How SEO made Andrew a better copywriter and a better dad.
In the Reality SEO series I interview REAL LIFE HUMANS who’ve worked hard to learn more about the wonderful world of SEO. They’re all graduates of my Recipe for SEO course and all real business people, not SEO gurus.
Andrew Lau worked as an agency producer before deciding to take a leap into SEO copywriting. He knew that a high Google ranking was the key to keeping his phone ringing, so he dove in deep did the work and moved his website from page 100 to page 1. Right behind me! The student becomes the teacher or what?
He shares what learning SEO has meant to him and how ultimately it’s helped him become a better dad.
Tune in to learn:
- The pros and cons to working in agencies
- The four pillars of SEO
- What Andrew believes is the number 1 key to SEO success
- How SEO helped Andrew become a better dad.
- Why Andrew believes Google My Business is so essential
* Warning Andrew swears a lot!!
Andrew is a multimedia professional with over 17 years of experience with various communications mediums.
These include film, television, digital platforms and search ecosystems.
He began his career on film/television sets and moved into post-production and computer-generated graphics later. For the last 11 years, he’s worked online as a business manager, digital project manager, digital producer and search engine optimised (SEO) content and copywriter. Most recently, Andrew has written content and copy for MyBudget, Marketboomer, Australian Catholic Super, Barbeques Galore, Transport for NSW and Sitepoint.
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Kate Toon: Hello and welcome to the Recipe for SEO Success. This is a one of our little special episodes where we talk to real life humans who are trying to DIY the SEO, grapple the Google beast, and then more about the wonderful world of search engine optimization.
Kate Toon: And today, I’m very honoured to have the lovely Andrew Lau with me. Hello Andrew Lau.
Andrew Lau: Hello Kate Toon.
Kate Toon: It’s lovely to have you here. I’m gonna start by telling everyone a little bit about you so they can understand what you do in your real life. Andrew is a multimedia professional with over 17 years of experience with various communication mediums. These include film, television, digital platforms, and search ecosystems. He began his career in film, television sets, and moved into post production and computer generated graphics later. For the last 11 years, he’s worked online as a business manager, digital project manager, digital producer, and search engine optimise content and copywriter.
Kate Toon: Most recently, Andrew has written content and copy for My Budget, Market Boomer, Australian Catholic Super, Barbecues Galore, Transport for New South Wales, and Site Point. So, a bit of a journey very similar to my journey in a way. A lot of time spent in big agencies being a producer, and then you took the leap into copywriting and content writing. About how long ago was that?
Andrew Lau: Wow, it’s almost three years ago now.
Kate Toon: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew Lau: Yeah. And before that was maybe four or five years of freelance producing for the big agencies just like you did. I was running around like a wild goose with my head cut off, and then I was like nope. Enough. I’m gonna take control and do some writing like I’ve always wanted to. So yeah, Andrew Lau copywriter was born.
Kate Toon: Yes. Well, it’s good and I’m the same. Obviously, I come from a production background. Project management. It’s a hard gig. It’s a hard, thankless task being a producer in an agency. You don’t get any love really, do you? Let’s be honest.
Andrew Lau: No, not really. I mean you’ll get love from some people, but they’re few and far between.
Kate Toon: Yeah.
Andrew Lau: Most of them just want you to turn up, do your thing, they expect you to pull the rabbit out of the hat magically, and they expect you to fix the budget that’s already busted and broken.
Kate Toon: Yes.
Andrew Lau: What do you do when you turn out? Yeah.
Kate Toon: Manager team for the prima donnas. But one thing I would say is that that experience in agency and as a producer does set you up well for certain aspects of being a freelancer. Managing your time, managing budget, dealing with people. So, when you started as a copywriter, obviously you felt you could write, you had those production management skills, but what was it that chose you to go down the SEO path? Why did you decide the SEO copywriting was gonna be for you? ‘Cause as you know there’s [inaudible 00:02:57] people out there who say, hey I’m a copywriter but I don’t know anything about SEO. Why did you choose that?
Andrew Lau: I chose it because I built a website for the first time with my own hands. For years, I’d managed the people who designed and developed websites, but I never built one with my own hands. And I figured, okay, I gotta get myself out into the world. And the key to that was search engine optimization. Because of projects I’d worked on previously, I developed this awareness that that was one of the keys. Or you could go spend a fortune on ads which I didn’t want to do. Yeah, I decided you know what, this is the future. I’ll learn it for myself. I’ll make it work for myself, and then I’ll make it work for clients.
Kate Toon: Yeah. It’s that prepoint isn’t it? And I think a lot of people entering the market now in whatever industry you’re in, it can feel like you Google the thing that you do, and there are just thousands of people. It can be a bit intimidating. You think well I’m never gonna win this. Even if I do SEO, I’m never gonna get to the top of the rankings, but spoiler, people, Andrew did so we’re gonna come back to that.
Kate Toon: Before you came into the wonderful Tooniverse as I like to call it, how were you getting your SEO knowledge? Where were you learning about SEO?
Andrew Lau: Before you or?
Kate Toon: Pre-me. Pre-me.
Andrew Lau: Oh, God, it was on this really painful Toyota project. I worked at this agency, I don’t know, I think it was like 70 or 80 people. The entire agency was Toyota, Toyota, Toyota, and it was a monstrous website. In the middle of my time there, they decided, okay, we’re gonna knock down this entire site and build a new one from scratch for Toyota. And of course, they brought in the SEO experts to help with the search engine stuff.
Andrew Lau: So, a guy named Jerry was hanging around, and I picked up a few things here and there. I didn’t really understand what he was talking about. He mentioned things like Google Juice, and he had these monstrous spreadsheets full of Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, best Toyota Camry, things like that. I thought what is all this? But I was under project management producing side, so we were implementing things that he was asking us to do. I didn’t understand the value of any of that. I didn’t understand how it worked, but I was aware of it at the time because of that massive project.
Andrew Lau: Years later, when it came to doing my own thing, I was like uh, yeah, I better go look at getting back into that because I think that’s the way people find you online? Maybe? I don’t know.
Kate Toon: Yeah. Yeah. And so, you were on my, of course go quite a while ago now, and it’s funny, lots of people come on the course and lots of people get value out of it, but I really feel like you’re one of the people that squeeze the juice out of that course. What I mean by that is that you did all the things. You know? Because often people learn the thing and they’re like, well I did a bit of this and a little bit of that, and it’s kind of working. But you literally did all the things, right? You were very anal about the whole thing.
Andrew Lau: I was because I built a website which was kind of mediocre, sitting in limbo, page 100 and something. I’m not getting any business. I knew that the key to getting business is to rise in the ranks. If you want to think of it as a funnel, then it is a funnel. When you’ve got good SEO, you’re at the top, page one, rank one, two, three. The inquiries are coming through, and then you can, if you want, just sit there and wait for the phone calls or the emails or whatever to come through.
Andrew Lau: I wanted to be in that spot. I didn’t want to be the guy at page 150 and hope that someone would call me. I about everything that he taught because I thought this is the key. I have to do all this stuff to rise or to get on maybe age 20 or page 10. I never thought I’d be page one right behind you.
Kate Toon: I know!
Andrew Lau: I didn’t think I would.
Kate Toon: Nor did I! Listen people, I rank number one I think for copywriter, Sydney copywriter. Lots of different things. And I’ve sat here smugly enjoying that for a long time. Honestly, not doing an awful lot of my own SEO ’cause I’m so busy teaching. It’s the cobbler’s shoes thing. And to my horror and delight, several months ago … it was a year ago. It’s quite quick. You rapidly moved up and you are right underneath me, nipping at my heels, and you’re still there today.
Andrew Lau: I had a spreadsheet where I kind of remember the bits of software I was using, but I was measuring where I was going up and when it would happen. It was about nine to 10 months after I launched my site. At the point of launch, I was nowhere, and then kind of three months in I was on page 80, and then I did your course, and then I jump up more. Then, I was on page three or four for ages. And then, I got a couple of very juicy back links, and that put me on page one.
Kate Toon: And you’ve stayed there pretty consistently as well
Andrew Lau: Yeah. I don’t know how that happened.
Kate Toon: Well, the thing is I think if you put in a solid foundation. It’s that whole SEO is for life, not just for Christmas. Unlike Google ads, you pay your money, you get your click. That foundation and that hard grunt work, that’s pay off for a long time. I’ve got posts on my site that are still delivering 4,000 unique visitors a month.
Andrew Lau: Yeah.
Kate Toon: I wrote them six years ago, but they were good. I think it’s proof that that determination works, and ticking off all the boxes, and also put in that hard effort. It puts you in this position, and I love what you said, of creating this funnel where the work is coming to you. You don’t have to hustle. You’re not in the Facebook groups fighting over copy leads like a seagull fighting over chip. You have people coming to you, and you can kind of pick and choose. And there’s some big browns that you’ve worked there since you went freelance.
Kate Toon: I guess how has this whole SEO thing changed your business or what has it meant to you?
Andrew Lau: Well, it’s changed my life because at the point at which I decided I’ll be a copywriter, I’ll build my crappy website, I’ll put that crappy website online. Oh, I’m at page 120 or whatever it is. I was living in Sydney. I just gotten married. Little concrete, shitty apartment. Before I go any further, copywriter, I’m not rich from copywriting, but it pays the bills. It keeps the lights on.
Andrew Lau: And I was gonna say now I have a baby. My baby is exactly a year and a couple of days old. Over the last year, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with the baby which is what I always wanted ’cause there’s stories of all those dads who a day or two after mom’s given birth they have to run back off to the office and do whatever it is that they do. I was able to, because I’ve got all the inquiries flowing in, because I’ve got all this business, I can pick and choose. I can put jobs off. I can hold on to jobs if they like me. It just gives me a lot of flexibility.
Andrew Lau: I would take three months off after the baby arrived to be there for my wife, to assist in all the pee and poo cleaning and nappy changes and staying up. We’ll be woken like six times a night, and all that stuff. I was able to be there. It’s equally nightmarish as it is wonderful. But I’ve been able to be there for my family, and that’s a lot to do with SEO.
Kate Toon: I think it is, and I, like you, left that agency life which is long hours, big commitments, lots of pressure, lots of stress, and lots of expectation that you would be there. If there’s a pitch, we’re working on the weekend, you’re there. To be able to leave that behind, maybe move out of the city if that’s what you want to do which we have both done. We both live on the beautiful central coast-
Andrew Lau: Yes.
Kate Toon: To have that flexibility to work. Yeah, sometimes we’re working at two in the morning people, but that’s our choice. But sometimes we can take a whole day off and just put around and lie on the beach and that’s such a freedom. I know that so many freelancers are in this terrible feast and famine rollercoaster. I don’t think that ever goes away, but just having that fluidity of leads coming, that pipeline there-
Andrew Lau: Yeah.
Kate Toon: Makes you just feel better about it all, doesn’t it?
Andrew Lau: Yeah. When people say, oh, you’ve got to be headstrong and heart strong when you become a freelancer. No one’s headstrong. Everyone freaking out about where the next job is coming. It’s like oh my God, I’m about to finish this project. Where the next one coming?
Kate Toon: What’s next. Yeah.
Andrew Lau: I need to feed my child. But if you’re consistently getting the inquiries online, you worry a little bit less.
Kate Toon: You do.
Andrew Lau: You’re like, well, I’ve got these five inquiries this week. I could take one of these jobs. Even if I hate all these clients.
Kate Toon: Yes. Exactly. And obviously, we know we want the same clients to come back, but that pipeline is so important. Before we finish up, I think it’s … you’ve obviously had such a huge success getting to the top of the rankings. Getting this work in. What would your tips be for someone else who’s maybe a freelancer who’s wondering what they should prioritise in the world of SEO ’cause there’s a lot you can do. What would maybe two or three things that you would recommend that they do?
Andrew Lau: I talk to my clients about what you taught me all the time. I don’t know if you called them the four pillars of SEO. I always called them the four pillars of SEO now.
Kate Toon: I think I did. I think I had three though. Maybe there’s four. I’ve forgotten. [crosstalk 00:13:37] Oh, there’s three or four. Yeah.
Andrew Lau: Yeah. So, the first one was a quality website build. Speedy, fast, greasy like lightning. But if you got a good developer, that’s easy to do. The second one is high quality search engine optimise content which if you’ve got a good copywriter or good SEO copywriter like me.
Kate Toon: Yep!
Andrew Lau: You can, too. That’s easy. The third one is the one that I emphasise, and it’s the hardest one and that’s chasing the Google Juice or as that big company called Moz calls it domain authority because I got all the things right at the beginning. I had a good website build even though it didn’t look gorgeous, it was greasy fast. Greasy lightning.
Andrew Lau: I had the optimised content, but I still wasn’t picking up in the index. And it’s not until I got the high quality links that I actually started to skyrocket. When it comes to links, not all links are the same. You gotta go get the follow links as opposed to the no follow links. And you gotta get those follow links from websites with a high domain authority. I don’t even bother these days with websites which have a domain authority under 40. I go for 80 or 90. And it just saves you a lot of work ’cause a lot of people go for those. They try to get 50 different links from websites which have a domain authority of 10 or 20. Whereas, if you just get one link from a site that has a domain authority of 90, you’re flying already. It only takes one or two.
Kate Toon: Yeah. did you do that via guest logging and sending articles off? What are your best strategies ?
Andrew Lau: Yeah. Well, one of the highest domain authority sites that linked back to me was Sitepoint. And I pitched articles to them. They gave me a follow link on both articles, and they’ve got a domain, yeah, I think they’ve got a domain authority of 89 or something. And so, I start flying. I wrote articles about stuff I like. You know I’m a movie nerd, so I wrote a bunch of stuff about movies. And I know a lot of screenwriters. Screenwriters who’ve been working a long, long time with monstrous sites that have 50,000 articles all about movies. And they have domain authorities of about 70. When I wrote these articles about films like geeky sci-fi stuff like aliens and whatever, I popped that off to those screenwriters. And they go, oh this is cool, I’ll link back to you. I didn’t even ask for a link.
Kate Toon: Right.
Andrew Lau: They said I’ll link back to you. And then, I was like, whoa, okay. I’m skyrocketing again. Juicy, high quality, high domain authority links is-
Kate Toon: Is the way forward. I so agree. We should just say that the fourth pillar is social
Andrew Lau: That’s the one.
Kate Toon: It’s kind of causation correlation. Doesn’t have a direct impact, but can help a lot. I think that’s so important with the back links and really glad you talked us through that. They ask you … there’s always the harder a link is to get, the better it is to have usually.
Andrew Lau: Yeah.
Kate Toon: You do have to almost put your best content on other people’s sites. Pitch articles. Be rejected. Try again.
Andrew Lau: Yeah.
Kate Toon: Because it is worth it, and as you said you can get a link from your mom’s blog about cats-
Andrew Lau: Yeah.
Kate Toon: Which is great, thanks mom, or you can work hard to get an article on one of these premium websites. I love the way that it not necessarily about exactly what you do. You’ve got a few sideways or diagonal links in that are relevant, but not necessarily, “I am copywriter.” I like that.
Andrew Lau: Yeah.
Kate Toon: Yeah.
Andrew Lau: Although, there is value in getting the links from the lower domain authority sites at the beginning. When you’re starting out, a little bit of something is better than absolutely nothing.
Kate Toon: Oh, exactly. I’m very much about the mopping up the crumbs and it makes a whole biscuit. I’ve got lots of when I heard you say that. [inaudible 00:17:54] I’m only gonna go for sites with a domain authority over 40. I was like, oh God, I’ve not. I’ll take whatever I can get, but it’s about the effort.
Andrew Lau: Yeah.
Kate Toon: If I’m gonna get a link from a low quality site, maybe I won’t spend six hours writing a glorious article from that. I’ll just rush something off. But if I’m gonna get a link from some major magazine or whatever, I’ll put the time in.
Andrew Lau: And that kind of thing is good for business, too.
Kate Toon: It is, yeah.
Andrew Lau: If you’re, I don’t know, if you’re in the homewares business, and you want to write for a website that’s all about homewares and the website has a domain authority of about 90, you want to frame yourself as an authority with that content on the homewares site, link back to your site, because it’s a funnel.
Kate Toon: Yeah.
Andrew Lau: It’s a link back. You’re getting the juice. You’re getting the traffic, then you’re getting the inquiries. It’s a win-win in every way.
Kate Toon: It is, and it’s building that brand authority and that relevance as well.
Andrew Lau: Yeah.
Kate Toon: Awesome. You’re number one tip is yes, of course have the site, have the optimised content, but don’t underestimate the value of links ’cause that’s what can kind of help you skyrocket. Is that a good summary?
Andrew Lau: Yeah, totally. Yeah.
Kate Toon: Awesome.
Andrew Lau: I was gonna add another one. Have a Google my business listing.
Kate Toon: Oh, yeah.
Andrew Lau: ‘Cause so many people are like, oh, I’m scared someone’s gonna knock on my door. You don’t have to have your real address on there. You can have a virtual office address or something, but have a listing. That listing will help with the GEO location. If you want to be a copywriter in Melbourne, or copywriter Sydney, or homeware maker bling blong blah de blah, you’ve gotta have that listing, and then have some reviews on there. And then, again, your website will skyrocket.
Kate Toon: Indeed. You can always set a service area. I’m gonna have to have an explicit rating on this podcast ’cause I think Andrew said bloody about seven times. That’s fine. I’m not gonna beat you up.
Andrew Lau: [inaudible 00:19:52].
Kate Toon: Now you’ve said it again! Stop saying it! God! Thank you. Well, Andrew Lau, thank you so much for coming on the Reality SEO podcast. Where can people find out more about … I know where they can find you. Right behind me. Tell us where we can find more about you.
Andrew Lau: Well, if you do a Google search of Sydney copywriter or copywriter Sydney, or even copywriter, you may find me a position or two behind Kate Toon. Or you can just put in my URL, andrewlaucopywriter.com.
Kate Toon: Awesome. Well, there we go. The student becomes the master. It’s been awesome to talk to you.
Andrew Lau: That’s not true. That’s not true.
Kate Toon: It is.
Andrew Lau: You’re still the master.
Kate Toon: It’s like karate kid. You’re like karate kid? Karate kid. I’m sensei, you’re … oh anyway. You know what I mean. You’re Ralph Macchio I think that’s what we’re saying at the end of the day.
Andrew Lau: I’ll take that.
Kate Toon: You’ll take that. Awesome. Thank you so much for listening. And if you enjoy this show, please feel free to leave a rating and review on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you heard it. Your review will help us with our iTunes optimization and help more people find this show. If you did like this episode, head to www.therecipeforseosuccess.com where you can learn more about Andrew, check out his website, and see the transcript for the show. Finally, if you haven’t already, head to the I Love SEO group with Kate Toon on Facebook where I share daily tips, advice, and general funny stuff. Hope to see you there. Thanks again for listening. Happy SEO-ing.