Spencer Haws is the founder of NichePursuits.com. He successfully built a portfolio of niche sites using SEO and online marketing that allowed him to quit his job in 2011.
Since then he’s been involved in dozens of online business ventures including creating and exiting Long Tail Pro, running an Amazon FBA business for over 3 years and selling that business, founding LinkWhisper.com, and co-founding MotionInvest.com. For more, check out NichePursuits Twitter page.
1. How many years of experience in digital marketing do you have?
I built my first site in 2006. But I didn’t really start to have any success with digital marketing until about 2009.
2. What type of digital marketing you have the strongest skills?
SEO and content marketing for sure.
3. What projects have you launched recently that you are proud of?
The most recent large project that I’ve launched is LinkWhisper.com. Link Whisper is a WordPress plugin that it makes it much faster and easier to build relevant internal links. This project took over a year to develop and I’ve now been selling this plugin for about a year and a half.
4. What do you do to further your own SEO knowledge and skills?
I interview a lot of experts on the Niche Pursuits podcast which serves to build up my knowledge and skills. Experience is also vital. I’m managing many niche sites and making many decisions and moves regarding SEO. I’m always asking what works and what doesn’t.
5. Is there any marketing or SEO blog you like most of all and why?
I wouldn’t say that I follow any one particular SEO blog. I simply read more in-depth content that I find on various subjects.
6. What are the TOP-3 errors you made at the beginning of your SEO specialist career?
First, my biggest mistake was trying to target keywords that were too difficult. I wanted to target high search volume keywords, but these were always way too difficult. As a result, I didn’t rank anywhere and wasn’t getting any traffic.
Secondly, I was not having patience. I started a personal finance blog in 2006, but because I wasn’t seeing any results after a few months, I gave up on it and moved onto other projects. I’m sure if I would have stuck with it, I would have built a significant blog.
Finally, was taking on too many projects. I often would try to build several sites and rank them all at once. Instead of building several large income-producing assets, I produced lots of small sites that didn’t achieve much success.
7. What SEO tactics do you think are underrated?
Writing excellent and engaging content that increases user engagement and time on page.
8. Do you believe that backlinks are Google’s past? Is link building important for increasing the website’s position nowadays?
No, I think backlinks are still incredibly important. However, it’s always becoming more important to make sure you’re building quality links to your site.I believe links from low DR relevant sites can be more important than links from high DR non-relevant sites.
9. In your opinion, does the technical health of the website affect the ranking positions in search engines?
Yes, a site with poor technical health will decline in rankings over time, unless it is at the same time generating a ton of backlinks.
10. How do you stay up-to-date on the near-constant search algorithm changes?
I am part of many online business Facebook groups and I read the latest SEO news. Whenever there’s even a small algorithm update there is a flurry of posts and much discussion. Usually reading the comments from people in a broad range of niches is helpful to get an idea as to what’s going on.
11. Are you going to surprise the SEO and Digital Marketing world with something new (tool/app, course, product)?
Nope! Link Whisper is the big tool that I’m focusing on currently and I don’t have anything else in the works.
12. How do you make competitor analysis? Please provide a short 1-2-3 steps guide.
When looking at competing sites, I’m considering three main things:
I take a look at the quality and quantity of the site’s backlinks. Where are they getting them from? Are they buying links or are they successful with another type of link-building strategy?
I check what types of keywords they are targeting. Are competing sites being successful in targeting a range of keywords I haven’t considered yet?
I consider the overall design and feel of a site. Is the UI and/or UX of a site contributing to its success?
13. In your opinion, does a user’s behavior impact on website’s ranking in SERP?
I think so. Why would Google Analytics display such data like Bounce Rate and User Engagement time so prominently if it didn’t? If it isn’t already, user behavior should probably be one of the primary ranking factors. The user knows best whether or not a result has answered their query.
14. What is your approach to developing an SEO strategy?
It depends on the site and the stage it is at. Making sure the site is SEO-friendly for search engines is important. This can include having SEO SOPs for all content. From a link-building perspective, creating content that picks up links naturally is ideal.
15. How do you see the future of SEO (in 5 years)?
SEO will continue to get more difficult. Only highly skilled and “professional” publishers will remain.
16. Which SEO or marketing tools can you recommend as a must-have for every SEO specialist?
I enjoy using Ahrefs. I also feel like Link Whisper is a must-have for every SEO specialist.
17. What advice can you give for those who are just starting their career in digital marketing?
Absorb yourself in the community to learn as much as you can as fast as you can. Listen to and read from many sources to make sure you’re getting a broad range of opinions. That way you will learn to evaluate good advice from bad advice — because both are out there!
18. How to make a website search engine friendly? Could you please name the main steps?
There are dozens of things you can do to make your site more search engine-friendly.
The main things are the simple things:
- making sure your site allows search engines to crawl via the robots.txt file;
- ensuring HTTPS/SSL security is being used;
- work on site speed;
- write good titles and meta descriptions for your posts;
- create quality content that uses keyword appropriately
- target long-tail keywords that you have a feasible chance of ranking for based on the competition.
19. SEO is such a controversial thing. Every SEO specialist rates its success differently. What is your way to rate SEO success? What metrics do you look at?
I generally ask two questions: Am I making more money and is my traffic increasing?
20. In your opinion, a good SEO specialist should be a good analyst? What extra knowledge should SEO specialists have to succeed?
Optimizing a site, page, or post for search engines has a lot to do with the written content. Therefore, an SEO specialist should be proficient in writing and editing content.
21. You are noticed at many digital conferences. How important live communication is for business? How does it work for you?
I enjoy attending conferences when they are happening! I don’t think live communication is critical to developing SEO knowledge. However, I think digital conferences can be a great way to network and build lasting business relationships.
22. Should a business have a corporate blog?
I believe most businesses should have a blog they post to semi-regularly. It positions them as an authority in their niche and gives search engines something to rank. Ultimately, this leads to more potential customers or clients finding your business and brand.
23. How can start-ups and early-stage businesses use SEO effectively to drive traffic to their sites?
If their on-page and on-site SEO is being done well then they’ll be more attractive to Google. Besides this, getting links from relevant high authority sites is going to be the best way to bring traffic.
24. What do you prefer the most: client SEO, own projects, consulting, something else?
I only work on my own projects. I don’t take on clients or do any consulting.
25. What strategy do you prefer: launch and grow many small projects or work on a few solid projects?
I’ve shifted from working on many small projects in the early part of my career to now focusing on just a few solid projects. I think people will see better returns if they focus their efforts on just a few projects.
26, Have you ever used black hat and grey hat SEO tactics? What do you think about them?
Of course. But that was a LONG time ago. I don’t recommend using PBNs or other shady link-building strategies anymore. Google is getting smarter and smarter and eventually, they are going to catch up with you. I stick with white hat techniques now.
27. Have you ever run Google Ads campaigns? How do you combine Google Ads campaigns and SEO?
Yes. I primarily run Google ads to get people to buy my products — like Link Whisper. Google or Facebook or Youtube ads can be a great way to supplement the traffic that you get from SEO.
28. Does your university degree help to succeed in SEO and digital marketing?
Not really. I did graduate with a degree in business management; however, most of what I do day to day has been learned “on the job”. (Self taught).
29. Can you share your professional and business plans for the next 2-3 years?
I plan to continue to grow NichePursuits.com to try and make it a great resource for people to learn how to build niche sites, find the best online business ideas to start, and stay inspired with lots of entrepreneurial success stories.
In addition, I plan to continue to grow Link Whisper to make it the defacto internal link-building tool for SEO professionals.
30. What can you tell about mobile SEO? Is it true for you that mobile SEO will absolutely force out desktop soon?
No, I don’t think that desktop traffic is going to be forced out, but it can depend on the niche. Some sites see 90% of their traffic from mobile, while for others it’s more 50/50. Niche Pursuits, for example, still gets a lot of desktop traffic because we’re getting visitors from people working on their computers rather than scrolling on their phones.
31. Structured data is becoming more and more important these days. What do you think about it? Why did Google start to pay so much attention to structured data sites?
I think structured data is helpful for both the algorithm and search engine users, and that’s why it’s important to Google. It means they can better understand the content of a page or post and display that content more clearly to the user in search.