SEO Interview with Digital Marketing Savant Don Rhoades (The Gonzo SEO)

While listing the golden names of Epic SEOs in fame book of Ethical SEOs, the noun “Don Rhoades” cannot be left out. You might not find him very active on different blogs and forums yet he is one of the many people in digital marketing sphere who are ethical and do lot of good work as well as help people by giving advices that make lot of sense and add value in the community by their experience and knowledge they posses. You can find Don on twitter @TheGonzoSEO. He owns the blog Gonzo SEO and help businesses with digital marketing needs.

Thanks Don for taking time to answer the questions. Let us not wait and move to the list of questions I have for you!

Question 1: Don, A common question yet important one! How did you really get in to this field and at anytime in your career did you ever think that you are in the wrong profession and you should switch? And why?

Answer: I used to be an IT hardware sales executive and the agency I worked for had a web services division. One of my clients asked what I knew about “SEO” because his web services agency was charging him $3000 per month to do search engine submissions. I looked into what that meant and discovered there was no such need to do this monthly if it was done once. Then I looked at some of the other charges like $1500 per month for meta tag revision and $750 per month for keyword research. I asked this client what his keywords were and he said he didn’t know. I told him I knew nothing about SEO, but I knew he was getting ripped off. He offered me the entire monthly fee to try to do what they claimed they would do; make his site rank on the first page of Google. I tried this for three months and was able to give them tangible metrics and not only did I get them to the first page, they were #1 for their market defining keywords by the end of that quarter.He liked the results so much, he offered me the next year’s budget he was going to spend. I obliged and that’s where it all began for me.

Have I thought I was in the wrong business? Only once, and it was the employer that made me doubt myself. I was in charge of generating legal leads and did a fantastic job of bringing in 70 in one month, and only 21 turned into cases they wanted. Come to find out, I was being judged by the number of cases we signed. That made no sense because what the attorneys did on the consultation call had more to do with signing a client than I had convincing them to click on our site. I almost quit because the upper management insisted that I should be judged on the number of cases signed. I fought tooth and nail with that firm to understand that my ONLY function was to bring the leads, they never changed their position and I finally left to work for myself. If/when search marketing is no longer fun to me; I will give that up and look for a drumming gig with an aging rock band.


Question 2: Don, we talk too much about links and efforts involved in it, which at times overshadow the importance of on-page optimization. Do you really think that on-page optimization is less important than any other activity that comes under the SEO umbrella?

Answer: NO. SEO is a results-based profession. I won’t build links to a site that hasn’t been properly on-paged. I find it to be fruitless to charge good money for links when they don’t even have a 301 redirect for www/non www. I use that as my starting point always because why build a house on a gravel foundation? It might be okay, but I don’t want to take that chance. On-page can get you in the race, links can make you competitive. Why compete if you’re not in the race?


Question 3: 3 most important on-page optimization factors that can really make a difference?

Answer: Title Tags, keywords in internal links, and H1 tag.


Question 4: This sounds like an easy question but seriously what s your take on do follow and no follow links and do you think people should run after do follow links when the ultimate target is top rankings only?

Answer: I do not target rankings anymore. I build links for conversion traffic. To some clients, do-follow only is a request they make. I always make the argument to get no-follows as well. It gives the appearance of having a natural link profile. IMO, there is no valid reason to exclude no-follows.


Question 5: Guest posting is considered to be one of the finest way to get high quality links from quality websites. What are the 5 things in the blog that you consider before contacting the blog owner for guest posting?

Answer: I don’t have that many factors, really. I look at the LTS from Citation Labs’ Link Prospector first and maybe the PR. Then I look at the traffic the site gets. Read this article from Russ Jones for more insight into why I don’t factor in the relevance of the domain…etc.


Question 6: Google is clearly pushing its own services in search results (at least above the fold) do you think this will have negative impact on user experience and how it will affect the SEO?

Answer: I saw this coming about a year back. Not sure what triggered my thought, but I made an effort to seek traffic from other sources than organic Google results. It has proven to be a smart move. I will say that I have also become proficient with PPC because, as expected, now services like Google Shopping are paid sources. The effects of user experience are things like my parents called me to ask what a better search engine than Goggle is because they were looking for a plumber and couldn’t find what they were looking for outside of the paid ads, which they never trust.


Question 7: Google is continuously coming up with updates like Panda and Penguin and there are some websites that dramatically lost their traffic in search engines. What is the suggestion to all the websites that are based on single source of traffic i.e. search engine?

Answer: Never base your business health on something you cannot control. This sounds like common sense, but Google spoiled us into thinking they hold all the keys and we shouldn’t test drive other engines. I have very little sympathy for sites that lost all their traffic because they didn’t diversify their strategy.


Question 8: Content is King! What’s your take on the subject and to what extent you think this is correct?

Answer: Content to me means linkable assets. It doesn’t have to be limited to articles, videos and infographics . Content could be a really cool widget or even a funny 404 page. Great content can be actionable tools, or a measuring scale, or widgets or a definitive guide to X subject. Without quality content, why would anyone link to your site?


Question 9: Social Media is the integral part of the overall SEO strategy. In 2013 do you think a website without the social presence will be able to perform well in the online world?

Answer: Social strategies should be a part of most businesses marketing plans at this point. Having said that, I don’t think it is necessary to use social if it isn’t going to be done right.  If it is forced or neglected, what’s the point aside from brand protection? Hire the right social manager to handle this, if your company or client can’t or won’t, then just leave it alone. Can a brand get by without it? Sure, but why not use all the tools you can.


Question 10: Don, Mentoring is important in my opinion, do you have any mentor that you follow the most in the SEO world?

Answer: I have quite a few, and to narrow it down would be impossible. I’d say I’ve learned the most from reading Julie Joyce, Garrett French, Jason Acidre and Nick LeRoy. The one community that has been the most beneficial to my success is SEODojo.


Question 11: Where do you see SEO in the coming 10 years? Will be the same or any evolution is expected?

Answer: HA! I don’t even know what to expect tomorrow!

Question 12: There must be some non industry friends and may be family members who have no idea of what SEO is? How do you explain to them what you do when asked?

Answer: I explain it to my kids the other night. I told them I drive traffic to websites and make them want to come back or buy something.   Thanks Don, for some interesting answers to my questions! I hope this will not only helpful for me but to the whole community.   Readers! If you have other questions you can always ask in the comment section and I will try and request Don to get some time and answer!

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About the author


Moosa Hemani is a SEO bloggers and an Inbound Marketing Governor at


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