SMX East 2014 Speaker Series: Jason White’s ‘Stupid Successful’ SEO Guide to Keywords, Link Cleanup and Personal Success

Search Marketing Expo (SMX) East 2014 is fast-approaching. In preparation for the acclaimed Internet marketing conference, I’ve invited a handful of distinguished speakers (Bruce Clay among them) to sit down for an interview. First up is Jason White, the director of SEO at DragonSearch. The New York native has graced the SMX stage before and has also shared his vast SEO knowledge with the next generation of Internet marketers as a guest lecturer at New York University. White’s writing has appeared on Search Engine Journal, WordStream and the Marketology Blog.

Jason White SMX EastAnything that requires some strategy and a burning desire to figure out the why tends to be what gets me revved up,” White said. “More than anything I like to make my clients stupid successful.”

White will be speaking in two sessions at SMX East: “Earning Authority: Successful Link Acquisition & Auditing Advice” and “Keyword Research For Better Content & Audience Engagement.” Accordingly, I picked his brain on keyword best practices, content marketing success stories, link management and more.

Can you share a must-do and a must-don’t when it comes to keyword research?

Gather data from as many sources as you can and don’t use just the Keyword Planner. Go offline and talk to the sales team, listen to sales calls and flag the terminology and words that are being used. If the client is using PPC, mine all of that information including the negative keywords. If everyone is using the same tools for their keyword research, juke  and go with a different current, the opportunity is away from the pack. Long-tail keywords have been steadily diminishing so you need to be willing to consume other forms of data and hunt.

What mistakes are SEOs making when it comes to managing and/or disavowing links?

I’ve seen brands get hit by Google’s Penguin and submit the disavow with Bing. I’ve also seen marketers disavow YouTube and Facebook links. I’ve encountered people who had a manual penalty and were fearful of submitting a reconsideration request. These are extreme examples but it’s insanity. The misinformation is absolutely mind-boggling.

If you’re about to embark on a Penguin cleanup campaign, the best thing you can do for your client is to deep dive and do the research. If you have questions, reach out to people and ask — there is a lot of snake oil in our little industry but there are even more caring, knowledgeable people who are willing to share and help.

Can you share some examples of brands doing it right when it comes to content?

The International Space Station’s Instagram feed is fantastic. It’s bringing back the romanticism of our space program. Keeping with the government theme, the TSA’s blog is an example of what can be done when you work with what you have and I like how it’s humorous yet educational.

What is your philosophy on building your individual brand?

Being myself and sharing my knowledge freely has opened magnificent doors. I coach my team to understand that the best personal opportunities will come when they’re overworked and feeling like they are at their limit, but they should ignore those feelings and do the work, and push a little harder when someone presents an opportunity for them to seize. There is a Buddhist proverb that says something to the effect of ‘the urge to quit is strongest the moment before success is achieved.’ This is something that has become a bit of a mantra for me. At the same time, when the zombie apocalypse comes, the sum total of the work I’ve produced will be meaningless … which is something else I remind myself often.

TLDR? —> Give. Work a little harder than your perceived limit but don’t take yourself too seriously.

You’re an avid participant in #SEOchat, the weekly chat discussing all things SEO (Thursdays at 10 a.m. PT). What’s the value of staying connected with your fellow SEOs and sharing knowledge?

It’s all love. Love the people around you and be interested in their success, they’ll pay it back in spades.

In addition to #SEOchat, how do you stay on top of Internet marketing news? Blogs, books, hangouts – tell us anything and everything.

I have a very select group of people who I follow on Twitter and Google+. I attempt to get out of the echo chamber as much as I can so that I can get new ideas and concepts whenever possible.

I follow different people for different reasons; I like following Eric Enge on Google+ because of the wacky times I’ll get invited to one of his awesome Google Hangouts. It’s stupid, but I’m hell-bent on figuring out if the timing is completely random or if there is science behind it. It’s almost to the point where I’m expecting to unravel his strategy and earn the keys to the universe. Almost.

I read a lot of content from Amazon, I love the ESPN digital blog and I lurk on a lot of black hat forums. I also stalk some select verticals to earn new ideas but the who and how will only be admitted after a few beers. I like IPA.

Who are your top three favorite Twitter users and why?

  • Ian Lurie. He’s free and giving with his knowledge, has tested most everything or it at least appears that way and I appreciate his humor.
  • Mike King. He just gets it done with no bull and is interested in marketing which is something I feel that many SEOs are missing the boat on.
  • Bill Slawski. I value his ability to connect random facets from different periods of time. The ability to recognize unrelated opportunities is where magic happens and Bill seems to have this as a sixth sense.

When you’re not directing SEO, what are your favorite ways to spend your time?

Making sure my little human is growing up as a well-adjusted person, fixing my old house and telling my wife how much appreciate her for dealing with my brand of crazy. Occasionally the stars align just so and I get to ride my bike in the mountains which is something I really enjoy.

Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Kristi's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (5)
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5 Replies to “SMX East 2014 Speaker Series: Jason White’s ‘Stupid Successful’ SEO Guide to Keywords, Link Cleanup and Personal Success”

Good interview Kristi

Glad Jason mentioned Ian Lurie as someone he follows. That guy is absolutely insane when it comes to testing, which in my opinion is the only real thing we should be basing our witchcraft of SEO on.


There are many misconception in Internet marketing world about many things and when they come to know about these then it become late and they got hit or penalize. Its necessary to analyze each factor closely and share and learn things so that these things not gonna happen. Its worthy post and informational. Thanks for sharing this.

Indeed, Jason had great thoughts! He always does :) As for “stupid successful” — I like it. Who doesn’t want to be stupid successful? ;)

I’m a great believer in you get back tenfold what you give out and share. It’s the secretive people who think they’re winning by keeping something to themselves – but the reality is they are missing out. Some very level headed thoughts from Jason – although I’m not sure about the phrase “stupid successful”!!

This is impressive with all the content and places to go for information, the Twitter feeds. Thank you.


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