top of page


Affiliate Marketing Growth within Large Markets with Edd Dawson

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
Edd Dawson

Meet Edd Dawson, Founder at Compton Media, a seasoned expert in the dynamic world of SEO, with a journey spanning nearly two decades. Edd's story begins in the realm of development, where his technical background laid the foundation for his impressive career. But it's in the intricacies of content marketing and SEO where Edd truly shines, demonstrating an innate ability to navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape.

Edd's early foray into SEO started with, a venture that exemplified his strategic acumen. Under his guidance, the site flourished, culminating in a successful trade sale in 2021 to Genie Ventures Ltd. This milestone, achieved amid the challenges of the pandemic, is a testament to Edd's resilience and business savvy.

But Edd's story doesn't stop there. His entrepreneurial spirit is evident in his diverse range of projects. From running affiliate sites to launching SEO research tools. Edd continually seeks new horizons. His ventures in physical goods development and e-commerce through Amdai, alongside his role as a startup investor and farmer, reflect a multifaceted career that defies the conventional.

Edd's academic journey began at Newcastle University, where he earned a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science. This technical prowess served him well in his early career as a Software Engineer in both public and private sectors. The transition to founding Compton Media was a natural progression, showcasing his ability to lead and innovate.

In 2022, Edd introduced, further cementing his status as a thought leader in SEO. And in 2023, he took his expertise to the airwaves as the host of the podcast "SEO Is Not That Hard," offering valuable insights into the world of digital marketing.

Edd Dawson's story is one of continuous evolution, a journey marked by a relentless pursuit of knowledge and an unwavering commitment to innovation. His contributions to the field of SEO and beyond are not just noteworthy; they are a blueprint for aspiring entrepreneurs and digital marketers worldwide.

The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Edd Dawson

Watch the interview

(click on the 'cc' icon to view subtitles)

Listen to the podcast

(54 minutes long)

The unscripted questions Mark A Preston asked Edd Dawson

  • What's your SEO career story, Edd?

  • Was it yourself that grew the organic growth of from scratch?

  • Would you have gone down the affiliate marketing route if you hadn't initially been offered the broadband website?

  • What was your first steps when you took over ownership of

  • What affiliate marketing learnings did you have in the early days?

  • Do you think that their is a lack of focus on conversions within the affiliate marketing world?

  • What do you think about some affiliates who just think that more content equals more traffic?

  • Do you think that adding tools to your website really helped the growth?

  • What was the moment when you realised that you had something big with your broadband website?

  • To be great at affiliate marketing, do you need to have a good business mindset?

  • What do you think about scaling an affiliate site with user generated content?

  • How important is user interaction when it comes to organic growth?

  • As you have a few affiliate sites in highly competitive markets, what are the commonalities between them all?

  • Why do you target the very large markets instead of creating more niche affiliate sites?

  • How much does someone need to invest in order to launch an affiliate site before it starts to generate revenue?

  • Have you seen any positive or negative impact from the bombardment of Google updates over the past few months?

  • What is your standpoint on content creation within this AI world we are now living in?

  • What type of content would you consider using AI to generate?

  • What made you want to launch your SEO tool, Keywords People Use?

  • How has your questions based tool helped you to grow your affiliate sites?

  • Do SEOs still need to focus on question based keywords as Google has removed the FAQ snippet for some?

  • How important is truly understanding your audience when it comes to growing an affiliate site?

  • Do you think that a lot of SEO are missing out on positive growth opportunities by focusing too deep on keyword volumes?

  • Over the years, what has been your thought process when it comes to links and link building for your affiliate sites?

  • Have you ever tried dodgy link building on your affiliate sites, and if so, what happened?

  • Is it really possible to gain totally natural links for an affiliate site?

  • Does having a strong brand help you with attracting natural links?

  • Why have you stuck at affiliate marketing all these years?

  • Why should affiliate marketers just try and be willing to be rubbish?

  • Why is your SEO podcast called, SEO is not that hard?

  • What do you talk about on your podcast?

The unscripted conversation between Mark A Preston and Edd Dawson

Mark A Preston: Welcome to the Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast. Yes, it's 100% unscripted, 100% unrehearsed, 100% unedited, and 100% real. I'm your host, Mark A Preston, and today I want my guest to introduce himself for the pure reason I don't want to do him any injustice. Hello.

Edd Dawson: Hi. Yeah. My name is Edd. My name is Edd Dawson. I've been in SEO for all heading towards 20 years now. Originally I was a developer, so my background is technical. But my main focus for the other past 20 years or so has really been more about content marketing and SEO. I started off in SEO with a website called, which we ran very successfully until 2021 when we sold it in a trade sale to one of our competitors. They approached us mid pandemic and made us an offer, and it was a good offer, so we took it. That's not the only thing I've done for the last 20 years. I've obviously, I've run other affiliate sites and I still have other affiliate sites. And more recently I launched a keyword research tool called Keywords People Use.

Mark A Preston: Okay. Would you say your, obviously your background like as developing, has it made a big impact into the growth of the business as you've grown?

Edd Dawson: Having a development background and going back to say, About 20 years. WordPress, I think was just probably in its infancy in the early two thousands. At that time. We literally just created everything from scratch because we could. So we developed our own CMSs. We developed every solution we needed because we had the ability to do it and a lot of things you actually had to do back then. It wasn't a whole range of tools and platforms that there are now. It was literally, there was very few things and it was a lot more, you needed more technical know back then. So it definitely helped back then. And I think more now, it means that we never hit a roadblock where we can't do something. There's always a way to do something. So if you've got some technical skills, it means you can do things that, that might be more difficult if you're just relying on off the shelf tools. And what the, on the converse side of it is, you have to make sure that you don't over engineer stuff because you can end up spending a lot of time creating something when there's an off the shelf solution you could plug in half a day and you might end up making something so you have to find the right balance otherwise you're not going to make the best of it both ways.

Mark A Preston: Yeah, that's a good way of thinking about it. I speak to so many people that Heuristically never launch anything because they want to launch it. Perfect. All right. Yeah. Yeah, I mean you have to test the market So so with the site So was it you that grew it from scratch?

Edd Dawson: It started off. There was a small team that the original story was and I was working at a web agency And that web agency was called Broadband Communications and they named that business back in about 1994. So I wasn't there involved at the start of that web agency, but I came in and started working there. And through a combination of buyouts and, and and people getting involved and different things, I ended up with a partnership with my wife. And along the, around about the same time, what happened was broadband became a technical thing, became a product, broadband internet. So people were ringing up saying can we get some broadband off you? And we're going no, we're a web agency, we're a web agency. So we rebranded the web agency. And then we're like let's do something with this broadband domain that we've got. Accidentally and it was my wife's idea she said why don't we make a comparison site it's one of the very first comparison sites it was a very new concept back that long ago to have a comparison site of any sort and we were just like let's work out how to do this and then work out how to monetize it so we didn't exactly set up with a big master plan of what we were going to do it was a case of what can we make with this opportunity and to start with I mean it started off with too many cooks so and different people want to do different things and in the end me and my wife said we'll buy out our partners on this and we'll take it forward just by ourselves. Because yeah, it originally it was not that everyone's ideas were bad. There was lots of good ideas, but there's obviously where you've got a finite set of resources and different competing ideas, being in business. It doesn't always work. So it was a case of. We took it with agreement with everybody else, we paid a fair price for it to take it out, to take it that way. And then built it up from there and concentrate it on solely on that. And, we sold the web agency a couple of years later and then concentrated solely on the affiliate side of it.

Mark A Preston: Yeah, I think, this resonates so much because years and years ago when I started in the industry. I just set a load of sites up myself and took them and one of them was a flat pack builder website. And suddenly I had inquiries coming through and I'm like, I'm not going to Sussex to build your wardrobe this weekend. It just, opportunities just happen down the road when you're least expecting it. And do you think If that particular incident hadn't happened, would have you gone down the affiliate marketing route yourself?

Edd Dawson: That's a very good question. I would have to say I don't know. Possibly not. We got familiar with The affiliate marketing side, because I was working as a web agency, we were working with some big brands who had affiliates of their own. So we were used to working with affiliates. So we'd be over there working on the merchant sites and they'd have affiliates. So we had to make sure everything would be that. So we were becoming aware of this. this monetization model and I would have liked to think I'd have put two and two together and what I can build sites and I can know how to monetize on the side and then we'll do it. But who knows? It's one of those great ifs. It's probably 50, 50. I've probably been generous to myself.

Mark A Preston: So when you have this thing and you knew that people wanted this service, people wanted this product and you set about creating this. Marketplace. What was your first steps on how can we push it forward?

Edd Dawson: We had to solve a few problems. First of all, there was the content problem, so we had to write some, and at that point, yeah, there was no, there was very little information about broadband, so we had to become one of the original sources for it. Then there was some technical problems we wanted to be able to do a postcode check, so that it wasn't just a site about broadband, it actually, you could go there and say, This is where I live. Can I get broadband? Because in the first instance, when broadband was first rolling out, it wasn't available everywhere. So be able to answer that question was quite a key one in terms of, obviously, you can monetize it better if you can tell people what's available in their area. And then. There was the piece around obviously how we monetize it and how we get the information from the broadband providers and naively to start with, we thought, oh, they'll just come to us and they'll fill in a forms for us. And we built a whole CMS for the broadband providers to be able to log into and put in all the details of the deals and stuff. Then we went to, we approached them and they were all like, No, we don't do that. We have our own, sort that out yourself. So then it was like, ah, so we've now got to manage getting people to deal with information up to date and keeping that database up to date. So there was those challenges where I think probably going in naively means that we didn't have to overthink it, so we just got on with it. If we'd really thought about it and all the complexities and everything that we had to solve as we were going along, it's one of the things where you might not start. So I'm a bigger believer in just getting going on things rather than overthinking it too much up front, because if you overthink it too much, you'll talk yourself out of doing things.

Mark A Preston: Yeah, just solving problems as they arise.

Edd Dawson: Yeah, basically, yeah.

Mark A Preston: I think that's the way forward. And what learnings in those early days did you come across? Or did you solve, or that really sparked your attention and thought around something?

Edd Dawson: I think, obviously, the things we learned were you've got to gather the data yourself. You've got to gather the data yourself. If you want to be an affiliate. Don't rely on the merchants, they'll give you a certain amount if it's like feed data or endless emails. But the thing is, they've been, there's no consistency between how they communicate with you. So you really have to build your own processes. If you're going to build a database, if you're going to be an affiliate building a database. And that's what I would strongly suggest with anyone who's looking into affiliate marketing. You need to be more than just content. You've got to have a tool based around it too. That really helps. And with us, it was the postcode checker. And then we did things like the broadband speed test. And it was like that trying to build tools because tools are what will bring people back. Tools are what's really good at getting people to take certain actions. You can walk them through a process rather than just. bombarding them with a load of text. And yeah, so it's more about, about making your site into something that's useful in a way that people start to link to it. I always find that things like tools tend to get links. If you've got a database which isn't available elsewhere, you will get linked to naturally. It's that, it's building that, that kind of content that, that is unique, is good, is valuable is the kind of resource that people link to.

Mark A Preston: I think from my own experience in over the years, the sites I've worked on, having some sort of tool on the page, Obviously, helps with user experience, it helps with conversions, helps with interaction. It's just that connectivity. And do you think a lot of affiliate marketers these days are just missing out on points, or missing out on things because they just think, let's just throw a load of content out and slap affiliate links in them?

Edd Dawson: Never there's not that doesn't work because some people very successful doing that, but I think it's more about if you're trying to max with us, I think there's just one way look at it is obviously you can just try and get more and more traffic and throw it at any old content so you can scale by scaling your traffic. Or you can scale by trying to convert the traffic you're receiving better. And if you can do both, if you can scale your traffic and improve your conversion, then you win both ways. But it's often easier to work on improving your conversion rate. So you can monetize the traffic you do get better. So then you can double your business without having to double your traffic just by doubling your conversion rate and especially with affiliate conversion rates, which tend to be much lower than say e commerce conversion rates. So you're talking in single digits and sometimes less than 1%, depending on the type of traffic you're getting. So that's the kind of thing that I think that probably doesn't get talked about enough in the affiliate world is converting traffic into clicks and into sales.

Mark A Preston: Oh, that's what generates the money.

Edd Dawson: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Mark A Preston: Without the click, it is pointless. Yeah. Yeah. And but your own personal experience growing the site. is what was the moment that ping thinking, Oh, we've got something big here.

Edd Dawson: I think that was probably when in the first instance we were using PPC and that was back in the days of, very early AdWords. And it wasn't that successful. Lots of money was being spent on PPC, but not a lot was being made. And it's when we looked at it and thought, hang on, we turned off the PPC. And just relied on this. Yeah traffic could go down, but our sales wouldn't drop that much and our outgoings would drop hugely. And it's a case of rather than throw it away. I think at one point we were doing £20,000, £30,000 a month on PPC. About £1,000 a day and sales would be around about 1, 000 a day and it's when we worked out that we put some tracking on that we could track the sales from PPC to SCR and it's if we cut the PPC, we might lose 20% of sales. But our costs are reduced by a thousand, our costs will go to zero a day and we'll be ourselves, we would put like 800 plus a day. And it was at that point where I was like, actually, this is where we need to change our strategy from trying to do SEO and PPC and just go for the SEO because we appear to be better at that. The PPC margin was getting, it had worked for a while, when we first started because the merchants themselves, the PPC. But as soon as they started doing PPC, it pushed the cost up hugely because they've got a lifetime value far higher than an affiliate does. Our lifetime value was the sale, if we got the sale and that was it, whereas obviously a broadband supplier is looking at many years of income off that person. So it just killed PPC for us, but it was that point where we saw that. It's there that that's switched everything basically.

Mark A Preston: Yeah. Do you think it's, it was important to have a business mindset moving forward? Because obviously you analyze the profit. Not necessarily the revenue, and the cost and everything. Do you think it's so important in the affiliate world to literally think like a business owner rather than a website owner?

Edd Dawson: Yeah, you have to. You are a business. It's not that you should think like that. You have to think like that because you are running a business and you've got to look at it in cold, hard, Data terms like that, what's your revenue per visitor? What's your EPC? All these things you have to make those decisions and look to maximize them all the way through. So yeah, it's, you definitely have to have a commercial mindset on but you have to balance that with. The content you put out because you've obviously got to provide the content that is good for users, especially on a consumer focused stuff. So if you're an affiliate, you're essentially selling to consumers most of the time. There are some B2B you mainly, you're dealing with consumers who are hopefully going to get them to transact with a business. So you've got to have that sort of consumer side. In your head at the same time, because the best affiliates, the very best affiliate in the UK, for example, at the moment is and for a long time is Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert, right? He is just, he's run affiliate sites all the way. He is the don of affiliates. But, if you, most people just think of him as like a consumer champion, and he is, 95% of the time. But with that 5% on top that monetizes, that audience is built incredibly well via affiliate sales. He's got his, he sold out for, was it just under a hundred million to money save, to money supermarket, but he's still involved in running the site. So he's still obviously on the payroll and, and he's got his his TV shows and all that all based on being a consumer champion. So he's, you've got to have that content piece, but think very strategically on the business side as well.

Mark A Preston: Do you think that's because he's using his audience to build the content in one respect?

Edd Dawson: If you go back sort of 20 years to where he first started off, he was a journalist and he was trained as a journalist and, and got into consumer finance as a consumer finance journalist. But the difference is there's lots of other consumer finance journalists, but not many of them are multi millionaires. What he did was, take that audience he was building and that ability to build an audience that journalistic side of him, knowing how to speak to an audience, how to shape a story around. Yeah. very boring products. Let's say consumer finance is boring essentially, but he makes it interesting for people and he gets people excited about and build stories around it. And that's what you've got to do really with anything you're trying to sell. You've got to build a story around it and build a narrative that gets people to engage with it. And he's just brilliant at it. I try. But I've never got, I wouldn't say I've got anything as close as him, but, obviously, because we competed against him with We, he was, he sells broadband. He does a lot of content on broadband. We used to know on if his TV show had been on because our traffic would spike. Because if you've been talking about broadband on his TV show, then all the broadband sites would get a boost in traffic because people are searching. Different, things around, around broadband and other sites I've got, which touch on similar things that he works with, I still see those spikes when he's talking about certain products. Yeah, we, you can see at 8pm on a Monday night, the traffic goes up and that's him driving.

Mark A Preston: That's amazing. Now you mentioned you have a few affiliate sites. Now, what would you say the commonalities of positive impact? are across the board.

Edd Dawson: What's the commonality? As I say, the first thing is to make sure they're useful. Second thing I've always gone for is to try and go for things that are mass market rather than very niche stuff. And I know that's not necessarily the advice people always get when they're starting out, but I suppose when he's been doing it as long as we've been doing it, we're fortunate in the fact we've got more resources than average basically to start out something. So it's given us that in to be able to do. To break into areas which are harder to get into. So with the broadband, we were lucky with the domain name. We're lucky that it was an immature market at the time. So that was just fluke. Can't claim any kind of, business brains or cleverness for the opportunity. The opportunity was just pure luck. But then obviously since then. You make your own look after a certain period of time. So that's when we've gone on to other sites. So we've stayed in telecoms. We've done lots of stuff with mobile phones. We've done lots of stuff with electricity. We've tried to do stuff that is, not the utilities, the stuff that everybody needs and wants to purchase, basically, because it gives you a large market to go at. But it is harder and it does take longer to for sites and especially starting from scratch to pick up. And the reason I went into doing other sites was, it was because having one site with the broadband story was, you can put a lot down to look. It was a case of, can I do it again? And it was also because we got hit by Penguin and Panda really badly. 2011, 2012 time. We got hit so badly by them, which we recovered it, but I was very nervous and thinking I don't want all my eggs in one basket again. And so it's a case of, can I actually do it again in other areas? So that's why we then went on to launch other sites. And try and get into those areas and which we did and we managed to do some work better than others. But that's what got us into the position to then later to be able to say actually, we'll sell Ruble 1. 0 UK. Because you can't keep everything forever and there always comes a time to cash out with everything. Everything's got its price at the day. And it was a case of if we hadn't done that diversification in the mid. So we've got 2014, 15 times starting doing that. We wouldn't have been in a position to sell raw 1k in 2021 and take some chips off the table, essentially.

Mark A Preston: Now, it's interesting hearing you saying we're just going to go for the biggest markets possible, the most competitive markets out there, when the affiliate world are just ha, niching ha, hyper focusing on a certain area of a certain area of a certain area. But obviously the growth aspect, obviously you're talking about we, the growth is phenomenal because the market's phenomenal. And I think with no people who niche down only a small market.

Edd Dawson: Yeah, but the difference, it's not a bad idea to niche down. It depends. Like I said, I caveated it to start with saying. I was lucky of having a broader time horizon. So the broader your time horizon, the longer you're willing to go at it before trying to monetize it, trying to make money, trying to see traction, then the more competitive the thing you can go for. For example, say, I've got a site that promotes electricity. That took two years to get traction. And it was one of the cases, it was almost a case of, is it worth keeping it going? But, I've realized now that I never turn a site off. I always keep them going because you never know how long it's going to take for them to tick up. And it took two years for that to tick up, and then it started to tick up, and then it started to make some income. And it makes good income. It makes a couple of thousand pounds a month. And it's one of us, much one of our smallest sites, but it's the case that's a nice little income now. But it took a long time to get there. So if I was trying to start from scratch with no runway, and I wanted to get results in an area as quickly as possible, then yeah, niche down. Go much lower because that way you will start to get some traction if what I think because I had the luxury of saying I can wait two years for a site to to do something or I can write it off completely. If I'd have to write off an investment on a site like that's fine. It doesn't matter. That's like a rounding error, but that's because I'm in a fortunate situation and have that much broader time horizon. Yeah, it's a case of the faster you want results on something. niche down further. If you're willing to wait and have a longer time horizon, then you can go broader.

Mark A Preston: Yeah, I think I spoke to somebody and they mentioned that you realistically need at least 10k to launch a site in the affiliate world.

Edd Dawson: I don't know. It depends. Depends on what skills you've got. And it depends how much time you've got and how much you're going to do yourself. If you're going to write all your own content, if you're going to, do all your own design work, you're going to just, you're going to do everything yourself and you've got the time to do it. You can do it for bar less. And especially if you're going into something really niche and you're just only using Amazon Affiliates and you're going down that kind of route. I don't think you need to spend that much money. And I wouldn't. I wouldn't say people don't start unless you've got that much money. I'd look at it in terms of taking small bets. And actually there's a guy, I think there's a guy called Daniel Basilo or something like that, who created this small bets movement, which is by basically saying, You haven't, okay, it's not thinking about the long term, it's trying to start something small, quick, now, don't be perfect, just get on with it, see where it goes, say I'm going to spend a month on this and then launch it, or two weeks and then launch it and see what happens. I'd very much, I think, I'd encourage anyone to get going and get started and try, because if you don't do anything, you're not going to get anything. Okay, so if you do something, if you don't get anything, you're no worse off. than if you've done nothing. You might spend some time, you might spend a little bit of money, it's not the end of the world. But if you don't start, you're never going to get anywhere. And the more things you start, and the more times you're willing to start again and again, the more likely eventually something will pick up for you.

Mark A Preston: Have you seen any positive or negative impact on your own sites during the past few months of the bombardment of all the Google updates?

Edd Dawson: I've seen we've had no catastrophic off a cliff, 90% loss type sites. We've had some that had a bit of a gradual one. We've got some sites there's one I spoke about on my podcast. It's in the telecoms niche in Canada. And it was only monetized with AdSense because what I tend to do when I start, when we launch sites is we launched with no monetization. And then when they've got a bit of traction, then we'll tend to put something like AdSense on just to bring a little bit of money in. And then when they get to a certain point, that's when we'll start looking for affiliate partners. And this one in Canada had got to the point where we'd launched it and we'd left it for about a year or so. And it's, the traffic was ticking nastly enough because we were like, we'll put AdSense on and that was bringing in some money. And then it wasn't the helpful content, or was it the helpful content? It was around about October time, I can't remember because there was like I said, there was so many different bits going on, I can't remember which one it was. But I did see from that it started to tick down. And that did lose maybe 40% of traffic over about a month. But the weird thing was It was based on an exactly the same template as other sites in other countries, which didn't see the drop. We had the exact same site targeted in India. So it was a different, on a different domain, but with the same templates. It was a bespoke written site. It wasn't WordPress, the one we'd written bespoke. And the one that was targeted in India, and the India one at the same time went up 100%. The graph just went straight up like that. And it's these are Both exactly the same, but the only difference is the India one we hadn't got AdSense on. So that was still unmonetized, and it went up, and the Canada one, which we had AdSense on, went down. Since then, I was like let's take AdSense off and see what happens. And it's, Sort of baseline stopped that 40% drop. It hasn't gone down any further, but it hasn't gone back up again yet. So I'm just waiting for whichever algorithm that was run, that run that decided that, and then flip it up in a way. So we'll see. So yeah, so I have seen some effects. Again, yes, some we've had positive, some we've had slight negatives, but nothing catastrophic.

Mark A Preston: What's your standpoint on the whole content creation thing? Now we're living in an AI world, with your affiliate sites.

Edd Dawson: AI, Yeah. This is a really tough one. Cause lots of people saying oh yeah, we're using AI to do this. I used to do that content wise and publishing all this stuff. And then they're seeing it, they're posting graphs of things going up crazy. And then you obviously you're seeing them getting hit and coming down crazy and it's all, and Google saying, oh, it's fine. As long as it's still written for people. I've not actually published any AI written content to any of our websites. Now, that's not to say AI can't be used. We do use AI within keywords people use. to do analysis of keywords and to do clustering of keywords and to do content briefs. So I found AI is really good for yeah, content brief for doing research, that kind of thing. But I've still, and I've experimented with trying, trying to get it to create copy, decent copy, but there's nothing that I've actually read that it's done. I would be happy to publish and that, isn't, so spotable. The only thing I've used AI for is on publishing the podcast where it does the show notes and I let BuzzStream have a go at it. I often edit it a little bit. Sometimes I leave it pretty much as is. But I reckon you must be using the same AI on Buzzstream because your show notes look very similar to my show notes.

Mark A Preston: No, I don't use the built in one. I've never dabbled with that yet because they recently launched it. Yeah, I don't use that one. I do use an AR because I used to pay someone to manually create them. Yeah. And yeah the quality might've been better, but obviously, I don't make any money from this. I've no sponsors or anything. So it's a case of if, it's just that, that, you have to decide whether or not.

Edd Dawson: Yeah, and I find on that on the show notes, it's great because it'll quite a bit, it'll pick out the theme, the topic, and you get that kind of that synopsis put on the the show notes for you, which is probably useful at some way. I'm still new to podcasts really and how the podcast search works, but I was thinking it can't be bad for it to be there. But sometimes I read the ones that it produces for me and I just cringe slightly at some of the words, some of the phrases it uses. And I've experimented with deleting and having no show notes sometimes or sometimes writing my own and sometimes using the AI ones and seeing what effect it seems to have on the number of people down in the podcast. I don't know, I can't see what, I can't see much difference either way. So yeah, but that's the reason why we've not, I've not been willing to put anything live yet on consumer facing sites, because I just don't think that, I just don't think it's good enough yet. That's not to say it won't be at some point in the future, but I'm still not quite there. But it's the kind of thing where I say everyone experiment, and it's especially, it is good for doing research and getting ideas and writing content briefs, and if you it, Gets over that blank page problem where, you don't know what to write. Or you don't know how to structure a document or structure a guide. It's a good starting point, but I'd always, I would always use it as a skeleton rather than as a whole piece.

Mark A Preston: So moving away from the affiliate side for a bit. What made you want to launch an SEO tool?

Edd Dawson: That was because obviously we sold, and it's a case of I'm old. I'm in my forties, but I'm not old enough that I want to stop.

Mark A Preston: I'm ancient then.

Edd Dawson: And it was a case of taking a process that we'd use. Essentially, I'm still creating sites, and we're still doing stuff, and it was taking that process. I've never been one to look at keyword volume, keyword density, keyword searching on keyword tools and chasing keywords. I've always taken it back to more first principles, which is when someone's going into a search engine and trying to get a question answered. So if you base your content and your site around answering people's questions, that's what is all about. It was about answering people's questions about broadband. So you've got to write content to answer people's questions, so therefore you've got to work out what people's questions are. And back in the day when we first started, we had to work it out ourselves, and then gradually more and more sources online became available for finding those questions. And it's just became apparent that the more that we could automate that process, the more quickly we could produce content. More content we've got and citing good content that was, that matched the intent of people searching and helped cover a site in its entirety to get that topical authority. I'm really big on topical authority. I'm really big on getting your site architecture right. And within that, it's all going to be based around the questions around the topic. So it was like a case of we're building this anyway. Let's build let's build a tool because. There were, there was tools that were doing bits of it and parts of it and individual tools doing various bits, but there's nothing that was bringing together and there's nothing that we're working on now in terms of taking, you've got your questions, now take it into building a topical cluster so you can build a topical authority to build into the complete process. So yeah, it was just a case of. I've never had a software as a service but I could see a demand for it. I could see more and more people asking me about questions like, how do you do this? How do we build a site like that? How do we build top of authority? What was your process when you built What was the process in your other sites? It's there's an opportunity to build something to help more people than just me. So I can't, I can only scale so far. I can only, build so many sites, so it helps all the people build more sites. So it helps, yeah, it just helps people get that process right and build better content, which builds a better internet at the end of the day.

Mark A Preston: Did you have a wobble? I'll call it a wobble, when Google stated, the whole FAQ snippet, they're not going to show anymore. Did that impact, obviously, your mentality of we'll just answer questions?

Edd Dawson: No, because I've never chased FAQ snippets or anything like that. I don't look at it in terms of that. And it's not about, it's not about answering questions, it's not about chasing that search term, that question. So say the question is, I don't know what's the best kind of broadband for a household full of students, or a student house. That, it's not about answering that exact question, it's then finding, about finding all the related questions around that question or that topic. So we're talking about student broadband. So it's then finding all of the questions that might pertain to a student and broadband. And then you could gather all these questions together and then you say I'm going to write some content that answers those questions. Maybe not directly, maybe not like question, answer, question, answer, not FAQ. It might be a whole article or it might be a tool, developing a tool to answer that question. It's making sure you answer the question, but it doesn't, it's not about just literally answering questions one after the other, because that's boring content as well. There's, there is a time and a place for an FAQ within most content, where you've still got to have body content, you've still got to have all the other content that produces around it. So you, it's not about chasing FAQ snippets. It's not about, it's basically about covering a topic in enough depth that you can, you will pick up all the keywords. Without even thinking about what those keywords are. So it's rather than be the long laundry list of keywords and say I've got to hit all these keywords in this article and writing an article to hit the keywords. It's not, I've got to answer all these questions. In my article so that someone can read this article and then be able to look at this list of questions, they'll be able to answer them all. So it's not necessarily, it's not a one to one relationship, it's a case of helping you create essentially the best article on that topic and you do that by answering the questions. So you've got to find the questions so you know what then to cover.

Mark A Preston: I'm just smiling away here because that's been my mentality. 20 years ago to, till now, just, looking at if you understand what the audience wants and just basically giving them the very best answers, then it's good. That article is going to run for lots of related things.

Edd Dawson: Yeah. Yeah. Hugely. Yeah. Yeah. So it's. It is just going back to that first principle of what the person on the other side of the other, on the other computer, looking at your website, who's, who is searching to transfer a question. You want to be the answer to that so that Google will hook you up in the middle. And it's not about keyword volume, it's not about keyword popularity. It's not about keyword difficulty, it's about answering questions.

Mark A Preston: Yeah, loving it. Really am. It's so along my own personal mindset when it comes to things. Yeah, I've had a big bugbear about keyword volumes for a long time because I think it deters opportunities in a lot of cases.

Edd Dawson: Yeah. No, we get the same thing. It's a common question that people ask us about keywords people use. Oh, why didn't it have keyword volume data for the questions? And we're like if we did put that on, most of them would say like nothing, because all the keyword volume tools, they get, they're not getting the data direct from Google. They get aggregated sets of data from different suppliers. Lots of the times it guesses if it's any kind of new trending topic, there is no volume data, even if anyone had an accurate volume data. And it's that's not the point of the process that, that we're trying to encourage people to follow when it comes to creating the content. Yeah it's, I'm not, I don't use any of the like traditional SEO tools like hrefs and all that for looking at keywords or volumes or that. I've just never bothered with that for years and years because it never got me anywhere by worrying about them. best way was to produce content. I don't repeat myself, but produce content that answers the questions real people have. And that is what will draw the traffic over the long term, and you start aiming at the lower, the sort of the longer tail keyword things. Don't worry about the broad, the broader, yes, the broader head, the what, the narrow head at the top, just go for the long tail. And you will start over time to pick up shorter and shorter and shorter. And then you'll start, ranking over time for those really high volume keywords, but, my experience, the high volume keywords are great for traffic volume, but they don't always necessarily translate into sales brilliantly. It's not back in the day when we. Did have access to keywords from Google. So we knew what Google was probably going back now to 2009, those two thousands. We were tracking, what are the keywords actually drive sales. And, for the amount, terms like broadband, which is great for loads of traffic, and we did, I think the site still ranks in the top 10 for the term broadband. We ranked number one for many years and we've got tons of traffic for it, but it was awful for conversion. Those people were not people who had the buying intent. The people who had the buying intent were the ones who were putting in much more detailed questions. They've got a much more specific question, and if you can answer that, you're getting them towards the sale, whereas someone's just doing a start off broadband. They're so top of funnel that, it's not actually the most valuable keyword to chase.

Mark A Preston: Now, over the years, what's been your thought process or structure or, technique when it comes to links?

Edd Dawson: Okay going back before Penguin and Panda, we used to buy links, we used to get comment links, forum links, blog links, Buying links in articles pbn links all the stuff which wasn't against the terms of service or as it became against the terms of service Google was rubbish actually working it out. Everyone was doing it. That's just what happened then con 2012 I always remember forget which year it was penguin came along wallet and we went from ranking number one Broadband to ranking. I think it was 989, just like the very last pay. You got all the way down and we lost 98% of our Google traffic overnight. Which worked out to be about 80%. So 75% of our traffic overall just went like that. And that was like our income gone, and we've got payroll, we've got mortgages, all the things that it's like the business has gone. And. It was like, okay, what do we do? Luckily a guy called Karl Hendy, and you might not have heard of Karl Hendy He just started working freelance. He'd been at IEMA before that and he started working freelance and I'd met him a few times at SEO meetups and stuff. And he just gave me a call and said, so you've got a problem. I was like, you've got a problem? He said, I think you might be able to help. And I was like yeah let's do it. Let's work it out. Let's sort this out. And he helped loads with. Because we'd also had Panda issues at the same time that we're starting to take it because the content wasn't good enough back then, so we had Panda issues and then we've got Penguin which wiped us out. We went through the whole disavow process, we went through the whole, get, getting links and main links removed as possible, spent months on it and then got the penalty lifted basically, so I took two or three attempts to put the disavow in and we came back up. And that's brilliant, right? That point I was like I am never ever buying the link ever again because it's just not worth It's just not worth it. Especially not to anything I care about, right? If you care about a site, and you're in it for the long term, buying links, that, and, these people nowadays, if you didn't go through Penguin, you'd get slapped like that. You don't know how bad it was. Yeah, so we then said and this is again, where we pivoted more to the content side, so when, and obviously that Panda was part of that fixing issues that Panda caused and fixing that was like we need to change how the site works, change the architecture, change the whole approach to content. Yeah, so that's where our link building went 100% organic and 100% natural. And like I said, when we sold Broganite UK as part of the legal pack this big, one of the things I had to warranty was that we didn't, that we didn't buy links. And we, I don't say. I told them all about, I told the buyers all about the problems we'd had at Penguin. They'd had similar problems like lots of other sites had back then. So I said, yeah, that's what, that's where we were then. But since then we switched and we're like, no, no more link buying. So I've had to, I've legally warranted that on that site. And yeah, and it's, again, with all the other sites I've built since that are important to me. Yeah, definitely no link building. I know some people will go on it's nonsense, it's make good content build good content it will if you've really made good content and really made a good site people will link to it They will attract natural links If you make a rubbish site with rubbish content in no effort And no skill and something that's not worthwhile people won't link to it. Okay, you can shortcut it people do Media sites and spam loads of links had it, and yeah, and it it can work. Links, bought links can raise you up, but you've always got that sort of at the top of your head. At some point, those links will stop working, and if you're lucky, they'll just stop working and you'll just drift down. If you are unlucky, you'll get caught in a penalty and you will plummet. So if you want to be able to sleep well at night, , it's better not to buy links. And I'm, but if people want to buy links, that's up to them, I'm not going to sit here and say people are selling links or following that process, that are bad people, they're not, loads of people that buy links and they're really decent people. But it's all about, as long as you understand what you're doing and understand the risks, then each to their own, but for me, it was a case of that was that penguin was so bad. And yeah, and it could have been, and it was existential for other sites, but I saw some competitors get hit by it and they never came back. They never recovered it, and that was it, that was business gone. But the great thing for us was, after stopping buying links, and then concentrating on the content, we, our traffic went up fundamentally at the end of it, by about five to six times higher, so a 600% increase in traffic over the next sort of three years, by concentrating on content and not on just trying to obtain links at any cost and not worrying about the content and trying to make it up with links. So as soon as we started concentrating on better content, We attracted better links. Links that stuck, links that didn't cost us anything, and links that actually ended up, boosting us up to get much more traffic in the longer run.

Mark A Preston: That's really interesting to hear because it's not something you hear much, from the affiliate world. It's but do you think that when you say, we do attract natural links, do you think part of that is because the website is and it's such a strong brand itself?

Edd Dawson: In the case of, yeah, definitely that, that's a strong brand that would help. And yeah, that longevity, that definitely helps. But as I've built other sites, and this is why I was the case of Am I a One Trick Pony? Is it just because we had a great domain name? That's why I launched other sites with just not great domain names, with domain, with two word domain names, nothing, not hugely branded and that kind of thing. And they've attracted the same level of links and have ranked in, say areas as competitive, if not more competitive than broadband. So yeah, it definitely helps if you can build a brand. And that's why I say, there's nothing wrong with building a brand, but every brand starts from scratch, and was that was always a big fear we'd had for many years for us. It was so specific to broadband. When the next thing came out, it's that everyone called it the next thing something different than it was toast. Because you were just, your domain name didn't make sense anymore. Fortunately, All the broadband companies have carried on marketing all the different variations of broadband with internet access as broadband because most people are on fiber optic now, which actually isn't broadband. It's a completely different technology. It is, because it's, broadband was about the spectrum across copper wires and how they could get a higher frequency through and that's a broadband spectrum. That's what it stood for. Whereas fiber optic is a completely different method of data transfer. But, they still call it and market it as broadband, so that's why they kept it valued.

Mark A Preston: Yeah, that's cos the, that's what the audience see it as, cos then you've got the whole thing about well, is it fibre to the box or to the house and all this, but the audience don't have a clue, they just know it as broadband.

Edd Dawson: Yeah. So that, and that was fortunate because all it would have taken was some marketer at one of the program providers to repackage and rename it and push it as a different name and it could have ended it. But again, that was just fortunate.

Mark A Preston: Yeah. So for yourself, why have you stuck at the affiliate side of it? Is it because it's working and you're doing well at it?

Edd Dawson: Yeah, the main reason is because it scales. So as I say, I've worked in the agency side before. We owned agencies before and Agency life could be great, and I really enjoyed working in an agency when I was in my 20s. buT as a business model, it's really hard to scale, because generally to produce more work, you ended up needing more people is more overhead is more risk, you lose a big client, and then you lose a load of income, and it's just like that. Whereas, with the affiliate side, it just, once the scale comes, there's nothing to hold you back. If you go into e commerce, which I did, I had an e commerce site for a while, we set up an e commerce business in the, what was it, about 20, 2011? I can't remember now. Selling model railway stuff, bizarrely. And we were selling well over a million pounds worth of Hornby model railway gear every year. But we couldn't make a penny because every time we sold more, you needed more stock in, you were competing on the same product on the same, you're basically competing on price with everybody else. And it just became, you need more people, you needed more packing, even with working with three pills, every, all the costs, just the bigger it grows, the more the costs grow. And the margins are really thin. Whereas with the affiliate side, the margins are great. There's a lot of margin in there. And as you as you scale your traffic, your costs don't rise anywhere near as much. So your costs go up a little bit, but your income goes like that. So you become much more profitable. So the scale of it, where it scales is the thing that, that makes it worthwhile doing for us. So we, it's just more lucrative essentially than pretty much any other any of the model on there. I know that people that do display ads, it's a similar thing. They're not affiliates, but obviously the more eyeballs they get on the ads on their sites, then that's what scales up. So it's because it's a business model that has that kind of level of scale where, you know, you, you don't need to scale your costs as your as your traffic rises is the main thing.

Mark A Preston: Wonderful. Now, is there anything we haven't spoken about yet that you really think the audience needs to hear?

Edd Dawson: I don't know. I think the only thing I would want, I always want people to try and when I want to speak, I want to try and people to get across to people is that just try stuff, right? Be willing to be rubbish, right? I'm always willing to be rubbish. So everything that we ever launch, every site, rather than getting stuff polished and perfect and never launching because you'll never get it polished and perfect, just launch stuff, just keep trying stuff. It's like my podcast, I just I'm just trying to try a podcast and I don't care how good it is or isn't to start with, I just hope that over time I gradually get better at it. And, don't be afraid to fail at stuff, just, Make sure that the bets you make aren't so big that failing is going to be catastrophic for you. And I would just say to everybody, just have a go at stuff and don't worry what other people think. I think what stops most people starting anything is the concern of what other people will think of them or the product that they've created. Just don't worry about it. Don't worry about what other people think. Because you will find whatever you put out there, you will find your audience. You will find some people that like what you do. And they're the people that matter. And if you can, if you find your audience, then don't care what anyone else thinks. Don't care whether other people think, Oh, that's wrong. There's a problem there, or I would have done it differently. These people haven't done anything. So they might say how they would have done it differently, but they haven't done anything in the first place. So I just say, just get out there, try stuff, experiment and just don't worry.

Mark A Preston: Yeah, so you mentioned your podcast what's it called and where can people find it?

Edd Dawson: Yeah, it's called SEO is not that hard which I can credit you with the name of that, because on Twitter you asked a question, you put finish this sentence, SEO is dot. And I just responded to you, not that hard. And about a week later, I was thinking, I'm going to start a podcast. I wonder what I'll call it. And I thought SEO is not that hard because fundamentally compared to many other industries, many of the things that we do, SEO really isn't that hard. To master it is probably impossible because no one knows how it works, but the fundamentals. The things that will get you going are not actually that hard. And that's what I want to try and get across in that podcast, that it's not that hard and here's some things you can try. And here's some things that have worked for me and they might work for you. So yeah, that that's where it comes from. And that's why it's called that.

Mark A Preston: Wonderful. The time has rocked on and the only thing to remain is where can people find you and what sorts of conversations would you like to have?

Edd Dawson: Okay, they can find me on Twitter. My username is channel5. They can also find me at keywordspeopleuse. com. And there's all contact forms on there if they want to get in touch with me. I am willing to have conversations with people about anything SEO related. Anything about topical authority. I love helping people get started. Because that's the best time to find out because it's hard to re engineer stuff later. But I'm willing to talk to anyone about anything. I've got nothing to sell to people other than KeyWordsPeopleUse. com if they want to use that. That's brilliant, but it is, there is, there's a freemium model on there. So you can use that for free because I don't want to put people off using it who haven't got the resources to start with. But yeah, I'm just, I'm always willing to talk SEO with anybody.

Mark A Preston: Massive thank you for joining me today. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Edd Dawson: Brilliant. I've loved it too. Thanks very much, Mark.

bottom of page