Sam Partland is an Australian SEO Nomad who is travelling around the world whilst working freelance as an Enterprise & Programmatic SEO Consultant at Sammy SEO.
Sam is a data driven digital marketer with 15+ years of experience, specialising in programmatic SEO - Driving growth through self-scaling landing page systems.
Although Sam specialises in SEO, his skillset and previous work covers a full range of digital marketing services including CRO, SEM, Affiliate Marketing, Email, Automation, along with a great understanding of HTML, PHP, and CSS code.
In short, Sam is an Aussie SEO Nomad who understands code. What more could you ask for?
The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Sam Partland
Watch the interview
(click the 'cc' icon to view subtitles)
Listen to the podcast
(55 minutes long)
The unscripted questions Mark A Preston asked Sam Partland
Who is Sam Partland, the SEO?
Why did you decide to be an SEO Nomad and start travelling around the world whilst working?
Is an SEO Nomad life just for freelancers, or can someone with a full-time job do it?
Do you think that Covid has highlighted remote working opportunities?
On your travels, have you seen an increase in full time employed SEOs travelling around?
Do you think that companies and SEO agencies are a bit more open to allowing their team members to work from wherever they want?
As an SEO Nomad working your way around the world, what happens in regards to working visas?
For a full time employed SEO, how does taxation impact them whilst working in a foreign Country?
As an Enterprise & Programmatic SEO Consultant yourself, what actually is programmatic SEO?
How is programmatic SEO different from normal technical related SEO?
What is a specific programmatic SEO scenario to describe it in a non technical way?
As an SEO, what do you specialise in, besides programmatic SEO?
What happens about content within the programmatic SEO system?
Do you find the techniques of SEO is very different from Country to Country you are in?
Do you need to speak any other languages to become an SEO Nomad?
What specific challenges have you faced whist working as an SEO whilst travelling?
On your SEO travels, do you plan day-by-day or more long-term when you arrive in a new Country?
Do you ever use any co-working spaces on your travels? If so, are there any good global based ones?
Do your clients know that you are working your way around the world? If so, do they actually mind?
Has any clients ever told you that you can't possibly be doing a proper job for them as an SEO Nomad?
How do you structure your time so client deliverables are met?
For any SEO thinking of packing their full-time job in to go it as a freelance SEO Nomad, what do they need to think?
As you are travelling around, you can't possibly carry loads of tech. What does the SEO Nomad tech stack look like?
Do you keep yourself updated with the latest SEO news whilst travelling around?
What is your personal view on most SEO related articles that are published?
You said that a lot of SEO news is old SEO news back from the past. What about all the new SEOs coming into the industry who haven't actually heard that old SEO news before?
As an SEO, how important is it to know code?
You mentioned that SEOs should understand how to deep search. What do you mean by deep search?
Do you have any specific scenarios of deep searching?
So Sam, when did you start in the SEO industry?
How have you seen the SEO industry change since you started to now?
You mentioned gaming the market. When it comes to SEO, what do you mean by that?
Have you found any great SEO meetups whilst travelling around?
Are there any big SEO Nomad groups online?
If you were to start your SEO Nomad journey again but knowing what you know now, what would you do different?
For anyone thinking of becoming an SEO Nomad, what sort of monthly income would they need to more or less guarantee to sustain the lifestyle?
I see some digital nomads sharing photos of a very nice beach side villa saying they paid next to nothing for it. What part of the world can you make that happen?
As an SEO Nomad, what do you do about health care?
Do you need to be diciplined as an SEO Nomad so you don't just go out partying all the time?
If you could change one thing in the history of the SEO industry for the better, what would that one thing be?
Anyone watching or listening to this SEO interview, is there anything they can do to help you?
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The unscripted conversation between Mark A Preston and Sam Partland
Mark A Preston: Welcome to the unscripted SEO interview. I'm your host, Mark A Preston, and today we have Sam Partland with us. Well, I can describe Sam best, as he's been traveling the world for the past few years and as an SEO normal. Hi, Sam.
Sam Partland: Pleasure to be here.
Mark A Preston: Okay, so for those people in the audience watching this who doesn't know who you are, could you give an overview of who Sam is, whose Sam the SEO is, and why are you traveling the world?
Sam Partland: Yeah, I can do that. So, yeah, Sam, I've been doing SEO for about 16 or 17 years now. I discovered in high school that you could make money online, and so I thought I'd give it a crack and see what I could do. Quickly fell into SEO after realizing I didn't have to pay for traffic. And back in those days, it was a bit shady with what you could do, and you could rank websites a bit faster. So I got dug into SEO pretty quickly doing that, but then, yeah, from Adelaide in Australia. I left Adelaide in about 2004, 2012, 2013, moved to Sydney, moved to Melbourne for another job, moved back to Sydney, moved back to Melbourne, and then I moved to Chiang Mai in Thailand for a few months and really kicked off my nomad journey.
I used to work for myself back in Adelaide for a couple of years. I lost it, and then I was really bad with finances, and that kind of fell through, and thus I needed to pick up an SEO job in Sydney. But then for the next few years, I really wanted to get back work myself, and I saw an opportunity pop up while I was down in Melbourne. The job was an amazing job. I just wasn't loving working for kind of someone else as much anymore. And so I took the leap again and jumped back into working for myself and moved somewhere there were other people around. I guess that also did SEO, but also that it was a lot cheaper to live. And so I didn't need to make as much money to be able to live and live a good life.
Mark A Preston: So the SEO nomad live, do you think it's for people who are freelancers who are doing their own thing?
Sam Partland: So that's what I used to think. I used to definitely think that. I mean, I still think that contractors and freelancers are always suited to the nomad work because you're not stuck to a set amount of hours. What you quickly realize when being a nomad is you got to catch a flight sometimes. And those flights, you want to get the cheap flights. Everyone wants to get the cheap flights. And those flights are going to be at 06:00 a.m. And then through the day it's going to be rarely going to find a nice cheap overnight flight because everyone wants to catch those ones. But what I've since realized, though, being in South America is there's a lot of particularly Americans, but a lot of people here with a normal job now, post COVID, there's people here that their workplaces think they're back in their home country or their home state, and they're down here living life at a third or a quarter of the price, but they will be back home, and they're doing the nine to five.
And so the nine to five in America, in the US from here would be, I think it's about a ten to six hour job. But then I've met Europeans that are working they're nine to five out here that are working super late hours, where they're getting up at say, 02:00 a.m. or 03:00 a.m. to be able to match the time zone. And so before COVID it used to be a lot more freelancers, a lot more contractors I was meeting. But now it seems to be a bit more standard to have a nine to five and be out of work from wherever you want.
Mark A Preston: So, because you're talking to these other SEO people on a regular basis, do you think the fact that covid has highlighted the remote working opportunities and the companies and agencies are more open to well, as long as you do your work, I don't care where you work from.
Sam Partland: I think this is moving that way. Agency work still is a lot more from what I've understood, it a lot more they want to kind of see you face to face somewhat, but it definitely feels like it's moving the way where as long as you're getting your work done, you can kind of do it wherever you want to be. I mean, I haven't worked for agency side for seven or eight years now, so it's been a little while. But I mean, after speaking with people working agency side, that it does feel like they're getting a lot more freedom with when and where they can work. And in particular, it seems like a lot more agencies, particularly in the UK, moving towards the whole four day work week, giving people a lot more freedom in that regard.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, I noticed the four day work week has been highlighted once or twice by some companies and agencies, but. So for someone that's thinking about the normal life and they do have a full time job, what do they have to think about regarding work visas when they travel in the world?
Sam Partland: So, Digital Nomadding is still a shady area and it will be a shady area for a number of years. Still, there's a few countries that are opening up. So basically I come as a tourist. As far as the majority of the countries that I go to are aware, I am a tourist. I pay taxes in Australia. I'm not working for Argentinian businesses, I'm not working for the businesses in the country. I am. So I'm not taking work away from someone. So in terms of the shady, it's like, yes, I'm doing work, but I'm not doing anything that's going to impact the local businesses and taking work away to officially set up that's the concern that a lot of countries have. Someone like me comes in and they're going to take away work from local businesses here. So with regards to work visas, the majority of people will be doing it on that gray area where it's not illegal, but it's not a signed contract or something. There's no official way of being allowed to work. But then, yeah, those countries coming in now with nomad visas. So you could go to a place like Brazil and get one of these new Nomad visas that are coming through and then you pay a percent of your income to the Brazilian government like tax. And then you could become that's where you basically pay your money, pay tax.
Mark A Preston: So basically you're taxed twice, one from your own country and one from the country you're in.
Sam Partland: That's how it will work initially here for the US, I think it is, no matter where you are, you will always pay your US tax as well.
Mark A Preston: Great. Now I'm noticing sharing a few things regarding programmatic is it SEO? What is it?
Sam Partland: So the easiest way to describe programmatic SEO is that you take data and you create web pages. That's in the simplest form, but it's any web portal, any directory, any classified website is doing programmatic SEO, they have a set of data being their listings, let's go with the real estate they have real estate listings. Now, taking those real estate listings and creating an SEO optimized search experience, that's what programmatic SEO is. You're not saying I want page by page by page like you do with Word Press. You're saying you want a page for every property type being apartments, but then you want a page for every location, and you want a combo page for every property type and location. And then the system will automatically essentially create these pages even though they're technically not being created. So it's taking the data, and it's spinning up a page where as soon as Google finds a link, a page is essentially there, as far as Google knows.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. So basically, you are structuring the main template pages, then the data populates the individual pages.
Sam Partland: Exactly. You create a template around by what the page will be correct, create page, and then the system does the rest.
Mark A Preston: Right. So how is that different to normal SEO? The whole emphasis on programmatic SEO, isn't it just what SEO should do anyway?
Sam Partland: Yes. Essentially the main difference I see between normal SEO and programmatic SEO is the thought process. You're not optimizing page by page. You can't go in and tell a developer or ask a developer that you need this real estate in Melbourne with properties under $500,000 page to have this title and the rest of the system to have this other title. You need to think about it in a different way. Where every optimizer, every optimization you make could affect 1000 pages, it could affect 100,000 pages, it could affect million pages. You're not doing it one by one, you're doing it on the scale. So you need to be able to make sacrifices. You need to be able to optimize for the 80% of the value, essentially, because there's always going to be outliers that you can't immediately optimize for. But at the start you target 80% and then you, you try and add another rule to target 80% of that 20%. And you kind of as you go, you can slowly refine your optimizations. But yeah, it's, it's just more how you think about it and then how you attack it.
Mark A Preston: So is it kind of SEO and down the sales funnel?
Sam Partland: Kind of yes.
Mark A Preston: I'm trying to think of a way to relate it to something every day. Just a scenario.
Sam Partland: Well, I guess instead of saying instead of optimizing an article, you optimize one page using variables. So instead of saying on the programmatic SEO project I'm blocking about at the moment, “Can dogs eat bananas?” you're not optimizing for can dogs eat bananas. You're optimizing for can animal eat food and then dogs so animal ends, the food gets swapped out.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. So basically you just put in the variables in [Sam Partland: Yes], for the page. I've seen this in action from a project someone I know has been doing, and they're driving a ton of traffic. They really are.
Sam Partland: It's definitely coming in. I would say you're coming into fashion, but there's a lot more people doing it now because there are systems that are making it easier. You got CMS like web flow popping up that are just making programmatic SEO a lot simpler. You've then got platforms like Next JS and more advanced react platforms that are making this easier for people to build proper SEO optimized systems. And then a service site where these sorts of systems used to be client side. Google couldn't crawl them, they didn't rank as well, etc.
Mark A Preston: So yourself, as an SEO, what do you personally specialize in?
Sam Partland: So my main specialty is with real estate portals and classified directories and similar sized businesses where they've got some sort of product, and then they've got a search experience so I can come in and optimize the search experience. I used to work for a company called GETCO in Australia. I don't know if you've heard of them, but they've now expanded it to UK, US, et cetera. And one of the things that I helped, I basically was hired for, is to build a new landing page generation system for them. And so it's called a self-scaling landing page system, where as new tasks were posted on the platform, we could categorize the tasks up, put them on an appropriate landing page, and then you'd have a targeted landing page for, say, plumbers in Melbourne spin up. And so my specialty around these sorts of businesses was to be able to help them come up with a strategy to be able to take their existing content, build these landing pages, and then have a hands free. So this air task system we built for five years ago now has just constantly been creating new pages as the business has been growing, and allowing them to target new keywords every single day, as long as they get enough tasks in that location posted.
Mark A Preston: What happens about content then?
Sam Partland: Well, that's the, that's the system with the programmatic. So at a core level, you use the tasks as the content, where you use the listings as a content. So think about if you're looking for real estate in Sydney, you go to a page about real estate in Sydney. You're not going to see a thousand word article about real estate in Sydney. You're going to see 20 to 30 properties in Sydney that are for sale that then link through to that listing page. So the core of that search experience is just reusing those 20 to 30 listings on a search page. And then you can add some frequently asked questions now and a little snippet about the content and really dynamically create the text. But then you can go one step extra, which is what they're doing with their task now. And they are adding that extra 500 words of unique content to the page to kind of add an extra content type. And it’s kind of you scale your system. You build it up as you go. You first get your core product, which is using that content live on your landing pages or your search page, and then you upgrade it as time goes on and see what else you can kind of add to.
Mark A Preston: It all makes sense. Now, when you are traveling the world and talking to other SEOs out there, do you ever discuss how SEOs different in each country? Whether it's more advanced or not as advanced. So, say, for instance, like Australia and the UK, is it very different or is it forward at the time? Is it up to date? What's the variance?
Sam Partland: So, what I've seen, it's not so much the country for the language, so English is a lot more advanced than a few of the other languages because certain people create these bulk systems and that can only target English because that's what they speak, it's easiest for them to push out. But there is a big and thus, for years, there's a big opportunity within non-English speaking markets. And so, with regards to Spanish and Argentina, where I am now, there is an opportunity there where it's not so much not advanced, there's not as many competitors, there's not as many people doing it because you got an English speaker in Australia. They're not just targeting Australia because it's a small market. They're going after the UK, but they're also going after the US. So the US is one of the more competitive markets, not just because of the US SEOs, but because of every other SEO around the world trying to target that US market. Whereas somewhere like Argentina speaking Spanish you don't have all those SEOs from the rest of the world trying to target Argentina. So even though the population is decent size, it's just the people targeting that specific market and language.
Mark A Preston: Do you speak any other languages?
Sam Partland: I could say hello in Spanish and Thai and Vietnamese and order a coffee, I think that's about it.
Mark A Preston: Right, it's not essential length, but more helpful to get by working in these countries.
Sam Partland: I mean, most of the places although tend to have a Basic English like the co-working, the hotels I can get by. There is a lot of Google Translate you can use. So Google Translate is definitely a shortcut. But no, you can definitely get by. They obviously appreciate you speaking a little bit more when possible, and I can string together a few sentences here and there should I need. But most of the time I'll just Google Translate out to do what I want and just kind of wait a minute, wait a minute type of thing.
Mark A Preston: Right. So I did want to get more into the basically working your way around the world as an SEO. Now remote working is starting to become more common. So I want to hear about stories, the good, bad and in between, stories of for anyone actually thinking about doing it.
Sam Partland: Okay, so the biggest thing you'll encounter if someone wanted to kick off is internet. It can range, it can be such so varied from just a couple megabits to having four or five megabits. Like, where I am now is about 450 megabits a second speed. Whereas I've been in hotels, I've been in co-works, where you can be sub at 1 MB speed and you just can't even load Facebook. Sometimes you can't load a basic Google search. And so that's the biggest concern. And the biggest thing I advise people to kind of look into before they go somewhere in the middle of nowhere because it's off the beaten path. If it's off the beaten path, you probably don't have internet as well. So I tend to stick to the main tourist places because of that. I know infrastructure wise that if somewhere I go doesn't have good internet, you can just go next door and they might have good internet. So that would be my biggest pointer around that.
Mark A Preston: Well, I'm going to say because obviously if somebody is working then as an SEO, they're probably going to need Internet. [Sam Partland: Exactly] do you like pick a place then say, well, I'm going to stop here three months, so I'll find an apartment for three months or something like that. Or do you find it best doing? Do you have to plan every little detail on advance?
Sam Partland: For some people I've met who really like to plan it out, but being in Asia before COVID I didn't really plan too much at all. I'd book a hotel for two nights and if that hotel had good internet, I'd extend it. There was one hotel, I was out for about two or three months just for it and that worked out well, internet was, but I mean, I kind of plan off the reviews, I just do short term planning there just so I could move. Like if I had to move straight away, I wasn't losing much that was easy enough. But then coming to South America, the hotels weren't quite as cost effective as what getting an Airbnb or so for a month would be.
And so I was planning a little bit more out, but you end up paying a bit more. You can definitely do it short notice, you just pay more. And so I ended up paying more because I'm still not really planning too much more than a month in advance. And even when booking an Airbnb, I wanted to book it for two weeks and then extend. So I'm not the best pre planner, but yeah, it really depends where you go and who you meet and then what you know is knows there. So in South America there's a chain and now they're opening up in Asia and a few other places, but there's a chain called Selena. Now, Selena let you do a deal called Colib and you pay for the month. And you can either stay in a dorm, a small room with shared bathrooms, or a private room or a suite. And you pay differently for the month depending on where you are. So for $300 US, I think it's $350 US, you can stay and work for a month in a Selena location, but stay in a dorm. I'm a little bit older for the dorms now, so I did a private group which is $1100 US for the month, but you get a standard room, private room, private bathroom, like a proper hotel room, and then you also get access to a coworking.
And so the coworking, I'd say about 20 megabit in most cases, but I mean a Selena cowork now and like I said, that's three to 400 megabit. But you get accommodation, you get, you get the coworker, you get to meet people. You don't really have the plan, but if you're on the Co Live deal, you could give two days notice and say you want to go to a different country and now move your booking there. And so they've got locations in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, (21:36 heaps). Like there's 20 or 30 of them in South America, so you can really move around with them, but you're just limited to where you can go because they're only obviously in the main spots.
Mark A Preston: I'm going to say that that's really good. I suppose it's like the national coworking spaces with accommodation.
Sam Partland: Exactly. It's a good start deal. You know what? You're kind of getting in most of them, so it's a good way to get into the nomad.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. So regarding the client side, is do the clients even know you work in your way around the world or where you are or does it really matter for them?
Sam Partland: Yeah, they definitely know. Like I tell them because I can't do like, early afternoon calls, Australia Time, because that's 02:00 a.m here 03:00 a.m. So I kind of schedule things around that. But I am lucky with that. I mostly do project work and so in terms of client calls, I've got only two retainer clients and only actually have one pool with them. Only have a call with one of them every month. So once a month and he'll do that call at 08:00 a.m., 09:00 a.m., Australia Time for me. So it's only 08:00 p.m 09:00 p.m here. So I'm pretty lucky in that regard. So I guess I've been doing it long enough that they're kind of willing to make a bit of sacrifice for me as well so that we can make it work.
Mark A Preston: Do you find any sort of clients or potential clients you've spoke to just think that's not a proper job? That's like just saying so against that you can't possibly be sat there working as normal?
Sam Partland: I do feel that way sometimes with some calls I've had. So when I was in Australia, I had a camp event during COVID I bought a camp van, re-did the whole layout and traveled up the east coast of the country. And it took me about just over a year to get from Adelaide to Canes, so the whole east coast. And I was on a few calls, not sitting in the van. I'd have a window behind me and there'd be cover on it, and so you can see what was behind me. And that could change from being lakes and rivers to being the ocean, sometimes to being fields. I was on a client calling. The cow walked past, which is pretty amusing. And so there was one client where I start putting the cover up because I didn't want to make them too jealous, a UK client. And they even asked me not to say where I was. I knew I was in a van somewhere, but in the middle of the UK winter, and it's 37 degrees in Australia with the sun out, so it was best to kind of not mention or show where it was anymore.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, I can relate to that. I suppose it doesn't really matter, does it? As long as the work is being done efficiently and the impact on the output is what being promised.
Sam Partland: Exactly. The way I say it all comes down to the deliverable and making sure you're on top of it. There are people that will go off and party and all that and might not reach that. But I guess it's a life lesson sometimes where they might lose a job or that client work or something. But I'll always make sure that the deliverable is as up to scratch as what I can make it and that it's as on time as I can get it. I like to say I always do good work. Things somehow slip through, I guess, but I'll always look at the best I can, no matter how sunny or how nice the lake outside looks. Great.
Mark A Preston: So do you think that anyone thinking of doing this and they got the full time job and think, well, I want to pack the full time job in to work my way around the world as an SEO. It's not as easy as that, is it just to literally make a decision then day after, what is the steps? So basically you sat in the office, full time job and everything. What do you have to prepare in order to have this life of moving around from place to place? Working?
Sam Partland: So the biggest thing that I've understood from people working there full-time jobs at the moment is the time zone. That's going to be the biggest thing. So I’m just looking locking yourself into a location based on time zone to ensure you've got as much crossover as your work is going to require. Some people with the full time jobs have been able to get away with only 2 hours or so a day of crossover. Others need the full 8-9 hours of crossover. So that really limits like the initial planning of where you can go. But then next is making sure you've got a lot of gear. So one of the challenges I don't see in it now, it's freezing it's at the moment getting down to three, four degrees. So it's not exactly the warmest place, but I'm not equipped for cold weather. So I've got like this super thin thing and then I've got a raincoat and so I wear three or four different layers to kind of create a warm land. So I guess just making sure that you've got the right gear to be able to go from hot to cold, if you need. But then for me it's just my tech gift. Like I've got a laptop bag that I travel with and then a 40-liter bag that I can basically use as carry-on. And that's everything I essentially own. So it is fulfilling to do that.
Mark A Preston: So as far as tech is concerned, like, when you're in the office, you have all this well, some people do have all the latest tech and everything. I mean, as an SEO, as long as you got a laptop and Internet, is that basically it?
Sam Partland: Pretty much. I got my laptop, I got my laptop stand, I've got my gaming mouse. That's a minimum requirement for me. And then it's, really that fit the headphones. On top of that, I've obviously got other bits involved, but I don't even have the keyboard. I just put the laptop on my laptop stand and use it like that. Other people will have the keyboard. There's also these lightweight mouse. There's 13 to 15 inch screens that you can get and you get attached to your current screen. There's a lot of people I see using them. I tried using a tablet as a second screen. It was just easier to use my laptop. And some things take a little bit longer, which is a bit annoying. My data and playing an Excel on that you can't have the two sheets side on the side, but you get used to it, and it's one of the small prices to make. Good.
Mark A Preston: All right. Do you keep abreast on the news in the SEO industry while you're traveling around?
Sam Partland: Somewhat. I've normally most of that stuff I find is a bit fluffy. There isn't too much there other than algorithm updates and that, but chatting to mates and Twitter now and some of the main use sites, I can kind of pick up what's worth knowing about versus what's just Google changing your design really doesn't mean too much, but, I mean, it's just things I've been doing for the last 10,15 years anyway, there's there isn't too much that change there because it's all on the laptop. So as long as the laptop of the internet, it's all easy enough to keep on top of.
Mark A Preston: So when you say most of it's fluff, as they say, how does someone say new to the industry coming in, determine what is fluff? And what they should be reading?
Sam Partland: It's definitely hard. And so I don't just read everything, every single piece of fluff or not fluff, read it. As time goes on, you pick up what is the fluff and what's not the fluff, what's worth knowing and what's not worth knowing. You'll see things being repeated over and over, and so over time, everything goes through the cycle and you kind of start seeing the same things that popped up years ago that are popping up now again, and it's all becoming new news even though you've known it. One of the big things at the moment was later posted I think it was later posted a blog change. They've moved from a sub domain to a subfolder, and they're like, look at this. The subfolder is growing compared to being on the sub domain with absolutely no changes. And there's things like this that you kind of know, but this was big two or three years ago, and I think it was big again a couple of years before that. But it's kind of pick up traction again because someone's come up and said, hey, look at this. And so it's kind of going through the cycle again. But this is something that you should always be doing for the last ten years or so. Subfolder better than subdomain. You get the (30:49 not clear), but then now and then a story like this will pop up and it's like, yeah, subfolder. But then this will kind of be hidden again. It'll go through another couple of years cycle and then someone will come out again and say yes.
Mark A Preston: I mean, every few years the industry has brand new audience who hasn't heard this before, whereas myself, who's been in the industry probably forever, 21 years, I think 22 years, looks at it and think, this is old, this is new. But then you just don't think about, well, what about all these new people coming into the industry that doesn't know this? So if we don't regurgitate the discussion again. They don't know about it, I suppose.
Sam Partland: I don't know most definitely. I'm not saying that it's by no means not useful information, it's just not as useful information to me in particular. And so there's always people that will find this sort of stuff valuable. Like I'm I've been going through my own little blogging spree over the last month or so where I gave myself a little 30 day challenge to write something every day for 30 days and ended up and something like 45,000 words of my word format, essentially in posts. And a lot of that to me is just basic stuff. There's a lot of people messaging me about some of the things that I thought were super basic that they'd never heard of before and that they feel they're really advanced. And so it is great to still have that information. I guess you just got the difference, different audiences for it.
Mark A Preston: So as an SEO, how important is it to understand code or know how to code?
Sam Partland: I think basic HTML and that sort of stuff is required somewhat just to be able to look at the source of the page and be able to understand what's going on somewhat. But for me, more so than actual code is knowing how to Google. Like when it clicked with the developers mostly don't write their own stuff. They go into stack overflow and they go to Google and they just exactly what they want to do. They Google it, they work out what other people are doing to solve it and they grab it. There's millions of hub repose, repositories that have other people's code you can kind of reuse. And so being able to understand how to Google something super specifically of exactly what you're after in maybe even ten words, someone else has probably done it. And so that is more beneficial than understanding how to code. Being able to find out how other people are doing something is more valuable. Does that make sense?
Mark A Preston: Yeah. I pause then because isn't that the same sort of scenario as long tail searching? Shouldn't SEO understand how people search as well as the words they use? Isn't that an important factor? Or is it just me that thinking? Isn't this obvious?
Sam Partland: One hundred percent. It is one of the best skills you can have even in life now, just knowing how to do it's, not just being able to type a few words, and it's knowing how to be specific. And so I have met though many years now, particularly since Covid, there's a lot of new people coming into the industry because they're realizing that's how they can get their normal business on it's, how they can find a new job, how they can move around, et cetera. But they're still not understanding how specific you can be in a Google search. And so it is a bit of a mindset change for some people. It's definitely an important skill and definitely one that should be learned.
Mark A Preston: So, regarding being so specific in searching, do you have sort of an example that somebody can relate to?
Sam Partland: So Google formulas, Google Sheet formulas is one of the biggest things that I use it personally for. You write down exactly what you want and you'll find someone with a formula doing that already. I'm trying to say something about combining what one I was doing the other day was trying to match up multiple columns of data and then outputting a value based on that. So you're essentially doing a Vlookup or trying to find one column, but then you're doubling that up and trying to also match the second column. By being super specific with something like matching two columns in Google Sheets and then returning another value based on those values, you'd be able to find something that someone's already done that or multiple versions of it, and via piece together your own little solution.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, great. Just basically doing what Google does, finding information.
Sam Partland: Exactly. And people are hating on it, but it's so useful sometimes.
Mark A Preston: That's just it. When you strip everything back, I think a lot of SEO's are so wrapped up in the data and the tools and everything, they basically get a URL, slap it in a tool, and basically just go through whatever the tool says. I think a lot of this mindset and a lot of this will strip it right back and understand what's important and how the journey starts. Going through the journey.
Sam Partland: Exactly.
Mark A Preston: So, as you tell, you said you've been in the industry for how long?
Sam Partland: 2005 is when I first did my first website on my first one of those free web things on a subdomain.
Mark A Preston: Right. So think from then to now, how have you seen the industry change? What sort of things have changed during that time?
Sam Partland: My least favorite change was being able to use Scrapebox and software that Bmd Bookmarking team was my favorite one. You literally could enter a keyword and press go and you could rank number one the next day. It was amazing. And so that's the biggest change. But, I mean, that was still back in 2012, 2013, when Panda and Penguin rolled out. That hurt me. Hurt me bad. That hurt my first real business, I'd like to say, went from zero to zero pretty quick with that one. But that's that was the main change. And since then, there's all been these little tweaks, but they certainly got so much smaller as time goes on. The core of it has been content. It's been content since 2013. Good content. You can game it.
There's always a little bit of things you can game. Like Kyle with the Laura Gibson issue. If you saw that we were able to be rank, I think, number one for a pretty competitive type thing with Lauren content. So there are still ways to kind trick Google, as it always will be, as it changes and makes one thing more valuable. Something else gets tweaked, which then might create a hole. The same hole that was available ten years ago might come up again. But it still just comes down to having that good content. And then on top of that, though, the next biggest thing is just more people doing it. There's more people in the SEO mindset. It's not just a mum and dad blogger anymore that you're competing against. It could be an SEO on the other side of the world trying to break in a market that they've never landed, they set foot in, that you're competing with now.
Mark A Preston: Affiliate marketing.
Sam Partland: Exactly the choice of it.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, well, there's quite a few SEOs have affiliate marketing deciding, but you mentioned a couple of times, gaming the market.
Sam Partland: Yeah.
Mark A Preston: Now, instead of thinking gaming the market, you just do things right to start with, instead of trying to think, well, how can I make Google think this? Instead of, well, what can I do to get Google to not thinking this?
Sam Partland: So the way I see SEO and Gamification is a bit like you want to push the boundaries sometimes you need to be able to test things out. You want to find the limit of what you can safely do before it becomes unsafe, so that you can do your best work essentially within safe bounds. And so there are a couple of ways I kind of approach it. Firstly, my client work. I never do Dodgy staff. It's always above board. You get a bit of a free pass with client work and programmatic builds on the back of an existing business because they've got a valuable business, they've got their own content. It's just about restructuring and reorganizing that content to get the value. You don't really need to gain much to get easy wins. But side projects where you're going out against people that are already gaming the system, you sometimes want to push the boundaries to be able to test what you can safely do. So whilst, yes, you try and keep it above board, you also the way I see it is you also want to kind of push it to the limits a bit and see what you're going to get away with. On potentially money sites but mostly for B2B in non-money sites, you kind of play around with to know what you can do with your money sites.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, I mean, over the years, I've probably tested everything, or at least most things, but it's been on my own sites or a site I've just built to test things. So that way there's no real impact to see what works, what doesn't. When you've been traveling around, obviously you've met other SEO. Do you have a group of did you ever gather, like, do a meet up in an area of SEOs and just chat about, well, the industry, what's going on, how defining things like more like an SEO, nomad meet up type of thing?
Sam Partland: Yes. In Thailand. Chiang Mai in Thailand probably has the highest density of SEOs anywhere in the world, and they have a weekly or monthly meet up there. So I met a couple of them when I was there, but then leaving there, you don't come across SEO too often, surprisingly. There's a lot of digital people. A lot of people digital work, but SEO is a really few and far between. So more so than an SEO meet up, you go and meet people at digital nomad meetup where then you meet a couple of SEOs and you talk about it there. I also just have a small group of SEO mates from at one point, each of us were in a different country, but now most of them are back in Australia, and I'm pretty much anyone out of the country now. And then that's where I kind of chitchat my SEO and get that SEO nerd fixed, I guess. And then various subgroups would be the other point. It's not every day that you kind of chitchat into an SEO in one of these sort of coworking, because everyone's different as content writers sometimes, but then there's a lot of developers that are around the place, but then you have people with other jobs like product marketers and product managers and just completely, somewhat unrelated to SEO still work.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. So are there any, like, big SEO nomad online groups that people could join if they're thinking of doing it? So they are out there?
Sam Partland: Yes, the big SEO slack group or the reddit R/ Big SEO is one of the ones. I mean, I think it's got about 8000 people that have joined, of which probably a couple hundred are properly active in it. So that'll be worth jumping in. If you go and read it for big SEO, you'll be able to find the join link and then you'll be able to get accepted into that at some point. And then there's a couple of other groups are starting to pop up now, but that's kind of the main one where you can get a variety of SEO people in there from super beginners, the people that have never touched SEO, to people like myself, answering questions and a few other experienced SEO jumping in when needed.
Mark A Preston: So if you was to start this travel journey again, would there be anything you'd do different, knowing what you know now?
Sam Partland: Yes. I mean, the biggest thing for me is when I quit my job in Melbourne to go overseas, I had no side hustle essentially going. I had little things kind of kicked off over the years but because I was working full time for four and a half, five years, I just really hadn't put a proper effort into the side work. I guess, knowing what I know now, then I would have put a bit more effort in the month or two months for the lead-up to be able to go overseas with something kind of going. I didn't really start anything until I got back overseas and so I would have warmed something up, got some projects going, had some, I guess, got some domains and sites warmed up with just a few pieces of content that I could sit there for a year or two years. I'm finally doing that now in the last year or so where I've started to get a heap of different websites going I can kind of sit there. If something happens, cool. If nothing happens, they can just kind of sit there. They cost you $10 a year in the domain.
Mark A Preston: So as far as sustaining a life, obviously there is survival and there's actually making it worthwhile doing it. Anyone thinking of basically just working the way around? What would you say is the minimum sort of monthly you can never guarantee, but guaranteed income you should think about before you start the journey?
Sam Partland: The monthly minimum would also depend on what savings you'd be willing to burn. So for me, I had a chunk of savings that I was willing to kind of go through and that got me kicked off. Whereas others might not have it. And then, yeah, you might want the monthly, but in terms of monthly costs you'd want to be able to cover, especially in Thailand, you'll find a lot of YouTube videos about living on $500 US a month. By all means you'd escape and pass and I wouldn't be recommending that, but in terms of US dollars, I'd say 1500 to 2000 a month would let you live a solid life in majority of like non, I guess on Australia, UK, US etc type countries like particularly South America, two grand US would do really well. And same with Asia. You can probably drop $500 and do 1500 still be okay out in Asia.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, I ask because I have noticed that on a few occasions people say oh well, I've got this beautiful pad, I'm outside of the ocean, look at it's, gorgeous. And I pay next to nothing for it. And I think this sort of perception that's what people have in the head and not sort of reality when you get to a place.
Sam Partland: Well, when I was in Asia before, some of the hotels were 20, 25$ Australian a night, booked the night before per night type thing. And so you can find some really, really nice places for under $30 in Australia, you won't find that in Australia. You won't find that in the US. Going to some of the islands off Bali, you can get a beachside resort for $30 a night. And so, yeah, you can get some really good value in places. You just sometimes also have to get lucky in terms of timing. You have to know where you're going beforehand. Some of the places you book online and it's got the prettiest photo ever. You rock up and there's cockroaches. The photos were taken 20 years ago. The beach might be nothing like what's shown. Instead of beach side, it's actually three streets back from the beach, et cetera.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, we can say that about most countries. When booking a hotel, I'm just thinking of people want to make the step? What sort of mindset, what sort of things do they have to be okay with? What about thinking about health care, thinking about, well, what happens if I get ill? Or what happens when you living, when you live in such a life where it's more or less day to day, what other things have to think about regarding that?
Sam Partland: Health to me wasn't a big concern because where I am normally, the healthcare isn't too expensive. Like in Chiang Mai, they have a big water festival where you basically just get water guns, and thousands and thousands of people are throwing buckets of filthy moat water on top of each other. And one of the big things that everyone gets, the ear infections, because the dirty water. So I got an ear infection, going to see a doctor, getting some antibiotics. The whole thing cost me about $30 Australian after seeing them twice. So that wasn't a massive thing.
But then you can also get nomad insurance with a mob called Safety Wing, and that's about 30 or 40 Australian a month, and that will cover a lot of stuff. And so being in Asia during COVID they actually covered an evacuation flight to Australia. For me, that was about two grand. And so me paying $30 a month, I got a free flight home, which was a pretty good little set-up there, and it's good little investment. So, yeah, that wasn't a big one there. But one of the big things to think about is you'll meet people who want to party every night, that aren't working, that aren't traveling the world for three to six months. If you're working, that isn't a lifestyle that you can maintain. You will get sidetracked, you will lose focus. It's not something you can just kind of go out and do every night because it will bite you. It will come back to bite you bad.
Mark A Preston: I think that's the differentiator, isn't it? Because it's that mindset. Well, you're not on holiday, you're just working somewhere different.
Sam Partland: Exactly.
Mark A Preston: It's about having structure, I suppose, in your life.
Sam Partland: Exactly. Keeping that I wouldn't say nine to five, but keeping somewhat this is when you're working, this is when you go out and a drink or give you the freedom that you could take Wednesday off and just go off and do a day activity, that's fine. But then you have to know that you still got to kind of come back to it and you still got to do work Thursday and Friday. You can move your schedule around, but you still need to lock in X hours of work a week somehow.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. Okay. I'm going to say we've covered so much there. The reason I wanted to invite you on is because in my 20s, quite a few years ago now, I did set off wanting to travel the world. Only got as far as Greece. I was there for four years. I never got out again. So it's kind of personal thing, like, well, if I was younger, I'd probably be doing it. So listening to genuine stories about what it's really like from somebody that's doing it is for anyone else thinking about doing this and not just believing, that's the thing I wanted to say, well, these are the things you need to think about. And it's not just believe someone to say, oh, it's easy, you can do this, you can do that. I think with the internet it's obviously a major thing. If you, knowing what you know now, could change one thing in the industry for the better, what would it be?
Sam Partland: I'd remove Tanner penguin. Let me have my phone back.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. I know we can work some miracles, but I think, in fact, I remember the very day is I actually sat in my car outside the supermarket because I hate shopping. And I was literally on my phone, saw the update, and I was thinking, I need to get home now. And I remember it was on a Sunday afternoon or something that I needed get home now. But it's been amazing. Final question is there anything anybody can do watching this or listening to this, is there anything they can do to help you with anything?
Sam Partland: I mean, read my blog posts and I'd love any feedback there. I'd love to know whether what I'm talking about makes sense most of the time, and whether it's something people know already or whether something people are interested in, whether they know a little bit about programmatic or whether they know nothing about programmatic and want to learn. That's what I'd really like to know.
Mark A Preston: And where can they find your blog?
Sam Partland: Sammyseo.com. S-a-double m-y-s-e-o dot com.
Mark A Preston: Brilliant. And do you chat much on social, if anybody wants to connect?
Sam Partland: So recently there are a lot of LinkedIn, so you can definitely find me the Sam Partland on LinkedIn. And then I've just started Twitter, so, I mean, I created the account over ten years ago, but I'm finally actually starting to use it, which I should have done it a few years ago.
Mark A Preston: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for joining us and I've had a blast. I mean, we could go on forever, but we both have work to do and like you say, it's not a constant party. But thank you again and it's been amazing. And actually it's made me think about a few things, not about jumping ship and leaving the kids out, but on just different mindsets with what you shared about the programmatic side of things that can be helpful. So that's it. Well, Sam, thanks a lot and keep me updated where you get to.
Sam Partland: Sound good to me.