Sam Oh is the mastermind behind Ahrefs’ video channel. Without any prior experience, he “figured out” how to grow it from 0 to 500,000 viewers and 150,000 subscribers! Let that sizzle on your tongue. In this interview, I talk with Sam about
- Telling stories with videos
- Growing Ahrefs’ channel
- Learning by observation
- Link automation
- Youtube SEO
Do not – I repeat: DO NOT – miss this one. It’s a treat. A juicy, chocolate-wrapped story of a true Marketer.
- 0:00 Introduction
- 2:18 Agency exit
- 3:55 joining AHREFS
- 6:39 How Sam made AHREFS’ Youtube channel successful
- 15:39 Repurposing written content into video
- 18:37 How much time goes into video creation
- 19:54 Measuring the success of Youtube videos
- 24:25 Youtube SEO
- 29:32 The key to creating better videos
- 31:02 Becoming a better storyteller
- 35:09 Link automation
- 47:40 Who Sam looks up to
- Peter Mckinnon: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3DkFux8Iv-aYnTRWzwaiBA
- Casey neistat: https://www.youtube.com/user/caseyneistat
- Full contact: https://www.fullcontact.com/
- Pitchbox: https://pitchbox.com/
- Glenn Allsopp: https://detailed.com/ and https://gaps.com/
- Authority Hacker: https://www.authorityhacker.com/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/samsgoh
- Ahrefs on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWquNQV8Y0_defMKnGKrFOQ
Kevin Indig: [00:00:05] three, two, one SAM. Oh, welcome to this tech bond conversation. It’s a pleasure to have you on. For everybody who does not know Sam yet, Sam is the director of product education at H refs. And handles the video stuff. Uh, he’s been an SEO since 2010, uh, used to run an agency has been through multiple acquisitions and also has been one of the most demanded next guests on tech bond conversations.
[00:00:32] So I’m super pumped to have your on, Sam. One thing you also just told me is that your golf handicap is about 11 and you were thinking about going pro at some point. Can you tell us more about that?
Sam Oh: [00:00:44] Yeah, it was kind of naive. Uh, I started golf really late, so. Uh, basically I got dragged out in a foursome cause they needed a fourth and then I played and I think the first time I played, I shot like one 18 or something and they’re like, that’s actually really good for a first timer.
[00:00:58] And I was like, really? And so then at that time, like my current life stage, I had just completed an acquisition. And so I guess it was like early retirement for around a year or so. And so I basically played golf as much as I could. And I got. That are really quick. And then I hired a coach and he started training me and I started getting better, better, better, better, really fast.
[00:01:21] And so I was like, you know, I talked to my wife and I was like, what do you think if like, I became a pro golfer and just like, you know, being the good way that she is. She’s just like, I support whatever you want to do. And I was like, all right. And so I basically committed like a summer and a half to it.
[00:01:37] And eventually my body started breaking down from. Just like age, like I’m, I’m not, you know, these kids that had started learning when they were six. And so I realized it’s just not practical. I was just kind of in that state of mind because I just like winning. So it’s just like, I just wanted to keep doing it.
[00:01:55] And I was like, if I put my mind to it, then I’ll, I’ll figure it out. And sure, like, I’ll join the PGA tour or I’ll join the champions tour when I’m 65 or something and, and somehow become a pro golfer. But yeah, that obviously didn’t work out. Wow. I have
[00:02:07] a strong feeling that this. Kind of a theme of wanting to win is going to be like a recurring one to what this whole conversation?
[00:02:15] Uh, probably, uh, what’s the course, what’s the agency or the acquisition that you had been through.
[00:02:21] Uh, so the agency was a little bit different in, it kind of started by accident. So, uh, uh, my partner and I, we were working on like separate things. So like he was doing some local SEO stuff and so web design stuff, and then I was just getting referrals and those referrals slowly just started getting better and better.
[00:02:39] And so I started, uh, working with, um, I worked with, uh, do you know, Russell Peters?
Kevin Indig: [00:02:45] Barely. Yeah.
Sam Oh: [00:02:45] Comedian. And so, like, it was actually his DJ, which was just kind of fun, fun to work with. And then just like slowly but surely started building networks. And then I learned from one of my friends who was working for an agency, uh, basically they partnered with a bank in Canada and they would just send them leads over and over and over.
[00:03:05] And I was like, how do I get a piece of that? And so eventually, like my partner and I, we started going through, uh, different strategies we eventually got in. And so we didn’t even have a website, but we were just constantly constant pouring in and it usually started with a slide deck, uh, just the proposal.
[00:03:24] And then basically. Cut commissions between the bank and ourselves, and then we were able to up sell them on whatever we wanted. And so that’s kind of how it worked out for us. Uh, the acquisition was for an eCommerce site and it was one of my first sites and that one, it did pretty well. And that’s when I actually started playing golf, uh, was after that one sold off, it was right after I got married.
[00:03:45] So that was just kind of fun to have the first year of being married, just to spend like undivided attention with my wife at the time. So.
Kevin Indig: [00:03:53] Wow. And then what was, how did the next, I do assume that the next step from there was a trips, how did that come to be?
[00:03:59] No. So yeah, like the acquisition that I’m talking about right now, it’s 2012, uh, the agency, my, uh, basically, so like long story short with the whole HF story.
[00:04:09] Um, like the way that I joined was through a lead generation experiment. So I was trying to turn eight drops into a client and that like. Like the whole concept was based around, like, if people are posting job posts, then that means that there’s intent to hire. So whether that be someone in house or an agency or whatever, let’s see if it works.
[00:04:29] If I apply for, for job posts that I’m qualified for. Will someone hire me and can I turn them into a client as opposed to becoming inhouse? And so with a trips like Tim and I started talking, and it was like the longest hiring processes, the eight month hiring process. And we eventually came to terms.
[00:04:47] And at that time we were having our second child and I kind of knew that when that would happen, I had to choose between work and family just because my days were like 16 plus hour days. And so for myself, I decided that it was time for me to bow out of agency life. And maybe I just wasn’t doing it.
[00:05:06] Right. But, um, yeah, I basically just wanted to spend more time with my family and I guess, yeah, I don’t know. I think I was just kind of sick and tired with it, which is why I also sold off the eCommerce site. I just get tired of certain things like that, that where I just don’t feel challenged anymore.
[00:05:25] And so that’s kind of what happened. With, uh, with all that,
[00:05:30] what’s the biggest challenge right now.
Sam Oh: [00:05:33] Oh, geez man. Like right now I’m working on a certification course for Atrius and it’s actually very, very tricky cause they is very technical. Like, you know, how much data is in there and then understanding where that data comes from.
[00:05:46] Uh, and interpretation of that data, which I feel like most people aren’t doing to its full potential because they don’t really know exactly where all the data comes from. That’s a huge challenge right now. It’s just like, Yeah, it’s crazy right now. And so I’m trying to muscle through it. I’m probably around 65% of the way through, um, well, yeah, that’s, that’s probably my biggest challenge at Atrius right now is that course it’s my Everest
Kevin Indig: [00:06:11] The Everest and then comes the second peak.
[00:06:14] Um, no, I’m sure there’s a lot of good stuff happening at HBS. I mean, you guys are certainly killing it and, um, yeah, when it look at the way that you market and, and. Set the bar for other sites and other tool vendors as well. Like it’s pretty impressive also with your YouTube channel. Uh, I think that has been growing pretty well and you’re kind of the lead figure in this whole kind of strategy.
[00:06:36] Um, I was curious, like what, what was it like to start the YouTube channel? Like what’s spurred the decision and what was the plan in the beginning?
Sam Oh: [00:06:50] Yeah. So like, like I said, like my hire to atrophie was like, I applied for a lead gen position basically. Um, and I ended up getting hired for a content role. So originally we didn’t really have a plan and we’ve just kind of started throwing out ideas.
[00:07:07] And I think we started with, uh, creating these like short little sound bites of a tip you can use in eight trips. And then we would eventually publish that. And we, we made like 12 videos. We only published one and we found that it just didn’t do well. And we just kept talking and then we wanted to rebuild the Academy.
[00:07:26] So, uh, HF Academy had like a, I don’t know, a bunch of videos and the tool had been updated quite a bit since then. So I was in charge of rebuilding that, and I did that. And the problem with that was that we were only reaching, um, like our existing audience. So people who were interested in eight trips, uh, whatever that may be.
[00:07:47] And so I suggested like, let’s start going for search. Like we’re an SEO company. Let’s start going for. Search or SEO tool company, I should say. And so we started going for search and we, I started by repurposing blog posts. So I’d basically just take like the headings from the blog posts. And then I would just write scripts of like how I would present it.
[00:08:09] And eventually that started doing decently. And then, like, I’m not a video guy, like by trade. I don’t really have much experience with that, but I’m kind of a figure it out kind of guy. So I just. I was forced into this position of the girl, that YouTube channel somehow. And so I just started trying different things that paid a lot attention to analytics in terms of like, why are people dropping off?
[00:08:31] Like, what are people interested in? Uh, what is producing the highest number of clicks? Um, comments like in the beginning when you’re, I think we were at like 12,000 subscribers when I started, um, Yeah, I was basically just analyzing, like, how are people responding to this and how does it perform in search?
[00:08:49] How does YouTube algorithm work compared to Google’s? And there’s not much documentation or studies on it, uh, as there is with Google. And so it was basically through pure observation, uh, as to what’s going on, what’s causing our pages to rank or not our pages, sorry, our videos to rank and slowly but surely I kind of started to figure things out and, and yeah, now we’re we’re ranking for at least.
[00:09:13] In the top three, four or five for pretty much every keyword we’ve gone after. So like our search, our search traffic is I think the last I checked, I think it was at around 110,000 per month. And then we have all the other traffic sources. So I think last month we hit over half a million. So that was fun.
Kevin Indig: [00:09:34] Oh, it’s kind of hard to believe that you didn’t have video experience before that because you come across pretty naturally. I think the videos are very like. A good mix of entertaining and educating, they look pretty like fleshed out. So it sounds like either if I remember, it seems like you have your very fast figured out kind of guy.
Sam Oh: [00:09:53] yeah, but we have a team, so it’s like we have, it’s a small team, but, uh, we have our, uh, our animator who is amazing. Like he’s absolutely amazing. And then we have a guy who George, who handles production now. Uh, and then so basically I had to figure it all out on my own. And then I started creating SLPs and we started assigning everything.
[00:10:13] So now I’m basically just script and record. Um, so it’s become a well oiled system where, you know, we can put all this stuff together, work on multiple projects at once and start to actually build up a queue. But yeah, it’s, it’s been funny. Like the, the figure it out part was, was the fun part. That was my challenge when I joined.
[00:10:30] And, uh, and now it’s, it’s more just become, uh, yeah, there’s still challenges with it, but yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Kevin Indig: [00:10:37] Of course.
[00:10:37] Um, would you mind walking me through your process when creating a new video? I mean, I’m sure there’s some research going on and then I’m also very specifically interested in the script writing process.
[00:10:48] And then the kind of, I mean, I know that maybe editing is, is being done by the animator or with someone else, but what is it, what does it look like?
Sam Oh: [00:10:57] Yeah. So the research phase is, is. Different now. So I think we’re at around 130 something thousand subscribers now. So it’s very different because we have an audience on YouTube, whereas before when we were starting, we didn’t.
[00:11:10] And so, uh, in terms of the script writing that hasn’t changed that much, um, But basically short intro or I try to keep it short, um, like the little brand recognition and then we get into, into the actual content. So when I’m writing scripts, I’m basically trying to find a balance between, um, I guess, actionable, uh, entertaining, which is really tough to do for tutorials.
[00:11:41] Uh, and then. A lot of the entertainment actually comes through the video editing. So that’s not me, it’s them. Uh, and then there is a, I guess like no BS. And it’s just so easy to do with, with marketing is just like to keep things fluffy, even if it doesn’t seem that fluffy at first, uh, and the way that we’re able to do that is I write that script.
[00:12:05] I edited it myself. And the way that I edit it is I try and make it as short as possible. So all of our videos are still between like eight to 15 minutes, but easily that eight minute video can become a 16 minute video if I were to get into all the technical details. So I basically cut out the things where it’s like, well, people actually care.
[00:12:23] About that specific detail, maybe one out of a hundred people will so forget it, cut it. Um, and so some people will look at it and be like, Oh, well what about this? And in the comments, then we can respond to those people and say, Oh, well, you know, this is a, a time when you would do this instead. Um, yeah. So basically I’ll do that.
[00:12:43] And then we have Josh who handles the blog at atrium. And he’ll actually go through the script and his job is basically to question me is to tell me, Hey, like this doesn’t work this way, or like, this doesn’t make sense to me. And then we’ll literally argue back and forth in Google docs. Um, and there’s actually been like, like pseudo tension created between us and I do the same for his blog posts to his before he.
[00:13:07] He publishes a blog post, I go through it and I kind of go through the same thing. He’ll do things with flow. So he’ll be like this. I feel like it’ll flow better this way. Um, and then use cases for eight trips and sometimes I’ll have use case for eight trips. And he’ll say, I think it’s better if you do that, sometimes I’ll agree.
[00:13:23] Sometimes I’ll disagree. And basically like, this is our entire editorial process at HS in general for content. And that’s the way that we publish at least the best content that we can, um, Is by looking at those different things and then I’ll go, I use a teleprompter. And so, uh, I’ll set that up and I’ll record the video.
[00:13:44] Um, and then I’ll do a little bit of edits and I’ll make some notes for our, our producer and. He’ll go and he’ll leave that for our editor. Our editor will actually go and like he doesn’t know SEO really. So, you know, we’ll tell him exactly where we want certain things to pop out or certain things to highlight, uh, so that he knows and he’ll go in and he’ll do that.
[00:14:04] And then we’ll go through a finalizing process. So the producer will go and he’ll watch it. He’ll make sure that everything looks good. And then I’ll kind of have the final watch and I’ll give my suggestions. And then we have a final product. And then there’s like subtitles and stuff, which is all a part of that that happens in between
Kevin Indig: [00:14:22] how many hours do you think go into a single video?
Sam Oh: [00:14:25] Oh man, that’s tough. It depends on the topic. I’m assuming that like, if there they’re topics that I’m, I’m very familiar with, I can usually smash out like three to four scripts per week. Uh, that’s assuming that like, it’s something that I can talk about quite easily. And then the editing process, Josh probably takes an hour in there.
[00:14:48] Okay. I would say like, if it’s, if it’s a topic that we know and it’s around the 10 minute video, maybe around in terms of man hours, 12th, 13 hours of actual work hours between everyone. Yeah. So it’s like, we’ve, we’ve gotten it down to, down to a science now, I think before it used to take us like around a week.
[00:15:11] Um, but yeah, I think things have been optimized since then. It’s been two years now, I think.
Kevin Indig: [00:15:17] Oh, so it sounds like roughly an hour per minute, which sounds about right there. Um, and I’m also curious, like how does the traffic that you get from videos compared to what you get from, from SEO or from, from like regular organic Google search and how, I mean, you don’t have to say exact numbers of course.
[00:15:37] Like just roughly and, um, How, um, did you kind of have any bridges between written content and video content?
Sam Oh: [00:15:46] Okay. What do you mean by bridges?
Kevin Indig: [00:15:48] But just as in like: do you recycle something, do you integrate videos a lot to, to articles? Do you integrate clips and highlights into articles or is it still fairly separate at the moment?
Sam Oh: [00:15:59] Yeah, so, because we’re a really lean team, we need to. Be resourceful. So, uh, with the blog, I haven’t repurposed the blog post in a really long time. Um, But Josh recently has repurposed some videos. So usually it’ll go back, back and forth. Like if we feel like a blog post will fit in a video format, then I’ll repurpose that if we feel like a video will fit in a blog post format, then we’ll repurpose that.
[00:16:26] Uh, but we’ll usually publish like weeks or even months apart. And so like there isn’t that I guess, burnout for our audience where it’s just like the same thing over and over again. Uh, and then we try and embed it as much as possible. And so that also helps with video SEO. So. Uh, like basically we found that if you’re ranking in the top 10 and you embed a video, even if it’s not yours, when you search in Google and you click on the video tab for, for us at least, and I don’t know exactly what it is, but our, our search result just pops up like pretty much top three every time.
[00:16:58] And it’s just, it’s like the lowest hanging thing that you can do. And even though there’s not that many clicks from the video tab, like I’m looking at search console right now. And are, are like a certain, like if you set the search type to video, like it’s just, it’s just a constant growth, like in the last 28 days from that 16,000 clicks from, from the video tab.
[00:17:23] So yeah, like to answer your first question in terms of the traffic comparison, I’m quite certain that our blog gets more traffic than, um, than YouTube. Like, uh, let’s see here. Yeah, last 28 days, nearly 700,000 from organic search for, for our blog and for our, for YouTube channel, it’s, it’s over a hundred thousand, but that is also very different in terms of what people are searching for.
[00:17:49] Like YouTube. There’s not that much search volume around SEO related things. Whereas Google there’s a ton. So yeah, it’s tough to compare, but yeah, our, our blog and our, our video, like. We’re very much a team. So it just like, it integrates perfectly, like if I can somehow promote the blog to send more traffic that way I will, if they can send more traffic to YouTube, then it’s just done that way.
[00:18:10] It’s just whatever will benefit each other’s channel. Like it’s not a competition, so it’s, yeah. It works out really well for us. Like, yeah. Josh and I worked really well together in that sense. And so, yeah, it’s, it’s definitely helped, uh, in overall exposure, I would say.
Kevin Indig: [00:18:24] Yeah. And also get, like, my understanding is also that YouTube just doesn’t want to send traffic away as easily as Google maybe would.
[00:18:30] So I guess it’s much more of an ecosystem in a like walled garden tries to keep people engaged and keep people watching. Um, how much of your time, which you say falls into, into video creation?
Sam Oh: [00:18:43] Most of my time. Yeah. It’s most of my time, because like, basically, like the thing that I love about my job is that I’m not, I’m not.
[00:18:52] Paid to sell. like, there’s not a single video where I’ll say like, Oh, like, so go and try a seven day trial and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Uh, I just assume like this is the best way to do it. And if you don’t have HRS, here’s a free way to do it, but then naturally you see the difference that free is a lot harder.
[00:19:11] It’s a lot slower. It’s not as like productive. so it’s basically just like most of my time goes into video creation because that’s the education that I’m creating the educational material that I’m creating right now.
[00:19:23] It’s just for the past several months, it’s been a split between the course. Um, and that just, that takes up a lot more time for less work. Of course, completed work basically.
Kevin Indig: [00:19:34] Of course, of course, that makes perfect sense. I also do believe that if you can really focus on one thing, the result is just so much better than having everyone write and everyone do videos.
[00:19:44] And so on. Like that’s a, it’s a lesson that I learned more or less, the hard ways that specialization very much pays off, um, in the grand scheme of things. Um, I’m also curious, how do you measure the success of video? Is it the channel or just as YouTube as a channel?
Sam Oh: [00:20:01] Yeah, so that’s tough. Like. That’s a really tough thing, because like, I don’t have access to things like our revenue metrics and everything like that.
But, uh, I basically had to create my own KPIs. So one of them is, uh, overall audience retention. So basically if people are watching. For a good amount of time and almost in all of our videos, we feature eight trips at some point. So there’s that. And then we also have a Slack channel, uh, where we, we have registration.
[00:20:31] So we see new trials that are coming through. And in those trials we have a question that said, um, how did you learn about atrophie. And in terms of, I’m not looking necessarily at, at the raw numbers, but I’m looking at the trend because not everyone is going to answer that question or they’re not going to, like, some people will just throw in a bunch of random characters.
[00:20:49] Um, but in terms of YouTube, like the, the graph is like literally like a hockey stick. So it just keeps going up. So YouTube, in my opinion is just a huge acquisition channel that people aren’t really, especially B2B SAS, aren’t really taking advantage of, uh, cause they don’t quite know how. How to work it in their favor with growing an audience, as well as converting that audience through educational materials.
[00:21:12] So I feel like we’ve gotten that down pretty good now. And at the same time, I would hope that the videos also helping reduce churn. So as people learn to use our tools better than they can find more ways to use it throughout and over time. Of course, I don’t know if that’s that’s a factor, not so it’s not really measurable for me.
Kevin Indig: [00:21:32] But I would wholeheartedly agree. I made the same experience at Atlassian, where we started to delve into YouTube and saw fantastic results. Just in the ways that you measure that you mentioned, like integrating them to articles too, to allow people to consume the content in a different format, or just explain things better to them, because it’s just so much easier to learn through video then.
To text at least a 99% of cases. Um, so, uh, I think the, the almost like biggest challenge is the correct attribution of YouTube to do things like retention and acquisition. Um, it sounds like you have a, uh, something to say about that. Is there something you learned in those regards?
Sam Oh: [00:22:10] No, like is very much like we haven’t had Google analytics installed for so long.
[00:22:16] And so. Eventually I had a hard time with that coming from a very heavy lead gen background. Uh, but I learned to accept it because our product is actually just really good that people organically recommend it. Like we don’t really have an affiliate program. We have some affiliates, but we don’t really have an open failure program, but like the engineers that are creating this product are creating an amazing tool.
[00:22:40] So eventually I just realized that the way that HS is growing is in an anomaly almost. It’s just. We get to just show them how we use it and then it starts selling because other people pick this up and then, you know, certain use cases that I had never heard of from . Now I’m starting to see bloggers write about those use cases and they’re starting to use it, and then they’re starting to spread the word for us.
[00:23:01] So we’re basically just planting a seed through our content. And then now it’s starting to spread through word of mouth because people are starting to use those use cases, get results, and then they recommend it to everyone else. So, yeah. So in terms of like first touch, like. Yeah. I’m not even thinking about that stuff anymore,
Kevin Indig: [00:23:16] which is, it sounds like a marketer’s dream. Cause my,
Sam Oh: [00:23:20] it really is
Kevin Indig: [00:23:21] personal stance is that, you know, deep at heart, at least most marketers have that creative side. And it’s often suppressed by an like too much focus on a specific number. Right. And I feel like numbers are important. Don’t get me wrong. We have to measure results. But at the same time, There’s also this kind of creative thing where you just like, want to go out and try something.
[00:23:42] Right. And many companies kill that at birth by saying, what, what outcome do you expect? And what number does it drive? And sometimes just, yeah, there’s no one number. Right? So by taking that away, it almost creates a lot of creative space. Yeah.
Sam Oh: [00:23:55] Especially since we’re bootstrapped too. So we don’t have investors that we need to.
[00:23:59] Do anything for, so it’s yeah. It’s a completely different ballpark when you’re working. Self-funded bootstrapped. Yeah. So it’s, it’s a lot of fun working here at HS. Lots of things that we can try and we just need to justify why we want to try it and then we get the, okay. It’s time to go. That’s it? Yeah.
Kevin Indig: [00:24:15] I think you’re setting the example there for many other companies.
[00:24:17] At least I hope that, um, to that one or maybe two or three more questions about YouTube, um, what is something that you have learned that you didn’t know before you started
Sam Oh: [00:24:31] with YouTube? Yeah. Everything. I didn’t know how to do YouTube. Like I try to start my own YouTube channel. Um, it wasn’t great. Like, it just is pretty bad actually.
[00:24:43] I haven’t updated anything there, I think since like 2015 or 26 17, maybe. Um, but yeah, I basically came in without much knowledge, but over time, I guess what I really. Learned, uh, I guess starting from eight, see YouTube SEO. So like, I, I find it to be just so stupid, simple now because there’s not as much competition.
[00:25:05] Uh, whereas like Google, like there’s just so many factors, whereas on YouTube, I feel like it’s just like engaging your audience, keeping them on the YouTube platform for as long as possible. Basic meta related things like your titles, descriptions and tags. I don’t think he even does anything to be honest with you.
[00:25:24] Uh, but it’s just attention. It’s an attention platform. So if you can hold people’s attention for longer, naturally you just start ranking. It’s crazy. It’s just crazy how fast it works. And in terms of like channel authority, like anytime we publish anything with the word SEO in the title, As soon as we publish that video will rank in the top three for like an hour or two, it just happens.
[00:25:45] And then they’re just kind of like trying to figure out where we should go. Um, and it’s just kind of an interesting thing. Same with keyword research or link building. It’s literally, as soon as we publish, it’s just boom at the top for a little bit starts moving around a little bit and then sometimes it settles here.
[00:25:59] Sometimes it drops. And then later on it’ll come back up. It’s kind of a strange behavior where you can’t a hundred percent predicted, but at the same time, It comes down to the performance of the video, which is something that I, I really like it’s, it kind of gives people the chance where, you know, with SEO, like you need links, links.
[00:26:17] Aren’t exactly easy to come by when you’re, especially when you’re new to it. And so I feel like it gives the more talented people, I guess, a chance to actually rank without having the marketing knowhow that’s required in SEO.
Kevin Indig: [00:26:30] I have a whole bunch of question about links, but, um, before we dive into that, how do you think about attention?
[00:26:35] How do you think about holding your audience’s attention?
Sam Oh: [00:26:39] Uh, yeah. So number one is, is editing. So the way that we edit a lot of it is like, you won’t see my face for too long and people get tired of looking at my face and I’m not offended. Like I get it. And so, you know, we’ll switch between screencasts, uh, with more complicated.
[00:26:56] With more complicated things where like, if I’m explaining how crawling works, then, you know, we’ll use an animation. Cause that’s a lot better than static images or something like that. And because we have a person who could do that for us, you know, we’re able to create those things. So we basically try and create something that’s um, that’s dynamic, basically things are constantly changing or even if we’re on a screencast, you’ll rarely see just the full screen.
[00:27:22] Without like highlighting to a part or zoom zooming into a part. Or like, if I say to click top pages and site explore, then we’ll circle that part and we’ll zoom into it. So they know exactly where it is. And so it’s just constantly moving is that it gets people’s brains working as we’re going through it.
[00:27:37] It’s easy to follow. Whereas if you get lost, you’re gone. Um, so that’s number one. Number two is the. The whole editing process that helps big time is because we’re cutting out a lot of fluff. We’re cutting out things where it’s like, can we actually prove this statement? Or is it just based on what SEOs is, think or what we think?
[00:27:54] And so when we cut those things out, it shortens the script substantially. So that helps to, uh, And then there are other parts where you look at, uh, that we learned from previous videos. So in one of the videos, I said, take a screenshot and let’s move on to the next part or something like that. And what happens on the screen is there’s a list of keyword modifiers, and the screen kind of pops out for a second with like a flash sound.
[00:28:21] So it’s like take a screenshot and let’s move on. And then it’s the next screen. But what ends up happening is that you start to see a bump in the audience retention graph. And so what’s happening there is that people are actually going back to take a screenshot. And so these bumps that you see in your audience retention graph, when you see like little bumps like this throat, certain parts, you should look at those and see what you did and start reusing them when you can.
[00:28:46] So that actually worked out quite well for us for that video. It wasn’t planned, but then I tried it again and I tried it eight times or seven or eight times in another video in SEO checklist and it didn’t work. Uh, and then I tried it again for showing the same list of keyword modifiers in a different video.
[00:29:04] And it worked. So it’s really about understanding, like why it is that people are rewinding. And then why they’re watching that part again, or there’s certain animations that people will watch again, because it’s just a complicated concept or certain parts that were meant to be somewhat humorous. So they’ll rewind and watch those again.
[00:29:21] And so when you start to see these, I think people tend to call them true bumps of engagement. Then you start to use those again and recycle them in your videos going forward.
Kevin Indig: [00:29:31] Wow. So besides that, what is something that you wish you knew when you started? It sounds like you learned. Everything. So if you had to pick something besides what you just told me about, uh, attention, um, what would you have loved to know when you started,
Sam Oh: [00:29:52] I guess, how to create better videos? Like our videos in the beginning were really bad. In my opinion, at least I felt like they were really bad. Um, But I think it would have really come down to script writing. It’s different from, from writing blog posts in some ways it’s easier in other ways it’s trickier.
[00:30:08] So I think if I could have mastered script writing and I guess storytelling is, would have been a big one for YouTube. Uh, I try and integrate stories here and there, but I still have a hard time with that actually. Um, at least in the tutorial format. So I think that’s probably what I would’ve wanted to master first.
[00:30:26] Uh, and then things like YouTube SEO, like that stuff comes in. Later and yeah, if I was starting a new channel or a small channel at the time, which was around 11, 12,000 subscribers, um, yeah, I would have just gone for long tail related search terms and start building an audience slowly, but surely it’s like, it’s like the link graph that literally just goes like this, uh, instead of links it’s subscribers, and then now we can kind of just publish.
[00:30:52] I can kind of publish whatever I want there now. Um, and just kind of experiment. So yeah, I have a, a fun little experiment that’s coming up, but. Yeah, that’s related to link. So maybe we’ll, we’ll talk about that later, but
Kevin Indig: [00:31:02] yeah, we certainly will. I’m closing this out real quick. Um, what is some material could be videos, books, articles that have, or that are helping you to get better at, um, the whole kind of idea of, of storytelling and, um, you know, uh, other things that you hope you, you wish when you started out.
Sam Oh: [00:31:28] Uh, books. I, I don’t, yeah, I haven’t read many books in a while. It’s just, it’s tough with, with kids just to find the time to do that. Um, in terms of like, the way that I usually learn is by observation, not so much like reading a tutorial. So I like to look at a lot of the bigger channels that are completely outside of the SEO and marketing.
[00:31:48] Area. And so I watched how they tell stories. So one YouTuber that I think is really good at this is Peter McKinnon. I don’t know if you’ve, if you’ve seen him, but he is a fantastic storyteller. Uh, he’s like a vlogger, but it doesn’t really feel like a vlog. Uh, and he, like, I’m not usually swayed by videos and stuff so much, but like he had this one video that was something like the best gift ever or something like that.
[00:32:12] And he basically tells a story of how someone gave him. The best possible gift, which was a photo of himself, uh, where he was speaking on the stage. And after he had given his talk, he had a standing ovation and that’s something that he had drummed up as a child. And somebody happened to capture that and they created it on a canvas and sent it to him.
[00:32:31] And the way that he tells the story is just like, like there’s emotions built into it and whatever. And then there’s a call to action at the end. Which is to give the gift of photography to someone that you care and love or whatever it is. And so I was just like, I’m not a photographer, but shoot. Okay. So I actually took a photo of my wife and kids, and then I gave that to her as a gift.
[00:32:54] And I was like, I’m giving you the gift of photography. I told her and she just like, just like, huh, like where’s this coming from? Kind of thing. But yeah, like it’s to that point that his storytelling I feel is so good that he can just really, uh, yeah, like. I don’t know anyone that’s better at it than him.
[00:33:12] Like there’s Casey Neistat also. Um, but, uh, yeah, Peter McKinnon is a good one. Another one that I watch is a, I don’t know the channel name, but they do a lot of the, uh, storytelling through like the, um, like the animation graphics, where they explain concepts. Like they tell the story of the Holocaust or something, and then they’ll like, explain it through animations in terms of everything that happened.
[00:33:33] And it’s literally like watching a movie it’s just, you’re watching. The story of it. So when you start to see these things, you start to come up with ideas and how it applies to your industry, your videos, and yeah, I feel like it, it just works really well.
Kevin Indig: [00:33:47] Yeah. Totally. Storytelling is it’s such a hard.
[00:33:52] Think to master it is I feel like it’s the Holy grail of marketing and it’s everything right? Like if you, if you kind of close the loop here, I think attention is very much the marketers currency. And I think storytelling is kind of the Biko to get there. And I think like whenever I look at people who I really look up to, they’re all amazing storytellers.
[00:34:11] So. Um, I just recently saw a video of, for example, Steve jobs, which I don’t remember what year it was, but it was, um, at the WWDC. No, sorry. It was the worldwide global conference. Um, and. He got criticized with a, with a question, uh, onstage. And he came back with this super powerful story, just pulled the whole audience on his side and it comes across so effortless and so subtle.
[00:34:41] Right. So I think that is, is the key to everything. It’s sales, it’s marketing, it’s like leadership and all that kind of stuff. So huge fan of storytelling.
Sam Oh: [00:34:52] Yeah. Completely agree with you.
Kevin Indig: [00:34:54] Yeah. Um, so you also mentioned a hockey stick, um, like growth and you compared that to, uh, the link graph. So let’s, let’s dive into link building.
[00:35:04] Um, before the, um, interview, I kind of asked you what you’re excited about at the moment. And you mentioned link automation. Um, can you kinda just tell us more about that?
Sam Oh: [00:35:14] Yeah. So with link building, a lot of the stuff is repetition, right? Which is why a lot of people, um, Hire VA’s to do things like find contacts, find email, addresses, whatever it is.
[00:35:27] Uh, and so I had this hypothesis as I was like working with different APIs, like even just like Hunter in the never bounces API APIs, I was working with it. And as I started to work more with these, I was like, I feel like you can almost fully automate link building. I had this. Like weird kind of hypothesis about me.
[00:35:45] And in the case that we were to go with, like looking at the top ranking pages, backlinks, you could technically use a search API and just enter a keyword. So you have to have some kind of input. So you enter the keyword you want to rank for, and then pull the SERP and then use HF API to pull backlinks.
[00:36:03] And then you basically have your own built in filters where you would exclude sites like Blogspot or whatever it is based on filters or like where the URL contains the word form or few thread or whatever it is. And you’re just excluding these backlinks. And then eventually if you can scrape the author names from these pages and then take those author names, you take the first name and the last name and you put it in through Hunter’s API.
[00:36:28] And in the case that an email is returned, then you verify that email through NeverBounce is API. Then now you have a fully automated way to get emails, ready to send out these, you still have to write the outreach email. Uh, and so I started working with this whole concept and I was like, you know, it has to be more complicated than I’m thinking.
[00:36:46] Like, it makes sense logically to me, but it has to be more complicated. So I started building an author scraper. And so basically I would just input. Like a list of URLs and it would try and scrape an author’s name from it. And I started to get decent results. So I scraped, I basically used content Explorer.
[00:37:05] So with content Explorer, uh, it shows author names when it’s available. And I just basically took a hundred URLs that had author names. And then I try to recreate that for myself. Um, but the thing is that content Explorer also misses a lot of these. These author names. Cause it’s, it’s based on a very few number of, I guess, footprints or whatever it is that it’s using to, to take this out.
[00:37:28] So I started building a huge list of CSS, selectors of where like w of how people are using author names. And a lot of them are just. The exact same as you go through them. Right. And then there’s some that are in the, uh, the Jason LD code. Uh, and so I started building a list and I was like, you know what, I want to put this to the test.
[00:37:45] So I don’t have like a site that I’m actually working on now. But then with, with trips, uh, we decided to, to run an experiment on building links to a stats page. So it’s kind of like link bait. Right. Um, and so I took a hundred or 902 URLs. And I used my scraper and from the 902 URLs, 741 had scraped off their names.
[00:38:11] It wasn’t perfect. It was far from perfect. Um, and then basically from those 741 author names, we found 452 emails through Hunter. 160 868 of those were valid emails and that was verified NeverBounce. And then there was 92 catch all emails. So basically like the server’s going to accept all those emails, regardless if you send it to a junk email or not.
[00:38:36] But then a really quick way to actually look through those, those catch-all emails to see if they’re valid is you copy and paste all of them into like a Gmail sandbox and then are like a composed, like in Gmail. And then you just hover over the names and if you see a profile picture, then they’re valid.
[00:38:52] Right, right. Or they’re most likely valid, I should say. And so 14 of those actually came out. So from our 902 initial URLs, uh, we had 182 author emails. So the actual authors of the emails. Ready to send literally within a matter of minutes. And so, and then from there, it’s just actually like for us, like we’re not into just like shotgun emailing.
[00:39:15] So we would actually, someone actually went and viewed it. But in terms of the time that it saves to actually automate that process, and this was only a part of the automation was author scraping to Hunter to never bounce. Right. And it just saves a ton of time. And in the case that we did go shotgun, we could have sent 182 emails literally within like.
[00:39:35] Minutes from having a list of prospects, which is like crazy fast in my opinion. And I’ve worked with a lot of VA’s throughout my time. And there’s usually a lot of human arrogance that comes from that. There’s a lot of generic emails that come from that like [email protected] and from my experience, they don’t convert as well.
[00:39:51] So, um, yeah, so basically the project is still ongoing right now and it’s going decently. But, uh, yeah, that was just kind of the way to Kickstarter link building campaign. And just in my own spare time, like, the stuff that I do for fun is basically try and create these automations and, and just kind of see what’s happening.
[00:40:09] But yeah, it’s huge in my opinion. And I feel like some of these outreach companies need to start doing something about it.
Kevin Indig: [00:40:15] Oh, 100%. That sounds like a super smart, you know, so to take a step back, how did you like the scraper and how do you know how to do that?
Sam Oh: [00:40:24] Yeah. Okay. So what, when I built my first website in 2009, this was that eCommerce site.
[00:40:29] Um, Like my website just looks so garbage. I looked, I found, like I learned basic HTML then, and then I started trying to hire people and it was pretty much straight out of college, so I didn’t have any money. So they were trying to charge me, I don’t know, like 15, $20,000. And I was like, you’re joking.
[00:40:46] Right. So I had to figure it out. I built my eCommerce site on Magento at the time. Uh, and I had to learn PHP. So I had to learn PHP there. I learned how to work with APIs. And if you learn how to use PHP, you basically need to learn like my SQL. So I had to learn the database side of things and then like, syntax is different from language to language.
[00:41:08] So like, I can read Java script. I can’t write it. Um, but yeah, I basically just had to learn it on my own just over time. And yeah. So I can basically create these tools. Like it’s really, really janky code, but like, So that’s why I hired someone to actually rewrite my code for me, um, to make it less janky.
[00:41:28] So, and also he added, uh, some NLP thing in it to, for the author scraper. So now it’s actually learning based on what’s happening. So I would have never been able to do that. Like that’s outside of the scope of anything I can do. So yeah, it basically, it gets better over time. So I feel like, I don’t know, contact me in a year and it might be really good, but yeah.
Kevin Indig: [00:41:50] It sounds like you’re having to product though. Pretty soon.
Sam Oh: [00:41:53] You know, I thought about that before. Like I basically created my own outreach tool, uh, three or four years ago and it worked really well, but it’s just so buggy and now it just doesn’t work because like, this is like PHP 5.3 or something, or I don’t know what it was.
[00:42:09] I think they were at like seven point something now. So yeah, a lot of things don’t work. A lot of functions have been deprecated, but, um, yeah, but. Yeah, I don’t know. I thought about it, but I just like kind of keeping it for myself and just working on projects for son.
Kevin Indig: [00:42:23] Yeah, I totally get that. But the, again, like I think the idea is pretty smart and automating a lot of that, what we do manually already, and then you could probably even automate some of the, um, template creation.
[00:42:34] So I wonder why there isn’t, or maybe there’s one author that I don’t know yet, but I wonder why there isn’t a tool that would allow you to just tow in five different templates and it would AB test them all until it finds the winner.
Sam Oh: [00:42:47] Yeah, that’d be interesting actually like the way that I do it to kind of keep it personalized too.
[00:42:52] Cause I don’t like sending out spam emails. Um, I like to segment my links. So for example, with the SEO stats one, um, we’re basically contacting people based on specific stats that that they’ve mentioned. And so in that case insight Explorer in the backlinks report, I’ll just use the include. And the include search box.
[00:43:13] And let’s say, for example, one of the sets was 93%, then I’ll type in 93. There, you can do this all through sheets too, but I prefer to just do it in insight Explorer, and then I’ll export all the 93% people. And then there’s my one segment. Um, and so then they’ll get a specific email that’s personalized to that stat that they’ve mentioned.
[00:43:31] Does that make sense?
Kevin Indig: [00:43:31] Absolutely.
Sam Oh: [00:43:33] Yeah. And so it, it allows it to be a little bit less spammy. Um, And yeah. Instead of like grading five, well, I just speed technically created seven emails, but they’re all done through merge fields. Yeah.
Kevin Indig: [00:43:45] Yeah. Outreach is still, it’s still very tricky. I still get way too many, really, really bad outreach emails.
[00:43:51] I wonder why they’re, you know, like why there, isn’t a better way of doing that. So I assume that you do all of that for personal projects and. Um, is there, is there any kind of MVP that you have tried out and can you talk about some of the early results or is it, is it still too early
Sam Oh: [00:44:07] MVP for which,
Kevin Indig: [00:44:09] for your patient to,
Sam Oh: [00:44:11] Oh, this is just like my personal stuff.
[00:44:13] Like, I’m not like the MVP was created three years ago, but, uh, in terms of. What it is now, I’m rebuilding it for like, I’ve gotten better at link building over the past three years, for sure. And so, um, I’m basically just creating something for myself and improving on it right now. Uh, but yeah, like I hired someone, I gave him the project parameters and then it’s basically my weekend hustle is I am creating this tool and, um, it’s, it’s not meant to be a commercial tool.
Kevin Indig: [00:44:41] Yeah, I think that there’s a ton of potential to, um, to, to be a lot more sophisticated with what the current opportunities hold.
Sam Oh: [00:44:49] Yeah. I feel like pitch box is starting to do that. Uh, do you, do you have a pitch box account? We do. Yeah. So like they find the emails, um, for the prospects. But as far as I understand, they only, uh, they give you emails that they have in their database, which is probably scraped in, in a similar way as Hunter is my guests.
[00:45:08] Um, Well, yeah. I think if, if these guys can get onto this whole like author scraping, uh, that’s huge man. Like it’s, it’s massive. Like if I look at my stats right now, I think like 90, 90, 2% of the people who actually linked to us are the actual authors, not the editors or generic emails. Um, like this isn’t an, a ton of emails by the way, but it’s like, yeah, this isn’t a ton of emails, but yeah.
[00:45:33] 11 of our 16, um, Links are from authors, not editors. More generic one or other. Yeah.
Kevin Indig: [00:45:41] There’s just so much more opportunity to find out more about a person on the internet. Uh, I think that’s like one of the biggest issues that I see with our fleet. It’s so generic. It’s so dry. It’s like, you really feel that it’s copy pasted, but why not use a Twitter API to see what their most actually, you know, like there’s so much information you can publicly get to get a foot in the door to build a relationship and then to, um, to eventually get your links.
[00:46:06] So. Yeah, it’s still, it’s still feels like a big shotgun approach to most cases where you just, like you said, in a hundred emails to get two links from it. Right. But I think that part of the conversion funnel can still be maximized.
Sam Oh: [00:46:18] I a hundred percent agree. There’s actually a full context API. I don’t know if you’ve heard of full contact.
[00:46:23] Yeah. Yeah. So I haven’t used their API in years, but I think they gave like, through the API, I think you could grab, uh, like cities, uh, social profiles of those people. Then you can actually look through and you could technically go into Twitter’s API and create kind of something similar to what, uh, I think BuzzStream has it where they show you like the last X tweets or whatever it is.
[00:46:42] Like you can kind of get a better understanding of, of. Who these people are, what they’re interested in and, um, kind of how you can connect better. But yeah, there’s, there’s so many API is available. A lot of them, people just don’t know about, but yeah, those are the ones
Kevin Indig: [00:46:54] that I, yeah, I couldn’t wait for spark Toro.
[00:46:57] It’s also released an API so that we can, you know, there’s so I feel like once you fetch that type of data from several different sources, I think then it becomes really good, then it becomes a bit more reliable,
Sam Oh: [00:47:09] huge.
Kevin Indig: [00:47:10] So Sam to finish this up, um, two more questions. The first one is who, besides people, like pretty McKinnon KCNA stead who’s someone you’re inspired by, or you follow, or you look up to
Sam Oh: [00:47:26] specifically in the SEO space
Kevin Indig: [00:47:28] in general.
Sam Oh: [00:47:30] Uh, in general, I don’t like there’s in the SEO space. Like the people that I tend to follow, it’s probably pretty much just, uh, Glen Allsopp whenever he does publish something, uh, she just brings something new to the table pretty much every time. So I like, I enjoy reading his stuff. Uh, occasionally authority, hacker.
[00:47:51] I just feel like they’re really into systems. Um, So very occasionally listened to their podcasts. I haven’t listened to it in a little while, but I used to listen to it. Uh, in terms of people that I really look up to, uh, one of his Barack Obama, uh, I think he, he’s kind of the type to just, it seems at least I’m not even in America.
[00:48:11] Right. But, uh, it seems to bring more good out of people. Um, I’m not going to get into politics now, but, uh, let’s just leave it at that. Oh, geez. Anyway, um, yeah, another person that I, that I look up to is, is our CEO and founder to Mitri. So I’ve only met him once, uh, but something that most people wouldn’t know because they don’t get a chance to speak with him is he’s very.
[00:48:42] Like, he really stands by his integrity. So if he thinks that something is wrong or it’s unethical, it’s just canceled off the table, no matter what. Whereas I’ve worked with a lot of CEOs, CMOs, CTOs at small and midsize companies. Uh, and there’s usually something that will make someone crack. Hmm. Um, it’s very easy to get greedy about money or about whatever it is about growth, whatever it is that you need to fulfill.
[00:49:11] Uh, but something about him is that he’s really just sticks to his guns. It’s like, don’t believe in that that’s against our philosophy. Move on. It’s just no questions about it. So it’s something really interesting, uh, yeah. About him, which is also another reason why I really enjoy being here is because leadership is good here.
[00:49:30] So, uh, Yeah, that’s basically it in terms of the people that I’m following. I follow traders too, but, um, that that’s different. It’s not that I look up to them. I just kind of enjoy their insights.
Kevin Indig: [00:49:42] Interesting. Um, it’s a very last question then. I’ll let you go. Is, uh, where can people find
Sam Oh: [00:49:47] you? I guess Twitter, uh, YouTube, YouTube, obviously just YouTube, just search for eight trips.
[00:49:54] Um, I’m pretty much the only person there. Uh, recently at least Tim released the course, the blogging for business course there too. Um, and then Twitter, uh, it would be Sam S G O
Kevin Indig: [00:50:06] H. Thank you so much, Sam. Hey, that was a super insightful conversation. I have so many ideas right now and I learned so much from you.
[00:50:16] So I really appreciate you taking the time, um, hope to have you on for a second round sometime soon. Um, and again, I wish you all the best and thank you so much.
Sam Oh: [00:50:26] Thanks for having me.