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The Write Podcast Episode 3: From Black Hat Spammer Raking In $50k a Month to Inbound Marketer- Jeff Deutsch’s Story

Ever since I read Confessions of a Google Spammer on Inbound.org, a viral story with over 275K reads, I knew Jeff Deutsch was the kind of marketer I’d like. And I was right. We’ve collaborated quite a bit; he’s done a blog interview for me, and he was a featured guest expert on one of our first #ContentWritingChat sessions. And I was very pleased when he said “yes” to being my FIRST Write Podcast guest expert!

If you’re invested in online marketing at all, you will absolutely love this episode – Jeff shares all kinds of golden SEO and online content creation nuggets, with all the expertise of a crazily diverse marketing background. This guy went from raking over $150,000 gross/$50,000 net per month doing black hat SEO, to becoming an inbound marketer for a startup in Beijing, something more stable for him as he focused on fatherhood. I have nothing but respect for Jeff – and as he said himself, we basically agree on everything. 

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I had fun recording it with Jeff! Remember to leave an iTunes review if you loved it; I’d greatly appreciate it!

jeff deutsch inbound marketer episode

In Episode 3 of The Write Podcast, guest expert Jeff Deutsch reveals:

  • How Jeff entirely quit blackhat SEO after a “spanking” from Matt Cutts
  • What a stable marketing career means to him as a father today
  • What content looked like in the “black hat” days
  • What great content looks like today & how storytelling plays a huge part
  • The WORST SEO practices to never, ever do
  • How authentic online content is more about connections than just keywords
  • …& more!

Full Transcription of The Write Podcast, E03: From Black Hat Spammer Raking In $50k a Month to Inbound Marketer- Jeff Deutsch’s Story

Julia: I’m here today with Jeff Deutsch, an SEO professional and the VP of marketing at PTEngine. He’s best known for his story that went viral around the Internet in 2015, Confessions Of A Google Spammer.

Jeff it’s so great to have you here today.

Jeff: Hi Julia, how’s it going?

Julia: Good, so I wanted to I ask for a nutshell of the story that you wrote on inbound.org. I know its gone viral around the web, it had so many shares and views by now and pretty much I can make my entire podcast about your story which is a really cool story.

Jeff: Sure, it’s about my journey from being a black hat spammer for SEO to becoming an inbound marketer, and it’s got a message which is basically, don’t follow my path. But it’s a lot about my life’s story. How kinda going down that black hat rabbit hole affected my life and a lot of crazy things that happened during that time which was from around 2010 and 2012 especially.

Julia: So what was your turning point, whenever you switched mindsets from black hat over to the light side?

Jeff: Yeah, basically I mean it was just that I was getting a spanking from Matt Cutts basically and Matt Cutts was like one of the first employees at Google, he was the head of the web spam team and he’s basically like the dark overlord for black hat SEO guy. He’s kind of like the antithesis of who we were.

How I stopped doing black hat SEO: I was getting a spanking from Matt Cutts basically and he's basically like the dark overlord for black hat SEO guy. Click To Tweet

Because his job is to hunt out the spammers who were getting their spamming content to the top of the Google search engine results pages, and to eliminate them from the search engine results.

So yeah, basically they sniffed out our network that we had built, which was a very advanced and very effective SEO network before they found us, and destroyed us. I could basically get anything I wanted on the first page of Google in like five minutes just waiting on a maximum of about a week. It just went from overnight from having an SEO business that was making like $150,000 {gross} a month to having nothing.Click To Tweet

Julia: That’s crazy.

Jeff: So yeah, I wish I could say it was like I had a turn of conscience but no, I just got spanked.

Julia: [LAUGH] That’s good you’re being real.

Jeff: [LAUGH] Yeah, the turn of conscience came later, and it was more about wanting to build something that was sustainable: which I think inbound marketing is. It’s the slow and steady approach and I think that had a lot to do also with being a father because I have a young son and you want something sustainable because there’s enough uncertainty when you have a kid, and you’re trying to raise him. You know marketing is a much more stable career.

Julia: That’s so true. I have a toddler so I totally relate to that you know just finding a stable income. Making sure your kids have something to rely on.

Going from black hat to where you are today, it would be really interesting just to get your perspective on content, and how important it is to the Internet and how to do content marketing right, since you kind of know how to do it wrong: SEO wrong, to say.

Jeff: The content that we were producing back then was completely written by robots. I wrote a script basically that could scrape the web for any key wording, create content that Google considered high quality. But Google has gotten way better at detecting spam since then. I don’t think that they necessarily can use a robot that can tell the difference between what’s really quality, and what’s not but they have their fingers in all the user, interaction data and engagement data.

Now because I mean Google Analytics, Google Webmaster’s in almost every website at least like 60% of the top million websites have Google Analytics. So they know what’s going on landing pages. So I think that content you can write it for Google if you want to, but the users are gonna come and they’ll be able to smell the difference.

And if they don’t like the content they’re gonna bounce and if you’re bounce rate is high Google’s not gonna rank you high. It’s your engagement and on the article is well then it’s the same thing.

So yeah I mean you can write through search engines all you want, but at the end of the day you have to write for people, you have to get people to share your content, and engage in it, read it and really consume it or it's never gonna rank long term.Click To Tweet

Julia: That’s so true and you used those principles when you wrote your Inbound.org story. Which I thought was really great, it was really engaging, and you were really authentic about your black hat practices, and then your switch over and where you are today.

And going back to that is a form of a story, and you and I always talk about how important storytelling is. How do you see that fitting into content marketing and SEO?

Jeff: Something I’m really into now and I know you are too, is just using emotional persuasion to grab people’s interests. Because the data and like the attention span of the average web user is just scary. It’s like if your page doesn’t load within 4 seconds it’s like 25% of people will bounce it.

And web users have like an 8 seconds attention span, which is down from 12 seconds in 2010 or 2012 when the study was done before. So it’s just basically people don’t have time. They have so many options and so many alternatives, other stuff that they could be doing or reading, so maybe you have to grip them somehow and you have to use.

Basically use emotional triggers to keep them engaged with what you are writing. And it’s something that you are really good at, something that you definitely know to a deep degree. And I mean storytelling influences people to a really deeper degree and it really cuts through like that.

I think you call it like a hockey, 1950-style marketing of selling and fakeness and stuff. Content writers should be authentic and real and especially personal and share personal details in their content. It does something to draw the reader in and kind of just emotionally get them involved in the content and most decisions are made with emotions. We use our emotions to make decisions, we use our brains to rationalize afterwards and that includes, am I gonna invest like the two or three minutes it’s gonna take for me to read this article or buy after ten minutes.

It’s like long form storytelling so to say.

Julia: I also wanted to go into some things to avoid since you came from that black hat background and you’ve done things that Google’s smacked you down for: so what are some of the worst maybe outdated SEO practices that marketers could be doing that should be avoided today?

Jeff: Any kind of link dealing where the content is bad.

If the content’s crappy or if you don’t have control of the page’s linked to you, because the worst case scenario is you do some link building and then you have no ability to take the link down so you can’t remove the links and then disembowel them which is the only way that you’re gonna get out of the penalty.

So if you have to, you don’t have to black hat spam, but if you have to, make sure that at least you’re in control of it so that when, not if, but when you get a penalty, you can remove the links yourself, but why bother? If it’s only a short-term thing, you’re gonna be on a treadmill where you’re gonna be constantly having to rebuild and rebuild and rebuild.

Why not build something sustainable?

Julia: I’m absolutely on the side with why bother because for the last four years that’s all we’ve been doing is good practices. I don’t even like to say white hat, because we write blogs, we put out content and then we try to do it better each time and that’s been 98% of our lead generation of our visitors.

Just putting out really good content, whether it’s like an infographic or a really good blog post that’s really in depth, so yeah I’m totally on the side of why you can bother.

Jeff: Yeah and it’s not like other benefits from writing your own content and getting legitimate, actual real people to follow you and care about you, because relationships and networks, personal networks, are algorithm proof.

Julia: Mm-hm.

Jeff: Google is never going to like have a penalty where you suddenly lose all your friends, so [LAUGH] so people who read your stuff and get engaged with that and are like Julia, she’s really switched on, she really knows what she’s talking about.

That’s going to last beyond any algorithm so even if one day Google, I don’t know search engines, become a thing of the past, you’ll still have your network.

We had like 3,000 customers are at our peak with my SEO company. I mean I don’t talk to any other people anymore because it was all about, next time let’s get our money in and let’s spend our money and let’s move on to the next bigger thing and that’s one of my biggest regrets was that at least I could have spent more time connecting with those people, but I was just watching the money roll in to my PayPal and just like okay cool I won, I don’t have to work anymore, I can just like sit back and just be lazy and go like party all the time do whatever I have to like to fulfill whatever fantasy I was trying to fulfill.

If I had those connections it would be worth a lot more than the money I made.

Julia: That’s a really good point. Today it’s really all about connections whenever you create your content and like for example I don’t even think of keywords anymore when I create a blog I think about the audience and where is this post going, what level is the audience at resonating is what my content is all about whenever I create, that’s a really great point.

Jeff: Yeah I mean it used to be you’ll start with the keyword and you’ll be like, okay let’s research the key word and figure out what do people talk about and they talk about and whatever. And now somebody gives me an assignment I’m like, okay who am I writing it for? What’s their emotional state? What do they want? Because if you know those things about it, if you could build a persona of the person that you’re trying to engage. Makes it so much easier.

It’s so much easier to get them to engage because they’re just gonna do it naturally. Like I said, they smell the difference. They know when it’s real and when it’s fake.

Julia: Absolutely and we’re facing millenniums, I should say millennials, and that’s an audience that really, they are in the know-how of tech, they’re gonna be able to stiff out a cold sale quicker than anyone else and it’s not coincidence.

Jeff: Yeah was that you who in your article you were talking about millennials how they value authenticity over content?

Julia: Yeah. That was me.

Jeff: Yeah. That’s true I mean because in contrast to all the noise of being constantly sold to and being so fed up with that. I mean its like having a real authentic thing from a personal point of view that’s vulnerable and it really cuts through.

Because Americans I remember this quote from few years ago, I don’t who said it but like Americans we love to buy stuff but we hate being sold to.

Julia: [LAUGH]

Jeff: We just hate it, you know what I mean? It’s so true, it’s so true. So yeah we just wanna have like the excuse to be able to buy without feeling like we are being taken advantage of, because it is, it’s fun buying things it’s fun, we want to.

We go into every blog post, we click the link like we are out there ready to do something, just don’t turn us off with your fake BS.

Julia: [LAUGH] That’s a good way to sum it up.

So, Jeff just to wrap this up, I want to get your perspective as an SEO marketer on maybe specifically blogging how do you see that tying into concept marketing and just today and maybe the future concept marketing?

Jeff: You mean blogging on your own blog or like guest blogging on someone else’s blog or?

Julia: Let’s go for the wide sphere, so just blogging whether your guest blog, blog for yourself, wherever you do it.

Jeff: Yeah I think that now what’s happening and this has been happening since probably around like 2010, 2011 is that now we’re kind of moving away from brands and more to like people. People aren’t more into personas that they aren’t into like things like the brand, you know what I mean? Conversion XL is a famous brand, they have their own followings that they bring to it. Crazy Egg, who is a competitor of ours, and I probably shouldn’t have said that, but screw it, has like Neil Patel, and Henshaw, and Hubspot has Dharmesh, and these personalities are actually I would say when it comes to buying like when it comes to actually the conversion part of where readers are reading a blog again and again and then like actually goes to convert, I think that the persona of that person is more clear in the buyers mind than the brand itself. You know when Dharmesh, for example like can go into it like a different marketing company and still build and bring all of his trust with him.

And I don’t think that was necessary like as strong of a thing five or ten years ago. It’s become this type of personality thing with blogging where like you are developing through your series of this posts, it’s almost like how you get attracted to characters like in a TV series and you like you work for that.

You saw this in Game of Thrones 2 where people are more into the characters than they’re into the show itself where they’ll be like I’m not watching anymore, I can’t believe you killed this character. So I think it really is the same thing that blogging, it’s a cult of personality thing where people want to make a connection with the person not just with the corporate brand.

So then you said like there used to be brand loyalty for like for your favorite brand of cigarette, or your favorite like brand of car—like I only smoke Marlboro, I only buy Hondas I don’t think that those statements will be ever be said by the same person, but you know what I mean.

Now it’s a commitment to the people who personalized the brand, put a face on it, and that’s something I’ll be completely honest and something that for us for PTEngine like my startup I’m trying to do because there are other key map and analytics apps out there, and there’s other people who talk about CRL and everything but like if people start to feel a connection to me and they don’t feel better about using our product and I don’t think that it works as much now where it’s like, oh I love this product, let me get to know everything about the person who made it.

I think it works much more the way like they get drawn in through blogging through the personality of the person and then they are like ah sure I’ll give your product a try why not you know.

Julia: I bet that ties into the really attention span too.

Jeff: Yeah exactly because there’s nothing more emotional than connection to another person you know. I mean there’s plenty of data I just read some them like a version of blog about this too.

About like royalty to brands it’s not really a shocker, but it’s not anywhere near the I’m not a royalty like a friend or a personal recommendation by a person, who you know and trust.

Julia: I think so. Jeff thank you so much for being here and sharing your thoughts it was really insightful thanks for joining me.

Jeff: Yeah you’re welcome and it was awesome I mean we basically agree on everything anyway.

Thanks for joining today’s Write Podcast! For more online content tips and strategies, visit expresswriters.com/blog, and now here’s your host Julia McCoy with a final message.

Julia: Jeff’s story is inspiring. I think it’s amazing he left a black hat SEO world where he was making $50,000 a month to become an inbound marketer for a start up. You can read his entire story by searching Google for Confessions Of A Google Spammer, it’s on inbound.org. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter @JGDeutsch.

If you haven’t joined my twitter chat yet, be sure to check it out and join the community as we share content writing and marketing tips and tricks. Join us with the #contentwritingchat every Tuesday at 10 AM CST. Also I’m writing a book: So You Think You Can Write: The Definitive Guide To Successful Online Writing. In this book I discuss everything you need to know to write great content online, both as an ultimate guide for freelance writing career, and for the business owner. It’ll be available to buy on Amazon by the end of this March.

Thanks for joining today’s episode of The Write Podcast! For more episodes go to expresswriters.com/write-podcast.

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