Without futher ado, let’s get into it. Here’s Michelle MacPhearson from FromIdeatoEmpire.com.
Mark: On the phone I have someone for whom it’s not so late. Coming from the beautiful hillside cow country of Peteluma, California, I have Michelle MacPhearson on the phone.
Michelle, how are you?
Michelle: I’m doing good tonight. I’m thrilled to be here and be a part of this. How are you doing, Mark?
Mark: I’m absolutely fantastic, but don’t let that concern you, because I’m getting better.
Michelle: Good to hear.
Mark: I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a long time. I’ve been following you for years and years. I think you got started probably around 2005. I got started in 2007 and immediately ran across one of your very early products, which was 30 Minute Backlinks at that time, which has been totally redone. I hope we get to talk about that a little bit tonight.
Michelle: Sure thing.
Mark: I feel like I know you because I have heard you talk with Ed, Lynn, and Paul on Internet Marketing This Week (This Year, the yearly podcast -) Is it weekly or yearly?
Michelle: Decade maybe.
Mark: Internet Marketing This Decade. That was one of my favorite shows for a long time when you guys were putting it out. It’s really great to have you on and I really appreciate you being here.
Michelle: My pleasure. Thank you so much for all those kind words, too.
Mark: You and I have talked previously and I’ve got a bunch of listeners who are sort of normal people trying to figure out a way to make their world better by making money on the internet. A lot of them are affiliate marketers, a lot of what I talk about on this show is affiliate marketing. We also have a lot of info product creators and people that are trying to establish a brand online. They’re looking to do market leadership, which is something you’re an expert in.
I was wondering if you could recap your very interesting online story, starting back in 2005 and get people caught up with who you are and the kind of things that you’ve been doing in the last almost 10 years online.
Michelle: I’ll tell a little bit of my story and when narcissism kicks in and I’m either praising myself too much or I’ve just gone on for too long feel free to stop me.
The way that I was introduced to internet marketing or any kind of online promotion stuff was actually through forums, people were talking about stuff and I thought, “Oh, that sounds really interesting.”
The route that I took, just the people whose information I was attracted to, was a black hat route. It was cloaking back then, it was building thousands of scraped crappy terrible sites, putting Adsense on them, and then using whatever bare minimum tactics one could use at the time to get traffic to them. That’s where I come from and it’s nothing that I’m ashamed of. There’s no internet police, I’m not breaking any laws – and I wasn’t.
I think that given now having been doing this for seven years or so it’s given me a lot of perspective having been on the “dark side.” I know a little bit about how that side of the business works and I also know how the “white hat” side of the business works, and I understand how the search engines react to both ways of doing things. I’m really happy about where I got started.
We started with those massive farms of sites and cloaking and stuff like that. Then I believe it was the very beginning of 2006 and there was a big Google shake up and a bunch of folks got their sites delisted and all kinds of stuff happened. It was like, “Oh my god, SEO changes.” Because I had only been in the business for about eight months I didn’t even know that that kind of stuff could happen.
What that actually led me to through a series of just happy accidents and just me being the kind of person who is always keeping my eyes open for new opportunities was to start looking at using social media as a way to generate traffic. From that I got involved with a lot of MySpace marketing and I sold a software associated with that.
Then I started looking at there’s this whole thing called “social media” that doesn’t just encompass MySpace, but encompasses all sorts of sites that were coming out at that time. Again, we’re still in 2006. I thought if I can pull traffic from this MySpace site maybe I can pull traffic from these other kinds of sites. It wasn’t purely social media, it was just about where else can I either put my links up to get traffic or actually produce content and get traffic that way.
One of those types of sites was software directories, which is what the original incarnation of 30 Minute Backlinks was built upon, the idea of creating software and submitting it to these software directories for free and then the software directories would list the software and link back to you. That’s where that came from.
Mark: This was quick and dirty spammy software that you would create that was pass through web browser stuff and that sort of thing, or this is real value added software?
Michelle: My honest thought about that is that it’s as spammy as you want it to be.
Mark: Just like everything else, sure.
Michelle: Am I telling people to make spammy blogs or good blogs nowadays? I’m telling you to put up what’s going to work for you in your marketplace. I don’t know what your marketplace is. I can’t tell you that a 5,000 word article is better than a 500 word article because if you’re doing a shoe blog then you’re not going to need 5,000 words on shoes.
I think at the time it didn’t matter as much, to tell the truth, whether something was high quality or not. That was hardly even something that people spoke about. So for those people who had those values that they really wanted to do something that mattered in their marketplace, then they could use that to do that. For those people who just wanted to get a link and put out crappy stuff, they could do that too.
Mark: I see. Sorry to derail you there. You came out with the 30 Minute Backlinks, the genesis of that was from getting backlinks from software distribution sites. From there, you went where?
Michelle: From there I was also doing the MySpace stuff and I talked a lot about various ways that one could generate links and I talked about various ways that one could use social media to get traffic. I guess from those origins that kind of became my expertise because it was what I enjoyed doing. Also because that was what I spoke to people about most often so, “Let’s talk to her about that because that’s what she talks about.”
Do I teach people right now that they need to have 500 words per article or 5,000 words per article, or whatever the case may be? Neither. I leave that up to the individual. But, absolutely I do emphasize that you do need good quality stuff these days. What worked in 2006 with that 30 Minute Backlinks product to get out links actually would still work now as far as you would still be able, but Google is devalue those links and some of those directories wouldn’t accept your software anymore because it’s crappy, period.
Because of the ways that the internet as a whole has changed in the last six years, quality is so much more important than it used to be. That’s a philosophy that I’m moving forward in my own business in terms of the kinds of sites that I’m involving myself with and it’s the kind of stuff that when I talk people like you and your audience that I do talk about that more than I used to. It is more important than it used to be.
Mark: For people who haven’t read your stuff, they should go to your blog because you’re a really good writer. Isn’t it true that that’s your background, don’t you have some super galactic collegiate training in writing things?
Mark: Really? I thought I knew that about you.
Michelle: I wanted to be a journalist and I started going to school for that, but I quite because I found internet marketing and you can make a lot more money doing internet marketing than you can writing obituaries. So that’s where it comes from.
Mark: You found your voice, because your articles are really good. I really enjoy your blog and I really like the way you’ve rebranded now. What’s the URL over there where you’re publishing your internet marketing content?
Michelle: It’s at FromIdeatoEmpire.com.
Mark: The idea for that is pretty explanatory from the URL, but can you talk a little bit about what the idea for that property is?
Michelle: It used to be my name, MichelleMacPhearson.com, so now it’s just FromIdeatoEmpire.com. A lot of it had to do with exactly what we were just talking about, in terms of the idea that having good content, that having something that makes a difference in your marketplace matters so much more than it used to in terms of your ranking. I’m not by any means saying that having something decent to offer your market didn’t matter five years ago, I’m saying that it didn’t matter so much in the search engines. It does now matter a lot more.
I guess in some ways I was maybe a little bit jaded. If you’re going to make it to the top of the search engines – again, we’re talking 2005 – with really bad sites, bad content, then why would I sink all of my time and all of my effort into something that was going to be such a high quality thing if nobody would ever see it because all of the spammy people were going to outrank you? I realize that’s a super fatalistic way of looking at things, but I was also 25, so.
Mark: I understand, sure. Part of it is about a focus on making money versus a focus on exchanging value for money. Now you’re a lot more about, at least you’re talking a lot more about this creating value and market to message match and stuff like that. To me, that’s what Idea to Empire is all about, that sort of value creation process.
Michelle: Yes. One of the things that I wanted to do when I started my own site was to be able to take this idea that I had and build an empire on it, literally. I want other people to be able to have that opportunity too, because there are so many people out there with amazing ideas or amazing talents or amazing things that they make.
I’m constantly amazed by the work that people are doing at places like Society 6 and at places like Etsy, but their marketing is terrible because they’re artists or whatever. There are so many people out there with amazing stuff that they have to bring to the world and I would love to see more people take this quality content that they have that they create because they love it and create an empire out of it.
Mark: When people approach you and they’ve got passions that they want to follow or they just are looking for a lifestyle like internet marketing and they’re trying to get started, I know you’ve got a lot of experience with new internet marketers through your work at Crowd Mountain, so what do you tell new people? There are certainly a lot of new internet marketers listening to this show. If you were going to give new internet marketers advice, what kind of advice do you typically give?
Michelle: One of the things that I say to people is that whatever it is that you’re creating, whether that’s something that you’ve put on Twitter or Facebook posts or a blog post, or a PDF that you’re giving away for a free download, it needs to be something that you would be proud enough to show to your mom. I call it the mom test. If you showed this to your mom would she be like, “Oh wow, that’s neat,” or would she look at it and go, “Okay, hun.”
You’ve got to be doing stuff that would make your mom proud, not because I’m so concerned about your interfamilial relationships but because social signals are so important now in the search engines and just for getting traffic that if your content is not good enough that people would willingly and voluntarily share it with other people you’re going to have a really tough time getting traffic from the search engines.
Mark: Just for the record, my mom is awesome and we have a great relationship. I just want to clear that up.
Michelle: That’s good to know.
Mark: It goes back to this core idea of value. Even your mom should be able to look at your work and judge that it has good value.
Michelle: I think if we’re writing an article about how to fit shoe inserts, for example, are you bringing something new or at least something interesting to it or is this one of those articles that somebody could write with their eyes shut that is basically just regurgitating the same basic information over and over again. That’s not what you want to be publishing. You don’t want to be publishing the same stuff that people could find anywhere else. You need to have a voice to it.
I think voice is really important, too. I think that when you’re building a site, no matter what it’s about, that there needs to be a voice behind that. It doesn’t necessarily need to be tied to a person, but for that content to be sharable, to be interesting to the people reading it, there has to be some kind of personality behind it whether that’s an angry person, a happy person, an airheaded person, whatever the case may be. You need to have some flair, some personality in what you’re putting out there to stand out. I think that’s super important.
Mark: Or a slightly irreverent person like Michelle MacPhearson, maybe?
Michelle: Maybe, yes.
Mark: Excellent. Right now I know that you’ve got multiple projects going on and you’ve retooled 30 Minute Backlinks. I thought maybe given this audience it might be interesting to talk a little bit about that product and talk about that in the context of Penguin and possibly even Panda.
What kind of advice are you giving people about traffic and backlinks? Are backlink techniques like you talk about in the 30 Minute Backlinks product, are those still relevant and working? I know you’ve done a lot of experiments. Maybe you could just give some insight about the kind of thinking you’ve been doing over the last six months about SEO and backlink building and talk about that in the context of the 30 Minute Backlinks product.
Michelle: Sure. Like we talked about earlier, the original product was based around submitting software to software directories, they would link to you and you would get backlinks from that. That would still technically work, however Google has devalued some of those backlinks.
One of the things that always kind of bummed me out about that product was that people – and I did not sell it this way, I even said on the sales page that you should not only use this and this only to get your links. Any good backlinking strategy needs to have backlinks from various sources. That might be social media, blog, and software directories if this was a few years ago.
Unfortunately, some people would just buy a product – not just mine, but anybody’s – and then use that one thing and either wouldn’t get the results that they wanted or maybe they would get results but it still doesn’t create a very good backlink profile, so it always made me nervous for people.
I’ve done a bunch of tests and actually ranked sites with just that alone. But again, on principle that’s not the way that it should be done where you’re only building one kind of link. That kind of always bothered me that people used it that way.
Then we had these Panda changes and then the Penguin changes and I wanted to do something different with that product. I really liked the product name and I really liked the domain name, so I wanted to keep that. I completely retooled it and what it focuses on now and what I focus on, and what I hope that everybody listening to this focuses on going forward, is getting links from natural organic, social media type of sources.
We’re not necessarily only talking places like Twitter or Facebook, we’re also talking about social bookmarking sites or places like Squidoo where you can put your own page up on their authority domain.
When you take a strategy like that where you’re pulling in links from many different sources – and those few I mentioned I’m sure you guys all know about, so if you haven’t yet go get links from those places – but, once you’re pulling in links from all of these different kinds of sources you’re starting to present a more natural backlink profile in the eyes of Google. It’s going to mix up your anchor text, which is something that Penguin has a big problem with, if you’re over-optimized for your anchor text, and it’s also going to get you a lot of different links from a lot of different kinds of sites, which is important to Penguin as well.
The product itself was retooled to help people get links from all kinds of different places like that. That’s exactly what I’m doing with my own link building is getting links from all kinds of places. Let me tell you about one of the test results that I actually just got two days ago and I haven’t told anybody yet.
Mark: Wow, it’s breaking news here at MasonWorld.com.
Michelle: I’m a total SEO nerd or whatever, so I don’t know how much your audience knows about this kind of stuff. Social media sites and getting links from them can help your site rank.
For example, what was discovered (somebody tested it maybe ix months ago) if a whole bunch of people retweet or just tweet and retweet a link, can the page that tweet links rank? They discovered yes, it can. If a whole bunch of people retweet something and it goes through Twitter like wildfire but doesn’t have links from anywhere else on the internet, it’s only getting linked to from Twitter but a large volume of people are linking to it, it can rank.
What’s interesting is that the text of the tweet then acts as an anchor text. All my examples during this have been about shoes because I’ve got a Pinterest page open in front of me and there are shoes on it. If you’ve got a page with Chanel Riding Boots and you’ve got a picture or whatever you have on your blog and a whole bunch of people retweet that link to your blog with the text in the tweet of Chanel Riding Boots, Google will be looking at you as a relevant page for the key phrase Chanel Riding Boots, and depending on the competition for any key phrase you may actually end up ranking in a high position for that.
Am I making sense on that?
Mark: Yes, absolutely.
Michelle: The test that I just completed was doing the same exact thing, but with Pinterest.
Right now the caption on your Pinterest pin acts as if it were anchor text and then you have your image, of course because Pinterest is image based, and then your image links to your site. There’s no actual anchor text on Pinterest, but the caption ends up being what you rank for if you get a whole bunch of repins to something that links to your site.
Mark: Wow. So you can definitely see a signal from that?
Michelle: Yes. I’ve actually made two pages that were penalized in Penguin re-rank by having some viral Pinterest activity with them. Then I’ve had pages on a brand new site that hadn’t been effected by any kind of ranking issues or search engine mixups actually rank because of Pinterest pins.
Mark: Do you have grey hat secrets for getting viral Pinterest activity or are you just doing something like phoning up 700 of your closest friends and asking them to repin your anchor?
Michelle: For the purposes of this testing we were using Fiverr to get extra Pinterest pins.
Mark: Fiverr is quite an amazing place for this sort of thing. I’ve used it for these kind of tests as well and for all social media that’s a really good tip for people to use carefully. You can get links of uncontrolled quality from all social media things. That’s the problem, you don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes, but for these kind of tests it’s perfect.
Michelle: Just a tip on that as well, if you’re going to go that route and you want to keep your Pinterest account. I really like Pinterest so I didn’t want to lose my account, so I had the repins occur on a different account.
Mark: Absolutely. Pinterest is having to start paying attention to that kind of stuff, I’m starting to hear stories. That’s the price of success, I guess.
Michelle: Let me say this too. I basically said go spam Pinterest and you’ll rank in Google. Number one, that’s super short lived thinking. I think that it’s super interesting that Google is looking at social signal that much. I think that it’s super important that you have enough quality content so that people will pin and repin the things that you’re putting up or that people will tweet them, or people will Google +1 them or Facebook like them. All of those are things that Google is looking at.
The most natural profile that you can get and the one that will last is going to be the one that has a various mix of people pinning, liking, and tweeting your stuff naturally. It’s going to be super easy for Google to look and be like, “700 dummy accounts pinned this one thing.” That right now may be a small loophole, that’s not a lasting strategy.
A strategy is that we need to be thinking about social as a signal for our long term ranking.
Mark: I guarantee that there’s a team of 17 PhD eggheads trying to figure out how to decode the Pinterest signal right now. They’ve probably got a pepperoni pizza and they’re crammed in a conference room all sweaty trying to figure it out. I guarantee that is happening at Google right at this very moment.
Michelle: You need to think about is the site that you’re working with going to be a match for what you’re trying to market. I’ve seen people trying to spam Pinterest with some stuff that’s really just never going to do well on Pinterest. A lot of it is internet marketing make money at home kind of stuff, that’s never going to go viral on Pinterest because that’s not what people are there for.
We also shouldn’t be focusing on getting links or social signals from sites where that just simply isn’t going to happen. It doesn’t mean that’s a bad a site, it just means that it isn’t a match for your marketplace.
Mark: But a picture of some hot Chanel Riding Boots could go viral?
Michelle: It very well could, yes.
Mark: I don’t want to keep you on the phone all night, we’ve already been going for awhile here. Having been around the block, if you could do it all over again, it’s 2005, what’s the one thing that you wish you had known back in 2005 that’s so obvious to you know that you want to communicate to new internet marketers and people who are early in their internet marketing journey? What’s the sort of helpful sage advice that you’d like to offer my audience?
Michelle: I think that a lot of people don’t necessarily see the value in one site or another site, this technique or that technique, because they just don’t like it. For example right now, not to beat the Pinterest horse or anything, we’ve got a lot of people that say, “Pinterest is dumb. It’s just chicks posting pictures of Chanel Riding Boots.” That’s super short sighted of them.
I had a bunch of people in the internet marketing world who weren’t interested in MySpace when it first came out and that became one of the biggest things in terms of not just that you could make a sale for something on MySpace, but it really changed the landscape of what social media was. The word social media didn’t exist at that time.
I think that instead of thinking about how smart am I and how can I figure out what I should be focusing on and what I shouldn’t be focusing on, instead think about “Where’s my audience?”
Michelle: It doesn’t matter whether you like a certain thing or not, whether that be MySpace or Pinterest or having a blog. That’s another one that people say are dumb. It doesn’t matter what you think, it matters what the people that you’re trying to target where are they, what are they doing, what would make your brand or your site or personality seem more relatable to your audience. Whether you like it or not is irrelevant. Where are your people?
Mark: It goes back to adding value. If you’re going to add value you have to deliver it, and in order to do that you’ve got to deliver the pizza to the address where the people are hungry.
Michelle: Otherwise they’ll never find their pizza and then they’ll be hungry.
Mark: Everything in the world can be solved by pizza, I think.
Michelle: Oh my gosh, you’re making me hungry.
Mark: Me too. That’s very dangerous this late at night.
Thank you so much, Michelle. I really appreciate your time. I know you’re busy, I know you have a secret unannounced new project coming out that we won’t talk about tonight but I’m excited to see what that is. I’m going to let you get back to work on that.
Tell me again where everyone can find you, because I’m going to strongly recommend that they follow you everywhere. You’ve got attitude and game and I just really enjoy following you on a day to day basis and I think my listeners would enjoy it as well.
Michelle: Thank you. I’m at FromIdeatoEmpire.com and on Twitter I am @MichelleM. If you find me in either of those places you can find me in all of the other places where I hang out.
Mark: That’s excellent. Thank you very much. I hope you have a fantastic evening.
Michelle: You too. Thanks so much for having me.
That wraps it up for this week for the Mason World Late Night Internet Marketing Podcast. Thanks so much to Michelle MacPhearson for being on the show.
If you want to check out that 30 Minute Backlinks product that’s at MasonWorld.com/30minute. If you want to support the show that’s a great way to do it. Otherwise, head on over to iTunes and give us a review over there, we’d love that.