In Conversation with Gaurav Mehrotra, Founder & CEO of White Hatters Marketing
Hi Everyone, This is Animesh and once again I’m back with another Fresh & Insightful Episode of the Marketing Mavericks Interview Series.
Today we have with us the person, who isn’t just a Marketer rather I will introduce him as an Evangelist/ Enabler of this Digital Marketing Ecosystem.
Let’s welcome Gaurav Mehrotra, Founder & CEO of White Hatters Marketing & Project Backlinks. Besides being an Entrepreneur & Consultant, he is also an Expert Trainer at Digital Vidya.
So, Today in this session we will not only learn him as a person but from his rich professional experience & knowledge we will try to re-learn many essential concepts of Digital Marketing.
Now, without taking up much time let’s start the Interview…
Animesh: Hi Gaurav, it’s great to have you today at the Marketing Mavericks Interview Series. Can you please introduce yourself with our community, so that we can know more about Gaurav Mehrotra personally?
Gaurav: Thank you for inviting me to be a part of the series guys. It’s a pleasure to be here.
I am a Consultant turned Digital Marketer, who is heavily biased towards SEO which flows in from my love for numbers and content. I have worked with EY and KPMG prior to joining a Rocket Internet venture, after which I worked with Report Garden before starting my own venture back in 2018, with which I am currently associated.
Animesh: Since the beginning of your career you have had a pretty diverse background, from your days at EY to your current venture White Hatters Marketing! So, when did you get introduced to Digital Marketing for the first time & what motivated you to pursue a career in this field?
Gaurav: It was back in college at NMIMS when I got my first taste of Digital Marketing along with Vada Pav while preparing for an interview with Google.
While I didn’t get through Google, and got through too many Vada Pavs, the exposure to the field left me hooked, and even when I rejoined EY after my MBA, the fact that I wasn’t working in the field bore a hole in my head.
So, nearly 6 months in, I started reaching out to a few firms, one of which was Couponland (now Global Savings Group). I met with the Country Heads, and a month later, I was on my way.
Animesh: That’s a great Start Gaurav… 🙂
Now “Project Backlinks”, quite an interesting name. Can you please tell us more about it’s background story, objective and how it’s making difference in the SEO Ecosystem from Link-Building’s perspective?
Gaurav: Well, the idea came to me while I was working at Report Garden. I was trying to acquire some links from some of the names in the industry, and the quality/cost RoI made as much sense to me as Rocket Science would to a 5 year old.
I researched a bit and I realized that there was some space in the white-label SEO world that could potentially be an avenue for a startup. Once I left the firm and met with my mentor, I decided to put in the hours to convert the idea into reality, and here we are.
As far the link-building world is concerned, the idea is extremely simple. I don’t want to get into a black-hat world, and go the “burn out rather than fade away” approach of a Charles Floate, and think about short-term gains.
We look at a link-profile from a holistic point-of-view and try to understand the client’s place in the industry and what would make sense from their standing in terms of link building. So, we follow a very by-the-book approach in terms of the links we build and therefore most of the clients we acquire are long-terms ones for us, and that is how we would want to continue as well.
As of now, our focus is North America and UK, and hopefully, we would want to start working with Indian clients soon as well.
Animesh: You are a multi-faceted personality; An Entrepreneur, Consultant, & Trainer. So how do you keep yourself motivated & updated with the latest industry trends & other aspects?
Gaurav: Pretty much every aspect of mine is picked up from a solitary habit, reading, which I admit, is as interesting as watching paint dry.
I like to pick up books by the dozens (and a couple of times, by kilos) every time I am visiting the store, or shopping virtually on Amazon or Flipkart, and I have been maintaining a list of all the books I have read since engineering, although I think it is a shame that course books were some of my least read books of all time.
In any case, picking up books from multiple genres help provide me an inspiration across various streams as they allow me to implement my learnings across the board, either as a Founder, or as a Trainer.
Animesh: How you are foreseeing the Future for Digital Marketing in India? What Top Trends you are anticipating for 2021?
Gaurav: I think the following trends will be powering Digital Marketing moving forward, especially with pandemic driving a lot of Marketing budgets in the ground:
- AI powered chatbots, which will help with basic level interactions and will help reduce the customer request queue for the teams
- Long-form video will start taking up more space from long-form texts in Google SERPs. Firms would have to realise that A/V content is the way to go in this decade
- The firms which will allow their consumers a glimpse of their products AR/VR, would have an advantage over their competitors
- A decline in Facebook usage as we move forward from hereon out. The users are getting smart about how Facebook is killing organic reach, and the platform has become more about ad display than a medium to interact with friends and families
- More and more Marketers focusing on Non-Linear Marketing and Marketing Automation in order to better calculate ROI for their brands
Animesh: What advice you want to give who are looking at building a career in Digital Marketing? How they will prepare themselves better for the coming days?
Gaurav: The shift in Marketing moving forward would be to ensure that budgets aren’t wasted merely to bask in vanity metrics across Social Channels. Unless you can prove the RoI of a certain campaign, it won’t be worth it.
So, whichever stream of Digital Marketing you choose for your career, you need to ensure that Performance Marketing is the foundation for every campaign. Also, exercise!
Animesh: How do you see SEO over Paid Marketing? For long term success which one do you think is more effective?
Gaurav: Well, as someone who runs an SEO agency, I will obviously be biased towards the former.
Paid Marketing provides instant results, but in order to do that, you’ll have to accept that you need to constantly churn out money and expect a 30-40% return on that amount, and possibly more, if you have an experience Marketer running your campaign.
SEO will swallow your budgets for the initial few months, but 6-12 months down the line, the returns would be 100%+ on the amount you have spent if you have followed Google’s guidelines to a T.
So, I would say that Paid Marketing should help you kickstart your Marketing efforts, but from a long-term strategy point of view, you need to focus on SEO.
Animesh: Power of Content in Digital Marketing. Do you think those having a good grasp over content get an edge over those who don’t have this skill?
Gaurav: Trying to refute this statement would be akin to trying to refute that The Dark Knight isn’t the best superhero movie of all time.
Unless you have a good grasp over Content, having technical mastery over Marketing channels won’t help you much.
That being said, along with Content creation, Content distribution is an equally important skill to have. Unless you can get eyeballs on your content, it would mean absolutely nothing if you are the world’s best writer/n video/ animation creator.
So, both skills are complementary, much like The Batman and The Joker, and neither can be overlooked in today’s world.
Animesh: Ha ha, great answer Gaurav especially with the analogy. Your are absolutely right.
Now tell me, what are the Top 3 mistakes committed by organizations nowadays in leveraging Digital Marketing?
Gaurav: In terms of the impact on the Marketing budgets, I would have to rate:
- Not focusing on RoI, and instead wasting time on vanity metrics
- Not focusing on the right channels for their brand and industry and trying to become a Me-Too player
- Not creating a buyer-persona for their audience and then personalizing the content accordingly for a specific channel
Animesh: 5 highly effective Link Building Practices/ secrets from Gaurav Mehrotra, apart from the traditional ones.
Gaurav: Honestly, there isn’t anything that is secretive about link-building, and neither it is too complex of a task, especially if you look at how Google continues to update its algorithm and analyze the websites which gain or lose rankings after every update.
That being said, the 5 most important thing to keep in mind while link-building are:
- Ensuring the relevancy of the website from which you are acquiring a link – If I am running a campaign for a healthcare client, Google bots would penalize me faster than Barry Allen would be able to ever run if I acquire links from websites from sports, food, tech, or marketing industries. So, make sure that the website belongs to the health niche only, or a news website that has a focus on healthcare.
- Focus on getting the geography right – Will it make sense to have a Russian website provide a link to an English website whose target audience is Washington? Unless there is an ulterior motive to do so, the answer is a resounding No. So, make sure that the geography of the target website is kept in mind before you acquire the link from the site.
- Getting the content of the linking page right – How would you feel if your dentist suddenly started talking about his grocery list in the middle of a procedure? If you are going to be weirded out by it, think about a reader finding a link to a sports related website on a tech blog. So, make sure that the content is relevant as well.
- Create a well rounded group of anchor texts – Getting a great link is obviously a boost for a website, but it can quickly go down the drain if you are using a “money keyword” as an anchor text. Usually, google sees such links as manipulative, and therefore the right mixture of anchor texts should be kept in mind, with emphasis on branded anchor texts.
- Make sure the ratio of links/ domains is as small as possible – Can you imagine Google bots assuming that a new website simply acquired hundreds of backlinks from a single domain naturally? Unless you are an Amazon, Microsoft, P&G of your industry, make sure that you acquire as little number of links from a single domain as possible, and they are spaced out as much as possible.
Animesh: Share any one of your favorite Digital Marketing Case study & what advice you want to give from that?
Gaurav: In their 2008 SEC filing, Amazon describe the vision of their business as to:
Relentlessly focus on customer experience by offering our customers low prices, convenience, and a wide selection of merchandise.
So, as far as a case study is concerned, I would want to focus on Amazon, which incorporates not only a Digital approach, but also a business approach as well.
Amazon, far outshines its competitors as the highest “Revenue Per Unique Visitor” earner against companies like eBay, Google, Baidu, and Facebook. They have been able to accomplish this via perfecting tailored campaigns specific to every individual long before anyone else did, to the point that if you ever needed to impress anyone with a gift, all you need to do is hack their Amazon account, and you can skip the trouble of having a conversation that flows like, “So what color do you like?”.
So, when it comes to a take-away from Amazon, the idea would be to hyper-personalize the experience of every single visitor of your website in order to ensure that they don’t need to think about any other brand once they decide to purchase a product.
Animesh: Top 5 Tools that every digital marketing practitioner should keep in their arsenal!
Gaurav: I would rather not comment on this from a Digital Marketing aspect, as I think I have as much right to do so, as I have of writing, “How to build 6-pack abs”.
So, I would focus simply on SEO, and on that front that 5 tools that I swear by are:
- Ahrefs – Undoubtedly, the best SEO tool bar none. While there are other tools that would fill in certain gaps that Ahrefs doesn’t yet, this is till the most complete tool there is in the market.
- Search Console – The first thing that you should set up once you have your website up and running. From an internal website assessment point of view, you can’t go wrong with what Search Console tells you.
- Screaming Frog – If you are an SEO Audit junkie, you need to start with Screaming Frog and spend the time reading log audits as much as possible. That’ll do you a world of good.
- Siteliner – Content duplicity kills tons of websites, and it is something that should be avoided as much as possible. That being said, Siteliner is easily the best Content Duplicity checker out there
- Ubersuggest – An all-in-one tool, and the best thing that get your hands on if you are starting out with a lower budget.
Animesh: Now a bit controversial question. Being an MBA do you believe that the Degree is really essential to reach at the top of the ladder in Digital Marketing career? The hard truth!
Gaurav: An MBA is as useful for a Digital Marketer, as swimming is for a cricketer. All it does is allows you to skip a couple of ranks, and you can start ahead of normal graduates.
Digital Marketing is such a wide and varied field that you would have to pour in the hours in order to learn the nuances, and only then would you rise above the general crop.
So, I would recommend that even if you plan to pursue MBA before getting in Digital Marketing, continue to learn it side by side, because learning on the job can be an absolute pain in the rear.
Animesh: Now one last question, would you like to share a few words about the work we are doing at JobsFrontier to empower the Digital Marketing Community?
Gaurav: I am absolutely delighted that there is something like JobsFrontier carrying the flag for Digital Marketing.
The field is still in a very nascent stage, as is the jobs market, which will undoubtedly explode once the brands are back on their feet, and realise that RoI tracking is the biggest challenge moving forward for Marketers.
So, I am hopeful that the website will grow in that same exponential manner to fill the void that is currently present in the country, and I wish you guys all the very best for it.
Animesh: Can you please share one of your favorite quote?
And if this doesn’t work, If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time. ~ Gunter Glieben Glauchen Globen
Animesh: Thanks a lot Gaurav, for taking out your time for this Interview & sharing such detailed/ insightful Tips with our community.
So I hope you all have enjoyed today’s episode of Marketing Mavericks with Gaurav Mehrotra.
Please share it in your network & help us to reach more & more like-minded people in the Digital Marketing community.