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In Summary

Victor Karpenko, Founder & CEO of MjSeo Agency joins Chase Nobles the CEO and founder of kush.com on this HempList Podcast

Victor not only discusses how he became a master of SEO and building an online presence over the last 15+ years, but also touches on how it’s been operating a business founded in Ukraine, with about 75% local Ukrainian employees! He talks about how they haven’t had to stop business in Ukraine during the Russian Invasion, and how they’ve had to move shop but were able to actually hire and expand since the war began.

Finally Chase talks about how Kush.com and it’s previous sites have used SEO to grow, and both give their opinions on popular companies in the space like Google and LinkedIn.


The company’s personalized promotional tactics help companies thrive in the digital space.

The cannabis SEO experts from the MjSeo agency know to help your marijuana business increase site traffic and, therefore, the number of customers.

Subscribe for more interviews each week, also available on Spotify and podcast apps.

Transcript (Auto-Generated)

hey everybody chase nobles here founder
over at kush.com got Victor Karpenko
here from mj seo agency super excited to
have you on the show
talk about a subject that is near and
dear to my heart which is seo and
marketing and uh happy to have you on
the show victor thanks for joining us
hey thanks for uh like
like
i don’t know how we’re going to say
thanks for coming and have opportunity
to talk with you and like share my
experience yeah absolutely well you know
i think a lot of people have a you know
it happens to you every day i’m sure
how do i rank number one for this or how
do i you know
increase my organic traffic because that
is
by a long shot the most long-term
sustainable metric for marketing in this
industry
yeah what do you like
where where did you get the knowledge
base what was kind of the origin story
here to be able to answer that question
effectively
and understand the value behind it
okay well so i started like 15 years ago
so it’s pretty long
yeah so i’m doing seo like 15 years and
i started when i actually was like
buying and selling domain names like
long time ago
like and i had my own domain portfolio
and i wanted to sell more you know so
i started website and like in
pretty short period of time i rank it uh
number one
for
most of the keywords i bet basically was
competing like with go daily auction
with other websites and from there i was
taking clients running my own projects
and stuff like this
and eventually we have pretty big seo
agency right now like it’s 175 people
plus that just focus only on seo that’s
all
that’s amazing and what were you selling
originally what was the what was the
original sale
uh again uh like the website
yeah what
what were you trying to rank for to sell
uh it was like by domain by branded
domain it’s
basically something like brandpod.com
right now or brand bucket it’s like
like
like cheap version of these websites
like back then
right so this is early on when a lot of
businesses might not have had a big
representation on the web
what a wild time that was right you know
you had all kinds of black hat
strategies ranking high wasn’t
as hard as it is today
but also you know around 2004 2005
everybody got shaken up because of
you know all of the here’s how to do it
black hat tutorials right
um pretty wild experience did did that
were you around for that rollout i think
it was panda
um
a couple other different rollouts google
did penguin might have been one
yeah i was in pandora penguin it was

  1. and then penguin was 2012 so it
    was basically content uh algorithm
    google rolled out and then it was links
    one
    and it was fun time like we were
    recovering a lot of it’s like about 100
    websites from google penguin we like
    figured out pretty quick what to do
    so
    it was cool
    yeah i bet it was because who are you
    going to call whenever you lose 100 of
    your traffic overnight you need to call
    an expert somebody that knows what
    they’re doing
    yeah um
    based up here in seattle you know we
    have moz which was uh you know
    one of the leading startups in this
    space and they just really took off with
    you know primarily around the content
    that they put out into the industry
    as far as a tool a sas tool sounds like
    you’ve built a sas tool yourself to help
    people understand their links what is
    that can you tell us a little bit about
    that
    it’s called
    that pro and it’s basically to manage
    backlinks uh
    it check
    the tool checks a lot of different like
    things like google index google cache is
    the link exist
    and uh shows a lot of uh things like
    uh it’s it shows a lot of statistics
    that actually make you uh
    make important seo decisions pretty fast
    and you started to talk about mozy is a
    funny story because like i remember it
    was 2012 or 2013 and i’m originally from
    ukraine
    uh and the mom of uh rentfishkin came to
    ukraine to talk about like you know how
    uh rent was running this on the board uh
    like whiteboard friday show
    and i was listening like wow cool you
    should like get this
    videos and i started my on the board
    it’s the same as ren fishkin did
    uh
    in english but i did it like in russian
    in ukrainian and uh we had 300 issues
    like
    so
    i did it like for five years
    approximately and it did work
    so
    white boy whiteboard friday i mean i
    used to refresh the page to see when the
    new whiteboard friday went up because it
    was always such good content
    um
    you know i know there’s a lot of you
    know international turmoil between
    russia and ukraine and everything that’s
    going on and it’s a horrible situation
    over there but
    there are a lot of ukrainians in the seo
    space and uh it’s
    kind of wild if you get deep enough a
    lot of arrows point right back to
    ukraine as people that have gotten
    really good at this is it is is it just
    something in the culture over there that
    just makes ukrainians so great at seo
    because
    yeah you spend enough time in the space
    you find you find a number of ukrainians
    that have just crushed it in the space
    for a lot of their accounts
    it’s true because we have a lot of like
    big u.s brands that actually owned or
    cone by like some ukrainians and of
    course they build them like from scratch
    because you know when you have a traffic
    it’s easier to build business when you
    don’t have right
    so
    we
    we have a lot of people here like pretty
    good expertise like uh like technical
    like
    uh with lots of tools uh like different
    teams like starting one like from casino
    to web hosting to payday loans to like
    credit cards and different niches like
    and
    it’s good
    atmosphere to be around yeah
    do you still employ a lot of ukrainians
    being from there
    uh we we have like most of our team is
    like more than 75 percent like uh in
    ukraine and like they are safe secure
    and they are working even better than
    before the war started so we are
    we are
    i think we and they are doing good job
    like
    uh growing and actually delivering what
    we promised to our clients and
    it was tough in the beginning you know
    like first two weeks was super like
    um unpredictable you know like yeah
    i think
    you know speaking for myself it’s just
    how can you not try to know what’s going
    on over there and it’s i’m really happy
    to hear that your team is safe secure
    and um
    you know still still able to focus
    on
    what they’re great at considering the
    situation that the country is in so
    um proud work keeping people employed
    and uh you know vying for their safety
    it’s uh it’s a mess
    back to you
    back to the oh go ahead
    i’m sorry the good point that we didn’t
    fire anyone we actually like starting
    like we kept all the team and now
    actually starting to grow which is like
    really rare because we already worked
    with mostly we work with
    english-speaking clients and
    as an agency you know uh
    like a lot of our competitors just like
    you know
    they they stopped operating because
    and
    it’s good for us that we were focusing
    on western markets like
    i think like 80 years ago was just
    switched focus and started to work like
    with us uk australia and new zealand
    like and other countries
    versus
    ukrainian and russian yeah
    yeah that’s wild it’s wild to think
    about you know how split you know that
    the markets are they’re entirely
    different right um
    is is
    is google even the primary search engine
    in russia or is it the andex or
    something like that
    uh in russia it’s yandex yeah and by
    like in ukraine it’s definitely google
    and russia already tried to invade
    in ukraine and they actually did in 2014
    so after that yandex blocked in ukraine
    so it’s only google so that’s why
    everybody google in ukraine does seo for
    google
    in us because the market is not that big
    you know like so everyone that why you
    ask why it’s a lot of seos because
    people want to grow right so they go
    create niche website
    in any niche in us and just rank them
    you know
    the same as in like uh canada industry
    it’s a lot of project
    owned actually by ukrainians yeah right
    when when i first got started with this
    business we were cush tourism um and
    kush tourism
    started out selling tours up here in
    seattle but our the goal was to be you
    know kind of a tourist resource and
    i don’t keep good tabs on the site now
    but back in the day you know we were
    ranking number one for is we legal in
    pretty much every state it was a wild
    time because that the volume of traffic
    was
    already a really big baseline but then
    when cannabis got legalized in
    california um
    i mean
    i was up on the phone with godaddy all
    night just trying to keep the site live
    because we’re getting like 300 people a
    second searching is we legal in
    california is we legally california
    there’s a wild and that happened with
    every state back then it was a wild time
    a lot of what happens now though and i
    want to bring this back to a question
    for you a lot of what happens now is
    google’s you know position zero or their
    um
    uh not even rich snippets anymore but
    map results have you know destroyed a
    lot of the
    um
    organic rankings of companies especially
    any kind of aggregator site
    how do you look at what google’s doing
    which you know in a large way is making
    a really great product for consumers but
    hurting a lot of businesses and that
    destruction and that disruption in the
    industry
    of seo has had a very tangible effect
    anybody that runs any kind of aggregator
    site
    how do you look at that what what do you
    think the future is gonna look like are
    we ever gonna leave google.com are
    people gonna go to other websites and
    how do you play in that in that realm
    how do you play in that environment
    well it’s getting more technological
    right so it’s the competition is also
    growth so
    we make internal tools
    where actually i don’t rely on some
    senior or like team seo or some team
    leads i rely on data so basically we
    getting data from ahrefs from majestic
    from similar web from search matrix uh
    from our own tools
    and then we just see okay what’s going
    on like in the uh for this keyword group
    we analyze it we can see okay
    what’s the age of this domain what how
    many backlinks which type of the
    backlinks how many backlinks in index
    which anchor tags they use how many
    anchor texts in in the index so
    when you actually see the this as a data
    it’s pretty much not that hard you just
    need to
    set up a team and make it happen like to
    actually write content make this pages
    and
    i don’t
    i don’t uh think like especially me i
    don’t think it’s getting worse it’s
    getting better like just look uh at
    leastly right now 10 million organic
    search hrefs shows you know weed maps uh
    all other like a big aggregator they
    they don’t decrease
    but the thing is
    people do invest more in seo they set up
    teams and when when
    you know organic traffic number one
    source you can buy ads it’s like uh
    like in the state maybe it’s legal but
    federally it’s not right so you can’t
    use like facebook and and
    like google ads so basically
    you rely on organic traffic that’s why
    we decided like uh make a branch in our
    seo profi agency that called mjseo and
    now we actually rank for if you type in
    google uh cannabis seo agency where
    number one you know which is pretty cool
    yeah
    that is pretty cool and congrats i mean
    it’s hard to rank for such a competitive
    term because you’re up that’s like
    that’s like a gold belt you know you’re
    up against every other seo agency that
    says they’re great at getting to the
    number one position on google which is
    you know between you and i it’s 70 of
    the traffic if not more in a lot of
    cases right yeah yeah you look at that
    and you’re fighting everybody else that
    says they’re good at it and you’re
    winning so congratulations proud work
    it’s probably more meaningful to you
    than it is to anybody else but that’s
    really exciting and i respect that
    thanks thanks but
    you know what’s actually funny we
    approach to our clients do all this data
    stuff
    like set up teams
    but when we started okay we got some
    sales managers and they started to
    outreach and link it in and stuff and it
    just doesn’t work you know like you bug
    people and then
    i said okay let’s rank our own website
    so we rank our own website now we get
    getting leads and we don’t do all this
    like
    um
    i don’t know how to even say uh
    and
    it’s not useful actually like to bug
    people through linkedin and stuff like
    this so
    yeah now i see the value even on our
    website the value that we
    give to the our clients in like this
    niche yeah it’s invaluable you know um i
    think
    i can’t tell you
    i don’t even check my linkedin messages
    anymore because they’re all like
    hey
    we noticed this was wrong with your
    website or hey we can get you to number
    one for this i mean i get i got probably
    thousands of those messages in my
    linkedin inbox it’s actually kind of
    become a mess i think i made a critical
    error whenever i just started accepting
    everybody as a connection request so
    um
    it’s become a little bit of a
    of a show
    on my linkedin but it
    it’s kind of amazing because if you get
    that first click right
    then they see that you know the accounts
    that you have the ability the work that
    you do and the ability that your team is
    capable of achieving
    and now you have the instant credibility
    and they call you
    right and
    i think that’s the value of you know
    whether you sell gummies or vape
    cartridges or anything like that that’s
    the value of rank um we have a pretty
    deep
    strategy with you know our platform
    cush.com um
    you know
    from an seo standpoint harvesting as
    much of the
    you know keywords and product data and
    things like that and trying to turn it
    into you know
    searchable pages just you know to
    increase traffic to you know be top of
    mind of top of search really top of
    search is top of mind but uh you know
    anybody that’s in kind of our position
    like illegally has to do that because
    otherwise their organic traffic goes
    away where’s the paid right yeah yeah
    for a brand because a lot of brands
    listen to this you know say you’re a you
    know cbd
    beverage company for example
    and
    yeah beverage might not be the best say
    you’re a cbd flower company something
    like something that you can ship
    and say 90 of your business is
    e-commerce or you’d like it to be
    e-commerce direct to consumer
    you know the highest margin out there
    yep closest relationship with the
    customer
    when you talk to a like an account that
    wants that kind of service of ranking
    for
    uh i don’t know give me give me a search
    term you would want to rank for in that
    in that
    category um i don’t know like actually
    the uh
    delta eight gummies was a good example
    actually delta gummies yeah
    we actually ranked the client top three
    for this term and it took so it’s like
    uh three like
    three months to get some results to top
    ten and six to actually get to top three
    so like i pretty much know what i’m
    talking about yeah so yeah what do you
    recommend for a brand that’s looking at
    it and going how do i do that what what
    is like what is it gonna take you know
    you said three six months three months
    that’s internally like how do you
    how do you strategize with an account
    and what is the investment from a
    business to actually implement an seo
    strategy long term that’s going to grow
    their business
    i mean it’s
    it’s numbers you know like sometimes
    like uh i remember i said to the clients
    we charged like five to a k per month
    10k per month and they’re like wow it’s
    so much money but when you actually rank
    for example for delta eight
    gummies
    uh the search term right now i i think
    is 151
    000 per month and just imagine if you
    sell 100 cans per day with the price 50
    bucks right so 100 per day it’s about
    like
    2500 or
    30 like 3 000
    items per month
    just
    calculate it right so this is the
    revenue you can get out of this like uh
    five to
    10k like in three to uh like nine months
    like
    so
    how do we know how to rank we don’t know
    how to rank actually we we just take
    numbers in uh this keyword group and
    trying to uh seek relation between like
    okay who is number one what they did
    what the content when how they optimize
    what links they build do they how
    outreach links do they have links from
    main pages do they have like some free
    links okay what’s the index between
    these links and we just see like in most
    cases we just see the real numbers and
    then you’re like okay what i need to do
    to implement okay right
    like from 30 to 50 pages
    uh that will um
    help this keyword group to actually rank
    so it’s like can be sub
    sub pages but with the same like
    if they are initially relevant for the
    main keyword group then build links then
    okay when when i’m saying build links
    it sounds easy but when you actually
    outreach these bloggers they don’t want
    to like place uh links for like cbd or
    like
    with websites right
    so
    you just uh
    like for example like out of 100
    webmasters we contact
    contact they like 10
    only can place or even less right so it
    means we need to have more capacity to
    to send to contact like 300 of them to
    get this 10 10 links or 30 links and
    we just put it on a plan we have uh seo
    team lead or senior seo who actually
    research keywords like
    first part is to get actual keywords so
    like we go to
    semrush hrefs keyword finder like other
    tools like and just get a lot of
    keywords for this keyword group okay
    next step is to analyze the structure of
    all the uh pages like how do they use h1
    h2s what tags they use is like quotes
    what code they use there how many images
    and stuff like this so
    we have this internal tool called common
    control
    that actually gives this data from one
    to three minutes right now so uh so
    my um
    job in my company to optimize
    efficiency efficiency i’m sorry like for
    not pronouncing this keyword as a
    keyword this word so you know you nailed
    it you nailed it yeah
    so like
    i looked okay one seo can do like i
    don’t know like 10 keyword groups
    per week this is actually not that many
    but when you actually want to rank for
    them you need to dedicate the dedicated
    time so i went to our developers and we
    actually made a tool that optimized they
    get this data that before they used to
    give
    getting excel right now in our own
    dashboards like
    i don’t know from one to three minutes
    so now they know what to do like just by
    analyzing the top then they
    need to go deeper and see okay which
    kind of backlinks
    uh what’s the index part uh how much
    content and just put it up on the plan
    and there is the price like real price
    you know it’s not like
    some to buy some package that promise
    you i don’t know
    like place three guest posts per month
    it doesn’t work this way no it doesn’t
    it has to be a concerted strategy i
    you know for anybody listening if you
    have no idea what victor is talking
    about but you want to rank on google
    um
    there’s two ways to do it work with
    somebody that really understands what
    they’re doing and a set objective and
    can present a strategy that you truly
    understand
    like victor
    or learn it yourself but it takes time
    effort
    learning a lot of understanding of how
    to do these things because it is
    incredibly challenging in this space
    like you were talking about getting
    backlinks for weed websites and put it
    into that category
    you know
    so much more difficult
    than you know if you’re if you have a
    new invention for you know i don’t know
    a shoe right but it’s it’s it is a wild
    thing to see whenever it works and when
    it’s effective and you can win a market
    you are um and you can build a brand
    when you are effective so if this isn’t
    a part of your strategy as a brand
    definitely take a peek now
    maybe one one of the challenging
    questions but every
    every seo master has a war story
    um sorry wrong term but has a story that
    they love to tell about how they
    overcame something or how they built
    this crazy thing that worked really well
    do you have any of those do you have any
    stories that you’d like to tell just a
    fun for any for people that understand
    the space
    what was uh do you have a grand
    achievement that you did or something
    fun that you did or funny give us a
    little give us a little story about a
    project
    so many stories
    i don’t know where like i think
    the funds uh like the real game changer
    for me was like i remember in 2018 i
    swept i switched from the agency side
    because we hired like uh chief operating
    officer and she said like i don’t need
    to be in the process we will do all
    stuff on their own so i
    opened another company with my own
    projects in high gaming niche it’s
    basically like uh in
    legal
    geos in legal jurisdiction it’s like
    affiliate casino websites and i just
    switched there for half a year
    and this is like i think the best thing
    that happened to me in seo because
    i actually started to realize how
    how to actually deliver deliver the
    value and just set up teams as you want
    not as like clients saying they need to
    so the approach
    the approach was like we grew pretty
    good
    like we ranked our websites like not
    that fast but we did in like one to one
    and a half year two pretty decent
    results i haven’t talked about this it
    was on chiang mai seo in thailand it’s
    like uh
    med degree launch this conference pretty
    good one like it’s a lot of cool people
    that come in there
    so i i i shared the case study from zero
    to 100 000 dollars per month on this
    affiliate web website and actually they
    were our projects like so
    the whole point is like we looked we
    test some stuff we had like some
    failures but like uh
    those websites started to grow and the
    whole point is that the process you set
    up people and they are responsible of
    the process they know what to do and
    they actually doing this 24 7 just on
    one or two projects and in this case you
    will get results because come on when
    someone says i will like crank your
    website you actually need to focus on it
    you actually need to put some energy and
    work there to research to do to do
    so after this we changed then i came
    back to the company like
    to a an agency
    and uh we started to do like because
    it’s uh like you need to hire right
    people uh so we have hr department you
    need to uh control and have like uh
    pretty good like um
    how do you say matrix like kpis
    so uh we started to
    uh like program like automatic
    dashboards where like seos based uh
    like their kpis based in uh like when
    you deliver actual results you see so
    and uh
    we started to change this step by step
    and now i’m
    it’s still a lot of
    work to do but now we are actually ready
    to scale step step by step to get to the
    level i wanted well that’s very exciting
    victor it’s been a pleasure talking with
    you i appreciate your time to hop on the
    podcast hope we can work together in the
    future uh it’d be really exciting to
    work with somebody that has as much
    knowledge as you do
    and appreciate everything you do great
    to meet you victor
    thanks thanks for uh getting me to this
    like uh
    podcast and
    like uh i i wish your website grow and
    have a lot of organic traffic
    i appreciate that we’ll give you a back
    link
    all right victor great to talk to you be
    in touch and uh yeah good to meet you
    have a good one yeah you too thank you