Yes, you read that correctly.

If you could avoid trying to hit me until you have read the article I would appreciate it. Now I know what a lot of readers will be thinking ‘What in the world are you talking about?’ or ‘Local SEO works every time I definitely won’t fail at it’. If you want to get an  introduction to local SEO services first before reading this, I would recommend it.

For those people that are sitting there scratching their heads thinking the next 3 minutes reading this article will be a waste of time because ‘you’re the biggest SEO guru in the game’, well your loss.

In this piece, I will discuss the ever changing landscape that SEO & Local SEO for that matter is experiencing and why I feel throughout 2018 SEO agencies that take on the smaller paying clients will find it difficult to rank effectively if a variety of white & black hat tactics is not being used.

Mainly, we will be speaking in the context of off-page link building. In one of our next posts, we will discuss the on-page white hat / black hat techniques.

So let’s start with a quick overview,



White Hat

In layman’s terms, white hat techniques encourage SEO’s to acquire links from a variety of real websites that actually produce traffic.

A typical white hat link building campaign would consist of producing a fantastic, relevant and informative piece of content and using outreach email methods to get other websites to use your content and link to it which is a win-win for both parties in this case. They get a great piece of content to publish, you get a backlink & potentially some referral traffic if the link produces traffic itself.

In Google’s eyes, this is an extremely natural way to build your backlink profile and the dreaded fear of SEO ‘Footprints’ is greatly reduced. However, do not be mistaken. White hat doesn’t automatically mean you are the heaven scent angel that Google just loves so much. No matter what, SEO is a process not following Google’s guidelines.

 

Typically, a few people are involved in carrying out a white hat SEO campaign:

Project Manager (Will oversee the campaign in its entirety)
Prospector (Will search for link prospects and compile them in a list)
Outreach (Will use the compiled list and will contact them with your content)

Now, to get these people working together like clockwork you may need to go through a number of people before you find your perfect link building team. When looking for your team I would recommend trying to find them from a variety of sources such as UpWorkKonker or People Per Hour. At LaunchLocal SEO Cardiff the strategies used to acquire a single link costs $25-$35 in team wages.

 

“How am I going to take on local clients on a lower budget if the white hat approach is expensive?”

 

This is where the local SEO’s will have a heart dropping moment because clients that are paying you $250-$500 can’t utilise the white hat link building approach to its full effect because the budget would never allow it and if it did, you would find profit margins decreasing rapidly. Now let’s delve a little deeper and we will provide an answer to this question in our Grey hat conclusion.

Black Hat

Here we go, onto the next juicy part of this piece. I am looking forward to the comments regarding this section because in the SEO world the never-ending battle between white hat and black hat opinions amazes me. Can’t we all just get along?

Black hat pretty much hits the nail on the head with its name. This is the use of techniques that are hugely frowned upon (if you get caught) by Google. You have a higher risk of leaving footprints and overall to just use black hat techniques gets increasingly more difficult to pull off as the years go by.

From a link building point of view, there is a variety of options that you can use that would be placed under the umbrella of black hat SEO techniques such as:-

Paid Links

This is still a hugely popular and highly demanded service that multiple local and national agencies are benefiting from on both sides of the spectrum. Some are doing the selling, others are doing the buying.

For the buyers, this is pretty easy for them as they place an order and the link is placed within a piece of content that is written by the vendor’s team (be sure that you choose a vendor that does not use article spinning software’s as this is easily picked up by the search engines). The anchor text of these links is also down to the buyer’s discretion.

These 2 reasons alone are enough to manipulate search engine rankings but do not think for a second that just this will give you the top spot for the 1000 keywords you’re looking to chase. That would extremely be naive of you!

(PBN) Private Blog Network

Firstly, for the readers who have never heard of a private blog network, I will give you a brief yet informative overview on PBN’s and what they are:-

The reason it is called a private blog network is that the owner of the network simply has a number of expired domain names that get used to publish pieces of relevant content about the website you are linking to and to then place backlinks to that desired website within the content.

Not only are these completely managed by the owner so you always maintain control of your network and the links that are given out, but many large PBN network owners will sell singular links to SEO agencies. Some agencies are known for purely selling you links out of the network that they have built up over time.

 

“What is an expired domain and why is that effective?”

An expired domain name is simply one that has hit its renewal date and if you are able to acquire it before it gets renewed then the domain name and all the power that came with it previously (all the backlinks that were pointing to it) is yours.

In most cases, you need to go through an auction process for expired domains which does require bidding (do not spend all your money on the 1st great link you see, please). However, to actually get your hands on the domain name isn’t as simple as ‘Buy Now’ and it’s yours. Some domains are on auto-renewal or back order so in this case, you would not win the domain name. Websites like DomCop allow buyers to place bids on domains which you can filter using a variety of SEO metrics to source the best links possible for your network.

Remember this though lovely readers, an expired domain is supposed to pass authority when pointing links to clients or money sites so checking the metrics on your domains is extremely important.

If the expired domains you are buying hold no backlink authority and have very little metrics to showcase, is that going to benefit anyone that you link too? No, no it isn’t. To browse through domain metrics I recommend using some known SEO tools such as MajesticAHrefsScreaming Frog or Moz and of course good old’ Google Search Console.

One tip I have always used and has always worked in our favour is to not put all your eggs in one basket in the context of checking metrics. The recommended tools will all provide you with slightly different metrics and some may even show completely different ones, so always take these with a pinch of salt & vary your choices.

 

“So I have got around 25 expired domains with good metrics, what now?”

 

You need to get these domains hosted, but not just any hosting. You need to find hosting that will reduce the footprint potential that having a PBN can have if not done in the correct manner, I recommend using a hosting service that is specifically for PBN’s or just find one that varies the name servers of each domain name that you place onto the hosting account.

This is extremely important so pay attention. Be realistic and try to understand that Google needs to see things happening as naturally as possible and is it natural for 1 hosting provider to conveniently have domains that each link to your sites? No, it isn’t.

Don’t leave yourself open to penalties and ensure you take the correct measures when maintaining and setting up your PBN network.

Top Tip –
When building blog style websites for your PBN, make sure you use a variety of website themes, styles, navigation layouts and pages/page names. Remember, try to keep it as natural & varied as possible.

 

A PBN’s pricing will depend on the quality of the domains you buy. Domains at Auction will go for higher prices if the metrics are better, a general pricing point starts from $20 up to $2000+ for a singular domain.

One of the main benefits of a PBN Network (which most SEO’s will agree with) is being in control. You’ll be the one in the driver’s seat with the ultimate control of you backlinks/backlink profiles within this area. We are in no way saying that a PBN network is all you need to achieve results.

In a number of cases, people create a small PBN and add more domains to it as revenues increase, meaning you can start it with a low budget which is great if cash flow is tight. If your network is powerful and well maintained you can also use it as leverage to sell links (create another revenue stream), for use on clients sites (if you know what you are doing) and for your own money/affiliate sites.

Grey Hat (the juicy information – don’t be a fool, read this)

 

Now we are onto the fun bit, the part that the local SEO agencies need to understand and take into account moving forward with their small monthly paying clients because as said above, the landscape of SEO is changing all the time and to just put all your faith into one technique may not get you the results you are looking for in terms of rankings and potentially reduce your profit margins a great deal.

So in answer to the question in the White Hat section:-

“How am I going to take on local clients on a lower budget if the white hat approach is expensive?”

The trick in 2018 we feel is to use a mixture of both these ‘hat’s’ and to use a variety of the above strategies because whether you like it or not, they all work and they all provide results if done correctly.

Some White Hat & Black Hat readers may be thinking ‘nonsense’ at this point but let us just clarify that this is an opinion of ours that has been backed up with real life results. To use a variety of methods will mean you tick all the boxes as your backlink profile will be natural, varied, and relevant and still gives you some control.

If you just purely used paid links, you really have no control over the link itself and the price will quickly add up if that is your only tactic. If you just used White hat link building, the monthly budget would get eaten up quickly and a PBN in its initial stages to set up can be expensive but you can start small and increase the size of it as your cash flow increases.

So the above comments are negative to the specific strategies when used singularly, however, if you used a variety of each method throughout the duration of your typical SEO campaign you will find that you can manage costs effectively and actually deliver a better service to your clients.

This will leave you and your clients as though you’ve left no stone unturned with regards to their backlink profile and when link related questions arise, you can answer them comfortably.

In essence, we feel that over the duration of 2018 and the rest of 2017 we will see what we like to call the ‘Cake Formula’ being implemented by a number of SEO agencies that have started to understand that they can’t rely on one method anymore.

The ‘Cake Formula’ by definition is the varied use of black and white hat link building methods in the right way to track and measure the impact that each of the different techniques has on your websites rankings, helping you come to a conclusion on the best tactics that work for you & your SEO campaigns.
So in conclusion to why local SEO will fail in 2018…

The actual use of Local SEO will not fail, but the companies that do not adapt to the ever changing requirements that Google are looking for most definitely will.

Take action now to understand these different methods in their entirety and become skilled on how to implement them for your clients or money sites. As you do so, you will begin to uncover how you can reduce costs and automate processes that will help your agency perform better overall.

In our opinion, be both hats. White and black mixed together produces results, effectively helps you manage budgets and gives you added control. Just to clarify, we are not talking about overall black hat tactics as some of them are absolutely stupid and will not benefit your SEO campaign at all. We are only speaking from a link building point of view.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, are you white, black or grey hat?