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EPISODE 077: Marketer of the Month Podcast with Pierre Zarokian

Hey there! Welcome to the Marketer Of The Month blog!

Marketer of the Month

We recently interviewed Freelancer of the Month ‘Pierre Zarokian’ for our monthly podcast – ‘Marketer of the Month’! We had some amazing insightful conversations with Pierre and here’s what we discussed about –

1. Lessons learned from 24 years as CEO

2. Effective lead generation channels other than SEO to invest in

3. Best practices and tips for creating SEO content in 2022

4. Guidelines for managing your Online Reputation

5. Creating and developing a Wikipedia Page for your business

6. SEO’s potential in the freelance sector

About our host:

Dr. Saksham Sharda is the Chief Information Officer at Outgrow.co. He specializes in data collection, analysis, filtering, and transfer by the means of widgets and applets. Interactive, cultural, and trending widgets designed by him have been featured on TrendHunter, Alibaba,  ProductHunt, New York Marketing Association, FactoryBerlin, Digimarcon Silicon Valley, and at The European Affiliate Summit.

About our guest:

Entrepreneur Pierre Zarokian, of Armenian and American descent, is a freelancer at Upwork and serves as CEO of Submit Express, a digital marketing firm that has received recognition from Inc5000 and Fast500. Pierre also frequently speaks at trade shows for the industry and writes for Search Engine Journal and other publications.

EPISODE 077: Brand Awareness Using the Best SEO Tactics and the Ideal Wikipedia Strategy With Pierre Zarokian

The Intro!

Saksham Sharda: Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. I’m your host, Dr. Saksham Sharda. I’m the creative director at Outgrow.co. And for this month we have a special series of freelancers of the month for which we’re going to interview Pierre Zarokian, who is the CEO of Submit Express. Thanks for joining us here.

Pierre Zarokian: Thank you for having me.

Don’t have time to read? No problem, just watch the Podcast!

Or you can just listen to it on Spotify!

The Rapid Fire Round!

rapid fire

Saksham Sharda: So here we are going to start with a rapid-fire round just to break the ice. You get three passes. In case you don’t want to answer the question, you can just say pass but try to keep your answers to one word or one sentence only. Okay?

Pierre Zarokian: Sure.

Saksham Sharda: All right, so the first one is at what age do you want to retire?

Pierre Zarokian: 55

Saksham Sharda: How long does it take you to get ready in the mornings?

Pierre Zarokian: 20 minutes.

Saksham Sharda: The most embarrassing moment of your life?

Pierre Zarokian: One time at the airport, I took my belt out and my shorts almost dropped out.

Saksham Sharda: Okay, your favorite color?

Pierre Zarokian: Green

Saksham Sharda: What time of the day are you most inspired?

Pierre Zarokian: Morning, maybe it’s 10 am.

Saksham Sharda: And how many hours of sleep can you survive on?

Pierre Zarokian: Six hours.

Saksham Sharda: Fill in the blank. An upcoming marketing trend is _________.

Pierre Zarokian: Pass

Saksham Sharda: The city in which the best kiss of your life happened?

Pierre Zarokian: Los Angeles

Saksham Sharda: Pick one – Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey?

Pierre Zarokian: Mark Zuckerberg.

Saksham Sharda: The first movie that comes to your mind when I say the word ambition?

Pierre Zarokian: Pass

Saksham Sharda: The biggest mistake of your career?

Pierre Zarokian: Not selling my company 12 years ago.

Saksham Sharda: How do you relax?

Pierre Zarokian: I don’t

Saksham Sharda: How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?

Pierre Zarokian: I don’t, I drink tea.

Saksham Sharda: A habit of yours that you hate?

Pierre Zarokian: Pass

Saksham Sharda: The most valuable skill you’ve learned in life?

Pierre Zarokian: Sales.

Saksham Sharda: And the last question is your favorite Netflix show?

Pierre Zarokian: Pass.

Saksham Sharda: Okay.

The Big Questions!

Big Questions

Saksham Sharda: So let’s go on to the long-form questions. And these you can answer with as much length as you like. And the first one is, what are some of the services that Submit Express provides?

Pierre Zarokian: So Submit Express started over 20 years ago with search engine submission and SEO services. And obviously, that’s where our name comes from Submit Express because, in the old days, you used to submit your website to the search engines to get listed. But that kind of became outdated after a while because Google automatically will discover your pages. So sometime in 2008, when the recession hit, we decided to expand our services. I had up to 30 employees, more than 30 employees I would say around 2008, which was our best year. And after the recession kind of things slow down. So I decided to expand our services to reputation management and web development and social media marketing and anything related. So as a result, I also have another company called reputation stars that operates online reputation management services. And then I have Web Design Express. And “I Climber”, which is a social media company. So those are the kinds of services that my company provides right now. It’s all kinds of digital marketing services.

Saksham Sharda: And what has your experience been now that you’ve expanded into all these other services? Do you think these services have become more and more important compared to what you were doing originally?

Pierre Zarokian: Yes, SEO is still probably about 50% of my business, used to be 90% or more of my business. But now I’m getting more business in other areas, SEO is so competitive these days. And it’s so hard to get results on SEO too. So as a result, fewer people can afford it back in the day in the 2000s and mid-2000s. We were offering services for $500 a month and we will get great results for our clients. We’ll just do backlinking, and directory submissions for $1 per directory. And then you know we’ll get excellent results. But to get that kind of results these days, you cannot do that for $500, you have to spend probably $2000 to $5000 a month to get quality backlinks and work. So as a result, you also get fewer clients interested in signing up, because small businesses can’t afford it anymore. So I’m seeing more business coming my way, in reputation management, and also one of the services we provide, Wikipedia page creation. That’s, been a big part of my business recently, especially on Upwork, where I do most of my freelancing because it’s kind of like a niche, Industry, and Market. So there’s not too much competition in it.

Saksham Sharda: And so what do you think the future of the SEO industry is if it’s becoming so hard to operate it in general?

Pierre Zarokian: I think SEO is not going away anytime soon. But people are finding other ways to get sales and lead generation, they’re like, you know, there are so many channels these days for e-commerce, people go on Amazon and eBay to sell things and for services, you could get leads to other sites like freelancing sites, like Upwork. So SEO is becoming less and less important. But it’s still there because people still go on SEO and look for either services or products.

Saksham Sharda: And so what, according to you would be some of the best practices for creating SEO content in 2022?

Pierre Zarokian: So just a lot of article writing and submissions that’s been going on for years. And I don’t think it’s going away, writing articles to submit to different publications for guest article postings, that’s still very important because that’s the primary way you can get backlinks, that’s how we do it. It’s just distributing articles to different publications and getting them posted. It’s a lot of work because, submitting let’s say, 100 articles, you might get one or two people posting it unless you provide some kind of incentive. And that works well, too. I’ve had clients where they’re selling a product, where we give away the product for review, and you end up getting a lot better results of people writing about you maybe about 5% to 10% of the people will end up posting your article versus 1% to 2%. So it’s still a lot of work. And sometimes people will ask for money to post articles. And if it’s reasonable, you do it. But I think that’s the primary way. Another way would be to just set up a lot of different social profiles, there are hundreds of social profiles out there that a lot of people haven’t heard of. So just setting up different profiles to get your brand out there and having this backlink to your primary site, will be helpful. And social media measures are also important to Google. So just activity on social media, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, might not have a major effect, but some effect because your brand name is out there. And that may trigger some SEO, Google’s SEO algorithm to give you better rankings.

Saksham Sharda: And so when you move to online reputation management from SEO, what tips can you provide when it comes to online reputation management in general?

Pierre Zarokian: So online reputation management is pretty much SEO times 10 or 20. Because you’re doing that for 10 to 20 websites that you’re trying to improve, where let’s say there’s a negative article or review, or a few negative articles on the first page of Google that you’re trying to suppress. So you can just take them out or remove them unless you are an attorney that finds a way to take them out, which is almost impossible. And attorneys cost a lot of money. Although reputation management is not cheap, either. But at least if the legal method is not an option, then this is the only option that you have. So what you have to do is create a lot of positive content, and SEO them to push them higher up where the negative content will go further down. So that’s kind of the idea behind it. So some of the tips that I have regarding the services, again, set up a lot of different social profiles – 300+ profiles, you can find people on Freelancer sites that will do it for cheap for you set up your class social profiles, and then some particular sites will rank better that I know of that could help you, I’ll give you a few of them. Of course all the major ones there’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Flickr, those are the primary ones but there’s a site called F6s.com. It’s kind of like a LinkedIn profile for businesses, that tends to rank pretty well, just by setting it up, it probably will rank in the top 10 or top 20. Depends on what else you have out there. There’s a site called about meet, if you’re doing a disservice to a person that will work well. Academia.edu, again for people that’s a good site to be on. But again, anything that you do, you probably want to also give it some backlinks to improve it. There are a lot of alternative Wikipedia sites. Of course, if you can be on Wikipedia, that’s a very powerful site. But not everybody is going to qualify. There are alternative Wikipedia sites like everybodywiki, wikitia, wikifandom. So these are good sites to be on. And again, if you make a profile on those, get some backlinks to them, maybe 5 to 10 backlinks or minimum, and they’ll get in the top 10 easily. And these sites are a lot easier to get on than Wikipedia. So I do recommend this type of site. And again, a lot of article writings or sites that if you can’t get on publications, will rank well automatically. So look for quality sites that you can be on, guest article postings and sending it to the sites or paying a fee. If you want to be on a good site, something like Forbes or entrepreneur, it’s possible and there are people, even myself can do this. But we end up paying somebody to post those articles. So it’s pricey, you’re looking at probably anywhere from $2000 to $5,000, for good quality articles on this type of site. So those might rank well depending on your budget, and then a lot of SEO, so whatever you do, you got to SEO it and backlink it and when you do articles have two or three links to your profiles. There’s something else I want to mention, but it’s not coming to my mind right now. But yeah, those are the main ideas.

Saksham Sharda: And so I guess all of this has to be in place before someone even starts to think about making a Wikipedia page because you’re saying that is something that comes later. And it’s easier to get on all these other encyclopedias online or on different social websites. But now what tips would you have for someone looking to make a Wikipedia page then?

Pierre Zarokian: So Wikipedia’s main criteria are to have significant news coverage, and they don’t disclose what that is, is there a specific number they’re looking for now? Because it usually comes out to the different admins that end up reviewing your site. So some admins might be easier than others in their criteria. So if you have, let’s say, two or three really good significant articles about yourself, then you might get in. And then if you have maybe 20+ articles, but they’re not significant, they’re just a measure or quotation, you may not get it. So it’s not based on the number but it’s also based on what they’re saying about you. And a significant would mean, the article has to be fully about you or have at least two or three paragraphs of content about you or your company, whatever the subject is that you’re trying to post about. And also the quality and notability of the publication are important. So if you’re just some random blogger or website, may not get accepted, because they may not consider it a reliable site, and you can get a lot of those for cheap. And Wikipedia admins know that no people will go out there and buy articles on cheap sites, and if they’re paid articles they will know that. So they want to see natural articles, if anything is paid they’ll probably not. So you got to have some national PR. And I remember what I was gonna mention in my last part about our press releases. So do a lot of press releases, and do it through different networks, and a few of them will end up ranking. So the press releases also might help you get more publications. And that’s another service that I offer, but it’s really hard to get coverage with press releases other than the press release itself. But if you have something really interesting to say, then you might get additional coverage. So really depends on what your press release is about. So, as far as Wikipedia goes, sometimes depending on what you do, you may get in with less news coverage because of who you are, as a person. For example, musicians that have a top 10 record or even a top one on record in any country, they may qualify, there’s a lot like over 10 criteria for musicians that you may qualify, like if you tour to different countries if you were nominated for a major award and those kinds of things. So even if you have less news, you may qualify as a musician. As an academic, you may qualify as a scientist, you may qualify if you had a lot of publications. And there is Google Scholar, where you can type in a scholar’s name, and you’ll see how many citations they have. So if a scholar has a lot of citations, they may qualify. As an entertainer or actor, if you’ve been in two or more films or TV roles that are very notable, you may qualify. So there are other criteria, for even athletes, there are criteria too but the major criteria come down to the citations and how much news coverage you have.

Saksham Sharda: And what would you say for a software company, because there’s a lot of software listeners that we have to the podcast, what would be a good strategy for them to get onto the Wikipedia page?

Pierre Zarokian: So for a company, they’re not alternate criteria, like individuals, the only major criteria for companies are to have major news coverage. So for a software company or technical company, try to get on the tech publications, TechCrunch, and those kinds of things. Try to get articles published on those sites, those are kind of important, and a lot of fundraising-type articles usually don’t work. So if that’s the only type of article you have, you raise a bunch of funds. Wikipedia admins don’t care about that. They want to see that you’re getting covered because of who you are not because you raise funds because if you raise funds, you might go out of business in a year or go bankrupt. That doesn’t mean you’re a successful company, they want to see that you’re successful, they want to see that you have reviews about your products and services, not that you raised funds. So sometimes they consider certain types of news, routine news, and that may not be good news, even though you may think, “Hey, I got 10 articles about this fundraising, and they’re all talking about my company”, that’s not a good article, maybe one of them might be good to have. But if you have the same article 10 times on different sites, that’s not a good article to have. So you want to try to get reviews about the company, people are talking about the company, who the founders are, when it was founded, where it’s located, what they do, the number of employees, and so on.

Saksham Sharda: And so how many Wikipedia pages clients have you helped in your career at Upwork, as a freelancer?

Pierre Zarokian: I’ll just say hundreds, I’m not gonna disclose the exact number.

Saksham Sharda: Okay. And so what tips do you have for becoming a top freelancer and getting more jobs on freelancing sites?

Pierre Zarokian: If you’re just signing up as a freelancer, it can be tough to get going. What I would suggest is just try to get any job you can, anything you could do as far as a service provider, on Upwork, or freelancer.com, which are the two major sites right now. Just try to get any job you can. So you can get reviews, or whatever you’re offering, offer it for a discount, for half price, for really cheap. If you’re a graphic designer that charges $500 an hour, take me right down to $50 an hour or even $10-$20 an hour to get some jobs. Why? Because the reviews are important. And just make sure that when you communicate with your class, “hey, I’m doing this job for a discount, or I will give you a discount, but you have to make sure to give me a review. And then, is that okay with you?”. So kind of get an upfront contract from them that they will give you a good review once you’re done because of the job you’re doing. Even you can ask for more reviews on other sites too, sometimes I do that. Especially when people ask for discounts, I always ask for reviews in return because reviews are to me our money. I asked for reviews on Yelp, Google, and all other different types that are possible. So always ask for reviews and the reviews on Upwork and Freelancer will help you get more jobs. And one of the algorithms on these sites is to when people are searching for a certain job, the freelancers that come up on top are usually the ones that have done a few jobs in that niche. So if you’ve done let’s say 5-10 jobs that are Wikipedia-related and somebody types, “Wikipedia editor”, you may come up because you have done 5 or 10 similar jobs, you will even see that under the listing in Upwork that says this Freelancer has done 10 jobs that are related. You even see that when it comes up. So your rating is important and the related jobs that you’ve done are important for you to come up higher on the rankings. And as a result, what happens is that you’re going to get more invites. So you don’t even have to go out there and send proposals, which costs money. But if people invite you, then you’re not paying for that proposal. So I would also suggest submitting as many jobs as possible 20-30 jobs a day if they’re available at a minimum in your niche, or in the areas that you offer services. If you start sending 20-30 jobs a day, eventually, even if you have zero stars, you may get a couple of jobs out of that, it’s very competitive. So, new freelancers will have a tough time getting jobs. But if you give a good price, that’s the way to beat the competition, to get the reviews. Upwork seems to be a little bit higher quality as far as the type of work you could get. And also, I feel that they’re very quality freelancers on Upwork as well versus freelancer.com, where if you’re a US freelancer, you’re competing against a lot of offshore freelancers, which are not necessarily low quality, but they provide lower rates. So it’s very tough to compete with freelancers that are offshore. So for me, I have a hard time getting jobs as a freelancer. Even if I apply for jobs, I kind of stopped doing much activity or freelancer here, and they’re all applying for some jobs. But really, it’s a lot tougher in my opinion for a US freelancer to get jobs on freelancer.com versus Upwork. And the good thing about Upwork is that it also has an option to look for only US freelancers. So if you are US based, you get kind of a boost in that category. Because if people are looking for US freelancers, then automatically all the offshore people are eliminated as a competitor. So that’s the good thing.

Saksham Sharda: And you mentioned Wikipedia again, for someone who’s trying to make Wikipedia pages, I guess they also have to guarantee that the page lasts for a while. What is Wikipedia’s policy on the deletion of pages?

Pierre Zarokian: So yeah, it’s very tough to get on Wikipedia. And also another factor that people should know about is that paid editing is actually against Wikipedia policy unless you disclose it. So an ethical Wikipedia editor will disclose it and submit it. So you want to make sure that the person you’re working with stays within the guidelines and does that. But there are also pros and cons. If you disclose paid editing right now the waiting period to get approved is about four to five months long. Or to get reviewed, or not approved, you may even get declined, sometimes they may just decline it if you have a couple of bad citations or something that sounds like advertising, they may decline it, and then you have to resubmit. And then that period resets and you may have to wait for another four to five months. It’s not necessarily four to five months because sometimes they also review it in a random order, your timeframe, if you’re lucky, could even be a day. But usually, 90% of the people will end up waiting that four to five months. Now there’s a second way to pause the page. And I call it a covert posting where if you haven’t aged accounts, that are a few days old and a bunch of prior edits, you could just post the page live. And then it goes live right away. That doesn’t mean it’s gonna get approved because the review comes after you posted. And usually, the first 5 to 10 days are when somebody might review a new page. And then if they feel like it’s not quality, they will either draft it, saying it’s more work, or they’ll put it off for deletion. And they were nominated for deletion. And what happens is, that different editors will come in to vote, to keep or delete your page. And that’s a seven-day process. And after seven days, they tally up the votes. If you got more keeps, they’ll keep it if you got more delete, that delete it. If it’s about even, it’ll get renewed for a week and up to three weeks and make you renew. If in the end, it’s about even the consensus is to keep the page read and delete it or keep it. Now it’s also important to what the words say as far as an argument, you can just say keep it because this person is really popular, and has been on a lot of TV shows, for example. But you could say keep it because this person has 20+ articles. And even maybe the writer of the page didn’t post some of the better citations. And as a person that works on the outcome, you can find more citations and post, say well, here are a few more citations that you may consider looking like they have good coverage. You know, the person did a poor job in there. So this is why they should be kept. So that’s kind of the process

Saksham Sharda: And so an individual Wikipedia freelancer who is creating Wikipedia pages, does he have to offer some sort of guarantee to his clients, or what is the best way for him to approach this?

Pierre Zarokian: A lot of freelancers I know that in this niche, or nobody I know provides any guarantees. I have a special kind of a 50% guarantee service that sometimes I’ll offer where you pay half upfront, and that goes towards the writing a submission, and a half when it’s successful. So that’s the best I offer is like a 50% guarantee, you pay 50%, upfront, and 50% if he gets in, and if he doesn’t get in, I’ll retry multiple times. And usually, most of my clients go with this option, because there’s a good chance you may not get accepted the first time. They may find one or two sentences that kind of sound like advertising and you might get declined. And even if they suspect you’re a paid editor and you didn’t disclose it, you might get declined. And also people have to be careful about hiring freelancers on Upwork, Freelancer, and all those places because if you disclosed who you are, and you disclose a company name, the person that you’re trying to make a page publicly. Now, there are wiki admins on Upwork, that are looking for this kind of thing. And then if somebody ends up doing the work for you, and didn’t disclose paid editing, they may just decline your page. And there are also a few individuals or freelancers, when they get invited to lose jobs and they don’t get the job, they’ll report you. The reporter competition reports “Hey this guy was looking to hire a paid editor on Upwork and here’s a screenshot” then when the Freelancer makes the page for you and didn’t end up disclosing that they were paid editors, the page may get declined. Now, that’s not the end of the war, we could still resubmit it. And this time, you disclose that you’re a paid editor and I say sorry, maybe pretend that you didn’t know the rules, and then resubmit it. So there’s still a way to get in. But it’s not another world, but it just gets harder and it delays the process. So I mean, my recommendation is if you can wait, you don’t care about the timeframe, then always disclose paid editing, stick with the guidelines, that way you won’t get declined because they think you’re a paid editor, you’re complying with the guidelines.

Saksham Sharda: Okay, so well going back to SEO again, the global Freelancer SEO services market is expected to grow from 9.7 billion in 2021 to 11.9 billion in 2022, at a compound annual growth rate of 22%. So what do you think the future of SEO is in the freelancing industry?

Pierre Zarokian: I think it’s probably going to get better even after COVID. A lot of people are going the freelancing route and outsourcing and a lot of even companies, as you know that we’re full-time staff in house, everybody ended up working from home and some have stayed at home working, or even me personally. I had right up to before COVID, I had an office space with five employees. And then when COVID did everybody started working from home, and I decided to downsize my office space to just one of one small room for myself, and, for meetings and all my staff are working from home right now. And then I even let go of some of them and decided to go the Freelancer route myself. So I outsource a lot of my writing. And for SEO purposes, I do a lot of writing, SEO is a lot of writing. So I outsource a lot of my writing to different writers, even though I’m the brains of a company, and I do the SEO myself and the technical aspects myself, 90% of the work that I do for SEO is writing. And I would assume that other companies are probably in the same situation too, that it’s also very hard to find good quality people in SEO,  to hire full-time or part-time to primarily work for you. So the freelancing route I think is easier because you can find a lot of freelancers on sites like Upwork and check their reviews and see that they have a good rating and check their background there. And then based on that you hire people that are quality and at the rate that is reasonable to you, freelancers to express for you, then you go offshore and you can always find someone within your budget.

Saksham Sharda: Okay, well so the last question kind of related to this is what would you be doing if not this in your life right now?

Pierre Zarokian: Interesting. Well, I used to make music. I make electronic music. I had a full studio before, just early in my career in my 20s. And then, when I started this business, there was not any time for that. And then I got married and I had to put my studio aside because I have a couple of kids. So there’s not enough space to have a studio in my house. So everything is in storage right now. But I love making music. That’s my passion. So that’s probably what I was. I would have probably been a DJ or DJ producer.

Let’s Conclude! 

Saksham Sharda: Thanks everyone for joining us for this month’s episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. That was Pierre Zarokian, who is the CEO of Submit Express. Thanks for joining us, Pierre.

Pierre Zarokian: Thanks for having me.

Saksham Sharda: Check out his website for more details and we’ll see you once again next month with another marketer of the month.

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