land, search Engine Journal, there was Search Engine Guide, there's just a handful of publications. And this was kind of it at the time, at least from a web perspective, there were the conferences and what, their conferences and stuff. But just from a publishing perspective, it was fairly easy to reach the majority of the SEO audience. That's what I did to get visibility for the brand. Right. I don't think I could do it now. The era has changed. The audience is so fragmented and across different, even subject matter areas within SEO that it's become I think it would be difficult for me to do the same thing in 2023 as we did back in 2010 2011 with publishing about link building. That was the way that I got visibility and got clients and got enough clients to stop working at a job. Basically, the error has really changed. I don't know my AHA from that. It's more of like a oh, thank goodness I started at the right time.

[05:02] Matt Hepburn: So to give context, a little bit of context, you helped out with some of the earlier tools that were out there. The Ontolo tool, I remember using that. Right, you helped build that.

[05:14] Garrett French: No. Ben Wills built that. He's a mad genius, and he's very of SEO. He's one of what I call sort of the hidden giants. Folks that aren't as well known, but that are massive contributors in their own right to SEO or to the states generally. But he had built out a system for categorizing cataloging, the enormity of a backlink profile for competitors, and then more easily floating up useful opportunities to the top. But along that path, I had come up with a system for scraping google and counting the occurrences of domains within a keyword set. And by counting or waiting, there's an explicit ranking that google gives you where the URL occurs, whether it's in position one or position 100, which gives you a sense of its weight or importance based on your query. And if you put in 100 link building queries and you rank things according to the frequency of the domain occurrence, the frequency of the URL occurrence, you could find really quickly a lot of prospects. And so I found that to be a faster way of I really kind of did learn how to sell link building services from Ben wills at Ontolo. We did link building services as well. We just didn't see eye to eye on what kinds of tools would a link builder need. Right, right. So fast and scrappy. That's where I lived at that time. And so, I went my own way and built out the link prospector tool, which is a search engine scraper.

[07:06] Matt Hepburn: I was just going to get into the different types of software you have. It sounds like you have some legacy tools that look like they have coming soon. So, it looks like you're redoing them a little bit, and then the broken backlink tool, and then you have a whole bunch of other tools like co citation, and then services like sprout local.

[07:33] Garrett French: Yeah, we've got a bunch of stuff, a bunch of different projects in the works, dev projects in the works. It was really the beginning of last year when we started building out a larger dev team. A lot of our tools previously have focused on prospecting, finding publishers who might want to engage with us or our clients and there's a link somewhere happening. Right, so broken Link Building Co Citation Tool well, the broken Link building tool wasn't lightweight, but it was definitely more of a single use hyper focus on the link building process, the actual operational work of link building. So, where we've been focusing more lately. And the same for the Zip Sprout tool set. That's actually a really wonderful set from, I guess a business owner perspective, the Zip Sprout Tool set is kind of a method or a platform for our customers to look at what are the local link opportunities within a vertical and then selecting them and having us go out and build up. So that model has really worked well and we're still working on that one, improving it, but we've had a functioning system there for many years that's been doing great. But where we've really been focusing is on link impact. What difference do links make once they've been built? Because we've focused on building links to sales pages and that's been if you want to talk about an AHA, that's been a huge AHA for us. First of all was like listening to the market and this is five or six years ago, maybe more, when we have people say, well this is great, we've got this great guide that you made and you build a bunch of links to it, but we really want links to our sales pages. We're not seeing a lot of great impact from this and whether they were or weren't, we had no idea. We just sent them a spreadsheet full of links at the end of the month.

[10:02] Matt Hepburn: Right?

[10:02] Garrett French: So, we didn't really have a real system for saying here's what happened after the links got built. And so, we did. We pushed into this space of really challenging ourselves around how do we put the sales page first, how do we contextualize this and content so that a link to it is justified and necessary. I wouldn't say that was an AHA. Some AHAs are like real slow grind and a really slow ha.

[10:39] Matt Hepburn: I need to help you out with this one because I think that there's a lot of context that goes along with this with your link gap analysis and your ROI that you can show on organic traffic, kind of estimating that and how that goes right in line with a sales page.

[10:56] Garrett French: Yeah, absolutely. The link impact report is just kind of the end result that the links have had, and it really showcases the impact of links on that target sales page. But where link building has gone in the last 510 years is towards this model of data stories that we're pitching to the press, which sells well. It is difficult to do, we don't do it. We have a model for digital PR, that's our way of doing it, that isn't that. But there's still a tenuous capability for these approaches to show actual value where the SEO is really being graded or being judged on a performance basis. Right. Unless you're at a place where they're like the CEO says, hey, we need high DA links, as opposed to, hey, we need your department to make more money than we spend on it. What's the model? How should SEO be judged? Right. It should be on return on the cost of their services to the company.

[12:25] Matt Hepburn: Right, right.

[12:26] Garrett French: So we focus there. But anyhow, the impact is we examine impact at the URL level, like, where the page that we've built links to, which is the sales page? How is it doing after the links as opposed to before the links and very particularly how's it doing in comparison to a control group of pages that we've selected from the site that are as similar as we can find to the linked page. But they got no links. Right. It makes total sense. Right. But it's weirdly uncommon, especially in link.

[13:10] Matt Hepburn: Building, it's very uncommon to have somebody measuring what the effect of it is. It's usually like, this is the cost of the campaign. That's the end conversation. That's all we get with that other company that's providing that. So, what I love about Citation Labs having been a client as well in the enterprise space from you guys, is the quality of the content that you guys put out. Kind of like a smashing magazine content a lot of times, basically content that the publisher would want to put on their site. Right. It's not just one article with a link to that sales page that you're talking about, correct. It's usually a comparison of five to ten different businesses and the pros and the cons. And so, it's something that that publisher on that site would really has interest in publishing on their site, because of the quality content. It's very relevant. And then on top of that, you're putting it on relevant domains. So, to that topic, could you talk a little bit about the importance of having topically relevant domains and content point where the links are put pointing over to the sales page or the page that's the target URL. That'd be wonderful.

[14:32] Garrett French: What do I know? The links that are within this? I think of it as decision support. Like what is relevant, right? Like what is actually relevant? Well, it's going to be content that enables a certain decision purchase decision participant to better make a decision, and that may or may not include the purchase of your stuff. Right. But if we're aligning with that process, like that purchase decision process, then that's how we're really kind of defining relevance. Right. So, there's a lot of rigidity, I think, in the SEO space around what is and isn't relevant. So our real focus is on who are the audiences that are participants in a decision, in a purchase decision, and which of these audiences are accessible. Right. We are completely bounded by what's possible as opposed to what we want. If one particular audience isn't going to work, we will have to try others. But you asked what is the importance or what happens when you build links this way? What happens is your rankings go up for your sales pages. That's what happens. Additionally, you're reaching an audience that makes sense, right? Like that's a participant in a purchase decision or is the actual purchase decision maker, right? Because there's not always first of all, the user isn't always the decision maker, right. Second, the decision maker isn't the only person involved in the check signer, right, isn't the only person involved. You know this.

[16:47] Matt Hepburn: I do. I just was trying to give an idea for the audience. And what I was leading into is because there are a lot of link providers that do link building that are just selling on the domain authority of a site and not about the relevance, topical relevance of trying to match it closely enough, like you said, to the availability of an audience of a site that's linking topically over to another site and where that matches. I just wanted to explain to them.

[17:19] Garrett French: That.

[17:22] Matt Hepburn: Just having a domain, if you're using a link builder that has a high domain authority and it's not anything relevant, google is not going to make that. Your keywords are not going to move in ranking substantially, even if it's a high domain authority or page authority, because the relevance there doesn't match up. And when we start talking about things like Google entities and everything, they go, well, why does this matter in this query, right?

[17:50] Garrett French: There's a few things I think that thank you for helping me bring me back to the question. There are a few things here. One is like Google. Obviously, Domain Authority tries to model Page or Domain Rank, which Google has built out. But there's a lot of vendors, link vendors, who will game DA to boost the DA of their site, and they don't have any traffic themselves. So, a lot of Linked vendors now will say DAX plus monthly search traffic of Y, which is a decent indicator of a site's health. Great. But we really try to ask the question and what I think these two metrics also try to answer is, is this a real website that real people go to that has a real audience, an actual audience? And the answer usually is no. A lot of the vendors that are the folks that are selling on High Domain Authority, they either have sites that have been kind of gamed, right? Like sites whose domain authority has been artificially boosted, or they have maybe five or six sites that they can interact with or buy their way onto. May be able to get you a link, and it may really help, but you're going to need probably more than they can provide in order to overcome the link gap. Right.

[19:28] Matt Hepburn: That's where the link gap analysis comes in and the return on investment.

[19:32] Garrett French: Right.

[19:34] Matt Hepburn: Which is a key thing, guys, that you need to be able to understand where you are and the amount of links coming to your page and where you need to go.

[19:46] Garrett French: Right. It's a frighteningly simple calculation. There are other factors. It's not just links, and we know that, and we don't say that it's only linked, but when you're looking at the top ten for a target term or a collection of terms, the top ten ranking pages, the closer to the top gets more links and it has more links. And that's not always the case, right, but it's pretty consistently the case and you can usually look at kind of measure link gap. So, the other piece is like when DA is the bottleneck or it's like a bottleneck condition for what links do we get? You're going to end up on sites that may not be relevant and you were alluding to this earlier, and I think that's significant as well, is that there's not going to be a relevant connection between the domain that has the DA that you want. Right. But it doesn't really serve the audience that you are seeking. And a lot of times what you see in this content is that there will be two links in it, right? Yeah. They're either both to your site or they're both to their clients or they're ones to your site, once to gov and an authority, and they're just not naturally occurring kinds of linked circumstances. Right. So not to say you're going to get penalized and go do your own experiments. I would tell people that also. But you're going to find return when you really are examining the link gap. What's the linking gap between my URLs that I want to have ranking for term A and everybody else's URLs. Right, and then how am I closing that? How am I addressing this gap? Right, so that's what we do. And then if you know conversion rate, if you know estimated traffic, you can model out an ROI, and this is weirdly, nonexistent in link building. There are people who will talk about ROI, but they just kind of mean in general terms. We're talking about as specific as we can get. I wouldn't say as perfect as a traditional Row Ads model or like a paid search, but you can get closer with your link building than most people ever try or imagine or think they can get.

[22:40] Matt Hepburn: No, I think it's wonderful. I think it's a white elephant in the link building industry. Because, to your point, if they talk about return on investment, they kind of talk about well, when you get to page one and then you use the regular metrics of this position, gets this amount of that traffic and that should, correlate they don't talk about the difference of here's the time frame based upon the link gap of we need to build and where you should be within certain months.

[23:11] Garrett French: Right.

[23:11] Matt Hepburn: And then how that affects your traffic, which is a completely different model. So, I love you guys for that. I think it's fantastic. I think it's innovative.

[23:21] Garrett French: Matt that really has been our biggest, I'd say the last three years. We started building this out and then James Worth came on. We had not even beta proto version of this with spreadsheets and calculators and he saw what we were doing and said, hey, I think I could help, and I have a job. And it was one of the easiest hires of my career. So that was an important moment though, for us. That was definitely a business. There's no insight in this services space, generally speaking, into what is my actual return, right? What are links actually doing?

[24:18] Matt Hepburn: Absolutely. I think it's your unique selling, how you do it. I think you guys need to actually put that on your website.

[24:27] Garrett French: We're actually doing that now. We've got a lot of things we're chasing, but our kind of rebrand around impact is in our future, for sure.

[24:43] Matt Hepburn: Yeah, you guys totally do it. To that point, I was hoping you could talk a little bit about the development of the agency and the business lines because you guys are in a few different directions and it helps people in different things. From local to content development with link building and of course link outreach.

[25:13] Garrett French: Our main services are just broadly link building. One area that we've been growing lately has been branded engagement and outreach on behalf of clients. We normally work unbranded, so we're not acknowledging to a publisher necessarily that this client is a client, but we have moved into branded because of higher response rates. That's been one of our most interesting kind of explorations of the last six to eight months, is just beginning to make that work and exploring how do we function effectively and work effectively with the brand and respecting their guidelines and then also leverage the response rates that are much higher. So that's been interesting. So, I don't think I'm answering your question. So, we've got Zip Sprout, which focuses on just local links. It does a bit more because there's also often this layer of local community that is kind of, we can serve for brands as kind of a gateway into communities as well. Brands that are really trying to saturate large brands that are trying to saturate in a specific area. But then a lot of people are just it'll be a law firm that wants to rank higher in Philadelphia. So we're going to go build a bunch of links in Philadelphia, form or sponsor this nonprofit or that nonprofit and try and make sure they get link equity out of it. But there is a real missed opportunity of community engagement at, for example, places like Chambers of Commerce where they have their whole thing is networking, right? But a lot of times they'll have newsletters. So, there's an opportunity to get in front of a local audience in the newsletter. Potentially they'll have a blog that you can request to publish on. So, there's usually more there than clients are aware of. So a lot of what we're doing there is broadening the reach of a client and better enabling them to take advantage of the wider array of opportunities at any given sponsorship that they've chosen.

[28:06] Matt Hepburn: Would you say that helps their reputation?

[28:08] Garrett French: Absolutely. The opportunities that Zip Sprout is finding are the stuff that normally fall through the cracks on larger for larger brands, for lack of a better term. This is the nickels and dimes and they're looking for the stadiums. Right. But there's a lot more out there. There's a lot of reach and there's a lot in a lot of ways, there's more goodwill if you're sponsoring somebody's softball team or their Little League team. Not more goodwill, but there's a lot of goodwill that's possible when you're going pretty smaller audiences, but in a larger en masse in an area.

[28:58] Matt Hepburn: Some of our listeners have local brick and mortar businesses, so this is a great opportunity for them.

[29:05] Garrett French: Sure.

[29:06] Matt Hepburn: Just listeners from all different walks of life. So I got another one for you. Is there anything that you would do differently in your business if you had a chance? Maybe if you could talk to your younger self and say, how would I do something totally different?

[29:30] Garrett French: I would tell myself, and I probably wouldn't do it, that I would tell myself to learn or hire for an analyst much sooner. Right. That kind of capacity to crack data and use it to tell a story, that would have been nice to have had sooner. I think I respond to markets and that's or I respond to the customer, and then on math, I respond to the markets, like, what are you guys looking for? And so, I would tell myself to keep doing that, for sure. I don't know. That's such a good question. One thing is, I've definitely fallen out of publishing in the last five, six years. Matt I used to write all the time and really focus on market or trying to educate the market and doing.

[30:38] Matt Hepburn: Things like this, right?

[30:39] Garrett French: Yeah. To a guide to link building. Exactly. And that was always supported. That kind of work was what I was doing, writing articles for Search Engine Land, and just staying more active in the market. I really haven't done that as much over the last five years or so. And I think that's to my business's detriment, I don't feel as relevant in terms of what are the conversations going on right now. And honestly, I'm not an SEO, I'm a link builder. And the actual discussion around link building has really faded in the last I.

[31:27] Matt Hepburn: Got a suggestion for you.

[31:29] Garrett French: Yeah? Do more podcasts.

[31:32] Matt Hepburn: Yes, do podcasts. Podcasts are great for link building, man. If you had a lead magnet that you could put back to and then you go and you're a guest on those shows. You get Linked takes back to that lead magnet and right to your sales page.

[31:45] Garrett French: I like it. Well, that's what we're hoping for with the we've got link app analysis that we're plugging away on. And that's definitely something that I think could be a strong lead magnet for us. So, you'll probably be hearing from us again, Matt.

[32:05] Matt Hepburn: Well, I love podcasting for link building, and we'll definitely have to talk on the side about that.

[32:12] Garrett French: Okay.

[32:15] Matt Hepburn: I was wondering what's on the horizon for Citation Labs in 2023?

[32:22] Garrett French: So our big thing right now is really asking, how do we use AI? Well, where are the applications for AI that makes sense, that are genuinely value add to our process? I have this hunch that it's too much to say that SEO is dead. I know, but 25 years from now, I don't think Google is going to have as much traffic as it does right now. It's not going to be the center of search or discovery the way it is now. Right. There's going to be a lot more of these niche or kind of almost single use answer systems or decision support systems that AI is kind of embedded in. And so we as SEO if our job is connecting searchers or information seekers with our brand, right? Well, we're going to have to learn different databases. We have to learn how to different indices and how to essentially manipulate our status within these indices. And I think that's an era that's coming faster than we would want. But so, we're exploring AI for application within our processes, but then also really challenging ourselves by saying, where the hell is this going? Right? And it doesn't look good. Why would Google have a red alert? There was a New York Times article that discussed they called Sergey and Larry back to the offices like, oh no, Chat GPT came out. What are we going to do? And it's not that they're afraid of Chat GPT as a competitor. It's just that they've been doing they already had this for years, and then now the genie is finally out of the bottle. But the way that there's no room for ads or not the same room for ads in an AI kind of assisted answer scenario as a list of ten links, right? We're so many miles away from just that list of ten links. There are so many ads and then all these new different kinds of answer boxes that Google provides. But they need people on screens, right? They need people watching screens or looking at screens. And I think that so do SEO. That's the same thing we need. And I think that the concern that Google is having is we should be feeling that and really starting to understand and watch this space. Depending on your space, Matt, like what vertical you're in, but where's AI going to start answering questions sooner than later, that people are using Google for now and do better at it. And I think that's where I will be watching over this year, for sure. But we're starting to ask, or I'm starting to ask my developers to research, how are these language models built out when people are training AI? What does that look like? How can we control what the AI says? What kinds of recommendations it makes? Right. What's the best yoga mat AI? My client wants to be there. How do we make sure that the language models are going to have favorable outcomes for our clients? And I think that's where I'm interested to learn. Can we, do it? Can anybody do it? I mean, it must be possible.

[37:11] Matt Hepburn: Keep us informed, because I'm sure we're going to want to know as well.

[37:14] Garrett French: Yeah, I'll let you know. As we're finding out, I'm not a data person. I'm not a developer. But I can see the writing on the wall, seeing Google be challenged for the first time in 20 years, it's really fascinating to watch. Right, but it's also as an SEO or as a person in the SEO industry. I'm a link builder. But that's important, right? This is a big deal. This is first time absolutely critical.

[37:55] Matt Hepburn: If they're going to get a market share that we're able to say, how do we integrate with that system? How do we give them the information? So, I think everybody should be concerned about Chat GPT and any other one, because there's some others that are supposed to be coming out soon, too.

[38:11] Garrett French: Oh, it's going to proliferate. We're going to see it. It will explode. It'll crash. Everybody will say it's all over the AI. It won't be. It's just going to quietly infiltrate everything, right? Like quietly infiltrate. And so it's what are the circumstances in which our audiences, our target audiences, are seeking guidance on what? And I think that's where AI is going to start to get embedded. Right, but that's also where we have to learn which systems are being embedded. And then how do we I mean, for lack of a better term, how do we manipulate these systems? Right? Or how do we learn them well enough to present them with the right kinds of information that will serve positive outcomes for our clients? This is what we get paid to do. This is what SEO is?

[39:05] Matt Hepburn: Yes. So that is fascinating. First time I'm actually hearing somebody give you that spin. I love it. Let me ask a question. So how should businesses reach out to your team for link building? Any of your services? Or if they want to give some of the software spin, what's the best way for them to reach you and where should they go?

[39:34] Garrett French: We've got a regular old web form, boring old web form on our website. They're welcome to jump in. That way you can email me. Garrett. I might be slower to respond. If you're like. Oh, man. We want to start building links and explore your processor approach. James is a great person to email. James?, the answer is email Matt. That's going to be your best bet.

[40:07] Matt Hepburn: Yeah, it's the best bet. And having been a client, I've been on the client on several of the software. So, I was on Broken Link Builder. I was on Link Prospector. I purchased your book twice because I lost my old copy. It's somewhere here. I don't know where it was, so I had to buy a new copy. And I have done enterprise link building with one of my past employers. So I've had a great experience learning a lot both from the book and from the tools as to what to look for. Ultimately said to myself, I need to have a team that's focused on this and that can do this. And it's really important, guys, because the amount of content that they create, let's say you need 40 links per month, right? That's not the amount of content that they make because they talk to maybe 60, 65 for that amount of publishers, and people say that they're going to publish it and they don't always publish it. So there's a ton of content that's created that isn't used. That's part of the link building game. So, unless you can spit out 40 to 65 pieces of quality content that somebody would want to publish on their website, not just something that you would write, but something somebody would want to publish on their website, then I highly suggest giving Garrett and James over Citation Labs a call or email, please.

[41:44] Garrett French: Would love it. Check out the link gap model. Like how we're approaching this problem, right? I do think it's not unique. People have built this kind of a model out before. I think we're uniquely positioned as a service agency or as a service company to execute on the gap, though. We're uniquely positioned to execute on that gap, given our processes. We don't pay for links. If somebody says that it costs money, we go through them. We keep our links clean. Right. So I think that's relatively unique in the space and then our focus being on your sales pages as opposed to a data story. But nothing wrong with the data story. You're going to need the links. You need the domain equity or link equity at your domain level. That does help, but it doesn't help with the link gap. It can assist. Right. But you still are going to have to get down on the URL level and approach the link gaps on a page-by-page basis.

[43:10] Matt Hepburn: One of the fallacies everybody thinks about is that they think that the page is just going to start to rank. And what I learned through working with James was that the first thing that's going to happen is you're going to have more variations of your current keywords that start to establish on the page that then some page authority will increase. And as more goes on, then you'll get a little bit more of both of those things as you start moving in momentum, and then finally you'll have an increase in ranking.

[43:41] Garrett French: Matt, what you just said was that was my biggest right. When we could actually see what happens. This is what happens when you build links to a page, and we could see it. We see it time and again. This is consistent. This is what links do to a page, right? It's not miraculous. Let's be real, it isn't. But it is so cool to see and really be able to show your bosses, right? This is what link building is. It's not a list of domains that have linked to us or mentions we got but didn't give a link. And this is what is really happening after we build links to this page, and it follows that path. At first it's more keywords for this URL, and then you'll start to see some rankings increase and it's just this kind of gradual uptick. Then your rankings for your target keywords are better. It's really cool.

[44:49] Matt Hepburn: It's very cool. And it's cool to see the authority of the page go up at the same time. These are the metrics that you can report back as well as of what you're doing. You're saying you give the expectations. If you're the business owner, you'll know the expectations. But if you're a professional in the space reporting up to into a department, you can say, this is what we can expect from this campaign. This is the process. Here's a baseline of the amount of keywords we have associated with the page.

[45:19] Garrett French: Right?

[45:19] Matt Hepburn: Now, use a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush or whatever it is to get those keywords. And this is the amount of traffic we have from our analytics tool, right? So if you can show an increase of those keywords, and then you can show the authority going up, and then through Google search console, you can say, hey, did our impressions go up? Did we get an increase in clicks and click through rate as this is happening? And you use those metrics to help support the increase as you're doing the link building.

[45:53] Garrett French: We recognize that link building needs to be about more, right? It needs to be about actual impact on pages that matter. And so that's been really our focus the last year, year and a half. It's really how do we express this in a graphic way that makes sense and supports the people to whom we report, right?

[46:23] Matt Hepburn: I miss one thing, which is if you have goals in your analytics associated with an end, so maybe it's a form completion, maybe it's a purchase of whatever. If you have a baseline of what, month over month, quarter of a quarter, year over year, what your conversion rate is from those goals, watch those closely. And now measure those as the increase. And see, that is where your money is.

[46:49] Garrett French: Right.

[46:49] Matt Hepburn: How is it affecting your money?

[46:52] Garrett French: It's not the domain authority that you want from the links. Right.

[46:56] Matt Hepburn: It's the conversion.

[46:57] Garrett French: More money.

[46:57] Matt Hepburn: You want more money. So yes. Hey, you got more traffic, got more clicks, but did it actually affect something?

[47:03] Garrett French: Right? Did you make more money from this traffic? Right?

[47:07] Matt Hepburn: Exactly.

[47:09] Garrett French: That's the place that I think link building generally has let itself off the hook from a service perspective over the last decade. And that's not a sustainable place to be. Right. You're not building a sustainable industry that way. Anyhow, thank you for seeing our value. It's very validating that I really appreciate it.

[47:39] Matt Hepburn: Well, being in the edge price, I have to show value. So when I'm actually able to use you guys, we love to use you and we're able to show that value. So that's the key.

[47:52] Garrett French: I appreciate it.

[47:53] Matt Hepburn: Absolutely. So, listen, you have a wonderful day.

[47:57] Garrett French: Thank you.

[47:58] Matt Hepburn: And I'll be talking to you soon.

[48:02] Announcer: Are you ready to break through to accelerate online business growth? Then join our email list at so we can keep you up to date with the latest strategies, tips, and tricks that you'll want to know. Also, please don't forget to subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. This is The EMJ Podcast with Matt Hepburn, and we'll see you next you next time. Bye.

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  • Matt Hepburn

    Matt is the founder of The Focus Visibility Podcast. Matt has over 14 years of experience in search engine optimization. Matt has worked with various enterprise businesses, including formerly (White Source Software), John Hancock USA, SEMrush, Commvault, and iCIMS. Matt has also worked in large and small agency environments, including Martindale Hubble, WebROI, and Search Interactions. Additionally, Matt brings 14 years of consulting on organic traffic issues that affect businesses.

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