Serpwizz

SERPWizz Interviews

James Parsons

Content Powered

James Parsons is the founder and CEO of Content Powered, a content creation company. He’s been a content marketer for over 10 years and writes for Forbes,
Entrepreneur, Inc, and many other publications on blogging and website strategy.

Check out James’: Website, LinkedIn, Email

What are some of the biggest challenges/obstacles you faced when starting out with SEO, and why?

The biggest obstacle is probably the amount of stale and outdated information out there, as well as the variety of interpretations. I certainly wasted a lot of money on low quality SEO services and get-rich-quick schemes back in the day.

Tell us about your favourite/most successful link-building strategy - how quickly do you typically see results from this method?

It sounds boring, but: infographics. Some of my infographics have yielded tens of thousands of links, many of which were from household name sites. These are super time-intensive and you have to pick your topic very carefully and knock it out of the park with your design and how you visualize your data. If the stars align, these things snowball very nicely.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

Drink more coffee, or take a break for a bit. Sometimes I’ll put on a movie that I’ve already seen so I have some background noise and my attention doesn’t deviate from my work.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?​

I’m a content marketer, so I’ve heard a lot of blog  management strategies. One of them is ordering a large amount of low quality content at once to dump on your blog on the same week. Another is mixing high quality articles in with lower quality articles.
Anything that involves  cheaping out with content or cutting corners is generally a bad recommendation when it has serious SEO implications.

How do you choose who to reach out to/partner with? Where do you find them, and what approach do you take when reaching out?

I evaluate all of my employees and partners by their work and their results. Sometimes I find them by directly hiring them, other times I hunt them down and reach out to them on LinkedIn or email, and sometimes they find me. I like giving people a chance to see what they can accomplish.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Believing in my product. If you’re selling something that isn’t helping someone, sales calls are a chore. When you know for a fact that you’re growing your client’s websites by an average of 700-800% each gear, sales calls become easy and fun. Everything
else comes much easier when you are selling something that has serious value.

What do you think about link swaps?

Valueable in moderation. I ignore most of these, but every now and again I build a great new relationship from these. Be picky and only link to sites that you would have normally linked to anyway, not something way out in left field.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?

Blog content. I pour money into it every month and it has been a consistent source of revenue for us. This is the foundation of our business.

Describe your most effective SEO campaign ever. What made it so successful, and why?

Blogging. Each article is a one-time investment that yields results for years, or even decades. If you’re in your business for the long-haul, it’s easy to justify investing in a content strategy.

Tell us one thing about SEO that most people don't know?

Google averages your content quality. If you have a lot of thin pages on your site (think tag pages, empty pages, attachment pages, duplicate pages), those could be weighing down your site. If you have old articles that you haven’t looked at in 5 years
with grammar issues, plagiarism, or thin content, sometimes deleting them can actually improve your average content quality. You want every page on your site to be the best version it can be and trim anything that isn’t driving traffic or giving your visitors some value.

What is a 'SEO trick' one could execute in <5 minutes?

Well, if you have a WordPress site, installing a caching plugin, a related posts plugin, and a plugin to open external links in a new tab takes less than 5 minutes and will have a meaningful impact on your SEO.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?

“With paid ads, you’re renting visitors. With content, you own a lifetime stream of visitors”. I’ve quoted this on my own site a few times, and it’s something I believe in. This speaks to businesses who are pouring millions every year into paid ads and are looking to diversify their ad spend.

When did you first become a rebel?

When I graduated high school and felt the icy-cold waters of adulthood!

How do you personalize your link building outreach campaigns? What are some tips for getting more responses? Do you have a follow-up process?

Shorter is better, and always end with a question to prompt a reply. I don’t follow-up to comply with the CAN-SPAM laws in the United States.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

They’ve taught me that half-assing things is almost always a road to failure.

Are your campaigns automated? If so, what tools do you use and why?

I use Zapier to automate quite a few things, but these are supplemental tasks that make organization and notifications more convenient, more than automating my marketing for me. Zapier is great.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out on their SEO service provider journey? What advice should they ignore?

Be very skeptical of SEO service providers. I’ve worked with thousands of them, and worked at many of them from client manager to business development manager to CMO. With most of them, they are getting the better half of the deal by taking your
money. SEO can be diluted down to three things; a properly built and well-optimized website, strong and relevant links from high quality sites, and consistently creating content that is better than your competitor’s content. Most of the packages these companies are selling are worthless. Focus on these three things.

Describe your link-building team. How many members are there? How do you measure and track progress?

Around 95% of our links are acquired organically through the content we write. We have a few employees who help with outreach campaigns with larger pieces of linkbait content, like infographics. We track progress with tools like Ahrefs and organize them into spreadsheets.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

Trade cash for cash-flow, be frugal, work weekends, have a side hustle, and don’t be afraid to start something new. When a business owner starts a business, they rarely know everything there is to know about that business – many of them learn as they go. I’ve seen so many people get derailed because they aren’t confident enough or they don’t feel they know enough to start. Everyone has to start somewhere.

What careers advice would you give to your 21-year old self?

Be confident that the service you’re about to sell is valuable and helping people. If you have that part down, the rest comes easy. Be picky.

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

Rework, by 37 signals. Lots of good little nuggets in there. “Hire when it hurts”, “Half a product is better than a half-assed product”, etc.

What is the most significant thing that someone much younger than yourself has taught you?

Give them everything they need to succeed and they will surprise you.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?

WP Rocket for WordPress. I score a high 97-98 in Google PageSpeed and my site is so quick it makes people dizzy. I’ve since installed it on all of my sites and my client’s sites. If you run WordPress, I’m a big believer in it. Since you’ll still have some money left after buying it, if you have $100 to spend, sign up for their sister company “Imagify” while you’re at it to compress and serve your images in next-gen formats.

Tell us about your business. What does it do and what value do you add?

My business is called Content Powered. We’re a top-tier blog management company. We take the “quality over quantity” mantra seriously and understand that it’s not easy to outrank your competitors by only doing the bare minimum. Check out our blog when you have some free time.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Software developer. I have lots of ideas but I’m waiting for one that keeps me up at night. I want to come up with a subscription service/software that is so good that my customers can’t afford to cancel their subscriptions.

Where do you see the SEO/link building industry in the next 5 years?

It’s been trending towards a content-focused strategy and I think it will continue to do so. The average content quality keeps rising every year, so things will become more competitive and we’ll have to keep raising the bar. The little things will start to matter more so that search engines can get better at delivering the best results.

Tell us about someone you admire and why you admire them?

There’s a few, but for the sake of this interview, I’ll go with Neil Patel. His philosophy and content strategy is very similar to mine and he applied his knowledge and capital to help him found some very valuable and powerful software. That’s where I want to be in 5 years.

When you get busy enough, you can't afford to procrastinate!

It’s been trending towards a content-focused strategy and I think it will continue to do so. The average content quality keeps rising every year, so things will become more competitive and we’ll have to keep raising the bar. The little things will start to matter more so that search engines can get better at delivering the best results.

What is a useful skill someone could learn in one minute?

Using Google.

What one song can you listen to every day non-stop?

I like punk rock / ramonescore bands that have 300 views on YouTube. I’m not sure if there’s any song that I listen to every day, but I’ve been listening to Teen Idols lately. Check out the song “The Team – Teen Idols”.

What is the most surprising thing you've seen in your industry?

Most businesses focus on a low price point over quality and results, and most customers fall for it.

How has Covid-19 changed your industry?

Since people are investing more into their online prescence, it seems to have helped it in some capacity.

How has Covid-19 changed your company?

We’ve had a lot more free time to work since everything has been closed. It’s been a productive year.

What's your favourite colour?

Redorange.

What's your favourite holiday destination?

Another country.

What popular celebrity do you admire the most and why?

Elon Musk. 1/3rd wholesome vision, 1/3rd capitalism, and 1/3rd youthful troll. I love it.

What one thing in life do you consider to be overrated?

Most Netflix shows. It’s a bummer that they cancel shows if there isn’t enough social media and news buzz. Bring back “Altered Carbon”!

What's something exciting you're currently working on/learning that only a few people know about?

The intracicies of blog content and understanding what search engines are looking for. Blogging is supremely over-simplified.

What are you NOT Very Good at?

Delegating, but I’m getting better at it and hiring more frequently. I like having a small hand in every process.

What's your star sign?

Cancer. For what it’s worth to you.

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Starbucks. I know, I know.

Author

Heather Wilkinson is a globe-trotting content creator and PR enthusiast who’s finally put down roots in her native UK. When she isn’t working, you’ll find her pretending to care about Minecraft for her son’s sake, while secretly reading the latest Ace Atkins novel (or sleeping – her second favourite past-time).