Like all great acquaintances of mine, I first met Garrett on Twitter before becoming good friends with him and adopting many of his philosophies on link building. Since then, I have heard him speak at SEO meetups here in Raleigh and watched him launch some serious link building tools. Garrett’s wit is only surpassed by his willingness to share and teach others. Garrett runs his own link building agency and tool provider, Citation Labs and has an intense knowledge of all things literary.
You can keep up with Garrett on Twitter: @GarrettFrench.
DR: You hail from my motherland (Kentucky). For everyone that doesn’t know you, tell us what brought you to Raleigh?
GF: SEO brought me to Raleigh, way back in 2004. I worked for 2 years at the imploding star of SEO Agencies at the time and then went into solo contract work in 2006. I haven’t looked back.
DR: You’ve been in the search game for almost a decade, when did it click for you that there was a future for you in this industry?
GF: It clicked back in 2003, when I started interviewing and engaging with SEO’s through the platform afforded me by WebProNews. I realized I could think well about strategy and process, ask great questions, and that I had a knack for identifying business and promotion opportunities for myself and others.
DR: In terms of link building, who do you look to as a mentor or someone whom you admire?
GF: Eric Ward was my earliest link building mentor, though he didn’t know it at the time (circa 2006-ish). I read everything he wrote because there were frequently these incredibly valuable gems he dropped about his prospecting queries. Ken McGaffin is another key mentor for me as he (and Debra Mastaler for that matter) crystallized the idea of building links for more than SERP impact. I stand on all of their shoulders.
DR: I’m sure you get this a lot, and I’ve heard you stay the course when everyone was saying “Link Building Is Dead”. How has link building changed since you started out?
GF: SERP-only link building stays in cat-and-mouse flux. User-oriented link building remains just about the same since the early days. Create and promote content that drives converting visitors and builds authority links so your on-page SEO can do its work.
DR: What do you see as the future of link building and the link graph?
GF: I’m still looking for it now – I’m trying to solve the problem as a fledgling agency though, which is a definite filter for me in how I view the problem of the future of link building. I have to think in terms of scale and repeatability. I believe the future I’ll be working to write for my clients is in larger-scale promotion efforts based around content created through influencer-engagement.
DR: When you’re not writing helpful posts on link prospecting and how content promotion, what do you like to read/write?
GF: I like reading business biographies and the writings of James Hillman, a wild-child disciple of Jung. When I have time for personal writing it tends to be mostly business ruminations and perhaps a bit of scribbly drawing.
DR: Do you look for local citation opportunities when link prospecting and outreaching?
GF: I do not currently for my clients, though I certainly would.
DR: As one who does not participate in buying links, how do you feel about outing?
GF: Outings are ugly business in my opinion, even when done for purportedly educational purposes. The higher-profile outings are the ugliest and reek of careful and deliberate sabotage by competitors. That said, I always read them closely and then feel a little dirty when I’m done reading.
DR: The prospecting tool is superb, any plans for more tools from Citation Labs?
GF: Thanks Don. I have a broken link building tool still in the works. Because of the nature of the broken link building process we’ve had the scope shift and shift again until we finally settled on a “swiss army knife” metaphor. We know the “shape of it” now though so it should be out in a couple months. It will be desktop-based.
DR: How do you quantify your link building efforts to clients? Is it always the same?
GF: Usually it’s number of links earned, with the agreement that they will be earned via guest posting or broken link building.
DR: Any advice for people entering this arena of SEO? What are some things you know now you wish you’d known when you started?
GF: Make time for creating and marketing a product of your own. You learn the most in doing work for yourself first. When I first started covering SEO conferences back in 2004 I was a bit quick to publish the SEO gossip I learned at the bars and afterparties. I had pageview pressure from my boss of course but I do wish I’d had a bit more discretion and care at the time.
DR: Can you give us some tunes for what keeps your workflow moving at the right pace?
GF: I listen to Pandora primarily and have a few well-curated channels for myself based around bands I like. Here’s a link to a few of my favorites: